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Copyright: Although the main characters in the following do bear a strong resemblance to a cute couple with whom we are all familiar, all the characters in this work of fiction are the product of my own imagination and are therefore copyright to me.
For the rest of the disclaimers, please see the first chapter
by Helen Smith, September, 2000
The middle-aged man on the front step stopped with his hand poised over the doorbell.
"Now, very slowly, put the box down." Quinn circled to her right to get a better view, all the while keeping the Glock trained on the stranger as he set a cardboard box on the step. "Now hands behind your neck, and turn around slowly. Who are you and what do you want?"
The man gulped. She could see his adam's apple move convulsively. "I'm from the Animal Rescue Volunteer League." I spoke with Ms. Pedersen about an hour ago. About the cats? The cats in the alley?" Quinn nodded and, encouraged, he went on. "Anyway, we were able to catch five adults and found two more kittens. She had said that if we found any more kittens she'd like a companion for the little guy she'd already rescued. We've had them checked by a vet and given their shots so I was bringing them over so she could choose. Honest."
"Pick up the box and bring it down here. Ok, back away from it. That's far enough. Now stand still." Keeping her eyes on the man, Quinn squatted, then quickly surveyed the box. She noticed some air holes in it. So it could contain the kittens. Or a cobra. Keeping track of the man in her peripheral vision she eased the cover off with the muzzle of the Glock and took a quick look. Two sleepy little faces looked back. One black and white, the other a dark grey. They looked enough like Hairy to be his siblings.
Quinn stood and stepped back. "Ok. Sorry about that. Can't be too careful. Please put the top back on and come with me." She no longer held the gun on the man but she didn't holster it either. Just then the door opened and Kris looked out, gun in hand.
"Everything under control? I saw you from inside."
"Yup. This guy was just delivering some kittens."
"Yeah. Ariel told me they'd be around but we didn't expect them until later."
"The vet looked at them right away," volunteered the man nervously. Both women looked at him and he swallowed convulsively again.
"Bring them in," said Quinn. "Ariel," she called once they were inside. A faint response from upstairs signalled her lover's imminent arrival. Ariel appeared a few seconds later.
"Oh, the kittens!" she said. Quinn figured she was going by the box with the airholes in it. "Please bring them in here."
Everyone followed the writer into the kitchen. Quinn and Kris stood back watchfully as the man set the box on the floor and he and Ariel bent over it to open it up. The two were soon deep in conversation as they watched the antics of the kittens who had discovered a familiar face. Ariel watched them become reacquainted with Hairy, explore, and play with Hairy's toy mice. And, as Quinn knew would happen, the writer soon declared that she couldn't make a choice so she had decided to take both of them. Ariel took her chequebook out of a drawer and wrote out a donation to the league that made the man's eyes bulge and him thank her profusely. Kris saw him out immediately after, his earlier nervousness all but gone in the face of such a windfall.
"Must have been some donation," grinned Quinn.
"Well they need the money. They may never be able to place the adults so they've got to be able to house them ..."
Quinn cut her off with a hug. "You're terrific," she said brushing her lips over Ariel's hair.
"It's only money," responded her lover as she returned the hug with equal fervour.
"Hey, am I interrupting something hot 'n heavy?" asked Kris as she returned.
"Nope," grinned Quinn.
"Aw damn! Just my luck." Kris picked up her jacket from the back of a chair. "I better get going. Still got a couple of things to attend to before my day is done. You need me again, you holler."
"Will do, Kris. And thanks." Quinn followed her to the front to see her out.
When she returned Ariel was sitting contemplating the cats.
"Got names for them yet?"
"No, but I'm working on it. They'll come to me, eventually."
"In the meantime, can I interest you in dinner?"
"Are you cooking?"
"Only in desperate circumstances."
Ariel chuckled. "Well I haven't got that desperate yet. Tell you what, I'll cook if you tell me why you had to rush off downtown."
"Oh. Well I had Joe do some investigating, and he turned up this insurance policy ..."
Quinn stood out in the yard, her back to the pool as Ariel stroked up and down its length. The weather was warmer today so the author wasn't swimming quite as fast to keep warm. Quinn watched the windows of the elderly sisters next door. It was a long shot that they had sent the note but why take chances. She noticed some movement near the glass and could just discern a figure there, but since it made no threatening moves, she left her gun in its holster. Maybe she was right--maybe the old girls did enjoy the daily swim. The dark-haired woman smiled to herself at the thought. Her mind wandered aimlessly while waiting and she was soon recalling when she'd first been introduced to Ariel's swim routine.
The second day she'd been employed to guard the writer she'd arrived at the house just before 8:00am. Kris had let her in.
"None whatsoever. We ate popcorn and watched a movie and then she went to bed about 11:00pm. I read down in the living room and checked the house periodically but didn't see or hear anything out of the ordinary. Haven't seen her so far today but I know she's up since I've heard her moving around."
Both women turned at the sound of footsteps on the stairs. Ariel came into view with towel in hand, wearing the aquamarine bikini from the day before.
"Oh, hi. I guess you're on your way, Kris. See you tonight. Good morning Quinn. I was just going to go do my laps. If you haven't eaten I'll get us breakfast when I come back in the house." Ariel went toward the kitchen, leaving the two women standing in the hall, staring after her.
"Speaking of eating ..."
Quinn cut her off. "Kris!"
The other woman tossed her a knowing grin, mouthed "Enjoy," and left.
Quinn checked over her shoulder. Ariel was just getting out of the pool, water sheeting off that glorious skin. She reflected that the other woman might be small, but boy, was she strong. The muscles in her shoulders and arms bunched then relaxed as she effortlessly pulled herself out to sit on the edge where she toweled off. Quinn then found herself distracted by the flexing of the writer's powerful thigh and calf muscles as she got to her feet, and had to mentally slap herself upside the head. Some guard you are, she lectured herself, and took a quick look at the windows she'd been watching. She was pretty certain someone was still there but back from the glass.
"So what would you like for breakfast?" Ariel asked, as she approached Quinn on her way into the house.
"Short answer? You." Quinn followed her in the door, and relaxed slightly. It was good to be inside a secure place once again.
Ariel turned and grinned in a very sexy, and distracting way. "Um. Not on the menu, I'm afraid. I have to get a lot of writing done this morning, to make up for yesterday." A frown fleetingly crossed her face, but then she smiled. "Maybe later. I might knock off early if things go well." She closed on Quinn like a heat-seeking missile, sliding her arms around the other woman's waist, and nibbled her neck. "And if you're good ..."
Quinn caught her chin with one hand and tipped it up so she could indulge in a long and deep kiss. When they broke apart she said "You are a tease," and punctuated it with a slap on Ariel's butt.
"Ooh. Maybe so, but you're so fun to tease." Then, as a thought struck her she giggled.
"What's so funny?" asked Quinn.
"Oh, just thinking."
Ariel wriggled in Quinn's arms but the other woman held her fast.
"About?" she repeated in the writer's ear, and licked her neck while she was there.
"Just thinking back to your face that day I made you go shopping and I bought the bikinis. It was priceless."
"Are you telling me that was planned?" she asked, as the shorter woman finally wriggled loose.
"Not so much planned as taking advantage of circumstances. You'd been so proper and by-the-book. I thought you could use some shaking up, and the bikinis gave me the prefect opportunity."
"Did they now," said Quinn, and took a menacing step toward the writer.
Ariel's eyes grew big and she turned and sprinted out of the kitchen, hurdling kittens in the process. "Nice form" Quinn shouted after her, then following her to the bottom of the stairs to yell up them in her best imitation of Kenneth Branagh in Dead Again, "This is all fa-a-r-r from over!"
"Promises. Promises" she heard from somewhere upstairs.
Chuckling, the dark-haired woman returned to the kitchen, just in time to forestall three intrepid adventurers off to see the wide world, or at least the rest of the house. Once the kittens were under control she flipped on the info feed, dialed in her favourite music channel and started to make coffee.
"Listen children to a story that was written long
'bout a kingdom on a mountain and the valley folk below."
"Hey, bonus" said Quinn, recognizing the music, just as she realized the adventurers wanted breakfast and they wanted it NOW!
"On the mountain was a treasure buried deep beneath a
and the valley people swore they'd have it for their very own."
Quinn found the kitten food and put some out in bowls, gave them fresh water, then went into the alcove that held the kittens' litter pan, just outside the main floor powder room. While she cleaned the litter she reflected that she had made little progress since hearing about the note the previous morning.
The lab report was inconclusive. Nothing distinctive about the photocopy and no finger prints on it but Ariel's. The envelope had plenty of prints but it would be useless to try to track them. Other than that there was nothing distinctive about it. Even the postmark was blurred. Computer enhancement seemed to indicate that it had been mailed in the city two weeks before, which would fit with what Hank had told her when she'd spoken with him the previous evening. All indications were that the threat had been delivered to McQuarry's via the postal service. But Quinn wasn't willing to rule out the possibility that someone on staff had just retrieved an envelope from the trash and put the note in, leaving it to be placed into the mail for Ariel. Since the writer's mail was slit open at McQuarry's before she got it, Ariel wouldn't have noted any difference. And, not surprisingly, the mail room people had no memory of that particular envelope.
Quinn returned to the kitchen and went to the sink to wash her hands.
"and they killed the mountain people, so they won their
Now they stood beside the treasure on the mountain, dark and red,
turned the stone and looked beneath it. 'Peace on earth' was all it said."
"Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a
Do it in the name of heaven, justify it in the end.
There won't be any trumpets blowin' come the judgment day
on the bloody morning after one tin soldier rides away."
"Ain't it the truth," she muttered.
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