© March 2007
_________________ Chapter 17 _________________
The Mentals were having too much fun to seriously think about bowling. It was the league fun night for Christmas week. Their opponents were also a very happy and relaxed team. The Syringes consisted of four nurses from the Medi-Care Center across town. The four thirty-something players arrived in a raucous mood and became more rowdy as the liquor flowed nearly non-stop from the bar and down their throats.
The lone male at the table sat nonchalantly at the end of the table reading his book. He would occasionally pay attention to the Syringes and respond with laughter himself. For the most part, he was invisible.
The waitress came to their table with a fully loaded tray of two baskets of popcorn, four mixed drinks, four shot glasses, a pitcher of beer, and a cup of coffee. The token male reached into his wallet and provided the waitress with a large bill and some ones. He waved her off, pushed his glasses further up his nose, and went back to his book. One of the Syringes reached over and kissed the man at his temple and then rubbed her lipstick print from his skin.
Jo returned to the table and received high-fives from her mates. The Mentals had a plus one of their own tonight; Emily had decided to join them. They all had been watching with pure enjoyment their opponents throughout the night. As far as Boney was concerned, they had been the most fun team to bowl against so far this season. Their silly antics and easily heard banter thrilled Boney to the core.
“Ladies…” The woman’s tongue was obviously thick with drink and her Santa hat was askew on her head. “Merry Christmas from The Syringes.” She had a broad smile across her face.
“Thank you ahh…” Teela paused.
“Betadine.” She pointed to herself then turned to her teammates. “They are Milligram,” the redhead at the table raised her hand, “Oxygen,” the brunette with the cigarette raised her drink, “and Scrubs.” The short black haired woman nodded.
“Thank you,” the Mentals chorused.
“Betadine,” Jo said.
“You can call me Beta.”
“Tell me Beta, you are not driving are you?”
Beta shook her head vigorously, “Nope my hubby.” She turned and pointed to the guy at the end of their table. “The one that looks bored out of his sweet skull, he’s the wheel man tonight.”
“Great idea,” Emily said with relief. She had been watching them as everyone else had all night. She had resigned herself to approach the table at the end of the night and strongly suggest they call a cab.
“Joseph is always designated when the four of us get together.”
“Well thank you all for the pitcher and Merry Christmas.” Boney waved.
The game resumed for some time as the Mentals went back to talking about the dinner that would take place in a few days. Emily wanted to bring the correct wine and asked Jo for suggestions.
“Well Emily, instead of worrying about what wine to bring, you could bring presents instead.” Boney smiled.
“Quit begging hillbilly.” Teela said.
“I am not begging. It was a mere suggestion.”
“What are you hoping Santa brings you Boney?” Harley asked.
“A new TV.”
“In your dreams Boney. I have told you that.” Jo sat back in her chair knowing that there would be a pout upon her lover’s face. I am going to kill you myself Pax for showing her that damn TV.
“Oh my God.” Teela pointed at her friend’s protruding bottom lip and laughed. “Emily. Have you ever seen such a thing on a grown woman?”
“You are so cruel Teela,” Boney whined.
“Yes.” Boney’s eyes lit up then glazed over. “A fifty-two inch high definition flat screen.” Then her body shivered as the image of the television caressed her like a lover.
“Good lord what for?” Emily laughed at the strange woman.
“What do you mean what for? To watch of course!” Boney replied offended. Ha, you call yourself a detective?
“Now Jo why deny your honey such a gift of love?” Teela teased.
“She is the love of my life and usually gets what she wants,” she eyed her lover seductively, “material or physical.” Teela rolled her eyes and Harley fanned herself from the heated gaze. “Unfortunately she has seen the inside of the dog house too many times this year for such an extravagant present.”
Teela looked at her friend and smiled and shrugged her shoulders. “Oh well, woof woof Boney.”
“You are so evil, and I am not alone on the bad list. You Teela Pheamster are on the snowman poop list for being cruel to friends.” Harley and Emily turned to one another and mouthed “snowman poop?” to one another.
“Oh waa waa.”
“Jo?” Boney called.
“Love ya Boney,” Teela teased with pleasure.
“You lie too.”
Harley and Emily held their comments for fear of getting caught up in the loving insults. Only Emily spotted the woman coming towards them. Her senses snapped alert and her body was coiled and ready. Emily trusted in her automated responses. They had saved her life many times, more than Harley would ever know.
Teela glanced at Emily and the darkened blue eyes so much like Pax’s. She followed their direction and watched as Tanesha walked towards their table. She wore a pair of black jeans and pristine white button down shirt beneath a knee length black leather duster. It hung well on her and brought out a spellbinding sexual energy. Teela was immune to her accoutrements.
“Hello Teela,” she said, eyes dark and glistening. She held the surprised green eyes a moment longer before turning to see her old colleague and golf mate. “Jo and Boney, good to see you again.”
“This is a surprise Tanesha.” Boney’s disquiet was heard by the group.
“I’m sure it is.” Her smile matched the brilliant whiteness of her shirt.
“What are you doing here?” Unlike her partner, Jo knew how to keep the angst from her voice. It was the loathing and loss of respect that she could not prevent from coming through.
“I am here to meet someone. I saw you here and knew I must come over and say hello.” To my two favorite back stabbing bitches.
Emily’s watched the embittered exchange between the women and felt the tension radiate off Teela. Who the hell is this? Emily wondered. Definitely some bad history here. Is Harley mixed up in whatever is going on? I’ll have to ask her later. I don’t get a good feeling about this.
“How are you two doing?”
“We are well Tanesha. Yourself?” Jo supplied.
“Good thanks. It was tough at first,” she briefly glanced at Teela but found her gaze locked on the dark haired woman across the table, “but I’m much better now.” Her eyes narrowed. Do I know you? she thought. No I don’t and stop staring at me like that before I whip your ass. Woo hoo who is this lovely thing sitting there? She glanced at Harley. Emily watched the woman’s eyes travel from Harley’s face down to her breasts at the table’s edge and back again. Emily gritted her teeth and her face grew scarlet with anger at the woman’s flagrant perusal of Harley. She was grateful the arrogant woman could not see Harley’s body beyond the table.
“If you want to stay that way,” Emily spoke through clenched teeth, “I suggest you look at something else.” She felt Harley’s hand stroke her thigh in attempt to calm her.
Tanesha tilted her head at the challenge and bore hard eyes into Harley’s for a moment longer. Her arrogance told Emily she was not afraid of her threat. “Is that a challenge pussycat?”
“Tanesha …” Teela groaned as visions of Pax and Tanesha squaring off in the golf club parking lot.
Emily started to stand to defend her lover’s honor and clenched her fists. You have no idea who you are dealing with bitch. Harley’s hand shot out and grabbed Emily’s arm asking her to keep her seat.
Tanesha was about to say something more when she heard her name shouted from several feet behind her. She turned and smiled at the sight of Autumn coming towards her.
Boney groaned at the sight and shrugged her shoulders at Jo. They watched as the woman seemed to bounce over to them. Not only did the brown haired woman have a bounce in her step, her large breasts that were squeezed into the lot cut sweater did also nearly spilling free.
“Hi Tannie, I’ve been waiting for you.” Autumn giggled.
“Tannie?” Boney chuckled and ignored the knitted brows of Tanesha.
“Hey baby. I was just saying hello to some people.”
“I didn’t know you knew Jean and…and…” Autumn smiled at the contemptuous look distorting Jo’s face.
“Yes I do, but I don’t know your name.” Tanesha turned her back to Emily. Her scrutiny of Harley was slow and lazy once more.
“You don’t need to,” Emily supplied.
“Nice to meet you,” Tanesha replied without removing her eyes from Harley and ignoring Autumn’s open mouth gape.
“You …” Emily clenched and released her fists once again and stood.
“Are you sure?” Tanesha warned with a grin. “Be very sure.” She waited to see if the gauntlet would be picked up by the dark haired woman. She sneered at the arresting hold Harley had upon the woman’s wrist. “Well, ladies have a Merry Christmas and a joyous new year.” Her smile beamed as she turned to follow Autumn.
“There’s proof that nut jobs attract one another,” Jo muttered to her friends who all burst into laughter except for Emily. She witnessed Tanesha’s posture bristle as she paused in her retreat. Emily saw the brief scorching glare over her shoulder at Jo.
Something is not right with that woman, Emily thought. Jo you need to be careful with people like that. Emily vowed to warn Jo later.
_________________ Chapter 18______________________
“Where is she?” Teela asked exasperated and anxious to see the one she has missed for so long.
“I am sure that she will be here Teela.” Jo grinned at her friend.
“She told me that she was coming tonight. If I didn’t have to be here early I would have gotten a ride with her especially since my car wouldn’t start anyway. I think it is about to die on me.”
“Boney didn’t mind picking you up. It gives her another excuse to drive her Escalade. She loves barreling through the snow in that thing. Says it makes her feel butch.” She giggled at her scrawny wife. “If Pax said she was coming then she will be here. You’re fretting like an old mother hen.”
“Sure she will be here,” Harley interjected entering the kitchen. “Now who has a woman who may not exist?”
“Why don’t you get a new one?” Jo asked.
“Oh she exists and I can’t afford a new one,” Teela replied.
“She does Harley. I have personally seen those long gorgeous legs.”
“Hey!” Teela slapped at her friend.
“You can too afford a new car you tightwad.” Jo laughed.
“Hey no name calling on Christmas.” Teela pouted.
“It’s not Christmas yet.” Jo smiled.
“Sure if you say so.” Harley tsked.
“I do. Emily looks just like her. How many conversations are we going to have at once anyway?”
“Two,” Jo provided.
“Well let’s cut it down to one.” Harley said. “Not a chance. My Emily is one of a kind. They broke the mold after she was created.”
“Well I hate to tell you this but, someone snuck in and made Emily a copy of Pax and then they broke the mold.”
“Ha! In your dreams girlfriend,” Harley defended with hands on her hips. “It was the other way around.”
“You're right I stand corrected; they shortened the height of the mold to make Emily.”
“Ooh.” Harley pointed and then bellowed “HONEY!!!” A moment later Emily barged into the kitchen ready to do battle with whoever was harming her love.
“Harley, what's wrong?” She limped over to her love concern etched across her face.
Harley met her love halfway and slipped her arms around the trim waist. “It's Teela. She called you short.” Relief spread through Emily that Harley was not in danger. “And I was defending your honor.”
“Oh really?” She sent an imperceptible wink to her partner. Emily pulled herself to her full height with a raised left eyebrow. “Are you sullying my honor Teela?” Emily turned towards the social worker.
Teela’s eyes widened at the menacing gaze. “Uh oh.” She ducked behind her friend Jo. “Never.”
“No bloodshed in my kitchen during the Christmas season. You’ll ruin my clean floor.” Jo shook her finger at the detective. “Then again,” Jo tapped that same finger to her lips in thought, “if it gets on the floor I could use it as an excuse to get that new flooring I saw in the sales ad the other day.”
“Huh?” Teela asked.
“Hmm, new floor or best friend? New floor or best friend?” Exasperated she threw her hands into the air and looked at the two women. “I just can’t make up my mind.”
“Jo!” The friends erupted in laughter.
Inviting riff raff to your table now Johanna? The thought came from the shadowed body
crouched low against the side of the sliding door. The head peaked around the corner of the frame once again with care not to be seen. You definitely lowered your standards when you betrayed me. Why did you do that to me Jo? The lament was brief. You should have stood by me as your friend. No you had to give me up for that gimpy bitch and then insult me in front of the riff raff. Not good Johanna. Not good at all. The dark clad body stiffened as the irritation returned. You’ll pay for that. Just wait until Boney takes Teela home tonight. Dark eyes narrowed. Hmmph, you and your pretentious ways.
Jo chuckled, “You chicken shit get out from behind me and stand up to her.” Boney took that moment to enter the kitchen with her beer.
“Emily, what the hell? You left just as I snapped the ball,” Boney asked.
“You're cheating Boney. I told you to pause it,” Emily said of the video game they were playing.
“No you didn't.”
“You're cheating.” Emily narrowed her eyes.
“How does Boney make people do that Jo?” Harley asked no one in particular amazed at the uncharacteristic retorts from the detective.
“It’s a gift.” Jo laughed.
“Thank you baby,” Boney turned briefly to her wife with a smile before resuming with Emily. “Am not Emily. You,” she pointed her finger, “did not call pause as we had agreed to do before we started playing. My guy,” she pointed to herself, “was already in motion when your woman summoned you and you went running like a bat out of hell.” She glanced at Harley and used that same finger to point in her direction. “Nice training of her to do that by the way.” Then turned back to a slack jawed Emily and aimed the finger at her. “I can't help it if the pass went forty yards uncontested for a touchdown.”
Emily's eyes were wide. “I can’t believe you. You are such a cheater.” Her eyebrows readjusted into a tightly knitted deep sneer. “Point that finger at me one more time and I will break it so bad the doctors will suggest amputation.”
Boney gasped and shoved her hands into her pockets. She huffed and took a step backwards. “All is fair in love and football.”
“Hillbilly, are you not playing fair with your friends?” Jo asked through her laughter. God I love that woman.
“I am Sweet Bunny, but she …” Boney lifted her hand to point at Emily and then remembered the warning and decided to scratch the imaginary itch on her opposite shoulder instead, “…is not playing by the rules.”
“She is probably cheating Jo.” Teela laughed emerging from behind her own protection from Emily’s warning. She laughed harder as Boney stuck out her tongue at her.
Through the cold and breezy wind the shadow outside heard the laughter and for a moment for just a split second wanted to have been invited into the kitchen’s friendships and warmth. The fleeting sense of melancholy passed and was replaced by revulsion. You are such a childish putz Augusta Jean. You even got a fucked up name. A fucked up name for a fucked up woman. She chuckled quietly. I don't know why that Jo puts up with your silly, uneducated, backwards ass. She could have had me but she blew her chance. I bet she didn't tell you about our lunch date last spring when I kissed her. Did she you uncouth simian? I bet she didn't tell you that she kissed me back either.
The desire for the sultry co-worker was profoundly arousing from the moment they met. She knew Jo was someone special in an instant. What surprised her most was her attraction to an African American woman. She never dated women of that race. She knew it was a bizarre way of thinking. After all a woman was a woman no matter the pigmentation, but the oath did come after an experience.
Once with a black woman was all it took.
That one time love interest was a beautiful and curvaceous coffee colored woman. Breasts firm beneath her grasp, the woman’s soaked center so sweet to the taste and so luscious that she could drink to her heart’s content. Suddenly something happened that she could not explain. At the height of lust her arousal evaporated into disgust. She leapt from the woman’s bed and made it in time to the toilet bowl as her stomach purged the remains of their dinner that night.
When her eyes fell upon Johanna Karasi Forrester, the desire to have the woman was so gargantuan it overrode the haunting experience of her past. The intensity of being near the woman caused Tanesha to nearly lose control at the most inopportune times.
It was their fifth lunch together. She had purchased a sub for each of them and then had driven them to the park. After Jo had taken several bites she leaned into Jo to wipe the spot of mayo from the corner of her mouth. She was felled by the chocolate eyes and continued to close the gap between them.
She felt the fluid pressure of Jo’s response upon her lips. The soft moan reverberated from one pair of lips through to the other and swallowed to deepen their connection. Then Jo’s hands were upon her sternum and their lips smacked apart.
“We don’t have to stop. Oh God Jo,” she gasped. “That was amazing.” She shifted uncomfortably due to the wetness between her legs.
“Yeah we do.” She cleared her throat. Oh God Boney. I am so sorry. I didn’t mean for that to happen.
“You taste so sweet Jo. I knew you would.” You are going to be so exquisite to take and take and take.
“It cannot happen again.”
“Don’t be silly. Why not?” She fought to prevent her fantasy from crumbling.
“I am married, and I am in love with my wife.”
“She won’t know and I won’t tell.”
“I will know. I will tell her.”
Then I got distracted by the arms of another woman. That woman is the one I am destined to be with. Forever. She pressed further into the house siding as lights from a cars arrival bounced off the house around the other side across the lawn.
“We had played a full quarter of football before she told me which button to push to change receivers. She kept intercepting me and that’s why the score is 48-7.” Emily griped. “Honey,” she turned to Harley, “can I have a video game system like Boney’s?”
“Sure baby. We’ll go tomorrow and get you one,” Harley consented. Emily turned to Boney and taunted her with a wide grin.
“Ha! You can’t. Stores are closed tomorrow. Brat.” Boney spat the same time that the door chimes resounded. “I’ll get it,” she said and skipped from the room.
“It’s probably Pax. I’ll get it.” Teela followed and caught Boney before she reached the door.
“It’s my house.”
“It’s my girlfriend.”
“Oh? Since when?”
“Go back to your game Augusta Jean and leave the adults alone.”
Boney’s eyes narrowed and an evil smirk stretched across her lips. “Ooh that will cost you.”
“Ooh, I’m scared.” Teela shivered violently.
“You should be Teela Tapioca.” Boney was overjoyed at the shocked looked upon her friend’s face. Mouth draped open, Teela’s bottom lip trembled and her eyes bugged wide.
“Where did you hear that?” She recovered and snarled.
Boney’s grin grew larger in triumph. “Wouldn’t you like to know Teela Tapioca.”
“Stop that! Where …” Then it came to her. “Mother, I will kill you old woman.” Teela seethed at her mother’s obvious breach of her detested childhood memories. The children on the playground gave her the dreadful name. I hope you have your will made out old woman. That was something Boney did not need to know.
“Uhm you may kill the wrong person and end up as someone’s sweet thang in prison.” She gloated.
“Boney,” Teela started sweetly, “you must know that name traumatized me as a child.”
“Tapioca, you must know that ya’ll traumatize me every chance ya’ll get. I can’t help it if it slips out during a dinner conversation.”
Teela inhaled sharply. “You wouldn’t?”
Boney threw the door open wide. “My buddy! Merry Christmas.” Boney stepped out and enveloped Pax in a hug pinning her arms at her side.
Pax glanced around the woman squeezing her at Teela. “Too much eggnog already?”
“Chemical imbalance from birth,” Teela corrected through clenched teeth.
“Ahh. Well …hello … to …you … too … Boney.” Pax sounded each word loud and slow into the woman’s ear.”
Boney released Pax and snarled. “Bite me, both of you.” They laughed. “Sorry to make you wait so long. Teela wanted to check her hair and makeup before I opened the door.” She coiled her body against the stinging punch the blonde would give her in retaliation. She stepped back to allow Pax into the foyer. First Boney noticed the cane and then asked, “What the hell happened to your face?” Teela stepped around Boney for a better look and then gasped.
Pax grinned and shrugged. “I’m just ugly I guess.” Pax was the only one of the three who chuckled. Her eyes twinkled at the small blonde. “Hi Teela.”
“Hi yourself. What Happened? Are you alright?” Green eyes surveyed the elongated bruise on Pax’s right temple down near the scars on her cheek. The purple black area was tinged in red and there was a slight mark below her right eye as well.
Pax shrugged her shoulders. “I wasn’t looking and ran into an open door.” She released a nervous chuckle. I can’t tell you the truth that I fell getting ready. I can’t tell you that my leg gave way and the floor came up to meet my face. “Call me klutz.”
Boney’s gazes shifted from Pax’s to the cane and back again. She questioned her friend and knew that she was not telling the truth. How much longer can you keep things from her my friend? Boney thought. “Klutz.” She laughed aloud.
You’re lying to me Pax? Why are you hiding? Teela thought. “That looks pretty bad. Did you go to the emergency room and get it checked out? Do you have a concussion?”
“Yeah,” Pax added to her lie. “They told me to be more careful.”
Boney felt the electricity bounce throughout the room between Pax and Teela. It always made the hair on her arms stand on end and tickle. She needed to get away from them. “So what’s in the bag?”
“Gifts for you and Jo.”
“Ooh presents. Well I will just relieve you of all that weight.” She took the large gift bag from her friend and peered inside. “I didn’t think your television could fit in something this small. Is it foldable?”
“In your dreams hillbilly... I told you to get your own television.”
“Yes well we won’t go there at the moment. Gimme your coat and I’ll put it away for you.”
Pax shrugged out of her short leather. “There is a bottle of wine in there too.”
“Ok,” Boney called over her shoulder. “I’ll put the goodies under the tree and the wine on chill.”
They were alone again. Teela took a step forward eyes never leaving the pair of blue ones she loved to become lost in. “You poor thing.” Her fingers caressed the colorful temple and heard the sharp intake of breath. She brushed the cool cheek with the back of her hand. “Is there anything that I can do to make you comfortable tonight?”
“How about this?” Teela cupped the back of the zoologists head and brought her lips down to meet her own. The kiss sizzled. It quickly deepened and just as quickly ended with both of the women panting as they tried to catch their breath.
“That should take away any jitters I have about the evening?” Pax grinned and moaned silently at the throbbing that came to life between her legs. Damn, she could always do that to me.
“Why are you nervous?”
“Not sure what to expect being here.”
“You are among friends here. There is no reason for you to be nervous.”
Teela leaned up and kissed her once again. “Aw. Now come on I’ll introduce you to Harley and Emily.” And we’ll talk about that look you and Boney gave one another later.
Jo exited the kitchen carrying the tray of Cornish hens dressed and looking too pretty to eat. She smiled at her friend being led by Teela. “Just in time Pax.” She set the tray upon the center of the table and came around to wrap the tall woman in a full body hug. “How are you my friend?” She looked upon the woman and noticed the flush to her cheeks. “Teela been stirring you up in my living room has she?”
“It’s written all over the poor thing’s face.” She laughed as Pax’s coloring deepened.
Teela did not notice Pax’s reddened cheeks but saw the wide eyed stare of her future lover. She followed Pax’s gaze to the identical blue pair across the room.
Jo felt Pax’s body stiffen and stepped back from the embrace knowing Emily had entered the room.
Who the hell is that? Pax thought.
“Pax Baldwin,” Teela began and took the large hand in her own to lead Pax across the room. “I would like for you to meet Harley Goldberg.” She pointed to the woman with Asian features. “And her partner, Emily Oliverez.”
“Harley, Emily, hello.” Her focus never wavered from Emily. Wow, Teela was right about us looking alike, everyone has a double somewhere. Mine happens to be in this room. Eerie. Could she be … nah, she is in Texas somewhere.
“Nice to meet you Pax.” Harley stretched out her hand and took the few steps to close the gap between herself and the mirror image of her partner. Okay Teela, I abdicate to you on the height thing. She has a good four inches on my Emily.
They were right. Emily conceded. She does look like me. The hair is longer but my eyes are bluer. Nah, I’m way better looking. She shook the tall woman’s hand.
Stepping out of the shadows, the dark figure quietly tried to slide the door back along the track. Fuck where did everybody go? She stood at her full height in the middle of the glass giving it one final yank. She thought about the layout of the house. Front door, back door, door off the kitchen leading to the garage and the cars tucked within from the winter elements. No outside cellar door and the basement windows were sealed from inside. Now what?
She crouched low once again and made her way to the other side of the house. She came to the living room bay window. The vertical blinds were drawn but if she moved her position just right she managed to catch a glimpse of the interior through the small slits in the blinds. She weaved her head to and fro to see between the small spaces to the women inside.
Her cell phone vibrated in her pocket and she cursed quietly. She squatted in the snow and pulled the flat device from her pocket. Damn, She looked at the glowing numbers on the device. I forgot I was supposed to meet her tonight. That bitch is getting on my nerves too. But she is warmer than being out here and a good piece of ass would do me good about now. She looked back towards the window for several seconds deciding what to do. Decision made, she shoved the telephone back into her pocket and slunk away from the window to her car parked at the empty house a mile down the road.
Dinner went smoothly as the laughter was plentiful and there was never a lack of conversation. Pax found herself agreeing with Teela’s assessment of Emily and Harley. She did like them and felt comfortable being around the couple.
It is so good to be around friends again for the holidays. It had been a long time since she had been apart of something like this. Not since Jen, her lover of five years, had died has she celebrated the season in true fashion.
The meal devoured and two wine bottles later Boney, Emily, and Pax retired to the living room with their drinks. Boney sat by the tree and began to finger the wrapped packages. She found one with her name on it and started to shake it.
“I am going to tell Jo,” Pax warned.
“Tattle tale. I bet you were fun to be around at Christmas,” Boney replied dryly and returned the package back to its spot taking care to arrange it just as she found it.
“So,” Emily began, “tell me about yourself, Pax.”
“Not much to tell really. I was born and raised right here. Left home; went to U.S.C. and became a zoologist. Stayed in California for awhile and then came home.”
“Not to mention she is a kick ass fighter.”
“Was … a kick ass fighter.” She smiled at Boney before returning to Emily’s questioning gaze. “Competitive karate.”
“Really? I’m impressed.”
“Don’t be. I don’t do it anymore.” She sipped her drink to wash away the flashback of the brawl with Tanesha. She absently rubbed her leg.
“Aah a cliff notes version kinda girl.”
“Something like that.” Pax laughed.
“You forgot to tell me about the leg.”
“So I did. Tell me Emily, what should I know about you?”
“Born and raised in San Antonio Texas. Went to school, saw an opening here in Michigan with the department, came here and met the love of my life.”
Touché, but you forgot about the leg.”
Emily returned the smile. “So I did.” She released a heavy sigh. “My last undercover assignment. Took a bullet in the thigh; went clean through.”
“Ouch, that’s a dangerous job that you have.”
“Had. I’m retiring soon.”
“Yes, it is ‘congratulations’. Thanks.”
“I was uhm, mauled by a Bengal Tiger a few years ago.”
“Ouch for you,” Emily replied
“The face and right shoulder are a matched set.”
“Wow.” Emily quickly turned and pulled down the side of her turtle neck to reveal the red small welt upon her neck. “Last assignment also, bullet got me on the pass.”
“You must have great reflexes. To dodge that.”
“Or the perp had bad aim.” She chuckled.
Pax stood and pulled her shirt free of her jeans. She twisted her body to show Emily the raised straight line above her hip. “Kidney surgery after three rounds with a Mongolian fighter in a dive in China.”
Emily smiled and pulled the other side of her turtle neck low to expose a tooth marked hickey. “Harley Goldberg, insatiable animal.” Pax joined her in laughter.
“If you two macho She-Ra’s are done with your pissing contest,” Boney huffed and rolled her eyes, “can we move on to a more pleasant topic or activity?”
Pax caught her breath from her laughter long enough to reply, “Aww Boney, don’t you have any battle wounds to share?”
Boney huffed and turned her nose to the air. “I am a lover, not a fighter.” Both women leaned on one another as they laughed at their sulking host.
“Teela I have to admit, Pax is quite charming and does look like my Emily,” Harley said.
“I am glad that you finally got a chance to meet her. She and Emily seemed to hit it off real quick though,” Teela said.
“They did, especially since both of them are so reserved most of the time,” Jo added.
“It’s uncanny how they not only have the same raven colored hair and blue eyes, but that the same leg is wounded.” Harley said. “What happened with Pax?”
“She was mauled by a Bengal Tiger when she lived in California,” Teela supplied.
“The tiger did the initial damage. She was healed before Tanesha got a hold of her,” Jo added.
“Tanesha? Who’s Tan …Oh that woman from the bowling alley?”
“Pscyho bitch herself.”
“They know each other?”
“You could say that.”
“Well what did Tanesha do to her?” Harley was curious. She had felt dirty after the woman ogled her at the bowling alley. She was more frightened of Emily getting hurt. “Don’t tell me that those two women regressed to immaturity and fought one another?”
“There was nothing immature about it,” Jo defended. “Tanesha challenged Pax for her championship belt, not to mention the horrible things that she said about Teela. It was the damndest thing I ever saw and hope to never see again.”
Teela sighed heavily and started to tell Harley about what led to the fight between Pax and Tanesha last summer. Harley cringed and gasped throughout the near fantasy tale and Teela swore that Harley had turned green around the gills when she recanted the fight.
“And you two didn’t try to stop them?”
“It didn’t do any good Harley.”
“That’s unbelievable.” Harley shook her head.
“More than you know,” Jo agreed.
“How long have you two been together?” Harley asked and Teela paused after place the dish upon the counter.
“We aren’t exactly together anymore.” Teela sighed. “But I’m trying to change that.”
“Really?” She looked to Jo.
“Long story for another time,” Teela replied quietly. The though hit her at that moment. This would be the first Christmas that she would not see Bess. It’s okay to think that. Just don’t dwell on it. Sterling said that it was okay.
“It seems so obvious. She couldn’t keep her eyes off you during dinner.”
“I know. I felt those gorgeous blues on me.”
“Oh. I just assumed …”
“I agree with Harley. She watched you constantly and blushed each time your eyes met.”
“I think we are on the mend. I know I shouldn’t push her but God, I just don’t want anyone else to try and take her.” She thought of Amanda. “I want what we had back Jo.”
Jo wiped her hands on the towel and hugged her friend. “I know honey, but you have to give her time.”
“I know. I know I have to be patient for her feelings to develop for me again. It’s just that … I’m on edge with waiting.”
“I think that is called horniness.” Harley laughed.
“That too.” Teela laughed her agreement. “There has been no one else since her. She is all that I have thought about.”
“Give her time then Teela,” Jo replied. “She has to feel comfortable. You are on her terms now, to sort of speak. You have to wait for her.”
“I know this Jo, but I don’t always have the patience of Job.”
“If she is anything like my Emily, I wouldn’t either.”
“Oh she is better than your Emily.” Teela grinned at her friend.
“Don’t start that again.” Harley chuckled and threw her dish towel at Teela.
The night ended with the couples enjoying their dessert in the living room and Boney playing Santa Claus handing out the gifts. Afterwards, the three couples promised to get together the following weekend for the New Year’s celebration. Boney would pick up the six tickets that were needed to enter The Forrest, the lesbian nightclub for the evening’s festivities.
Jo and Boney bid their guests goodnight and slumped upon the couch exhausted from entertaining. Boney was grateful to Pax for offering to drive Teela home. All she wanted to do was take her woman upstairs and sleep in her arms. Boney told Jo to go to bed and she would be along after she secured the doors and turned out the lights.
The lone figure slumped further down in the driver’s seat of her as the headlights from the on-coming auto behind her sprayed the interior with lights. Her eyes strained to see the white truck pull into the driveway two houses down from where she was parked and snarled her displeasure when the occupants exited the car.
What is she doing here? Bitch. Then just as quickly. Ahh someone got a new truck. I wonder why? She chuckled softly at the damage she inflicted upon Pax’s F-150. Her smile faded at her next thought. You have just got to come out on top, don’t you bitch? She peered at the new Dodge Ram over the rim of her window. Had to get a new truck, didn’t you? I hope to hell it cost you a fortune to replace that beat up piece of shit. You should be thanking me. At any rate, you don’t deserve it or her you loser.
The stalker’s eyes burned with rage. For over two hours she had waited for Teela to get home. Crazed from a day on an emotional roller coaster she went to her current girlfriend’s apartment only to thaw the winter’s chill that had seeped into her bones. Unfortunately she did not have a sustaining interest in the woman. She had lost her desire when Teela’s name accidentally slipped through her lips. Her lover was appalled and demanded an apology from her. When she left her, Autumn was without demands but full of discomfort when the ice compresses touched her reddened cheeks and swollen eyes.
She arrived at Teela’s in plenty of time it seemed to leave her present upon the social worker’s doorstep. The plan was to let Teela get home and take the package inside, and then appear upon her doorstep. It called for Boney to bring Teela home and leave. Things didn’t go to plan. You ruined everything you gimpy bitch. You’re on my time.
From the short distance under the cast of the street lamp, she watched Teela bend over and retrieve her present from the side of her front door. A knowing grin returned to her face and her cheeks flushed warm with the thought of Teela enjoying the gift she had taken three hours to select.
“Wonder why mom didn’t put this in the house?” Teela asked and looked oddly at the gift.
“Maybe she forgot her key or something? Pax supplied.
Teela turned to her and smiled. Although she could not see them, she could sense the magnetic eyes upon her and questioning. What should we do now? I don’t want the night to end, not yet. Not until tomorrow night. Sempre Fi Pheamster, it worked once try it again. Her inner voice coaxed.
The silence fell between them and each fell helplessly into the gaze of the other. Teela stepped closer to the zoologist never breaking visual contact with the blue eyes she adored. “I had a wonderful time tonight.”
“So did I.”
Teela closed the remaining distance between then and wrapped one hand behind the tall woman’s neck. Slowly she pulled Pax’s lips down to meet her own. Teela moaned at the cold soft lips meeting her own that quickly warmed into a raging inferno. The warmth from their lips traveled the length of their bodies in welcomed familiarity. Pax’s hand snaked around Teela’s waist and her tongue stroke Teela’s closed lips asking permission to enter. Teela opened for Pax permitting her tongue into the cavern to taste the treasure held within.
The watcher’s hands clenched into tight gloved fists and slammed into the console between the seats. She muttered a long string of expletives in the silence of her car as she watched Pax take her pleasure from Teela. She is mine. You need to get out of the way.
“Will you stay with me tonight?” Say yes please. Teela’s fingers seductively played with the bright red bow on the package.
Touch me and not that fucking cripple. The stalker’s eye narrowed as she forced herself to continue to watch.
Pax smiled and stroked the soft cheek. Despite the bitter cold and the puffs of air their breaths created, Pax felt the heat rise through her belly and simmer within her chest. Oh that is so tempting. “I would love to …”
“I think it is too soon Teela.” She lowered her hand and placed it in her pockets. Without the contact of the social worker’s skin against her own, the frigid air easily seeped in and chilled any exposed skin.
“I understand. Will I see you tomorrow?”
“What about your family? Aren’t you spending Christmas with them?”
“Thumper and I are seeing Mom in the morning.”
“I will be spending Christmas with my family.” That seems strange to say. I will be spending the first Christmas with blood relatives in over twenty years. The jitters intensified from the thought as well as the touch of the social worker upon her arm. Through the heavy down filled coat, the woman’s touch sent waves of fire through to her.
“How about coming in for a little while?”
She obviously doesn’t want me to leave. Truth be told, I don’t want to. It is too soon isn’t it? “Sure, for a little while. It’s late and you don’t want to be caught up and peaking when Santa arrives.” She listened to the melodic sounds of Teela’s laughter and was hopeless to stop the pull she felt towards the social worker. I can be so easy sometimes it’s pathetic.
“Great.” Teela beamed and turned to open the front door.
“Wait I have to get something out of my truck.”
Pax left and stiffly limped back to her truck. On the drive over, her leg had begun to throb incessantly and she found herself leaning heavily upon her cane. From her low position, Tanesha raised the powerful binoculars to her eyes and readjusted the lenses. A string of hissed curses came through her lips as she watched Teela aim her brilliant smile at the crippled zoologist. She lowered the heavy binoculars and a hand shot to the steering wheel. Her fingers gripped the wheel and rocked back and forth around the arc. Flex and release the leather creaked as I feel my fingers tightening around your fucking neck?
Teela entered her foyer and sat the package on the small table to read the card. She paused briefly realizing that something was missing. Thumper had not come out to demand attention. Then she remembered her mother had taken her dog home with her the day before to keep her company while she baked cookies and desserts for the juvenile detention center. It was a tradition that her mother and Thumper had every year on Christmas Eve. Four paws or two legs it didn’t matter, Thumper was Caramella’s granddaughter in every sense of the word. Teela just thanked the powers that be that her mother did not put the dog in dresses and black patent leather shoes.
Teela’s smile turned morphed into a frown as she read the card and then shoved it back into the envelope. She did not bother to close the flap before she wedged the bright yellow envelope under the red ribbon on the box.
“Hey, can a girl get a hand here?” Pax asked from the other side of the door. Her arms were full with the three gifts she held and the cane dangling off the crook of her elbow.
“Oh Pax, I am so sorry.” She took Tanesha’s package off the table and placed it upon the floor to make room for Pax to sit hers in its place. Teela guessed that the one odd shaped gift wrapped present was another enormous raw hide.
“Hey are you alright?” Pax sensed something had changed in the blonde’s demeanor.
“I’m fine.” She strained and then pointed with disgust. “A gift from Tanesha.” Pax inhaled deeply with irritation and waited for Teela to finish. “I’ll trade you.” She bent to pick up the pretty wrapped gift. “I’ll take yours into the living room if you put this one back on the porch for me?”
Is this what the kids call kicking her to the curb? Pax rejoiced silently. “Are you sure?”
“Definitely. I don’t want anything to do with her unless absolutely necessary.”
Teela handed Pax the gift and kissed her cheek. Pax shrugged and then limped back outside and placed the gift at the edge of the porch with triumph. She did not see the pair of eyes boring at her from two houses down nor hear the streak of profanity that followed her name. Pax returned inside the social worker’s home as the watcher finally spat out, You skanky Bitch!
_________________ Chapter 19______________________
The day at the ARCC was nearly complete as Teela stood in the dayroom and watched her favored resident. Belle squirmed in her wheelchair uncomfortably. Since her return, Belle had been miserable. Her body was a near constant state of wiggling and motion. Her legs had developed tremors, or shaking as if nervous. The hip fracture had been repaired by the orthopedic surgeons and had healed nicely. However, the surgery had not returned her independent walking ability. Belle’s right foot had turned inward and would hit the heel of her left when she was walked. This caused her balance to be precarious and made her a fall risk. Her daughters were well aware of their mother’s condition and were deeply saddened. Everyone knew that Belle would never be able to dance by herself ever again.
Teela watched the CNA struggle to keep Belle in her wheelchair. The CNA spoke in a calm soothing voice to Belle and tried to get her to drink her juice which the irritated resident swatted away. Next Teela witnessed Belle scoot to the edge of the chair seat in attempt to stand.
“When was the last time she was taken for a walk?” Teela interrupted the war between the aide and Belle.
“There she is.” Belle waved at the social worker and smiled despite the furrowed brow she wore.
“Hiya Belle.” Teela placed her hand in the one outstretched to her. Belle still had a surprisingly strong grip.
“Therapy has not said that we can walk her in the halls yet.
“Really?” Damn, now what? “Any idea why she is so antsy?”
“No,” the aide replied.
“Try a few things for me. I want you to take her to the bathroom, then see if she is hungry or thirsty. When was the last item she had something to drink?”
“Not sure. I was just called in forty minutes ago.”
I hate when you folks say stuff like that. Ignorance is NOT bliss in this profession. “Try it anyway. Then try taking her to her room and putting on one of musicals she has. Maybe that will help.” Teela turned to leave then in afterthought said, “Try reading her care plan in the room.”
The aide lowered her brow in anger at Teela and watched her attempt at intimidation fail miserably as the social worker cast her green eyes unblinking at the CNA. It was only after the CNA looked at Belle did Teela let herself focus on the image that had been in constant movement in her peripheral vision.
Teela turned to see a tiny older woman in her wheel chair watching her. The senior’s eyes were a slightly dull gray, her sweat pants nearly bunched at the ankles and matching purple sweatshirt ha a lovely large floral bouquet on the chest. Stitched in fine embroidery were the names of what appeared to be the woman’s children and grandchildren. The sweatshirt was finely stretched across her unusually large abdomen. At the end of the floral arrangement surrounded by rocks were letters in large white stitching proclaiming “Grandma rocks!”
Teela gave the woman her best full smile. The lilting grey eyes looked back at her and then her hand lifted to her chest level. Teela saw the woman smile and then saw her middle finger stick straight into the air. I can’t believe this! She is flipping me off. What did I ever do to you? Just as quickly, the hand dropped back into her lap and her eyes riveted on the screen.
Teela held her chuckle in until she left the room headed for her office.
Tanesha seated within the confines of Teela’s office re-reading her consultation report on the woman that she had seen several weeks prior. Nona Reece has responded very well to the medications that were started per Tanesha’s request. She was once again, pleasant, cooperative, devoid of violent behavior, and her deceased husband had returned to the grave.
Her mind turned to the social worker. Her heart pounded uncontrollably within her chest at the thought that Teela would soon return and she would be alone with her once more. Although it would be in the restricted setting of their professional capacity, she would still be near her. Maybe that has-been will not pop up this time. What does she have, radar or something? The thought of Teela being with Pax roiled within her once again. Teela is under the negative influence that Pax has weaved. What else could it be? I am a far better catch than her.
Tanesha knew deep down that Pax had poisoned Teela’s mind with all sorts of lies about her, to the extent that Teela did not know the truth anymore. Teela was with me before Pax butted in. It was all Pax’s fault for turning Teela away from me. For a month she had lain in her childhood bedroom at her parent’s home as she recovered from the beating Pax had delivered. She vowed to drink from the fruits of revenge each time her mother saw fit to lecture her about restraint and controlling her temper — a lesson she’d had repeatedly from childhood through her barely manageable teens.
Wearing braces does not compare to the agony on having one’s mouth wired shut for weeks. Nourishment through a straw. I’ll make you suck baby food through a straw.
First, she had to get to Teela and rebuild everything that Pax had destroyed. She needed a way to have time alone with Teela and being the psychiatrist for the ARCC was a godsend. Her physician had just released her from restrictions when Dr. Parellis’ telephoned and asked her to replace his injured colleague. It was perfect timing. Just be thankful your brakes worked for as long as they had Dr. Cummins or it could have been worse.
Tanesha wiped the thin layer of sweat from her brow. Damn is in hot in here. She pushed the sleeves of her sweater to the middle of her forearms. What is it with you and sick bitches anyway Teela? First it was that woman … what was her name? Oh yeah, Bess the vegetable. Now you have Pax the gimp. Do you have a think against healthy women or what? She chuckled softly and studied the finished reports once again.
Teela re-entered the office much to Tanesha‘s pleasure and she appeared with eyes twinkling and a full grin upon her face. Tanesha felt the blood rush to her ears with the sight of the brilliant smile across that gorgeous face. Then just as quickly her spirits plummeted as that look was not for her, and she desired to be the cause of it. She inwardly shook the thoughts from her and sent Teela a matching smile of her own.
“You seem happy. All is well on the unit?”
“Oh yes, very happy. An eighty something old woman just gave me the bird, so I am very happy.”
Tanesha laughed. “Okay if you say so.”
“You just have to go with it sometimes or you will go crazy.”
“I understand completely.”
The room fell into an uneasy silence. Teela saw Tanesha’s glittering brown eyes follow her every move and wondered what she was thinking. Teela asked herself whether she should bring up the present on her front porch. She felt the psychiatrist’s stare intensify and forced herself to look away. She noticed the white slip of bandage peaking from beneath the psychiatrist’s sweater.
“How did you hurt your arm?”
Tanesha followed Teela’s finger as it pointed to her limb. “Oh that.” She paused. “A karate student last night did not trim her toenails. She dug me pretty good.” Tanesha shrugged as she lowered the sleeves.
“I hope you cleansed it very well.”
“Sure did. Can’t be too careful with something like that.” She smiled. “I have uhm a friend who’s a nurse and uhm helped me.”
“So you are teaching again?”
“Hmm? Yeah, oh yeah.”
“Where?” I can’t believe someone would let you teach their kids martial arts. Isn’t there a reference check or something?
“At a small school in the next town over. It’s mostly self defense stuff to soccer moms,” Tanesha replied and then fell silent as she resisted the pull of those emerald eyes. Not now, not yet. Soon, then you can go to her, she warned herself.
“Well where are we at here?” Teela broke the uncomfortable silence.
“Nona is doing better than expected with the medications that we put her on.” I know that you feel the bond between us Teela. It’s so strong, how can you not?
“I thought so too. I checked with her daughter and there seems to be a consensus. What are your suggestions this time?”
“Just monitor and maybe get a new set of labs for a new baseline.”
“I suggest to keep Mr. Jenkins on the Exelon at the current dose, not reducing it. I wrote that a discontinuation of these medications can result in an abrupt decompensation in cognitive functioning. The same for the other two that you had me take a look at.”
“I was hoping you would write something to that effect.” Teela’s smile beamed earnestly melting Tanesha’s heart.
“Oh sure. Despite what the insurance companies say or the regulations you and I are the ones with the true experience with these types of medicines and are fighting for the stability of our patients.” She smiled.
“This is true.” The room once again fell into an awkward silence and Teela read the unasked questions in Tanesha’s gaze.
“Did you have a nice Christmas?” Tanesha asked.
“Yes and you?”
“It was okay. I wanted one particular present but I didn’t receive it.”
“Oh?” Teela sensed there was more than Tanesha was willing to reveal as she watched the uncharacteristic fidgeting. Oh don’t go there. Let’s just keep this strictly business. You promised but then again, why should I believe you would keep your word.
Tanesha waited for the light of the green eyes to turn to her. I want to badly to tell you the present that I truly wished Santa had left under the tree for her. Instead, I received Autumn the boobie prize. She inwardly chuckled at the pun she made. Yeah she has great boobies but they are not as tasty as yours.
“Yeah.” Tanesha inhaled sharply against the sudden shyness she felt around her love and forged ahead, “Listen I was wondering if you did not have any plans for New Year’s …”
“I do with Pax.” Teela stopped her.
Tanesha turned unable to prevent Teela from seeing her poorly hidden disappointment. “I understand.”
If you truly do then why keep trying for something you are never going to get? “Oh yeah I have one more thing.” She needed to change the subject. “Is there any chance that you can come in the afternoon next time? I have some meetings scheduled in the morning that day and would hate to shove everything off on Nica. She has her hands full of her own unit.”
Tanesha shook her head saying, “No. Generally I am booked in the afternoons. My schedule is not so flexible at that time but there is always the chance of a cancellation. I can let you know if that happens.”
“That would be fine.”
She shrugged into the leather coat and grasped her attaché. “Well you have a safe and marvelous New Year Teela.”
“Thank you. You have the same.” Teela forced a smile through the awkward heaviness in the room.
Her lips curled returned a saddened smile as she made her way to the door of the office. She stopped and her head turned toward her shoulder eyes down cast to the blue carpet with colored flecks. “Despite all that has happened I am glad that you came into my life this year.” After a moment came the soft, “Goodbye.”
Teela watched her leave the office and then released the long breath she unknowingly held. She gathered the consultation reports that Tanesha has written and found Cassandra. She quickly explained them to her before gathering her coat and bag and heading for home herself.
Teela was unable to make it out of the building without people calling out to her the familiar phrase, “See you next year Teela.” It was a tired old joke she was grateful to hear only once a year. One foot outside of the building and Teela wished she could return. The temperature had dropped to a number insanely below zero and the wind stung like shards of glass at every inch of exposed skin.
The snow was falling in heavy thick flakes that splattered and became embedded into her hair and coat. Her teeth began to chatter from the bitter cold. Thankfully, her key slid easily into the lock and turned. Teela threw her bag across the front seat and slammed the door closed. She jabbed the key into the ignition and twisted. The Grand Am’s engine made a horrible grinding noise and then stopped.
Teela groaned. “Oh no. Not again. Not now.” She placed her head upon the stiff velvet covering on the steering wheel. “Come on baby. Please start for Momma. I promise, I promise I will get you to the mechanic doctor tomorrow,” she bargained. “Just please start for momma.” She turned the key and was greeted by a click and then silence. “Shit!”
Pax looked out of the lobby doors of the ARCC to where she had parked her truck – next to Teela’s. She saw the blonde exit her snow covered car and pound on the roof with disgust. Pax gathered her coat about her and began the careful trek through the ice and snow covered parking lot towards Teela.
Before she reached her, another car came to a gentle halt. The driver’s door opened and the figure dressed in the leather coat was clearly identifiable.
Pax walked as fast as she dared with the cane barely touching the ground. The wind swirled in her ears and she could not hear what Tanesha was saying to Teela. “Hi,” she interrupted eyes narrowed at Tanesha before they turned to Teela. “I jut stopped by your office and they said that you had left already. Is everything ok?” She tried to steady her breath. The fast pace in the cold air made her lungs burn.
“Car won’t start,” Teela whined.
“I was about to leave the parking lot when I saw she was having trouble.” Why do am I explaining to you anyway? “So I offered her a ride.” Tanesha smiled innocently.
“She has a damn good ride anytime she need it.” Pax smirked.
Tanesha smiled at the double meaning and simply tilted her head in Pax’s direction. That’s one for you crip. That’s the only one you get. “Well, Happy New Year ladies.” She resettled inside of the car and pulled away from them without spewing snow and slush as she wanted to do so desperately.
“She has a habit of turning up where she is not wanted.” Pax watched the lights until they were the blowing snow blocked her view.
“You’d think she would have gotten the idea by now.”
“One would think.”
Teela turned to Pax. “So was that a genuine offer for a damn good ride?” Teela asked as seductively as she could in the cold.
“Always.” Pax grinned and hoped the blush from the fire in her cheeks melted the snow flakes that fell on them.
Teela retrieved her purse and satchel from the front seat. Pax helped her into the passenger’s door and then made her way around the big truck to the driver’s side. She turned the key and the engine purred to life. She flipped a few switches and the cab began to warm. Pax had turned the engine off only a half hour before. She had originally come to see her mother but she had been asleep, so Pax went in search of Teela to ask her to dinner.
“I’ll keep that in mind. Unfortunately I have an appointment with Sterling, my therapist. Think I could talk you into a couple of favors?”
“It’s an awfully big favor?”
“Give you a lift to your therapist and then a ride home,” Pax said.
“That and go let Thumper out while I’m there.” She hurriedly explained, “The pet sitter is out ill otherwise I wouldn’t ask. Poor thing probably has her paws crossed by now.”
Pax stopped in front of her truck. “That is an awfully big favor. That dog would just as soon as eat me than listen to me.”
“No she would not.” Teela climbed into the passenger seat of the truck.
The truck purred to life and Pax fastened her seatbelt. “If she takes a chunk out of me, I will sue you.”
“I can live with that.” Teela laughed.
“And you owe me dinner.”
Teela had a productive session with Sterling. Together they worked through the events of the past week and the seemingly return of Pax to her life. She told Sterling of how they were starting from the beginning, in a sense. The newness of it all was like a fresh love beginning.
Teela knew that she could not control her broad smile. It had become permanently affixed to her face during most of the session. She described the never ending squalls that rose and swelled in anticipation of seeing Pax. It gathered speed and traveled up her gullet to her ribs. The storm would linger in her chest tightening and twisting. It then began to turn faster and faster in place until it was catapulted straight up into her throat. What was the storm? Why would it replace the welcomed butterflies? Teela was not sure but when she’d telephone Pax just the sound of her voice caused it to dissipate, dispersed into a fine misty cloud adrift upon the air. The pressure and sense of urgency were instantly gone.
What Teela found disturbing in her session was that Sterling had pointed out that Pax had not discussed the incident of the snake bite with her or spoke of her ailing right leg. It was obvious these two issues were critical in the zoologist’s life, but she had not voluntarily spoken of them with Teela.
Teela knew that Sterling was asking why.
“I know what you are going to say.” Teela saw the impassive look on Sterling’s face. “I know how I feel about Pax. I think she feels the same way, maybe not as deeply. I am not so sure she feels that she can trust me enough with her feelings yet. I know this Sterling, but I don’t care. Well, I do care. I know she will tell me in her own time. She is not someone that you push.”
“But I want to. I want to push her make her trust me again.” Teela picked at the Kleenex balled within her small fist. Now that you mention it, maybe I should see if she is willing tonight.
Just before their session ended Teela talked about Tanesha. She told her about Tanesha being at the ARCC and what she said. Teela felt that Tanesha was not going to go away. Sterling agreed with her and cautioned her to be vigilant where Tanesha was concerned. She agreed with Teela to speak with her co-worker about overseeing the psychiatrist’s visits. If Tanesha did not see her then she could not be reminded of their tainted romantic past.
When Teela exited Sterling’s office building Pax’s white truck was easily spotted a half a block down from the building entrance. She reached for the door and found it partially open. The moment her bottom hit the seat, a large tongue washed the side of her face. Teela turned in the seat surprised to find a very happy Thumper. Pax laughed hardily at the slobber bestowed upon Teela and vowed that the woman would have to wash her face with good soapy before she kissed that cheek this evening. That is until Thumper surprised her with a sloppy wet kiss along her own right cheek.
“So you two are friends now?” Teela asked shocked then bent closer to her dog and peered at her red nose. “What is that white spot on your nose Thumper?”
Pax looked and smiled. “Uhm, that would be dried vanilla ice cream.”
“Ice cream? Where did you get that Thumper?”
“The Golden Arches.”
Pax grinned and shrugged her shoulders. “She asked me to go to the drive-thru because she wanted to spend her allowance and buy us a treat. Right?” She glanced at the happy canine and received a light woof in agreement. “See.”
“An allowance? She spent it on ice cream in the middle of winter?”
“Yeah. She said that you should increase her allowance. For all that she does during the day seven days a week, she deserves a raise.”
“For all that she does?”
“Guarding the house, patrolling for mice, chasing the squirrels away from the yard. Things like that.”
“I see.” Teela grinned pleased that her future lover and her dog had finally bonded. “We could negotiate a new contract later when you bring her back home.”
“Where am I supposed to be taking her?” Pax asked confused.
“Well, ya see. You are taking this dog home with you for the night.” Thumper grumbled. “You gave her ice cream and that gives her horrific smelling gas.” Teela patted Pax’s shoulder and then turned to the front and buckled her seat belt.
“Aww come on! Ice cream, popcorn, is there anything that doesn’t give this dog the farts?”
“Great!” Thumper grumbled louder. “You still owe me dinner and it better be good.”
“That I do. What do you feel like?”
“How about a deep dish meat lover’s pizza?”
“Want to go to my place to order in?”
“That sounds good to me.” And then stinky dog can stay home.
“Okay,” Teela was elated another night to spend with Pax. “I’m out of beer at the house. There is a store just down the road,” she pointed ahead.
Thumper barked exactly three times to let her displeasure known to the humans for leaving her in the truck and entering through the sliding glass doors. She had been an unusually good passenger. Thumper had sat proudly in the back seat and did not walk all over the warm comforter the tall woman had put on the seats. She did not bark at the other dogs riding with their owners. After all that they had the nerve to leave her in the car.
The two walked before the clear glass cases that housed the various types of wine, wine coolers and beer. As they turn to approach the counter, Pax stopped and picked up a long stick of beef jerky for her friend in the Dakota truck.
“Hey ladies,” the voice from behind them called.
“Emily.” Teela cheered and hugged the detective.
“In the flesh. What are you guys up to?”
“A quick pick up then home for pizza. You?” Pax asked. Home? Don’t go there Pax, she chastised. But it does sound nice. Stop it!”
“Hey, Boney told me you two canceled with us for New Year’s. Where are you going on holiday?”
“That was the original plan but things have changed. We really can’t afford to do that with me starting a new job soon.”
“Sorry to hear that.”
“Well it’s not all bad. Harley and I have decided to seclude ourselves in the apartment and make hot bunny rabbit love ‘til we are bowlegged.” She laughed.
“Works for me,” Pax joined her.
“Will you at least take a break and join us at the club this weekend for New Year’s?”
“Yeah we’ll be there. Harley has this need to dance. She knows I can’t but it will make her happy.”
“Good,” Pax agreed. “Then she and Teela can dance together since I am out too.”
Emily’s lips spread into the most lascivious grin that either one of them had ever seen. Her eyes darkened and glistened as she held those of Pax’s. “Maybe they can dance for us eh Pax?”
“Ooh now I like how you think Emily.” She chuckled.
“Think they will wear skimpy outfits too?” Emily laughed at Pax’s eager nod.
“Oomph.” She puffed as Teela back handed her in her abdomen. “She said it, not me.”
“You agreed.” Emily chuckled. “Their punishment really could be beneficial Pax.”
“And here I thought pigs referred to only men.” Teela rolled her eyes and took the twelve pack of beer from Pax to the counter.
“Pigettes,” Pax whispered to a laughing Emily.
“I can still hear you both,” Teela called over her shoulder as their laughter erupted.
The musical tones rang through the air and three pairs of hands snapped to search their pockets. “Ahh it’s me,” Pax stated and opened her cell phone. “Baldwin.”
Her flinch was involuntary as she recognized her brother’s voice. “Zander this is a surprise. Is everything alright?”
“Yes better than alright. I just heard from Hank Stanson in San Antonio. He believes he may have located Brenda Devereaux.”
“That is good news.” Pax heard her telephone beep. She pulled it away from her ear and looked at the blinking power bar and silently cursed. She had forgotten to put it on the charger.
“He thinks I should be the one to make contact and not him.”
“That’s a good idea.”
“So you think I should go then?”
“Want to come with me?”
“No,” she said more sharply than intended. Pax clenched her eyes willing herself to be civil. She had yet to absolve her brother a notch further for the attempted rape. She was grateful that he was trying at least. She needed to be as open minded as possible in light of his new attitude, but spending time alone with him on a trip was far too much to stomach.
“Come on Red Lion?” he coaxed. “It’ll be an adventure.”
Pax softly chuckled. “I wish I could Zander, but I can’t leave right now.” She was tempted to call him by his nickname of “Black Lion”. “Try Damian.”
“You’re it then.”
“Ok.” His disappointment was clear in his voice.
“When are you leaving?”
“Couple of days. I need to settle a few things at work first.”
“Listen Zander, my cell is about to die. I’ll talk to you soon.”
“Great I’ll ...”
“Shit.” Pax hissed as her phone went dead before he could finish.
“Is everything alright Pax?” Teela asked concerned.
“Yeah. Zander is going on a trip.” She returned the small cell phone to her pocket.
“Well I’ve got to get back home. Fun time is wasting.” Emily smiled mischievously and paid for her purchases. “See ya soon.”
“I still think you should have let me hit him with my cane,” Pax grumbled and finished off the last bite of her third piece of meat lovers pizza.
“Pax, be reasonable. He was just a kid in awe at seeing a tall, beautiful woman answer the door.”
“No, I think his awe came from the small statured blonde that was handing him the tip. If he had been paying attention to what he was doing and not to you, his tip wouldn’t have slipped through his fingers and into the snow.”
“Yeah, yeah, are you gonna make a word or grumble about something that is over and done with?” Teela pointed to the deluxe scrabble board between them.
“Maybe I want to grumble.” Pax grinned.
“I see.” Teela paused relishing Pax’s jealousy. “Protective are we?”
“Maybe.” She toyed with the letters in the holder. No matter how she arranged the vowels, she still did not have any consonants to make a decent word to play and close the score between her and Teela.
Teela saw Pax shuffle the tiles and thought back to what Sterling had said. We really need to talk. How? God, look at those lips. I remember how they taste … stop that! Patience. “I have an idea.” She broke the silence between them. “Let’s start a new game.”
“Fine by me.” Relieved, she dumped her tiles back into the small velvet bag.
“With a twist this time.”
“Oh?” Pax began picking the played tiles from the tight spaces in the plastic grid.
“What?” Her hand paused.
“Strip Scrabble.” Teela laughed. “Can you say that fast three times?”
“Uh huh. And how do you play that?” Pax shook the bag thoroughly to mix the tiles.
“Let’s say if you make a word worth twenty-seven or more points then you get to tell the other person what piece of clothing to remove.”
Pax grinned and thought. “That is not the game I was taught to play.”
“Of course not. It’s the one the adults never wanted you to know about.”
“Could be interesting.”
“I’ll even let you go first.” Teela smiled.
“I will defer to you.” Pax handed the social worker the bag.
“Are you sure?”
“Twenty-seven points piece of cake.” Yeah right. Why the hell did I agree to this?
Teela arranged the seven tiles and then placed the word “acta” across the grid space with the star. “Twelve points for me and the game is afoot.”
“Amaze,” Pax stated proudly and she laid down the tiles. Pax counted her twenty eight points and looked at Teela expectantly with a triumphant toothy smile.
“Very good.” Teela conceded wryly.
“Let’s start nicely. Take off the house slippers. After all, there is a whole lot of game left and you have so little clothing.”
“Arrogance does not become you sweetheart.” She kicked off her blue fuzzy booties.
Pax laughed and shook the bag before reaching in to take five tiles. They both studied their racks for the next important move. Pax felt Teela’s eyes linger n her far longer than at the alphabet in her hand. “What is on your mind Teela?”
“There are a few things that I am wondering about.”
“You mean that you want to ask me?”
“Is this a distraction to gain more time until you to find a word?” Pax hoped the slight diversion would negate the conversation she sensed they were about to have.
“You wish.” Teela smiled and placed the “agios” vertically to also make “amazes”. Teela’s laughter caused Thumper to stir from her light slumber by the fireplace. “I do believe that is thirty-two points for me and I will start nicely as well. The shoes please.” She smirked.
“Intelligence in a woman is beautiful only to a point Ms. Pheamster,” Pax grumbled and removed the house slippers Teela gave her for Christmas. Pax had decided to keep them there as she saw herself spending more time in the home.
“I am terribly sorry. I will try to do better.”
“So what is it that you want to ask me?”
“Well, what happened with the snake bite? I mean you’ve never said anything about what happened.”
“Not much to tell really. The snakes were put there by someone and the investigation is stumped. So I’m not certain the committee will find anything.”
“That doesn’t seem fair.”
“They may chalk it up to an unfortunate accident. Not sure. Not hoping for much more than that.”
“You sound defeated. Any ideas of your own?”
“Not really.” She sighed heavily. “Six for me.” She placed “ennui” on the board.
“Aren’t you the least bit concerned with working there now? I mean if the people you work for cannot solve this then why not get someone else to investigate?”
“I’m not sure why, Teela. Yes I am concerned but not much I can do about it.”
“How can you go about your work everyday and feel safe that something like this isn’t going to happen again?”
Pax shrugged her shoulder. “I just do I guess.”
“That doesn’t make sense Pax.”
“No it doesn’t, but I can’t function being afraid of something that may never happen. It could have been a fluke or something. The snake pit is being remodeled.”
“I know you can’t and I’m sorry for coming on so strong. I am just…worried is all.”
Pa smiled tenderly at her. “Thank you. I will be fine.”
“And there are no side effects from the bite?”
“No. I’ll have scars from the puncture wound, but that’s par for the course.”
“Now I feel like I am prying from the way you said that.”
“I didn’t mean for it to sound like that. It’s just…”
“Pax.” Teela sat up and stared deeply in her blue eyes letting their warmth envelope her. “We are both feeling our way back to each other. There are some things that have happened with you that I want to know about. I was waiting for you to open up and tell me, but then I realized that you probably wouldn’t given my past record with you.” She raked a nervous hand through her short blonde hair. “I want to be open and honest with you Pax. I am putting myself out here for you to see and I was hoping that you would take a small step out here with me.”
Pax waved her closer and Teela complied. Her reward for doing so was a deep kiss, the perfect kiss that was not too wet not too dry, the perfect harmony of head movement and tongues warring. Their moans joined the sound of the hearth as the flames crackled with heat.
“That was heavenly.” Teela moaned as she sat back on her rump with a soft thud.
“Hmm yes it was, but it is still your turn and you can ask your question.”
Half lidded eyes grew with strength and open into a mischievous sparkle. “You may remove your socks now,” Teela said and placed “fiz” using the “z” in amaze.
“That is so lame.”
“Ah, but worth your socks and thirty points.”
Pax grumbled and removed the warm sweat socks. Her toes wiggled in their freedom and she looked over the letters in her rack. She placed “din”.
“As for the Dodge,” Pax volunteered. “That is a loaner because my truck was spray painted.”
“Spray painted? By whom? Why?”
“I guess it was the same person who vandalized the dojo that same night. It was torn apart. The police agree the same person committed both acts.”
“Someone has targeted you. For what?” Teela laid “wavily” for eighteen points.
“Don’t know.” Pax shook her head at the tiles in her rack. “But it is scary knowing someone hates me that much.” She placed “eerily”. “Eighteen for me.”
“Score is sixty-three for you and ninety-one for me.” Teela beamed.
“Yeah yeah,” Pax said. “What else?”
“Well I was wondering what the truth was behind the colorful bruises.”
“You do not believe that I was simply not looking where I was going?”
“No,” Teela replied flatly. “Pax I know that your leg is worse than you are letting on.” Pax shrugged. “You’re a strong woman and you cover your pain well, but I can see through it.”
“It has been hurting some. Are you gonna play or keep stalling?”
Teela smiled as she slowly laid her words upon the gridded board. “You might prefer that I continue to stall. However, since you are insistent here is ‘peched’ for a whopping forty points.”
Teela giggled at the open mouth of the zoologist. “I believe I want the sweater now.”
Pax grumbled looking down at her favored blue pullover. “You are cheating.”
“No way. Fair is fair. Do you want to challenge my word? If you’re wrong, ya loose a turn.”
Pax though for a moment, then grumpily removed her thick sweater. Teela’s eyes sparkled as she watch the play of muscles across Pax abdomen and arms. She knew her breathing started to become labored as her eyes filled with the sight of firm breasts and the memory of their weight in her hands.
Pax shivered lightly in the cool air against her skin and then set about playing her next word, “ego” for a mere eight points. She shot a piercing blue stare at Teela warning her against any hint of laughter.
“The leg just gets numb sometimes and the night of the Christmas dinner was one of those times.” Pax refused to look into the green eyes she knew were fixed upon her. “I was walking and it gave out. I landed against part of the bedroom door. So you see it was not all a tale.” She frowned at drawing the “Q” from the velvet bag.
“You just left out some of the details.” She shook her head with disbelief as she played “tauter” for a score of twenty-one.
“Just a few.” Pax’s brow knitted as she listened to Teela’s little girl giggle when she drew her replacement tiles.
“And your orthopedic doctor says what?”
“Don’t know yet. Will go after the first of the year.” She played “equate” and announced “Seventeen.”
“The first of the year is next week Teela.”
“So it is.” Teela smiled sheepishly. “I am really worried Pax. Thank you for telling me.”
“Don’t be.” Pax shook her head, her biggest fear had been voiced by Teela’s voice. She did not want her to be worried. Pax feared being like Bess and having Teela feel obligated once again to be a caregiver. She needed to be whole, to be complete and her right leg kept her from that. “I’m fine. I will be much better when I can make you remove your clothes.” Then she realized what she had implied as Teela giggled. “Uhm,” She stammered. “That’s not how I meant that…you know.”
“Actually I wouldn’t mind that at all.” Teela mischievously smiled. “However, since you have not earned a score in which to make me do just that, how about if I do it to you?” Teela placed “ridgils” making several words that connected to the other letters from previous played words. “That nets me a score of eighty-six.”
“What the hell!”
“I think that calls for a complete strip since I used all of my letters too.”
“What the devil is ridgils?”
“Plural of ridgling.” Teela laughed.
“I challenge that.” Pax shrieked.
Teela laughed and opened the scrabble dictionary. “Ridgling means a male animal with undescended testicles. You should have known that being a zoologist.”
“That is beside the point.”
“Hmm,” she teased. “Do I want the pants, the bra, or the whole thing? Such decisions.”
“I am not stripping naked in front of that dog.”
“Aahh so you are willing to take off everything then?”
Pax groaned and gave Teela the saddest puppy eyes she could muster. Instead of sympathy it brought about raucous laughter from the woman across the board. Pax was saved from removing any clothing as the door bell rang interrupting Teela’s entertainment. Thumper came to life at that moment with a bark and she trotted to the door and gave another warning bark.
“Don’t get too comfortable with that sweater back on,” Teela called over her shoulder on the way to answer the door. Pax was frantic to don her sweater and socks.
Teela peeked through the small window pane in her steel front door. She did not recognize the either woman or the man in their dark leather coats. She saw the man tap the pencil in his hand against the small notebook he held in the other. With her hand on Thumper’s head, Teela opened the door partially and faced the pair.
“May I help you?”
“Are you Ms. Teela Pheamster?”
Teela hesitated and shifted her gaze from one to the other. She slowly nodded and pulled Thumper closer to her. Sensing her owner’s distress, Thumper did as coaxed and added a warning bark.
“I’m detective Sierra Mollier.” She raised her shield directly in Teela’s view. “And this is detective Rod Odesser. May we come in and speak with Ms. Baldwin please?”
Momentarily stunned, Teela recovered quickly and patted Thumper’s head. The muscled pit bull stepped in front of her mom and blocked the open space. She let the detectives hear her rumbling growl. “Behave girl.” She cleared her throat. “What makes you think Pax is here?”
“Teela is everything all right?” Pax came up behind her. She had heard Thumper and knew that something was wrong. Pax’s eyebrows drew together low over her eyes in concern at the line of raised fur from the dog’s neck down the middle of her back to end at the stub of a tail.
“Hello again Ms. Baldwin.” Sierra smiled. “May we have a word with you?”
“It’s not my home detective.” Teela looked back at Pax. “I’m sure we’re about to find out.” She answered Teela’s unspoken question.
Teela gave her a knowing smile and relaxed a little with the tall woman behind her. “Please come in detectives.”
“Thank you ma’am but can you put your dog in another room please.” Detective Odesser said.
“I could but she won’t stay. I would rather have her with me in a corner of the room than behind a half chewed door somewhere in my home.”
Pax saw detective Odesser swallow hard and smiled. You have no idea the strength and power of those jaws my friend. You should see what she does to rawhides. Just ask the boxer briefs of mine she killed.
Teela bent down and cooed at her dog, “Good girlie.” She turned the dogs head towards her to ensure she had her attention. “Go lay.” Teela firmly pointed. Thumper hesitated and Pax could see the dog fighting with itself whether or not to obey her mother. After several seconds, Thumper harrumphed and shuffled off into the living room.
“Sorry about that.” Teela opened the door fully allowing the frozen detectives to enter her home.
Teela closed the door behind them and the detectives quickly spied the wooden coat rack. On the cherry stained hooks were Teela’s full length winter coat, her waist length jacket, a pair of snow pants and a dark blue hooded jacket with a Metro Zoo Patch on the sleeve. Detective Mollier’s eyes dropped to the conglomerate of shoes and boots beneath the coat tree. One pair of boots was longer than the others and she knew they belonged to Pax.
Teela led them into the living room and felt embarrassed as she looked over her carpet with the scrabble game as they had left it and the bottle of wine and two cans of beer on the coffee table. The wood in the hearth crackled and sputtered but cast it’s warmth throughout the room with heat and a soft light. The detective heard the menacing growl once more and looked towards the darkened corner of the room. Teela turned the knob of lamp on the end table twice more increasing the lighting three fold.
“How did you know that I was here?” Pax asked after Teela offered the detectives the seats closest to the fire.
“Your brother Damian,” Detective Odesser replied flatly. “He suggested that you may be at the karate school or visiting with Ms. Pheamster if we could not locate you at your home.”
“Funny, he never called to let me know you were looking for me.”
“He attempted to while we were in his office.”
Pax reached for her cell phone on the table and opened it. She pressed the button several times. “I forgot to charge the damn thing.” She snapped it shut and replaced it uselessly upon the table.
“I never gave your family my number,” Teela said. Green eyes nearly teared with regret as Pax gazed upon them.
She forced herself to break the spell that began to weave between them. When she turned to the lead detective she saw her eyes travel from Teela’s face down her body and back again. Pax bristled at the woman sizing up her girl. My girl? Where the hell does that keep coming from?
“What is it that you want with me?” She drew the woman’s attention. “Did you find out who vandalized the school, my house or my truck?” Pax picked up her glass and took a drink.
“Actually,” Detective Mollier looked at her partner, “It may be the same person or persons who set fire to the school tonight.”
“What!” A light spray of liquid erupted from between Pax’s lips as the detective’s word caught her off guard. Thumper eyes grew shiny in vivid alertness and she stood from her comfortable spot on the rug in the corner. Pax’s sudden outburst and the coughing fit that followed put the dog on alert.
Teela leaned over and began to gently pat her back helping her in some fashion. “How?” Pax choked out. “When?”
“A short while ago.” Came the woman’s vague answer.
“Was anyone hurt? Master Min, is he okay?” Pax needed to know that neither Mast Min nor any student was hurt in the senseless act.
“No one. The last class had ended approximately an hour before.”
“Good.” Pax sighed with relief.
“Are you saying that you had no knowledge of the fire this evening?” Detective Odesser stated. He tried not to visibly shudder from the icy blue stare that scorched his flesh across the short space of the living room. In his peripheral vision a very protective pit bull was unhappy about the sudden burst of noise and the distress of her mother. Oh God! Either the dog gets me or the woman does. This is not how I wanted to die.
“How could she have Detective? She has been with me since four this afternoon.” Teela’s eyes stormed at the man in her home. She did not like his implication. No not one bit.
“Are you sure Ms. Pheamster?”
“Of course I am sure.” Teela’s confidence never wavered. “Why? Are you implying she had something to do with the fire?”
“Pax, you work at the Metro Zoo is that correct?”
“Yes. You know that I do. Why?”
“You are assigned an employee identification badge something like we are issued, right?”
“Something like that. Has our picture on it and name. Again why?” Pax released the irritation with the detective.
“How many of these badges are given or assigned to you?”
“Do you have yours?”
“Do you have it with you now?”
“I always carry it with me in case I am called in.”
“May we see it please?” Detective Mollier looked at her partner as the confused zoologist stood and went to her jacket upon the coat rack. She noticed Pax’s particular walk and her limp seemed to be more pronounced than when they had first arrived. A limp, she thought. She returned and handed it to the detective before she resumed her seat next to Teela.
“Do you have more than one ID badge?” Detective Odesser asked.
“Only one, are you sure?” Detective Mollier lowered her eyebrows and studied the zoologist’s body language. She is tense but who wouldn’t be under the circumstances.
“How long have you had this particular badge?”
“Since I was hired.”
“Have you had it replaced recently?”
“I just told you it’s the only one that I have ever had.” Pax felt her temper climb closer to the surface. She had had enough of their badgering and now wanted some answers of her own. “Why are you asking me these questions?”
The woman reached inside the breast pocket of her leather coat breast and extracted several five by seven photographs. “We found this at the rear of the school.”
She handed them to Pax who had finally caught her breath. She gasped at the picture of her Metro photo ID upon the ground within a distinctive foot print. Her face was clearly identifiable despite the shoes tracks across it and her name in clearly visible in bold black letters. Teela leaned over and studied the pictures along with Pax and continued to rub small circles in the center of her back. Pax unconsciously leaned into the soothing touch.
“I don’t understand this. ” Pax said confused.
The next photograph was a copy of a security tape frame showing a tall figure leaving a white truck. The hood of the jacket pulled low hiding the face. The grainy picture could almost be anyone except for the next photograph was a closer shot of the person face covered by the hood and the Metro Park Zoo patch on the jacket was identifiable even though the still wasn’t totally clear.
“Now wait just a minute,” Teela said. “That could be a picture of anyone. Those jackets are sold in the zoo’s gift shop. Check the gift shop and you’ll see.” After she said it Teela realized that even though all of the coincidence could be explained away, there were too many of them to not be suspect.
“Ms. Pheamster, was she ever out of your sight from four this afternoon until now?” Detective Mollier began.
“Is there anyone who can verify that?” She watched the two women turn to one another and seemed to communicate without speaking. Their eyes softened upon one another in understanding of the situation they now found themselves in.
“I…” Teela stammered.
“Yes.” Pax replied confidently and smiled at Teela. “Emily.”
“Yes that’s right. We ran into Emily Oliverez in the convenience store a few hours ago. I can’t remember what time.”
“The name of the store that you were in.” Odesser’s eyes never left the note pad he was busy scribbling in until he heard the rumble from the corner. The dog had lain down upon the rug but her eyes never left his body.
“I’m sorry detective,” Teela apologized. “Thumper is a rescued dog. She was abused by men as a puppy. They were trying to train her. No offense.”
“Train her?” Detective Odesser asked softly.
“To fight. She is generally not this aggressive. I assure you.”
“Unless you’re a pair of underwear,” Pax mumbled. She was amazed to find a piece of humor in the not so humorous situation. She received a firmer pat upon her back from the dog’s mom. “I don’t know the name of the place.”
“Neither do I but it’s on Compton and Fryt,” Teela supplied.
“That will be helpful. Anyone else?”
“Cecee Pizzeria’s delivery boy. I used Teela’s telephone to place the order and my credit card to pay for it. Teela gave him a cash tip.
“Those places should be easy to verify. Anything else that you can think of that would help us resolve this case?”
“No.” She shook her head. “I did not do this or anything else that has happened. Why would I want to destroy the dojo?” She asked them.
Detective Mollier’s heart fluttered at the pleading blue eyes across the room. The woman was truly beautiful and she felt drawn to break every rule there was on investigations and suspect handling for a chance to embrace and comfort this woman. Get a grip Si. What is with you? She has a girlfriend. She mentally shook her head. You had better find someone real quick. You’re losing it.
“So now what?” Teela asked.
“First we see if your alibi pan’s out.”
“And then?” Teela asked.
“Then we should have the reports from the scene investigators on the samples they took tonight and the fire chief’s report. Then go from there,” Detective Mollier explained as her partner abruptly stood. Thumper sprang to her feet with her head tilted downward. Her eyes fixed on Odesser. Not wanting to repeat his mistake, the rise to her feet was painfully slow and her hands clearly visible.
“So I just wait to have you guys burst into my home or office to arrest me for something I did not do?” Pax anger found purchase and rose quickly to make up for being shocked into dormancy. “Is that it?” Thumper’s bark ended in a continuous growl.
“Pax, calm down.” Teela soothed.
“Teela don’t you realize what they are implying here? They are accusing me of not only vandalizing my own home, but now torching the dojo. That’s arson.”
“I do honey. I do.” Without thinking she reached up to stroke Pax’s clenched jaw oblivious to the detectives. “But going ballistic is not going to solve anything. I know you want to; I can feel the anger pouring off you.” She caressed the tall woman’s cheek with the back of her hand and softly added, “Let them check out our story and then they will know.”
“But they are only focusing on me.”
“That’s not true ma’am.” Odesser volunteered and received a force ten glare from his partner.
“Really?” Teela asked. “Who else do you suspect?”
“We can’t say at this time. I’m sorry,” Mollier supplied.
“The person you need to be questioning is Tanesha,” Pax said. “Bitch.”
“Tanesha?” Odesser asked.
“Why is that ma’am?”
“Master Min fired her as a teacher a few months ago and she hates me with a passion,” Pax said.
The detectives looked at one another. “Master Min gave us her name tonight. Why does she hate you ma’am?
“My name is Pax detective. She hates me because I beat her ass and took her belt.”
“I see. What do you mean you beat her ass?” Odesser asked softly.
“We uhm, had a fight for titles and she lost.” At the curious looks from the detectives Pax continued. “I am a former world martial arts champion and so is she. She challenged me for the title and the belt. I accepted and I won.”
“The two of you fought, where?”
“A few months ago at a park not far from here. It wasn’t a sanctioned fight detective,” Pax confirmed. “She lost and I…” She trailed off.
“And…” Mollier coaxed.
“And I won the girl.” She smiled at Teela who returned her own as well.
Detective Mollier looked at the two women and couldn’t believe what she had heard. Men brutally beat each other senseless over women every day all over the world. Not women. But to have someone look at me like they are at each other, I would do the same.
The detective felt their women’s bond extend out to her. She had sensed the tall beauty was a lesbian and arriving this evening confirmed so. “And because she lost this challenge to you it is your belief that she had something to do with the fire and vandalism?”
“It could go towards motive Sierra,” Detective Odesser said.
“That it would.”
The detective reached into her breast pocket putting the pictures away and retrieving two business cards. “We will need to speak with this Tanesha Evans.” She handed each of them a card. “If you think of anything else that may be helpful, please call us anytime.”
“We’ll do that detective,” Teela said.
“Ladies, thank you for your time.” She turned to take a step and then decided against it.
“I’ll see you out.” As Teela went to take a step so did her protector. She turned to her guardian and pointed a lone finger. “You stay.” The dog grumbled. As soon as Teela went to turn and walk away, Thumper did too. “Stay!” She commanded firmly and the dog stopped and sat. She still grumbled.
Teela let the detective out into the bitter cold and quickly returned to the living room. Thumper stood and wiggled her nub and pranced around her mother before she returned to the rug in the corner. Teela stepped into Pax’s private space and wrapped her arms around the troubled woman’s waist.
“What in the hell is going on Teela?” Pax asked astounded. Her arms wrapped around the smaller woman and kissed the top of her forehead. “Tell me why is this happening?”
“I am not sure on both counts baby. I do know that we are going to find out. Together.”
Pax stepped back so that she could see the social worker’s face. “Together?” Her heart warmed.
Pax did not want to be involved in something like this but it may be tolerable now that Teela has garnered her voluntary support. Here she was adding more baggage to her biography. Suspected vandal and arson was a tough sell adding a visible disability could be too much. How much longer would her support be tested? She could easily run but she wants to stay. Who knows how this is going to turn out? It could be a disaster. But she wants to stay.
The small smile caused the corner of her nose to crinkle. “Yeah. Do you have a problem with that?”
Pax smiled. “Not at all.
She stepped into Teela’s warmth once more and closed her eyes. The sweetened images that danced momentarily behind her closed lids were quickly invaded by a bleak sadness. Her school, her karate home, had been destroyed. If it weren’t for the arms gripping her waist, the numbing tingle would have kissed her body completely.
Continued in Part 6
Extended Intentions comments to the bard at Jynaki@aol.com
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