The Message Chapter 5
Author's Note: Thank you to all of you who have been taking time to give me feedback about the story so far. Your thoughts have proved very helpful so please keep them coming. This story will eventually contain a "loving" relationship between two women. The characters, town and storyline are all products of my imagination. Although Tennessee is "really" a state!
January 2007 © J.A. Breeze
By J.A. Breeze
The two male members of Casey's team stood outside the Wilmington Municipal Building waiting for the assistant DA to join them for a quick trip to Nashville.
They were quite the pair with Sam Hardin wearing his usual rumpled suit and chewing on the stub of a cigar while the younger man, was immaculate in his navy sports coat, creased khaki pants, crisply pressed white shirt and striped tie.
"Investigator Hardin, I see you're ready to hit the road," the TBI agent said.
"I'm Sam … just Sam. Or Hardin is okay. But drop the investigator. I've been at this almost thirty years and never have liked hanging titles on people," he replied rather gruffly.
"Sure, Sam. Whatever you want," the younger man said. Thirty years is a long time. I bet you've worked a lot of cases, huh? Do you think we'll have any luck with the assistant commissioner? There's a lot of pressure to get this one wrapped up."
"I tell you, England, I've been on more cases than I care to count. But there's not been very many that we couldn't solve. The answer is always there, it's just sometimes hard to see. The key is to have an open mind and not assume anything."
"So you think we'll be able to solve this one?"
"It's hard to know for sure. You can never tell what someone will do once he figures out his ass is on the line."
"I've been wondering about that myself. Aren't we going to need more than what he's been able to tell us so far to stop this?"
"There's several holes in what we have, but I believe we can solve this one if we can get just a couple more pieces of the puzzle."
"What about Casey? She's a lawyer not an investigator. Do you think she's going to let us do our job?"
"Winston has a tremendous amount of faith in the assistant DA's ability to figure things out. And I've done some checking with guys who have worked with her. They have nothing but respect for her skills as an investigator so I hope that between the three of us we'll get this job done."
"I hope you're right and I hope it's soon! There are a lot of people counting on us to find these blackmailers before they turn this town upside down. Not to mention I feel like it's our asses on the line."
"Well, would you look at that?" The agent glanced up at the older man's words and what he saw brought a smile to his face.
The assistant DA had exited the municipal building and was descending the steps. At least fifteen steps led from the red brick building and the woman was poetry in motion as she made her way toward the men.
"That is one fine looking woman. She must be at least six feet tall. Just look at those legs. Wonder what they'd look like in a skirt, a short skirt. And have you looked at her eyes? Oh, to be ten years younger."
The agent couldn't control his laughter as he looked at the older man.
"Okay so maybe it needs to be twenty years younger but she sure is easy on these old eyes."
"Why Investigator Hardin, I do believe you have a thing for the DA," the younger man taunted.
"Well, if you had a half a brain, you'd have a thing for her yourself. There's one thing for sure this old horse is not dead and recognizes a prime filly when he sees her!"
I'd be willing to bet Casey isn't into guys, especially old rumpled ones. But she is very attractive for an older woman. The agent's thoughts caused him break into a chuckle and it was his laughter that greeted Casey.
Casey noticed the older of the two men checking her out as she got closer but decided not to call his hand on it. "Matt. Sam. You seem to be enjoying yourselves. Want to clue me in?"
"It was nothing, Casey. We were just talking about what we need to find out today, weren't we England?"
"That's right. We were just talking about the assistant commissioner."
"Well, I certainly didn't know the assistant commissioner was so amusing. If you two are finished perhaps we should get this show on the road. Matt, you drive and Sam you can have shotgun. I thought I'd sit in the back and go over my list of questions to be sure we have everything covered."
Once she made the decision to settle down, Jennifer's longtime friend invested in a small two-story house located about an hour outside of Wilmington. Jennifer was astounded by how quickly Janie moved things along. It took her about a month to find a house close enough to commute into the city but yet far enough away that she could enjoy her privacy. About a month after that she invited Alex to move in with her, and they had officially been a couple for just under four months.
The publisher suppressed feelings of envy as she arrived at her friend's cozy home nestled on several wooded acres. She took a few minutes to look around the well-tended lawn and admire the baskets of flowering plants adorning the front porch as she made her way along a stone walkway to the back of the house. Janie's back-porch was screened and had a spectacular view of the mountains. Jennifer knew that was where she'd find her friend.
She released a smile when she saw Janie sprawled out on a lounger inside the screened porch. A magazine was open on the photojournalist's lap but she was sound asleep. Torn between waking her friend to get the talk over with and taking advantage of the opportunity to delay baring her soul for at least awhile longer, Jennifer quietly let herself in. She noticed a pitcher of iced tea and an extra glass her friend had thoughtfully provided. After pouring herself a drink, she settled on a lounger next to Janie.
Napping in the middle of the afternoon. You are showing your age, aren't you, my friend?
Jennifer couldn't help but smirk while she sipped her tea and enjoyed the view of the mountains. Janie had told her it was the panoramic view that sold her on the property. Looking in any direction, all the eye could see was green forest and blue sky. Not a building in sight.
You are so lucky. You've got the woman of your dreams. A quiet home in the country. What more could you possibly want?
Even as those envious thoughts took root, Jennifer chastised herself. Janie and Alex had earned every moment of happiness they could grasp. It had taken them the better part of twenty years to get together.
Don't go being jealous of Janie and Alex. You created your own problems and have only yourself to blame.
She sat for several minutes soaking in the peace and solitude, then Jennifer finally allowed her mind to replay the events that led her to Janie's back-porch with her life in shambles.
If only I had never gone to the Third Street Bar by myself!
After Janie and Alex got together, Janie was soon so wrapped up in her new relationship that she had less and less time to spend with her friend. The couple tried to include Jennifer but it just wasn't the same going out with the two of them.
The first time Jennifer visited the bar alone, she only stayed for one drink and didn't speak to anyone. That changed when she returned alone a second time.
She had taken a table for two in dark corner away from everyone and protected from prying eyes. She had a clear view of the dance floor where a few couples swayed to the music in spite of the early hour. She nursed a mug of beer while she watched.
She didn't notice at first when an attractive dark-haired woman approached her. But when the woman spoke, Jennifer looked up into deep blue eyes.
"Hi, I'm Tessa. You look awfully lonely over here by yourself," the woman offered. "Could I keep you company for awhile?" she asked as she flashed a friendly smile.
"Sure. Have a seat. And … I'm Jennifer."
"Hello, Jennifer. It's very nice to meet you," the stranger said as she extended her hand.
Offering a smile of her own, Jennifer reached out to shake the woman's hand only to have hers enclosed in a warm, strong grasp.
"It's nice to meet you, too," she managed to choke out through her nervousness.
"Could I get you another?" Tessa asked gesturing toward the mug.
"Thanks but I'm not really much of a drinker so this one is fine."
"I've noticed you several times but didn't want to bother you. I hope you don't mind me intruding."
"Not at all. I would enjoy the company. I like to stop by for a drink after work. I find that it relaxes me after a long day."
"I know what you mean. It is good to unwind."
"Do you stop in often?"
"Just about every evening. I work just a couple blocks from here and it's on my way home."
"That's nice. I'm close by, too. What do you do? If you don't mind me asking."
"I hate to tell people what I do for a living. It sounds so stuffy and boring," Tessa responded with a slight grin.
"I'm sure that's not true. I promise not to think it's stuffy or boring."
"Okay. But remember you promised. Are you ready?"
Seeing the blonde head nod in approval, Tessa leaned in close and said, "I'm an investment banker."
"An investment banker?" Jennifer questioned as she struggled not to laugh.
"Remember, you promised."
"But I wasn't expecting something so stuffy and boring," Jennifer responded and released a small laugh.
"And what do you do? Something exciting and adventurous, I suppose."
"Well, not really. I'm the publisher of The Wilmington Gazette."
"Really? I read your newspaper everyday," Tessa said.
"I'm glad to hear it. That's what keeps us in business," Jennifer bantered.
"Jennifer, would it be okay if I ask you something very important?"
"Sure," she said with a touch of uncertainty.
"I couldn't help but notice you watching the dancers rather intently. Would you … like to dance?"
The question was not what she was expecting and she wasn't sure how to refuse without hurting the other woman's feelings. It's just one dance. What could that possibly hurt? "I haven't danced in a very long time. I'll probably step all over your toes and embarrass us both," she replied with a nervous laugh.
"I'll take my chances. Come on," Tessa said as she stood and offered her hand.
Jennifer allowed herself to be led to the dance floor. Tessa maneuvered them to back of the dancers where they were sheltered from curious eyes on the dark dance floor and turned to take Jennifer into her arms. The music was slow and sensuous. Just right for lovers, but they weren't lovers and Jennifer reminded herself to keep a respectable distance. Seeming to sense her partner's reluctance, Tessa put one hand on each of Jennifer's hips but didn't draw her close. Jennifer slid her hands up the woman's arms, noting the strong biceps as she brought her hands to rest on the taller woman's shoulders.
This is so amazing. I can't believe that after all these years I'm dancing with a woman again—and such an attractive woman. Don't let it get out of hand. One dance and then get the hell out of here!
They continued to move slowly to the music, green eyes looking into blue. With every beat of the music, Jennifer fought the desire to melt into the taller woman's body. It felt so natural, so right to be held in the arms of a woman.
You just met her. Don't let this get out of hand. You're married for God's sake.
Make your excuses and leave!
Jennifer stepped away from her partner when the song ended and turned toward their table. She felt Tessa move in close behind her—the tickle of a breath on the back of her neck as softly spoken words were whispered into her ear.
"Thank you, Jennifer. We dance very well together. I look forward to many more … a … dances with you," Tessa said as she allowed her lips to brush Jennifer's ear.
Fighting to control the tremor that ran through her body, Jennifer continued to their table without making a response. She immediately reached for her drink and finished it off.
"Let me get you another one," Tessa offered.
"Thanks that's very kind of you but I really shouldn't. I need to head home soon."
"Are you sure you can't stay awhile longer? Maybe share another dance?"
"Not this time," she said daring to look into the other woman's eyes. What she saw there caused her to gasp. It had been so long since anyone had looked at her with such blatant hunger. I've got to get out of here before I do something I can't take back.
"It was nice meeting you," Jennifer said as she hurriedly collected her things and headed for the door.
She managed to stay away from the Third Street Bar for several days but the pull of the other woman was stronger than her resolve to stay away. Exactly one week later, Jennifer walked into the bar yet again. She took a seat at her usual table and once again watched the couples on the dance floor.
In the week since they met, Tessa rarely left her mind. She dreamed of what it would be like to be held close in the taller woman's arms, to feel her lips against her own. Could it possibly be as wonderful as she imagined?
She had almost finished her drink when a shadow fell over the table. Lost in her fantasies she had failed to notice the dark-haired woman's arrival. She didn't even try to hold back a welcoming smile as she looked into the blue eyes that had filled her dreams for the last week.
"Hello, Tessa. I wondered if I would see you here."
"And I've been waiting for you all week. I'm sorry if I upset you the other day. I didn't mean to," Tessa said as she took a seat.
"Please don't apologize. I should be the one making an apology."
"How about if we just call it even and start over," the dark-haired woman offered with a smile.
"I'd like that."
"Do you have anywhere you need to be? I thought maybe we could have an early dinner some place where we can talk and get to know each other."
"Tessa, I'd like that … really, I would. But I can't today."
"How about tomorrow? Do you know Angelino's?"
"Yes, it's one of my favorites."
"Then how about Angelino's at seven?"
"Angelino's at seven it is," the dark-haired woman responded. "In the meantime, can you stay and have a drink with me?"
"I'd love to."
Jennifer watched Tessa walk to the bar. She couldn't help but admire the way the other woman looked; her black dress slacks and blue silk shirt fit her like a glove, every curve clearly visible. When Tessa returned she sat the drinks on the table and extended her hand.
"Come on. Let's have at least one dance."
Jennifer didn't hesitate to follow the taller woman to the dance floor.
Tessa turned and opened her arms and Jennifer walked straight into them.
Once again Jennifer felt the woman's hands move to her hips. Their eyes locked as Jennifer slid her hands along Tessa's upper arms, caressing every inch. When she reached the strong shoulders, her fingers couldn't be still. With a mind of their own, they began a gentle massage along Tessa's collarbone to her neck.
"This shirt is beautiful on you. It matches your eyes perfectly," Jennifer whispered as she gave into temptation and allowed the fingertips of her right hand to travel slowly up Tessa's long neck, along her jawbone and then to her ear … finally sliding her fingers into the dark hair that barely touched the collar of Tessa's shirt.
Tessa brought her mouth even with Jennifer's ear to whisper a reply. "Thank you. I wore it just for you."
Oh my God. This feels so amazing. I wonder if she can hear the beat of my heart.
As they moved to the music, their bodies lightly brushed, thigh to thigh, stomach against stomach and breast against breast. Releasing a low moan, Tessa brought Jennifer firmly into her body and allowed her hands to stray underneath the smaller woman's blouse to caress the warm skin at the small of her back.
When she felt Tessa's touch on her heated skin, Jennifer pulled back and looked straight into hungry blue eyes. She felt light-headed and heat spread throughout her body as warm hands began a trail along her sides, moving ever closer to her breasts.
Once again Tessa brought her mouth close to the smaller woman's ear and whispered. "Do you have any idea how much I want you? How much I need to kiss you? Have my hands on you?"
In response, Jennifer tugged the taller woman's head down to her own. "Yes, I think I do," she whispered as their lips met for the first time.
The kiss started as a gentle brushing of lips but desire soon took control. As their tongues dueled, Jennifer forgot she was in a public place. She forgot she was married with two children. She forgot she had a career and a reputation to uphold. She forgot she barely knew this woman who had control of her senses. All she cared about was the moment and the feel of Tessa's arms around her and the need that flowed through her body.
While Jennifer's fingers continued to caress the back of Tessa's neck, her left hand journeyed from the taller woman's waist to cup her breast. Her thumb gently rubbed against a pebbled nipple getting confirmation that Tessa wasn't wearing a bra.
Oh, God, I want my mouth on her! It's been so long. I think I'm going to burst.
Tessa moaned into Jennifer's mouth and allowed her fingers to gently massage the smaller woman's lace enclosed breasts.
"I want you so much. Please tell me I can have you," Tessa murmured.
"Yes … yes." I want you, too," Jennifer answered against Tessa's lips.
"Then let's get out of here and go someplace more private," Tessa replied.
In a fog of sexual need, Jennifer was hardly aware of Tessa gathering their things and leading her from the bar.
Opening her eyes she saw Janie leaning over her. Disoriented after the memories of Tessa, it took Jennifer a moment to recover.
"Hey, Jenny. You must have fallen under the spell of my porch," Janie teased.
"I guess I must have dozed off while I was waiting for you to wake up."
"I guess you did, but from the look of those circles under your eyes you needed it. Are you ready to talk now or do you need a few minutes to wake up."
"Actually, if you don't mind, I'd love to visit the little girls' room," Jennifer said with a laugh.
"Sure go ahead. I'll put us a snack together and meet you back here when you're ready," Janie responded giving her friend a reassuring squeeze on the wrist.
"That sounds good. I'll be right back."
"So what do we do now, Casey?" the young agent asked as they returned to the car. "I don't think he gave us much to go on."
"We take what information the assistant commissioner did give us and we work from there. I already have a couple avenues I want to pursue," the assistant DA said as she settled once again onto the back seat.
"And I bet I know what one of them is," the veteran investigator said as he turned to look at Casey. "Why is it I get the feeling we'll be tracking the owner of Heartland Construction and Engineering?"
"You're reading my mind, Sam. That's definitely the first thing we need to do. If we can find out who owns the company awarded those contracts in Memphis and Nashville we should be on our way to finding our blackmailers."
"But I'm guessing it isn't going to be as simple as finding Heartland Construction and Engineering. How much do you want to bet that's just a front and we have to dig very, very deep to find the real owner?"
"Again, you're reading my mind."
"So what's the other angle you want to pursue?" Matt asked.
"I'm curious about why the media never picked up on those bogus bid packages the assistant commissioner told us about. I want to take a closer look at what happened on that front in Memphis and Nashville by going to the leading news sources there. Plus, I want a full background check on the publisher of The Wilmington Gazette. I have reason to believe she may be involved in this."
"What makes you think that?" the agent questioned.
"Matt, I'm not ready to share that just yet. It's mostly just a feeling I have. I could be totally off track here. Regardless I do want to consider the possibility and do the check."
"Do you want me to handle it?" Sam asked.
"I would appreciate that, Sam and Matt, you can start tracing Heartland Construction."
"I'll get on it first thing."
The trio grew quiet as they continued the drive back to Wilmington. Casey was contemplating the possibility of a nap when her cell phone began to ring. Looking at the display she saw it was her mother. She hadn't been home in several weeks and prepared herself for a lecture as she flipped the phone open.
"Hi, Casey. It's Mom."
"Mom, it's good to hear your voice. How is everyone?"
"We're all fine, dear, but we miss you. It seems like ages since we've talked and even longer since you've been home for a visit."
"I know, Mom, and I'm sorry. I've been terribly busy and time just seems to melt away."
"I was hoping I could talk you into coming home and spending the weekend with us."
"I don't know—," she began only to be interrupted.
"I know what you're about to say, Casey Jarnigan, and don't you dare do it. We haven't seen you in more than a month. It's time you came for a visit."
Knowing that once her mother set her mind to something there was no getting around her, Casey decided the best thing to do was gracefully give in.
"Okay, Mom. I'll be home tomorrow."
"Early in the morning, okay?"
"Yes, Mom. I'll come early in the morning. I'll be there by ten."
"That's wonderful, honey. We really have missed you. I don't suppose you would consider coming tonight?"
"No, Mom. I'm afraid I can't make it tonight," she replied as the men riding in the front tried to smother their laughter.
"Are you sure? I have your room all ready for you."
"Yes, I'm sure, Mom. In fact I'm not even in Wilmington. I'm on my way back from a meeting in Nashville. We've got at least two more hours to drive."
"Oh, I didn't realize you had to go out of town. But you will plan to stay through Sunday, won't you?"
"Yes, Mom. I'll stay through Sunday. But now I really should go."
"Okay, honey. I'll see you tomorrow. Drive safely. I love you."
"I love you, too. See you in the morning."
"So your mommy still has you on a tight leash, huh?" Sam heckled from the front.
"Shut up, Sam!"
"I think that was a definite yes, Sam," the young agent chimed in.
"Who would have thought the shining star of the DA's office still has her mommy telling her what to do?" Sam bantered.
"Okay, guys you've had your fun. And if you must know, I haven't been home to see my family in several weeks. And … well … she worries, you know?"
"I'm sure she does, Casey. All the good mothers do," Sam replied. "So where are you from anyway?"
"I grew up on the Cumberland Plateau."
"So how did a kid from the country end up the assistant DA in Wilmington?"
"Well … let's see … she studied hard and made good grades, played a little basketball and won a scholarship."
"You played basketball?" the agent questioned.
"I sure did Matt. It paid my way through Middle Tennessee State."
"That's great. Maybe we can get together for a friendly game some time. I play in a league with a group of guys from the bureau and police department."
"I haven't played in an actual game in ages but I'd enjoy that. Just let me know when."
"You can count on it."
"So where did you go after Middle Tennessee," Sam asked.
"I moved to Memphis and went to law school. Did some interning for the DA there and stayed on and worked for him a few years after graduation. It was a great learning experience for me. Then I came to work at Wilmington."
"Just how old are you anyway, kid?"
"Sorry. I guess I slipped. So how old are you?"
"Sam, I swear you are the most frustrating man I've had to work with."
"Yeah, I know. It's part of my charm."
"You are so full of shit."
"Now, Casey, what would your dear mother say if she heard such language coming out of your mouth?"
"She'd say that I'm my Dad's daughter and that she did her best but he and my brothers were a stronger influence."
"So you were a daddy's girl? Figures."
"Well, Sam, if your idea of a daddy's girl is someone in frilly dresses and batting her eye lashes to get her way, then no I wasn't. But if you see a daddy's girl as someone who followed him hunting and fishing and who worked at his side breaking down engines, then yeah I'm a daddy's girl."
"You can break down an engine?" the agent asked.
"Sure. Matt. I have a 1966 red convertible Mustang that is my pride and joy rebuilt the engine myself when I was seventeen."
"Damn, I love those cars. Will you take me for a ride in it sometime?" the older man asked.
"I don't know, Sam. Maybe we can work something out if you watch your manners and all," Casey quipped.
"Oh, and Casey?"
"Just how old are you?"
All three occupants burst out in laughter.
"Old enough to know better, Sam. Old enough to know better. And now if you gentlemen don't mind I think I'll catch a nap for the rest of the ride."
"Sure thing go ahead and take a nap. I'll just do a check on you and find out your age."
"Sam, don't you dare. I'll fire your ass!"
"Damn, Casey, you don't have to get all riled up. I was just kidding around with you."
"I know that, Sam. And I was just kidding, too. I wouldn't fire your ass."
"That's good to know."
"I'd just kick it all over Winston's office."
"I bet she would, too," Matt said.
"Oh, shut up you little shit. What do you know?"
"Alright guys, I'm napping now. Wake me when we get home."
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