Archive | June 2014

Bad Fall – Part 76

Bad FallFrank shows Marka his journals. He suspects that whoever trashed his house was after them. Instead of leaving them where they might be found, Marka decides to take them. She figures that if no one knows they have them, they will be safe enough.


“Frank, find me a bag?”

“Sure, babe.” He grabbed a cloth grocery bag from the kitchen and she dropped the books in it before the others could see them. “I found some books to read with my Alzheimer’s group. Frank had all the classics. Mine are in storage. Thanks for letting me borrow them.” She kissed him playfully. “Now, salvage what you can of your knickers and socks and let’s head out. I’m getting chilly and I don’t like the color of the sky.”

She pointed out the window. The men gazed in unison, squinting against the light. All of them agreed that the weather looked dodgy. They had no desire to be out in a snowstorm.

Frank gathered up what he could of his clothing and carried it in grocery bags out to the car. Shay and James loaded the bags in the trunk as Frank locked the house. Marka waited in the car for the men. They bid James farewell and headed back to Sheltering Oaks.

Shay drove them to the front door and helped them unload. Marka got one of the grocery carts that were kept in the vestibule and they loaded the bags into it, taking them to their room. It was getting late and neither of them felt like cooking. Frank called for a pizza and went downstairs to pick it up. Marka gathered their clothing and decided to do a load of laundry. She carried the basket down the hall and through the sitting room at the end, heading to the laundry room at the end of the next building.

The load started, she headed back to the room and let herself in. Frank came in a few minutes later. They ate their pizza and cleaned up. Frank was making a move to kiss Marka, when his phone rang. Exasperated, he answered.

“It’s Clark. Can you meet me?”

“Cut the cloak and dagger shit. Just come to the room.”

“Shay doesn’t want that. You need to come to where our mystery man fell. We’ve got our forensics guys going over it.”

“Why? Just have them compile the data. . . .”

“Shay’s insistent. I’m on my way, I’ll pick you up in five minutes.”

“Is he trying to ruin my sex life?”

“Probably. He’s sure ruined mine.”

“I’ll be right down.” Frank hung up. “I don’t want to go,” he told Marka.

“I know. Go now, get it over with and come home. I’ll be here. I’ll finish the laundry and go to bed with a good book.”

“I’d rather you were going to bed with me.”

“Goes without saying. Don’t stay long.”

“Not any longer than I have to.”

They kissed a few moments and he left.

Marka made sure she had her key in her pocket and went to the laundry room. The lights in the sitting room had been dimmed for the night. They always left on some lights for the staff to navigate the hallways. This time, the lights were out and the double doors were closed. Those doors were always open, day and night. The only illumination peeped through the glass of the French doors from the hallways that led to two other buildings.

The hairs on Marka’s neck rose and a tingle of fear crept up and down her spine. Telling herself she was over reacting, she kept going. Her steps slowed and she had to force herself to move. Apprehension quickened her heart. A fine beading of sweat dampened her brow. Her hands shook slightly as she rubbed them on her pants. Her feet slowed further.

Deciding she would look for a light switch, she stopped at the doorway, pushed the door open and leaned into the room. Waiting for her eyes to adjust, she scanned the walls of the room, but didn’t see a light switch. There was a lamp on a table a few feet away. She could see clearly that far, but the center of the room and far wall, were nearly black. No light came in from outside.

Shuddering nervously, she took a step into the room. She stopped suddenly when an odd noise caught her attention. Listening intently, she moved closer to the lamp, reaching for it. A louder noise distracted her. Stifling a scream, she moved closer to the lamp. Marka tried to tell herself it was nothing. No one could get in after dark without clearance. Guests signed in at the desk. She was safer here than if she were in her own house—right?

Muffled movement convinced her she wasn’t alone. Taking up a nearby curio, she armed herself as best she could. Her hand crept to the lamp as she tried to get her heartbeat under control. She turned on the lamp, hopping forward with the figurine raised.

A woman screamed. A man’s voice joined the woman’s, cursing vociferously. There was a scramble of movement, a flurry of limbs as two people hurried to dress. Taken by surprise herself, Marka’s scream joined the other woman’s. She dropped her weapon. It bounced harmlessly on the carpet.

“Doc Marka?” The young man said as he pulled up his boxers.

Marka saw more of his anatomy than she wanted to. “Matthew? What the hell are you doing up here?” She turned away, noting that he was uncircumcised and well blessed.

Matthew laughed loudly. His female companion, a nurse with red hair and lavender scrubs, shushed him.

“You’ll wake the residents, Mattie!”

“What are you doing here?” Marka demanded.

Matthew pulled his shirt over his head, chuckling at Marka’s antics as she tried not to look at him. He was as well built as Frank and it was disconcerting.

© Dellani Oakes

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Bad Fall – Part 75

Bad FallColonel Shay picks up Frank and Marka, heading to his house. There, they are met by Frank’s friend, James. A police officer, he’s been given permission to let them go into the house and look around. Frank finds his suits in tatters, his shirts shredded. That, more than anything, makes him feel like this is all a personal attack. Shay tells them that this was, indeed, someone looking for evidence Frank might have about Clay’s death.

Shay cleared his throat. “One reason we recruited him was his photographic memory.”

“Really?” Marka gazed at Frank with new respect.

“Anything I see or hear, it’s there. Perfect recall too.”

Marka bit her lip, staring past him as if he were suddenly invisible. She said nothing, licking her lips as her mind worked.

“I can hear the gears clicking.” Frank tapped her forehead. “Mind sharing?”

“No, nothing. Well, maybe something. When the pieces come together. . . .” She waved her hands, erasing something from the air in front of her.

“Obviously, these guys don’t know Frank well,” Shay said.

“I spent twelve years in school with him,” James added. “Smartest kid in every class from Kindergarten on. Valedictorian of his high school class. We would have hated him if he’d ever gotten a big head over it. Not our Frankie.” He chuckled, shaking his head.

Marka was hardly listening, though Shay was spellbound. He hung on every word James said. Marka, on the other hand, gazed at Frank’s profile, frowning, lips pursed.

“Problem?” Frank mumbled, glancing at her furtively.

“Mm mm,” was her non-committal reply. “Can you draw?”

“Sort of. Why?”

“Just thinking. Arnold.”

He stopped with his coffee cup halfway to his lips. “Yes, Marka?”

“Do you have an artist on tap. Someone who could sketch something from a description?”

“I can find someone. Why?”

“Just a thought. Sorry to interrupt. Excuse me.” She went to the kitchen and started cleaning up.

Frank followed her. He took the broom from her hands and turned her to face him. “What’s going on behind those big brown eyes?”

“Still in the planning stages. When I think, I clean. Grab that dustpan and help me.” She swept the broken dishes into a pile.

Frank dutifully held the dustpan for her. Dumping it in the trash, he watched as she swept more. Marka was obviously in a place unreachable by ordinary means. He waited, helping her clean up his ruined kitchen, mentally cataloging the broken items as he went. He was glad he didn’t have expensive tastes. As it was, it would take nearly a month’s salary to replace what was ruined—not including his suits. Those would take much longer.

They finished the kitchen and Marka led him down the hall to the visitor’s bathroom. The voices of James and Shay droned in the living room. With renewed vigor, Marka attacked the bathroom. It had escaped the trashing the rest of the house had undergone, but the shower curtain was torn and the towels had been stuffed in the toilet.

“That was mature,” Frank said as he pulled out the sodden mass. He dropped them in a garbage bag, knowing he could never use them again.

“Must have potty training issues,” Marka quipped. Planting a kiss on his lips, she moved past him to the next room, the office.

This room had received the most attention. The search had been thorough and organized. Frank surmised the trashing of it had happened after the thief realized he’d found nothing of use. Marka started picking up, but Frank walked over to the wood paneled wall behind his desk. He pressed on one panel and a section of wall swung out revealing a small, sophisticated safe.

Marka stopped working, staring in amazement. “That was there all this time?”

“Yup.”

“Did he get in it?”

“Even if he found it, he couldn’t get in it without extensive safe cracking or taking the wall out. The opening is smaller than the safe. It’s too much for one man to break out and carry himself.”

“Maybe he was going for someone else to help him when he fell.”

“Or maybe no one knows it’s here but us.” Frank deftly tapped in a long code. He opened the door and reached slowly inside. “I never kept anything on the computer, but I did keep track of my time in the Army.” He held several small essay books, held together with an industrial size rubber band. “I didn’t want electronic records, but I didn’t want to forget.”

“You don’t forget, Frank.”

He shook his head, holding up a hand to stop her protest. “I didn’t want this forgotten,” he amended. “If something had happened to me, I wanted my family to have these to remember me by. And my son. . . .” He blinked hard, his lip trembling for a second. “I asked my parents to make sure that my son got a copy when he was old enough.”

“Did you make a record of the day. . . .”

“That Clay died?” He handed her the stack. “I don’t remember.” Hands jammed in his pockets, he hung his head.

Marka held the notebooks like they were made of fine China. “Do we tell Shay?”

“If we find something.”

Marka nodded. She picked up a stack of books and carried them to the living room with the notebooks concealed in the stack. She set the books down on the couch with a thump.

© Dellani Oakes 

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Bad Fall – Part 74

Bad FallFrank and Marka head out to run errands. Clark stops them before they go to Marka’s car, telling them it might not be safe for them to use. Instead, he’s ordered another car for them, courtesy of the government.

The car arrived a short time later. The driver pulled up to the backdoor of the blue house. Shay was inside, riding shotgun. Frank and Marka got in back with their laundry.

“While we’re out, let’s buzz by your house,” Shay said.

“What did the guys find out?”

“We’ll talk about it when we get there.”

They drove in silence. Marka enjoyed the view as they headed into the country to Frank’s house. The day had turned chilly, the sky lowering with the promise of stormy weather. Frank couldn’t suppress a shiver when he saw the yellow crime scene tape around his house.

James met them at the end of the driveway. He took down the tape and allowed them through, putting it up behind them. He opened Frank’s door when the car stopped.

“Sorry, man. It’s still kind of a mess inside. Me and the guys straightened up some after forensics finished, but it’s gonna take a lot of doing.”

“My suits okay?”

James wrinkled his nose. “Kinda. Some of ’em.” He led the way to the door, opening a police security lock. He ushered them through, nodding to Marka as she walked inside.

It was chilly in the house and smelled damp. Frank checked the thermostat and saw that the system was turned off. Instead of turning it on, he assumed there was a reason for it and left it alone.

“Sorry it’s so cold in here, babe.”

“We did that as a precaution,” James said. “Sometimes incendiary devices are put on the heat system,” he explained to Marka. “We had Shay’s men go over it when they were here. They gave it the okay.”

“I’ll have it checked again before I turn it back on. If it’s been sitting here without anyone watching.”

“We’ve been watching,” Shay replied. “But it’s better to have the boys go over it again.”

Frank tried to ignore the devastation that had once been his cozy home. The walkways were clear, items piled on chairs and tables, getting the worst off the floor. His bedroom was almost as big a mess as his office. Shirts in an array of colors lay shredded in heaps. His ties were strewn about the floor and furniture, scattered, but intact. His suits…!

Still on hangers, the pockets had been ripped from the jackets, the sleeves dangling by threads. His pant pockets were turned out, the hems in the cuffs slit with a sharp knife. Nothing had escaped the destruction.

Frank stopped moving, eyes wide. He’d seen dismembered bodies, people shot to hell, scattered body parts—nothing hit him as hard as seeing his tattered wardrobe. His hands shook as he tried to get himself under control. He was terrified beyond belief by this vicious act. It was targeted, personal.

Marka held him close. “We’ll get new suits,” she whispered.

Frank nodded. He felt vulnerable, like he had a target on his back. The urge to cover the windows and hide was strong. Fighting it, he walked into the kitchen, holding Marka’s hand.

James thumped him on the back, pulling him into a man hug. Frank closed his eyes, holding his friend tightly. The fear that had encompassed him moments before, eased a little.

“We’ll get through this, brother. The Four Fucking Musketeers stand together.”

Frank chuckled, ruffling James’ hair. “Thanks.”

They drank their coffee in the living room. Marka could see that someone had cleaned up. Shay handed them each a cup of coffee. Frank accepted his wordlessly.

“So, about the guy in the ravine,” Marka began.

Shay glanced at James.

“He can hear anything you want to tell me. I’ve known him all my life,” Frank stated.

“You were right, Marka. He was a spook. Elizabeth Tynan, my confidential aid, confirmed it today.” Shay smirked, winking at her over his cup of coffee. “He wasn’t one of ours,” he added quickly. “We’re not entirely sure whose. . . .”

“By that, he means he’s not at liberty to say whose,” Frank translated. “He knows or has a good idea.”

“In any case,” Shay tread on Frank’s words. “We’re confident. . . .”

“He was looking for evidence about the day Clay died,” Marka finished.

“Dammit, can’t I complete a sentence?” Shay’s face got red. He was ready to kick up a real fuss. “Yes. That’s exactly what they were after.”

“Why would I keep anything like that on a home computer? That’s insane.”

“They don’t know you like I do.”

“Maybe they thought they could hack your Carbonite account from your home system,” James offered.

“They’d need someone really good just to get by my login passwords. Nothing can be accessed without them and I don’t write them down anywhere.”

“How do you remember all that?” Marka asked. “I can barely remember a phone number.”

“I’ve always had a good mind for numbers. I can remember them after seeing or hearing them once. Never needed paper to get a girl’s number, just had her whisper huskily in my ear.” He leaned over and kissed Marka, totally ignoring the others.

© Dellani Oakes 

To Buy Dellani’s Books

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Bad Fall – Part 73

Bad FallMarka meets up with Frank for lunch and errands. She notices how careful he is with his computer, making sure it’s password protected and shut down before he leaves.

“Habit. In my former job, nothing was left sitting around and available. It’s something so ingrained, I can’t not do it. I guess it’s my form of OCD.”

“Understood.”

He closed and locked his door behind him. Marka watched that action too. Frank paused, his hand on the knob. Her eyes lingered on his fingers. He felt suddenly self-conscious.

“Problem?”

“No.” She shook her head, eyeing the doorknob again before heading down the hall to the front entrance.

Frank strode quickly after her, catching up as the front doors slid open. They walked to her car and she handed him the keys.

“I really need to get my rental.”

“Why bother? We’ve got my car. So far it’s okay.”

“Yeah, I like my own wheels.”

“Is that Clark waving at us?” Marka shaded her eyes, gazing across the lawn.

“Yeah. We’d better go see what’s up.” Taking her hand, he led her across the lawn.

Clark walked over to meet them, hooked their arms in his and led them to the blue house. He walked rapidly and Marka, who had on heels, had a little trouble keeping up. Frank steadied her.

“What’s up?” He asked Clark as they entered the mudroom.

“We have reason to believe the car is compromised,” Clark replied.

“My car? Why would anyone do anything to my car?” Marka asked.

“You’re with me,” Frank replied. He gazed out the window as a couple of men he didn’t know, approached the car with sophisticated bomb detecting equipment. “Can we get a secure rental?”

“I’ve got a car coming,” Clark replied, watching the men. Always one for good posture, his back was so straight, he could have been used as a plumb line. He didn’t relax until the men gave him a thumbs up. “Good. It’s okay. We’re going to take it in just to be sure. The other car looks just like it, Marka.”

“Then what’s the point of switching?” Her spine as stiff as Clark’s, she did her best to hide her anger, but Frank could see it.

“It will come equipped with some special features that I can’t share with you. Frank knows.”

The two men exchanged a look. Frank knew the car was probably armored, bullet proof glass and maybe its own threat detection software.

“Anything to keep Marka safe.”

Me safe? What about you? No no one tore up my office, broke into my house or trashed my car. I’m good. I’m fine.” Hysteria tinged her words.

Frank took her gently by the elbows. “And we’re going to do everything we can to keep you that way. Let us have our paranoid moments, love.”

“For us, it’s as normal as breathing, Dr. Ventimiglia. We aren’t trying to alarm you or anything. We simply want you both safe.”

“I know,” she mumbled. “But this is foreign to me. I’m used to going blithely about without a care. I don’t check under my car for people who are going to grab my ankle and drug me. I rarely check the back seat—unless it’s dark. I lock my car doors when I’m sitting in the parking lot, but that’s about it as far as safety measures.”

Clark chuckled. “All of the above,” he waved his hand at her.

Frank joined him, nodding. “We used to play observation games to test each other.”

“How many blue cars in the parking lot?” Clark laughed, chucking Frank on the shoulder.

Raising an eyebrow and pursing his lips, Frank considered. “Before or after your guys checked the car?”

Clark glanced at the clock. “Five minutes ago.”

“Fifteen. Sixteen, if you count the silvery blue one coming down the driveway. How many exits in the main building?”

“Including Building three and five?”

“No, admin building only.”

“Twelve.” He paused a moment. “Make that thirteen. I didn’t count the fire exit off the dining room.”

“This is fun for you?” Cherry asked as she walked past them to the kitchen.

“Beats some things we could do.”

“What color are my eyes?” Cherry asked Frank. She averted her face, closing her eyes.

“Hazel with a hint of gold. Left one has more gold in it than the right. It’s greener.”

“He’s very good,” Cherry told Marka.

“You’ve no idea. And he’s that good at everything.” With a swish, Marka made a dramatic exit to the living room.

The two men stared after her, laughing. Cherry eyed Frank. He saw interest in her eyes.

“Really?” She tried not to sound too excited.

Frank stroked his tie, looking smug. “Why, yes.” He followed Marka.

“Dammit, why are all the good ones taken?” Cherry muttered as she watched Frank stroll away. 

© Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

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Bad Fall – Part 72

Bad FallFrank and Marka share another fabulous night together. In the morning, it’s time to get back to the mundane realities. Not that either of them minds the normalcy of the day.

“You know we did. That was a solid thirteen and a half.”

“Three quarters,” he countered.

Marka wrinkled her brow, making a pouty face as she pretended to consider his counter offer. “Well, maybe. . . .”

Frank chuckled as he got out of bed. When he got to the bathroom, he found the condom in shreds. Not sure whether she’d find it as funny as he did, he forced himself to keep a straight face.

“Uh, babe. . . . I’d say it was a solid fourteen.” He held up what was left of the condom.

Marka laughed loudly when she saw it. “No way!”

“I swear. I hope you’ve got good birth control.”

“Yeah, I hope so too.”

He disposed of the condom and washed his hands before joining her in the bed.

“Not that I’d mind a baby,” he said, placing his hands over her abdomen. “I never realized how much I wanted to be a dad until it was yanked out from under me.”

“Do you really want to start this early in our relationship?” She put her hands over his, massaging gently.

Frank shrugged, his cheek resting on her hair. “If I wasn’t sure of us, I’d care.”

“What do you mean?”

“I know we’re meant to be together. Don’t tell me you don’t feel it.”

“I do. I thought it was just me.”

“I want about a dozen kids,” he teased, his massaging turning sensual.

“Oh, you think? Planning on having concubines?”

“Nope. There’s no woman for me but you.”

“Then you’ll settle for three,” she replied as his hands dipped lower.

He didn’t protest. Instead, he made love to her long into the night.

When Frank woke the next morning, Marka was in the kitchen. He could hear her moving around and humming. He got up and went to the bathroom as quietly as he could. After brushing his teeth, he went out to the kitchen naked.

Marka was singing as she set up a pot of coffee. She wore one of his sweatshirts and nothing more. Dancing as she sang, she spun around, nearly whacking him in the face with the glass coffee carafe. Fortunately, it was empty. Laughing, she kissed him.

“I was about to come wake you.”

“Well, I’m already awake. So what did you have in mind?”

“Breakfast.”

He sidled up to her, nuzzling her neck. “Nothing more?”

“Nope. . . . Just breakfast.”

“Breakfast is good,” he replied. Licking her neck from nape to ear, he continued. “But some things are better than food in the morning.”

He picked her up, carrying her to the bedroom. Marka pretended to protest, but it was all for show. They had a quick round of lovemaking, followed by a shower. While she dried her hair, Frank started the coffee brewing and made toast. They hadn’t left themselves much time for a fancy meal. They ate quickly and she cleaned up while he dressed.

“This is my last clean suit. I’ll have to go to the dry cleaner’s.”

“I’ll go with you. I have a couple outfits to take in as well.”

“We can go after your first session. I have to run into town anyway.”

“Okay. That sounds good.”

He gathered up their dry cleaning before going up to his office. Marka waited for him just inside the door, doing her best not to notice that the housekeeping staff were doing what they could for the bloodstain on the carpet.

“Mr. Atherton,” one of the women said when he came back in. “I don’t think there’s a thing we can do. This goes into the padding. We’ve been working at it nearly an hour.”

“Put in an order to have it pulled up and replaced.” He shuddered, remembering Ralph’s shattered body. “I need to call the hospital,” he said as they went to the elevator.

A short call assured him that Ralph was improving. His status had been changed to guarded. He was still in terrible shape, but he was, for now, on the mend. That worry off his mind, he made a mental note to check on Mabel later and give her the news.

Ensconced in his new office, Frank knuckled down to catch up on several days worth of work. His first order of business was to change all his passwords. That accomplished, he started on his mental To Do List and hammered away at his keyboard for a couple of hours. Marka’s arrival at his door made him look up and smile.

“You said to get you after my session ended. You ready to go?”

He saved his work and locked down his computer. Marka watched with interest.

“Do you always do that?”

“What?” He grabbed his jacket, slipping it on as he walked to the door.

“All that with your computer.”

© Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

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