Desperate Measures

by Candy

Chapter 2

DISCLAIMERS

WARNING: This is a uber story. All characters are figments of my imagination. Any similarity to living or dead individual are unintentional.

VIOLENCE WARNING/DISCLAIMER: The violence in this story, is not into gross or gory. There are fight scenes. Please feel free not to read if violence of any kind bothers you.

LOVE/SEX WARNING/DISCLAIMER: This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.


 

CHAPTER TWO

"You want my car, why? Greg asked, while pouring sodas for all of them, as Dru and Kasey sat on the overstuffed sofa in the spacious apartment. It was larger than Dru's, but then the writer lived frugally. Greg on the other hand loved the pleasures money could provide. Though the agent acted like money was the answer to everything, he really had a gentle spirit, which he would never admit to. He and Dru met when both of them were barely making enough money to put food in their bellies.

As usual he had a scam going, selling phony Rolex watches and knock-off items. The problem: he picked the wrong territory to set up business, and when the heavies came for their cut, they would have killed Greg if a certain tall, raven-haired woman hadn't interrupted their boxing demonstration.

"Howdy boys, having fun?" Dru drawled, leaning against the brick wall of the building framing one side the alley. "Is this party by invitation only, or can anyone join?"

With blood streaming from his nose and one eye swollen shut, Greg tracked to the voice dripping with sarcasm. Finding the back-lighted muscular figure, he decided he was dying and seeing the bright light that would lead him down the tunnel to whatever purgatory awaited him. She was the damnedest thing Greg had ever seen. No one in their right mind would go up against these bone crackers alone. Yet, there she stood, wearing a chambray long sleeve shirt with the sleeves folded up to mid-forearm, blue jeans, Rough-out cowboy boots, and matching belt. The urban cowgirl. Her long black hair fell loose around her face, accentuating the high check bones, and glowing ice-chip blue eyes..

"Look here guys, we're going to have a piece of ass after taking care of this job." The largest and most muscled of the four enforcers announced to his colleagues with a chuckle.

"The only ass you're going to get is your own," answered Dru, strolling nonchalantly towards the men.

"Stay here, this shouldn't take long," the leader spoke again to the others. "Come on sweetheart let's get this over with, so I can show you how a real man screws."

"Yeah, well, you wouldn't be my first choice for lessons."

They circled each other, and then the larger man lunged, catching a fist with his nose. He hadn't seen it coming, the hand had moved too fast to see. Dru leaned her weight on her left leg, kicking out with her right with all of the force captured in her thigh muscles, smashing into a kneecap. The knee went one direction as the leg went another. The man screamed, falling to the ground. Standing over him, she whacked him with an elbow on the side of the head. The crying stopped.

The three remaining punks guarding Greg, dropped the pudgy man on the ground, and surrounded the woman. A low chuckle rumbled from her chest, as a feral grin twitched her lips. All at once they jumped, forcing her down on the cement. Without warning, three bodies went flying. Before they could even hit the ground, either a fist or a foot had made contact with a head or gut, rendering them unconscious.

In the sudden silence of the alley, Dru dusted her hands. "You okay?" She asked, dragging Greg to his feet.

"I think it would be a good idea to talk somewhere else other than here," the stocky man nasally answered, eyeing the prone figures sprawled in the narrow alley.

He never got a viable reason why she showed up when she did saving his life, but it didn't matter, Dru could do no wrong in his eyes. When she told him to get into a less dangerous business, and directed his interests to the world of publishing, he didn't hesitate. And he found he had a natural instinct for choosing what publishers were searching for. Dru wasn't his only account now after five years, and the money was finally consistent instead of living paycheck to paycheck he was used to.

He owed everything to the dark haired beauty sitting on his sofa. Greg handed Dru her soda, then Kasey, and found a chair across from them. He took a sip of his soda, wrinkling his nose at the taste.

"I would rather not explain," Dru said simply, sipping her Dr. Pepper. One of her favorite sodas, which Greg made sure to have on hand at all times. Not that she visited him in his apartment that often, but one could hope, and it could also snow black, he thought, as he spied the sun shinning outside.

"Well, that answers everything....not!" he stated with irony. The strawberry-blonde kept her eyes on Dru, as if trying to will her to say something. It didn't work, the writer remained mute. "I'm getting nowhere fast here," he murmured to himself. "It appears I'm not going to get an explanation, so I might as well give you my keys."

"Hey, you've always wanted to drive the Mustang, admit it." Dru winked.

"It is a babe-mobile I'll say that, now if it was the convertible I tried to convince you to buy, I would have to beat them off with a stick." He got up and retrieved his keys, throwing them in Dru's direction, who snatched them out of the air.

"Thanks, Greg." She leaned forward placing her glass on the coffee table. "Gotta go."

"Gee, nice to see you too, come back when you can stay awhile," he said sarcastically, which earned him two raised eyebrows from the tall woman, who was now moving toward the door.

"I'll do that," Dru smirked, with Kasey in her wake they disappeared.


 

"Excuse me, but what kind of explanation was that?" questioned Kasey. "I thought you could have come up with something better than…. 'I need to use your car.'"

"Like what?" asked Dru, as she eased out the cream colored Infiniti into traffic.

"I don't know, you're the writer. There's this thing all writers are supposed to have called an imagination. Why didn't you use it?" Kasey watched the other woman's long fingers slide over the steering wheel.

"Keep it simple I always say." Dru checked both ways after stopping at a stop sign, and hit the gas again.

"Yeah, well…. That was simple all right. Poor Greg, I almost feel sorry for him. You do know he's hopelessly in love with you, don't you?" added the proof reader.

"What?" Dru cried, "You've been reading too many romance novels, girl, to come up with that one."

"No, it's true. You didn't know? Hmm, well that's a first, the Queen of Mystery, clueless," chuckled Kasey.

"That's ridiculous, we've been friends for years."

"Excuse me, earth calling, Dru. He keeps Dr. Pepper in the fridge, and he hates the stuff. He's also as touchy as a man on Viagra around you." The twinkle in the young woman's eyes was wasted on the traffic.

"Humph," grunted the mystery writer. "And what do you know about Viagra?" It was Dru's way of changing the subject from her and onto something else. Both women looked at each other, and burst into laughter.


 

Their first stop, the police station. Hank was out, but Beatrice, his secretary, was sitting at her desk, she glanced up when Dru and Kasey approached.

"Hey, Dru, how's it going?" she asked, her brown eyes taking in the blonde with the woman.

"Hi, Bea. Hank around?" Dru surveyed the office, noticing the lack of activity.

"He's out to lunch. Is there something I can do for you?"

"It's like this, I need a personal favor," replied Dru, gifting Bea with one of her unusual smiles. That must have tipped the secretary.

"Oh no, Dru. I'm walking on eggshells right now. Hank is on everyone's case for leaking information. I could get canned if I help you." The woman was rather plain with mousy-brown hair, and husky features. Dru liked her, in the all the time they've known each other, Bea had played it straight. She was one of the few women Dru knew, that said what was on her mind without playing games, or being catty. What you saw was what you got.

"I'm not asking for much, Bea, only an address," replied Dru. She played with a paperweight on the woman's desk. "You could do it with your eyes close."

"Dru," the secretary sighed. "You're not a very nice person, you know that?" That earned her a wink from the writer. "Ok, give me the name."

"That's the kicker, I only have the last name, Bondini," Dru supplied.

"Oh no! I'm not going there. Damn it, Dru. Clarice and Angelo Bondini are witnesses in an ongoing murder case. I can't give you any information regarding them or anyone else connected with the investigation." Bea stood, picking up a couple of envelopes from her desk. She placed a small hand on the taller woman's arm, "I have to go to the post office. Sorry, I couldn't help this time."

"Hey, I understand." Dru smiled. "Say hello to Jake for me, will ya?" Jake was Bea's husband, a good old boy, who loved his wife more than anything in the world.

"I'll do that, see ya." Bea left Dru and Kasey standing by her desk.

"That didn't help much," Kasey confided to her companion.

A small smile appeared on Dru's face.

"What?" questioned the strawberry-blonde.

"Now we have two names we can work from," Dru informed, and blessed Kasey with a big grin.

The proofreader shook her head, "Did she give that information to you intentionally or was it an accident? You asked for an address, instead you got the names."

"Does it matter? This way Bea can say she honestly didn't help me, and protects her job." Dru waggled her eyebrows. "The best way to get information is by asking an opposite question. Ask for an address and get a name, ask for a name and get a location, etcetera. C'mon, we have work to do."


 

"Okay, I think I've found something," announced Kasey. Dru leaned over her shoulder to read the computer screen.

"Now that is interesting, but doesn't prove anything. Only that Antonio was in town at the time, had dinner at Rasine's, and could have been at his mother's. There's no proof he was, only Clarice's word. We need to see if we can pokes holes into her story." Dru straighten up, rubbing the small of her back.

Both women had been surfing the Internet for information. Her companion had ways of getting onto sites with restricted access, which Kasey decided not to ask how. One site gave a complete detail listing of Antonio's credit cards and the activities on those cards. The time frame they decided to search, was two months before the murder and a month to two months after, though the proofreader scanned them up to the current date without informing Dru. Not that she was trying to keep anything from her, but didn't want to leave anything to chance. Antonio could be dangerous, and if there was a clue, she didn't want to miss it.

The printer sputtered out Antonio's drivers license. It was a picture of a young man in his early twenties, dark, almost black hair, and brown eyes. Narrow features, with aquiline nose, giving evidence of his Italian heritage, and deep inset eyes. Of course drivers licenses never showed a persons best features, and usually caught a person looking worse than normal, still the man had a pleasant face.

"Well, at least we now know what Antonio looks like. Not bad." Dru handed the printout to her.

She took the sheet of paper, "I noticed. He sure doesn't look like someone who could kill anyone."

Dru raised an eyebrow, "And what do you expect a murderer to look like?"

"That's just the thing, everyone looks the same. There should be some telltale feature to make it easier for the rest of us." Kasey frowned. "Squinty eyes, bad breath…. I don't know something, so we could hiss the villain like in the movies."

The larger woman chuckled, "Yeah, I can see it already, every squinty eyed person with bad breath would be locked up, or shot on sight. Not a good thing when half the people in the world fit that description." Dru sat on the floor, leaned against the wall, and placed her laptop back on her lap. "And you're assuming Antonio is the murderer. Until we have proof he's just a potential witness."

"You're right," Kasey sighed, and rubbed her temples. "Ok, what have you found on our Lyanda Pharold?" She found herself enjoying the view. Dru wore tan shorts, and a forest green tank top. Her long tanned legs stretched out in front of her, crossed at the ankles. And the tank top showed off Dru's muscular shoulders, and arms. What was it she thought to herself, two, three days, and she found herself overwhelmingly attracted to the tanned woman sitting on the floor. Not a common experience for Kasey, and unusual enough for her to stop and try to analyze the feelings. She'd seen beautiful women, but never had she been drawn to them. Shaking herself mentally, snap out of this, girl. You're going nowhere with this. Dru would probably laugh herself sick if she even suspected. No, it wasn't a good idea to dwell on this subject. She found it only made her frustrated.

"If Antonio knew Lyanda, then he was into older women, she was at least twenty years his senior. She worked for the city of Monterey as a clerk in the Planning Department. Hobbies included theater, volunteer work for the library, and painting. Nothing extraordinary pops." Dru peered up, and caught Kasey's eyes, for a moment the room didn't seem to exist then the moment was gone. "Maybe we should take a look where Lyanda use to live?"

"Let's do it," confirmed Kasey, trying to control her breathing, which decidedly increased the longer ice-blue eyes held hers.


 Dru and Kasey walked side by side down the long driveway to the bungalow nestled in among tall pine trees, set off to one side behind an old Victorian house. The place appeared as though it had been freshly painted, and the yards had also been trimmed and mowed.

"Nice, I wouldn't mind living in a place like this someday." Dru scanned the area.

"Yeah, I would like to get a place just like it when I have some money," Kasey turned, "and I like the idea you can see the ocean from the front porch. It gives the feeling of being in the mountains at the same time as being on the beach."

Dru turned looking at what Kasey was seeing. "Very peaceful," she paused, "the perfect getaway."

"Oh yeah, a place to live all the time with the feeling of a vacation getaway. I could deal with that."

The younger woman knocked on the door, while Dru stood with hands stuffed in her pockets softly rocking slightly on her heels. The air was full of the scent of pine, and moist dirt. The grass was thick and dark green, and lined with rounded cobbled stones. Someone had taken their time, and with loving care set everything just so.

"No one lives there." Came a voice from a window in the Victorian house.

"Hello, we're needing some information. Would you mind talking with us?" Dru asked.

A moment later the back door to the house opened and a white haired, older woman exited. "What can I do for you?" the woman asked, walking towards them. She was a slender, but erect, and golden-brown eyes that snapped with alertness belying her age. "Are you in the market to rent the place?"

"No, we came here searching for answers. Could you tell us if Lyanda Pharold lived here?" asked Kasey, smiling a greeting.

The white-haired woman nodded, "But she died a couple of years ago, are you family?"

Dru shook her head, "No, I'm Dru Warlord and this is my assistant, Kasey Lovett. I'm doing background on a book I'm writing."

"Oh my, I know who you are! You're the Queen of Mystery, I can't believe this, and I've read all your books. I'm hooked on you… ah, your mysteries that is," she chuckled. "My name is, Kairen Bussard, I own this place."

Dru smiled awkwardly, embarrassed by the women's praise. It amazed her the accolades people would lay at her feet. All she did was answer a drive within herself, which was writing. She was just glad people, like Kairen, received pleasure from her work. "Nice to meet you," as she shook Kairen's hand, whose grip was firm, everything about the woman spoke confidence. The mystery writer enjoyed the twinkle in Bussard's golden-brown eyes.

"Would you mind showing us the bungalow where Lyanda lived?" Dru released the woman's hand.

"I don't mind at all, but all of Lyanda's things are all packed up. The place is empty." Kairen guided them through the two bedroom cottage. Hardwood floors echoed their footsteps. Beamed ceilings arched upwards, and accented the stone fireplace. There was a nice breakfast nook, small formal dining area, roomy living room, and a full bathroom.

"Wow, I like this," Kasey stated as she stood in the bathroom doorway. The bath was sunken slightly, with gray stone walls. The bath tub was more like a small Jacuzzi, but if a person wanted they could take a shower, on one marbled, smooth wall was an exposed shower nozzle. A large sky light allowed the bathroom to be bright and airy, even with all of the heavy gray stones. "Not exactly what I expected in a place like this."

"Quite right, I felt the same way when Lyanda asked me if she could redecorate the place the summer before she died. But after seeing the finished product, I liked it. Lyanda was an excellent tenant and friend, and I miss her terribly." Kairen stated rather sadly.

The whole place had a provincial feeling. The rooms were large and yet cozy, friendly and yet private.

"What happened to Lyanda's things?" Kasey inquired.

"They're packed up and in my garage, when you showed up today I had hoped you might be her family. But no one has come to claim her belongings." Kairen padded out of the cottage heading towards the garage. "Those plastic boxes are her things. I take it you want to look through them?" The woman was quick, and Dru was grateful for her openness.

"Yes, thank you. It would help us understand who Lyanda was, and get a look through her eyes at the world." Dru went to the stack of plastic boxes, pulled the uppermost down first, and placed it on the floor. Where Kasey popped the lid.

"Well, I'll leave you to your work. Please come and let me know when you're finished." Kairen disappeared.

"She's pretty cool, huh?" said Kasey.

"Yeah, she is." Dru gave Kasey a small smile.

The first box contained bedroom items. A jewelry box filled with inexpensive necklaces and earrings and a stray Seiko watch battery, though there was no Seiko watch in the box. Other odds and ends included lots of books. "Lyanda seemed to have enjoyed fantasy and science fiction. Look here, Mercedes Lackey and Marion Zimmer Bradley decidedly were her favorites." Dru fingered the books, turning each over to read the summary. She shook her head, "Get this, most of these stories deal with relationships between two women." She caught Kasey's eyes, a small glint crept into them. Not what either women had expected.

The next box contained bathroom items. Kasey held two razors in her hand, "Ok, two razors, two tooth bushes, was this woman into doubling everything she used?"

"Let me see," Dru glanced at each razor. "These were used by two different people."

"How do you know that?" asked Kasey, intrigued.

"Because there's different color hair in each." Dru handed them back to her partner, who looked at them again, then dropped them back into the box. "Wow, here's something else." Kasey held up two hair bushes. One was made of horse hair, and the other was of the new thin, rubberized, bristle. "There's different color hair in each, also. Did Lyanda color her hair?"

"We'll have to check that." Dru confirmed.

Kasey unzipped a make-up bag. "Dru, how many lipsticks do you own?" she asked curiously.

"Well, a couple I guess. I wear a couple of different kinds, there's one I wear when I dress to go out in the evening, and then there's one I use on a daily basis, why?"

"If Lyanda was like you, she should have a couple of different kinds, but relative similar in tints, right?"

"Who knows? There are women who have hundreds of colors of tubes of lipsticks." A raised eyebrow questioned.

"I'll give you that one, but Lyanda was fair complexion, correct?" the shorter woman went on not waiting for her friend to answer. "A fair complexion person wouldn't use dark or earth tones in her foundation, and her lipstick would stay along the neutral tints." Kasey made two piles of make-up on the floor. "See what I mean?" After she finished sorting the items there were two distinct different sets.

"Let's keep looking, we need to substantiate what we both are beginning to believe." Dru packed up the box and pulled another down to replace it. This one contained clothes.

"Well, this does it for me." Kasey held up in one hand a pastel mint shell, in the other a tailored blazer.

Dru rubbed a hand over the wool blazer, and checked the label. Carol Little, pricey garment. "You're right, this is a size twelve and the other is an eight." They sorted through the garments in the box. "The size eight's run on the pastel and frilly side, whereas, the twelve's run along the professional tailored style." Dru dropped the blazer back into the box, "There seems to be a common theme here. No one mentioned if Lyanda had a roommate."

"I'm not so sure it was a roommate, there are too few garments for someone staying any length of time. Maybe, more of an occasional visitor," concluded the proofreader.

"I have another question for you then," Dru said. "If she was a roommate, why didn't she pick up things, or claim the body for burial?"

"Good questions, now all we need are good answers." Kasey stood up and dusted her hands off. "At least things around you never get boring, Dru."

Two dark eyebrows arched into raven-haired bangs, "Excuse me? All we've done is check a few boxes, where's the excitement in that?"

"It's not the search, but what we've learned," grinned Kasey, brushing a hand down her shorts, and straightening her blouse.

Dru chuckled as she slid the last box back into place with the others. "Let's go and see Kairen, maybe she'll be able to fill in a few of the blanks."

"So you're done, did you find anything?" Kairen asked, while motioning the two young women inside. They stood in the middle of a solarium off the back porch of the old Victorian.

"Yes, we found a lot of questions," informed Dru, who scanned the room in which they stood. The furnishings were sturdy, light birch framed sofa and chairs, with floral cushions. Magazines piled high on end tables, and newspapers stacked on the coffee table.

"How about the three of us have some ice tea, and get comfy while we go over your questions?" Kairen walked into the kitchen with the two women in tow. "Shoot."

"Did Lyanda have a roommate?" Dru sat at the tiled top kitchen table, Kasey settled next to her.

"No, she didn't." Kairen carried two glasses over to the table placing one before each young woman. "Whatever gave you that idea?" The older woman retrieved her own glass and sat down across from Dru and Kasey.

"We found two set of clothing that didn't quite match up, and other items gave us the impression someone else might have been staying, or visiting with her," Kasey encapsulated.

The woman sat for a moment very quiet staring at her tea, running a finger down the side of the glass wiping off the moisture condensing on its surface. "I had my suspicions that Lyanda had a friend, but I never saw anyone." She gave Dru a small sad smile, "about three years ago Lyanda came over one evening very loquacious. We sat and talked, not about anything specific, just chatting. She was all aglow, but never mentioned meeting someone, yet I could tell she had. Whoever it was made her very happy, I never even considered she was seeing a woman, all her other partners were men." Kairen took a sip of her drink, "What bothered me, whoever it was didn't want anyone to know about their relationship."

"Why do you say that?" questioned Kasey.

"When you fall in love, what's the first thing you would do?" the older woman asked, staring at the strawberry-blonde.

"I don't know. I guess I would want to tell someone."

The woman nodded, "that's what you and anyone else would do, but she didn't. That's when I came to the conclusion whoever it was, either was married or in a situation their relationship would have caused problems. But being the good friend I was to Lyanda, I kept my opinions to myself. I wouldn't hurt her for the life of me. She was the closest thing to a daughter I ever had." There was a sadness that settled on the woman. "Are you telling me this… this woman could be Lyanda's murderer?"

Dru sighed, "We're not saying anything. We don't really know enough to draw any conclusions yet. But we are interested in this person, they might have some answers which could solve the case." The writer splayed her fingers on the cold tile. "I'm curious, if this person came over to stay with Lyanda, why didn't you see her?"

"Oh that's easy, there's a back entrance, and an alley that follows out past the cottage, and onto a small street. Lyanda could come and go as she pleased, and never been seen. Lots of times I didn't see her for days on end, but then again I wasn't her nurse maid either," she shrugged. "Would you like some more tea?" She got up and grabbed the pitcher, bringing it back to the table.

Dru shook her head, "No, thanks." Kasey on the other hand slid her glass over to the woman. For a moment the only thing that could be heard was the sound of three women breathing and liquid being poured into two glasses.

"You have a nice home, Kairen," observed Kasey.

"Thanks, it was the first thing I bought after I made some money on the stock market years ago. I liked it so much, I kept investing. Fortunately, I kept making money," she grinned, "I was lucky." She paused, "May I ask you two a question?"

Dru braced herself unsure what the woman might ask, but nodded anyway.

"Are you two a couple?" The older woman glanced from Dru to Kasey. A rosy flush ran up Kasey's neck while Dru seemed to find something very important in her hands.

"No, we're not a couple, we're friends." Dru levelly answered the off the wall question. "We've only known each other for, what?" she asked her partner. "A week?"

"If that," Kasey finally found her tongue.

"That is so very strange, you act as if you've known each other for years. I mean you work off each other well. I've watched, and all the indications were there, I mean…. Oh never mind. I'm just an old woman, and diehard romantic." Kairen broke into a light laughter. The proofreader squirmed slightly in her chair, while a small grin played on Dru's lips.

Kairen smiled to herself while she watched from her window, the tall raven-haired woman and the shorter strawberry-blonde walk down the drive to the street. "Humph, they don't even know," she told the empty room. "I'd give my eyeteeth to have what they are ignoring."


 

"How about getting something to eat," Dru asked, " as she turned the Infiniti onto Abrego street.

"Sure thing, I'm starved," her passenger agreed.

Pulling the car up to the side of a parked car, Dru threw the gear into reverse. With an arm extended over the back of Kasey's seat, she turned half about peering out the back window, and maneuvered into the parking place. "Here we are," she announced.

The Clock was one of Dru's favorite restaurants, right after the Chart House. Tables were placed throughout the small courtyard. One grouping of heavy redwood tables was arranged around a brick fire pit. Thick rough-cut wood beams framed the area, covered overhead with dark mesh. The fire pit gas jets were turned on, providing warmth on the fast cooling evening. Sliding glass doors, leading inside, were open exposing the highly polished bar, and two men leaning on it drinking beer. Lots of trees and hanging plants made the place have a deep forest feel. The menu usually ranged the basic home style meals with a few exotic plates thrown in for interest. Hasenpfeffer was the special of the evening. Dru directed Kasey to a table by the fire, and sat across from her. A husky waitress came over to take their order. The writer ordered the spicy rabbit stew, her companion wrinkled her nose up at her friends choice, and ordered roast chicken, earning her one bored arched eyebrow.

Kasey fidgeted with her wine glass in deep introspection on what had been learned during that afternoon with Kairen. She still couldn't get over the older woman's observation of her and Dru, and felt a silent chuckle begin to bubble in side. My how things change in such a short time. Would anyone have guessed her thoughts when Kairen had so innocently asked her question? Fortunately, Dru wasn't a mind reader, otherwise, she would have had to do some big time explaining. She was being foolish, but couldn't help herself. It was like hearing a tune play in her head, and forced to hear it over and over again. Kasey really did enjoy being with Dru, and their friendship was fast becoming extremely important to her. The woman was so different than she expected. Warmer and…. She sighed, and deeper. Would she ever see the real Dru without all the barriers? Probably not, she told herself, but did it matter? No. She was happy just to share the time they had, and knowing it would be over all too soon didn't sit well. Only a week, and the week was almost up. They were almost finished with the manuscript and there was no reason for her to stay around after Sunday. She didn't expect it to bother her so much. You're being very silly, she scolded herself. What did you expect to happen after the manuscript was completed? A life with this woman, you've got to be kidding, this is Dru Warlord remember, the Queen of Mystery, and who are you? Just a lowly proofreader of no account to anyone. She worked herself into quite a pity-party. She looked up, and was caught by cerulean blue eyes. For a long moment those eyes and face became her universe.

Someone cleared their throat, which forced Kasey back to the present. The waitress, with a knowing look, placed their plates on the table. Dru busied herself by concentrating on her food. While Kasey pushed her food from one side of the dish to the other, wishing she knew what was wrong with her, and why all her thoughts were so mixed up and confusing. Life wasn't supposed to be this difficult.


 

Dru saw the look in the young proofreader's eyes, which caught and held her own. It spoke volumes, and reading them sent a thrill through her, followed closely by fear. Fear of the unknown, of taking a chance, of exposing herself to this woman. Could she do it, or would she retreat into her shell? She wasn't sure what she wanted to do, and the confusion made her head ache. The waitress broke the moment allowing Dru to begin to breathe again.

When Kairen asked if they were a couple, Dru almost bit her tongue in half. But when she thought about it, she had to admit they did work well together. A first for the writer, who selfishly guarded her privacy. Less than a week left, and all of that would change. The situation would take care of itself, but was that what she wanted, or did she hope for something or someone to change it? There were things about herself, which made her believe she didn't deserve to become involved with anyone, especially the bright-eyed, innocent looking woman sitting across from her. If Kasey knew her past… Dru left the thought unfinished. This line of thinking was getting her no where. There was nothing between them, except maybe hopeful thinking on her part.

"How's your chicken?" Dru asked, getting her mind off the downward spiral into her pit of loneliness. She'd noticed the strawberry-blonde had been mostly rearranging the food on her plate.

"Oh… it's very good," she smiled, quickly popping a piece of chicken into her mouth. "How's yours?"

"Tastes like chicken," blue eyes sparkled. That at least earned her a good natured laugh from the other woman. Should she or shouldn't she, Dru thought for an instant, and decided to go with it. "What did you think about Kairen's observations?" She kept her voice even, and her eyes on her food.

"It was interesting," Kasey paused, "I do agree that we work well together," came the casual answer.

"Me too," added Dru, just as casually. "Maybe we can work together again sometime?" Her heart stopped for an instant waiting for the answer. She heard a small intake of breath from her companion.

"That would be nice," came the noncommittal reply.

Yes, it would be nice she thought, but since Kasey hadn't added more, she began to imagine the proofreader wasn't all that excited about the prospects of working on another novel with her. Maybe it was for the best? Nip this in the bud now before she made a fool of herself. It was stupid to even think Kasey could be interested in her.

The waitress dropped off the bill. Dru picked it up without really seeing it. This new pain she was feeling hurt more than expected. She berated herself for allowing herself to hope, to dream. Before she could get up, a small warm hand closed over her larger one. She wondered at the contrast of light and dark skin together. Looked up to see the concern in emerald eyes focused on her.

"Are you okay?" Kasey's voice had that note in it, which pulled at her. She almost blurted out what she felt, but bit down hard on the inside of her cheek until she was under control again.

"Yeah, I'm fine." Dru squeezed the hand holding hers, "C'mon, I have a couple of things I still need to do."

Over a couple of streets from the restaurant, was a jeweler Dru knew. A buzzer sounded as they walked into the store. Gary Martin, the owner, and old friend of Dru's, came out from the back of the store. His curly blonde hair fell over his forehead. As always falling into his soft blue eyes. He was at least a head shorter than his raven-haired friend.

"Dru! Wow, it's great to see you." He offered his hand. "I believe you get more beautiful as time goes on. Not quite fair for the rest of us who wither so badly under the stress of time." Gary's smile split his face in two.

Dru shook his hand, "Oh yeah, I never realized how bad your eyesight has become." That also earned her a small snort from her partner, who was smiling easily by her side. The writer introduced the proofreader, then became serious. "Gary, I need you to check this for me." She handed over the gold pendant.

Gary flipped it over a couple of times, using his jeweler's loop lodged in one eye to discern the markings. "Can you possible tell me the engravings?" asked the writer.

"Give me a second, I'll take it in back and put it through a cleaner." Gary left the two women alone, while he went into the back room. Kasey wandered over to a counter, leaning over to view the jewelry displayed.

"He has some really nice pieces here," Kasey observed. "I like that one there." Dru joined her by the counter.

"Ah huh, nice, the color matches your eyes perfectly." Such an innocent comment, but one which brought a smile to her companion's face.

"You really think so?" Kasey took another look at the carved jade lover's knot pendant.

Gary came back holding the pendant in his hand, "Ok, it's pretty messed up, but I can make out the initials. In the center is a large 'P', on the left side is a 'C' and on right is a 'T'. Usually, the way these things are done, the person's surname enclosed by their first and middle initials." Gary looked up from the pendant, "Does that help any?"

"Yes it does, thanks," smiled Dru. It didn't take the two women long to get back to the car. "Okay, I can hear the gears churning from here, what are you thinking." The dark haired writer asked her passenger.

"You're right, I am thinking, didn't know the gears were so loud." She winked at the driver who stole a glance in her direction. "We know Lyanda's initials, and they aren't C.T.P. So, I guess we didn't find a clue the other day."

"I beg to differ with you. I think we got ourselves a very large clue." Dru concentrated on the traffic for a moment before explaining. "What if, they were two sets of initials?"

"That would be rather confusing wouldn't it?" asked Kasey.

"Let's add up what we know so far." Dru drove down Ocean street, "Lyanda's body is found off Sunset St., right across the way from Clarice Bondini. Maiden name, 'Tanner.'"

"You've got to be kidding! She was married at the time, her husband died a year after the murder from the information we've gathered. There's nothing saying she was involved or having an affair."

Dru shook her head, "If Clarice was seeing Lyanda, her husband didn't know, or anyone else for that matter. For the moment let's just say these two women were seeing each other. Clarice would be about the right size, and if you noticed what she was wearing the day we talked to her, it ran along the tailored style. Kairen said whoever Lyanda was seeing wanted to keep their relationship quiet. Maybe it just happened, the affair." They were driving by Clarice's place just as she said this, and pulled over into a turn out across the street.

"I understand, Clarice would need to keep the affair under wraps until she sorted out in her head what she was going to do about it. To stay or leave her husband. That fits at least." Kasey brow furrow puzzling out the clues, "But how do you come up with all of this from the pendant?"

"It's the romantic in me I guess," Dru wryly grinned. "If I wanted to give someone a token sentiment of my feelings that wouldn't cause curiosity it would be very inconspicuous and simple. The 'P' is Lyanda's last name, but the 'C' and 'T', Clarice's initials, are on either side implying Lyanda was in her heart."

"I think you're reaching coming to that conclusion, if anything, it's just a way to symbolically have two become one. Two names blended together on a single pendant." Kasey sighed. "But why kill her? Lyanda was supposedly someone she loved?"

Dru scooted down in her seat a little, leaned her head against the headrest, and watched the flow of traffic move by. "I'm not sure. The usual scenario, blackmail. Possibly Lyanda was threatening to expose their little liaison?"

"Why would she do that, and still wear the pendant if it was a expression of love? It doesn't make sense." Kasey shook her head, "I don't think it was Clarice at all."

A silver BMW Z3 came cruising up the road, turning into Clarice's driveway. The subject of their conversation climbed out of the sports car, leaving it in the driveway. She wore a charcoal gray suit. The double breasted blazer and slacks fit her like a glove. The woman had taste, Dru admitted.

"Obviously, we need more information, and hopefully we'll come up with something." Dru straighten up and started the car and headed home.

Kasey open the car door expecting Dru to follow suit, but the other woman remained seated, hands on the wheel. "What's up."

"I forgot to get gas. Go on inside and I'll be back soon." Dru smiled and waved. The proofreader watched as the car pulled into traffic.


 

She knew she should have told Kasey what she really was up to, but decided against it. The one thing she didn't want to do was worry about the proofreader, especially if there was trouble. Truthfully, it wasn't exactly a lied, she did stop for fuel. It wouldn't do to run out of gas on her way over to the campus. She needed to check Antonio's car. Knowing for sure if he had been the one who tried to run Kasey off the road, would help. Pieces of the puzzle would then begin to fit. There were far too many now she was guessing at, and facts were the only way to solve the case. Damn! Why didn't she write romance stories instead of mysteries? Good reason, she knew nothing about romance and more than enough about mysteries.

California State University, Monterey, used to be Fort Ord Army base, which had been turned over to the state, and converted to a college. Barracks transformed into dorms, and classes on basket weaving instead of war. Fortunately, she knew the vehicle she was searching for, and found it quicker than anticipated. She learned a long time ago, act like you belong and everyone will accept that you're supposed to be there. Dru left the car running, this wasn't going to take long. Crouching down by the front bumper, the telltale black paint popped out like a beacon. Well, that solved that. Surveying the parking lot, she nonchalantly bumped against the vehicle. Instantly, a screaming alarm sounded. She hopped back into Greg's car, steering it across the parking lot between two cars, and waited. A young, lanky man walking with long purposeful strides, approached the utility vehicle. She observed him without being noticed. He matched the printout of Antonio's license. A beep sounded, then silence returned. The man did a walk around checking the car, then turned where he stood scanning the area. Sitting still as the darkness itself, Dru held her breath. A moment later Antonio began walking back the way he had come.

Driving back to the apartment she thought about her next move. Should she bring Hank into this, or take care of the matter on her own? She was still trying to decide as she opened the door to her apartment. Every muscle froze instantly, as the blood in her veins solidified. Something was dreadfully wrong. It didn't take but a nanosecond for Dru to realize Kasey wasn't there. The coffee table was on end, and papers scattered on the floor. Protruded from the wall in front of her holding a piece of paper in place was a huge bowie knife.

Instead of the fear, a hot anger erupted, as she viciously grabbed the knife, and yanked it from the wall. Holding the paper she read it over and over again to make sure she understood what was being demanded. There was no way she could come up with two hundred thousand dollars on her own. Handing over the manuscript was a given, but the money came as a surprise. She was hoping Kasey was right about being able to take care of herself. Until she could find her, she'd be on her own.

Dru pounded on Greg's door until the pudgy man opened it. "My goodness, Dru, what are you trying to do, break my door down?"

"I need your help, Greg," she forced her way past the shorter man. "Get some clothes on."

"Hmm, do I have a choice?" he asked confused, " I guess not." He wore a T-shirt and a pair of garish Bermuda shorts. "What's all of this about, if you don't mind me asking?" Greg called out from where he was changing in his bedroom, a moment later he reappeared stuffing his shirt inside his levies.

"Someone has kidnapped Kasey, and they are asking a ransom of two hundred thousand dollars," growled Dru.

"You're kidding." His hands fell to his sides. "What are you going to do?"

"Get her back of course," answered the angry dark haired woman.

"Dru, that's what the police are for, have you called them."

"No! I don't want them involved, and I won't take a chance with Kasey's life." The note in her voice made Greg take a step back. He realized whoever had the proofreader, it wasn't going to bode well when Dru got her hands on them. He'd seen her in action before, and knew from experience.

"So what do you want me to do?" he asked confused. He wasn't a fighter, but more a lover. Well, anyway he wasn't a fighter.

"I need you to get Mable to loan me the money, it would be only for a little while." Dru paced the room like a caged animal.

"You can ask her yourself, you don't need me for that," he explained.

"Oh but I do. She'll be more pliable if she thinks there might be a little gratuity in it for her," informed Dru. The implications were apparent.

"Oh no you don't. Do you have any idea what you're asking of me?" the agent pleaded.

"Yes, I'm asking you to help me save Kasey's life."

How could he say no? He gave a shrugged and headed for the door, "Well, I guess we better get this over with. How do you want to do this?"

Dru drove her Mustang, dodging cars, and weaving in and out of traffic. Greg took his car and was heading over to Mable's. She had a place in town that she used during the week. On the weekends Sinclair could be found at her luxuriant villa in the Carmel hills. Greg would call her when he got the money, in the mean time, Dru was heading over to Clarice's. The lights were on and Dru could hear the television as she waited for the woman to answer the door.

"What do you want?" asked Clarice, annoyed when she recognized who was standing on her doorstep.

"We need to talk." The tall muscular woman pushed Clarice back into the room and closed the door.

"What do you think you're doing busting into my home? I'm going to call the police." The woman turned to pick up the phone sitting on the end table.

"Go ahead, I'm sure they would like to know about you and Lyanda." The bombshell took the air out of the older woman's sails, and the phoned dropped to the floor.

Turning slowly to face the menacing writer, who looked nothing like a writer at the moment, who stood eyes blazing and fists clenching and unclenching. "What… What do you want?" Clarice backed up into the living room, keeping a lot of space between her and the threatening woman.

"Where do you have her?" In two swift strides she was nose to nose with the other woman, who yelped at the sudden advance.

"Don't hurt me, please," Clarice whimpered. "Oh God, what have I done?"


Kasey let herself into the apartment. She knew Dru was up to something, but let it go. The writer needed to do things her way. The place seemed too quiet without the other woman. Hmm, how different things felt when she wasn't around. The proofreader believed there were special people in the world who influence everything around them, and the writer was one of them. Thinking about the dark haired woman brought an odd little smile to her face. If things could only be different, she told herself. What would it be like if Dru cared for her? Wow, it would be fun to find out. Kasey hugged herself rubbing her upper arms. She wished Dru was back. The feeling she got around the other woman was intoxicating, and she wished to experience as much of it as possible before this fairy tale ended on Sunday.

"Hey sweetie, I knew I would see you again."

The strawberry-blonde whirled around to face the voice. The man standing there, looked familiar, but she couldn't place him. " How did you get in here?" she demanded, backing into the living room. A shiver of fear slithered down her spine. Oh feathered balls, where was Dru? She sure could use some help right about now, and all this time she thought she could take care of herself. Hmm, so much for bravado.

"Where are you going, don't you want to have some fun?" The young man moved in her direction, as she tried to keep the sofa between him and her. He grabbed the coffee table turning if over, still closing on her. Kasey hurled the phone at him and whatever came into reach, papers, vase, all were useless she knew before throwing them. As the man ducked and swerved, he lunged catching hold of her left arm. With a brutal chop she sliced down on it with her right hand, numbing his hand. He lost his grip, but recovered quickly. Kasey went on the offensive seeing that there was nowhere else to go. She stomped on his foot, and aimed an upper cut to his jaw. Both were ineffective, as she sank into darkness after feeling his fist connect with her chin.

Yuck, what was that smell? Kasey wondered, as she fought for consciousness. The musty dampness came from the foul smelling blanket that was covering her from head to foot. Ropes held her hands and feet immobile. She wanted to scream, but there was some sort of filthy rag stuffed in her mouth, which she couldn't spit out. She concentrated, and realized she was laying on the back seat of a car. And the hum of the engine told her he was taking her somewhere. Oh yeah, she could handle herself. What was she going to say to Dru when she came for her? What a joke, she even believed the writer would find a way to rescue her. She took a moment to think about that, and realized down deep she really did believe if there was a way to find her, Dru would do it. Obviously, Dru would need time to find her, so Kasey had to make a plan to keep whomever it was holding her very busy. Now, how was she going to do that if she didn't know where he were taking her?

Dru, if you can read minds, please come for me. I'll never tell you again not to protect me. Just make sure you're in time before he decides to do something very stupid, okay?

 

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