Sitting was good. Good because this time, when they both felt those feelings again they didn’t have to worry about falling. At least they didn’t worry about falling far.
Harley found herself so absorbed in the rapture she experienced kissing Emily, she wasn’t aware of anything else until she felt herself running out of air as her breathing increased. When, finally she opened her eyes and broke the kiss she found herself leaning over a supine blonde whose back was flat on the grass.
Emily still had her eyes closed and a small smile graced her lips as she ran the feeling of the kiss she’d just shared over and over again in her mind. It was every bit as fine and exciting as the first one but better because it was Harley who had started it this time.
Harley was thinking about that too. What is it with me? What is it about her? I never act like this! I just got through telling her it’s too soon for this and then I all but attack her on the front lawn. She found herself reluctant to move. She liked having Emily this close. She really liked looking at her and even more, she had really, really liked kissing her. What in the hell am I going to do? This can’t keep happening. Her mind knew it; she just had the hardest time making her body respond to that.
Finally, she willed her arms and legs to function and weakly managed to sit up facing away from the author.
That loss of body heat was what made Emily open her eyes. Seeing Harley sitting next to her and staring into space made her nervous. She sat up herself and ran a hand through the back of her hair trying to come to terms with the contradictions between the Sheriff’s words and her deeds.
She opened her mouth to speak when Harley put a hand on her knee and spoke first.
“I know what you’re thinking and I’m pretty sure you’re confused about, well, everything. I know too, I have no right to ask this of you but, please, I’d consider it a great personal favor if you didn’t. Ask, I mean.” She hung her head and looked at her bent knees. In a small voice that sounded a little sad she continued. “I meant what I said before, and I still do. However, I did kiss you and I meant that too. Sort of. I have no memory of consciously choosing to do it, but, well, I didn’t just trip and fall on your lips.” Emily couldn’t help but giggle a little at that. On the one hand she felt sad for Harley. She could see even in the low light from the porch how confused she was. But the way her forehead seemed to furrow added another dimension to that, like she was disappointed in herself. Emily felt bad for that, but at the same time, she was still happy and very aroused by that kiss. She is so very good at that!
It was the giggle that brought Harley out of her own head. It was a little funny, she had to agree. And I sounded so serious about it. After all it was just a kiss. Yeah, right, like hurricane Andrew was just a little breeze. Well, this is getting me nowhere fast, I think I’m gonna have to break down and talk to Mom. She cleared her throat and finally turned to look at Emily. Now that is one beautiful face. Enough! “Could we please, just not talk about this anymore for a while?”
It was against Emily’s nature to ‘not talk’ about anything. Words were what she did, in private, in public and by occupation, so she found herself surprised when she heard her own voice quietly respond, “Okay.”
Harley’s face broke into an expression of relief so profound it was almost pathetic. Emily was glad she’d said the right thing, especially when Harley wrapped her arms around her and hugged her close.
Emily missed those arms immediately when Harley jumped up and grabbed the last box. She finally got herself up as the sheriff loaded it into the SUV and spoke to her dog.
They were quiet again on the way to Harley’s place, but this quiet was very much different than the one before. This one was once again comfortable and peaceful.
It was almost midnight when they finally got all of Emily’s things put away at Harley’s. They had taken a break then and Harley showed her what and how much to feed Prince. The author had felt ridiculous asking, but since she’d never had a pet, she also needed to ask about the care and feeding of her cat. The tall woman just smiled and answered her questions, leading her to the hall nearest the back door where she set up the littler box. She placed the Empress’s food and water dish across the hall from Prince Potempkin’s, then got her jacket from the back of the couch.
Realizing that Harley was going to leave, Emily scrambled to find something to delay her. They were having such a good time, and even though her arm and the bruise on her chest were aching a good deal, Emily just wasn’t ready for the sheriff to leave yet.
“Oh, yeah, uhm, wait, let me check my cell messages to see if Naomi called yet.” She hurried to her bag on the coffee table and bent down to open it. She must have turned just the wrong way because she couldn’t stifle the gasp of pain that flew out of her mouth.
Harley was beside in a moment and forced her to sit down on the couch, taking her bag from her hand and letting it drop on the table.
“Alright, that’s enough. I’m getting Hobie over here or you over to him. You can’t tell me you aren’t in pain.” The sheriff’s face was set and determined and once again she grabbed for her cell phone.
Once again, Emily stopped her. “Really, Harley, I don’t need a doctor. It’s just a bruise, I’m sure. My ribs don’t hurt and it doesn’t hurt to breathe like cracked or broken ribs would. I just need to take a dose of my pain pills and a hot bath and I’ll be fine.” Harley still looked skeptical, so Emily rushed to reassure her. “Look if you help me to draw a bath you can see for yourself it’s really nothing more than a bruise.”
The sheriff wanted to insist but Emily had gone along with her request earlier so she felt it was only fair to return the favor. “Alright, let’s get you in the tub and see how it looks.”
Emily smiled and went to grab her bag once again, but this time Harley got there first. She smiled and handed it over and Emily smiled in return.
Grabbing her pill bottle, she got up from the couch and started to the staircase only to have Harley take her by the arm and help her along. The smaller woman knew it wasn’t necessary but she wasn’t about to push away the gift of being closer to the sheriff.
As soon as they reached the bedroom, Harley sat her on the bed and went into the bathroom to start the water running.
Emily pushed her shoes off and bent to take off her socks. When she bent wrong again this time she managed to stifle the groan of pain. Rethinking her actions she crossed first one leg and then the other on the opposite knee and took off her socks that way, grateful that she hadn’t made enough noise to attract Harley’s attention. She stood and dropped her pants, stepping out of them as well as her panties then sat to remove the over long twill sweater.
She remembered then about her cast and decided to just do what she could until Harley arrived to help. She got her left arm out of the sleeve and reached back to unclip her bra then untied the sling on her right arm. Just as she bent forward to try to get the sweater off over her head, she heard Harley enter the room.
Harley had to stifle a laugh at the site. There was a spume of strawberry blonde hair floating out of the neck of a sweater that looked like it had eaten Emily alive. Her left arm was out of sight under it, her right at a very odd angle trying to find a way into it, and her body was doing gymnastics trying to get it off.
“Here, let me help with that.” She said, and bent to help maneuver Emily’s cast through the sleeve. As soon as it disappeared, a relieved Emily pushed the sweater and bra off and sat back, blowing the hair from her forehead. Her face was pink from exertion, but not nearly as red as Harley’s, who stood with her mouth open, breathing hard in front of a fully nude Emily.
Harley felt frozen. She was breathing hard but couldn’t seem to pull any air into her lungs and she couldn’t seem to close her eyes. It felt like she stood there staring for hours before she reacted. “Ohhhh, great Mother. You’re naked!”
Emily had noticed the stare and realized Harley’s predicament. One half of her was happy at the reaction because she knew by the look on Harley’s face she very much liked what she was seeing. The other half felt embarrassed, she really hadn’t thought it through, this whole taking her clothes off in front of the sheriff thing. For the first time in forever, getting naked in front of another woman wasn’t planned out and intended to be a prelude to sex. She couldn’t for the life of her understand how she could have forgotten that taking her clothes off in front of Harley meant being naked in front of Harley. She was just going to take a bath, right?
“Well, yeah. I do that when I’m going to bathe, ya know. Get naked and get into the water to wash. It’s a popular concept and many people do it like that. I mean, I’ve never met anyone personally who takes a bath in their clothes.” She knew she was babbling but she had to say something. It was the only thing that kept her from trying cover up her more salient features. The urge to do just that was great, but her mind supplied the idea that the whole thing was way too junior high school for an adult woman to do. So, she just twitched and waited for Harley’s reaction.
The color on Harley’s face deepened a full shade when she realized just how stupid her remark had been. Of course, she was naked; she was going to take a bath. “Uh, I ah, I know it’s just that well, there you are all naked and I mean, who takes off their panties before they take off their sweater? It’s just you know, kind of odd like and out of order and… uhm, never mind I’m just a babbling idiot, forget I’m here and just wait a minute.” Having made a fool of herself for the second time this evening, all Harley could focus on was making Emily NOT naked as soon as possible.
She rushed over to her closet and grabbed her robe, returned and threw it over Emily’s shoulder. “I’d just be ever so grateful if you would just put that on, like right now, if you would, uhm, please.” She turned and ran into the bathroom mumbling about overflowing tubs and naked blondes.
Emily had to cover her mouth and try hard not to allow the giggles to be heard. It had her very amused that this strong, confidant, Sheriff who was a lawyer of all things, became utterly inarticulate when confronted with her nude body. It made her think, too. Is she really that shy? Is she that inexperienced? If… no, no, WHEN we do get around to finally doing the nasty, am I gonna lead the dance? Everything about that felt wrong, not only that; she was pretty sure she wanted things much less…reserved. Pondering that, she slipped on the crimson kimono and smiled again at that Harley-scent permeating it.
Harley leaned on the sink and puffed out her cheeks, then released the air in one big whoosh. Her mind kept replaying the naked picture of the beautiful blonde in her head and the loop got faster and faster. She finally had to have a good talk with herself. Alrighty, now. She’s beautiful. You knew that all along, right? So just get over it and get her in the tub and get the hell out of here. She took in another deep breath just to steady herself when she remembered something else about that vision.
She turned and strode purposefully back into the bedroom, looked Emily right in the eye and said, “Take it off!”
The writer’s eyes got big and confusion was apparent in her expression. Just a moment ago she was stumbling like a schoolboy and now she’s telling me to take it off? “Huh?”
“You heard me, drop the robe.” By now she was standing in front of Emily with her hands on her hips. One look at that face and Emily knew Harley meant what she said.
Confused but compliant, Emily dutifully dropped the robe off her shoulders and stood up.
Harley took another step forward and said, “That is not just a bruise. THAT is a major contusion! THAT should be seen by a doctor.”
Emily looked down to where Harley was pointing and really noticed for the first time, the florid red and purple bruise covering most of the center and left side of her chest. She had to admit it did look really bad, but she knew it looked worse than it felt.
“Honest, Sheriff, it’s not that bad, it’s just a,…well, a bruise.”
Harley tilted her head a little and her face showed how much of an understatement that seemed to her. “It’s a lot more than a bruise. It’s…it’s, well, it’s an injury!”
“Look, Harley, I know it looks pretty bad..”
“BAD, it looks like a topographical map of Wisconsin!”
Emily looked down at her chest. “Wisconsin? How do you figure that? It’s nowhere near the shape of Wisconsin. It looks more like Tennessee if anything, it…”
“No, no, no, you’re looking at it upside down, and besides, you couldn’t see anything south of Madison without” She gestured with her hands in a cupping motion at chest level and lifted. “uhm, well, lifting them up or..” She noticed Emily about to do just that and her voice started to trail off in wonder. “uhn, looking, ah, looking in the, ah, mirror.”
Suddenly the Sheriff became aware of herself standing there watching Emily fondle her breast and had to once again, speak rather harshly to herself. Since she wanted this obvious distraction to stop at once, she spoke out loud for both of their benefits.
“Okay, then, well, that is neither here nor there. So why don’t you just take that bath and I’ll go down and fix you something to eat so you can take your pill.” She shook her head and then nodded. “Yeah, that’s a good idea.”
She turned and headed for the door with her eyes looking at the carpet all the way. “That’s right. You bathe and I’ll just, I’ll just go make food and that will be good cause you need to eat to take your, uhm, …”
Emily heard the door shut and it was only then she realized what she was doing and how it had affected the tall beautiful sheriff. She dropped her hand and smiled when, just then, she heard a hard bang on the door. She almost got up to see if anything had happened to Harley when she realized the sheriff was most likely holding herself up on the outside of the bedroom door. That kept the smile on her face all the way into the bathroom.
On the other side of the bedroom door, Harley was practicing a breathing technique to help her clear her mind. When she felt able to walk without her knees giving out, she made her way to the kitchen.
As she cut some fresh fruit into a bowl, warmed a croissant in the microwave and stirred up a quick yogurt dressing, she finally gave thought to how and why Emily had such a profound effect on her.
Profound and disturbing. My libido hasn’t been this stirred up since I found out I liked girls and started to consider the possibilities. She shook her head. Not since…and the thought stopped her cold. No, not even with her did I feel like this. She stopped cold at the thought. I loved her! I loved her so much. But…even she didn’t do this to me. I was never out of control with her. What does it all mean?
Deciding the thought was too disturbing and she was too messed up to think it through tonight, she filed the question away for later and made her way back upstairs. She left the food on the night stand and knocked on the bathroom door.
“Emily. Are you going to be alright in there? I mean, uh, getting out and all..” She trailed off praying hard that Emily wouldn’t need any more help. The thought of her naked and wet was making her a little lightheaded. Again.
Emily gave it a moment’s thought and realized how much fun she could have by saying no, but remembering the Sheriff’s earlier panic, she relented. “I'll be fine, thanks.”
“Ah, that’s good. I left you some food on the nightstand and your pills and some tea are there too, so I’ll just be going now. I’ll leave the bedroom door open for the Empress and turn off the lights, set the alarm and lock up as I leave. Call me if you need anything, alright?”
“Sure.” Emily sighed knowing a strategic retreat when she heard it, and couldn’t help the tone of disappointment that colored her voice. “Night, Harley, and thanks.”
“Uhm, no problem. Good night.”
The Sheriff made sure the house was secure, locked up and then sat for several minutes in her car with the window rolled down. She took deep breaths and tried very had to wipe the image of a naked blonde from her mind.
As she started the car, she resigned herself to another long night of exercises and self abuse.
“I am surrounded by IDIOTS!” Darla’s voice had gotten progressively louder as she screeched her last word, then she threw the cell phone across the room. It shattered against the wall into chunks of varying sizes. It wasn’t enough, so she threw her glass as well.
The shattering sound of her best crystal stemware brought the Mistress of the house running in from the office in time to see the remnants of her Baccarat snifter tinkling down the wall of her parlor in a cascade of Cognac.
Mistress Merry was of a mind to let Mistress Dee know how she felt about her behavior and call Louis to show her the door.
Though it was true that Ms. Dee was a very good client who paid and tipped well, she wasn’t about to put up with any more foolishness in her house. She was about to speak, filling her lungs to begin berating the woman when she looked into the blonde’s face and swiftly changed her mind.
She hadn’t survived this long in her business by not knowing when to hold her tongue. It galled her to do it, but she knew from experience that if she followed through, she would surely die. There was madness in the woman’s eyes. She’d seen it before and this madness was the killing kind.
The madam was usually happy to provide the crazy woman with the means to her ends; she just wasn’t inclined to include herself as a target.
Ms. Dee had been ‘in a mood’ when she’d arrived Sunday night and it wasn’t her normal mood. Though for ‘normal’ in any form, you’d have to go someplace else.
Her house and its inhabitants, below ground level, catered to the other-than-normal desires of the human animal. Here, if you paid the price you could do with her slaves anything you wanted. True, the cost was very high, but those who frequented Mistress Merry’s domain could pay for their pleasure, and if she lost a few pieces of her property… well, they were easily replaced.
Of course, she never let the clients in on that. If they knew how easy it was to acquire them from her agents or smuggle in these young bodies, they’d never pay the exorbitant fees she charged for reducing her “inventory”.
The woman pacing and cursing in her parlor had arrived Sunday night and her mood then had been dangerous, to be sure, but it was nothing compared to the furious rage that held her now, a full two days later.
After paying the price, not Mistress Dee’s standard preferences but certainly not unheard of, she made her selection and retired to the private dungeon where she used her four hour allotment to, as described by Mistress Merry’s efficient assistant, Ning, “flay the skin off” of a nubile fifteen year old girl.
The whipping wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, it was, after all Mistress Dee’s tool of choice and she never arrived without it. Her choice of victim was.
Usually Ms. Dee asked for tall brunettes and generally left them bloodied and bruised, lashed and miserable, but ultimately, repairable. Even the other two occasions when she’d paid for the privilege of ‘using up’ the Madam’s stock, they had been tall, long haired, brunettes and after whipping them fore and aft for hours had eventually beaten them to death. The first time was several years ago and the second a few after that. So, Sunday night’s choice of a redhead and her choice to whip the very skin off the girl was highly unusual.
Then she arrived again Tuesday night with the same request.
Mistress Merry gave that some thought. Patterns in behavior among the kinds of people her clients were, were fairly predictable and she’d found over the years that severe aberrations in them occasionally warranted her interest,,, and her caution.
Why some people did what they did usually never stirred her curiosity. She’d given up trying to figure it out long ago.
When Mistress Dee arrived Sunday she assumed that the object of her fury was, as is common in her place of business, a surrogate for the clients antagonism or lust and that the change in venue from brunette to redhead must mean a new woman in the blonde woman’s life beyond Mistress Dee’s reach.
When she repeated the scene Tuesday, Mistress Merry took notice.
It appeared as though in this instance, she should have paid closer attention to the woman’s choices the night before, but it had been a busy evening and the madam was preoccupied with the details of the charity ball she was hosting at the country club this Friday.
Now it was very early Wednesday morning. The small oriental woman was looking forward to a good nap and a massage later. She was just finishing the books and was about to clear the house and lock up when she rushed into her parlor and saw the damage… and the danger.
Mistress Dee turned to her.
“My apologies, Madame, my temper seems to have gotten the best of me. If you replace the items I’ve damaged, I’ll be happy to pay for them.”
Wisely, once again, Mistress Merry refrained from speaking and simply nodded.
Returning the nod, Mistress Dee left several large bills on the teak bar.
Mistress Merry, known to her friends and social circle only as Mrs. Li Huang widow of the late judge, the most honorable Da Huang originally of Hong Kong and London, was anxious for her bed.
She had a luncheon with the garden club this afternoon and it wouldn’t do to show up looking fatigued. Now, however she simply waited for the volatile pacing and cursing menace in front of her to calm sufficiently and hopefully, exit peacefully, and soon, taking the shaking giant with her.
She would say or do nothing to encourage her toward that end, however.
Mrs. Huang was a very wise woman.
I’m so close. So close, and they might have ruined everything. EVERYTHING!
Darla slammed the door closed on her Lexus and stormed through the door from the garage to her kitchen. Eli followed behind trying to be as quiet as possible.
If he was very lucky he’d get out of this with a beating, but he wasn’t very confidant about that possibility. He’d never seen Mistress Dee so livid. His only hope was that she was more angry with his Mistress Val than with him. It really wasn’t his fault.
Darla was seething. She had been seething from the moment in the diner when she realized that Valerie had once again, nearly ruined all of her plans.
Sunday when she was unable to locate her she felt she’d just need to vent her anger a bit. She was quite sure that the fury she’d unleashed against the redheaded slave at Mistress Merry’s would mellow her out enough to avoid outright killing the bitch as soon as she caught up with her. After all, she still needed her or her money at least, to make this whole scheme pay off.
She hadn’t planned on the viper disappearing so well. Even that addlebrained little nothing, Nancy, didn’t know where she’d gone. She would have told me if she knew. I was almost holding her heart in my hand and she was very aware of it. All she could tell her was that her mistress had come home early, packed a bag and said she’d be out of touch for a while, but that Eli would keep an eye on her.
The pathetic little whore actually pissed her pants and all I did was walk toward her. No, if she’d known where Val was, she would have screamed out the location as soon as I looked her in the eye.
Monday and Tuesday, after hours of checking and rechecking every dive, club, bar and whorehouse from here to San Diego she still hadn’t been able to get her hands on the troublesome slut. And that meant no answers about what could have possibly gone so wrong at the old woman’s house as to necessitate nearly killing the old bat.
Not that she gave a damn about the old biddy, but bringing attention to them from the Sheriff, and that meant attention from Harley Ravensdown was an altogether different thing. She couldn’t have that! She was so close!
By the time Tuesday night rolled around and there was still no sign of Valerie her fury was at its peak and her only release once again was to be found in the surrogate provided by Mistress Merry.
Then, just as she was feeling a tad better, Eli had arrived and informed her that the simple little assignment Valerie had given him to watch Stephanie’s house and report anything unusual led to this newest complication.
She kept her back to the muscle bound boob as she opened her closet and began to undress. She knew he was kneeling in the doorway behind her and she knew as well, he was sweating with fear.
“Tell me again. What happened?” She kicked off her stiletto boots and began to unzip her leather pants.
Eli swallowed as well as he could. There was very little moisture in his mouth. He kept his eyes on the floor in front of him as he tried to explain his actions in a way that wouldn’t leave him bleeding to death from her reactions.
“Oh, uh, I was following the Mistress’s orders like she told me. Watching the house on Old Orchard and Sheriff Ravensdown and some blonde went in. Then they came out a time or two and put some suitcases and boxes into the Sheriff’s SUV. Then, just this blonde comes out and starts walking down the road…right at me! She’s coming right at me and I think she’s gonna see me sitting there just watching her and tell the Sheriff and I, well, I just, I mean she told me not to get caught and not to do nothing that could draw attention to me, but well, see, she was comin’ right at me… so I took off.” Eli stopped talking and started praying silently that what he said would be enough. He hoped the little accident he’d had with the blonde wasn’t what was putting Mistress Dee in such a foul mood.
Darla threw the last of her clothing to the floor and turned. “And then?”
“I just made a quick U turn and got out of there.”
“Right in front of the blonde? Where was the Sheriff at this time?”
He swallowed. “Uh, she was still in the house until, I mean, uh, I just got out of there.”
“She didn’t go after you? Suddenly this car takes off in the darkness and squeals away like the hounds of hell are on their heels and she does nothing?”
He couldn’t form the words. She had that look in her eye. The same one Mistress Val got just before she’d light into Nancy. He just shook his head and noticed the sweat fly off his face as he did so.
Darla turned and reached into the pocket of her leather trench coat. It was the only item she’d hung up, for good reason. This was not her favorite toy: too loud, too obvious, but it would do until she had Eli exactly where she wanted him.
She attached the silencer to the powerful gun as she spoke. “There’s something, maybe several things you’re not telling me. I don’t like being kept in the dark. I’m sure you won’t either when I’m through with you. But you will tell me what you’re holding back. They always do. In the end.” She gestured with the weapon. “Get up. Head into the kitchen.”
She grabbed a pen and a pad of paper from the counter and threw it on the table.
“Write.” She said. Her voice was low, almost childlike but poisonous under all. Eli found himself very, very, scared of this woman.
His Mistress Val could be vicious and agonizingly cruel when she was mad, even when she was just irritated. He had to admit to himself he more or less loved that about her; her control and the pain she caused, but this woman standing before him, mostly naked, rather skinny, speaking softly, almost crooning, was seriously deranged. The whole feeling was amplified by the gun hanging almost carelessly from her fingers. She was capable of murder. Yes, he was very afraid.
“Write down every name of every person your mistress has ever introduced you to. Write down every phone number she has ever given you. Write down every address you have ever been to with your mistress or that she sent you to. Every… single… one.” She took a deep breath and then looking vaguely over his shoulder she said, dreamily. “People just don’t disappear. She has to be somewhere. I will find her. And you will tell me everything I want to know, won’t you?”
A few miles away, Harley Ravensdown checked her wall clock.
After leaving Emily she’d returned to the office, hoping to work on the case and adding notes about the latest incident with the hit and run on Emily. She was sure it was connected, she just wasn’t sure if Emily was the target or….
At least that had been her intention when she’d left her house. She wanted to make sure she did anything but think about the green eyed blonde and throwing herself into this puzzle was what she was counting on to help her do that.
After printing out the incident report of the stalker or snoop at Steph’s house last night, she grabbed the case file and spread everything out on the coffee table.
It was large enough to necessitate removing the portable T.V. to the floor in order to have enough room to look at each bit of what she was sure was one case, tied together somehow.
She looked it over carefully and tried to fit all the pieces into the right slots. The only way it would work was if both Darla and Valerie were working together. To what end? What was their purpose? Motive?
She couldn’t connect the dots and that made her start over from the beginning. She’d missed something. What was it?
Of course that brought her back to their first dead end. Nancy McKinnon.
She made a face. Damn! After everything that happened I still didn’t find out if Emily got word from Naomi about Nancy.
She hung her head. Harley had no choice but to go and see the damnable woman again. She wasn’t nearly ready for that.
She leaned back on the couch and closed her eyes, then sat up abruptly with her eyes wide open.
“Oh, my!” She breathed. “That was a mistake.”
The moment her eyes closed the Sheriff was treated to a full color picture memory of Emily sitting on her bed totally naked.
“Coffee. I need coffee.”
She threw on her hat, grabbed her cell phone and radio and headed out for the diner.
By nine Wednesday morning Emily was waking up and feeling just fine. For once, she didn’t have that nasty chemical hangover from her pain pills and she’d slept the sleep of the contented. Her memories of the impression she’d made on Harley the night before made her smile and the warm/hot recollection of their kiss made her feel good all over.
By ten-fifteen she was perturbed.
Her arm had felt almost normal this morning so when she tried to dress on her own, she was surprised at how clumsy the cast still made her. In the end all she could manage were some sweatpants and a zippered front cardigan.
After a quick look at herself in the bathroom mirror she was very glad she was alone. The purple sweater clashed horribly with her buttercup yellow sweatpants and she couldn’t manage to do anything with her hair but brush it. Even the part was crooked.
Before she could think of a way to fix it all, both Catherine the Great and Prince Potemkin reminded her that she was now a woman responsible for more than herself.
She hurried down the stairs and managed with great difficulty to manhandle what felt like a 600 pound bag of dog food out from under the pantry shelf and fill the monster pup’s food dish. One handed, no less.
After cleaning up the floor from spilling the water in Prince’s dish when the Empress decided to wind between her legs as she carried it, and once again as she got hip chucked by the dog, she finally got it to its destination.
That left only feeding the Empress.
The minute the cat heard the electric can opener begin to whir, she started to climb Mt. Emily.
With only one good arm and an anxious and obviously starving cat to deal with, it took several long minutes that felt like hours to remove each delicate but devastatingly sharp claw from her right thigh and hip.
Emily managed to deliver Catherine the Great’s water without incident and was sitting on the floor, back braced against the opposite pantry shelf trying to push the 900 pound bag of dog food back into place with her feet.
Of course, she was almost there, trying to blow her hair out of her eyes while her one good arm was helping to give her traction as a shadow passed over her, She looked up to see the amused face of the Sheriff smirking down at her.
“Naturally. Of course you’re here. It’s Carolyn Murphy’s Law.”
Harley chuckled. She squatted down next to the disheveled looking woman and asked. “Don’t you mean Murphy’s Law?”
“Nope,” she replied cocking her head to one side. “Carolyn Murphy’s Law. She’s a supermodel. A friend of mine invented it in recognition of the wonders of air brushing photographs and the conflict between those pictures and real women. The law states, If anything can make you look ridiculous and unattractive, it will, and at the worst possible moment.”
Harley laughed so hard she landed on her butt and just went with it. Even through her laughter she could still hear Emily carrying on.
“So, of course here I sit, trying to get this one ton bag of elephant food back in place with only one good arm, beautifully clashing in my ensemble, perfectly coiffed having parted my hair with a fork, sloshed with water and dripping blood and you show up! A perfect example of Carolyn Murphy’s law.”
“You know, that happens with you all the time. Or at least it seems to since we’ve met. I wonder what it is about you or me or us, but it seems like every time you see me I look ridic…”
“Bleeding? What do you mean bleeding?” Harley asked leaning forward, all traces of humor gone. It had taken her a second for that last to register but when it did, she wanted answers.
She started scanning Emily all over and then noticed the blood on her pants in various spots.
Emily began to explain Catherine the Great’s enthusiasm for breakfast as Harley bodily lifted the smaller woman to her feet and without permission or fanfare, pulled down Emily’s sweatpants.
“…heard the can opener and got a little too eager, I guess. What are you doing?” She exclaimed, trying to bend over and snatch at her pants. Harley just pushed her back up and ignored the question. She was making a detailed examination of the puncture wounds when a swat to the back of her head finally got her attention.
“What?” Harley said, as she raised her head up with a look of intense irritation covering her face.
“What do you mean, what?” Emily said her own irritation showing. “You can’t just come into someone’s personal space and pull their pants down!”
“Of course I can. In the first place your personal space is occupying my house and possession is nine-tenths of the law, and in the second place, I’m the sheriff here and it’s my job to render aid wherever I deem it necessary.” She turned back to her examination but kept her brows furrowed. This time Emily wasn’t sure if it was irritation at being interrupted or concern for her injuries.
It was on the tip of her tongue to make some remark about Harley misusing her office but she, for once, held her tongue and remembered what Steph told her about Harley’s background. In the end, she just stood there and huffed a bit at least grateful that she had worn some of her prettiest pink Victoria’s Secret panties this morning and that she’d had the foresight to shave her legs in the bath last night.
“These need cleaning and some antibiotic ointment.” Harley concluded. “I’ll go get it.” With that said she left Emily standing in the pantry with her pants around her ankles and walked through the panel in the back that led to the other side of the A frame.
“I’ll just stay here, shall I?” Emily muttered to the now empty room, sighed and drummed her fingers on the shelf of the pantry next to a large glass canister labeled Basmati rice.
Several minutes later after a treatment with peroxide, antibiotic ointment and gauze bandages, (the latter of which made Emily smile to recall, as Harley had nearly hyperventilated when she’d had to pull Emily’s panties away from her hip to apply it), they were seated on the couch.
Harley had offered to make coffee and let Prince out while she relaxed, on the pretext that she was injured, but Emily was sure it was more to recover her composure than a need for Emily to rest that prompted the offer.
Harley was sipping her coffee, glad that the redness in her face had finally receded while she busied herself with the French press, and listening to the one sided conversation Emily was having with Naomi.
She let her mind wander while she waited for the call to end and wondered once again where all these strange compulsions she felt when she was with the writer came from. She’d had to speak very sternly to herself to keep from bending down to kiss the bandaged wounds when she’d finished treating them. Maybe Paris will feel like sparring a little this morning. Goddess knows I need to do something to keep my mind and body occupied for a while.
As Emily hung up and began to relate her conversation with Naomi, she was unaware that the look of intense concentration she saw on the Sheriff’s face wasn’t focused on Emily’s words.
It took Harley an inordinately long time to make the switch from mental ruminations of Emily’s features to what she was saying. She was very grateful for the practice in the courtroom that allowed her to appear to be listening when in fact she was thinking of something else. She did manage to tune in to the important parts.
Nancy was there in the beach house, as Naomi had rollerbladed, accidentally of course, past the house just as the grocery delivery man was leaving. Naomi had managed to inquire about how Nancy was to the delivery man who’d informed him that she seemed a little better and remarked that it must have been a weird but lucky kind of a car crash to leave her so bruised and yet, not break any bones.
Naomi also confirmed that Valerie’s next door neighbor had heard Valerie drive in early Sunday morning and leave again shortly thereafter. The neighbor, a retired banker who stayed home and painted beachscapes, hadn’t seen or heard her since. Nor had the neighbor on the other side of her.
In addition, yes, indeed, Naomi had been told in no uncertain terms, that Valerie was known as Mistress Val in the darker BDSM scene around town and she was strictly playing on the female side of the fence. She didn’t mind dominating and disciplining men, but she didn’t top them in bed. She was known to have a female sub and a male sub. The guy more or less worked as her bodyguard/ assistant/gopher and occasional whipping post. The woman was described as of medium height, darkish brown hair, brown eyes and very thin.
His friend Ernie told Naomi that Mistress Val was scary. No one messed with her or they found themselves ruined, both in the community and in the boardroom. She dealt very dirty.
Ernie also said that he’d heard she had a pretty large dungeon built into the bedrock below her house under the highway. It’s part of what makes her parties so infamous.
No one knew what the female sub’s name was as Mistress Val only ever referred to her by her position as slave or any number of derogatory nicknames, the mildest of which was whore.
No one had seen them at their usual haunts in several days and everyone was worried. Not for their wellbeing but because they had, as yet, not received their annual invitations to Valerie’s no-holds-barred Halloween party. They were all afraid they’d done something to offend her as she usually sent invitations out by the first weekend in October, and each of them had been trying to see if anyone else had received theirs. So far, no one had.
Yes, as of yesterday, Nancy was still there as Naomi saw a woman matching the description given and covered in bruises. She’d been looking out of the sliding glass doors as Naomi jogged on the beach past Valerie’s house.
Naomi hadn’t seen her long or too closely but was very concerned. The woman’s injuries were healing as most were fading to a yellowish green, but Naomi said her eyes looked “dead”. Naomi almost turned and went back but when he looked again, she was gone. Worried he might spook her and ruin it for their investigation he let her be.
While she put her own thoughts in order, Harley asked Emily. “What do you make of Valerie’s sudden absence?”
Pleased to be consulted and ready with an answer, Emily replied. “I think she needed to get outta Dodge.”
Harley nodded and smiled. “Yeah, I do too. But what or who is she running from?”
“Duh, could it be the Sheriff? I mean if you put together the times and dates it sounds very much like she was responsible for Polly Pechter’s injuries.”
Harley nodded again, “Granted the timing is right, but I ask again? What is her motive? Why hit a seemingly random old woman on the head with a hammer? If it is her, why did she do it and if she did, then who was it that tried to run you down at Steph’s last night? We know it couldn’t have been her if she’s in the wind”
Emily nodded this time. She furrowed her brow and stared at the landscape outside the wall of glass they faced. “Okay. Let’s think this through. We speculate, by way of deductive reasoning, that it was Nancy who broke into Steph’s place and, uhm,” she shuddered, “put the knife in the bed. Motive unknown but supposition is that she did it either at Valerie’s request or in some way to please her. Nancy is now alone at Valerie’s and appears to have been beaten up. Supposition is that Valerie was unhappy with her and punished her. Assumption is that it was because Nancy attempted to please her by breaking in and planting that knife and she was wrong, or that she failed in her mission in some way.”
Harley interrupted. “Or, Valerie did the break in after Nancy procured the keys and the code and after planting the knife either learned it wasn’t Steph that was in that bed OR that her plan for you, if you were her target, whatever it was, maybe to scare you out of town, didn’t work and being the sadistic bitch she is, blamed it on Nancy.”
“True,” Emily said. “Either scenario works, but the sticking point as you’ve pointed out, is why? What has leaving that knife in Steph’s bed next to me, hitting Polly Pechter with a hammer and someone, and I’m not convinced it’s true, trying to run me down, have in common?”
“What aren’t you convinced is true?”
“I don’t think the car last night tried to run me down. It seemed more like it was trying to get away. I think I wasn’t a target; just an accident. I mean, if my foot hadn’t slipped on the wet leaves at the roadside, I’d have been able to get out of the way with no problem. I don’t think whoever was driving was trying to hit me. I think they saw me and panicked. I think someone was watching Steph’s house and when I started walking down that road they were afraid of being discovered just sitting there in the dark in their car.”
“Or, they were watching us, or you, or me.” Harley proposed.
“Possible, but if it was you, was it you, Harley Ravensdown, or the Sheriff they were watching? And if was me, was it me, Emily Cutter, or the person supposedly staying at Steph’s house? Maybe it was just the house they were watching. Hell for all we know, it might have just been some pervert waiting in the dark to do some dirty deed as yet unknown.”
“Aargh!” Harley shook her head and stood. “This is getting us nowhere. We just don’t have enough solid information. We need more data. I’m going to check back in with J.D, and see if he has anymore on the Valerie/Darla connection and make some more calls today to see what we can find out and confirm. I’ll head back down to L.A. first thing in the morning and talk to Nancy. Maybe I’ll get lucky and Polly will have come around by then, and I can talk to her, too.”
Emily bit her top lip and looked up, remembering that Harley had agreed to let her help with the investigation, then asked, “Mind if I come along?”
Mistress Merry moved to the bar, pocketed the cash and made a mental note to remember to add it to the books tomorrow night. As it was very early Wednesday morning, she really meant tonight.
Now however, it was time for bed. It was the Garden club lunch this afternoon and then she simply must begin the arrangements for the Library council dinner. Finding the donations and arranging the catering and guest list was going to keep her very busy. Maybe she shouldn’t have accepted the chairperson position,
So much to do! She gave a moment to consider her options as she made her way to the elevator at the end of the concrete hallway. She could hear the last of the cleaning crews using the power sprayer to wash the blood down the drain in cell 6, Mistress Dee’s mess, as she thought of what help she would need with the arrangements she had yet to make for the dinner this year.
Perhaps she would promote Ning and have her make some calls and such. The girl was competent, obedient, and organized. She might enjoy being out of the dungeons. After all, it had been twelve years and she was family, after all.
She inserted the octagon shaped jade stone of the ring on her left thumb into the slot on the control panel and the elevator started to ascend the six floors to her home and the level of her bedroom suite. It was now Wednesday morning, a little past five a.m. and she had to attend that meeting at one this afternoon. She then thought of the other obligations calling to her.
There was the Asian Society Brunch this Sunday and the St. Bartholomew Hospital auxiliary dinner dance the following weekend. Not to mention, the Garden Club auction for which she was in charge of donations.
She definitely needed a social secretary. Ning, with a bit of training just might do.
Yes, she thought, she might just do that. After all, family has to come first.
Ning remembered everything her mother ever told her. Her mother told her she was a clever girl. Ning knew this to be true.
She was glad when the Mistress had given her the promotion because it helped her very much with the last of her special plan. It was lucky for her. Ning’s mother always said she was lucky.
Today she had paid her debt to Madame. She had been in service twelve years and though it was almost remarkable for any girl in service in this house to still be alive, let alone debt free after so many years, Ning knew she was special. Her mother told her so.
She had heard of only one other girl to gain her freedom from the Madame and several days later came the regrettable news that she had died in a car accident. Ning knew better. There would be no car accident waiting for her.
She was smarter than that girl and planned much for her future, and now, with the promotion out of the dungeons and up to the main house, her plan couldn’t go wrong.
Her mother had told her many things as a child. First of all that she was special and also that she was clever, and these were important here as a slave whore in this house, but also she was gifted. It was that gift that helped ten year old Ning adapt and live here. Not only live, but thrive in a place that took so many down, so young.
It was what had made her an ideal choice for Madame’s assistant. Her gift was self-knowledge and the courage to accept herself for what she truly was. She had a blissful even-mindedness that she had never been without during her younger years and it served her well.
Ning knew what she was and what she liked and what she craved.
At only ten years old she accepted her life and her preferences so, when other girls who came to live here fought this life, Ning gave no trouble at all.
From the start she accepted that she preferred women to men sexually, but that she could put up with the men without hating it, and that she liked to submit and dominate, inflict pain or receive it.
It made the early years in Madame’s service much easier for her and showed Madame that Ning was no problem. No trouble. No threat.
That really wasn’t true but as long as that was what it appeared to be, Ning’s plans would go forward.
She did, after all, have a plan.
It was to be set in motion that very day. A special date she would always remember, Wednesday, October the 8th. Ning’s Independence Day. When Madame turned the disposal of Mistress Dee’s ‘accident’ over to her, she was ready. It was time. She was sick and tired of it. They really didn’t have to kill them. They didn’t.
Ho liked her, she’d made sure of that and since he was both the youngest of the men who worked here and the newest as well, he was easily lead and perfect for her plan.
She’d simply tell Ho where and how to dispose of the body and he would do it. The other men didn’t care for the job much so the newest ones were forced to do it. Thankfully, they had all told Ho to do anything she said. She had after all been here the longest, she was Madame’s assistant and she had made sure to be very, very nice to him many times.
It would of course be found. She was sure of it, and of course she was just as sure of who would be assigned the case. She had a plan after all.
The girls who came here had been very helpful over the years. They taught her many things and in turn, she tried to teach them how to cope and to stay alive.
She’d learned many things the mistress didn’t know she knew, or she might have never left her alone in her office with access to both the phone and the computer. That was a mistake on Madame’s part.
Another mistake was letting her watch television.
After she attended to Madame this afternoon and helped her with Madame’s clubs and charity events, she would again go upstairs after the Madame was laying down for her nap, and she would simply leave. It would be that easy.
She was trusted.
Her ride would be waiting and her funds would be waiting at the bank where she had transferred them. She had managed to pocket a little over seven hundred dollars in cash to date which would be more than sufficient to get her from here to her mother’s house in Oceanside.
It, of course would be the first place they would look for her, but she only planned to stay for a few hours and then they would catch their plane. They would be back once she was sure her mother and sisters would be safe and Madame and her employees were in jail. She had it all planned. It would be in the file. The family trip would not be turned down, so before Madame could mount a search and destroy mission, they would be in Las Vegas, gambling with some of Madame’s money.
Of course, it would seem to her mother’s friends and neighbors, or anyone who asked, that they had gone to San Francisco to visit relatives, but…
Within a week a very full file on CD would arrive at that attractive young assistant District Attorneys office full of information on Madame and her clients and it would contain real names and real addresses and proof that at the very least, Madame was guilty of procuring and tax evasion. If Ning were very lucky, Madame would be indicted for slavery, for that is what she did.
She’d seen the district Attorney on television and thought she was very cute, with that short red hair and hazel eyes. ADA Russert would be appalled at the evidence and thrilled to finally solve the seemingly random murders in the area. Several confusing and inconclusive cases of badly burned young women had gone unsolved over the years.
With this much evidence, even ADA Russert’s bosses, who were sometimes clients of Madame couldn’t possibly cover this up. If she followed Ning’s suggestion she would leak it to the press as soon as possible after the search warrant was served, before Madame had a chance to clean it up. Ning had helpfully made sure the file contained the names of the few judges who frequented Madame’s brothel and suggested the ADA avoid them in requesting the search warrant.
Then Ning would have the two things she wanted most in the world. She wanted to go home, and she wanted her revenge.
At first she knew her mother wouldn’t believe her. After all Madame was her mother’s oldest sister and for years Ning had been sending letters to her mother praising the treatment she received and the education she’d been given, since Madame came and offered ‘a better life’ for her daughter. The semi-illiterate young widow was more than happy to turn her daughter over to her most honored sister, wife of a judge, to make a better life for her. After all, she was poor and with three other younger daughters to raise on her own, it was a prize beyond pearls to give her oldest the chances for a future that only her honorable sister could provide. The scars on Ning’s back and belly would help to convince her, though.
It would only be after the news broke and the arrests were made and maybe not until Ning testified, as she had every intention of doing, that her mother would truly understand how her own sister betrayed her and whored her daughter out as a child to men and women with whips and flogs.
Then the revenge would happen as Madame and the clients like Mistress Dee, who was really Darla Dunhem of Bramble Realty, and Master Blaze, who was really Joe Quillim, Fire Chief of Station 17, and Judge Dread who was really the right honorable Judge Patrick Gillam of the Superior Court and Mistress Merry, who was really Mrs. Li Huang, wife of the late Honorable Judge Da Huang, Aunt of Ning Luen, were lead to prison for murder and rape and torture.
It was only fair, after all.
By ten Thursday morning Harley and Emily were halfway to Los Angeles.
This time their routine varied as the coffee provided came by way of Emily from Harley’s kitchen rather than the wonderbrew pot of Twyla’s and instead of leaving at nine as Harley had hoped to do, they were running a bit behind due to… family issues.
The issues this family had this morning had been a fairly intensive cuddle session and a straightforward talk between Emily and her new owner, Empress, Catherine the Great.
Initially the cat was adamant that Emily go nowhere without her and Harley had to bite her lip quite firmly to keep from laughing as Emily took the cat up, sat down on a chair and proceeded to talk to her very gravely about how inappropriate her coming along would be.
When that didn’t seem to work, the writer had resorted to explaining to the small feline how cramped and uncomfortable the ride would make her and then vowing, with hand over her heart that she would be back by tonight.
As Harley and Prince Potemkin stood there watching, only the human seemed surprised when the Empress looked long and hard into Emily’s lovely green eyes, patted her human’s cheek with one delicate paw, gave her owner one cuddle under the chin and then regally removed herself from her lap, walked over to the rug in front of the glass wall, and laid down in the sun.
Emily looked like this was expected behavior from the cat and Harley looked like she’d been slapped with a trout.
Wisely the attorney said nothing, but opened the door as Emily once again grabbed her bag and proceeded out to the car.
The atmosphere in the car was cordial and unstrained as they spoke of the best ways to get Nancy to give up the information they were sure she had.
“The biggest problem as I see it will not be to get her to talk, it will be to get to talk to her at all.” Harley said. “If Valerie is there she could and I think would not let us in and without a search warrant, we can’t make her do it. Then again, if Valerie isn’t there and she’s as conditioned a sub as she seems to be considering Naomi’s description of her appearance, we’re really dealing with battered woman’s syndrome.” She stopped to sip her coffee. “If that’s the case we have no way of telling what Valerie may have threatened her with or if she’s so used to the abuse and the cycle of violence and making up that she’d defend her actions to us and even deny that what we know happened, happened.”
Emily thought about that as she watched the empty fields outside her window fly by. She had no frame of reference for this. To the best of her knowledge she’d never met a battered woman and had the hardest time understanding how anyone would take that kind of abuse from someone they thought loved them. The concept was alien to her and made her disgusted to think about.
“I’m sorry if I’m so ignorant about this but I would think given her condition that the woman would be looking for any way out of this situation. I mean, Naomi made it pretty clear that she was apparently badly beaten. Who wouldn’t want to get away from that and press charges against the one who did it to them?”
“Well, if what we suspect is true, she’s been Valerie’s slave for a while now. Add to that the supposition that as her Mistress, Valerie has escalated the punishment while training her over a period of time and of course, if she is as notorious as we are led to believe by Naomi in the BDSM community, that all or most of her pain has been accompanied by a certain amount of sexual tension and eventually, sexual release. That can become very addicting and by the time that the true abuse started, she’d have a lot of trouble separating the punishment/reward/release from simple straight forward battery or ‘bad pain’ fueled by whim or rage.” Harley sipped again and continued. “Subs are rarely aware in the beginning of where the power in the relationship truly rests and I’m sure from the personal knowledge I have of Valerie, she’d make very sure that it was understood from the outset that Nancy was to do and be only what Valerie told her. The SSC or RACK rules wouldn’t even come into play with Valerie” She shook her head. “I’d bet even money Nancy couldn’t tell the difference between her role and her rights by now. She is most likely completely Valerie’s creature and has very little personal power or self esteem beyond that which is allowed by her Mistress.”
Emily was silent after that for quite a while and it took a minute for Harley to realize how much she had revealed of her knowledge about the subject. When she did she had to wonder what Emily was thinking about it all, but she couldn’t bring herself to ask or even look at her. She used that wonderful peripheral vision and saw Emily concentrating intensely on the dashboard with no visible emotion on her face to determine what she was thinking.
Emily was thinking .She was thinking in a half dozen directions at once. She thought about her near miss or hit with Valerie at the party. She thought about her secret desires and what they meant and what she wanted. She thought about all the in depth knowledge Harley seemed to have on the subject matter. Was it professional or personal knowledge? She wondered if the attorney had, at one time, a case in which research in to the subculture might have been needed. Was that where she got her information? Was it more than that? Was that only the beginning of her research? She thought about how that might impact her if that was true. If their relationship headed in the direction the writer wanted it, was that what she wanted, too?
Then she thought about the set look on Harley’s face when she spoke about her ‘personal’ knowledge of Valerie? Just how ‘personal’ was her knowledge?
“You speak of Valerie as if you know this, ahh, aspect of her interests pretty well. Do you?” Emily thought about easing into the question with the Sheriff a trifle more subtly than she ultimately asked it and then rethought that. Maybe it was time for some plainer speaking between them? So far, it was working.
It took a long time for Harley to answer.
Darla Dunham, Mistress Dee, did not deal with disappointment well. She’d never admit to it, but her father had spoiled her as a child, giving into her every whim, making excuses for her bad behavior, lying to keep her out of trouble and quite literally stealing to see to her comfort. She’d never learned self control. She’d never had much use for it.
This morning she was very disappointed.
Because that idiot, Valerie, had once again taken it on her head to make decisions that were not rightly hers to make, everything she’d worked for could be in jeopardy.
This plan had been years in the making and the doing, and she wasn’t going to stop until she got her thousand pounds of flesh. The bitch was making it very hard for Darla to do what needed to be done to get the revenge she so needed against the goddamnned Ravensdowns. Against Harley. This angered her greatly. What made her angrier still was that the whore was still nowhere to be found.
Her little pet, Nancy, said that she had gone away on business and Eli, the redheads little punisher, didn’t know where she was either. All of the information he had, had been extracted from him before he was no longer useful.
It hadn’t taken too long to empty the man of everything he knew or thought he knew about his Mistress. Forty minutes later she was finishing wiping up the mess off the kitchen floor when she once again wondered, Why do they always piss?
She’d burned the paper towels she’d use to wipe up and pulled the throw rug back over the door in the floor leading to her private ‘playroom’. It wouldn’t do to leave any obvious forensic evidence on her kitchen floor. Eliminations could be so messy.
After washing her hands she’d poured a drink while she decided what exactly, if anything she needed to do about the incompetent Eli’s little accident. She’d glanced at the clock. It was just a few minutes past seven.
Since it had been such a tiring, but rewarding evening and was now early morning, she went to bed.
The whole of the next day was spent phoning every number Eli had given her and making up a whole host of scripts to get the people at the other end to give out any information they might have about Valerie or her whereabouts
All of last night had been spent driving to most of the locations that had no phone number and coming up empty again.
And now it was another day and still no Valerie.
If all of the late Eli’s leads to find the hole the stupid slut had hidden herself in turned up empty, there was always a trip south to see the broken little toy again and maybe break her just a little bit more until she came up with Valerie’s likely hideaway. She probably knows something she doesn’t know she knows. People often do. They so seldom pay attention to what’s right under their nose.
She counted on that.
On a hillside just south of the highway and only twelve miles from the turn off that would take you to Bramble, the body of a young woman lay face down in the dry grass, covered by flies.
Unlike the other bodies through the years that the Madame had asked her to get rid of, this body wasn’t burned beyond recognition, it wasn’t unclothed and it wasn’t left more than thirty miles from the Madame’s home.
This time Ning wanted that body found. Her time here was nearly finished and her plans were set.
By evening she would be gone and living a new life with a new name and several thousand dollars would be hers.
Madame would have to pay. After all, she was family, and one should always take care of family.
The non-descript, totally unremarkable man was on his daily walk and though to the passerby he seemed to just be taking the air, his eyesight was keen and he was looking for the same things for which he always looked.
As usual he found nothing of note about and therefore nothing of which to advise his superiors.
Well, almost nothing. There was that body.
He pondered the best thing to do about that.
Getting involved with the police and making and signing a statement would draw attention to him and of course, that was to be avoided at all costs.
However….the thing needed to be found.
He thought about that as he continued his walk looking at the ground around the corpse, being very careful not to disturb any potential trace forensic evidence.
The location was problematic. The dump site was too far off the highway to be seen by passing vehicles and save for himself, the occasional nature loving hiker… and one other person; it might go for days and not be discovered.
The man knew by then, any perishable evidence may be destroyed by the insects, scavengers or the natural passage of time.
No, there was nothing for it. The body had to be discovered and that meant he had to lead someone else there. He sighed a bit. This was going to be hard. He liked the old hobo and though they had never spoken, the background check he ran on the old man was extensive. He knew what the fellow valued most of all, but his privacy and anonymity just might have to be compromised.
The problem was, it was either the old man and his dog who broke the news or himself.
Sighing sadly, he turned around and set his mind to the plan that would lead the timid old hobo and his big ugly hound to this site of death.
It had to be done.
Damn! Forgot about that bit of information .Harley considered. I might as well tell it. The way the woman snoops around it wouldn’t be long before she nails either Dani or Paris down and then it’ll come out anyway.
She sighed heavily and looked straight ahead. This was not the place or time she’d planned on having this conversation but she had gotten herself into this, so she had to tell it.
“You know we were dating for a while?” Harley briefly glanced over to Emily who simply nodded.
Her voice lowered a bit and she said. “I know you recall what I said to you about not moving too fast and getting to know someone before becoming physical?”
Emily bit her top lip and nodded again. The writer could clearly see the signs of reluctance on the Sherriff’s face. Whatever this was going to be, Harley sure didn’t’ want to tell her about it. For a quick second she thought about telling the woman to forget it, but she tamped that down when she realized that this was going to be something she probably needed to know. It was probably something both about Valerie’s personality and therefore, important to the case they were working on, as well as a window into what went on in Harley’s mind about relationships and intimacy.
“The first few weeks it was fine.” She shook her head. “No, the truth is the first few weeks she played me. And I bought it.” She shook her head again. “She must have spent some time checking me out because for all intents and purposes she was very like the kind of woman I’d be interested in, but… Anyway, the last few days we saw each other she was pretty much in my personal space all the time. I tried to be flattered and relax around her but I just couldn’t. Looking back on it I’m pretty sure my subconscious was trying to warn me that she wasn’t all she seemed, but I was lon…I just didn’t listen.”
“We’d been doing the standard date thing. You know movies, dinners, hikes, long phone calls, and then, that last Friday she wanted to go clubbing.” Harley smiled and glanced at Emily. “If you haven’t figured it out we don’t have any clubs in Bramble so the nearest place to hit was a little lesbian bar in Santa Barbara…or so I thought.’
“She told me she wanted to take me someplace new. I figured okay, what the hell. Then she told me she wanted it to be a surprise. Next thing I know, I’m belted into her car, I’m wearing a blindfold and she hands me a travel mug filled with ‘Long Island Iced Tea,’ she said.”
Harley let go a long slow breath. “I have only vague recollections after that. I seemed to remember walking from the car to somewhere with steps, soft lighting, music, something cold in my hand, then that’s it. The next thing I know for sure was waking up on a bed in a strange room and it’s sometime mid-afternoon of the next day. My head hurt and I felt fuzzy, not hang-over fuzzy, more like when you come out of anesthesia fuzzy. I sat up and just as I was trying to put it together, Valerie comes in with coffee and proceeds to tell me that I passed out in the car on the way and she felt it would be better to bring me to her little cabin until I felt better….since it was on the way. On the way to where I never found out.”
Emily’s eyes got huge and before she could say anything, Harley continued. “I know, I may come from a small town but I’m not an idiot. I was pretty sure I’d been drugged, but I was fully dressed except for my shoes and lying on the bed, not in it, covered with a comforter. And I was alone. Only my shoes were off. I couldn’t figure out what it was she gave me or why, since I seemed to be waking up the same way I went to sleep. I did an academy award winning job of acting nauseous, and asked if she’d drive me home. She bought it and went on and on about how she was so sorry if she was responsible for my condition, and how she didn’t know I couldn’t hold my liquor, ha, ha. ha, you know? I just agreed with her and moaned and held my stomach until she dropped me at my door. I refused to let her in saying I just wanted to take some medicine before I threw up.”
Harley ran a hand through her hair. “The minute Valerie was gone; I called Hobie and asked him to come over to see me and to bring his bag. I asked him to draw some blood, and check it for anything odd, particularly anything that might make me sleep.”
“Rohypnol.” Emily said.
“Yeah, that was my idea, too.” She sighed. “No luck. Could have been BHG. It dissipates in the body after twelve hours. Whatever she gave me either doesn’t leave any chemical trace or had already dissipated.”
“Did he do a vaginal exam?” Emily asked.
Harley’s mouth dropped open and she nearly shouted. “Emily! He’s my BROTHER!”
“Oh, yeah.” A very chagrined Emily smiled vaguely and said in a very small voice. “Sorry.”
Harley huffed a bit then answered in the same small voice. “No. No one did.”
“I know it was stupid, but hindsight is 20-20. Anyway, at first I didn’t feel anything in any way, well, different down there, you know. It just never occurred to me she’d go that route. My first thought was that she drugged me for some sort of industrial espionage purposes, you know, to get information about what Dad and Wilson are doing and the way the company is headed. You know inside trader kinda stuff. Goddess knows she’s cheap enough. For a multi-millionaire, I paid for every date. Anyway.” She cleared her throat. “I just didn’t’ think she would do that. I mean, what woman would think to do that to another woman, and up until then I thought we had some sort of real relationship, ya know?”
“Yeah.’ Emily said softly. She could see that this incident really bothered Harley. As well it should! It was obvious she was angry with herself and Valerie, but more than that she was humiliated. Emily understood why. Here she was, an attorney, and she missed the signs, not to mention a part time Sheriff. Beyond that, Emily could see small glimpses of something else in her eyes and body language. It took her a moment to get it, but then it registered. She was hurt.
Damn, that bitch. If I ever meet up with her, broken wrist or not, I’m gonna deck that whore!
Emily wasn’t sure she should ask but she had to know. “Well, did she?”
Harley swallowed hard. “Yeah. After I dumped her she made a point to tell me what she’d done and how much fun it was. She said she just got tired of waiting and decided ‘she’d been a good girl for long enough and it was time to just take what she wanted.’ She said nobody ever said no to her and no one ever walked away and she knew that I wouldn’t either.” She shook her head. “She was so arrogant! She said, she was used to always getting what she wanted and that I needed to remember it was all about her and what she wants. If I was a good little pet, and remembered to be grateful, she said, she’d make me very glad she chose me. She actually said, she’d have me ‘trained up’ in no time. At the time I was just so mad, I knew I had to get out of there before I ended up in jail. It would have been justifiable homicide, but I know my Daddy wouldn’t have liked it.”
“The bitch!” Emily hissed. “You did arrest her for this, right?”
Harley shook her head. Before Emily could go off on her like she was sure the writer was about to, she held up her hand and said, “I couldn’t. I had no evidence. There was nothing in the blood tests. I had no marks I could prove she made. No one heard her confession and the whole town knew we had been dating. All she had to do was deny it.”
Emily fumed. She fidgeted. She clenched her fists and then her jaw and then her fists again. She mumbled, and then she started smoking and chained smoked all the way to Los Angeles.
Harley spent a few minutes trying to calm herself down. Telling it brought it all back and she had to work at letting the anger go. By the time she was calm enough to talk about something else, she noticed the righteous indignation on Emily’s face and had to smile. When it didn’t go away after several miles, she once again reminded herself not to get on Emily’s list and tried to think of a way to calm the small woman down.
She was a little worried about that blood vessel in Emily’s forehead bursting.
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