Disclaimer: See Part 1
S“Let's recap what we have so far.” Lauren Darkwolf leaned back in her chair and rolled her head in order to loosen the muscles in her neck. She had been hovering over computer files for hours on end.
Sigrid looked up from her screen. The caffeine she had ingested earlier had left her system and her blue eyes were dull and red-rimmed. “From the beginning?” she asked.
“Please. One more time.” Lauren sent her a smile and an encouraging nod. “After that, we all should try to get some rest.”
Maureen Lawrence yawned. “I agree. Besides, recent studies show that the more hours you work, the less productive you are.”
”Now she tells us.” Eva Clemente rubbed her eyes and stood up for a moment so she could stretch. Her vertebrae audibly popped.
Lauren looked up at her and grinned. “Feel better?”
“For now,” Eva answered. “Sleep sounds really good, though.”
“Okay, from the beginning.” Sigrid rested her elbow on the table to support her head. “Michael Allen Bell was murdered in my church. He was wearing a dress and shot execution style. He lived in Manchester and his apartment was completely cleared out. The dress he wore had a tear in the back, which indicates he might have tried to put up a fight. There was a piece of paper in his wallet with my name on it, and the names of friends who passed away.”
“What is the significance of that?” Maureen asked.
“We're not sure,” Eva replied. “We think it could have been a false lead, just to throw us off. Or maybe to frighten Sigrid, make her think she would be the next victim on the list. Even though we did find out the deaths of her friends were not suspicious, not even after a second look.”
Sigrid sighed and raked her fingers through her hair. “Regardless the reason, someone knew of my connections to Alistair, Connor, Devon, and Melinda. Besides, the picture of the crime scene that was put in my mailbox was a very obvious attempt to put me under suspicion.”
“Obvious and pretty amateuristic,” Eva said. “Your testimony had already clued us in someone was in the church when you noticed Michael Bell when you arrived that morning. The picture just confirmed your story.”
Lauren frowned. “Did the lab find anything particular about it?”
Eva shook her head. “Just generic photo paper and generic ink that is sold in all the big stores. No finger prints.”
“Wasn't there a note with it?” Maureen asked.
“It quoted a scripture from the bible,” Sigrid said. “ ‘May sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more.'” She paused and let out a sigh. “It ended by calling me a murderer.”
“Charming,” Maureen said. “A religious nut who has been keeping an eye on you, who broke into your house and left you the remnants of a dead pigeon and sent the other parts to your family in Florida. Correct?”
Sigrid nodded and smiled at Eva who gently rubbed her back.
“Let me guess; no leads on the packages?” Lauren asked.
“No, again there were no prints and the packages were those flat rate ones that could have been purchased in any post-office, at any time. They were dropped off in different places; one in Manchester and one in Concord.”
“And sent to Florida?”
“They had my name on it, so both my Mom and Kirsten, my sister, sent the package to me without opening it. They emailed me about it on the day my house was broken into. Eva had the packages intercepted at the post-office.” Sigrid suppressed a shudder. “The crop of the pigeon was in one package and the head was in another.”
“How do you think all of this ties in with Tate and Brothers?” Maureen asked, looking from Eva to Sigrid and back again.
“I think that someone used Donald Brothers' religious fanaticism against Sigrid in order to avoid attention themselves,” Eva said. “It clearly was the goal to frighten Sigrid and, eventually, hurt her. The kid was prepared to shoot me in cold blood and he almost did.” Unconsciously, Eva touched the deep purple bruise on her still swollen cheek. “Since more and more clues point to involvement of both Tate and Jeremy Brothers, I believe they are the ones who used Donald to get rid of Sigrid.”
Lauren slowly nodded. She took a sip of her tea and looked at Sigrid. “And why do they want to get rid of you?”
“I have no evidence, yet, but I firmly believe someone high up somewhere, who is involved in the trafficking, has access to my file, figured I was trying to get information for the FBI and decided I was a potential hindrance. Michael Bell's murder was a warning. The fact that they shot him in my church was a message to let me know I would not be safe and that it was personal.”
“Why the dress?”
“The dress and the newspaper that was left behind were an attempt to create false leads. The police would be chasing after it and in the meantime Donny could execute divine justice, which ultimately would paint him as the perpetrator of Michael Bell's and my death. Case closed.”
“That all sounds very plausible,” Lauren said. “The million dollar question is: who accessed your files and fed information to members of a human trafficking ring?”
“I think I can answer that question.” Eva rubbed her eyes and stifled a yawn. “My Captain, Douglas Whitfield, must work for Senator…a senator in D.C. He must have known about the murder and the trafficking. That is the reason he put Chuck and me on the case. It would be our last case; Chuck is retiring and I will start teaching at the Academy. If their plan would have played out as they expected, Donny would have killed Sigrid, taken the fall for the murder of Michael Bell and, as Sigrid put it, the case would be closed. Chuck would retire and I would leave, which means there would be nobody in the Unit who would have been closely involved in the case and could start asking more questions later.”
Eva's words were followed by a brief silence in which both Maureen and Lauren looked at Eva with respect.
“That actually sounds creepily logical,” Sigrid said. She sighed and rested her head on Eva's shoulder. “Good reasoning, Inspector.”
Eva cracked a smile. “Thank you. You don't look upset.”
“I'm way too tired to be upset.” Sigrid rubbed her cheek against the fabric of Eva's shirt. “I'll be upset tomorrow, I promise.”
“One more question before we all head off to bed; how do you know a Senator is involved?” Lauren asked.
“Casey Planters,” Eva answered. “She has the story and the evidence to back it up.”
Maureen pushed her hair back from her forehead and leaned forward. “How do we get a hold of her?”
Casey Planters looked at her phone for the tenth time in just as many minutes and frowned when the display showed her there were no new messages. After her visit with Charles Benoit the evening before, she had to admit that, at the moment, there was nothing she could do but wait. And patience was not exactly one of her virtues. The information in her possession was like carrying around a volatile explosive; one little bump and it would blow up. That's why she felt she needed to get together with Eva as soon as possible. If they could put the information they both had together, they would have a solid case. But Eva had disappeared and Casey figured she would be with Sigrid Meyers. So where would they be and how would Eva contact her?
With a frustrated groan, Casey stood up from her desk and walked to the window. The streets in front of her house were clear and dry. It was still cold, but the weather forecast did not predict any precipitation; it would be a good day to drive to wherever she'd be able to find Eva. And possibly Sigrid.
Sipping her coffee, Casey let her gaze wander across the street and the people on it. She lived close to the Massachusetts State House. The area was usually busy with tourists and people hurrying to and from work and today was no different. Sometimes it was relaxing and just plain fun to people-watch and make up stories about their lives.
Casey suppressed the urge to look at her phone again. If a message would arrive, her phone would obediently produce a soft chime. Since it hadn't done so yet, she'd have to conclude there were no messages waiting. She turned away from the window and all of a sudden, in mid-motion, she stopped when something occurred to her. Because there was a high risk they were being watched and listened to, Sam would never call her. But there was always email.
Casey quickly tapped a button on her phone and pulled up her personal email account. Charles had sent a lot of her files to Eva and Casey was pretty sure her private email address had been in one of the documents. If Eva really was as smart as Charles gave her credit for, she might have used that particular address. Casey looked at the new messages displayed on the screen and with a sigh of disappointment she concluded there was nothing from Eva Clemente. Out of habit she also pulled up her junk mail folder. Sometimes legitimate messages ended up in there so she always checked.
“I inherited millions from an unknown relative in Great-Britain; delete,” she said, while her fingers tapped the screen. “I have no problem with erectile dysfunction; delete. Of course Dell wants to send me a new laptop; delete. The role of religion in current politics is interesting, but no, thanks.” Casey was about to delete the message, but all of a sudden her gut-feeling kicked into high gear. “I wonder if —.” She opened the message and laughed in delight. “The current role of religion in politics is something a lot of people worry about. It's obvious that mingling the two can lead to disastrous events; for example, the abuse of innocents and misuse of power. As a group we are committed to put a stop to recent developments and we need your help. Your input on the matter would be greatly appreciated. Together we can put a stop to this. If you feel the same way we do, please, reach out to us and let's work together. Big Brother might be watching, but with determination and vigilance we will succeed. We need to change to go from A to B in order to go from many to zero. Please don't reply to this message directly, but join us the next time we're in a location close to you.” Casey looked at the email address the message was sent from; profugiprojustitiaAmulti
“Latin, huh?” She smiled. “Fugitives for justice; very appropriate. No direct reply. I wonder if my reply should be sent to profugiprojustitiaB…what is zero again in Latin?” Casey rubbed her forehead for a moment. “Ciphra, that must be it.” She typed in the email address, left the subject line blank and simply typed: ‘Understood'. She hit ‘send' and waited. After a few minutes she checked her phone again and was relieved to see there was no mail delivery notification to tell her the email address did not exist. It took another five minutes for her to find a new message waiting. “Get ready in 5.”
“Five minutes?” Casey, who had been up since before daybreak grabbed her laptop case. All the files she needed were in there. She was ready to go. She always had an overnight bag ready, just in case one of her investigations took her out of town and the only thing she needed was to put on a heavy coat, gloves and a scarf to protect her against the cold wind. “I'm ready,” she said aloud, letting her gaze scan her apartment. “Now what?”
She did not have to wait long. A knock on the door startled her and she quickly looked through the peephole. With a small frown she noticed a tall woman who was dressed in a long, insulated coat. A few strands of red hair peeked out from underneath the black hat she was wearing and curled around a nose that was dusted with freckles. The lower half of her face was hidden by a scarf that was wrapped around her head. Casey's hand was over the doorknob. The arrival of the woman fit the five minute timeframe she had been given, so it was reasonable to expect Eva Clemente had sent her. Still, the email had also mentioned something about Big Brother watching and Casey did not recognize this woman.
The woman knocked again and stepped a little closer to the door.
“Casey, I know you're apprehensive, but I'm one of the good guys. Eva sent me.”
After taking a deep breath, Casey opened the door. Before she knew it, she was enveloped by a pair of strong arms.
“Play along,” the woman's voice sounded close to her ear. She raised her voice. “It's so good to see you! How long has it been? Four years?”
“At least,” Casey answered. She tried very hard to make her voice sound convincing.
“You haven't changed a bit. Girl, we have some catching up to do. Are you ready for lunch?” The woman had a faint Southern accent that Casey found very charming.
“Let's go then.”
When Casey turned to lock the door behind her the woman stepped a little closer. “By the way, my name is Maureen,” she said. Her voice was low, but Casey had heard her clearly and she nodded. “You're doing great. Keep following my lead.”
When they stepped onto the sidewalk, Maureen stuck her arm through Casey's and pulled her with her. “I'm parked just around the corner, on Beacon Street. By the way, that's a nice park y'all have here.” Maureen kept chatting about the park and the architecture of the buildings they were passing, taking her time to make sure she looked like she had never been in Boston before.
“Are we being followed?” Casey finally dared to ask when they rounded the corner onto Beacon Street.
Maureen smiled. “Possibly.” She pointed at a dark SUV that was parked across the street. “That's my ride.”
They quickly crossed the street and Maureen unlocked the doors with the remote she was holding in her hand. “Hop in.”
As soon as they were seated and buckled up, Maureen started the engine and slowly merged into traffic. “Bear with me, please,” she said. “I'm not too familiar with this city.”
“Don't worry, I can be your guide,” Casey answered. “So, Maureen, who exactly are you?”
Maureen grinned. “A friend of Eva Clemente.”
“Are you also in law enforcement?”
Maureen nodded. “You could put it like that.”
Casey sighed and wiggled a little to get more comfortable in her seat. She sighed. “I have a million questions.”
“I bet you do.” Maureen's gaze traveled to her rearview mirror and back to the road in front of her again. “And I'll be happy to answer whatever I can, but first we need to get rid of that pesky car that was parked across from your house and is now following us.”
“We are being followed?”
“Yes, ma'am, we are,” Maureen answered.
“So, what are we going to do?”
Maureen glanced aside and shot Casey a grin. “We'll have lunch.”
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Casey looked over her shoulder when the door of the restaurant opened and she almost jumped when Maureen unexpectedly touched her hand.
“Try not to do that,” Maureen said. “We don't want them to think we're on to them. And yes, this is a good idea, trust me.” She took a healthy spoonful of the clam chowder in front of her and hummed in delight. “You can't get this stuff back home,” she said. She leaned forward a little and sent Casey an encouraging smile. “I know it's not easy, but try to relax and make them believe we're old friends who are meeting each other for lunch.”
“I'll try.” Casey speared a piece of broiled fish on her fork and tried to pretend it did not taste like cardboard. “How do you plan on getting us out of here when that car is sitting right outside the restaurant?”
“We'll take the back door.”
Casey almost choked on a piece of fish and she coughed. “What?”
“The back door.” Maureen chuckled. “Eva recommended this place. She used to work here when she went to BU. The owner is a friend of hers and she cleared it with him for us to leave through the kitchen, and out of the back door, where another car will be waiting for us.” Maureen calmly took a sip of her water and looked completely at ease. “As soon as we've finished our lunch, the manager will take us on a quick tour only reserved for staff members and health inspectors.”
“Is there anything you guys haven't thought of?”
Maureen laughed. “I guess we'll find out if we run into a problem.” Her face turned serious. “There are some powerful people involved in this mess, Casey. There's no telling when and how this case is going to play out. It could get messy pretty quick.”
Casey nodded. “I know. It scares me that a car was stationed outside my house. The worst thing is that I didn't even notice.” She speared another piece of fish at her fork. “Where will you take me?” she asked before taking another bite.
“Up North. If you think it's cold here, wait until you'll get out of the car at the end of this trip.”
“You're not going to tell me, are you?”
When Maureen shook her head, she smiled.
“Fair enough. I guess I'll find out soon enough.”
‘”That you will.” Maureen glanced over when she noticed movement around the car that had followed them. “Look.”
Casey half-turned and almost felt giddy with relief when she noticed a police cruiser had stopped behind the car and an officer was getting out. He walked toward the driver side and tapped on the window.
“This would be a good time to make our exit,” Maureen said. She got up from her chair and walked toward the back of the restaurant, closely followed by Casey.
“I guess it finally makes sense that you told me to bring my overnight bag with me into the restaurant. I thought you were worried about thieves.”
Maureen grinned. “Right now, thieves are the least of my worries.” She opened a door that led to a narrow hallway. “Come on, let's get out of here.”
As soon as they stepped through the door, they were greeted by a smiling, dark-skinned man.
“Maureen and Casey, I presume?”
“And you must be Kenneth,” Maureen replied with a smile of her own.
“Correct. If you'd follow me, ladies, I'll lead you to your alternative exit, while our friendly neighborhood law enforcement officer has a chat with some nosy people across the street.”
“You know about that?” Casey could not help asking.
Kenneth laughed and motioned the pair to follow him through a door that led to a huge kitchen. “When Eva asked me if I still supplied the occasional free beer to our local cops, I knew what she wanted me to do. So, I gave one of them a call and voila, a nice distraction was born.”
“Good thinking,” Maureen said. She stepped through the door he was holding for them. The kitchen was warm and humid, but to Maureen it felt great in comparison with the arctic wind outside. “If you ever want to change careers, give me call.”
“Thanks, I'll keep that in mind.” Kenneth laughed and closed the door behind Casey before he guided them through the kitchen that was a hub of activity. “I like what I do though, so please, don't hold your breath.”
Quickly, they made their way through the kitchen and out of the backdoor that led to an alley that was wide enough for a delivery van to drive through. As soon as they stepped outside, Kenneth and Maureen swapped car keys. With a grin the two shook hands and Maureen motioned the still slightly stunned Casey to follow her toward a silver-colored Nissan Rogue that was parked at the entrance of the alley.
“And whose car is this?” Casey asked while she got in the passenger seat and buckled up.
“This is Kenneth's. He agreed to use the one we arrived in until we can return this one.” Maureen chuckled. “It's all about throwing our friends who were following us off our scent.”
“You seem to enjoy this.”
Maureen glanced aside and sent Casey a small smile. “This part I find entertaining, yes, the whole cloak and dagger thing. But believe me, that's the only amusement I find in the whole case. Seeing innocent people get hurt, especially children, is something that always enrages me. The reason I'm here is to help a friend and to bring to justice those who are behind the suffering of human trafficking. And I don't care how high up on the political totem pole they are,” she added hotly. “They will go down.”
“That is the plan.” Casey nodded her head and patted the laptop case that was lying across her lap. “All we need to do is compare notes and build a solid case. I'm convinced I have enough evidence.”
“I can't wait to hear all about that.” Maureen changed lanes and merged with I-93, going north. “Time is of the essence, though, because those in charge of the operation will do anything they can to stop us.”
“He will.” Casey stared out the window, lost in thought.
“I understand you personally know him.” Maureen glanced aside, noticing the expression on Casey's face. “It's not your fault, you know.”
Casey swallowed and moistened her lips. “I know that. I also know that, had I not stumbled on some of the files, this trafficking could have gone on for a long time, but still, I can't believe I ever was involved with a man who can sleep at night, knowing he is exploiting innocent children and making money off their suffering.” She snorted in disgust. “I feel so dirty having been involved with him.”
“Maybe nailing him will make you feel a little better?”
Casey let out a humorless laugh. “Oh, yes, it definitely will!”
“They've been in there for an awful long time,” Meg Jones said. She looked at the wall clock above the door of the family waiting room. “Two hours at least.”
“They have a lot of things to talk about,” Betty replied. “Those poor kids. I'm pretty sure they're in good hands with that psychotherapist. I met the woman briefly and she seemed very nice and capable.”
“She'd better,” Twitch grumbled. “Those kids have been through too much already, the last thing they need is shoddy help.”
Meg leaned forward in her chair, glancing passed Betty to where Twitch was sitting in a comfortable looking recliner. “And what are you going to do about it if that's the case? Shoot them?”
Twitch narrowed her eyes when her gaze met Meg's. “You keep making fun of my legal, licensed little gun, Meg. One day you'll realize it's very handy to have one around.”
“As long as you don't keep your ammunition in the oven,” Betty said and Meg started laughing.
“What? No, of course not. Everyone knows heat will make the bullets explode. Nope, I keep my stuff in a safe place and only take it out when I think I might need it.”
“Does that mean you're not packing today?” Meg wanted to know.
Twitch' face showed a sly smile and she lowered her voice when she answered. “I didn't say that .”
“Twitch, this is a hospital, you're not allowed to —.” Betty's face registered shock when she was interrupted by Twitch.
“I know that, silly old goose. What do you take me for; an ignorant demented old lady?”
“Just demented, really,” Meg chuckled.
Betty looked from Twitch to Meg and back again. “Okay, you're not carrying a gun today. What are you carrying?”
Twitch grinned and lovingly patted the purse that was sitting on her lap. “Nothing too harmful. Just a can of pepper spray.”
Both Meg and Betty groaned in response. They were about to reply when Meredith Brooks, Ellen's partner stepped into the waiting area. She was greeted by three simultaneous questions: “How are they?” “Are they doing okay?” “How's Morgan?”
Meredith sank into a chair across from Betty and raked her hand through her hair. There were dark circles underneath her eyes and she looked like she had cried.
“How are you doing, honey?” Betty asked. “Is there anything we can get you?”
Meredith shook her head. “No, thank you. I just drank four cups of coffee.” She exhaled slowly and leaned back in the chair. “Morgan has a long road to recovery in front of her, but I tell you, that girl has spunk.” There was a small smile on her face as she said those words. “According to the therapist, she'll have a good chance to get through this.”
Betty nodded. “One of the first things Morgan told me was how eager she is to go back to school.”
Meredith smiled. “That was one of the first things she asked the therapist as well. It's a good sign.”
Twitch nodded. “What will happen next?”
“As soon as she's discharged from here, we'll take her home. A specialized social worker and therapist will help her to adapt to a life that is as normal as possible. Since she's still a minor, Ellen will apply for guardianship, which shouldn't be too hard to get.” Meredith smiled. “Those two have a lot to catch up on. Ellen had never given up looking for her little sister; she's traveled all over the country following leads. When Sigrid Meyers called to tell her Morgan was found and safe, it was the most amazing feeling ever. Ellen cried for hours and she was so scared it was a mistake; that it wasn't Morgan. But you ladies were right; it's easy to see they're sisters. One look at Morgan and Ellen knew it too.” Meredith's smile widened and she quickly wiped at a stray tear that tried to escape her eye. “I don't know how we can ever thank all of you for rescuing Morgan.”
“You don't have to thank us,” Betty said. She smiled and pointed to herself, Meg and Twitch. “We're just a bunch of trouble making senior citizens, who happened to be in the wrong place at the right time. Sigrid Meyers and Eva Clemente are the ones you should thank, especially Sigrid.”
“Yes, our Pastor apparently had these sickening people in her cross-hairs for a while now,” Twitch said. “Had it not been for her map, we would not have found the place where Morgan and those two other precious souls were held.”
Meg nodded. “True. Sigrid is the real hero here.”
“I am very much looking forward to meeting them,” Meredith said.
“I am, too.” Twitch sighed. “Because that would mean this whole mess is over and Sigrid is back home again. I wonder where she is and how she's doing. For all we know she could have left the country and be halfway down to Tahiti, or something.”
The smell of coffee was the first thing that registered when Sigrid woke up. She breathed in deeply before rolling onto her back and slowly opening her eyes. Daylight streamed into the room through an opening between the curtains and for a brief moment Sigrid just stared at the tiny dust particles that were floating in the air, looking like golden specs when hit by the sun.
Sigrid yawned and languidly stretched. She was tempted to roll over and go back to sleep, but the smell of coffee was too distracting, and tempting. She lifted her head to cast a look at the alarm clock on the night stand and only then realized she was the only occupant of the queen-sized bed. After an initial stab of disappoi ntment, Sigrid realized Eva must be the cause of the fresh coffee that was brewing somewhere in the house and with a smile she let herself fall back on to her pillow. Eva. Just rolling the name through her thoughts increased her heart rate. “You've got it bad, Meyers,” she told herself.
Comfortable warmth flooded through her body when she remembered the previous night. Both of them had been exhausted and in desperate need for some sleep. In unspoken consent, they had shared a bed. They had snuggled up underneath the comforter. Sigrid remembered how she had draped her body over Eva's, with one arm wrapped around her waist and her head pillowed on her chest. Eva's arms had been around her, creating a warm and safe cocoon. It had only taken a few minutes for Sigrid to completely relax her body and drift off to sleep. There had been the distant desire to use their closeness and explore Eva's body, but the need for sleep had won out.
Just the memory of being wrapped in Eva's arms relaxed Sigrid so much she started to drift off to sleep again. The sound of a door opening and footsteps approaching the bed made her open one eye.
“Good morning, Agent Meyers.” Eva's smile lit up her eyes.
“Good morning to you as well, Inspector Clemente.” Sigrid's voice was a little husky after the long hours of sleep. Her gaze traveled to the item Eva was holding in her hand and she let out an appreciative moan. “For me?”
Eva laughed and took a seat on the edge of the bed. “For you.” She handed Sigrid the mug of coffee and chuckled when she immediately brought it up to her face, breathing the fragrant steam in deeply.
Sigrid took a sip, careful not to burn her lips and tongue. She sighed happily and sent Eva a wink. “Perfect. I could get used to this, you know.”
“Someone bringing you coffee in the morning? Who wouldn't?” Eva said. She reached out a hand and brushed away a strand of hair that was threatening to fall into Sigrid's eyes. “Seeing you wake up like this is definitely worth it.” She leaned in and pressed a soft kiss on lips that tasted of coffee.
Sigrid smiled up at her and moved the coffee mug to the night stand. She put a hand on the back of Eva's head and pulled her in for a more thorough exploration of lips and tongues. It was a display of unhurried passion in which both women reveled in the rapidly growing and deepening affection between them. The coffee sat forgotten when Sigrid's hands started an exploration of warm skin that was hidden underneath a t-shirt and a fleece jacket. The moment her fingers stroked the smooth texture of Eva's skin, she knew she wanted and needed more. Impatiently she pulled Eva closer, until the other woman was almost lying on top of her. Through the thin fabric of her sleep shirt, Sigrid could feel their shared body heat that, with their mutual exploration was rapidly rising. The reaction of Sigrid's body to the feel of Eva's had been acute and as the intensity between them grew, so did her cravings to be touched more intimately.
“Sigrid.” Eva's voice was not more than a hoarse whisper.
“I know,” Sigrid replied. Her voice was almost inaudible. She swallowed hard. “We need to stop, before we lose all control.”
“I'm sorry. I really am.”
“I am too.” Sigrid's lips kissed Eva's neck, just underneath her ear. “You have no idea what your touch does to me.”
Eva moved her head to the side, giving Sigrid better access to the spot her attention was focused on. “I bet I do.” Her voice cracked when Sigrid bit down on the tender, sensitive skin and she let out a soft moan. “Sigrid.” Her voice was almost breathless.
“Are you sure the case we're working on did not get resolved overnight?” Sigrid spoke in a low voice, her mouth close to Eva's ear and she should feel the goosebumps erupt underneath her fingertips.
Eva moaned. “God, if only —.” She slowly moved away from Sigrid's mouth and rolled on to her side. “I need to go stick my head in a snow bank.”
“Just your head?” Sigrid asked. Her voice was raspy and she sounded like she was out of breath. “I was thinking about a total submersion in the Penobscot Bay.” She exhaled slowly and looked at Eva whose eyes were devouring her. “Eva, honey, it's not that I'm complaining, but please, don't look at me like that,” Sigrid whispered, trailing her fingers across Eva's cheek.
Sigrid audibly swallowed. “Like you're going to rip off my clothes to get acquainted with every inch of my body.”
The slow smile Eva sent her made Sigrid's heart race.
“Every millimeter,” Eva said in a low and seductive voice. She reached out a hand and touched Sigrid's nose, slowly trailing her finger down to her lips, chin, down her neck until she reached her breastbone. Her gaze never left Sigrid's when she trailed lower, between her breasts, all the way down to her stomach. Then she paused and leaned in close; her lips were almost touching Sigrid's. “Breathe,” she whispered.
When Sigrid let out a shuddering breath, Eva chuckled and gave her a quick kiss. “A little motivation to get this case resolved as soon as possible,” Eva teased.
“Like I need an incentive.” Sigrid smiled and pushed herself to a sitting position. She reached for her coffee and took a sip. “You are wicked, by the way, but in a very, very nice way.” Another sip of coffee helped moisten her mouth. “Thanks for the coffee. I'll just sit here and drink it slowly, so my legs will be ready to hold my weight when I decide to get up.”
Eva laughed and playfully squeezed Sigrid's thigh. “That bad?”
“Let's just say that your little wordless ‘motivational speech' temporarily redirected the flow of my blood. So, no, standing up right now is not an option.” Sigrid shook her head and laughed. “Right now my mind wants to explore where we left off, but somehow I don't think that's a good idea since it does some interesting things to my body.” Her gaze locked with Eva's. “What happened to the plan of going slow and taking time to court me?” Sigrid was teasing and the twinkle in Eva's eyes showed her she was aware of that.
“I did say that, didn't I?” Eva feigned a guilty expression. “What was I thinking?”
They both laughed and Sigrid couldn't resist stealing another kiss that quickly turned into a more intense exploration. When she finally pulled away, she could feel her skin glowing.
“So, Inspector Clemente, how about a diversion that doesn't turn me into a puddle of desire?” she asked, slightly out of breath.
“I hope you don't think I'm in a better shape than you are,” Eva said with a soft laugh. “But I'll do my best to come up with a distraction, as soon as my brain cells are all lined up again like they're supposed to.” She swung her legs out of bed and positioned herself on the edge. After taking a few deep breaths she looked at Sigrid and smiled. “Before I forget to tell you this; you look adorable when you sleep.”
“Thank you.” Sigrid smiled and blew Eva a kiss. “Distraction, please!”
“Maureen left for Boston in the wee hours of the morning. Right now she and Casey are on their way here and should arrive in a few hours.”
The words had the desired effect of pulling Sigrid out of her sensual haze. “So everything went according to plan?”
Eva nodded. “It sure did. And it's a good thing we anticipated they would be followed, because they were. They had lunch at my friend's restaurant, left via the back door and hopped in Kenneth's car.”
“I'm glad that went well. Did they get a look at whoever was following them?”
Eva shook her head and laughed. “No, they didn't, but one of Kenneth's cop buddy's did. He talked to them long enough for Maureen and Casey to make a clean getaway.”
“Did he get their ID?”
“No, there was no reason to ask for it, really. They were parked in a legitimate spot and Lauren decided we shouldn't give them reason to think we're on to them. Not yet, anyway, because it could make them jumpy. If everything goes well and according to plan, we can bring them all to justice; every little peon.”
Sigrid raised her coffee mug in a salute and took a sip. “I drink to that.”
Maureen Lawrence checked her rearview mirror and sped up, overtaking the truck in front of her that was barely driving the speed limit. Immediately after she had passed the raggedy looking, old vehicle, she steered the car back into the right lane and reduced speed. She was driving just a little faster than the car behind her. Again, her gaze traveled to the mirror and she muttered something unintelligible, disrupting Casey's musings.
“Did you say something?”
“Do you see the car that is overtaking us right now? Maureen asked.
Casey looked to the left, noticing a sleek black car with tinted windows that made it impossible to see the driver inside. “Yes. What about it?”
“They're following us.”
“Shit. Are you sure?”
Maureen nodded and quickly glanced at her passenger. Casey looked pale, tired and more than a little frightened. “I thought we'd left them in Boston.”
“Oh, we did.” Maureen's deliberately kept her voice calm. “This is a different bunch.”
“But how…? Are you sure?” Casey asked again.
“Unfortunately, yes. They've been behind us for a while now, just hanging back. Usually, people who drive a nice BMW like that at least go a little faster than the recommended speed limit. He only sped up when I overtook the truck behind us, but he hadn't counted on me slowing down again, so now he has to overtake us, because I left no room behind us.” Maureen divided her attention between the black BMW and the road in front of them.
“How did they know where to find us?” Casey couldn't hide the slight tremor in her voice.
“Is your phone on?”
Casey reached into her pocket and pulled out her phone. “Yes, but what…Crap. Somehow they've been tracking my GPS signal.”
“Welcome to modern day technology.” Maureen glanced aside. “Turn it off and disable the GPS, just in case. They hacked your phone.”
Casey quickly turned off her phone and angrily stuffed it in a side pocket of her laptop case. “Damnit! I should have thought about that.”
“Don't worry about it,” Maureen said. “What's done is done. I'm just glad we're still far away from our destination.” She kept an eye on the BMW that was now a few cars in front of them. It had slowed down as well and Maureen knew she didn't have much time to come up with a plan. “Is your laptop off? I mean, completely off?”
“Yes, it is and I don't think they would be able to track it. Because of the sensitive information I work with on a daily basis, it has the best security available,” Casey said.
“Is the information we need on the hard drive?”
Casey shook her head. “Most of the files I have are on a flash drive or SD card. There are only a couple on the hard drive.”
“Can you transfer them to a flash drive, like, now?” Maureen asked.
“Yes, of course.” Casey unzipped the case that sitting at her feet and pulled out her laptop. “What is your plan? You do have a plan, don't you?”
“I'm working on it.” Maureen answered. She handed Casey her phone. “Call Lauren, she is the first name on the list. And put the phone on speaker, please.”
Casey did as she was asked and almost immediately the call was answered. “Maureen?”
“We have a situation.”
“Damn. How many?”
“As far as I can tell it's only the one car. I don't know how many people are inside of it because the windows are tinted pretty dark.”
“Where are you?”
All of a sudden Eva's voice sounded. “Maureen, leave 95 north and take 4 west, into New Hampshire. It will give us some time to come up with an alternative route. Casey, do you have your phone on?”
“Not anymore,” Casey said. “I'm sorry, I—.”
“Don't worry about it,” Lauren interrupted. “It might work in our advantage when we want to flush those roaches out. Where are our friends right now?”
“In front of us.” Maureen quickly explained how she had made sure the car that was following them ended up in front of them and she smiled when she heard Lauren's amused chuckle.
“Atta girl,” Lauren said. “You know they'll probably take the next exit, leave 95 and then try to pop up behind you again.”
“If they do I'll floor it, and see if I can put some distance between us. If not, I'll take the exit,” Maureen said. “But, if they have any sense at all, they'll take the exit and I'd be very surprised if they don't.”
“That means you'll floor it.” Lauren's voice was calm. “I could call in reinforcements and—.”
“No.” Maureen shook her head. “If you do that, we'll lose the upper hand. We don't want them to know Casey has been in contact with Eva and Sigrid, not yet anyway.”
Lauren sighed. “You're right, but…be careful, please.”
Maureen smiled at the barely hidden worry in Lauren's voice. “I will, I promise.” Her smile widened. “I love you, too.”
“I know.” Lauren's voice was soft and warm. “Call me back in fifteen minutes. We'll have an alternative route for you then.”
“Yes, ma'am.” Maureen gestured at Casey to disconnect the call. She sent the pale woman an encouraging smile. “Ready for an adventure?”
Casey let out a nervous chuckle. “Do I have a choice?”
“Not really.” Maureen noticed a sign that announced the interstate they were on would split and her hands tightened around the steering wheel. If the black BMW would take the exit to resurface behind them again a few minutes later and Maureen and Casey would have sped off, their followers would realize they had been discovered and things could get ugly after that. The BMW slowed down and so did Maureen. Casey's hand on her arm startled her.
“Maureen, in a couple of miles there will be an exit on the left side; the one that veers back into New Hampshire. What if they're not familiar here? We might have a chance to throw them off completely. If they take the Portsmouth Circle exit, they don't realize what's ahead.”
After a brief, tense silence Maureen laughed and shot Casey an appreciative glance. “Are you suggesting I stick to 95 and pretend to go to Maine and take exit 4 into New Hampshire at the last possible minute while they're in the lane to take exit 5?”
Casey grinned. “Exactly.”
“Excellent idea,” Maureen said. “This could get a little hairy though, so I need you to keep an eye on the road behind me. Let me know if there's a car behind us on the left. I'm going to swing to the left lane just before we reach the divider in the road.”
‘Okay.” Casey shifted in her seat so she had a clear view of the area behind the car. “So far, so good,” she said. “There's a red car about two hundred yards behind us. They just changed lanes.”
The black BMW was still in front of them, but had moved to the right lane that would lead to the fast approaching exit. Maureen kept following the lane she was in, the middle one of the three that would lead into Maine. The lane to her left was leading to another exit, the one she planned on taking at the last possible moment.
To her satisfaction, the BMW was still in the right lane and it did seem like they were going to stay there. In the distance, Maureen could see the lane divider approaching and she moistened suddenly dry lips. “Any cars?”
“Nothing that's close,” Casey's voice betrayed her nervousness. “We're still good.”
“Okay, hold on.” Maureen took a deep breath and when there were less than a hundred yards between her car and the divider she gave the steering wheel a sharp tug to the left. The car immediately changed direction. They would have ended up in a spin had Maureen not moved the car to the right again. They zoomed by the metal divider that was now on their right side and both Maureen and Casey let out a breath of relief.
“That was gutsy,” Casey said with a nervous chuckle.
“More like stupid,” Maureen grinned. “But look, we got rid of them.”
The driver of the black BMW had increased speed and was racing ahead of them, most likely trying to find a way to catch up with them again.
“You know they most likely will find a way to get on 4 West, right?” Casey said.
Maureen nodded. “Probably. But by the time they actually get there, we'll have disappeared. They can't track your phone anymore, which is a serious blow to their tracking tools.”
“I hope you're right.”
Maureen glanced aside and smiled. “So am I.”
They both laughed and Maureen motioned to her phone. “Could you please call Lauren again?”
Douglas Whitfield paced the length of his office. He was desperately trying to come up with a plan. Things had gone from bad to worse and put him under an enormous amount of pressure. With a sigh he scratched his chin. Underneath his fingertips he could feel the day old stubble. He knew he did not look like his usual self. His shirtsleeves were rolled up, his tie was hanging loose around his neck, he needed a shave, and he knew that, if he would look into a mirror, his image would be staring back at him with dark circles underneath his eyes. He had been all up night; too restless to even try to go to sleep. Instead, he had anxiously searched for a solution to his problem. But he had come up short. He was running out of time and could almost feel the noose tighten around his neck. If he didn't come up with a plan, he was going to take the fall, which most definitely would mean the end of his career, and prison time.
He walked to his desk and fell down in a large chair. It was tempting to reach out to Charles Benoit and casually ask him if he had heard from Eva. What held him back was the feeling that Charles had figured out his role in the case; why else had Casey Planters disappeared this morning? Her phone had been shut off, so there was no way they could track her anymore. He knew she had met with Charles and was present when he got shot. Somehow, she must have figured out someone was keeping an eye on her. Douglas frowned. Or she had help. He looked at the picture on his computer screen. He still had not figured out who the woman was Casey had left with that morning. It was hard to get a good look at her face. First of all she had a scarf wrapped around her head and secondly they had not been able to get a full frontal look at her. If he didn't know any better, he'd think she must have known there was a car parked outside Casey's house with someone taking pictures. That thought nagged him. Everything indicated that it was a friend of Casey's; the hug, the casual lunch. He clenched his jaw when he remembered the phone call informing him they had lost Casey. All because of some overly friendly cop who had kept them chatting for almost ten minutes. Of course the idiots had not witnessed the women leave. Thank goodness he had been able to trace Casey's phone. Douglas angrily slapped his desk. Whoever the woman with Casey was, she must have been working with Eva. He had checked with his contacts at the local FBI office and there was no agent assigned to the Meyers-case. Not yet, anyway. But that was only a matter of time. If Eva Clemente had left the state and was with Sigrid Meyers, eventually the FBI would get involved. He jumped up from his chair and walked to the window, staring at the parking lot in front of the building. He needed to get a hold of Clemente. Preferably as soon as possible.
“Damn that stupid, overly conscientious bitch.”
Continued in Part 20
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