Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 30

(To read from the beginning go Here.)

Rick held his hand out toward Anne and motioned for her to fork over the documents. “C’mon.”

Anne shook her head. “I don’t have them anymore.”

His features, especially his eyes, hardened like cement that had set in a fraction of a second. His glance flicked over to Tom, and she could nearly hear the scrape of stone on stone in the minute movement. Anne licked her lips.

“You didn’t make sure she had the documents before you brought her here?”

Tom shrugged. “She said she didn’t have them.”

“And you believed her.” Scathing contempt crushed all inflection from the words.

Sweat stood out on Tom’s forehead and upper lip. He made an effort to appear casual with another shrug, but he couldn’t seem to muster any words to fit the gesture.

His lip curled up in disgust, Rick turned his granite gaze back to Anne. “Where are they?”

“I’m… um.” She couldn’t get her voice to work properly.

Rick stepped forward, his movements silent and deliberate. His fingers closed around her wrist, not hard but tightly enough that she could not have broken free. He led her into the sitting room. His hand on her shoulder pushed her into a chair. Once more he avoided hurting her, using just enough force that there was no choice but to comply.

“Now what did you do with those papers?” He took the chair across from her, even putting one ankle up on his knee as if he were settling in to read the newspaper.

Anne swallowed against the dry rot that had settled in her throat. “I gave them to the police.” She sounded nearly as hoarse as Donald Duck.

Rick’s sneer made him look like Vincent Price. “Try again.” He pulled a small, blunt nosed little gun from his pocket and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “Remember this time, that you’ll regret it if you don’t tell me the truth.”

Anne’s thoughts swirled like water rushing to escape down the drain. She’d told him what was essentially the truth. The authorities had the documents. What was she to do? God shall send strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. The snippet of scripture pinged off one side of her brain and she snatched at it before it could get away. If he refused to believe the truth…

“I hid them somewhere safe.” The words spilled from her lips before she had consciously formulated the sentence.


Good question. She wracked her brain. Somewhere he couldn’t get at without her. No use giving him the idea that it would be easier to shoot her now and be done with her. “I left them behind a loose mirror in one of the ladies bathroom at Grand Central.”

He gave her a do-you-think-I’m-stupid look and tightened his casual grip on the gun.

Whatever had possessed her to say that? Anne held her hands up. “We can go get it now. I’ll take you to it I swear.”

His eyes narrowed. “How did you come across this handy dandy hiding spot of yours?”

She couldn’t stop shaking, but she tried to act casual. “They say necessity is the mother of invention. I didn’t want it anywhere near me after your goons trashed my apartment. So last night on the way here, I put them in the first concealed spot I came across.”

He seemed to be buying it, sort of. His grip on the gun had relaxed… marginally.

“I was going to get them on my way home last night, but then I thought it might be better to keep them at a distance.”

Rick stood. “We’re going to go get those documents.”

“But why?” Anne asked. Erik would be giddy if she could get Rick to admit to the counterfeiting. “They’re gibberish. I never could tell what Carol meant to say with any of them.”

“Never mind. All that matters is that I want them and you’re going to get them for me.”

“But why?” Tom asked. “Why risk walking into a trap?”

Rick rounded on him. “We need that paper. It’s the real deal.”

Tom’s eyebrows rocketed upwards. “You mean it’s the same kind they make real money out of?”

Rick shot out a hand and administered a vicious backhanded slap to Tom’s face. “Shut up!”

Anne jumped, her nerves zinging as if she had been the one smacked.

Tom’s hands balled into fists. “Don’t you ever hit me again.”

“Or what?”

“You’ll regret it, that’s what.”

They were nose to nose now. Shoulders squared, sneers fixed and braced for combat.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 29

(To read from the beginning go Here.)

The trip out to East Orange was accomplished in near silence. Sandwiched between Erik and Tom, Anne tried once to start a conversation, but their caveman grunts indicated they weren’t in the mood for chitchat.

The car pulled to the curb around the corner from the gang’s hideout. Tom helped her from the car.

Erik stuck his head out of the car. “You’re both set. Anne, We have a car parked just down the street, and I’ll be on the wall with our bugs. If things get out of hand, holler and we’ll bust in. Better to get them for something than let them get away all together, or let them hurt you. Got it?”

Anne nodded.

“Okay.” He reached through the window and grasped her hand briefly. “You take care of her pal. She gets hurt and it’s coming out of your hide.”

“Yeah, you’ve made that much crystal clear.”

Tom took Anne’s elbow and she allowed herself to be guided around the corner and onto the street she’d fled down. Had it only been last night? It seemed eons ago. They walked slowly to give the secret service teams time to take up their places.

Tom leaned closer. “I’ll try not to hurt you, but we gotta make it look good for Rick. He won’t buy anything else. But I’ll try to keep him and the other from manhandling you.”

Anne licked her lips. Lord, she needed an extra dose of courage. Any more reassurances like that and she’d be running for the train station and a one-way ticket back to Ohio.

At least Erik was nearby. He wouldn’t let anything serious happen. He and his men would make sure things turned out happily ever after. It was their job.

“Which one is it?” She asked in the dry husk of what was left of her voice.

Tom indicated the right one with a thrust of his chin and she gazed at it. Even knowing it was the right place, she could discern nothing sinister about it. A light shown in one of the downstairs room and the curtains were drawn back. The window boxes were neatly trimmed and overflowing with pink and purple flowers. It even looked like the steps had been swept.

Maybe he’d meant one of the others. Her gaze searched the nearby houses but they looked no more ominous than the one he had indicated. It probably made good sense to blend into the neighborhood so thoroughly, but it didn’t seem fair somehow. Lacey Carew’s opponents always left the most obliging telltale signs that they were up to no good.

But then perhaps she shouldn’t base her expectations of real criminals on a series of children’s books.

“Okay get ready. Just look scared out of your wits and let me do the talking.” Tom’s attempt at bravado would have gone over better if his hand hadn’t turned clammy on her arm, and his adam’s apple hadn’t bobbed like it was trying to flag down a bartender.

Saliva flooded her own mouth and she swallowed hard. At least she had the easy part. Looking scared should not tax her acting skills a bit.

Tom’s fingers closed tighter on her arm and he thrust her in front of him. He barreled through the front door, the hall and into the living room. He kept her in front of him, propelling her forward so quickly that she stumbled, continuing on, only because of his hold on her.


Rick, aka Van Dyke emerged from the door at the far end of the room. “Tom, what can possibly—” One eyebrow hitched up a notch as he caught sight of Anne. “Oh.”

“I took matters into my own hands. She was stupid enough to go back to her own apartment and I just picked her up there.”

“I see.”

Tom scowled. “Well did you want her or not?”

“Of course we want her. She has seen too much. But I also need those documents.” He wagged a finger at her. “That was not a nice trick, Miss Leighton. I was most displeased.”

Anne said nothing, allowing her gaze to rove the room as if she was terrified and trying to find a likely escape route.

What line should she take?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 28

(To read from the beginning go Here.)

Anne’s fists balled on her hips again. The gesture was becoming a bad habit. “Listen, without us you would have zilch on this case. You need to think beyond the counterfeiting and your nice, easy case. My friend was murdered because she contacted you about what she discovered.”

Erik looked stricken and pulled back as if she had suddenly sprouted snakes for hair.

Anne softened her demeanor, holding her hands out almost in supplication. “Please, we only want justice for Carol. She was too special for her life to be shoved aside in favor of a case about money.”

Tom wisely kept quiet, in fact he didn’t even seem to be breathing as Erik considered. Had she gone too far?

“You know I’m not the bad guy here, right?”

Anne swallowed. “I do know that. You’ve been swell. I never meant to imply—”

Erik waved her fumbling response into silence. “All right, I’ll give you the chance to do this your way. We’re only going to get the one opportunity. If it doesn’t go well my boss will take over and the only thing he gives a fig for is the job. He’ll play it straight by the book.”

Chastened, Anne swallowed again and nodded. Her words had really wounded him, the hurt in those gorgeous eyes was so obvious that she wanted to shout an apology. And that comment about his boss. Was it possible he was sticking his neck out on this case?

“So here’s how it is going to play out. I’ll get a wire for both of you. I’ll also see if I can get the boys to place a tap through one of the walls. Tom I need you to describe the layout of the house and grounds, so we get it in the right place.”

“I have paper, Tom’s an artist, he could draw it.” Anne volunteered. It was poor compensation for her previous attitude, but hopefully it would help to make amends.

Erik nodded and she hopped up to retrieve paper and pen and clear a space on the side table for Tom to sketch.

Tom bent over the paper, his tongue protruding slightly from between his teeth as he concentrated on the diagram.

Erik ran downstairs to send one of his men to retrieve the equipment they would need.

At loose ends, Anne wandered into the kitchen. Should she make a pot of coffee? It might prove to be a long night. She settled for another bottle of Coke and stood looking out the window at the scant patch of backyard shrouded in drying laundry.

“Lord, we need your help if we are going to succeed in this crazy plan. Please pour out wisdom and discernment on us as we go into this lion’s den.”


Anne started, dumping half her soda down the front of her blouse.

Erik stood in the door, brows raised in expectation as he waited for her to repeat what he’d obviously taken as a comment addressed to him.

Anne snatched a kitchen towel and blotted at the mess. “I was praying.”

The corners of his mouth quirked up in a rueful smile. “Say one for me while you’re at it. I have a feeling we’re going to need prayer tonight.”

“Can I get you or your men anything?”

“If you have a thermos we’ll probably want some coffee later.”

Anne filled the percolator for what seemed the umpteenth time that day and then excused herself to change clothes. What was the proper wardrobe for a hostage? Something practical. Definitely, something practical. No four-inch heels. No skinny pencil skirts.

She pulled on a fuzzy warm sweater set, and traded her pumps for loafers. At least she’d be able to run if necessary. The men were moving and murmuring in the living room and for an instant she wanted nothing more than to hide under her covers with her pillow over her head. Bile seared the back of her throat. What was she thinking? This whole plan was crazy. Was she really going to try to lay a trap for a killer?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 27

(To read from the beginning go Here.)

“I’m game.” Anne responded without hesitation.

“Hold it.” Erik pushed himself away from his seat and eyed her as if she were a nut. “In case you hadn’t noticed, the bait usually gets eaten by the fish.”

“Well I’ve come this far. I want to see this through.”

“You don’t even know what this—this spiv, wants you to do.” Erik waved a hand at Tom.

“Hey, I’m no con man. I’ve told you everything I know.”

The tip of Erik’s nose twitched as if he were struggling not to sneer. “You told us a nice story, but I’m not interested in stories. You got anything to back up your claims?”

Tom’s shrugged, his hands spreading wide. “Like what?”

“You tell me. This is your fairy tale.”

Tom stood now, facing off against Erik. “Listen, I’ve spilled my guts—”

Anne inserted herself between the two men. “What were you thinking of doing Tom? Maybe if we get close enough to Van Dyke, I mean Rick, we can get the proof Erik needs to make a case.”

Tom’s eyes met hers and his jaw slowly relaxed. “I was thinking earlier that Rick, meant me to kill you. It’s the kind of thing he’d do. I see that now.”

“And you want me to send her with you alone?” Erik shook his head. “I don’t think so. With your statement we’ve got enough to bring him in on the counterfeit charges. Once our interrogators have a go at him he’ll cough up on the details about Carol.”

It was Tom’s turn to shake his head. “And risk the electric chair? No way. He’s not stupid.”

“I’m with Tom on this. You take him in on the counterfeit charge and it’s like giving him a walk on Carol’s murder. We’ve got nothing tying him to it right now. Lets at least hear Tom’s idea.”

Arms crossed, Erik looked from her to Tom and back again. “All right. Let’s have it.”

Tom’s Adam’s apple bobbed. “It’s like I said. Rick meant me to kill Anne. What if I take her back with me and confront him with his lies? I can act all confused.”

“Shouldn’t be much of a stretch.”

Anne pretended not to hear Erik’s muttered comment.

“We’re more likely to get him to admit something if he thinks I’m still under his thumb.”

“I still say it’s too dangerous.” A look of mulish stubbornness had settled over Erik’s handsome features.

Anne chose not to point out that he had no right to decide what she could or couldn’t do. “What if one of us wore a wire?”

Erik’s brow furrowed and Anne blushed. “That’s the right term isn’t it?”

“I think you’ve been watching too many spy movies.” But a speculative gleam glinted in his eye.

“I think it’s a good idea. If you have agents in place to nab him, you could move in right away if anything goes wrong.”

Anne licked her lips. He was on the verge of deciding one way or the other. Should she try to sweet-talk him or play hardball?

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