Disclaimers : See Part 1

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Part 4 of Loose Change Series - The Addy and Karen series.
(01) Turning on a Dime
(02) New Quarters
(03) One Little Bit
(04) Joint Venture

 

Joint Venture

By

K-Morgan

kmorgan.5674@yahoo.com

(Feedback is appreciated)


Part 3

When Addy bought the foal in the spring from the breeder's farm, she brought the mare over to their stables as well. The little one had to be kept with his mom for a while. However, when the mare was no longer needed, it was time to return her to the breeder. Even though the mare had a name, she was known to all as ‘Alejandro's mommy'.

Saturday was the day when they were going to return the mare to the breeder's farm, but on Friday night, while Addy and Karen were downstairs reading, Alex came down from her room in tears. She had already been put to bed and was wearing her pajamas.

“Baby, what's wrong?” Addy immediately called for her and Alex ran and crashed in her arms. Karen was looking at the pair very concerned.

“M'Addy, you can't return her, pleaze, you can't!”

The women looked at each other. They knew what this was all about because they had been having conversations on the subject in preparation for when the moment came.

“Pleaze, M'Addy! He iz a little baby horse and he lovez hiz mommy and hiz mommy lovez him. I've zeen how she getz close to him and she kizzez him, like you kizz me and he getz close to her and rubz himzelf with her because he likes it, like I like you because you are warm and soft. He iz going to die of sadnezz when se'z gone. And she will cry every night too. Can't we keep her? Can't you buy her like you bought Alejandro?” Alex had a painful and pleading look on her face. “He wantz hiz mommy, I know!” She pouted.

“Alex, those horses are very expensive. They cost a lot of money.”

“But you have a lot of money! I've zeen your wallet and that machine alwayz givez you money at the bank and you always buy pizza and bookz and ztuff for me and food and thingz for the house and for Mommy Karen and for you.”

Addy chuckled and looked at Karen. Karen rolled her eyes and looked away smiling. It was pretty obvious who was spending the money in the house.

“I don't even know if they would want to sell her.”

Karen immediately looked up. Oh no! She's already giving in! She's going to buy it!

“But you can azk, can't you M'Addy? Can't you? Mommy Karen, pleaze, tell M'Addy to do it. Pleaze!”

“Well, Alex, you have already said all that you wanted to say. And you heard what Mommy Addy said.”

Alex looked at Karen trying to find the point Karen was making. But she couldn't because, in fact, Karen had said nothing. So she went back to plead her case with Addy. She knew Addy was the soft one and also that Mommy Karen would always go with whatever Mommy Addy decided.

Addy, who was also perplexed with Karen's non-response, looked at Karen as she spoke to Alex. “Alex, I promise you that I will make some inquiries tomorrow and we will talk about it then. Now, I don't want you to cry anymore, okay. Go back to your room and get some sleep.” She dried her tears and hugged and kissed her daughter.

“Okay, M'Addy.” Alex hugged her and kissed her as well. She prolonged the hug more than usual. “I like it when you hug me. I want Alejandro to have hiz mommy too. I love you, M'Addy. Good night.” She came over and also hugged and kissed Karen, but the embrace with Karen was not as long as the one with Addy. Alex was a smart kid and knew that Addy was the one she could shake emotionally.

“I'm going to pray to my Guardian Angel and to God and to Jezuz and to—.”

“Alexandra! To bed!” Karen spoke in a firm tone.

Alex ran up the stairs. The women sort of smiled but remained silent looking at each other.

Karen got up to go to the kitchen. “You saw what she did, right? She is the real manipulator around here.” She patted Addy on her knee.

Addy chuckled, but remained silent. Karen stopped and crouched in front of her. “She plays you like a fiddle.” Karen got up and continued to the kitchen, laughing. “Ha! Redemption, at last! In the form of a little Viking!”

Addy grinned, but remained silent. Karen came back with a glass of water and sat next to her on the sofa. “How much is that horse going to cost us?”

Addy smiled and rubbed Karen's back.

“I have no idea. I'll find out tomorrow.” She looked at Karen who was still looking at her. “What? Say what you have to say.”

Karen leaned back on the sofa and pulled Addy to her. “I have nothing to say. A long time ago I resigned myself to my fate. So far it's been a good ride and I have no complaints. Just make sure you don't run us aground or crash us somewhere, Ms. Addy.” She kissed her on the head as Addy wrapped herself around her.

“Ms. Larsen, I was just thinking that it's been a while since we've had a rendezvous on our favorite sofa. And it so happens that you've just turned me on.”

Karen opened her eyes in amazement. “With Alex upstairs? And I've just turned you on? How? What did I do?”

“She's probably asleep already. And what do you mean wondering about that? I happen to think that you are the sexiest woman on the planet and for your information, since there appears to be some doubt in your mind, you don't need to do anything to turn me on, just looking at you turns me on. So, are you going to leave me wanting or is it a go?”

Karen looked at her with burning desire, and smiled. “You are the one who is a turn on. And I wouldn't dream of ever leaving you wanting. Dim the light woman, and let's have ourselves a very memorable rendezvous.”

The light went off immediately, followed by giggles.

“Sssh! You have to keep it low!”

“Hand me a cushion.”

“You are so terrible!”

“But you love it.”

“Umm! I do! Come here.”

“Oh, sweet mother of—.

“Ker!”

**

They never returned the mare. The next morning Addy went to the nearby farm and inquired about buying her. The owner was amenable to the idea and sold her, for a steep price, of course, but since she had money for pizza and the bank machine always gave her money, she really had no excuse. She drove straight to the Manor house, to Karen's office.

Karen saw her pull up the driveway from her window and as usual she came out to meet her.

“Well, we got ourselves another horse!”

“Please, don't tell me how much we paid.”

“It was actually pretty good. I negotiated.”

“Oh Lord! I don't want to know this! Please don't tell me!”

“Okay, I won't! Relax, it's just a horse.”

“Only three people and two horses are happy about this transaction.”

“Are you the third person?”

“No. The guy who sold you the horse.”

Addy laughed.

**

Every day after school, Addy brought Alex to the stables. Marshal was always delighted when Alex came because she always took interest in Marshal's work. Having no kids of their own, Alex was her little darling. Carol always had cookies for her, and even spent time with her showing her how to bake some of her favorite treats. The two adored and spoiled the little brat in their own way. Sometime Addy and Marshal would have long talks about the horses and the stables while Alex performed some of the required duties of owning and training a horse. Some of the activities were not as glamorous as others, but Alex seemed to enjoy anything that had to do with Alejandro. There was no special treatment for her. Marshall would find work for her that was appropriate for a child her age and then show her once how to do it. After that, she left Alex to complete the task. The moms decided that with the privileges of ownership came responsibilities as well. So part of her responsibilities was to participate in the care of Alejandro.

They figured that if Alex was serious about learning about horses, she would put up with everything, including the not so glamorous task of cleaning the stables. From the young age of five, Alex was cleaning manure, spreading hay, pouring oats in Alejandro's feed and water in his bucket and doing many other not so fun tasks involved in the raising of horses. Marshal was happy to see that Alex never complained and did all she was told to do. She was a true disciple and was sticking it out. The unexpected twist was that Alex had taken to her role fully committed and delighted. It wasn't long before she was asking for more things to do. She loved Alejandro and the stables. With her daily visits and her inquiring mind, Alex became quite knowledgeable of horses and their care. Slowly and steadily, Alex was learning. It was funny to see her work around the stables. She was too cute.

“She's getting to be something around here.” Marshal commented to Addy. “Soon, she'll have my job!”

Addy chuckled. “Don't worry, Marshal. By the time she's ready to do it, she won't want it. Her interests will change.”

“I don't know, Addy, this one is fearsome!”

Addy chuckled again. It was true. Alex was awe-inspiring. She was like Karen in terms of commitment. When she was into something, she wanted to be the best at it, and heaven forbid anyone getting in her way. The little one was a force to be reckoned with.

Alejandro continued to grow. He was a strong beautiful horse. Alex was only five and was still small, but Alejandro was already huge. Alex could not understand why the little horse had gotten so big so soon and she was still so small.

On Saturday morning, after the soccer game, it was Karen who took Alex to the stables. They were both standing by the fence watching Alejandro run around the field. “Mommy, it'z not fair! Look how big he iz! I will never be able to ride him now!”

Karen looked at her in awe. Did she really think she would ride him some day? Not if she could help it! But there was no need to touch that subject now.

“Alex he is a horse and that is how horses are. They grow very fast. He is big and tall, but his mind is like a child. So, in the world of horses, he is still a little kid just like you.”

“But look how huge he iz! I can't even reach him. He has to bring his head down so that we can talk.”

Karen laughed. She picked Alex up and sat her on the fence. Alex put her feet inside the fence and leaned on Karen who was holding her by her waist. “You talk to Alejandro?” She loved to talk to her daughter. There was always so much excitement and amusing facts in the conversations. She was just like a small version of Addy. She always had bright, wild ideas that sometimes scared Karen, but she's brushed them off knowing that they were childish thoughts. It was Addy's thoughts that always concerned her!

“Yes. All the time.”

“What do you talk to him about?”

“I tell him about you and M'Addy and that I love you a lot and I remind him that he iz a race horse and that he needs to learn to run like the wind. That's what Marshal says he haz to do. I tell him that I want him to do just that so that he can win all the races.” Alex paused and was pensive. “Mommy, what does that mean? How does the wind run? How can a horse run like the wind? I think we need to explain that to him because he might not know and then how can he do something if he doesn't know what it iz?!” Alex face revealed a lot of worry.

Karen chuckled. Oh boy! How do I explain this? “Well, Alex, I think the wind doesn't run, it sort of flies. So the expression ‘run like the wind,' means to run so fast that it would appear as if one was flying. Do you think Alejandro likes to run?”

Alex was real excited now. “Mommy, he loves to run and he says he'z going to win all the races he ever runs. But I'm going to have to ask him if he thinks he can fly like the wind. I don't know if he can.”

“Did he really? I guess we shall soon see. When he turns two, he will be eligible to run. Did you know that?”

“Yes, Marshal told me. I think he will win the Triple Crown.”

Karen laughed. “Alex you sound like Mommy Addy!” Having said that, Karen chuckled. She remembered Addy's promise that one day Alex would say things that would remind her of her. Addy was right, there she was, speaking through Alex. It warmed her heart.

“If he can run like the wind—.” She turned to face her mom. “Then he will be a winner!” Karen said nothing. She was totally turned to mush. It was a mini replica of herself that she saw in front of her, but the expressions, the talk, the liveliness in Alex was all Addy. Karen hugged and kissed her. “Yes, he will, my beautiful princess! Let's go home. Mommy Addy is probably back from the store already.

**

Through James, Karen was able to get Mary and interview with one of their distributors. The job was to drive a medium size truck to Glasgow making several deliveries along the way.

Mary took the job because there was nothing else available in town. The job took her away from Altee and that was a good thing for all. She was staying at the firehouse for a while but later found a room in the nearby town. It turned out to be more convenient for her route. She still came to the pub every now and then, but since Marshal and Carol had found other types of entertainment, they weren't going to the pub as much so there was no chance of meeting.

“By the way, I saw Mary in town today. I stopped at the deli to get some muffins and she was getting some coffee before heading out of town. Said she liked the job because it took her out of the area and that she had already met a few people along the way. She didn't give me specifics, but I wouldn't be surprised if she meant ‘ladies' because she looked very happy about it.”

Karen smirked. She didn't like Mary at all. “Good riddance! I hope she finds someone who will keep her away from here.”

**

Eventually, Carol moved in with Marshal to the apartment by the stables. It was the smartest thing to do because they were living rent free. Of course, Marshal being a very appropriate person and not wanting to risk her employment, asked Addy and Karen whether Carol moving in was okay with them. They had no problems and everything worked out.

Marshal turned out to be a great administrator for the stables and trainer for Alejandro. Carol still baked and sold her cookies and desserts to nearby coffee houses. Mary had been right about one thing, Carol was a gifted woman. Her baking was superb. She ran her business and kept Marshal happy and relaxed. The arrangement worked for all. That is not to say that they weren't worried about Mary resurfacing. But since Marshal had proven to be one tough cookie, everyone hoped that Mary would think twice before messing with Carol again.

**

Alejandro was developing well and growing fast. Marshal was a dedicated woman and took her job seriously. She'd get up early every morning and exercise him. He was already turning one and it was time for his race training to begin. Marshal informed Addy of the need to find a jockey to ride him. Addy immediately authorized Marshal to begin her search in the appropriate circles.

By this time, Alex had turned six, and as Addy predicted, she had slowly improved her speech and was no longer pronouncing the ‘S' like a ‘Z'. There was never a need to go to the speech therapist and Karen was greatly relieved. This transformation happened while in first grade. Addy didn't even notice it, it was Karen who did. “Have you noticed?”

“What?”

“How she's improved her speech?”

“Really? No I haven't. It's probably because I always thought that in the end she would.”

Karen chuckled. Addy knew everything about Alex. Addy even knew where Alex had the smallest birthmark. And later when she got the chicken pox, Addy knew exactly where the illness had left two marks because Alex had scratched them. That is why Karen was surprised that Addy had not noticed the change in speech.

“You know, Ker, if she had not improved, I would have been the first to take her to the therapist. I just thought that people need to have the time to work things out at their own pace. Like I did.” Addy, of course, was referring to her sexuality.

“Well, you were right. It worked with her and it worked with you.”

Of course, Alex was growing fast. She not only had developed her speech but she had developed quite a personality. She had grown up with plenty of love and self-assurance. So, in terms of her individuality she turned out to be a very confident child with a lot of self-esteem and sense of worth. And socially, she was respectful and caring. From an early age, she showed a dislike for injustices.

When Alex heard that they were searching for a jockey for Alejandro, she felt betrayed and hurt and she did not hesitate to share her complaint.

“But I thought he was my horsie!”

“He is.” Addy replied.

“If he is my horsie, why don't I ever get to ride him? And why do we need a jockey for him? I can ride a horse and since he is my horse, I should be the one riding him!” Alex was not happy at all that someone other than her would be riding Alejandro.

“I have been robbed!”

“What in the world do you mean by that?”

“Robbed! Alejandro is mine and now you are giving him to someone else!”

“Ah! You mean that you feel cheated.” Karen corrected.

“Yes!”

“No, you have not. Alejandro is yours, but you are his owner, not his jockey. He needs to be raced by a professional jockey.”

“Why? Why can't I?

Addy pulled her closer to her. “Alex, Alejandro loves you, but he is a race horse. He needs a rider who knows how to ride in races. Jockeys know what to do to make a horse win.”

Then Karen interjected. “Also, little girl, do you have any idea of how dangerous it can be, riding in those races?”

“Mommy, you always think everything is dangerous.”

“Horse racing is no game, little girl. It's serious business and all the riders are grown men and women. Children are not allowed to ride in races. First there are a bunch of hyper thoroughbred horses. They are all jumpy and nervous when they are placed in the gates at the starting line. Then, when they open the gates, all those nervous horses come out in stampede and run like mad. If someone were to fall from one of them, they could be killed. The horses will not stop and say ‘oh poor little girl, you fell, let me help you.'”

Alex chuckled visualizing the scene.

“No! They are going to continue running and step all over you and hurt you and maybe even kill you.”

Alex grimaced at the awful picture of her possible death under all the horses.

“Karen!” Addy called her attention, and opened her eyes huge.

“She has to know of the danger. This is no game. It is what it is.”

Alex came up stating her defense in a commanding tone. “I have never fallen from a horse! M'Addy has, but I haven't.” After Karen's fall from the bicycle, Addy told her the story of when she fell from a horse.

Addy was stunned with Alex's rebuttal. “All I have to say about that is that it was not fun, and I hurt like mad. And my horse was not even a race horse, and I was not in a race with other horses! I ached for a long time and got all bruised. It was not fun at all.”

Alex appeared to be having second thoughts now.

Karen smiled when she remembered Addy's purple butt. “Yes, she hurt for a long time.”

Alex was still pouting. “So, who is going to ride him?” Her tone was now a resigned one since she realized that Addy would not be on her side to persuade Karen.

“We don't know yet, Alex. We will have to look for someone. A professional jockey.”

“Can I choose him?”

“We'll see what Marshal says about that.”

Several jockeys were interested and they were called for interviews. Alex was present at all the interviews. The interviews were conducted in an open arena in front of the stables. Some of the jockeys looked at Alex several times during the interview, but none talked to her.

The tactic was that Alex would come in to the stables first while the moms and Marshal waited outside for a few minutes to see if any dynamic developed between her and the jockey. Nothing happened with the first three. Alex just came into the stable and sat on a stack of hay and stared at the jockey and at Alejandro

The fourth jockey interviewed was the only one who talked to her. “Nice horse. Do you like horses?”

“Yes. Do you?”

“Oh! Yes. They are beautiful and strong. Look at this one. He is beautiful. Look at the way he stands, proud and tall. He's a very strong fellow too. I bet he runs like the wind.”

“He does. I told him to.”

“You told him to? And what is your name young lady?”

“Yes, I told him and my name is Alex. What's yours?”

“My name is Gyro. I'm a jockey. So, what did he say about running like the wind?”

Alex smiled and walked closer to him and sat on another hay stack closer to Gyro.

“He said he would.”

So, if I ever get to ride him, what should I tell him if I want him to run like the wind?”

Alex smiled. “Tell him to remember what Alex said. His name is Alejandro.”

The jockey smiled. “Alejandro. I've never known a horse named Alejandro. I think it's a good name for a horse like him. It's the name of a winner.” Gyro walked to Alejandro and patted him down. “Please to meet you, Alejandro.”

Alejandro seemed comfortable with Gyro and made a sound. Alex got up from the haystack and followed him.

“He likes you.”

Gyro smiled. “I like him too. I would love to ride him.”

“Why do you want to ride him?”

“I'm getting good vibes from him. He seems like he knows himself. He responds to my touch, that tells me he has good feelings. It's hard to explain. It's like with people, you like them or you don't. And you don't really know why, it's as if you knew you had something in common with them. But I like Mr. Alejandro here. I hope the owners like me and give me a chance to ride him. I bet he has a beautiful stride.”

“Are you going to hurt him?”

“I would never hurt a horse. There is no need to be cruel. I think gentleness works better actually. I think that if Alejandro wants to win he will give it all he has and if he doesn't want to win, he'll let us know too. We all need to want things for things to happen.” Gyro turned and talked to Alejandro, who had approached the twosome standing in front of him. “I think that if Alejandro wants to win, he will win.”

“He wants to win.”

“He also told you that?”

“Yes.”

“Then I would love to ride him.”

“You have to be nice to him and not hit him with the stick.”

Gyro laughed. “I will not hurt him. I promise you.”

“Then, I would like you to ride him.”

“I think we are going to have to wait for the owner to decide that, don't you?”

Addy was approaching and Karen and Marshal were behind her. “She just did, Mr. Gyro. You have just been interviewed and hired.”

Gyro smiled somewhat puzzled as he looked at a very pleased Alex.

“Mr. Gyro, may I introduce you to Ms. Alexandra Marcos Larsen, owner of Alejandro.”

Gyro continued to smile at Addy and then he bent over to shake Alex's hand. “I am very pleased to meet you and your horse Ms. Alexandra.”

“You can call me Alex, and when can you ride him?”

Gyro raised his eyebrows still surprised at the feistiness and sense of command of the little person in front of him. “Well, I suppose the sooner the better.”

“Good, I want to see you ride him. I stop by every morning before I go to school. If you are out there riding him, I will see you.”

Gyro was delighted with the little one. Addy proceeded with the introductions. “Mr. Gyro, this is my partner Karen Larsen, and this here is Marshal she is Alejandro's trainer.”

“Yes, we spoke on the phone.”

“Like Alex, said, the sooner you can start the better. Ms. Marshal here will get you started as soon as you can. Welcome aboard. You will find your employer quite interested in your activities. She is a regular around her and she is not shy accepting work, as Marshal here will tell you.”

Gyro looked at Alex who was walking next to him as they toured the stables. Alex participated in the conversation and gave a few insights as to Alejandro's behavior.

He was very impressed with the information Alex provided.

When they were gone. Gyro had a few questions for Marshal. “That little one is something else, isn't she?”

Marshal stopped short. “Gyro, she's not just something else. She's everything around here. Keep an eye on her.”

“Is there a dad?”

“No, two great moms, though. You have a problem with that?” Marshal thought to clear the air immediately.

“No. Not at all.”

“Good. You won't find better people around. You've just been hired by the best. You treat them right and you are family.”

**

Gyro began his work almost immediately. Early every morning Alejandro was out on the track training. Alex would get up early as well to stop by the stables on her way to school to greet and watch Alejandro's training even if it was only for a few minutes. Gyro immediately brought Alejandro to her.

“Hi Alejandro! How are you today? I'm on my way to school. I guess training is like going to school, right Mommy?”

“Yes, Alex, training is Alejandro's school.”

“Well, I have to go now, but make sure you learn a lot so that you can win. I'll come and see you tomorrow after school.”

Karen always found it odd that Alejandro seemed happy with Alex's presence and even odder that he seemed to participate in a sort of exchange with her. Alex would talk and he would either move or nicker, or snort, or blow or make some kind of sound.

As Alex shared her few minutes with Alejandro, Karen sometimes talked to Gyro about the horse.

“Sometimes I think the horse understands her.”

Gyro smiled. He loved the way Alex talked to the horse also. “Ma'am, I think he does. I think he looks forward to seeing her in the morning and after he sees her, he is much happier.”

Karen looked at him in surprise, thinking that he probably also had a screw loose since he was already into the Alex horse-talk nonsense.

“Little girl, we need to go. You don't want to be late for school.”

Alex said her good bye and the horse immediately whined.

“He's just saying bye, Mommy. He wants me to come back later.”

“Yeah, sure. Tell Mommy Addy when she picks you up to bring you.” Usually, it was Karen who took her to school in the morning since she had to go to work at her office in the Manor house. Addy was always the one picking her up around three in the afternoon, since Karen usually left work between four or five in the evening, depending how busy they were. Of course, when they weren't very busy she'd come home earlier. The cottage was a five minute drive to the Manor house, but school was fifteen minutes away.

“Mommy what happens when a horse wins? Does he become famous?”

“Well, yes he does become famous. I suppose he could continue to race, but also there are a lot of people who would pay a lot of money for his babies.”

“What do you mean? Alejandro can't have a baby, he is a man horse.”

“Yes, but what happens is that people who have women horses,” Karen rolled her eyes, “I mean mares, would want him to come over and make a baby with their mare and then they pay the owner of the boy horse a lot of money. Because you see, the thought is that the new baby horse would be a winner just like his daddy. Of course training is also very important. You can have the best of horses but no training and the horse will never win.”

Alex was quiet for a while. “If Alejandro goes away, I'm not sure I want him to win now.”

“Well, Alex, here's how I see it. It's like with you. You live with us now and we give you our very best, but as parents we hope that with everything you have learned and we have given you here at home, you will be prepared and ready to face life on your own one day when you are an adult.”

“But I don't want to leave you and M'Addy! I always want to be home with you.”

Karen smiled. “Well I'm glad to hear that because we certainly want to keep you.”

By then they had reached the school and Karen got out of the car and took her inside. As she left, she could see Alex lined up with the other kids to go inside the building. Yes, it was comforting to know that their six year old loved her home and her parents, but sadly, she knew that was not the normal course of life and she knew that someday their little one would be all grown up and would fly the nest. But for now, life was good, and she would enjoy its many blessings.

**

The phone rang in the middle of the night.  That was never good.

Addy was startled by the ring and rushed to pick it up, it was her phone and it was on the night table next to her on the bed.  She put on her glasses and looked at the name and relaxed when she saw it was only Marshal and not either of her children. She never liked receiving calls made at odd hours because she always feared bad news.

However, the tranquility didn't last. It was Marshal's number, but it was in fact a very alarmed Carol speaking.

“Addy! The stables are on fire!”  Marshal got the horses out and she has Alejandro.”

Karen woke up with the sound of the phone. She was half groggy form her sleep, but worried as she waited to hear who was calling at that late hour. Addy opened her eyes wide to face Karen's inquiring face. “Ker, the stables are on fire!” By the time Addy spoke, Karen was already gone. She leaped nude from the bed the minute she heard Carol's alarmed voice on the phone.

Addy dropped the phone and ran after her to stop her thinking that she would take off for the stables, but instead she found her in Alex's room standing in front of Alex's bed. Alex was peacefully asleep. Addy went back to their room and grabbed Karen's robe and her own. She came back and put the robe over Karen's shoulders. Then the phone rang again. This time it was Karen's phone and this time it was Marshal at the other end. Addy went back to their room and picked up the call. Addy stood in the hallway not wanting to wake up Alex with the conversation. She looked inside the bedroom and saw Karen sitting on the bed and picking up Alex. Alex woke up a bit, still drowsy from her sleep. “Mommy? What?”

“Sssh, I just need to hold you, baby.” Alex smiled, kissed her and immediately went back to sleep curling to her. Karen kissed her again. Alex was already six and not so light, but she was still small and manageable for Karen. She caressed her daughter and when she turned she found Addy's face.

Marshal continued to talk. “Addy I let the horses out. We'll round them up tomorrow.  I have Alejandro and the mare with me. Carol called the fire department and they are already here.”

Addy was listening, but looking at Karen with their daughter in her arms. Karen's eyes were anxious and looking at the floor as she rocked and continuously kissed her sleeping daughter on the head.

“Marshal, get out of there. Let it all burn.  You already got the horses out. I don't want you and Carol at risk. Get out of there and come over. Let the firemen deal with it.” Addy hung up the phone.

The look of panic she had seen on Karen's face was painful. She knew Karen too well and she knew exactly what was going through her mind. No words were needed. She hugged mother and child. “It's all fine, baby. It's all fine.” From the window, they could see in the distance the brightness in the sky from the fire. Addy continued to hold Karen, as Karen stared to the ground still holding and rocking her daughter.

“Addy?”

“Yes?”

“Don't even think about leaving this house to go there.” Her tone was somber, but firm and commanding. There was no doubt that this was not a request or a warning.

“I'm not, Ker. I'm not.”

Karen held her hand and kissed it. The two sat in silence on the bed. Alex was still on Karen's lap, and Addy's arm was over Karen's shoulder.


“Addy, you and Alex are all I care about in this world. Nothing else matters.”

“I know sweetie. I also know what's going through your mind. You don't have to tell me. Let's not jump to conclusions and wait and see what the fire department and police say about the fire. Maybe it was an accident, or faulty wiring.  If there was a criminal hand in this, I promise you that I will personally— .”

“No, you'll do nothing. I don't want you involved. I will take care of it.”

When Addy looked at Karen, she saw the resolve in the burning green eyes, and she remained quiet. She knew that look, the look that nothing said or done would alter. There was no point in pursuing a conversation in the heat of the moment under these circumstances.

But she was also resolved to be the one to do something about Karen's family, if they had anything to do with the fire. Neither one mentioned it, but they both suspected that the family might be behind it. Karen's family hated them and had been relentlessly pursuing them. First trying to take the property from them and later trying to get the property through obtaining Alex's custody. They had both been terrible legal battles, but the last one left lasting scars on them. Their daughter was a sacred matter and the women had put everything on the line for her. They had even considered fleeing to Asia with Alex if the relatives had won the custody battle. There was no way they would have handed over their daughter to those people. Fortunately, and thanks to the many people in Altee who came out in their defense, they didn't. Even after the years passed, Karen still held that apprehension inside her.

Addy was the kind of person who could move on, but not Karen. This was her family and she was ashamed of them, and because they were her family she also carried the guilt of having brought this upon them. She felt a deep responsibility to protect Alex and Addy from them. She was resolved to go through anything for their protection.

“I'm calling James and JP. They need to be alerted just in case the refinery is next.”

Karen eyes became huge. “Oh My God, Addy! I didn't think of that! Call them immediately. Tell James to call the security company and put them on alert to secure the area.” Karen's admission of not having thought of something was a clear indication that she was rattled to the bone. The fear of her loved ones being the object of evil panicked her.

Addy called, and James picked up the phone. As soon as he finished talking to Addy he called the security company. They responded immediately and soon they were patrolling the whole area. James and JP went to the distillery to make sure that all was in order there. JP called Addy from the distillery. “Addy, it's JP. Are you guys okay? How about Marshal and Carol? Are you at home or at the stables?”

“We are home, why?”

“We came to the distillery to make sure that everything is okay here.”

“JP, I want you and James out of there now! Go back home. Let me talk to James.”

“Sure, honey, here he is.”

“James, get out of there now. Karen and I suspect the fire was not an accident. Just leave there and don't put yourselves in any danger. Please, tell the security people to send people over to the manor house. We need to check the law firm as well.”

“Addy, how about you guys there?”

“Yes, thanks, James, I almost forgot. We are sort of freaked out here. Please, have them send people here to check the perimeter of the cottage as well. I'll turn all the lights on.” She hung up the phone and was getting ready to leave Alex's room.

“No! Where are you going?” Karen held her by the hand. Addy could tell that Karen was in a state of high alert, almost panic.

“I'm going to turn on the security lights, baby. Over here on the hallway.”

“I'll do it. Stay here with Alex.” Addy sat on the bed and held Alex as Karen went into their bedroom. Addy knew what Karen was doing. Karen was getting her gun from the gun safe. Addy's heart froze when she saw Karen with it in her hand.

“I'm sorry, baby. I know you don't like this, but I need to protect you and Alex.”

“Just be careful, please.”

They were still upstairs. Karen went to the control box for the alarm system and perimeter lights, and made sure that everything was activated. She then turned on all the outside lights, and went back to Alex's room. Only when the security personnel arrived and called from outside, she deactivated the alarm and the three of them came downstairs.

“Ma'am, we have checked the perimeter and everything seems to be fine. No one has gone through the gate. I have left officers at the Manor house and will leave two other officers here to secure the site.”

“Thanks.”

JP and James arrived about that time, it was 1 AM. JP was still wearing his SpongeBob pajamas.

“Are you okay? What about Marshal and Carol and the horses, Oh! My God! The horses! Alejandro?” JP was a pack of nerves. “How could this happen? Was this done on purpose?”

“Calm down JP. Everyone is fine and so are the horses. We need to stay together and alert until we know more.” Addy stated.

James spoke to Karen. “Do you think—.”

“I wouldn't put it past them, James.”

James tapped her in the back and sat on the sofa next to Addy who had Alex attached to her like a koala bear.

Karen came over and relieved her. “Here, baby, let me have her. She's not that light anymore.” Karen sat in the sofa next to James, and after some talk, some of them dozed off. Not Karen. She remained vigilant.

Around five in the morning Marshal's truck pulled up the driveway with the horse carriage in tow. Karen immediately heard the noise and jumped from the sofa. She dropped Alex on Addy's lap. She only trusted Addy with their daughter at times like this. She took her gun, got up, walked to the window and looked outside from the corner.

JP had just opened his eyes when he saw Karen walking towards the window gun in hand. “Oh, my God! Karen when I see you with that gun, I freak out. Please be careful.”

Karen didn't even acknowledge him. As of lately, Karen had developed intolerance for JP and it was Addy who always had to mediate matters between them. “It's Marshal and Carol.” Karen reassured everyone. When she saw the security personnel all over, she put the gun back in the safe and closed it. She then went to open the door.


The women looked ragged, sweaty and tired. “The fire is out already. We stayed until it was out. The fire chief was still there and some fire trucks just making sure there was not going to be any rekindling.”

“Come in. Sit down”

“Don't want to mess up your furniture, Ms. Larsen.”

“Oh Marshal, who cares! Come on in and sit.  Can we get you something to drink or eat?”

“I'll make some breakfast.” Addy handed Alex over to Karen again.

Carol immediately noticed their apprehension.

“You don't think this was an accident do you?”

Addy spoke from the kitchen. “There's a history, Carol. We wouldn't put it past them.”

Everyone remained silent. Marshal saw the gun safe on the kitchen counter. “If this was deliberate, what are we going to do? What's the plan? We can't sit and let them keep us living in fear.”

Addy and Karen looked at each other from the distance.

“We will get to the bottom of this, I assure you Marshal.” Karen spoke in her resolved tone again.

“And we will rebuild, Marshal.  We'll have ourselves a better facility. We'll install a security system with cameras and alarms.  We will go with the best.  I will make sure.” Addy remarked.

“The apartment burned also.  All our stuff, except a few items of clothes we got out in time.”

“I'm so sorry Carol. We'll put you up in the Manor house until we rebuild.  I think we should make the apartment into a cottage detached from the stables. This will not happen again.”

Carol cheered up some with the news of a new cottage. But both women were so exhausted and emotionally drained that Carol began to cry.  Marshal quickly comforted her.

“As soon as we are done with breakfast, I'll take you over to the house so you can settle in, and don't worry, the insurance will cover everything. We've already called them. They are going to investigate also.”

“The constable said they were sending for Scotland Yard investigators. I think the investigation could take a while.” Addressing Karen, Marshal continued to speak. “Karen, there was no reason for the fire. I check the stables, tact room, and all of property every day, and there was no lightning or anything else that should have caused a fire!” Then she turned to face Addy. “I'm sorry Addy, I know this is not what you want to hear, but it's how I feel and I have to say what I feel. I suspect foul play.”

“You did well Marshal. It was the right thing to do.”

**

During breakfast, Addy called the neighboring farm where Alejandro and the mare came from. She explained the situation and arranged for boarding for all the horses. The owner of the stables was a friend of Isabela Ludwig. During the years Isabela owned the winery, she held private parties for her friends and Addy and Karen were always regulars.

Isabela claimed to have never had lesbian friends and she was fascinated with the Addy and Karen's relationship. After Addy told her the story of how she and Karen ended up together, Isabela told her that if she had ever found a woman to love her like she and Karen loved each other, she would have never married a man. She was often heard saying that men lacked “a je ne sais quoi” which left them only suitable for procreation, because in her opinion that was their only purpose in life. It was at one of Isabela's parties that Addy met Richard Brenton, the owner of the neighboring farm.

After they dropped Carol off at the Manor house, Marshal insisted on accompanying Addy to drop off Alejandro and the mare. Then she and Marshal headed back home by way of the stables.

Some of the stable help was there. They had just gotten back from searching for the other horses and were getting ready to take them to the Brenton farm. Fortunately, when Addy decided to concentrate her efforts on Alejandro, she had stopped boarding other horses. So in addition to Alejandro and the mare, there were only their other four horses at the stables.

Addy insisted that Karen stay with Alex at home. Karen didn't want her going either, but someone had to go; that is why Marshal volunteered for the task. When Addy saw the stables, her heart went to the floor. Her eyes filled with tears and she brought her hand to her mouth. Marshal saw her and put her arm around her.

“I'll be fine, Marshal.  It's just that I cannot comprehend evil.  Who would do such a thing? Why? You have no idea what this is doing to my Karen. It kills her to know that her own blood is capable of this!” She pointed to the scorched buildings.  There was nothing left there.  Just the blackness, the smoke and the smell.

“You cannot comprehend evil because you are a good person, Addy. Come on. Let's go. It doesn't do you any good staying here either. Let me take you home.”

While Addy was gone, Karen called Phil and told him what happened.

“What do you want to do?”

“That private investigator you know in London .  Contact him.  I'd like to set up a conference call. I want to get to the bottom of this and I want the police to feel the pressure.”

“Okay. I will call him right now.”

“Thanks, Phil.”

The meeting was set up before Addy was back. The minute Addy walked in, Karen felt immediate relief. She had been standing next to the window the whole time looking out for her. She immediately brought her up to date.

“When is the conference and where?”

“Tonight, at the office. I want this moving quickly.”

“What are we doing with Alex?”

“I'd like you to stay here with her. Addy, I need to do this personally. And I need to know that she's safe with you. I also don't want her around all this talk. I don't want her to be frightened.”

“Okay.” Addy didn't like the idea of having to separate again, but agreed. She knew Karen was right.

Karen was still hesitant. “What else is bothering you?”

“Addy, I'm concerned with Alex and school. What if--”

“Let me think and worry about that.  I'll take care of it.”

Karen hugged her. “I love you, baby. You give me peace and keep me together.” She kissed her on the head.

“I have you, sweetie, I have you.” Addy kissed her also.

“Mommy, can I have some lunch?”

“Sure sweetie pie.  What do you want?”

“Pizza.”

Addy was still looking at Karen's hypnotic stare.  ”Go on make the pizza.” She kissed her and slapped her on the butt, as Addy went to the kitchen to make lunch for them.


They ate in silence. “Mommy Karen, can we go to the pool?”

Karen didn't reply.  Addy did. Karen was too worried deep in thought. “Maybe later sweetie.”

The phone rang and Karen picked up.  It was the constable. He and the fire chief wanted to come over and talk to them.

“Yes we will be here.”

**

When the constable and fire chief arrived later that afternoon, they greeted them at the door.

“Good afternoon, ma'am. We would like to talk to you about the fire.”

Alex immediately opened her huge eyes in surprise. She had not heard about the fire until now. She didn't speak, but she was listening. Karen invited the men to the living room and Addy took Alex to the rec room in the back.

Alex immediately asked. “M'Addy, what fire are those men talking about? Are they policemen or firemen?”

“Come here, Little Bit.” Alex sat on her lap.

“Little one, I always tell you everything like it is and you ask me all the questions and I answer them, right?”

“Right.”

“So, I'm going to tell you what happened, and then you can ask.”

“The first thing I need to tell you is that Alejandro and his mommy went for a little vacation to that other stable where we got them from, remember?”

“Yes. I think he has cousins there.” Alex nodded.

“Yeah, I guess.” Why not! We all have family somewhere!

“Anyway, there was a fire in our stables and that is why Alejandro and his mommy went to visit their family at that other farm.”

Alex's eyes were huge now. “A fire! In our stables?”

“Yes, sweetie. I'm afraid it all burnt down.”

Alex was horrified and was on the verge of tears. “Oh no! Where are Alejandro and his mommy and Silver and Tawny and Ping Pong and Brut going to live now?”

“Well, Alex, they are going to be visiting Alejandro's family at that farm also, until we rebuild our new stables.”

“We are going to have new stables?”

“Yes, real pretty ones.” Addy saw the opportunity to lighten the mood and maybe even change the subject.

“I was wondering about what color to paint them. What color do you think we should paint them? What do you think about pink?” Alex did not like pink. It was unusual for a girl not to like pink, but she didn't.

“Ugh! No! M'Addy! Who ever heard of pink stables?”

“You are right! How about purple?”

“No! M'Addy, how could you have purple buildings? How about red?”

Addy opened her eyes now and Alex smiled. “Na! Red is too…..red?” They were both laughing to the point that Alex, who loved to be a clown, dropped to the floor laughing. She was still on the floor laughing when Karen walked in.

She smiled. “What's going on here?”

“Alex and I were discussing colors for the new stables.”

Karen looked at Addy in surprise. “You told her?”

“She asked. We have for sure eliminated pink, purple and red.”

Karen looked at Alex who was sitting on the floor. “I'm glad that Alejandro and his mommy are visiting their cousins.” Alex remarked nodding her head up and down, as in agreement.

Karen looked at Addy and smiled at Addy's big grin. “Visiting cousins, huh?” If anyone could have found a positive spin to the burning of the stables, it was Addy. Karen was glad that Alex took it well. She had been dreading her reaction.

“Mommy Karen, when are they going to start building the new stables?”

Karen was trying to look animated as she joined them. But Addy could see the worry on her face. Karen looked at Addy and pursed her lips. Addy knew she was forcing the smile for Alex's sake. “Well, Alex, it's going to take some time, but I'm sure we will try to get everything started as soon as possible.”

Karen didn't like the idea of the horses staying at the Brenton farm. She had only agreed to it because it was the closest and best suited farm. In all honesty, she was not too fond of Richard Brenton. When they first met at Isabela's party, he showed an interest in Addy and invited her to dinner. He quickly backed off when he realized that he was treading on thin ice. As soon as he knew that Addy was very much ‘taken' he apologized to both of them with great Scottish chivalry. However, even after the situation cleared, the thought that someone else had ‘eyed' Addy did not sit well with Karen.

“What about Marshal and Carol? Where are they going to live?”

“They will be staying at the Manor house until we rebuild the stables.”

“What about Alejandro's training? Is Gyro still going to train him?” Alex was worried now.

“Yes, we need to call Gyro and tell him that he has to go to the Brenton farm.” Alex seemed pensive. Karen looked at her wondering if she also didn't like Brenton.

“Hey let me start dinner. Mommy Karen has some work to do tonight.”

After they ate, Karen was getting ready to leave. “Call me when you get there.”

“I will. And you know where the gun is.”

“Yes. Go in peace, baby. We'll be fine. I'll stay with her all the time.”

When Karen left the house she talked to the two security guards outside. “Be on high alert. I'll double you'll pay for the time I'm gone for extra watch.”

“Yes, Ma'am. We will be on high alert.”

After dinner, Karen went to her office. Phillip was waiting for her there. They spoke to the investigator. He took down all the information and agreed to get back to Karen in a couple of days with preliminary information. He was hoping to, at least, establish the family's whereabouts.

Karen was only gone about an hour. When she came back to the cottage, Addy and Alex were lying on the couch in the rec room watching TV. Alex was reclined against her.

Addy looked up. “Did it go well?”

“Yes. We can talk later. Now I would like to watch some TV.” She ruffled Alex's hair. “Mommy!” Alex came over and climbed on her lap and hugged her.

The three sat on the couch enjoying each other's company and watching TV. Addy noticed that Karen's mind was somewhere else, though. She had just agreed to watch TV because she didn't want to talk in front of Alex, but Addy knew they needed to talk.

That night neither woman could find a way to tell Alex to go to sleep. They didn't want her out of their sight.

“M'Addy, I'm sleepy. Can I sleep in your room? ‘Cause if there is a fire I don't want to be alone in my room.”

The women looked at each other. Karen didn't know what to say, so Addy replied. “There are not going to be any more fires. Why would there be another fire? But, you can sleep in our room if that makes you feel better.”

Alex spoke in her usual way nodding her head up and down and wrinkling her nose. “It would make me feel much better, M'Addy. Thank you.” She turned to go upstairs. “I'm going to put on my jammies!”

Karen wiped her face with her hands, she looked upset. “After all these years of success having her sleeping in her own room, we need to go back and do this, those bastards! If they had anything to do with this, I swear—.” She punched one of her hands with her fist.

“Ker! Don't! Don't do this to yourself. Come on, let's bring Alex' mattress to our room and put it next to our bed. She wants to sleep in our room not our bed.” Addy smiled and wiggled her eye brows.

Karen chuckled. “You are a very smart woman. And we are going to have to talk about visiting the Brenton Farm!”

“I'm not going to dignify that comment with an answer, Ms. Larsen.”

Addy rolled her eyes and kissed Karen, and that made Karen smiled a bit. They went upstairs and moved Alex's mattress next to their bed. Alex immediately climbed on it and cuddled with her stuffed toys to sleep. They kissed her good night. It was past her bedtime so she fell asleep immediately. The women then began to get ready for bed themselves. Addy was sitting on the sofa in the sitting room when Karen came out of the bathroom.

Karen sat next to her and told her the details of the conversation with the private investigator. Addy took her hand and remained quiet. “Ker, I'm pretty sure you didn't, but you didn't do anything crazy, did you?”

“Like what? Hire someone to kill them?”

“Oh God! Sssh! Ker!”

“No, I didn't Addy, but I'd lie if I told you that I haven't thought about it. I feel like I need to protect our daughter and you at whatever cost.”

“Oh! I know, baby. I'd lie if I told you I haven't thought about it myself.”

Karen caressed Addy's hair. “Lord! What those bastards have done to us! Let's try to get some sleep. Come on.”

As they went to sleep, Addy noticed how nervous Karen was. Her body was like a running engine vibrating. “You need to relax, baby.” Addy caressed and massaged her back. She planted small kisses on her neck. And it was then when Karen broke down. “I'm afraid, Addy. I'm afraid! It's our daughter and you and me they are after! My life, Addy, you and Alex are my life, how could I not be afraid? I'm fucking mad too that they continue to mess with us. Maybe I should get someone to come out and beat the heck out of Charles, and then maybe he'd leave us alone. Oh God! I'm so sorry, Addy that you have to go through all this shit again!”

“Sssh, baby. I love you, and we'll do whatever we need to do together to overcome all of this. Try and get some sleep. You need to rest and calm down. I don't want you getting sick over this, plus we still don't have enough details. Come on, close your eyes and relax.” Karen slowly gave in and fell into a restless sleep.

In the middle of the night, though, Addy noticed that Karen was not in the bed. Addy though that she had gone to the bathroom, but the bathroom light was off. When she realized that Karen was taking too long coming back, she got up and went to check on her. She found her in the office room checking her gun. Addy said nothing and went back to bed. Karen said nothing either. A few minutes later, Karen came back in the room and locked the door. She put the gun away in its safe and came back to bed. Still Addy said nothing.

“Are you mad at me?”

Addy turned around and snuggled to her. “No.”

“Really?”

“Really.” She kissed her on the neck. She could feel Karen's fast heartbeat.

Karen again began to caress Addy's hair. “I'm sorry.”

“For what? I said I'm not mad.”

“For all the grief this causes you.”

“It's not your fault.”

“It's my dammed family!”

“Sssh! You'll wake up Alex.”

“I've thought about moving, you know?”

Addy listened and caressed her hair in bed.

“Return this property to the kingdom and go back to the States, buy a ranch in Montana or Wyoming and get away from these people and have a normal life.”

Addy chuckled. “Our live has never been normal, Ker. What are you talking about?”

Karen chuckled. “True. Actually, if it hadn't been for you, my life would have been boring. Before I met you I just lived from day to day. You gave me a reason to wake up every morning and you made our life beautiful here.” She was quiet for a little while. “And then you wanted Alex, and she changed our lives. You made a difference in my life, and gave me more than one reason to live.” She was waiting for some sort of response, but when none came, she looked down to find a sleepy smiley Addy. She chuckled, thinking how much she loved her. She looked for Addy's lips and found them. Asleep and all, Addy always responded to her. It was a long, wet, deep kiss. When Karen pulled away she chuckled again. “God! Even asleep you make me come!” Addy couldn't hold it back and chuckled. Karen heard her. “Are you pretending to be asleep, Ms. Addy?”

Addy smiled and moaned. “Ummm huh.” She cuddled closer to Karen. Karen brought her hand down to explore the back of the southern hemisphere. “Ummm! I think I found something I like.”

Addy chuckled. She spoke in a very sleepy voice. “You always find something you like, but baby, even I would have trouble explaining your find to the little one.”

“Rats!”

Addy chuckled. “Ssssh! Good night, baby. Don't worry, your find is going to be there tomorrow. So hold off on the exploration for tomorrow and try and get some sleep.”

Karen smiled and kissed her on the head, but remained awake caressing her back. She needed to remain on guard. Nothing would deter her guard. Nothing.

**

On Sunday they talked about the school situation and their fears about Alex. “Addy, I was thinking that perhaps we could home school Alex for a while, or we could bring a tutor over. At least until all of this is over.”

Addy looked at Karen's worried face. It was evident that the ordeal was taking a toll on her. She was not sleeping well and it was beginning to show.

“Babe, I already know what we are going to do with Alex. First and most important of all, she has to have a normal life no matter what.”

Karen was puzzled. “I don't know how we can keep normality under the extreme circumstances we are facing, Addy.”

“This is what I'm going to do. On Monday, when I take Alex to school, I will speak with the principal and the teacher and explain our situation. I will volunteer at school to help in Alex's classroom.”

“The whole day? Every day?”

“Yes, they are always asking for help. So I will be a full time volunteer there. That way I can keep an eye on her all day and she would still get to enjoy her classes and friends.”

“Addy, you can't do that.”

“Why not? It's the only thing that will give us peace of mind. We won't have any peace unless she's with you, or me, and you know it.”

Karen was pensive for a few seconds. She looked anxious. She got up and raked her hair with her hand and walked up and down as if to let off some steam. “I think this is all crazy, but we have a desperate situation. Let's just hope that it's temporary.” She stopped. “You can't be going to school forever. Since you will be busy at school, I will deal with the insurance company and look for contractor's estimates to rebuild the stables.  Then you can tell them how you want things done. Is that okay with you?”

“Yes, Alex is the priority.  I'm even considering changing schools.”

Karen seemed interested. “Why? What's on your mind? Tell me.”

“Yes, for some time now I've thought about it and was doing some research before talking to you. I'm looking at a couple of private schools not far from here.  I think Alex is very bright and she needs something more. Something out of the ordinary.”

“Why didn't you say anything until now? I'm all in favor. What school? Have you looked around?”

“I wanted to have more information and maybe even visit the schools before I told you. Let me get the information I have.” She upstairs and brought back some brochures and papers. They perused the booklets and forms.

“I like them. Yes, this is good.” Karen seemed excited with the prospect.

“I'll make appointments at the schools to check them out and then we can all go and see them. Ker, don't worry so much! Why don't you go up and get some sleep? You didn't sleep last night at all. And don't say you did, because I know you didn't.”

Karen pursed her lips. It was raining hard outside.

Before she went upstairs, she stopped. “Addy, what if starting next weekend, and subject to Alex not having a school project or something like that, we start planning outings like we used to? It might also be educational for Alex to see different things.”

Addy was preoccupied with this request.  She knew Karen's real intention was to get away from there, if only for a couple of days every week.

“It's a good idea, baby. Getting away for a couple of days a week will be relaxing.”

They began to plan, short weekend trips.  They'd make reservations and leave on Friday, right after Alex and Addy got home from school.

Alex was no fool. She knew things weren't normal. Outings every weekend and Addy coming to school every day was not the usual. “M'Addy why are you coming to school every day with me?”

“Well, because they need help at school. You guys are too many and you are all little devils!” She tickled the little one and the serious question was soon forgotten. They ended up rolling on the sofa with Alex ‘attacking' Addy and, of course, winning as usual. The battles always ended with lots of kisses.

Karen chuckled. “Another battle?”

“Yes, Mommy, I'm winning!” Addy was laying on the sofa laughing.

“Ker, rescue me! Take the little Viking and throw her in the hamper!”

Karen had to grab Alex and pull her away. “You are going to kill Mommy Addy, Little Bit!”

“I won!” Alex proclaimed as she was held up in the air by Karen and a very discombobulated Addy sat up on the sofa laughing.”

**

A few days later, the PI called Karen.

“Ms. Larsen, this is what I've found out about your family members status and whereabouts. Rupert Tabb died in a car accident three years ago. His wife Beth, and I believe your aunt, is 80 years old and lives in a retirement community in Glasgow . She is in the full care section and has trouble moving. You Uncle Phillip, died of lung cancer two years ago. He was an avid smoker. His wife Augustine moved to London to be closer to her family. She is retired. Charles and Margaret are still in Edinburgh , and from what I can tell, they are the most active and most capable of causing harm. The other two women are practically out of circulation. The pair in Edinburgh are closer to you and healthier. There's also a son, Alfred and there was a daughter. The daughter passed away a few years ago in a car accident and the son, Alfred, is in Germany . He has been there for the last ten years. In all those years, he's come to visit them three times. Once was five years ago, the second time was for his sister's funeral and the last time was six months ago.”

“And what do they do?”

“The same as the last time, when I informed Mr. Tidwell. She stays at home and your uncle Charles works in the same investment company downtown. The son, Alfred, works for an oil company near Hamburg . That's all I have for now. Scotland Yard is investigating them, I'm working with them. I'm also keeping them under surveillance.”

While Karen was handling the matter with the PI, Addy called Stephanie. Stephanie was Addy's friend and the district attorney who had prosecuted the fraud case against Sparrow and Finch. Stephanie had a sudden and quite rapid rise to fame in the Justice Department on account of the successful prosecution of the Sparrow and Finch case. She had been promoted several times, and she was now Attorney General. Addy explained the situation, and she promised to look over the matter and follow up with Scotland Yard.

**

To be continued in Part 4.

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