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 ~ Questions, comments & thoughts all welcome. Loves_to_write_fic@yahoo.co.uk

© June, 2006 Cam Taylor


Chapter Twenty-One

Thursday, 4th February

C hris slowly came around to white fluorescent lights glaring in her face and groaned. She felt numb - - numb and groggy and uncomfortable. She started to roll onto her side.

"No, honey, don't move."

Chris opened her eyes and tried to smile. The butterfly stitches in her lip allowed her just enough of a grin to show she was making an attempt. "You look almost as bad as me!" she told her best friend, seated in a chair next to the bed.

"No way, hon, you take the crown on this one," Laurie replied, giving her a sad little smile. Her arm was in a cast, the bruises on her face discoloured and beginning to fade.

"What day is it?"


"The fourth?" Chris frowned.

Laurie nodded. "That's right."

"Happy birthday for yesterday."

"Thanks, Chris. I've seen Charley. He got me a car! I can't wait to see it!"

Chris smiled and reached out to take Laurie's hand. "Where are the guys?"

"They went to get coffee."

"Oh." Chris hissed in agony as she tried to sit up, then grabbed her ribs as she grimaced in pain.

"I told you to stay how you were!" Laurie scolded.

"Where's Janet?" Chris asked, lying back down obediently.

Laurie smiled knowingly. "She's back in town with her mum. They wouldn't let her in to see you, so Kate took her home. She was prowling the corridors and making everyone uneasy!"

They fell quiet. Chris knew Laurie wanted to know about her and Janet, knowing her best friend had surely figured it out that things had changed between them, and Laurie wondered if she should bring it up.

"So..." Laurie started.


"It was Jackson, huh?" Laurie finally said.

Chris let out the breath she hadn't known she'd been holding and grinned lopsidely. "Yep. Turns out he's completely unhinged!"

"Why am I not surprised?" The two friends laughed together. "Oh... guess what?" Laurie sang out cheerfully.


"Patrick has a date with Tania."

"Oh, yeah? I'm not surprised. The day I first him at the office, she told me he was the one."

The door opened and the investigators and the Colonel walked in, the aroma of coffee following them in. "Chris, you're up! Well, half-way at least," Joey joked.

Charley walked over and sat on the edge of the bed. "I'm so sorry." He took her hand.

"What for? All right... what did you break?" Chris teased, pulling her hand back.

He smiled sheepishly. "I told you I wouldn't let him hurt you and then..."

"Did you catch him?" she interrupted.

"No, he got away. We followed the blood trail, but it stopped outside suddenly."

"He escaped in a car? His car?" The investigators nodded. "What about that other guy?" Chris asked, as Charley stood up to join the others.

Patrick laughed loudly. "What the hell did you do to him, Branagon? He was a right mess when we found him!"

Chris smirked. "He had it coming."

"He's here in the hospital being treated," James told her.

"Under police guard," Joey finished, grinning at her.

"What are they charging him with?" she asked in interest.

"He's the stalker. He sent the letters, made the phone calls, blah, blah, blah. They're trying to get him to tell them who killed Harrison and who ran Laurie off the road."

Patrick picked up Chris' card. "Wow! Three to eight weeks!" he whistled.

Joey looked around the taller man's shoulder. "She's out for three to eight weeks?"

"That's what it says here."

"Damn!" Joey chuckled. "Can you be good for that long?"

A nurse walked in and frowned at all the faces in the room. "I'm sorry, you'll have to go. Visiting hours are almost over and the patient needs rest." She held the door open.

"Bye, Chris. Tomorrow, I'll bring fruit."

"Thanks, Patrick. And congratulations on the good news," Chris added, winking at him.

Patrick raised his eyebrows questioningly, then glanced over at Laurie scowling. Turning back to Chris, he flashed his brilliant white smile and waved goodbye.

"Me and Charley are going out to look for Jackson tomorrow," Joey said, as he bent down to kiss her on the cheek. "We'll give him hell for what he's done to you."

"Be careful, Joey. And go armed, he won't be playing."

As Joey moved, James bent down to kiss her cheek also. "Listen to what the nurses tell you and be good." He smiled as he moved away.

Charley bent down next, intending to kiss her lips, wanting to stake his claim on her. Chris turned her head and offered him her cheek instead. "I'll... come by tomorrow," he said. "Okay?"

She ignored his hurt tone and his question. He just doesn't give up! she thought.

Laurie bent down and gently hugged her. "I'll bring her with me when I come tomorrow evening," she whispered quietly, kissing her on the cheek. She smiled as she stood up, seeing Chris was blushing.

The team finally began leaving the room, much to the poor nurse's relief, who administered the drugs Chris was allowed before leaving herself. Chris tried to get comfortable again, as much as she could. God, I ache all over! she thought, sleepily. She fell asleep not long after, thinking about Janet and her impending visit.


* * * * *

Friday, 5th February


Joey drove towards Jackson's house with Charley silent in the passenger seat. The two knew they didn't have to share hollow words. Their colleagues, their family, had been hurt by someone they had worked alongside, someone they knew and saw daily. A devil in disguise. Nothing would make things better, but taking Jackson off the streets would be a start. Jackson lived with his mother and father in a big, three-winged house in Elmswood, the next town over. The town was home to many well-off families, all of the homes huge and ostentatious.

"Jeez, look at this place!" Charley exclaimed, gazing at the massive house they were approaching. "I bet you could go all day without finding someone!"

Joey didn't reply. He was checking out the grounds, looking for any sign of someone fleeing. They pulled to a stop at the large double front doors and climbed out of the car. One of the large oak doors was opened by a smartly presented butler, who looked out at them warily. "Hi. We're looking for Jackson. Has he been here?" Joey asked politely.

"Would you like to see Mr. Valmont?"

"Not right now. We want to ask ye a few things first," Charley spoke up.

"Are you the police?"

"No. We work with Jackson."

The butler visibly relaxed a little. "I haven't seen the young sir since yesterday morning when he left for work."

"Do ye know if he's phoned the house or turned up?" Charley asked.

"Not that I know of."

"Can you check with everyone else who is here?"

"No need, sir. I answer the phone and Jackson hasn't called, nor been by."

Charley looked at Joey, then back at the butler. Butlers were always portrayed on the big screen as knowing everything, but this butler didn't know, or wasn't letting on, that Jackson had been home to talk to his father. That was how he knew James was looking for him. "Thanks for your time. Can we see Mr. Valmont now?"

"Certainly, sir. Follow me." The man stepped aside for them to enter.

Charley looked up at the high ceiling, impressed. "Jesus, my whole cabin could fit in this hallway!"

The butler led them into a lavish living room. "I'll let Mr. Valmont know you are here."

Doug Valmont was a man out of his league. A former mechanic now living far better than he had ever dreamed after marrying a well-off woman. He looked out of place as he entered the huge living room, dressed in jeans and a football shirt. Decorated with the word extravagant in mind, the two investigators felt uncomfortable sitting on the expensive chairs that Doug directed them to. "Giles tells me you two work with Jackson?"

The two investigators nodded, taking the glass of brandy he offered each of them.

"Has something happened? The Colonel phoned the house last night looking for him. He got home, called back, then hurried out of the house and raced off. Now you two have turned up..."

"You know what we do, don't you, Mr. Valmont?" Joey started.

"Yes. I practically started the business up."

"We've been protecting one of Honeyport's doctors."


"Doctor Levens had a stalker who was sending her mail and phoning her home," Joey explained. "That progressed to him going to her house. That's when she called us in."

"What does this have to do with Jackson?" Doug asked in confusion.

"We found out he was working with this stalker," Charley said bluntly. "They rented, or rather, Jackson rented, a warehouse which they used as their base. Jackson gave this other man the impression that he was helping him to get the doctor."

"I... I don't understand. Was he... undercover?"

"Jackson apparently had a sister?" Charley asked, ignoring the man's question.

"Savannah. Yes, I remember Savannah. Tragic, what happened." Doug's face grew sad.

"He said that Doctor Levens had killed her."

Doug's mouth dropped open. "Wha-...?" He took a long sip of the brandy he held in his hands, then shook his head. "Savannah died of a brain tumour. It went undetected until one day she collapsed. It turned out she'd been having these really bad headaches for months, but she thought nothing of them. There was nothing Doctor Levens could do for her, nor the doctors at the hospital."

"How much older was Savannah than Jackson?" Joey inquired.

"Let's see. Jackson was about... six, I suppose. Savannah would have been thirteen, maybe fourteen. She doted on him and he just adored her. After she di-... Jackson was a mess, my wife told me she got him treatment, all sorts of treatment. He ended up seeing a shrink twice a week for six months..."

"He didn't get over it, though," Charley interrupted. "He blames Doctor Levens, and that is what all this is about."

"Has... anyone been hurt?"

"Either Jackson or the other bloke killed one of our investigators. Kate's cat..." Charley started listing, only to be abruptly interrupted by Joey.

"Jackson abducted Doctor Levens last night," Joey told the man calmly, giving Charley a stern look. "Jackson's accomplice abducted one of our investigators, then a policewoman who discovered them at the warehouse down at the harbour. Luckily our investigator managed to get free and stopped Jackson from killing the doctor."

"Oh, God!" Doug reacted, shaking his head in shock. "I... never realised it would come to something like this! Where is Jackson now?"

"That's why we're here," Joey said. "You haven't seen him? Haven't heard from him?"

Doug shook his head. "The last I saw of him was when he got in from work last night, only to rush back out."

"What about your wife?" Charley asked.

"She's in Monte Carlo with a couple of friends. It's one of her favourite places to visit this time of year. You know, warm weather, casinos, and such."

"Jackson is hurt from a knife wound, and we don't know where he is. Our investigator stabbed him in the thigh, but he managed to crawl away and we think he got in a car, probably his own," Joey said, watching the man opposite for some sign. "Do you have any idea where he might be?"

Doug frowned, staring down at his glass of brandy with a blank look on his face. He finished the last of his drink and looked at the two investigators. "We... own a cabin... up in Cedar Forest. Harry sold me a plot and I had a log cabin built. He might be there."

"Can you give us directions?" Joey asked.

The former mechanic nodded, got up and pulled out a piece of paper from his roll-top desk, and began drawing directions on how to get to the cabin from Harry's place.


* * * * *


James stood in front of Joey, Charley and Patrick, going over what Joey had told him. The men were in the office, the biting wind and pelting rain outside not disturbing them. "Jackson had a sister?" James asked in disbelief. Joey and Charley nodded. "Why the hell didn't I know this? I do an extensive background check!"

"To be fair, boss, did ye know he was Jackson Zingler the fourth?" Charley asked.

The Colonel slowly shook his head. "No. No, I didn't. But I should have. That should've come up," he frowned.

"So, what's the plan, boss?" Joey asked.

"Well, Laurie and Chris are out of action, so it's up to you three." The three men smiled and nodded, while James picked up the nearest phone and punched in a number. "Hello, Bear. How are you?"

" Ah, James. I'm good thanks. What can I do you for? "

"Have you seen any sign of Jackson Valmont by any chance?"

" No, can't say I have. But then the Valmont cabin is nowhere near any of mine. Is there a problem? "

"Yes, but I can't tell you what. I'm sending my guys up to check out the Valmont cabin. I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't tell anyone, or give them away while they're there. And if you see Jackson, don't let on that my guys are coming."

" Won't say a word, James. Hope you find what you're looking for. "

James hung up and looked back at his investigators. "All right. This is what I want you to do. I want you to change out of your suits and get yourselves armed, then go up to Cedar Forest. Be discreet, quiet and without fuss, and check out the Valmont cabin. We don't know he's there, but if there are signs of Jackson being there, I trust you'll care of him. I can't imagine that he'll give himself up quietly and he's obviously not sane, so I leave it to your discretion on how to handle him."

"Handle him?" Patrick asked.

"He's a nut, Paddy. We're gonna put him out of his misery!" Charley growled, up for the challenge.

"But... he could get help!" Patrick didn't like what he was hearing. "He should be handled by the police, surely?"

"What? Sent to prison?" Charley asked. "He'll stew in his juices for a few years, then get out to come after us again! I don't think so," he snapped.

"Like Chris said, he'll probably have a gun on him," Joey spoke up, siding with Charley and James.

"Okay, guys. You know what I want from you. Check in with me once it's... over," James said seriously.


* * * * *

Charley, Joey and Patrick lay on the forest floor behind brush camouflage, watching the Valmont cabin. It had been beautifully built out of large, thick logs that had been varnished a soft honey colour.

Mr. Valmont had told them the rough layout of the large extravagant cabin. He had said that walking through the front door, one was immediately in the living room, complete with a large stone fireplace, wood floors mainly, though a rug or two had been thrown down for decoration. Doug told them of a long seven-seater couch with matching chairs off to the side. The kitchen occupied the back wall, divided from the living room by a log counter that was about four foot high, accompanied by high bar stools on one side. On the left, there was a short hallway where there were four doors. One door opened into a large bathroom, two doors opened to bedrooms, and the fourth was a games room.

The investigators had checked in with Harry Tier, before making their way up to the remote location of the cabin. They had now been lying almost prone for half an hour on the damp forest floor behind their brush camouflage and had seen nothing of real interest. Nature was carrying on around them -- the sound of birds and small creatures moving around -- oblivious to the investigators' presence. There had been no sign of Jackson. But they knew someone was in the cabin, as there was smoke coming out of the chimney.

"One of us should circle around, make sure there's only one way in and out," Charley said quietly. He was looking through a pair of binoculars, taking in the surrounding area.

"We should look for a car, too. How did he get up here with a leg injury?" Patrick asked.

"I'll go," Joey whispered, taking charge. "You two wait here. Don't move, don't talk, just wait for me to get back with a report."

"I'll give ye a whistle if we see movement," Charley told him, getting a nod in response.

Joey crawled backwards away from the other two men, planning on going the long way around to avoid being spotted.

"Whistle? Don't you think that will be a bit obvious?" Patrick asked quietly.

"What do you suggest? Besides, I don't think Jackson's going to come out. He's hurt. He'll be resting up."


* * * * *

Joey walked as quietly as he could, impossible in a forest full of fallen twigs and leaves, but he tried. He used the trees as cover, peeking around the trunks to get a look at the cabin. He ducked behind a tree and looked down at the left side of the cabin. No door, just two windows. He started moving on.


* * * * *

"Where is he? Can you see him?"

With an annoyed sigh, Charley handed the binoculars to Patrick. "On the right. He's been all the way around the cabin and is now making his way back." They watched for fifteen minutes as Joey slowly walked from tree to tree, gradually making his way back to them.

"There's a garage at the back," Joey told them, as he crawled up to lie between them. "I crept down and took a look through a window. A green Ford was in there."

"That other guy's car," Charley stated, seeing Joey nod. "There's a back door, isn't there?" he asked.


"Well, two of us can go in the front, while the other one waits at the back door in case he tries to run," Charley suggested.

"He's been stabbed in the thigh. How the hell can he run?" Patrick asked.

"He'll be desperate. He'll try anything," Joey replied.

"You and me inside then, Joey? Patrick at the back door," Charley said.

"How come?" Patrick protested.

"You're still a rookie and Jackson's dangerous," Joey told him. They all looked towards the cabin as a voice drifted over to them.

"What's going on?" Charley asked.

Joey lifted the binoculars as he snatched them off Patrick and zoomed in to get a batter look. "The front door's slightly open. It's... some woman. She's coming out."

"Some woman? Young, old, black, white?" Charley questioned.

"Young, foreign-looking."

"Foreign-looking? What does that mean?"

"She looks exotic. Tanned. Dark hair."

"That's his latest girlfriend," Patrick said confidently.

"How would you know?" Joey asked.

"He told me. Told me all about her. Her name's Adoncia. She's Spanish."

"What's she doing?" Charley asked Joey, who was still watching.

"I think she's looking for wood."

Charley snorted. "Looking for wood!" he sniggered.

"Is the plan still the same?" Patrick asked, eager to get on with it.

"We'll wait until tonight, when they've crashed out. We'll go in then," Joey decided.


* * * * *


Laurie led Janet towards Chris' room, a big smile on her face.

"Will you stop smiling!" Janet nudged the smaller woman. Laurie hadn't stopped smiling since Janet had confirmed the news she had been waiting to hear. Chris had realised what she'd felt and had decided she could deal with it and was now with Janet. Nobody knew except Laurie and Kate.

"I'm sorry. It's just that I told her you were interested on our second day at your mum's."

Janet smiled. "Thank God Chris realised how she felt." Her smile slipped. "How is she?"

"Okay. Pretty banged up. Apparently the ribs alone are going to keep her off work for three to eight weeks."

"And the head injury?"

"Ten stitches and bandaged up. Slight concussion. She asked about you."

"She did?" Janet couldn't stop a bright smile spreading across her lips.

"Yeah, when I was with her last night. She woke up and wondered where you were."

"That stupid nurse! She could've let me in for five minutes!"

Laurie stopped in front of the door to Chris' room. "This is it. I'll leave you two alone, perhaps distract the nurses to give you some time."

"Thanks, Laurie." Janet took a deep breath, then pushed open the door. Chris was half sitting up, pillows arranged behind her back. Her head was heavily bandaged, her cheek a dark purple and her spilt lip stitched up. Janet swallowed the lump that grew in her throat and walked across to the bed, gently taking Chris' hand.

Chris stirred and turned her head, slowly opening her eyes, a smile curling her lips. "Hey," she croaked.


"What day is it?"

"Friday. Friday the fifth of February."

Chris closed her eyes. "You were right."

"About what?"

Blue eyes opened. "My ribs. They are fractured."

Janet smiled. "How's your head? I remember it looked back when I... was sitting opposite you."

"They gave me something for the pain. Wait... maybe that was for my ribs? Oh, I don't know... they gave me something..." Chris gave a half smile. "You look beautiful."

"That's the drugs talking!" Janet laughed softly.

"Ahhh... maybe. Do I get a kiss? I saved your life, you know."

"I... I don't want to hurt you."

"C'mere." They kissed gently because of the stitches in Chris' lip. When Janet took a step back she was crying, the tears slowly running down her cheeks. "What's wrong?" Chris asked in concern.

"Is it always going to be like this? Me visiting you in the hospital?"

Chris didn't lie, knowing now was a time to be completely truthful. "My job can be dangerous. But then, so can yours." Janet didn't reply. "Janet..." Chris swallowed. I have to give her a way out, even if it does break my heart. "If you don't want this, then do it now. Don't wait until I get out of the hospital, just 'cause you feel sorry for me or think you owe me something."

Janet bent back down and kissed her tenderly and gently, but also lovingly. Chris slid her hand along Janet's side, then around to her back, holding her in place, knowing this could be the last time and wanting to prolong it. Janet finally pulled back slightly and looked into baby blues. "I think I love you, Chris. I know we haven't known each other that long and... we've only gotten together over the last few days, but..." She let out a trembling breath. "Last night when... when I thought he was going to kill you, I was sitting there praying and telling you that I loved you."

Chris searched Janet's soft green eyes, amazed at the emotion there.

"I don't want us to break up, Chris. I... I want to be with you. I want to be by your side."

Chris pulled her back down and kissed her, ignoring the bit of pain that radiated from her hurt lip. "I... love you, too."


* * * * *

The investigators remained in their positions all afternoon, keeping watch to make sure Jackson didn't leave. As night fell, they continued to watch the cabin. Lights began to glow from the windows. "Kerosene lights, right?" Patrick asked.

"Probably... maybe the light from the fireplace," Charley said.

They kept watching as one by one the lights were finally extinguished. "Okay, let's give it an hour before we make our move," Joey said quietly.

"An hour!" Patrick exclaimed.

"Yeah. They might not be sleeping."

"Well then, that's a perfect time to interrupt," Patrick said.

"He has a point," Charley agreed. "They'll be butt naked, neither of them thinking about what's going on around them."

Joey considered Charley's words. "What if they're not having sex and we burst in? Jackson's probably got a gun."

"We're hardly going in unarmed, Joey. And I don't plan on taking him alive, not after what happened to Chris and Laurie and Ha-... Harrison."

Joey slowly nodded. "Okay. Let's go."

They slowly made their way towards the cabin, their breathing quiet, their steps stealthy. Any noise they made mingled with the night sounds. Stopping at the three steps that led up to the porch, Joey signalled for Patrick to go around the cabin to the back door. Patrick nodded, his gun drawn and ready for anyone trying to run. Joey and Charley walked softly up the three wooden steps, wary of any creaking. They stood on either side of the dark wooden door, nodded to each other, then glanced over their shoulders to make sure Patrick had gone around to the back. On his nod, Joey reached out and started to turn the door knob. Surprisingly, the door was unlocked. Jackson, as always, was still a little reckless, or over-confident that the team wouldn't be able to track him down.

Joey pushed the door slowly open, wincing at the slight squeak that rang out. He and Charley peered into the darkened cabin, pausing a moment to see if anyone stirred within. Nodding at each other again, Charley licked his lips nervously as he walked in first, checking left and right, before stopping to wait for Joey. They knew Jackson was here somewhere. They just had to find him. They crept further into the living room, making their way over to the large couch.

Jesus! Joey thought in sudden panic. Why does this scream trap all of a sudden?

God, I hope he's not lying on that couch waiting for us! Charley thought, as he moved silently onwards.

Both men stopped dead in their tracks as a click sounded behind them.



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