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 a lack of updating, been caught up watching the World Cup. This series takes place in the fictional town of Honeyport in the South of England. Questions, comments & thoughts all welcome. Loves_to_write_fic@yahoo.co.uk

© June, 2006 Cam Taylor

 

Chapter Six

Tuesday, 3rd November

C hris pulled up outside the address Janet had given her fifteen minutes later than the five o'clock time they had agreed upon. In spite of Honeyport being foggy and frosty overnight, it had cleared as morning came, the sky now just cloudy and overcast, so she couldn't use bad weather as an excuse. The real reason, of course, was that she hadn't had much sleep. Going home with Charley had turned into an all night encounter, a rarity these days but not unwelcome. The investigator felt relaxed and sated, more than she had in a long time.

It should be a great barbecue at Joey's, she thought, as she pulled to a stop in front of the house she wanted. Turning off the engine, Chris sat in the car and wondered why she couldn't seem to get going to actually pick Janet up. I remember telling Laurie last night that I was just going to put Janet out of my mind because she's the daughter of a client, but here I am at her house about to take her to Joey's! I'm about to spend my day off with her, in the company of the people I not only call friends, but family! Jesus, what was I thinking when I invited her?

The blonde turned her head to look out the window at Janet's house. I can't stop my heart from pounding at the thought of her sitting next to me in my car, the thought of her coming out with me at all. I don't think I have ever looked forward to seeing someone in my life as much as I'm looking forward to seeing Janet! Chris unsnapped her seat-belt and was about to climb out of the car when Janet rushed out of the semidetached house.

"Hi," Janet greeted, as she slid into the passenger seat.

"Hi," Chris smiled. "Not going to introduce me to your friends?"

"Trust me, you do not want to meet them right now!" the brunette replied, buckling up her seat-belt.

The investigator fastened her seat-belt again and started the car, pulling away from the kerb when there was a break in traffic.

"I told you I live with four other women, didn't I?"

"Uh-huh."

"Well, two of them are a couple and at the moment they're at each other's throats."

Chris stopped as the traffic light turned red at the intersection, silence falling between them.

"Brenda Anders told me Joey lives on Balsa Lane," Janet said, attempting to make conversation.

"Balsa Close," Chris corrected. "Brenda?" she frowned. "As in Brenda Anders, daughter of James Anders?"

Janet nodded. "Uh-huh. She's one of my house-mates."

"Damn! I didn't know she was back in town."

"She got back two weeks ago. Didn't James say anything?"

Chris shook her head. "Why would he?" The light turned to green and she drove on.

"Did you uhm... know Brenda and Joey have a thing?" Janet asked cautiously.

"Yeah, but I'm the only one," Chris replied grinning.

"Why is that?"

"I saw them."

Janet waited for the blonde to elaborate, but she didn't. "You don't talk much, do you?"

"I have my moments. You nervous?"

The brunette frowned. "Nervous?"

"You can't stop talking," Chris smiled. "Or is this the real you?" she teased. They smiled at each other.

"Sorry," Janet apologised. "It's just... I'm not exactly invited, am I?"

"Yeah, you are. I told Joey last night you were coming."

 

* * * * *

Joey opened the front door holding his four year old son. Both Devines sported a big smile on their faces as they greeted the pair. "Hey, ladies. I'm glad you could make it," Joey said. "Janet, this is my son, Vincenzo."

Janet smiled at the shy little boy and offered a small wave. "Hi, Vincenzo. Wow, you're a big boy. How old are you?"

Looking at the stranger shyly from beneath dark eyelashes, Vincenzo held up four fingers.

"Four! Wow!"

Joe set the little boy down on his own feet. "Go on back to the garden, son. Make sure uncle Charley doesn't touch anything." He watched the little boy race away before turning his attention to the two women still standing on his doorstep. "Sorry, why don't you come in?" The raven-haired investigator moved aside so they could get in, then hugged them both before handing each a bottle of beer he had waiting for them.

They followed Joey out to his back garden, where he had a paved patio with a roof cover, for occasions when the weather was bad and patio heaters to keep them all warm. Food and drink was spread out along a wooden table.

Joey's garden was of a reasonable size, but it was plain. He had no decorations, unless you counted the tiny slide that was Vincenzo's which sat on the yellow-ish winter grass. Joey had no time for gardening and had no interest in it even if he could spare an hour or two.

"Meat's cooking, gang's all here, as you can see. Mingle while you wait," Joe said cheerfully.

Beers in hand, Chris led her "date" over to where Laurie and Tania Caruso were sitting. "Janet, you know Laurie. This is Tania Caruso. She's our secretary."

Janet smiled down at the seated, pale, almost translucent-skinned woman. "Hi, Tania. How are you?"

"I'm okay, thanks, Jan. I haven't seen you for ages!"

"Wait... you two... obviously know each other," Chris stammered.

The two women nodded. "We both grew up here in town and went to school together," Tania told the blonde.

"Oh, right." Chris turned to Laurie, as the two old friends got caught up with each other. "So, what's the hot topic today?"

Laurie rolled her eyes. "Your car."

"Is Joey still bitching 'cause I haven't taken him for a spin?"

"Hey, Chris. Come and play football," Charley called out to her.

"It starts off as football, but..."

"Just get over here!"

Chris smiled and handed her bottle to Laurie before walking over to where Charley stood. "I'm surprised you have the energy," she murmured, low enough for only him to hear.

Laurie, Tania and Janet sat watching as Chris and Vincenzo took on Charley and Harrison at a gentle game of football, the investigators laughing almost as much as the little boy.

"Chris told me the other week that the guys are really protective of you two," Janet mentioned to the brown-haired woman seated on her left.

"More Chris than me," Laurie replied. "She's only twenty-one and already she's been through so much!" She frowned as she swigged from Chris' bottle, having finished her own. "When she moved to town, she... was a mess," Laurie said quietly. "I told you this, didn't I? Anyway, we were all protective of her, especially Helen," she smiled sadly. "Helen really took to Chris, they were inseparable. Big kids the pair of them!"

Janet nodded as the investigator smiled at a long-ago memory. "Chris told me what happened. I'm sorry."

Laurie blinked in surprise. Chris told her about the case? "It's just part of the job. You should know. You're on the police force."

The women looked over at the mini game as Chris and Vincenzo cheered and high-fived each other. Janet watched the blonde, who was wearing dark blue jeans and a figure-hugging jumper. She watched Chris' muscles working as the blonde tensed her arms, the way her muscles bulged and shifted. Oh... my... God! She is so damn hot! the brunette sighed a little dreamily.

"She's in really good shape, isn't she?" Laurie said, smiling at the way Janet was entranced.

Janet blushed furiously and looked back at the two women she was sitting with. "So, Tania, what happened between you and Del? You two were supposed to be serious what with a lot of talk about marriage."

"Oh, God, what a loser! He left town. Last I heard, he was a used car salesman and not a very good one!" She sipped at her drink. "What about you and Marissa? Did you ever find out why she just suddenly left town?"

Janet shook her head. "I haven't heard a word and it's been, what... four years now. So..." They fell quiet.

"Whereabouts do you live now, Jan?" Tania asked, a thoughtful look on her face.

"San Marco Drive."

"You don't live with your mum?" Laurie asked in surprise.

"No," Janet blushed. "I've just... been worried about her being alone lately."

"Do you live alone?" Tania asked.

Janet shook her head, getting the feeling she was being interrogated. "No. I live with four other women."

"Four! That must be cramped?"

"No, not really. Mia shares with Trinity, the rest of us have our own rooms."

"Mia? Mia Hillyer?"

Janet smiled and nodded. "I also share with Brenda."

"No way! Oh, my God! How are they?"

"Like I said, Mia's dating Trinity Carta. She works over in the HP Tattoos and Piercings studio," Janet explained at Tania's blank expression. "Mia works for the paper," she added. "And Brenda is off at University, but is back in town at the moment."

Tania nodded. "I heard she was back. You're missing one?" she said, frowning. "Mia and Trinity, Brenda and you. Leaves one more person, right?"

"Right," Janet nodded. "Sue Fox."

The three women looked over at Chris as she squealed. Charley had her up on his shoulder and was running around the garden, bouncing her up and down. Janet lifted her bottle and sipped slowly at her beer as she felt a pang of jealousy.

"Charley, I'm gonna puke! Put me down!" Chris shouted.

"Game over. Flirting with the opposition is not allowed," Harrison said in mock despair.

Chris walked over to the trio of women and took back her beer from Laurie, raising an eyebrow at her friend as she noticed that the near full bottle she had left was now half-empty. Laurie just shrugged and smiled back at her. Chris chuckled and handed it back. "I'm going to get a fresh one. Tania, Janet, do you want a fresh drink?" Both women nodded and went back to chatting as the blonde turned and walked away.

"Meat's ready, guys," Joey called out. "Who wants serving first?"

Everyone made their way over to the patio, taking seats at the garden table beneath the roof cover. Joey dished up the meat - sausages, steak, hamburgers, pork chops - onto paper plates and walked them over to the table. "There are all kinds of side dishes if you want 'em."

"James said you went to Oxford," Janet said to Harrison, picking up the jar of burger relish.

"Yeah, but I learnt the important stuff from a friend of mine. He works for the spooks now."

"Where did you go to school, Janet?" Joey asked. "Over here or in America?"

The brunette finished chewing her mouthful of food. "I went to high school here and the local college. I was offered a place at Harvard, which I passed up."

Charley whistled through his teeth. "Doing what?"

"Medicine."

"What happened? Why aren't you a doctor?" Harrison asked.

"I decided I wanted to do something else." She shrugged. "I can always go back to it."

"Hey, Chris, can I have a lift into work tomorrow?" Joey asked, turning the spotlight away from Janet.

"Chris is on a different shift to you," Harrison said, looking confused.

"You didn't get a message this morning?" Laurie asked.

He shook his head. "Damn, I guess my machine still isn't working right."

"The boss wants us all in, " Laurie told him.

"Where's Mrs. Levens going to be?"

"At work," Laurie said. "The boss reckons she's safe enough there."

"Sure, Joey. I'll give you a lift," Chris answered his question.

"Thanks. You'll have to pick me up from mum's house. She's got something on at the church and she wants me to go with her."

The group sat eating, drinking and talking, until the doorbell went, interrupting them. Joey returned from answering the door followed by a beautiful, dark-haired woman.

"Guys, you remember Angela," Joey said. The group greeted Vincenzo's mother warmly and then all stood up to say goodbye to the little boy.

Once Angela and Vincenzo left, they finished eating, then went inside Joey's plainly furnished house to play cards. Now late afternoon, the temperature had dropped, clouds darkening in the sky above. Rather than remain outside and run the risk of getting soaked in a downpour, they opted to go inside.

The living room, small in comparison to Kate's and Chris', was at least homey and comfortable. Joey had painted the walls beige and decorated them with pictures of sports moments and the old favourites of dogs playing cards.

"How long have you been on the force, Janet?" Harrison asked, folding his poker hand for the third time.

"A year... maybe just under," the policewoman replied.

"Joey was on the force. Weren't you, hon?" Laurie said, smiling at Joey.

"I was too good for them," he said smiling.

Janet swigged at her fourth beer, dark green eyes going around the table to each of the group. "Did you all serve on the police force?" she asked. "I know Joey and Chris briefly did."

"I'm just a secretary," Tania said.

"I served in the army," Charley replied, frowning down at his cards.

"So did Helen and I," Laurie answered. "Though I served the barest time possible! I hated it, but my darling wife loved every minute," she laughed.

"Why did she get out?" Janet asked, thinking that if the woman had remained in the army she may still be alive.

"We brought a house and just wanted a quiet life," Laurie replied. "If she had remained serving, she would have been off around the world."

Janet nodded her understanding. "What about you, Harrison? Serve in the army or with the police?"

The oldest investigator shook his head. "Neither. I'm just a computer geek," he chuckled.

Chris won the hand they were playing and sat back, studying Janet out of the corner of her eye, as Tania played the role of dealer. She was impressed with the brunette, Janet had really made an effort with the investigators, taking an interest in each of them.

"Have any of you dated each other?" Janet asked, picking up the cards she was dealt. "Or is that frowned upon?"

"Laurie and Helen were together," Charley replied.

"Yeah, but we were together long before coming to work for the Colonel," Laurie said.

"I wouldn't mind a fling with Chris," Joey joked, giving the blonde a wink.

"Eewww! Gross, Joey. You two are like brother and sister!" Laurie exclaimed, making a face at the thought.

"Or maybe you and me could hook up?" Joey continued, looking at Janet, who smiled and shook her head.

"If Joey's not your type, maybe ye would want to go out with me, lass?" Charley asked, wiggling his eyebrows.

Janet laughed and shook her head again. "No thanks, Charley."

Harrison whistled crash and burn.

"Well then, that leaves you and me, Tania," Joey grinned lasciviously.

Tania laughed loudly. "Sure thing, stud!" she joked, making everyone laugh along with her.

They fell quiet as they each concentrated on their cards.

"What about marriage, any of you...?" Janet continued her questioning.

The investigators and the secretary shook their heads.

"Helen and I were," Laurie said quietly. "But this lot aren't marriage material!" she smiled.

"I'm the only one mature enough to consider settling down!" Harrison exclaimed.

"All right, who is she?" Joey interrogated.

"Yeah, Harry. Ye holding out on us?" Charley put in.

Harrison put up his hands. "There's no one. I swear."

"Except Emily Drake," Chris smirked. "You've seen her twice to my knowledge. Have you not seen her since?"

The investigators laughed as Harrison blushed.

"There is someone!" Joey exclaimed. "I'll have to get a new suit!"

"Ohhh and I'll get me a new hat!" Charley joked, making everyone crack up laughing.

"What about you, Janet?" Harrison asked, as they started a new hand. "A re you seeing anyone?"

"I'm not saying," Janet said, smiling.

"Leaving us in suspense, huh?"

"That's not nice!" Joey said. "You interrogated us!". He looked around at his colleagues. "Do you reckon we're under investigation and this is a secret ploy?"

The investigators laughed, then looked worriedly at the policewomen, who looked back at them straight-faced until she couldn't hold it any more and burst out laughing.

Folding her hand, Janet finished her beer and set the bottle aside. "Why isn't Jackson here?" she asked curiously. "Aren't you all like family?"

The group groaned at the mention of Jackson Valmont.

"We don't like him, he don't like us," Charley told her. "So he isn't here."

"Yeah and he hates Chris more than anyone," Joey added.

Janet turned to glance at Chris. "Why?" she asked Joey, looking back to the raven-haired man.

"Because she's the best and he don't like that. Every chance he gets he tries to wind her up, tries to outdo her. He always ends up looking like the idiot he is though, that makes him worse."

The group laughed.

"Yeah, do you remember that time we were chasing that drug dealer?" Laurie asked.

"Through the park?" Charley questioned, sporting a frown.

"Yeah, that's it," Laurie nodded. "Me and you went one way and Chris was teamed up with Jackson. When we finally met back up, he was dirty and soaking wet!" Laurie retold, bursting out laughing and unable to carry on.

Charley picked up the tale. "They had started racing," he said, looking at Janet. "Not only did Jackson fall over, he went swimming in the pond!"

"How did that happen?" Janet asked Chris, already smiling.

"He'd purposely been running slightly behind Chris," Charley continued. "Trying to wind her up as he went, egging her on about being such a slow runner. Coming up to the pond, Chris all of a sudden sped up and waited until the last minute to turn. Jackson didn't turn!"

The whole group roared with laughter.

* * * * *

Noticing it was dark out, Janet checked the time as she finished her fifth beer. "Wow! I should get going. It's getting late and I have work tomorrow," she said, as she looked in Chris' direction, who had only had the one beer. She smiled sweetly, feeling good and a little buzzed. "Uhm... Chris..."

Chris smiled as she nodded and stood up. "Joey, as always, it's been great, bud."

He stood up and hugged her. "I'll see you tomorrow then?"

The blonde frowned and looked at him oddly.

"You promised to drive me into work," he reminded her.

"Oh, that's right. So I'll be at your mum's by 10."

Everyone stood up and hugged the two departing women goodbye and waved them off as they left the house.

"Thanks for inviting me," Janet said to Chris, as they walked to the car. "I had a really good time."

Chris smiled. "Good. I'm glad." They climbed into the car and clipped in their seat-belts. "I'm uhh... I'm glad you came," Chris said, as she started up the car.

"I'm glad I came too," Janet grinned. she fiddled with the radio before Chris started off, settling on Magic FM. "I was thinking..." the brunette started to say.

Chris slowed for a red light and looked over at Janet.

"Maybe I could come back to your place for... coffee?"

"I don't drink coffee," Chris responded, her lip quirking up in a teasing smile.

"How about tea?"

Chris smiled brightly as she pulled forward, the light turning green. "You're desperate to see where I live, aren't you?" She glanced at the clock on her dashboard and noted it was only approaching half past nine. What should I do now? she thought to herself. I said I was going to put her out of my thoughts. Ahh, hell, why not? I've just spent the evening with her and the day is still young. Sort of.

"Am I that obvious?" Janet asked smiling, oblivious to the internal argument Chris was having with herself.

Chris smiled over at Janet.

"When I uhh... asked if any of you guys dated each other, Charley looked at you. Not in an obvious way, but..."

The investigator laughed. Damn, Charley! "Yeah. We uhm... we had a thing." I'm not telling her everything. Especially the latest goings on!

"The others don't know?"

Chris shook her head. "It was never serious. It was just sex." She glanced over at Janet. Not really lying. It was just sex for me. But, I guess we did sort of see each for a few months and that could be seen as dating. I just... I don't want Janet knowing that. "We did a couple of cases together, got close, turned to each other when things were... stressful and..." She sighed. "It's over now." At least for me it is.

"Why's that? Isn't he your type?"

I'm beginning to think you are! Chris frowned. Shut up, stupid thoughts! "When Helen died, Charley wanted to wrap me up in cotton wool. I did what I usually do, I pushed everyone away. None of them knew what had happened..." she trailed off.

Janet looked at the strong line of Chris' jaw as it tensed up, her lips tight and hands white-knuckled on the steering wheel. "Does Laurie know what happened?" she asked quietly, seeing blue eyes flick her way.

"Yeah. I told her," the blonde admitted. "The boss and the guys didn't want me to. They all thought it would be better if she thought it was Sergei, but... I had to. Even if it meant her hating me for the rest of our lives. She understood though," Chris snorted. "Forgave me eventually and we're still best friends."

Chris headed for home, having settled it in her mind that she would take Janet to see where she lived. Janet didn't say a word as she noticed the direction they were heading in. She smiled, though certain that once she did get home, she would be teased by at least Mia about going out with Chris.

Chris pulled to a stop at the gate and waved to Ralph, the night guard.

"Hi, Ralph. How are you tonight?"

"Fine, thanks, Ms. Branagon. Weather's not too bad tonight."

"And your family?"

"Very well. Thank you for asking." He opened the gate for her and waved as the blonde drove through.

Chris drove down her street, noticing that, as usual, a lot of the windows were dark. There were many summer homes here, vacated now for the winter. Chris pulled into her drive and stopped.

"Wow! You live here alone?" Janet exclaimed, as she got her first look at Chris' home.

"Yep."

They climbed out of the car and Chris led the policewoman to the front door. Opening it, she switched on the lights and tapped in her security code.

Janet took the opportunity to look around the living room. The beige curtains stood out against the light blue walls. The carpet beneath her feet was also light blue and very plush. In the middle of the room, a dark red three-seater sofa faced an impressive fireplace with a soft looking and rather large rug lying in front of it. Looks cozy, she thought. Tucked away in one corner was a large pine bookcase with a dark red recliner, that matched the sofa, next to it. She wasn't kidding when she said she likes to read! she thought, looking over the full bookcase.

Chris turned and smiled at the waiting brunette. "You can hang your coat up here," she said, pointing to a hall tree in the corner next to the front door. Now minus their coats, Chris led Janet through the house towards the kitchen. Janet sat down at the mahogany table in the dining area as Chris put the kettle on. "Do you take sugar?"

"Hmmm? Oh, yeah. Two, please." There was silence as Chris went about making tea and Janet looked out toward the beach, unable to see anything through the darkness outside. "It must be a great view," she commented.

"Yeah," Chris smiled. "It's why I brought this place." As the kettle clicked, Chris lifted it and poured the boiling water into the two cups set out. "I was looking for a beach house 'cause I love the sea and surprisingly a couple of houses here were available."

"Does James pay this well then? Maybe I'll come and work with you," Janet said smiling. She frowned slightly when she saw the look on Chris' face. "I'm... sorry. Did I..."

"It's okay, you couldn't have known," Chris assured Janet, offering her a small smile. She walked through from the kitchen and took a seat at the table. "How much has Laurie told you about me?" she asked.

"Uhm... not much. She said you were pretty messed up when you arrived in town and that Helen and herself looked out for you. Oh... and that you haven't had a relationship in over a year."

Chris laughed and shook her head. "She talks too much!" She stood up. "Let me just get the tea." The blonde walked back into the kitchen, feeling Janet's eyes on her as she finished making the tea. "If I tell you my tale, I don't want you feeling sorry for me. Okay?" she said, as she walked back with the two mugs of tea.

Janet nodded, wrapping her hands around her mug as Chris set it down on the table.

"My... family were killed. They..." Chris paused and cleared her throat. "They were murdered when I was sixteen," she finished, picking up her mug

Janet's eyes widened. Oh, my God! Way to go, Janet! Bring up real bad memories for her! Looking over the rim of her mug, she saw that Chris had a faraway look on her face. Damn, damn, damn! I feel like a right idiot now!

Chris blinked and picked up her mug, looking over the rim at Janet, who looked miserable. "It's okay, Janet," she said, as she set her mug back down. "You couldn't have known."

"I'm still sorry," Janet said quietly. "What... what happened?"

Chris had been out for the night and had had a great time. She'd met up with friends and her latest boyfriend. Approaching midnight, she had reluctantly made her way home, planning on sneaking in. "Don't see why I couldn't stay out tonight. It's not fair!" she muttered to herself. "I'm an hour late now and if I get caught, I'm gonna be in big trouble! Ohhh, but Jack is soooo worth it!" she smiled.

 

Walking down her street, the teenager looked up and noticed the silent flashing lights of three police cars. Jesus, I wonder whose house they're at? she thought. Chris got closer and closer, the nearer she got the faster her heart started to beat. That's... that's my house! No, no, no, this can't be happening! Surely they haven't called the police on me? She watched as a silent ambulance pulled up. An ambulance? What the hell's going on? Why are they all going into my house? The teen started running as fast as she could towards her home. She came to a sudden stop as she smacked into the tall figure of a policeman.

 

"Where do you think you're going?" he asked gruffly.

 

"I... I live here. What's going on?" she yelled in a high, panicked voice. She noticed for the first the neighbours out on the street, standing around in their dressing gowns and jammies.

 

The policeman's features softened. "Come with me." He led her over to a police car and helped her into the back.

 

"What are you doing? I didn't do anything!" she protested, eyes darting about as she tried to work out what was going on.

 

"I know," the man soothed. "I'm going to get an officer to take you to the hospital."

 

"The hospital? What happened? Where are my parents? My sister?"

 

The officer ignored her and shut the door.

 

Another officer approached and slid in behind the driving wheel, not saying a word. He drove her to the local hospital and let her out the back, all without a single word.

 

Chris walked numbly into the hospital and up to the front desk. "Excuse me," she managed in a tight voice. Her heart was pounding so fast, she began to worry she'd collapse.

 

"Yes?" the woman responded.

 

The police officer took over. "This is Christine Branagon. Her family were brought in half an hour ago."

 

Chris saw the sympathetic look directed her way. This can't be good, she thought. My... my parents? Something must have happened to one of them.

 

"Come through the door," the woman told them, pressing a buzzer to let them through the security door. "If you'll follow me, I'll get you seated, then send a doctor out to see you."

 

"Are my parents here?" Chris asked. "Are they all right?"

 

The woman ignored her questions.

"Did they catch the killer?" Janet asked, her voice breaking through Chris' memories.

Chris nodded slowly, swallowing hard as she tried to force away the memories of that night.

"Why did he or she ki-... do you know?"

"I was out for the night, you know, with friends," Chris rubbed her head, a dull ache settling in to torment her. "Apparently he..." she sighed heavily. "He broke in to rob the place and got disturbed by my mum. She... she must have thought it was me crashing about or something. He... killed her then..." she trailed off and sipped at her tea. "I left town two years later. I just... I couldn't stay there. Little things would trigger a memory and I would break down. So, I sold everything, the furniture, the car, the house, my dad's business, and travelled around for a while before ending up here."

"Have you ever been happy?" Janet asked softly, not really expecting an answer.

Chris looked up into Janet's eyes. "I have my moments," she smiled.

"So, Chris," Janet said cheerfully, wanting to change the subject. "How come you're single at the moment?"

"Who said I was?"

Janet blushed and looked down at her mug. "Oh."

Chris reached across the table and brushed her hand over the back of Janet's. "I am single," she reassured. "Mainly because I haven't really been looking for someone."

Janet looked up into sparkling blue eyes and smiled, feeling silly for getting so flustered.

"So what about you? Are you... seeing anyone?" Chris asked, holding her breath as she hoped the brunette wasn't. She wasn't sure why she cared.

"No, I'm single at the moment as well."

"Yeah?" Chris asked in surprise. "How come? You're good-looking, they must be lining up."

Janet laughed as Chris went red. "I guess I just haven't found someone who can hold my interest." Maybe it'll be you, huh?

"Laurie seems to think you're... uhm... like her."

"Like her?"

"Yeah. You know... gay."

Janet nodded slightly. She licked her lips slowly, eyes locked on the double glass doors behind Chris, refusing to give the blonde her eyes. "I am," she quietly admitted. There was a long pause between them before Janet finally glanced at Chris. "Are you okay with that?" she asked.

"I don't have a problem with gay people. Helen and Laurie were my best friends. Laurie still is."

"So we can be friends?"

Chris smiled and nodded. "If you like." Her smile widened as Janet grinned and nodded eagerly. "So... what do you like to do in your spare time?" she asked, wanting to know everything about the young police officer.

"I love to run. I go jogging in the morning come rain or shine. Sometimes in the evenings, depending on what type of day I've had. I love to read, I spend a lot of my evenings tucked up somewhere comfortable just reading."

"Not lately," Chris said. At the brunette's frown, she explained. "You've been following me around your mum's house."

Janet laughed. "Now that you know I have my own place, would you prefer I didn't stay at my mom's?"

"She's your mum. I can't tell you to stay away." Chris smiled. "And besides, I don't mind the company."

They looked at each other, laughing nervously as their eyes lingered for longer than was polite.

"What uhm..." Janet cleared her throat. "What do you like to do in your spare time?" she asked.

"I don't have a lot of spare time. But, I hang out with the guys a lot. Usually at either The Sports Bar or Shooter's. I love movies, football, the sunset. Sometimes I just sit out there and stare out to sea, mind completely blank."

"Sounds nice."

Chris smiled and nodded. "I also like to walk along the pier."

Janet grinned. "I love walking along the pier. I always make sure to buy fish and chips!"

The investigator nodded as she smiled brightly. "I quite like the American doughnuts you can get."

"Ohhh, I love those!" Janet agreed. "Maybe... maybe we could... go together... sometime?"

Chris nodded. "I'd like that." She stood up. "Do you uhm... want another cup of tea?"

"No, thank you. I should get going," Janet said regretfully. "Do you mind if I use your phone to call a cab?"

"I'll give you a lift," Chris offered.

"I can't ask you to do that."

"I'm offering."

Janet smiled. "Okay. Thanks."

"Uhm... how about a quick tour?"

The brunette smiled and nodded as she stood up. "That is why I came," she teased.

Chris walked over to the double glass sliding doors that led out onto the deck. "That's my deck. I'll show you that during the day, if you're ever here. It's really beautiful out there." The blonde led the way upstairs, Chris showing Janet her bedroom and the five spare rooms, one of which was sort of a home gym, including weights, a punching bag and running machine, and another which was an office, complete with a wide desk with a top-of-the-range computer sitting atop it. The bathroom was what impressed Janet the most. She complimented the beautiful big bathtub on one side of the room and the roomy shower on the other.

"Sometimes I don't have time to take a long soak, so I had a shower put in," Chris explained.

"Why a whole separate shower though?"

The blonde blushed. "In case I ever settle down. If one of us is in the tub, the other can take a shower."

Janet smiled at Chris' logic. "Is this a cupboard?" the brunette asked, tapping a closed door in the bathroom.

"No, that leads through to my bedroom," Chris said, opening the door and showing Janet the sight of her bedroom again. With the tour over, the pair headed back downstairs and donned their coats. Leaving the house, they climbed into the BMW.

"Do you like to walk?" Janet asked.

"What?" Chris asked, wondering if Janet was implying they should walk instead.

"There's a trail that you can walk. You know, see a bit of nature."

"Cedar Forest?"

Janet nodded. "Maybe we could go some time?" she suggested.

"I'm pretty busy with your mum at the moment. Maybe after we catch this guy?"

Janet smiled and nodded shyly. Future plans, go me! she thought happily.

Chris back out of her drive and turned the car around. "So you're working tomorrow?" she said, as she started off.

"Yeah. I got stuck with the really early shift," Janet replied gloomily.

"What shift do you usually work?"

"9 to 5. Tomorrow I start at 6."

They waited as Ralph opened the gate and waved as he waved them through.

"You're working too, aren't you?" Janet inquired.

"Not during the day, I'm still on the night shift. It's just a briefing tomorrow morning."

"James keeping everyone up to date on the case?"

Chris nodded. "Yeah and to see if we've found out anything else."

* * * * *

Chris pulled over opposite Janet's house and turned off the engine, the silence between them filled with the ticking of the cooling engine.

"So... I'll see you tomorrow night?" Janet asked hopefully.

Chris grinned. "I'll be there... working."

They smiled at each other.

"Thanks for today, Chris," Janet said, as she undid her seat-belt and climbed out of the car.

"You're welcome. I'm glad you had a good time." She waved goodbye and watched as Janet walked across the road.

The brunette waved once she reached her front door, then disappeared inside. Janet sighed dreamily as she leaned back against the closed door. I think I've fallen even harder now I've actually spent time with her!

"Hey, hon. You okay?" Mia asked.

Janet looked towards the sofa, not seeing anyone. Stepping away from the front door, she walked around the sofa and smiled down at Mia, lying on top of her girlfriend Trinity Carta. "Hey, guys. I'm fine." She sat down in the nearest chair and glanced at the television, frowning at what appeared to be a wild animal documentary.

"So... how was your date with the insurer?" Mia asked, lifting her head from her girlfriend's shoulder to glance at her best friend.

"It wasn't a date," Janet replied. "And I had fun, they're a great group."

"You went on a group date?" Trinity asked.

"No. I went to a barbeque. Chris invited me and all her friends were there. Ohhh, guess who else was there, Mia."

The raven-haired reporter shook her head. "Who?"

"Tania Caruso."

Grey eyes widened. "No way! How is she?"

"She works with Chris and the others. She's a secretary."

"Wow. Is she still seeing Del? I heard he left town?"

"He did leave, and no, she's not seeing him. She didn't mention anyone new, so I assume she's single." Janet stood up. "Anyway, guys. I'm to bed. I got stuck with the early shift."

Mia smiled. "Don't think you're getting out of telling me all the juicy details, Janet Marie. I'll catch up with you tomorrow."

Janet smiled as she headed for the stairs. "I don't doubt it. Night."

"Night, Janet," both women called back.

 

Continued...

 

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