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 Seven

Wednesday, 4th November

C hris pulled up outside Mrs. Devine's house at 10 on the dot the next morning. Climbing out of her car, she looked up at the grey sky, wondering, not for the first time, if the ominous looking clouds were going to spill their load. Not believing what the weatherman had to say, the investigator had dressed casually but warmly in blue jeans and a sweater.

As the blonde walked up the garden path to the front door, she remembered the first time she had ever picked Joey up from his mum's house. She had made the mistake of staying in her car and honking the horn. Mrs. Devine had come charging out and yelled at her about manners and her lack of them.

Chris smiled as the door swung open. "Little Chris Branagon. What are you doing at my door?" Teodora asked, smiling brightly, a twinkle in her eye.

Chris laughed at the older woman's antics.

Teodora Devine had been born and raised in Naples, Italy, and though she had left many years before, she still had a slight accent. She was a plump woman, with black hair peppered with spots of grey. And as for calling Chris "little", she was far shorter, standing at 5'4" , if she was lucky, compared to Chris' 5'7". Her favourite hobby was cooking, and whenever the investigators dropped in she would cook them a feast.

"Hello, Teodora. How are you?"

"I'm an old lady. Do you really want to know how I am?"

Chris laughed again as she shook her head in amusement. "Is Joey here?"

"Of course. Joseph is a good boy, he came to church with me this morning. Come in. He told me you were coming, I have made frittatas."

The blonde started to protest.

"You are too thin, you must eat. And I cooked. You like my cooking, no?"

"Yes, of course."

"Well then, if you don't come in and have something, I'll be insulted and never cook for you again!"

Chris walked into the Devine family home and made her way through to the kitchen, taking a seat at the small table opposite Joey.

"Made you feel guilty about not coming in, huh?" he asked, smirking.

"Yep." The two friends smiled in a knowing way.

Mrs. Devine walked in, grabbed a plate, and shovelled four frittatas onto it. She turned and placed the food in front of Chris. "You are not leaving until you've eaten. Be a good girl and eat!" With the two youngsters taken care of, Teodora made herself a plate and joined them at the table. "Do you want a cup of coffee, Chris?" she asked suddenly.

Chris shook her head. "I hate coffee. Do you have any milk?" As the older woman nodded, Chris got up and went over to the fridge.

"When are you going to find yourself a nice man, Chris?" Teodora asked, cutting up her frittatas. It was a recipe from her mother, who had got it from her mother before her. The frittatas were made with thinly sliced onion, chopped tomatoes, smoked ham, Parmesan cheese, fresh parsley, dried basil, and seasoned with salt and pepper. Sometimes, she also made fresh bread to go with them.

Turning around with the carton of milk in one hand, Chris blinked at Teodora. "What, and settle down to raise a family?" she asked, smiling. "I'm working on it." Chris winked, then went about getting a glass for her drink.

"I don't know why you're laughing, Joseph!" Teodora scolded her son. "I don't see you with a wife! Why can't you marry that poor girl you got pregnant?"

"Mama! I told you," Joey protested. "Leave it be, huh?"

All topics of conversation covered, three full bellies and half an hour later, Chris and Joey pulled themselves away from Teodora, promising to visit again soon and finally left for the office.

* * * * *

The old three-storey building, which James owned, looked out of place among the newer buildings on George Street. But that didn't bother the investigators or their boss. After James purchased the building, he completely transformed the inside. The offices were on the top floor, with a lab on the floor below. The ground floor was the reception area, complete with waiting rooms, and the basement had been turned into a shooting range and soundproofed, so the investigators could practice shooting in their spare time. Sometimes a case they took on required them to use guns as part of their cover.

Whenever anyone approached the front doors from outside, their actions were picked up on a hidden camera which broadcast every sound and move they made on monitors set in the receptionist's broad, ebony desk.

Inside the reception area, the first thing one saw were the brass letters on the wall behind the receptionist's desk, which indicated Tradestone's Insurers was housed there. Two opaque glass doors stood on either side of the fake business name. One door led to a waiting room, the other to an elevator that went up or down to the other floors. The only way to open the opaque doors was by entering a key code, the only way to use the elevator to reach the other floors was by code. All the investigators had a key code, these codes were changed frequently. James Anders was incredibly security concious.

James employed not only the team of investigators, but also a fingerprints expert, Graham Archer, who was currently working on the letters Kate had received. He also employed a gun expert, Max Beason, who helped out when a case involved a firearm, a part-time toxicologist, Tania the secretary, and his oldest daughter, Madelyn, as the ground floor receptionist.

Clients were carefully selected and only heard of James' service through word of mouth. It wasn't cheap to ask for their help either. To fully protect his people, James had leased out a small part of the ground floor to an old friend who worked in insurance, their cover taken care of if anyone started digging into the background.

Madelyn Anders, as the ground floor receptionist, was to greet whoever walked through the doors. If they were a client of her father's and had an appointment, she would show them through to the real waiting area, where they were offered a choice of beverage. If someone just wandered in and had no business with James or any of the investigators, they were shown into another waiting area and eventually seen by someone who really was an insurer.

"I don't think I'll go back to your parents' house again!" Chris complained good-naturedly to Joey, rubbing her full belly and grimacing.

"You'll be back. You love the old dear and you know it," Joey replied grinning, knowing that all the investigators loved his mum and that she loved them.

"Hey, guys. Yesterday was great, Joey," Charley said, as the pair entered the building. He rose from the leather sofa he had been sitting on. "So, Chris, what did ye do last night?"

The blonde frowned. "Janet came home with me, we drank tea and chatted for a while, then I drove her home."

"And uhh... after?"

Chris scowled at the tall man. "What's it to ya?"

Charley put up his big hands in a placating manner. "Just wondered, lass, that's all." He wandered over to Madelyn's desk, a hurt look on his face.

Chris followed Joey over to the opaque door that would lead them to the elevator. "Did you know Brenda was back in town?" she asked quietly.

Joey grinned. "Of course. Who do you think I spent the night with?" he wiggled his eyebrows.

"You shouldn't carry on with her, Joey. If the boss finds out, he'll have your nuts!"

The raven-haired investigator smiled. "That's what makes it more interesting."

Charley joined them and all three entered their individual codes, which logged them in. When the door slid open, they walked through and over to the elevator. Sauntering into the office upstairs, they saw Laurie and Harrison sitting at their desks; Jackson was prancing about in front of them talking loudly.

"So I take her back to my place and she can't believe her eyes! She's standing just inside the front door, her mouth flapping like a fish as she stares at the crystal chandelier and the expensive art on the walls. Then we get to my bedroom and she's all over me, the stink of money getting her hot and..."

"And you woke up," Joey laughed, making the others laugh as well.

"Jackson, do we have to hear about your make-believe conquests?" Harrison complained, rolling his eyes.

Charley and Joey laughed as they walked over to their messy desks. Joey sat down and scowled at all the paperwork lying scattered about, while Charley sat back and put his feet up, hands going behind his head.

Jackson went red with anger and glared pure hatred at Harrison. "Watch yourself, Harrison," he growled. "When this bunch aren't around, you're not quite as mouthy!"

Laurie watched Chris make her way over to the water dispenser and got up from her seat to join her. "How's Janet?" she asked, smiling.

"How would I know?"

"Well, you drove her... home... last night."

Chris frowned. "Yeah?"

Laurie sighed, disappointed. "Nothing happened then?"

"No. And stop trying to convert me!"

"But I just need one more, then I get my free toaster," the petite brunette joked.

Chris smiled and made her back towards her desk.

Jackson, seeing an opportunity to rile the blonde, stepped forward, his foot just ahead of Chris'. He smirked as she tripped, her cup of water going flying. "Oops, sorry, Chris."

Chris spun around to face the arrogant man she truly despised and grabbed him around the throat. "What is your fucking problem, Valmont?"

Charley jumped up and gently pulled her back, knowing what the blonde's temper was like.

"I'll sue if there's even a slight hint of a bruise," Jackson warned her with a smug smile.

"Shut up, you bloody prick! I barely touched you."

James walked in alongside Graham, the fingerprints expert looking older than his forty years. "Okay," the Colonel said, stopping in front of the investigators, while Graham took a seat. "Just a quick update on what's going on." He looked around at each of them to make sure he had their attention. "So far we've basically got nothing. The patients have all come back clean. Charley didn't get a look at who knocked him out, but thinks it's a man..."

"What about Kate's gardener?" Chris asked.

"The gardener gave us the run around!" Joey complained. "Turns out he's here illegally, but other than that he's clean."

"What about the ex-husband?" Laurie asked. "Did you manage to track him down?"

Joey nodded. "Yeah, he's in the States. I called up saying I was a lost relative of Kate's, but he couldn't help. Seems to think she's still living in Boston."

James looked to Graham, who stood up and started talking. "I've had no luck with the letters. He must be aware of what we can do these days and wore gloves. I've only just been given the box the heart came in." His dark head turned James' way. "What was it?" he asked curiously.

"A pig heart."

Graham nodded. "I'll run my usual tests and let you know." He sat back down and drummed his fingers on the desk, the tips yellow from years of smoking.

James looked at Harrison. "Anything on the phone over the weekend, Harrison?"

"A couple of hang-ups. The first time he called, the phone cut out quickly. The second call, he got half-way through the doctor's message then let out a startled gasp and hung up." The investigator frowned before his face scrunched up in disgust. "At least... I think it was a startled gasp."

"You didn't get a location then?" James asked, growing increasingly frustrated.

"No. A minute or two more and I would have."

"Maybe we can get Kate to put a sexy message on there," Joey suggested, smiling. "Catch him while he's jerking off to the sound of her voice!" The group of investigators laughed.

"Do you mind? Doctor Levens is a dear friend of mine," James said sternly. He soon smiled at Joey. "Maybe if all else fails." The investigators laughed again.

"How is he getting onto her property if he hasn't got a key?" Laurie asked, steering the conversation back to business.

"I don't know," James shrugged. "All keys are accounted for. Kate has a solid wall going around her property, then there are the trees and hedges..."

"Has anyone actually checked the wall?" Charley asked.

"I had Jackson do it," James said. "You didn't find holes or signs that it had been tampered with, did you, Jackson?"

Jackson shook his head. "It looked solid to me."

"All right, we've got nothing," James said, frustration evident in his tone. "Chris, Charley and Harrison, you're on tonight as usual, so go home and get some rest."

"What should the rest of us do?" Jackson asked.

James sighed, at a loss. "Have you... been around the neighbourhood and talked to the neighbours?"

"When we first got on the case," Joey replied.

"Well, maybe you should question them again. Let them know someone was hurt. They'll start keeping an eye out and we could get a break."

Jackson frowned and let out a frustrated breath.

"Isn't that good enough for you, Jackson?" James snapped, scowling at the younger man.

"It's fine, boss. It's just that this case is a dead end. We've got nothing and might never catch him."

"The only other case we have on at the moment is the Mayor's missing daughter. Would you prefer to work on that?"

"On my own?" Jackson's face lit up, the prospect of getting one over on the other investigators appealing to him.

"No. You'll be working with the police. From the information we got from Chris' perp, we think she's just runaway."

Disappointment flashed across Jackson's face. "No, that's all right. I'll go around and question the neighbours."

James nodded. "Great. Graham, in my office. Joey and Jackson, you know what I want from you. Laurie, you know what you're supposed to be doing." He turned and walked towards his office with the fingerprints man, leaving the investigators to get on with their jobs.

"Like the boss would put you on a case alone!" Harrison laughed at Jackson.

"Fuck off, Kiene. I'm warning you."

"Oohhh, Harrison, better watch out, he's warned you!" Charley laughed. He turned his attention to Chris, smiling sweetly. "Can I get a lift home?"

Reluctantly, Chris nodded. Where's his car?

"How am I going to get home?" Joey asked, pouting.

"I'll give you a lift to Kate's neighbourhood," Laurie offered. "Then I'll drop you home tonight when my shift is over," she finished. "Oh, Chris... say hello to Janet for me."

"Give it a rest, Laurie!"

* * * * *

"Are we going back to your place?" Charley asked, once they were alone in Chris' car.

"No. I'm driving you home, then I'm going home to sleep."

"Why don't we..."

"Sleep together?" Chris interrupted. "Is that what you were going to say? We've got to stop this, Charley. It's wrong!"

"How is it wrong?"

It's wrong because it means nothing to me and I'm using you. It's wrong 'cause I think I like someone else! She stopped at a pedestrian crossing. Why don't you just tell him you suddenly like women? Her inner voice asked. The blonde drummed her fingers on the steering wheel. Because I don't, she thought stubbornly. It's just Janet I find... appealing. Once this case is over, I'll never have to see her again and I'll go back to normal. "We're using each other," she told Charley. "When we first... it was a release from the stress of that case we were on. Now it's... whenever we get an urge!"

"Why don't we get together officially?" Charley asked. "Then it won't be wrong, will it?"

An elderly couple now safely across the road, Chris pulled forward.

"I love you, Chris. Ye know that."

"I don't love you. Maybe I did once, but things changed!"

Charley sulked quietly until they were almost to his cabin.

Out of her open window, Chris could hear the trickling of the creek behind Charley's home. She remembered that the water was so clear that you could see the individual pebbles that littered the bottom. The handful of times she had stayed over, Chris would wake in the morning and go and sit by the creek, completely calmed by the tranquillity of the surrounding area.

"Ye loved me? Why didn't ye ever say anything?" Charley finally asked, a hurt look etched on his handsome features.

"Neither of us did, Charley," Chris sighed.

"Why don't we try again?" he asked quietly.

"I don't want to, Charley. It's in the past now."

"So the other night?" he asked in an angry tone. "When ye came back from the bar with me. That was it in the past, was it? A couple of weeks ago at your hoose? That was it in the past as well, was it?"

Chris slammed her hands down onto the steering wheel in front of her. "I don't get involved," she said in a low, dangerous tone. She glanced at the silent investigator next to her. "You were a good fuck, Charley. But that was all it was to me. You want love, marriage, a family. I want... I want to be left alone."

Charley got out of the car and slammed the door hard. He stalked around to the blonde's window. "I don't believe that, Chris. Not one word of it. Ye feel something, otherwise, why would ye keep coming back whenever you're in the mood?" He turned and walked over to his home, opening the cabin door and disappearing inside, leaving Chris to stare at the empty space where he had been.

Sighing heavily, knowing she had hurt him and crushed all the dreams she guessed him to have, Chris turned her car around and drove back down the dirt track to the main road, heading for home.

* * * * *

Charley stood in the middle of his living room, staring at the unlit fireplace. Why won't she give us a chance? He trailed his fingertips across the back of his long couch, big enough to accommodate him if he wanted to sleep there. We were great together. Before that damn Sennikov case we talked about a future, marriage and kids. The handsome blonde frowned. Well, I talked about those things. Chris mainly just listened.

He walked up the two wooden steps to leave the sunken living room, heading for his kitchen. He thought back to all the conversations he and Chris had ever had about the future. "It was always me!" he said aloud, eyebrows scrunching together. "It was always me who brought the subject up and mentioned little things I hoped for. Chris just... just agreed with me!"

Charley opened the fridge and grabbed a can of beer. Popping open the top, he drank half of it before settling onto a stool at his kitchen bar. But she did participate in those conversations, so she was a little interested. He took another swig from his can. Maybe I can win her back? There must be a slim chance, she isn't seeing anyone and she keeps coming to me whenever she needs... comfort. Having decided on a course of action, Charley sat down his now empty beer can and headed for the bathroom to take a shower.

* * * * *

Chris pulled to a stop outside Janet's house, wondering how the hell she had ended up there. So lost in thought, she had driven past her turn and was now sitting outside Janet's. What the hell am I doing? She drummed her fingers on the steering wheel, not really thinking about her situation, only the fact that she really wanted to see Janet Levens. Before she could talk herself out of it, Chris climbed out of the car and knocked on the front door.

A woman with very short black hair opened the door and looked out at her. "Yes?"

Chris couldn't stop staring at all of the woman's piercings. "Uhm... is uhh... Janet here?"

"You're Chris, aren't you?"

The investigator frowned. "How did you know?"

The woman smirked. "Janet's mentioned you, described you down to a tee. Hold on." She left the door ajar and walked away, Chris watching her walk down the hallway to knock on a closed door. "Janet, there's an attractive blonde at the door for you." She didn't say it loudly, but the words echoed back to Chris.

The blonde turned and looked back at her car, wondering why she hadn't just gone home.

"Chris! What are you doing here? Is mom all right" Janet asked, approaching the door.

Chris turned and found herself looking into Janet's curious eyes. "Your mum's fine. I... I don't know why I'm here. I just... I was driving home and then I was outside your place and..." She smiled sheepishly. "I'm having a shit day and wanted to see a friendly face," she told the policewoman honestly.

Janet beamed a smile at her. "Do you want to come in?"

Chris looked unsure. Unconsciously, I made the decision to drive here, she thought. Finally, she nodded slowly. Janet opened the door wider for her to step through, and walking in, the investigator found herself in a living room, four faces peering over a sofa looking at her.

"Chris!" A strawberry-blonde with a wide smile and sparkling green eyes stood up and rushed over to hug her. "How are you? I can't remember the last time I saw you!"

Chris smiled, wrapping the woman in her arms. "Hey, Brenda. I'm good, thanks. How's school going?"

"Oh, you know," Brenda shrugged. "Same as always."

"Guys, this is Chris Branagon. She works for Tradestone's Insurers," Janet informed her room-mates from behind Chris. Janet knew that what Chris really did wasn't allowed to get out. James only took on select clients and was secretive about his work, because not all their work was legal. Janet smiled at Chris, then pointed to the woman who had opened the front door. "That's Trinity Carta. She works at the HP Tattoos and Piercings studio."

"Do you have any?" Trinity enquired. "Tattoos?"

Chris shook her head.

"Well, if you ever want one done, ask for me."

"Next to Trin, is her girlfriend Mia Hillyer," Janet said. "She works for the Honeyport Tribune. Next to her is Sue Fox. She's my mom's pool lady."

"And a very good one, too!" Sue said on her own behalf.

"And you obviously know Brenda Anders," Janet finished.

"So what exactly do you do, Chris?" Mia asked, her reporter's mind already ticking. No one at the paper had ever been able to get into Colonel Anders' building and there were all sorts of rumours going around about what actually happened there. She wondered if she could get a story, a real scoop that would take her onto bigger and better things.

"We insure people," Chris replied. "Cars, houses, stuff."

"Stuff?"

"Furniture and heirlooms mainly."

"What's the strangest thing you've been asked to insure?" Trinity asked.

Thinking quickly of a story she had heard from a friend of hers, Chris grinned. "Some man wanted his porn collection insured once. Apparently he had a wide and rare collection and was scared that someone would steal it." The group of women laughed.

"Take a seat with us," Brenda said, pointing to an armchair. "Catch me up on everything that's been happening in town."

"Or you can come upstairs to my room and get away from all their questions," Janet interrupted, knowing her room-mates would happily interrogate the blonde if given the chance.

Chris looked gratefully at Janet and nodded her agreement to going upstairs.

"Oh, we understand. You want to be alone," Trinity said, smiling as she winked at Janet.

Janet led Chris upstairs to her bedroom. "Sorry about them," she apologised.

"It's okay," Chris smiled. "My friends gave you a grilling, it's only fair yours do the same to me."

Janet's bedroom was a light purple and very simple in design. Janet's double bed was set in front of a wide bay window. Three shelves lined the left wall, filled with books and a couple of trophies. Chris took it all in as she entered.

"Do you want a beer or something?" Janet asked, feeling nervous.

"I'm driving and I'm actually working tonight. Uh... water?"

"How about juice?"

Chris grinned. "That would be good, thank you." They smiled at each other before Janet turned and left the room. Chris took the time to look at the trophies and photos that occupied the bedroom. The trophies were for football and some for school stuff, the photos were mainly of people Chris didn't recognise.

"Here you go," Janet said, as she walked back in, handing the blonde a glass of chilled orange juice.

"I see you have a few trophies for football," Chris mentioned.

"Yeah," the hazel-haired woman smiled. "I used to play over in Boston, then when we moved here I joined the local team. We were pretty good."

Chris nodded as she sipped at her juice. "And some academic trophies as well."

Janet looked sheepish. "I was a real bookworm." She sat down on her bed. "So why are you having a shit day?" she asked.

Chris rolled her eyes. "I had to go into the office for a pointless briefing. Your mother's patients are all in the clear, the gardener is here illegally, but otherwise clean. Oh, and your father has no clue you've left America."

Janet rolled her eyes. "Jerk."

"You never see him then?" Chris asked out of curiosity. "Even when you travel back to Boston?"

"No, I haven't seen him since the night he left. He shacked up with his younger woman and promptly forgot all about us."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be." Janet waved it off. "So that's it? That's why you're having a bad day?"

"No, there's more. I had a bust-up with Jackson, an argument with Charley, and Laurie keeps trying to..." Chris trailed off as she realised what she had been about to say.

"Trying to what?"

Chris smiled nervously. "Oh, uhm... nothing. It doesn't matter."

Janet patted the spot next to her and smiled as Chris sat down. "You're working tonight?"

The blonde nodded. "Now your mum's back in town, yeah."

"What was the argument with Charley about?"

Great job, Branagon! You had to mention that. "Uhm... he... wants us to get back together."

"Oh." Janet started fidgeting. "Do you... think you will?"

"Will what?"

"Get back together?"

She cares? Chris pondered. "I told him no. I never wanted what he did, I..." I'm not capable.

"What does he want?"

Chris sighed. "He wants the lot, marriage, kids, lots of kids, and I don't want that. At least not with him." She finished her drink. "I thought you were working today?" she asked, changing the subject.

"I was," Janet replied, nodding. "I finished at noon. Lucky for you."

Chris frowned. "Lucky for me?"

"I wouldn't have been here otherwise and my house-mates would have cornered you," Janet explained, a devilish smile dancing along her lips.

They looked at each other, smiling as their eyes locked and they both got the sense that all was right in the world. I love her smile! they both thought, laughing nervously as the moment continued. Oh, God, I'm hopeless!

"I uhh... should get going," Chris finally said, breaking the intense eye contact. She stood up and walked across to the door.

"You don't have to rush off," Janet said, as she stood as well; trying to think of a way to get Chris to stay a little longer.

"I have to uhm... sleep, so that I can uhm... stay awake tonight," Chris stuttered.

The two women made their way downstairs, Janet's house-mates turning to watch them.

"Maybe I'll stop by later," Janet said softly. "See how my mom is."

"Okay. Maybe I'll see you then."

"Oh, shit!" Janet exclaimed suddenly, slapping her forehead. "I forgot, I can't. I've been switched to the night shift. So uhh... I probably won't see you for a while, 'cause you're working nights too."

"Yeah," Chris said sadly. "But, I am working for your mum and you are her daughter, so..."

"So we might still see each other," Janet concluded. They smiled at each other, slightly happier than they were a minute ago.

I can't believe she's not going to be around, Chris thought. But then, maybe this is a good thing. If Janet's not around so much, maybe these thoughts I've been having will go away. "Bye," she finally said, realising she had just been standing there, staring.

"Bye."

Neither woman moved. They both stood looking at each other, Chris' piercing blue eyes locked onto Janet's soft green. Sue sneezed. The moment broken, a startled Chris glanced Sue's way, an embarrassed smile on her face. "Uhh... bye," she repeated, rushing quickly out the front door.

"Damn it, Sue!" Trinity exclaimed in frustration.

"I'm sorry. But, nothing was going to happen anyway. Right, Jan?"

Janet was still staring at the closed front door, her heart beating wildly. She turned slowly to face her waiting house-mates. "Hmmm?"

"Between you and that Chris," Sue said. "Nothing was going to happen, right?"

"No, of course not," the policewoman shook her head. "She's straight."

"But totally taken with you," Mia said with a knowing smile.

"Do you think so?" Janet asked quietly, getting a small nod in response. Smiling, Janet turned toward the kitchen.

"She's the one, isn't she?" Mia asked, following Janet through to the kitchen. "The one you were talking about the other night?"

"Yes. So... what do you think?"

"I think she's absolutely gorgeous," Mia chuckled. "And if you don't give her a chance, I will!"

"Hey! What about me?" Trinity protested, as she walked in. She walked up to her girlfriend and wrapped her arms around the raven-haired woman's waist.

"What about you? Did you see Chris Branagon? I would drop you in a heartbeat if she looked at me the way she was looking at Janet."

"Sadly, I have to agree with you," Trinity replied, dipping her head to kiss Mia's neck. "Lucky for me, she paid you no attention."

"So? Are you going to chase her?" Mia asked, tilting her head further to the side as Trinity continued her soft kisses.

Janet looked thoughtful. "We'll see."

"Jan... why is Chris working nights at your mum's?" Mia asked, friend gone and replaced by the reporter.

"Hey uhm... Janet," Sue called out.

The trio of women in the kitchen looked to the doorway as the dark blonde-haired woman walked in.

"She's back," Sue said.

"Who?" Janet asked in confusion.

"Chris."

"She came back?" Janet asked, frowning. "Did she forget something?" She hurried past Sue and into the living room, finding Chris standing by the front door, looking uncomfortable. "Chris? Did you... forget something?" A goodbye kiss maybe?

Blue eyes lifted from their study of the pale red carpet. "I was uhh... I thought maybe we... maybe you..." Chris cleared her throat. "You said you've been switched to nights and I... would you like to go for a walk along the pier?"

Janet blinked in surprise at the rambled question. "I... yes, but... don't you have to go and get some rest?"

Chris smiled sheepishly. "I'd prefer to spend some time with you."

Words couldn't express how happy Janet was right at that moment and she smiled brightly as she nodded her acceptance. "I'd love to. Let me just grab a jacket."

* * * * *

Chris left her car parked outside Janet's house, knowing there wouldn't be any parking space near the pier. Despite the seaside town being off-season, the pier was still a popular place. The two young, attractive women walked close together as they made their way towards the sea front, talking easily with each other, able to relax in each other's company. The mild weather also helped make the walk comfortable and quite pleasant.

"Do you wanna get some lunch before we get on the pier? Or do you wanna grab..."

"Fish and chips on the pier," Janet said grinning.

Chris smiled. "Fish and chips it is."

Reaching the pier, Janet took Chris' arm, content with the blonde enigma. She wondered what made Chris come back to her house and ask her out, wondered why the blonde wanted to spend time with her, why she was willing to forgo sleep just to be in her company. In the end, Janet concluded she didn't care, all that mattered was that Chris had come back and did want to spend time with her.

Chris didn't know what had prompted her into asking Janet out along the pier, she wasn't sure why she hadn't just jumped in her car and driven home to get some sleep. After her confrontation with Charley, she had unconsciously driven to Janet's house just to see the policewoman, then once she left, she found Janet's words echoing in her head and the thought of not seeing the Janet for an unknown amount of time had made her feel melancholy. She enjoyed Janet's company.

"Can I ask you a question?" Janet asked.

"You can ask," Chris grinned.

"But you might not answer," Janet finished, with a grin of her own. "It's about Joey. Has he ever been married?"

Chris chuckled. "Joey? No way! He's the biggest player going."

"Oh. That's what I thought. It's just..."

"How did Vincenzo come to be?" Chris guessed.

Janet nodded. "I know Joey's half Italian and I know his mama is a devoted Catholic. I just assumed he would have married Angela."

Chris walked over to the rail and leaned against it, looking out to sea. "Joey was working on a case in London. Angela works in a hotel, she's a uhh... a receptionist, I think. They met and fell in lust and had a thing for the entire time Joey was there. When the case was done, Joey came home."

"How did he find out about Vincenzo?"

Chris smiled. "Angela turned up in town, remembering Joey mentioned living here. She brought a three month old baby boy with her." She glanced at Janet. "Joey fell in love with him the moment he set eyes on his boy and so did we." She shrugged.

"Does that happen a lot? You guys getting involved while on a case?" Janet asked, not sure she wanted the answer.

"I can't be sure, we never talk about what goes on during a case." Chris sighed heavily. "My... thing with Charley started after we worked together on a really stressful case. It was a way to release the stress. Joey obviously got involved. I don't know about the others, guess you'd have to ask them." Smiling, Chris took Janet's hand. "Come on, I'm starving."

At the fish and chip stand, both women ordered battered cod with a portion of chips, then retreated to a nearby bench to eat their meal. It was some of the best take-out food you could get along the pier and at a low price as well.

"Do you reckon you'll always be a copper?" Chris asked, stabbing at a thick chip. "Or will you return to medicine?"

Janet gave the question some thought. "I'm not sure. I love what I'm doing at the moment. Every day I find myself facing something new. I know it would be the same if I went into medicine, but being on the police force really gets me involved with our community, whereas working for my mother, I would only see the sick."

"Well, you're young, right?"

"Exactly. What about you? Are you happy working for James?"

Chris nodded as she chewed. "I came to town with nothing, lost, alone, no clue what I was doing. James gave me a job, a purpose. And he took me in like family. I'm good friends with all his daughters after being round their house so much. With the guys I work with, we're all close and like family too. We look out for each other, we tease each other, we're there for each other whenever one of us needs it." She smiled. "I can't imagine leaving that. They are my family and I would be lost without them."

"Except Jackson," Janet said quietly, sporting a small smile.

"God, yeah! Except Jackson!"

Finished eating, the two women continued their walk along the pier. They went into one of the arcades, playing on the machines that caught their fancy. Chris won Janet a small pink teddy, while Janet won the investigator a black and red-coloured devil-dog. They went on a couple of rides once their food had settled and happily strolled along side by side, looking at everything they passed. Finally, they stood at the very end of the pier and watched the descending sun. The weather had started to cool as the night drew in and they found themselves pressed against each other's sides, the dipping sun giving them a gorgeous view.

"We should get going," Janet finally said, a little sadly.

"Mmm," Chris agreed, turning from the beautiful view. "We can always do this again though. I mean, if you wanted?"

Janet smiled and nodded. "Yeah, I'd love to. I had fun."

"Me too." Chris smiled as Janet took her arm, the investigator happily leading them back along the pier. This sure was a lot like a date! she thought, startled that the thought hadn't come sooner. Not that it was. Friends do this sort of thing and that's what we are. Just friends.

"You won't be too tired tonight, will you?" Janet asked worriedly. "We didn't have to stay out so long. You should've gotten some sleep."

"Don't worry about it, Janet. Sometimes on cases it's a requirement to go without sleep. You know, if I'm... following someone or keeping an eye on someone. I'm use to it and I wouldn't have had today any different. I'm glad you came."

Janet smiled brightly. "I'm glad I came, too."

* * * * *

Back at Janet's front door, the two young women stood facing each other, now lost for words. Chris shuffled from foot to foot, knowing she had to get going or she would be late for her shift, but finding herself reluctant to leave Janet's company. She wasn't sure how long the policewoman was going to be on night duty and didn't know when she would see her again. Janet was having the same thoughts.

"I should get going," Chris finally said. "Thanks for the devil-dog," she grinned.

Janet laughed. "Thank you for the pink teddy. I'll... see you soon?"

The blonde nodded. "I'll be around. Bye, Janet."

"Bye, Chris. Stay safe?"

"And you." With a final wave, Chris hurried over to where she had left her car and made her departure.

Janet watched sadly from the doorstep, hoping it wouldn't be too long before they saw each other again.

Continued...

 

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