Disclaimers ~ This is an original work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, places or events is purely coincidental. These characters belong to me, if they have a passing resemblance to you or share your name, it's purely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from the author.

Bad language ~ A fair bit.

Disclaimers ~ This is an original work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, places or events is purely coincidental. These characters belong to me, if they have a passing resemblance to you or share your name, it's purely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from the author.

Bad language ~ A fair bit.

Love/sex ~ Romance between men and women and between women. Sex between consenting couples.

Sickness & death ~ There are some deaths in this story. If that's not for you, I hope you enjoy reading something else.

Author's note ~ Sorry for the delay. E-mail trouble. I wanted to send and it didn't want to co Questions, comments & thoughts all welcome. Loves_to_write_fic@yahoo.co.uk

© June, 2006 Cam Taylor

Chapter Eleven

Saturday, 19th December

Harrison's funeral was held just over a week later. The police confirmed what Chris had feared through dental records. Walter had informed the Kienes that their son's body had been discovered, but left out exactly how it had been found; he hinted that it had been a car-jacking gone wrong.

The post-mortem carried out on the body revealed Harrison had taken a blow to the head, which was thought to be how the perp managed to smuggle him away. Tissue damage to his wrists indicated he had been restrained for a while and bruising to the tissue in his torso showed he had taken a heavy beating before his death. The coroner assured James that Harrison hadn't been alive when his body had been set on fire.

There was no evidence on or around the cross to indicate who had committed the heinous act. The footprint also came to nothing. It had been made by a common shoe that was mass-produced, the shoe size not unusual. They had nothing else to go, much to their disgust.

The investigators stood together on one side of Harrison's final resting place, his parents and family members on the other side, huddled together, clinging to each other for comfort. Kate and Janet stood a respectable distance away with James, not wanting to intrude. The weather fit the mood of the people who had turned up to pay their respects, the sky above was a dark grey, the clouds looking heavy and ready to burst. It had snowed for the past few days and the cemetery was covered with a blanket of snow and ice.

At the wake, back at Harrison's parents' house, Harrison's mother, a small woman with puffy red eyes from endless tears, politely informed the investigators that she would be selling everything of her son's, but if they wanted anything, then they were welcome to take it. "It's what Harry would have wanted," she told them, bottom lip trembling.

Chris distanced herself, as she always did when death surrounded her. She stayed back from the group she called her family and from Harrison's relatives. She observed the wake from afar, sitting on the stairs and watching everyone else in their grief.

Joey walked up to Laurie and Charley. "How do you think she's handling it?" he asked, worried brown eyes looking at each of his friends.

"She's started off the same. The same reaction she had when... Helen... she's distancing herself," Laurie said sadly. The trio discreetly looked over to where Chris was seated, just her legs visible from the dark stairs.

"Maybe we should get the boss to give her some time off," Charley suggested.

"She won't be happy," Joey replied.

"Look what happened last time though," Laurie reminded them. "She completely threw herself into her cases, over-worked herself, and almost got herself killed a few times." Laurie felt a pang of hurt in her heart. "I don't want to lose her. She's my best friend. After... after losing Helen, I... I can't lose her as well!" They each fell silent as they remembered how Chris had been when she had first arrived in town and then again with the death of Helen.

"She shouldn't blame herself," Joey said, sighing.

"No, she shouldn't, but she does," Laurie replied. "You know she has that belief that if she lets anyone get close they'll get hurt."

"That's bull!" Charley scoffed.

"We know that," Joey said softly. "I think deep down, she knows that, too. But after what she's been through, it's an excuse, isn't it?"

"I'll go and talk to the boss," Laurie offered. "If anyone can get Chris to stay off work, it's him." The two men nodded and watched the lithe woman glide away, making her way through the crowd to their boss. Laurie walked over to James and waited for a break in the conversation he was having.

"Laurie?" James asked finally, turning to face her.

"Can I have a word, boss?" she asked quietly.

James nodded and led the petite woman away from the crowd. "What is it, Laurie?" he asked, once they were in the privacy of the kitchen.

"I was wondering if you could give Chris a few days off?"

"You've noticed as well?" James sighed. "I was going to give you all a few days off anyway. What with it being Christmas. Losing a friend is hard, but knowing how close you all are..." He rubbed his cheeks wearily, looking and feeling every year of his fifty-two years. I've seen far too much death! And so have they. "I'll try to give her the rest of December off, though she won't be happy about it."

"Of course not. But we can't have her throwing herself into work again. She almost got herself killed last time and I refuse to lose her, boss."

James reached out and squeezed the brown-haired woman's shoulder. "We won't let that happen, Laurie." Watching his investigator leave the kitchen, James found himself a strong drink for courage, then went in search of Chris. He found her seated on the dark staircase and asked her to accompany him to the kitchen.

Chris sat down at the small kitchen table and opened another beer. She knew what was coming, or at least she thought she did.

"How are you?" James began.

Chris snorted. "Better than Harrison's parents. They've just lost their only child to some nut we're no closer to catching!"

"I know this is hitting you hard," James said cautiously, knowing Chris had a fierce temper. "It always does. I think you should take the rest of the year off."

"What!" Chris exclaimed, blue eyes wide in shock. "That's two weeks, boss! There's a nut out there and you want me to take time off?" Her voice raised the more angry she got.

James put a hand on her shoulder. "Chris, I need you at your best. A little time off will help clear your head."

"You don't think I'm capable of doing my job!" the blonde said, astounded.

"Chris, you need a break. A proper break. You haven't had time off since you were recovering from... from your..."

"Bullet wounds?"

"If you don't rest, you'll burn out, and I don't want to lose my best investigator."

"Fine," she growled. "I'll take time off," she conceded grumpily.

"You're not the only one, Chris. I'm giving everyone else a couple of days off as well."

"Not two weeks."

"You need it. Rest up and come back ready and willing to solve this case."


* * * * *

Monday, 28th December

Chris spent her days off in a drunken stupor. She turned her answering machine on and ignored the phone. She didn't leave the house. She spent Christmas alone, sitting in tears as she remembered those she had lost. Her family, taken from her long before their time. Helen, who she had killed. And the latest casualty, Harrison. She thought of Janet, who she feared she was in lust with, and who she knew could never let in, despite her heart telling her to. She thought of Charley, who claimed to love her and wanted to be with her, Joey, her acting big brother; and Laurie, whose life she had destroyed.

Just over a week of being drunk was too much for the workaholic. Monday morning, Chris woke up feeling terrible and realised she had to sort herself out. She had to sober up and go back to work. She wanted to help catch the bastard who had killed one of the sweetest men she knew.

Blinking as the morning sunlight lit up her mint green bedroom, Chris groaned as she rolled onto her back. She lay staring up at the ceiling, her head pounding and stomach rumbling, reminding her she hadn't eaten recently. She got up slowly, pausing as she tried to figure out if her stomach was going to rebel. Finally steady on her feet, she made her way downstairs.

Standing at the kitchen sink, the blonde poured the rest of the remaining alcohol away, while replaying the messages on her machine. The investigators and Janet had left so many that the tape was full.

" Chris... Chris, are you there? Look, will you call me? Not only do I want to talk to you, but I need to talk to you about... Brenda. Call me, " Joey said.

Charley was next. " Babe, are ye there? Are ye okay? Remember when Helen... well, don't go off the rails again, okay? Call me, lass, I worry about ye. "

Hungry, Chris started to make herself breakfast as the messages continued. She opted for something simple, two poached eggs on toast; with a cup of tea to wash it down.

" Chris, Vincenzo wanted to say something, " Joey said. " Go ahead, buddy. "

" Happy Cwistmas, aunty Cwis. "

The message made her smile.

" Uhh... Chris. It's me, Janet. I hope you don't mind, but I got your number off Laurie. She's really worried about you, Chris, and... I am, too. She... she told me what happened when you got out of the hospital, you know, after that case. I guess you're not in, or maybe you're standing right there listening. I don't know. I'll try again later. Bye. "

" Christine Valentina Branagon, please don't do this again! " Laurie pleaded. " I tried to come and see you, but the stupid guard wouldn't let me through! I'm going to complain. I don't know who to, but I will! " Chris laughed at the half-angry, half-joking voice of her best friend. " Anyway, I know you're probably safe, just feeling sorry for yourself, huh? Call me, hon. You know I'll only worry until you do. Bye. Oh, Merry Christmas, by the way. "

Chris sat at her table and ate the breakfast she had made, listening to the continuing messages. The pleas to get in touch, the Christmas messages, Janet calling back to leave her phone number. When the machine finally stopped, Chris was still seated at the table, her empty plate pushed away from her, thinking about what to do next. She finally decided to clean up. If I'm busy, I won't think so much. She started with the kitchen. She began by wiping down her marble worktops, then took everything that was left in the fridge out and cleaned inside, next was the mess she had made whilst making breakfast and finally the floor. She smiled as everything sparkled back at her and decided to do the whole house. She went upstairs next. She vacuumed all the spare rooms, cleaned the bathroom, changed the covers on her bed, and dusted everything with a lemon-scented furniture polish.

She was back downstairs in the living room when someone rang her doorbell. Chris frowned as she turned off the hoover, not expecting company. Who the hell is that? Opening the front door, Chris blinked in surprise then frowned at Janet, who stood in front of her dressed in her light blue police uniform and winter coat.

"So you are alive. I've been calling the whole week!" the hazel-haired woman said sharply.

"What are you doing here?" Chris asked in confusion. Has something happened? Surely one of the guys would have come round if it had.

"I've come to see if you're all right."

"Why did Denis let you through? He's supposed to call me first."

Janet waved a hand down at her uniform. "I think he saw me in uniform and decided not to ask questions."

"Great! I'll be the talk of the neighbourhood!" Chris laughed.

"Are you going to invite me in?"

"What about your partner?" Chris asked, looking past Janet to the man sitting in the patrol car.

Janet turned to look back at the police cruiser. "He'll be fine for a few minutes." The investigator sighed, but opened the door wider and stepped aside for Janet to enter. "Spring cleaning in December?" Janet commented, noticing the vacuum cleaner in plain sight, along with the polish and duster on the side table next to the dark red sofa.

Chris didn't reply as she shut the door, frowning as she saw the angry glare directed her way from Janet's partner in the cruiser. She led the policewoman through to the dining room. "Tea?"

Janet nodded as she took off her hat. Holding it in her hand, she stroked back the loose strands of hair that had gotten free from her hairband. "Wow! The view is amazing!" she observed, walking over to the double-glass doors. She inhaled deeply, the open doors bringing the salty scent of the sea to her. Though the weather was freezing, Chris had decided to air the house out. "I can see why you like to sit out there," Janet said, glancing over at Chris, who standing in the kitchen area, leaning back against her cherry wood cabinets waiting for the kettle to boil. The policewoman looked back at the view.

"So you're on duty?" Chris asked, as the kettle clicked. She poured the hot water into two waiting mugs, then headed out of the kitchen and over to the doors, sliding them shut to ward off the chill.

"Yeah. I figured I had a better chance of catching you in during the day."

"Your partner didn't look too happy as I shut the door."

Janet rolled her eyes. "He's jealous of any woman in my life. He's in love with me and can't understand that I'm not interested in him."

Sounds like Charley. Except Charley doesn't know I like you. Chris headed back for the kitchen to get the tea as Janet turned away from the beach view and walked over to the dining table. "Does he know you're gay?" she asked.

She sat down and set her hat down beside her. "Yeah, he does. He's just... in denial. Seems to think he can cure me." She took a wrapped gift out from one of her pockets and set it down in front of her, green eyes flicking over to Chris. "How've you been?"

"Drunk mostly. You?"

"Worried." Janet pulled out another small gift as Chris walked over with the two mugs of tea. "You weren't around for Christmas, so you missed out." She slid the two parcels across the table.

"You got me a present?" Chris asked in surprise. Damn, I didn't even think of that! She handed Janet a mug and took a seat opposite.

"Yes. And my mom did, too." Janet watched Chris nod slowly. "Are you going to open them?" she asked.

Chris set down her mug. "Sure." She picked up the nearest gift and read the tag, seeing it was from Janet. Taking a deep breath, she began unwrapping it. She gasped as she looked down at the photo of Janet and herself. They had been decorating Kate's tree, Chris had tinsel around her neck and Janet had teasingly been tugging at it. Kate had captured them looking in surprise at the camera.

"Mom took that a few weeks back. Do you remember?"

The investigator looked up at Janet, then back down at the photo. "Yeah," she smiled. "We had just finished putting the tree up." That's got to be the sweetest gift I've ever been given. Damn, wish I had thought to get her something! She put down the framed picture and picked up her steaming mug of tea. "Do you uhh... wanna go and sit on the deck?" she asked. "I know it's cold, but I did tell you that the next time you were here I would show you the view."

Janet smiled and nodded in response, standing up as Chris did and followed the blonde outside. As Chris took a seat on one of the loungers, Janet took the one next to it.

Setting her mug down, Chris jumped up again and went back inside, soon returning with two thick woollen blankets that she kept folded up in a cupboard. She handed one to Janet, who put it across her lap, then sat down and covered herself with the other one.

"I've missed you lately," Janet confessed, cradling her hot mug. "It's weird not having you around to talk to," she admitted honestly.

"I should be back to work soon. I was actually going to call the boss today. He wants me to take the rest of the year off, but I'm going mad!"

"There's only a couple more days until the New Year... well, three, if you count today," Janet said, laughing.

"I should be working," Chris protested.

"You haven't missed much. The nut's gone back to sending mail," Janet told her. "James thinks it's his way of laying low." Chris nodded. "The new guy is a pain. He keeps coming onto me!"

"The new guy?" Chris asked in confusion.

Janet nodded. "Patrick something."

Chris scowled. That was quick! "So, how's work? Back on the day shift?"

Janet nodded. "Yeah, and it's boring! Earlier I had to go and listen to Mrs. Ogden complain about teenage hooligans." She laughed at Chris' confused look. "Apparently they knocked on her door looking to do odd jobs for her. She took offence."

Chris laughed and shook her head. "That's so typical of her! Next week she'll be complaining that nobody offers to help her out!" They sipped at their drinks, falling into a comfortable silence. Having her here feels so right, Chris thought, eyes on the rolling waves ahead of her. It shouldn't feel right! I'm straight, I don't know her all that well, and Harrison has only just been buried, for God's sake! I shouldn't be getting involved. Not now... not while this guy is still out there. She tightened her hold on her mug. Should never get involved with the client... or their daughters! And we kissed! Christ, what was I thinking? She snorted quietly, earning a curious glance from Janet. Oh, that's right, I wasn't. I have to get rid of her. Chris stood up, picking up her blanket, as Janet finished her tea. "You should get going."

Janet raised an eyebrow. "What's the rush?"

"Well, besides sitting out here on my deck freezing to death, your partner's out in your car, and you're on duty. You should go do your job."

"It's our lunch break," Janet replied in amusement.

"Then go eat."

Janet smiled. She's trying to distance herself. Just like Laurie said she would. "I want to make sure you're okay. I've been really worried, Chris, especially after Laurie told...."

"Look," the blonde interrupted. "I'm jinxed or something. You shouldn't be around me." She turned to walk away.

Janet stood quickly, letting the blanket fall to the lounger. She followed after Chris, as the investigator hurried back into the house. "Not this again!" she sighed.

"Yes, this again," Chris growled. "It's not your job to get messed up in any of my business, Janet! You should... stay away."

"I don't want to stay away, Chris. I like you... I like being around you... I like talking to you..." Chris frowned as she paused. "...and I think you like me," she finished. Chris started to shake her head as Janet stepped closer. "We kissed... remember?" Janet asked softly, treating the investigator like a scared animal on the brink of bolting.

"You kissed me!" Chris argued.

"You kissed me back!"

"Jesus, are we twelve? It... it was... Thanksgiving. I was..."

Don't say it! Janet thought. Do not blame it on the alcohol.

"I was drinking. You were drinking. We were both drinking."

"And under the mistletoe a couple of weeks later? Were you drunk then?" Janet questioned.

"No... obviously not. But... it was tradition. You said so..." Chris trailed off. She took a shaky breath as she remembered the softness of Janet's lips on her own at Thanksgiving.

"What if we were to kiss now?" Janet asked quietly, not willing to give up on the investigator.

"You should go," Chris said, walking into the living room to lead Janet to the front door. She threw the blanket on the back of the sofa as she approached, freeing her hands.

Janet followed and as Chris turned back around to face her, she stopped right in front of the blonde. "You can't shut people out for rest of your life." She looked deeply into Chris' blue eyes.

"People die around me," Chris whispered, sounding almost child-like as the aroma of Janet's perfume intoxicated her.

"Yes, but you're not the only one. Look at Laurie. Maybe she's thinking the same thing. She lost the love of her life and now Harrison..." Janet took a breath. "And possibly you."

The investigator frowned again. "I'm not going anywhere."

"If you carry on like you have been, Laurie's afraid that you're going to get killed." Janet fell silent as they stood facing each other.

"I can't let you in, Janet. I can't! Too many people have already died!"

"I'm not scared, Chris. Let me into your life, let me..." she stepped closer, her hand reaching up to stroke Chris' cheek. "Let me take care of you." Not waiting for an answer, she leaned in and brushed her lips against Chris'. As their lips met, the invisible wall between them fell and they melted together.

God, this feels so right! Chris thought, sinking into the kiss. It shouldn't! "No!" she cried out, as she stepped back. "I don't want this. I don't want you."

"You don't want me! Why have you been flirting with me? Why did you invite me to Joey's? Why did you kiss me?"

"Joey's?" Chris repeated in confusion. I invited her to Joey's. Why did I invite her to Joey's? "Your... mum was out of town. I didn't think you should be alone!"

"Oh, shut up! You knew I didn't live with my mom by then."

"Then why did you say yes?" Chris asked, turning the tables on the policewoman. "You didn't have to come."

"I came because I thought you wanted me there. I thought you wanted to see more of me."

"Well, I didn't. I don't. While I'm working is enough!" Chris snapped.

Janet stormed across to the front door and opened it. "Fine! I can't do this, Chris! You just keep playing with me! You don't want to see me any more, then fine!" She slammed the door behind her.

Chris whirled around and stomped into the kitchen, angrily picking up her discarded mug and slamming it back down onto the kitchen bar instead of throwing it at the wall. She took a deep breath, trying to calm down. The doorbell rang, making her laugh out loud. "Great! More abuse!" She walked back into the living room and over to the front door. "Thought of something else..." she trailed off as she found Janet's partner on the doorstep.

"Janet forgot her hat," the man, who she thought was called Randy, told her.

Chris looked past the officer to the patrol car. "Sure, I'll get it." The investigator walked back into the dining room and retrieved the hat lying where it had been left on the table. The angry glare he had sported earlier was back when she returned. She handed the hat over to him.

"You shouldn't have upset her," he told her gruffly.

"Oh, fuck off!" She shut the front door and briefly wondered if he would arrest her for that. Dropping down onto the sofa, Chris stared at the blank screen of her wide-screen television, replaying everything that had happened in her mind. She finally blew out a frustrated breath. "Like I need this!" she said to the ceiling, as she looked up at the heavens. Standing up, she walked over to the small table that held her phone and dialled the number for the office. "Hey, Tania. Is the boss there?"

" Yeah. How are you, Chris. Are you okay? " the secretary asked in concern.

"I'm fine, Tania. Can I speak to the boss?"

" Sure. Hold on, I'll put you through. "

Chris waited as she was put on hold.

" Hello, Chris, " James greeted. " I take it you want to come back to work? "

"Yeah, boss. I'm raring to go."

James laughed down the line. " I'm surprised you left it this long. Come into the office tomorrow and I'll give you a quick update. Okay? "

"All right, boss. Nine tomorrow?"

" That'll be fine. See you then. "




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