Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 11

(If you'd like to read from the beginning you can go Here.)

“I don’t think so.” Anne pulled her arm from Erik’s grasp.

He flushed a shade of scarlet that looked curiously orange in the overhead lighting of the subway station. “Don’t be silly. They can obviously get into your apartment any time they wish. And, unless I miss my guess, you’ve been followed. You weren’t surprised to have been followed earlier, you were just surprised it was me.”

Anne shrugged, feigning indifference. “They’ll stop as soon as they realize I don’t know anything.”

“How are they going to verify that?”

“They’ll….” How far would they go to ensure she didn’t have any information? The more they pressed, the closer they got, the more information she would actually have.

“I’ll tell you. People like this will not be satisfied until they have guaranteed your silence.”

“You think they would kill me?”

He took hold of her arm, halting her determined march, and swinging her to face him. There was no mistaking the sincerity in his eyes. “They killed Carol.”

This time she did not pull away. “They killed her because she began talking to you.”

He winced. “We don’t know that for sure.”

“I am not stupid, Mr. Carter. The Secret Service hardly needs my expertise in investigation. You want to use me as bait.”

“It isn’t really like that.”

She merely raised an eyebrow, daring him to lie to her.

Instead he changed tacks. “Just a few moments ago you seemed determined to bring Carol’s killer to justice.”

He wasn’t going to get to her that easily. “Perhaps I would be more inclined to help your cause if you told me what all this is about.” Anne covered his hand with hers and turned to mount the steps up to the street, drawing him along.

“I don’t know all the details. Carol was supposed to fill me in, but obviously she didn’t get a chance.”

Anne kept her tone light. “Are you telling me that you began what must be a major investigation simply because my friend called and said she had a tip for you.”

“Why do think it is a major investigation?”

“You moved into the apartment below mine. I know the place is cheap for New York, but still it ain’t chicken feed.”

He only nodded. “The you’ll agree that I’m not taking this lightly.”

“Yes, but why? What haven’t you told me?”

He sighed as resignedly as hen-pecked husband. “Carol claimed to have information regarding a counterfeit ring. It just so happens that forgeries have begun cropping up all across Manhattan.”

Anne wrinkled her brow. “Counterfeits. Isn’t that the FBI’s job?”

“Nope, goes back to our roots with the Treasury. And think about it. It is a matter of national security. Too many fakes, and the real stuff loses value. The Nazi’s tried something like it during the war. This time it could be a small time operation, or it could be much larger. The reds, for one, might like to see our economy go caput.”

They walked the rest of the way to the theater in silence. Anne’s whirling thoughts fought one another for attention like a pack of rowdy toddlers. Was the country’s economy in jeopardy? What could Carol have known? How had she become involved?

The theater was dark and the doors were locked when they arrived. Anne cupped her hands over her eyes and peered inside at the darkened lobby. She pounded on the door. Erik shouted. No one answered.

“It was just a rehearsal. Maybe they will hear if we go around to the back.”

Erik nodded and they skirted the building to the alley. The dank scent of decay hung in the air. The sun probably never penetrated here, between these two tall buildings, trapping the smell of garbage and neglect.

The stage door was also locked and Anne’s brow furrowed. Was the practice already over? Had they missed Jilly? She pounded harder on the door this time.

A scuffle and the screech of iron. A flap of metal slid away to reveal a small opening in the door.

“Whaddya want?” An elderly harridan glared out at them as if expecting to find a pack of stage door johnnies on her step.

“Is the rehearsal still going on?”

“Nope, done and over.” The woman started to close the flap.

Anne grabbed at the metal, halting its movement. “Is Jillian Hayes still here? It is most important I find her.”

“Nah, she got a message that her roommate had been hurt real bad in a car accident and she rushed off to the hospital. That’s why the rehearsal ended early.”

Anne could not breathe. She could not see. Jilly.

Erik moved past her smoothly. “How did she learn this?”

“A man come and told her.”

“Did you see him by any chance?”

“Why do you want to know?” Suspicion tainted her tone like poison.

Erik poured on the charm. “This is her roommate. I’m afraid there’s been a mix-up somewhere. This fellow, was he tall?”

“Yep. Tall, medium colored hair. Grey suit.”

“Thank you, madam.”

Anne sagged against the wall and covered her face with her hands. “They’ve kidnapped her.”

Erik flashed his credentials at the woman and ordered her to open up. “You recognize the description?”

Anne rubbed her upper arms. Had the wind picked up it was so cold. “It was the guy who followed me. Jilly wore my coat when we left work. I thought I was being clever, and that it would just throw him off the scent just long enough for me to get away.”

The door swung in and he ushered her inside.

“I’ve got to call this in. Have a seat and wait for me. I want to talk to you about this.”

Anne sat on the stool he indicated. Oh, Lord, please protect Jilly. Help us to find her. She shivered. It didn’t seem any warmer in here.

What would the kidnappers do? Surely they would figure out that they had nabbed the wrong girl soon. She tried to imagine what she would do in their place. Her head snapped up. Of course. They would want to swap.

She had to get home.

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