Disclaimer: See Part 1
“What do we do now?” Meg whispered, eying the locked door with her glasses balanced on the tip of her nose.
“I can shoot the lock out,” Twitch suggested.
“Are you crazy?” Betty replied with annoyance. “If you do that you'll get us all killed.”
“It works in the movies.”
Meg turned around and glanced at her friend with a look that was a mixture between irritation and amusement.
“Twitch, we're not in a movie. This is real,” she said patiently.
“Fine,” Twitch muttered. “Do you have a better idea?”
“Not yet,” Betty drawled, looking around the bedroom. “Let's take a few minutes to look around. We might find something that will help us open the door.”
“I already have something,” Twitch replied, waving her gun. Immediately her two friends ducked, shooting her angry glares.
“Something else,” Meg insisted. “I'm not ready to have my brains plastered all over the wall. Put that thing away!”
“Alright, alright,” Twitch sighed, dropping the gun in her purse. “But if we get killed, I'll blame you two.”
“Fair enough,” Betty mumbled, slowly walking through the piles of clothes, books and magazines. She was headed for the dresser with the contents of its drawers scattered around the room. The top of the dresser seemed relatively undisturbed and she hoped she would be able to find something to pry open the door. Her eyes, enlarged through the glasses she was wearing, hardly blinked when she took in the few trinkets that sat on top of the dresser. With careful fingers she opened a small jewelry box and she smiled when she saw a children's bracelet. It was gold and was decorated with tiny little teddy bears. It looked well-worn and Betty could almost picture and small Sigrid, proudly wearing her bracelet.
“Maybe I should take it for safe-keeping,” she mumbled. “Just in case.”
She opened her purse and meant to put the small box in its side pocket, but it slipped out of her hands, hit the floor and bounced underneath the dresser.
“Oh, great,” she sighed, slowly sinking to her knees. “Here I go, old lady crawling on the floor.”
Sitting on her knees in front of the dresser, she felt underneath for the small box she had dropped. With a frown and a groan she extended her arm until she touched the wall, blindly patting the floor she finally touched the little box and slowly started pulling it toward her. It scraped the underside of the dresser and Betty silently hoped it wouldn't scratch the pretty little box. All of a sudden she felt something drop on her hand and she let out a surprised gasp.
“What the heck was that?” she muttered, ignoring the inquisitive stares from her friends, who had walked closer. “Here, take this,” she said, handing the jewelry box to Meg. “There's something else underneath here.”
“I hope it's a screwdriver,” Twitch mumbled, still miffed that her friends would not let her use her gun.
“No, not a screwdriver,” Betty answered slowly when her fingertips touched a small, rectangle piece of plastic. She pulled turned away from the dresser and opened her hand for her friends to see.
“Oh, it's one of those beam thingies,” Meg knew.
“Flash drive, Meg,” Twitch corrected, reaching out and taking it from Betty. “It's sticky.”
“It was taped to the underside of the dresser,” Betty explained. “Alright, girls, I need a hand up. Gravity is not my friend these days.”
With the help of both Twitch and Meg, Betty was hauled back to her feet again. She took Sigrid's jewelry box and slid it in her purse and then accepted the flash drive from Twitch, turning it around and studying it carefully.
“We'll need a computer to see what's on it,” she mused.
“And that brings us right back to our original problem,” Meg sighed. “How do we get out of here?”
“Through the window?” Twitch suggested. “We can climb up that chair and let ourselves fall in the snow bank.”
“Maybe as a last resort,” Betty nodded. “I prefer not to break a hip.”
“Here, look at this,” Meg said triumphantly after rummaging through Sigrid's closet. She held up a field hockey stick and sported a wide smile. “I bet we could use this to whack open the door,” she said.
“We sure can try,” Betty nodded, stepping aside to let her friend pass her.
With unbridled enthusiasm Meg lifted the field hockey stick and struck the door as hard as she could. The sound of wood crashing into wood made the other women cringe and both Betty and Twitch took a step back.
“This is great,” Meg beamed, pushing her glasses back into place.
“Is there something you want to talk about, Meg?” Twitch asked cautiously. “Is there a reason for this display of…aggression?”
Meg didn't respond and Betty wondered if she had heard Twitch' words at all. She took another swing at the door and laughed when the doorknob gave away to the violent treatment, rolling down the carpet and coming to a rest against a shredded pillow.
“Okay, you just killed the knob,” Twitch spoke, stepping forward. “Does the door open now?”
Meg pushed the door, frowning when it didn't move at all.
“This is not good,” she mumbled, staggering backwards. The steadying hand of Betty kept her on her feet.
“It's okay, Meg, we'll just keep trying,” Betty spoke in a comforting tone. “I think that…”
“No, not the door,” Meg interrupted her. “Look. That is not good,” she pointed at the hole the doorknob had left behind. To their horror the three women watched a small tendril of smoke waft into the room. For a few moments they stood frozen, too shocked to respond.
“We need to get out of here,” Twitch was the first one who spoke. “And I mean now.”
“Not through there,” Betty pointed to the door. Her eyes traveled to the window that was wide. The windowsill was about the same height as her hip and Betty knew it could possibly their only way out of the house. “We need to go through the window,” she spoke in a determined voice. “Come on.”
“But, Betty, if we fall we'll break a hip,” Twitch objected.
“If we go through that door we'll die of smoke inhalation, or we burn to death. I'd prefer to break a hip,” Meg replied. “Let's grab that chair over there, so we can climb through.”
Without hesitation, Betty and Meg placed a chair underneath the window.
“You go first, Twitch,” Betty decided, knowing that her friend needed both Meg and her to climb on the chair. “Use the hockey stick as a crutch.”
“This isn't funny anymore,” Twitch sighed, feeling her friends' hands steadying her when she kneeled on the chair. From her kneeling position she cautiously stood up, grateful for the support her friends were providing. Unlocking the window was easy and she slid the window open as far as it could go. Immediately she was greeted by a blast of cold air and she shivered.
“What does the landing look like?” Meg joked.
“Pretty big snow bank,” Twitch answered nervously. “Maybe I should just jump and see what happens.”
“Go for it,” Betty answered, eying the door and noticing the smoke was coming in through the hole, but also from underneath the door and from around its edges. “The smoke is coming in faster, so, today would be good, Twitch,” she added with a nervous chuckle.
“Here goes,” Twitch groaned, putting one foot on the windowsill. She gripped the sides of the window with both hands and pulled herself forward, while pushing off with her leg. Betty and Meg saw her disappear out of the window, hearing her hit the snow bank with an audible thump.
“Are you, okay? Twitch?” Betty yelled.
“Yeah, yeah, I'm fine,” was the muffled reply. “I think I just made a snow angel.”
“Maybe we should make a list of people you'd classify as religious zealots who could have been manipulated to harm you,” Eva suggested, looking at the fidgeting woman across from her. Sigrid pushed her hair away from her forehead with a gesture that was becoming familiar to the Inspector. It showed her the pastor was nervous. The next thing she would do was fidget with anything she could get her hands on. Eva suppressed a smile when Sigrid's fingers grabbed the pencil that had been on the table and started twirling it in her fingers.
“Are you hungry?” she asked, wondering if distracting the blonde would calm her nerves a little.
“Starving,” Sigrid sighed. “But I'm not sure if I can eat right now. There are so many things racing through my mind right now, I…”
“All the more reason to have something to eat,” Eva decided, getting up from her chair. She stretched to her full length before limping to the fridge.
“Why don't you sit down and let me?” Sigrid suggested, hopping from her chair and putting a hand on the taller woman's arm.
“Why don't you both sit down and let me take care of it?” a voice sounded from the doorway and when Eva and Sigrid looked up it was in the smiling face of Agnes Clemente.
“Good morning, girls,” she greeted them both walking into the kitchen. She kissed Eva on her cheek and gave Sigrid a friendly pat on the back. “Sit down, girls. Sigrid, you are our guest and Eva, I'm a better cook than you are.”
“Never argue with my mother when she wants to cook,” Eva grinned. She took Sigrid's elbow and guided her back to the table, gallantly pulling up a chair for her.
“It's good to see you still have the manners your mother taught you,” Agnes smiled, opening the fridge and pulling out some eggs, bread, cheese and vegetables.
“How does an omelet sound? Do you like eggs, Sigrid?”
“I do, thank you,” the blonde sent Agnes Clemente a grateful smile, aware of her growling stomach and when she noticed Eva's grin she made a face. “It's been a while since I ate, you know,” she said softly.
“I'm aware of that,” Eva smiled. “So, while Mom whips up some eggs, would you like to see the clinic?”
“Sure,” Sigrid nodded.
“While you're there, please check on the Sheltie in the back cage,” Agnes asked. “Let me know if she's still shivering.”
“Anything else?” Eva asked, used to always having a few task when entering the clinic.
“Watch out for that black cat.” Agnes looked at her daughter with a ‘I'm not kidding' look. “He bites people he doesn't know.”
“Thanks for the warning,” Eva chuckled, opening the door for Sigrid. She led the way through a long hallway with two doors on the left and one to the right. “This is the door to the basement, this one leads to the garage,” Eva pointed to the doors on their left. “And this one is the clinic's,” she explained, opening the door on the right.
The first thing Sigrid noticed was the light that fell into what looked like a waiting area. The floor was covered with light-colored tiles and all the woodwork was maple. The walls were decorated with animal pictures and on the counter of the reception desk stood a big jar with dog treats.
“Nice,” Sigrid mumbled, looking around and taking it all in.
“The treatment rooms are here,” Eva pointed to two doors off the waiting area. “And this is where the animals are,” she stated when opening the door behind the desk. The scent of antiseptic and bleach tickled her nose and Sigrid sneezed, which made Eva chuckle. “I used to do that all the time, until I got used to it,” she explained.
They walked into a large area with six large kennels on one side and four smaller on the other side. In one of the kennels Sigrid noticed the dog Agnes had told them about. She got to her feet and weakly wagged her tail, whimpering softly.
“Hey, girl,” Eva greeted the animal, scratching her behind an ear. “How are you doing? Are you cold? You don't seem to be. I guess that heat lamp is working for you, huh?”
The dog licked Eva's hand and stared up at the Inspector with soulful brown eyes.
“She's cute,” Eva smiled. “Well, what do you think?”
“Very cute,” Sigrid admitted, deliberately misunderstanding the other woman.
“The clinic,” Eva chuckled.
“Impressive,” Sigrid nodded with a smile. “It's big and I'm amazed at how clean it is. Most animal clinics smell like wet dog.”
“Not with my mother around,” Eva mumbled. “She hates that smell.” Her eyes followed Sigrid who had walked to window, looking at the view and nodding in approval.
“You can't even see the street from here,” she said with contentment. “I guess that as long as they don't use a boat to stalk us, they'd never know we're here.”
“That was the plan,” Eva nodded. “Hopefully we'll be able to hang out here for a few days, or at least as long as my ankle takes to feel better.”
“A few days should be enough,” Sigrid agreed. “And then what? Do you have a plan?”
“Not yet,” Eva shook her head. “Future plans depend on what we're able to find out in the next couple of days.”
“I suppose that's as much as a plan I could come up with right now,” Sigrid sighed.
“That's because we both need some food,” the Inspector smiled. “Let's go back to the kitchen and have something to eat.”
The moment they walked back into the kitchen Agnes Clemente put two plates on the kitchen table.
“Timing is everything,” she commented drily. “Enjoy, girls.”
“Thanks, Mom,” Eva chuckled, pulling out a chair for Sigrid which made the blonde roll her eyes.
“Thank you, Agnes,” Sigrid smiled at the older woman.
“You're welcome, Sigrid. Don't let it get cold.”
“Aren't you going to eat, Mom?” Eva inquired, casting a glance at her mother when she sat down next to her with only a cup of coffee.
“I'm not hungry right now. Louise Ferguson came in to have her dog's nails clipped and brought a plate of cookies and I couldn't help myself,” she explained with a laugh.
“And you didn't save me any?” Eva asked with a frown, chuckling when her mother playfully punched her arm.
“Nope, they were for staff, so I shared them with Paul and Joan.” She turned to Sigrid. “Paul is my assistant and Joan is our receptionist and secretary,” she explained. “I gave them the rest of the day of, because it's pretty quiet today.”
“Mom, did…” Eva was interrupted by the buzzing of her phone. She looked at the display and quickly grabbed the device, mumbling an excuse as she stood up and left the table.
“Hi, Chuck. Any news?” she asked in a soft voice as she walked toward the living room, leaving her mother and Sigrid chatting about the clinic. She didn't have to turn around to feel the blonde's eyes following her every move and inwardly she sighed. Had her mother not been there, Eva would have put her phone on speaker, but she didn't want to expose her family to the case she was working on. Before closing the door behind her, the Inspector glanced at Sigrid, sending her an encouraging smile.
“Okay, Chuck,” she sighed. “What's going on?”
Sigrid had already finished her omelet and helped Agnes clear the table long before Eva finally walked back into the room. The Inspector's eyes were troubled and the blonde felt a nervous tingle settle in the pit of her stomach. She had the distinct feeling that whatever Eva was going to tell her, wasn't good news.
“Mom, I need to talk to Sigrid for a few minutes. I'm sorry,” Eva said, sending her mother an apologetic look. “We'll be in the living room.”
“Sure, honey, I'm right here if you need me,” Agnes answered. She was used to the private phone calls her daughter often had to make, even when she was home for a visit. It was the same with her son Felix, who worked for the local police department. Both her children always tried very hard to keep their family life and working life separated. Agnes appreciated that, but it didn't make her worry less. She knew both Felix and Eva had professions in which they could easily get hurt.
“What happened?” Sigrid asked, immediately after the door closed behind them.
“I received a phone call from Chuck,” Eva started, more calm and collected than she really felt. “Have a seat, Sigrid?”
“Is…is it my family?” the blonde breathed, still standing. Her hands were clenched into fist and Eva had never seen her look tenser.
“Your family is fine,” the Inspector quickly replied, immediately seeing the relief flood Sigrid's entire body. “Please, Sigrid, have a seat,” she repeated, taking the blonde's elbow and guiding her to the couch. They both sat down and Eva half-turned so she could look at the other woman.
“If it's not my family, something else must have gone horribly wrong,” she stated in a soft voice. “Tell me, Eva,” she urged.
The Inspector nodded and raised her eyes, meeting troubled blue ones.
“Your house was broken into. The place was practically pulled apart. Then it was set on fire.”
Sigrid's face paled and her eyes went wide as she looked at Eva in shock.
“What?” she whispered.
“I'm sorry,” Eva said softly, grabbing one of Sigrid's hands in between her own. It was cold to the touch and unconsciously she gently rubbed the cool skin with her thumb.
“It sounds like someone was looking for something, but didn't find it,” Eva concluded.
“That's because all my files are on my laptop,” Sigrid answered in a tired voice. “I did have a copy, only with some partial information, but I guess you're right, they didn't find it. That's probably why they burnt the house.” She swallowed hard and for a moment she stared at their entwined hands. Eva's skin was warm, which felt good, because Sigrid was chilled to the core.
“There was some graffiti on the wall in your bedroom,” Eva continued. “It said ‘You can run, but you can't hide'.”
The hand in between Eva's clenched and the Inspector increased the pressure, not willing to let go of the contact. Sigrid looked like she was going to be sick and Eva knew she needed the contact, if only to ground her.
“It's a good thing I left,” Sigrid finally whispered. “It looks to me like they're dishing out more than just a warning.” The blonde slowly shook her head as if to clear it and when her gaze met Eva's her eyes were clear and steady.
“There's something else, something you haven't told me yet,” she concluded, while her eyes were studying Eva's face.
“Your friends, Betty, Meg and Grace, they…um…they were there…when the fire was set.”
Sigrid would have jumped up if Eva's hand had not kept her in place.
“They were...at my house? What…? How…?”
“They apparently wanted to check up on you and knew you had a spare key to the house in your office. When they arrived, they noticed the place was pulled apart. Instead of leaving immediately, they decided to inspect the rest of the house. While they were in your bedroom, someone locked the door behind them. They tried to break down the door, but when the doorknob came off they noticed smoke.”
“How did they get out? Please, tell me they got out,” Sigrid breathed, using her free hand to grab Eva's arm.
“They got out and they are safe.”
A small smile tugged on the corner of the Inspector's mouth and she slowly shook her head. It was still hard to believe how the elderly ladies had left the burning house.
“Through your bedroom window.”
“What?” Sigrid exclaimed. “But, there's this huge snow bank and…,” Sigrid paused and realization set in. “They jumped out of the window into the snow bank?”
When Eva nodded she let out a sound that was a mixture between a laugh and a sob.
“Are they okay? They're not hurt, are they?”
“They are fine,” Eva reassured the blonde. “Meg sprained her wrist, but only because she almost landed on Grace, or so she says”
“I should have called them yesterday,” Sigrid sighed, withdrawing her hand from Eva's arm and raking her fingers through her hair. “This is my fault. If I had called them, they wouldn't have gone to my house. Damn. I wanted to call, but…”
“But you were exhausted,” Eva calmly interrupted. “Don't blame yourself, Sigrid. It's not your fault. Your friends are very capable to make up their own minds and, in my opinion, they are as curious as kittens. I don't think they would have passed up on a chance to play sleuths, even if you'd have called them.”
This time Sigrid did let out a soft laugh.
“You're right about that,” she agreed. “But still, I feel bad about it. What if…?” She took a deep breath and involuntarily she shuddered. “What if they wouldn't have been able to get out of the house? What if…”
“Don't,” Eva said forcefully, gently squeezing the hand she was holding. “Sigrid, ‘what if's' are useless, they'll only drive you crazy. They did get out and they're in one piece, just keep that in mind and forget about what could have happened.”
Sigrid let out an explosive breath and slowly nodded.
“You're right,” she admitted, staring at their hands with a pensive expression on her face. “Are there any clues to find out who trashed and torched my place?”
“Not yet, but they're still searching.” Eva paused a moment. “The fire was started in your living room. Someone poured gasoline over your books and set them on fire.”
Sigrid nodded and quietly pulled her hand away from Eva's, immediately regretting the loss of warmth. She stood up and walked toward the window, pressing her forehead against the cold glass.
“Are all my things…lost?” she asked in a hoarse voice. “How much of the house burnt down?”
Eva stood and stuffed her hands in the pockets of her jeans. Sigrid looked controlled, but she knew that was a carefully crafted and maintained exterior, she had seen the turmoil in her eyes just before she had gotten up from the couch.
“It's…Chuck says it's a total loss. I'm so sorry,” she said softly, seeing the pastor's shoulders slump. “I'm sorry,” Eva repeated, not knowing if Sigrid had heard her. She saw the blonde wrap her arms around herself like she was cold, while her forehead was still pressed against the window.
“It's just…stuff,” Sigrid finally answered with sadness and before Eva could respond she walked to the door and into the hallway, leaving Eva staring at the floor, completely lost in thought.
“Eva, honey?” Agnes' voice broke the silence and with tired eyes the Inspector looked up at her mother who was standing in the doorway, a troubled look on her face.
“Is…are you alright? Did you and Sigrid have an argument?”
“No, we didn't,” Eva sighed, raking her fingers through her curly hair. “Why?”
“Because your friend just walked out of the backdoor, I believe she was crying.”
“Crap,” Eva muttered, heading toward her mother.
“Take a coat for her, too, honey. She'll be cold in just a sweater.”
“Thanks, Mom,” Eva mumbled, kissing her mother on the cheek before quickly putting on her coat, grabbing Sigrid's and following the blonde out of the backdoor. As soon as she stepped outside she felt the cold wind on her skin and she shivered. From inside the house the weather looked perfect; the sun was shining and the sky was a clear blue, but the wind made Eva realize winter was not over yet. She spotted Sigrid standing on a sturdy deck that gave a perfect view of the bay. It was a favorite hang-out for Eva's family during the summer. Right now it was devoid of any furniture, except for two weathered Adirondack chairs that were a permanent fixture. Sigrid was leaning against the railing and every now and then Eva noticed the blonde's hand coming up to wipe her face.
“Oh, Sigrid,” she sighed, heading into the direction of the blonde, who must have heard her coming, because she turned around, overlooking the bay. Eva didn't hesitate. As soon as she reached Sigrid, she silently put the woman's coat over her shoulders, hoping it would protect her a little from the biting wind. Sigrid did not speak, but Eva could see the hand go back up to her face again and she knew the blonde was crying, so she stepped a little closer, tentatively placing a hand on Sigrid's shoulder. Eva's hand increased the pressure on Sigrid's shoulder, giving it a little tug.
“Come here,” the Inspector encourage, gently turning the other woman around. Her arms slipped around the blonde and without a word Sigrid stepped closer, burying her face against Eva's shoulder, while the Inspector's arms held her close.
Eva had no idea how long they were standing there in the cold wind, before Sigrid finally spoke.
“I'm sorry,” she mumbled, without moving from her spot against Eva's shoulder.
“Don't be,” the Inspector replied, resting her cheek against the top of Sigrid's head.
“I'm usually not a cry-baby,” Sigrid continued, wiping her eyes on her sleeve before looking up at the other woman. Her blue eyes were red-rimmed and puffy and she looked cold and miserable.
“I believe you,” Eva smiled, brushing a strand of hair out of Sigrid's eyes. “You went through a lot the last few days. The fire in your house is just the proverbial straw on the camel's back. I can't imagine what it's like to lose all your personal belongings.”
“It feels….weird,” Sigrid sighed. “It feels…naked. I know it's just stuff…material things, but…it was my stuff and the idea that someone broke into my house and went through all the things I own and then, without disregard just burned it makes me feel…violated. Does that make sense?”
“Perfect sense,” Eva nodded, not consciously aware of her hand that was rubbing soothing circles on Sigrid's back.
The blonde sighed, slowly extracting herself from Eva's embrace, trying not to wonder why it felt so good to be held by the Inspector. She didn't want Eva to think she was too emotional to do her job. They had some puzzles to solve and she was determined to pull her weight in the investigation they were both part of. If only they could find a few answers.
“Thank you,” she whispered, sending the slightly taller woman a grateful smile.
“You're welcome,” Eva smiled back, using her thumb to brush away a tear that was clinging to Sigrid's cheek. “Are you ready to go back inside and warm up? I know there still is hot coffee.”
Sigrid nodded and on the short walk back to the house she was grateful for Eva's arm that was casually draped across her shoulders, adding a sense of safety and warmth for her to draw from.
“Have a seat, Sigrid, I'll pour some coffee,” Eva said as soon as they entered the kitchen. “Mom's run off to do some errands,” she remarked, holding up a note that was left for her on the counter, next to the coffee pot.
“Are you always this nice?” Sigrid wanted to know when Eva put a cup of coffee in front of her.
Eva laughed and sat down, taking a sip from her mug.
“That depends on who you ask,” she replied with an amused smile. “I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who don't believe I'm nice at all.”
“But those are the bad guys you put away,” Sigrid replied with a small smile of her own.
“I'm afraid they're not the only ones, though,” Eva disagreed. “When it comes to my work I sometimes have a bad case of tunnel vision and I have stepped on some toes here and there.”
“That doesn't surprise me,” Sigrid mused.
“What? The tunnel vision or the stepping on toes?”
“The tunnel vision,” Sigrid answered. “You seem to be very…focused. A little intense. That's not a bad thing,” she hastened to say when she saw Eva was about to reply. “I think it's a good thing when you solve crimes for a living.”
“It usually gets me results,” Eva nodded. “But whenever results are elusive, being so intense and focused only adds to the frustration.”
“I can see how that would be the case,” Sigrid nodded. There was a brief silence n which both women were lost in their own thoughts.
The Inspector looked up into a pair of eyes whose color seemed to be in complete sync with the mood of their owner. Right now they were a few shades lighter than before and they projected the mixture of gratitude and shyness Sigrid felt.
“Thank you,” Sigrid's voice was soft and serious. “This has been a very difficult couple of days and I don't know how I'd have gotten through them without your help.”
“You're welcome,” Eva replied, equally soft, making a conscious effort to leave her hands wrapped around her coffee mug, fighting the urge to reach out and cover the blonde's hand with her own. Usually, she wasn't a touchy-feely person at all, except with her family. The fact that she had caught herself on different occasions wanting to reach out for the pastor puzzled her. But she was determined to push those thoughts to the back of her mind; there was a crime to solve and a friend to keep safe. That last thought startled Eva. When had she started thinking about Sigrid as a friend? Her eyes took in the blonde who was sipping her coffee, oblivious to the thoughts that were swirling around in Eva's head. A friend? Eva frowned and had to admit to herself that the urge to protect Sigrid, combined with the easy communication, light banter and enjoyment of her company would certainly fit into the realm of friendship. Suddenly Eva became aware of a questioning look that was directed to her and she sent Sigrid a small smile, quickly taking a sip of her coffee.
“Alright, we talked about religious zealots in your church who might be manipulated into sending you notes and dead pigeons,” Eva's voice was calm and businesslike. “Why don't you write down their names and addresses, if you have those, so we can run a background check on them.”
“Can you access the database remotely?” Sigrid asked, seeing Eva nod. “Cool,” the blonde grinned.
“I also would like to see your files,” Eva continued. “There's a reason your house was broken into and set on fire.”
The smile disappeared and all of a sudden Sigrid felt the heavy weight of loss settle back onto her shoulders. The change in her was visible and the Inspector saw the darkening of her eyes.
“I'm sorry,” Eva spoke, this time not able to control her urges. She reached out and covered Sigrid's hand with her own. “We'll do our best to figure this out,” she promised.
“I know,” Sigrid sighed, trying to ignore the pleasant weight of Eva's warm hand, which was almost impossible to do, because the small, friendly gesture made her want to crawl back into the Inspector's embrace. “I'll make a list with names. It will be a short one, though, because even though some people I know are pretty rigid in their religious beliefs, I know they'd never do anything to harm me.” Sending Eva a small smile, Sigrid slowly and reluctantly withdrew her hand from underneath the Inspector's, so she could push back her chair and get to her feet. “I'll go grab my laptop so I can show you the files,” she said.
“Great,” Eva nodded. “If you give me a name, I can get started.”
“Jeremy Brothers, he's the first one that comes to mind,” Sigrid answered. “He was a member of the church before I became pastor. As soon as he found out I'm a lesbian he quit and joined a small, new church in the next town over. He never misses an opportunity to point out my sinful ways. Every time I see him he reminds me that all I have to do is repent, change my ways and I'll be saved.”
“What kind of church is he in now?”
“Soldiers of penance,” Sigrid answered. “It's the only one in the tri-state area. There are a few more down south, I believe.”
“What's their …what do they believe?”
“They take the scriptures quite literal, although, they do omit some rules and regulations.”
“Because it doesn't suit them?” Eva softly snorted.
“That would be my guess,” Sigrid smiled at the Inspector's barely veiled disdain. “I don't know a whole lot about them, because they're pretty secretive and the few times I wanted to have a dialogue with Jeremy I only achieved being bible-bashed.”
“I'll run him through the database,” Eva muttered, pulling up her log-in screen. “If there's anything on him, I'll find it.”
“Cleansed and baptized by fire,” the voice whispered, looking at the smoldering ruins of what once was Sigrid Meyers' house. “Anything that can withstand fire must be put through fire and then it will be clean. But it must also be purified with the water of cleansing. And whatever cannot withstand fire must be put through water.” The tip of a tongue moistened dry lips and eyes, burning with excitement stared through binoculars at tendrils of smoke that slowly billowed in the cold air.
“A sacrifice, reaching out to the heaves,” the voice whispered in awe. “It is accepted, it is clean.” The binoculars were lowered and a dark-clad figure carefully made its way back through the trees to the waiting snow mobile. “Whatever cannot withstand fire must be put through water. Fire and water. She needs to be put through water to be clean. Fire and water. Where is she? She needs cleansing, she needs to be pure…”
To be continued in part 8
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