Archive | February 2019

Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 46

sidetracked resized

Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

While the men are at the crime scene, Vanessa interviews Butch. It doesn’t take long to get the truth from him.

Deirdre drove Eoin home. They talked happily about everything but the case, choosing to take this short time to ignore the ugliness that had brought them back together. When they got to his trailer, she made all the right noises when she saw Eoin’s home. He was so proud of his little slice of paradise, to have her compliment thing things he loved most, pleased him. He invited her to stay to lunch, which she graciously accepted.

“I’m not as good a cook as you, but I do well enough.”

He made grilled cheese sandwiches with three types of cheese, sauteed onions, and a dab of pepper jelly on top. Along with this, he warmed some French onion soup.

“I know the tradition is tomato soup, but I bloody loathe the stuff.”

“I’ve never liked it either. This is delicious. Did you make it yourself?”

“Yes, it’s very easy, just a box o’broth and more onions. I’m mad over onions of all types. I probably have more scallions, leeks and chives than a restaurant.”

“A man of taste. I love them, too. This sandwich is amazing! Thank you.”

He had ice cream for dessert. Remembering her love of chocolate, he brought out the Hershey’s syrup, pouring it over two scoops of vanilla bean. Happy and full, they chatted a bit more, until he had to get ready to go.

“It’s a lot of prep work,” he admitted. “Got to shave closely, wax the uni-brow, trim the sideburns….”

“Do you have to wax—elsewhere?” She blushed, trying not to think about things men had to wax.

“You mean—the area?” he vaguely gestured near his zipper. “I try not to wear anything that skimpy. I do have to shave and wax my legs, but I just had that done. Not a lot of fun, but one must sacrifice for ones art.” He raised his voice, sounding like Angelique, as he batted his eyelashes.

“Go be artful.” Deirdre gave him a kiss on the forehead. “Know you are loved and don’t forget to visit.”

“I promise to be more diligent. Now you know where I live, you’ll come kick my bony, Irish ass if I don’t.”

“Don’t think I won’t!” She waved her foot at him.

“I remember the time you did.”

“When was that?”

“Aiden and I had been to a party for the golf team, and I brought him home. You smelled alcohol on me and kicked my ass—hard! You didn’t even stop until Aiden assured you it was because someone else had spilled on me. You were all for a Breathalyzer.”

“I’m sorry about that.”

“No, as it should be. Besides, I deserved it for other things, at other times. You’ve always set me straight, and I appreciate that.” He gave her a hug and a kiss. “Let me know when Fred returns, and we’ll make a special night for you.”

“That sounds lovely. Thank you.”

“Thank you, Mum. You’re the best.”

As Deirdre drove home, she watched the gathering clouds. A late afternoon thunderstorm was headed her way. She sped up, wanting to get past Port Orange before all hell broke loose. The Spruce Creek bridge, south of the city, was horrible in a thunderstorm. She had just turned onto Beville, heading east, when the storm broke. She slowed to twenty miles an hour, turning her wipers on high. She’d lived in Florida all her life, but after an accident on I-95 a few years ago, she was very cautious in the rain. Glad she was taking the smaller highway, not the interstate, she crawled along toward US-1.

There weren’t many cars on the road, but she was being closely followed by a dark blue, Ford, four door. Traveling in the left lane, she eased over to the right. The blue Ford sidled up beside her. Keeping her eyes on the road, she didn’t pay attention to them, until she caught movement in the corner of her eye. The passenger’s window scrolled quickly down, and the man had a gun trained on her. Shocked and horrified, Deirdre slammed on her brakes. The Jeep screeched to a halt, gliding over the wet pavement to rest near the curb. The motor shuddered to a halt. Struggling to turn it back on, she prayed she wouldn’t flood it. Finally, the engine caught and she did her best to get back on the road.

The Ford passed her, but made a U-turn, coming around to her. Pulling herself together, she sped up and turned right onto a cross street, gunning her motor. She knew the police department wasn’t far away. In fact, nothing was far from anything else in South Daytona. The community wasn’t large, but she didn’t know her way around well. Luck was with her. She saw a sign for the police to her left. Sloshing into the side parking lot, she stopped her car, turning off the motor. Her red Jeep was distinctive, but she hoped the people following her wouldn’t notice her right away. Ducking down, she reached in the back seat for an umbrella. A car passed behind her, rolling slowly. Deirdre kept her head down, hoping it wasn’t the car that was following her, but uncomfortably sure it was. Chancing a peek, she saw it stop several yards away, in another parking spot. It was definitely the car that had been following her. Grabbing her bag and umbrella, she got out of the Jeep and scuttled to the door.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

Red River Radio Presents What’s Write for Me with Karen and Viv

red river radio logo

I decided to do another marketing show. I decided to bring in two of my favorite author/ promoters to join us.

karen resting sarcastic bitch face

Karen Vaughan is the author of comic mysteries, predominantly her lively Laura and Gerry books, as well as Holmes in America and Dead Comic Standing. She also helps promotes other authors, not only with her Writer’s Roundtable show, but with Owl & Pussycat Promotions.

viv-drewa

Viv Drewa, author of Midnight Owl, the Owl and the Sipan Lord, The Angler and the Owl, among others. She and Karen work together with Owl and Pussycat Promotions.

 

Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 45

sidetracked resized

Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

When the police arrive at Mrs. Berman’s house, they find her in a coma. They also find evidence that this was the place where Wendy was raped and killed.

While the men were gone to investigate Gertrude Berman’s house, Vanessa prepared to interview Jim “Butch” Butcher. She knew the man peripherally, only vaguely aware of him. Since she rarely had computer problems, she had no occasion to meet him. She hadn’t even known his full name, or recognized him in old photographs. To be fair, he looked very different from the teen three years ago. He’d put on weight and his hair had thinned. He now wore glasses, where he’d worn contacts in high school.

He was still cooling his heels in the interrogation room. Taking another officer in with her, she took her place across from him. He wore too much cologne, and was already sweating. She asked the officer to adjust the air, and did her best to keep her lunch down. Holding a handkerchief over her nose, she was able to stand his odor until the fan helped clear the air.

“I smell that bad?” he sniffed himself. “Oh, I forget, you’re knocked up.” An ugly leer flitted across his face. “Got yourself that good looking husband. The Cuban guy.”

Vanessa didn’t bother to correct his assumption. She was half Cuban, Dario was full blooded Peruvian. She did wonder how Jim knew, but she wasn’t going to ask him.

“How long have you been helping Sue cover up Troy’s crimes?”

“I like that. Right to the point. No beating around the bush.”

“You, on the other hand…. I figure it’s been more than just the last two years. You were pretty handy with computers, even in school. Of course, your short, unimpressive career in the Marines, set you back a little. Feeling up an officer? Wow.”

“She wanted it. She just pretended she didn’t.”

“She broke your arm, Jim.”

“Butch. I go by Butch now.”

“So…Jim. I guess she didn’t want it after all.”

He shrugged. “Women say one thing, mean another.”

“What did Wendy mean when she told you to take your hands off her. When she screamed for help as you and your friends raped her. Did she really mean that she liked it? Wanted it? What did you mean when you strangled her?” She tossed a picture of Wendy in front of him. It showed the damage the vultures had done. “Did you mean to kill her? I’m not sure you did. I think you killed her, because you got off on her pain. Her suffering. It’s alike an aphrodisiac for sick f**ks like you.” She leaned forward, tapping the picture. “Isn’t it?”

“You got nothing….”

“Lieutenant Scott and Sergeant Waters are paying a visit to your old friend, Gertrude Berman.”

Butcher paled, flop sweat caused huge rings to appear under his arms and across his chest.

“Yeah, whatever you gave her, killed her. She’s dead, too. Two deaths on your hands, Jim. Not good.”

“I didn’t do anything to Gertrude! That was Bullock! He drugged the old lady, so she couldn’t talk. She couldn’t tell….” He clapped a hand over his mouth.

“Couldn’t tell what? That you and your twisted friends raped Wendy and murdered her? She had marks on her throat. They’re too small for Bullock’s hand, too big for Troy’s. But I think, just by looking at you, they’re going to find that your hands are just right. The Goldilocks of Murder. That’s you. Did you mean to kill her? Or was it an accident? Getting off on the torture, the near death. See, I think you can’t get it up with a woman, unless you’re hurting her. I think you and Troy, you have to hurt a woman to get hard. I think Bullock just likes to beat women. And I bet if it weren’t for rape, none of you would get laid.”

She didn’t even look at him when she said that. He said nothing.

“You don’t have to answer. I’m pretty sure I’ve got my facts right. But any time you wanna hop in and set me straight….”

“Bullock said we had to shut her up. He said we’d rough her up and make her leave.”

“But you killed her. Why?”

Jim Butcher burst into tears. “It was an accident. I was trying to do that thing—you know…. That thing!” He held his hands up, as if grasping his throat.

“Erotic asphyxiation. Yeah, didn’t go as planned, huh?”

“She wouldn’t hold still, so I kept…I kept— And then she stopped struggling and she wasn’t there anymore. Just that quick.”

“You killed her, Jim.”

“It was an accident.”

“You murdered her.”

“I didn’t mean to!”

“James Butcher, I’m arresting you for the rape and murder of Wendy Hamilton.”

He burst into tears, wailing incoherently. Vanessa had him taken back to his cell.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 44

sidetracked resized

Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

With both Butch and Sue in custody, Jasper takes a team to go examine the home of Troy’s grandmother.

As much as he didn’t want to enter the Berman/ Intriago household again, Jasper was pleased to lead the raid. He had the warrant in hand. Sending two officers around back, he and his friend, Aaron, took the front. Taking their positions on either side of the door, he nodded. Aaron thumped on the door with his fist.

“Mrs. Berman, Police. Open up.” He thudded on the door again.

Glancing in the window, Jasper saw the old woman sitting in her chair. She wasn’t moving. The dogs barked, a cacophony of yapping filled the air.

“Try the knob,” Jasper ordered.

Aaron tried it and the door opened.

“Mrs. Berman. Ma’am? Gertrude?”

The dogs capered and barked, getting in his way. Jasper walked over to Gertrude Berman’s chair and felt her pulse. It was weak and thready. Her respiration was sharp and shallow, as she gulped for air. The air was even more fetid than when he’d been there before, and it didn’t take long to determine that the old lady had shit herself. Calling EMS, he warned them of the situation. Leaving her for the moment, he moved toward the back door and let the other officers in.

The kitchen was knee deep in storm debris. Part of the roof had come down. Plaster, insulation and shingles littered the room And something else caught his eye. It was a bright pink woman’s jacket. There was no way in hell that would fit Gertrude Berman, even if she were likely to put on an athletic hoodie with a big, sparkling W bedazzled on the breast. There was blood on the jacket, and something more he didn’t want to identify. After taking some pictures, he carefully, he picked it up, looking for identification. A license and a set of keys tumbled into his searching hand. The pretty face, framed by lush blonde hair, told a sad story.

“It’s Wendy’s,” he told the others. “Lock this place down. It’s a crime scene. Aaron, you got your kit in the car?”

“Yes, sir. You don’t want me to call Sherri?”

Jasper rolled his eyes. “Do you think this is the appropriate place for her?”

“No. Of course. I wasn’t thinking. I’ll be right back. EMS is here. I’ll let them in and call Animal Control. We can’t have these dogs around while we process the scene.”

“Good idea. Thanks.”

The other two officers had locked the back door, but went around opening the windows. The stench was enough to choke an entire army. Jasper found the air conditioner and started the fan, hoping to suck out the smell.

Minutes later, Animal Control pulled up. Behind them, Scott rolled in. By this time, EMS had collected Gertrude. She was breathing, but she was in bad shape.

“Looks like she might have been drugged,” one EMT said. “But it’s hard to tell. Jesus, this place! How do people live like this?”

“No clue. Thanks. Keep me posted?” Scott asked.

“You got it.”

The Animal Control offier, with the help of the two blond policemen, rounded up the dogs.

“First thing we’ll do is get you each a nice, hot bath. Won’t that be fun? You poor babies. I don’t think they’ve ever been clean. And this one, bless her heart, is expecting!”

It took some doing to go through the kitchen for evidence, but there were enough trace specimens on the table and floor to show them that this was where Wendy was raped and killed. Aaron, with the help of another officer, went over the scene twice to be sure they had photographed and gathered everything.

While this was going on, Scott and Jasper found the grow room. It was on the enclosed Florida room off the back. Someone had been enterprising enough to tap illegally into the power line, to keep the power use off the police radar. There were dozens of healthy plants in the spacious, spotless room, which ran the length of the house. A sophisticated watering system was set up to tend to the plants, and the air in here was fresh, though it did smell of weed. They left the doors open, to help the house odor.

“I’m never gonna get this stench off me,” Jasper said.

“I’m gonna have to boil or burn this suit. I can’t come home smelling like this.”

“We can’t go back to the station like this,” Jasper said. “Vanessa would throw us out!” His phone rang and he recognized the number of the EMS. “Go for Waters.”

“I’m sorry, Jasper. The old lady died. She’d been drugged all right. And she was severely dehydrated. She’s got a bracelet on that says she’s diabetic. I don’t know her glucose level, but I’m pretty sure she went into a coma.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. She was a strange old bird, but no one deserves to die alone like that. Thanks.” He reported to Scott.

“Well, damn. I was hoping to talk to her.”

“Boss, the woman is dead.”

“Yeah? I’m sorry about that, but if her family is any indication, she was a horrible person. I can’t find it in me to care right now. Wendy was raped repeatedly, and strangled. Right here. Did she really sleep through it all? Or did she simply pretend?” He shook his head. “We’ll never know. The only witnesses to her death, are the ones who killed her.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 43

sidetracked resized

Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

After Sue is arrested, they decide to go after the other half of the nefarious pair who helped Troy, Jame Butcher. Now known as Butch, he works IT for the police department. Jasper lures him to the office with a story about damaging his computer.

“Is there any way to find out about my granddaughter?”

“I’m afraid not. Those records are sealed by the court. I know you’d like to contact the parents, but would it be fair to the baby?”

“I don’t mean to take her away,” Deirdre said. “She’s their daughter, as much as if they’d given her life. But I would like to know her. I understand, though. If there is any way to give them the information, about us. So, if she wants to meet Aiden when she’s older, she can.”

“I’ll see what I can find out,” Jasper promised. “And I’ll pass the information along. No promises.”

“I understand that. I would want my privacy, too.” She walked out with Eoin.

“She may not know that Wendy was trying to get custody,” Jasper said when they had gone.

“Whether she does or not, we can’t be involved in that.”

“Of course not, but I will see what I can find, so I can keep my promise.”

“I can’t stop you.”

He kissed her forehead. “Nope, you can’t.”

Giggling, she went back in her office. Jasper manned his desk, listening to the prisoners rant. It was quite an instructive conversation. Meanwhile, Scott and Vanessa made plans to interview both Sue and Jim Butcher, to see which of them was dumb enough to tell the entire scheme. Vanessa bet on Sue, Scott’s money was on Butcher. Taking them into separate interrogation rooms, they went over the questions they most wanted to ask.

Jasper led the prisoners in, chaining them to the table. Sue whined about her back and knees, Butch said he needed to pee. Neither of them asked for a lawyer, though they had been told that right when arrested. Either they thought it was automatic, or they weren’t bright enough to think they could be proven guilty. Whatever the case, it played into Scott and Vanessa’s plans.

“Whose idea was it for you to get Troy out of trouble?” Vanessa asked Sue.

“Who says I did?”

Vanessa folded her hands on the table, a thick folder beneath them. “Sue, this will be a lot quicker if you just tell me the truth. Was it your sister’s idea?”

“She’s not my sister. Step-sister. And her mother only married my dad to get his money.”

After seeing the decrepit, disgusting house, Vanessa had to wonder about that. “Gertrude Berman hasn’t got any money.”

“Heh, you’d think to look at her. But that old bitch is swimming in it. Conniving, femme fatale.”

Again, Vanessa was puzzled. That filthy old crone was rich? A femme fatale? Didn’t you have to have all your teeth for that?

“So, Gertrude was a Gold Digger?”

“Damn right! She took my dad for every nickel, then he got himself dead. I think the old cow poisoned him, but I can’t prove it. Never could.”

“Then why did you help Troy, if his mother and grandmother were so awful?”

“To get even with ’em. Troy’s troubled, but he’s a good kid at heart. He was always nice to me. Never gave me a lick of trouble, when his whore of a mother went off for the weekend—or longer. Got some rich sugar daddy and spent a week—a week! In Vegas. And me watching her snot nosed kid. Me and him bonded, though. He was sweet. That house they live in? That was mine, but she stole it from me. It was real nice, too. She’s run it into the ground. I hope it f**king falls on her head when she’s asleep! You know they’ve got a grow room in back? That’s why she lets the dogs run all over. They cover the smell!” She shook her head. “What a wrinkled old c—t.”

Vanessa hadn’t expected any of this. She got a confession and a whole lot more. Beating a hasty exit, she found Jasper in the observation room, already on the phone.

“Yeah, Judge McTeague please? Thanks.” He waited a couple of minutes before the judge, a distant cousin of Teague’s mother, picked up. “Hiya, Jethro. I need a warrant.” He went on to explain. Vanessa had the address in her notes, and he told the judge.

“I’ll have that for you as fast as Cindy can type. This connected with that murder, y’all had down there?”

“Yes, sir. We believe that there may be evidence connecting Troy Intriago, and others, to her murder.”

“Cindy tells me the paperwork is filed. You should get your copy any second.”

Jasper’s phone buzzed, giving him an e-mail alert. Already, he and several other officers, geared up to search the house for evidence of Wendy’s killing. If they busted a grow house in the process, so much better.

“Wanna go, Ness?” Jasper invited with a wicked wink.

“I might have to kill you for that suggestion. Go. Have fun. Paper work is all yours.”

“Thanks, babe.” He blew her a kiss and headed out with the others.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 42

sidetracked resized

Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

While visiting with Vanessa, Deirdre puts together how Troy was always able to get out of jail. It turns out that Sue, the secretary, is his aunt. Still, she needed help. Who could that be?

“Enter Jim Butcher,” Deirdre said, pulling another photo from the pile. “Dishonorably discharged, after less than a year, from the Marines, for Conduct Unbecoming,” she said.

Jasper’s lip snarled in disgust. He’d been a Marine himself, and that charge was the lowest possible, in his mind. “You need this boy brought in? I can make that happen,” he told Vanessa.

“I’d love for you to. News of Sue’s arrest will filter down quickly.”

Jasper picked up the phone and dialed. “Hiya, Butch, it’s Sgt. Waters. Yeah, I f**ked something up again, buddy. I need your magic touch.”

He’d put the phone on speaker, so they all heard Jim’s voice when he replied. “What this time, my man? You have the worst luck with computers.”

“Yeah, I dunno, I spilled my Coke on the keyboard and it’s not responding.”

“Probably just fried the keys. Got an extra anywhere?”

“You f**king kidding? In this place?”

“I’ll be by in ten with a new one. I’ve got a spare on my truck. We’ll take a look and make sure you didn’t short anything else.”

“Thanks, man. You take good care of me. I’ll put on a pot, and we’ll get after this.”

“No worries, got my Bull. See you shortly.” Jim hung up.

“I gather you do this a lot?” Eoin said with a smirk.

“I’m incapable of interfacing with computers. I hate them, they hate me. Women, on the other hand, no difficulty.”

“Only now, you’re married,” Vanessa reminded him.

“I know. Doesn’t mean I can’t be friendly. If I step outta line, my wife can kill me.” He shrugged.

Eoin looked puzzled, but Jasper laughed.

“I’ll introduce you sometime.”

Jim Butcher arrived nine and a half minutes later. He had a messenger bag over his shoulders, carrying an open can of Red Bull and a boxed keyboard. Jasper met him at the door, ushering him in, spewing lively nonsense as they walked into the office.

“Why are we going to Detective Weinstein’s office?”

“Oh, it was her keyboard I baptized. She’s ready to kill me. Come on in.” He let Jim precede him, closing the door in his wake.

“What’s going on?” Jim asked when he Vanessa and Scott waiting for him.

Jasper blocked the door when he tried to leave.

“James Butcher, you’re under arrest for Obstruction of Justice, and tampering with legal documents,” Scott said quietly, sounding deadly. “You have the right to remain silent….”

Strangely, he didn’t stay any quieter than Sue. They put him in a cell opposite her. The two of them yelled back and forth, blaming one another for past misdeeds. Jasper had both cells monitored, recording everything they said. Neither of them had asked for a lawyer, nor were they exercising their right to silence. They let quite a few juicy bits drop, including Eoin’s beating.

“Thanks to his caffeine addiction, we have his DNA,” Jasper said, bagging the can of Red Bull. “I hate to say it, but I have a feeling he’s another contributor to the manky deposits.”

“He always had a sick obsession with Wendy,” Eoin said sadly. “Perverted, twisted bastard.”

“What do you know about Bullock?” Vanessa asked suddenly.

Coach Bullock? More than I’d like, why?”

“You missed what the girls had to say yesterday,” Jasper told him.

“Rather not know,” Eoin remarked abruptly, holding up his hand. “As to all that, not something I want Deirdre involved in it at all.”

“I’m a big girl,” Deirdre protested.

“As I’m aware. I wouldn’t tell my own mum, dreadful as she is. You do not need to be a party to this.” He shook his head. “It will come out at trial, that’s soon enough.”

Jasper nodded, conceding Eoin’s decision. Deirdre wasn’t pleased, but he was adamant.

“Honestly, I wish I didn’t know myself,” Vanessa said softly. “Okay. Deirdre, you’ve given me so much. Thank you. Now, to unravel the rest.”

“I can help,” Deirdre offered.

“No. This will get ugly. You’re not a cop, I’m not dragging you into this any deeper.”

“But you’ll let me know how it turns out?”

“I will. You and your son are as deeply invested in the outcome as I am.”

As they were walking to the front door, Deirdre paused.

“Is there any way to find out about my granddaughter?”

“I’m afraid not. Those records are sealed by the court. I know you’d like to contact the parents, but would it be fair to the baby?”

“I don’t mean to take her away,” Deirdre said. “She’s their daughter, as much as if they’d given her life. But I would like to know her. I understand, though. If there is any way to give them the information, about us. So, if she wants to meet Aiden when she’s older, she can.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 41

sidetracked resized

Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

Deidre is driving Eoin home, and stops by the police station, to drop something with Vanesa.

“We’ve been looking at him, too, but didn’t find anything.” Vanessa pulled sheets of paper from the envelope.

“I found a lot of weird, inconsistent things. But it wasn’t until just now that I put it all together. I was looking for someone high placed, but it’s not.” Deirdre spread the papers, pointing to a particular photo.

“I don’t follow.” Vanessa glanced at the papers, finally noticing a photo. “Oh. Oh, my.” She looked up at Deirdre, dark brown eyes wide. “Just—now.”

“Yes.” She tilted her head. “I saw a familiar face in the office. And I’ve never met that woman before in my life.”

Vanessa caught her lower lip in her teeth. “Not alone.”

“No.” Deirdre shifted some papers and tapped one with her fingertip. She had no real proof about this, but a strong gut instinct.

The pieces of the puzzle fell into place. “I would never have figured this out. This is—scandalous!”

“Agreed.”

“I’m lost,” Eoin said, wincing when he leaned forward to see the pages.

“Sue!” Vanessa called. “Will you come in here, please?”

The older woman didn’t answer. They heard the beep of the security door opening. Eoin stood up and rushed out, finding Sue trying to get through the door with a rolling file box behind her. It caught on the doorjamb. She struggled to free it. He did so, snatching it from her, blocking her exit.

“Get out of my way,” she demanded, threatening to hit him.

Vanessa was at her elbow. “Far enough,” she spoke sharply. “You don’t want to hit him, Sue. Let’s not add assault to your charges.”

“You got nothing on me! You can’t prove a thing!”

“I’ve got a family connection between you and Troy Intriago. You’re his mother’s step-sister. And I can also connect you to someone else—Jim Butcher.”

“You can’t prove nothing!” Sue snarled. “You got nothing! Jimmy made it all disappear!”

“You might wanna shut up now,” Eoin said quietly, knowing she wouldn’t.

Sue snapped and growled, wrenching her fat arm out of Vanessa’s hold. Luckily, Jasper heard the commotion, and came to her aid. He cuffed Sue while she still tried to get away.

“Want to tell me why I’ve just arrested our secretary?” he asked over his shoulder, as he walked her to the holding cells.

“I’ll tell you in a minute. Get her booked.”

“On what charge?”

“Multiple charges of obstruction. I’ll come up with more later.”

“You got it, Boss.”

Jasper did his job quickly, listening to Sue rail and screech the entire time. He, wisely, turned on the recording app on his phone. She ranted and raved, revealing details they wouldn’t get in interrogation. When his job was done, he joined the others in Vanessa’s office.

“Speak.” He leaned against the wall, hands in his pockets, ankles casually crossed.

“I got to thinking,” Deirdre said. “Who knows the most in an office? Not the boss….”

“The boss’ secretary,” Jasper concluded. “Yes! And the connection?”

Vanessa handed him a picture from the paper. It was a picture of Sue, Troy, his mother and grandmother, all younger, but identifiable.

“That was right after his grandmother remarried, Sue’s father. Troy joined the Police Athletic League and who did he meet there?” She laid out another picture showing Troy with his arm around Jim Butcher’s shoulders. The two boys smiled wide at the camera.

“Whoa! This guy.” He tapped the photo. “I know this face! f**k!” His head snapped up. “That’s Butch!”

Vanessa frowned, shaking her head.

“Butch. The I.T. guy. He comes in when we have a problem, piddles around. But you know what else he can do?”

Waiting, Vanessa looked impatient. Jasper asked to use her computer. Pulling up the task bar, he found an icon she’d seen every day, but had no clue what it was.

“He can get into our computers by remote. Say you get stuck with a glitch, he can access your computer on a secure link, and take over its functions. He can see it like his own. And he can make things appear….”

“Or disappear,” Eoin finished.

“Exactly. It was easy for Sue to do alone, when Troy was younger, all actual paper work. But once things went electronic, she didn’t have full access, or the knowledge. She’d need outside help,” Jasper said excitedly.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes