Tag Archive | Dellani Oakes

Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 50

“You tell that pretty lady, I’ll see what I can do later, when I go on break.”

She slipped out quietly, leaving him with his meal. Apparently the menu hadn’t been processed yet. They had given him black-eyed peas and cornbread. Not that he minded, but it took a very special touch to get that right.

The peas were bland and the cornbread so sweet, it was more like cake. Too much abuse for a Southern boy to take, he shoved it aside. He drank his ice tea and ate his pie, which was remarkably good, and opened the candy bar. It was a Baby Ruth, his favorite.

The day passed slowly, spent between lightly sleeping and drug induced slumber. Kacy appeared around six, just after the supper trays had been delivered, smuggling in a box of moo goo gai pan and packets of soy sauce. He hadn’t realized how hungry he was until he smelled that aroma. She brought a two liter of root beer, nice and cold, to wash it down.

The newest offering from Kacy’s co-conspirator was a fresh wedge of Southern cornbread wrapped in foil and a little note beside it. I had my daughter bake this and bring it over special. That stuff they serve here would set any Southern boy’s teeth on edge. Enjoy! Karmina.

Handing Kacy the note, Deacon laughed as he munched on his cornbread, slathered thickly with real butter. It was heavenly. The dinner tray yielded another decent piece of pie. The roast beef and mashed potatoes weren’t too bad, so he ate most of that too. The rest of the meal consisted of anemic broccoli and gray peas.

“You certainly managed to eat a lot!” Kacy was surprised at his capacity.

“I’ve been starving all day. I couldn’t eat anything from the lunch tray but the pie. Karmina only had time to get me a candy bar. It was good, but not too filling.”

“I promise to be here tomorrow with each meal. I can’t have you wasting away to nothing.” She kissed him, snuggling up beside him on the bed.

He put his unpunctured arm around her, holding her to him. “Doc says I can probably go home in a day or two. I wish I could go home tonight. I miss you like crazy.”

“I miss you too, Deacon.”

“I’m bored half out of my mind here! Tomorrow can you bring me something to draw with? I need to actually do something. I need to go over a color scheme so the set painters can get started.”

“Deacon, you’ll have time to do that, don’t worry. Dino’s got the men working on repairing your escape hatch as well as replacing all the locks to the outside doors and fixing the others so they’re accessible from the inside. He was horrified by what happened and feels so responsible. I can’t seem to convince him it was our own bloody fault we got stuck there.”

“Where were the security guys? It just occurred to me, they should have been around. They would have seen someone go in or out.”

“They were contacted earlier in the day. A man, who said he was Dino, called them up and told them not to come by, that he had hired another team. We only found out about it because Dino called this morning and asked where they’d been.”

“They didn’t get a phone number I suppose?”

She shook her head. “No, the caller ID said unknown number, so that was useless. They’re back on duty, and Dino told them that unless he comes by personally, not to take any more messages on the phone. He apologized for the misunderstanding, and gave them a bonus.”

A sound of muffled voices echoed in the tile hallway and a light tapping at the door announced the arrival of the entire cast of the play. Dr. and Mrs. Cooper headed the troupe carrying a large bouquet of flowers from the florist shop next to the theater.

“They sent it over for free,” Coop told Deacon. “Said they felt so badly about what happened. They were at their shop, but didn’t see or hear anything.”

“That young man was all torn up about it, he felt just terrible. He and his mother send their regards.” Mrs. Cooper went about arranging the bouquet in a vase they had brought with them.

“I believe that the gentlemen from the construction team will be stopping by later this evening,” said the man playing Mr. Hix.

He was a short, rotund fellow who looked well healed and well fed, the semi-retired lawyer, Stevens. As usual, he wore an ugly, garish tie that clashed horribly with his suit. This one was pink and blue swirls with a brown suit. It looked like someone had vomited in Technicolor, and made Deacon’s head ache.

Mrs. Cooper was disappointed to know that Deacon had already eaten, because she had brought him a care package. Included were specialty items of hers, and the other ladies of the cast. Deacon had to go through the basket and view the entire contents, before they were placated.

“Looks like I’ll eat well for breakfast,” he declared to their delight. They stayed a little longer and then Dr. Cooper made everyone leave.

“The patient needs his rest! Scoot, all of you!”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 49

Dino could sense this was an uncomfortable subject, so he finished his meal in silence, threw out his trash and declared he was leaving. Kacy asked him for a ride, then kissed Deacon goodbye.

“I’ll be back later. You rest.”

“You too,” he smiled and closed his eyes as she went out the door.

Instead of going back to sleep right away, he turned on the TV and watched the news, which was fraught with war stories. Cartoon Network was insipid, so he switched to Discovery Channel. Ironically, it was a documentary about twins separated at birth, and their similarities. It amazed him how much alike they were, given the disparate circumstances of their upbringing. Deacon watched avidly until the program was over.

“I bet none of them ever fell for their brother’s widows,” he muttered darkly.

Stifling a yawn, he tried to get himself into a satisfactory position, but didn’t really have much luck. Having his foot up in traction wasn’t exactly conducive to comfort. He dozed for an hour or so before the nurse came in and administered his next shot. It wasn’t Cindy, she was on night shift, which had ended at seven.

“She’ll be back tonight around quarter to eleven.” This nurse was older and British, her accent clipped, but her voice was friendly.

“When will my doctor be by? More to the point, who is my doctor?”

“Doctor should be around soon, he’s started rounds already. His name is Dr. Connors and he’s the best in the business.”

The door popped sharply open and a tall, dark skinned man in royal blue scrubs and Crocs came in. His white teeth glittered in his chocolate colored face, his smile broad and welcoming.

“Good to see you awake, Mr. Stewart,” his accent bore traces of Jamaica. He shook Deacon’s hand, his grip firm and confident. “I am Dr. Connors. I believe I heard my name as I opened the door. Is she talking about me again?”

He winked at the nurse, who blushed and ducked out, saying she had other patients to medicate.

“All complimentary, Dr. Connors.”

The doctor waved the comment away happily. “It’s lies, everything lies. Don’t believe it. So, I suppose you want to know what I did to you?”

“I’m hazy on details. Past being pulled from the car and put on a gurney, I can’t remember.”

“Well, they called me down when you arrived, and I saw you about ten minutes later. Nasty break, but no bone fragments, it went back together neatly, just like a jigsaw puzzle. I put in a couple pins as a precaution. They can be removed at a later time if necessary. You won’t be competing in the Olympics any time soon, however,” he teased.

“How soon can I go home?”

The doctor’s expression turned thoughtful. “You’re young, strong, healthy. Your brother says he’ll hire a private duty nurse to look in on you. What he really said was someone to chain you to the bed for a few days.”

Deacon laughed heartily. How like Dino to say that.

“I suppose, baring any infection or complications, we can look at two days time?”

“I can live with that. How long will I be immobilized?”

“We’ll have you in a brace at least six weeks. We will have to see how well it heals up. This kind of break is actually two injuries; the break itself, and the puncture wound caused by the bone. The wound was rather extensive. You are lucky your wife got you here as quickly as she did. You were bleeding heavily. You punctured the vein that runs from your foot. Another ten minutes, and we might have lost you. You mind telling me how you broke it? Your wife was understandably incoherent.”

Deacon told him the entire story of their entrapment and his fall off the water fountain.

“I wondered about the signs of blunt trauma I saw. It’s a miracle you didn’t hurt yourself more, in an escapade like that. You are watched by a guardian angel, it seems.”

“Would have been nice if he’d kept me from breaking my leg altogether.”

The doctor chuckled dryly. “Sometimes, good comes from circumstances we’d never expect. Perhaps if nothing else, I have now a case I may write up for a journal article in the future.”

“Be sure to send me a copy.”

“I shall do that. Meanwhile, you rest and try to think happy thoughts. If I do not see you tomorrow, I will see you the day after. Any more questions before I go annoy someone else?”

Deacon’s last question made the doctor laugh so loudly, the nurse stuck her head in the door, telling him to keep it down.

“You have gotten me in trouble, Mr. Stewart. To answer your question, you must be very careful for at least a week, for the swelling to go down. Once that is over, a little careful planning and all is well. A newlywed couple should not be kept from one another’s embrace for long. Good day, Mr. Stewart.”

Deacon watched a little more TV, then dozed off until the lunch trolley rumbled up to his door. The same black aid carried in his tray, looking around furtively before she set it down. Concealed beside the plate, under the packet that held the napkin, was a giant size candy bar.

“Your wife said get you something you could actually eat, and slipped me some money. I didn’t have a chance to get much else but that. Here’s the change.”

Deacon laughingly waved the money back into her palm. “You keep it. I know Kacy would want you to have it.”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 48

A tap at his door and Kacy came back in, carrying two bags of McDonald’s breakfasts, and two large coffees. “I knew you’d not be able to eat. I saw it as they were loading it up. Disgusting! I got you something good tasting, even if it isn’t good for you. Eat up.”

She’d gotten him three Egg McMuffins with extra cheese, hash browns and plenty of ketchup and pepper.

“How did you know?”

Her smile faded a little, “Pete loved ’em. I took a wee chance.”

“It’s all right, Kacy. You can’t help falling into old habits. It’s kind of cool, in a way, knowing he and I liked the same things. It gives me a little connection.” He shook massive amounts of pepper on his egg and took a huge, satisfied bite. “You have no idea how good this tastes right now!”

Someone came in to take his food tray and smiled as he tried to look innocent.

“You’ve got the good stuff there, don’t ya?” The heavy set black woman said cheerfully. “Put some meat on you. You are one tall, skinny white boy!”

“Aw, come on, I bet you like your men tall and skinny.”

She raised an eyebrow, a quick flicker of her eyes at Kacy. “Well, I do at that, but not when they belong to some other woman. You just keep to yourself, honey.”

She winked. He laughed loudly, almost choking on his food in the process. He spewed a few crumbs onto the sheets.

“Yes, ma’am. You serving lunch too?”

“I might be, then again I might send someone else in here to put a collar on you. You’re getting wild. I hope they’re planning to let you out soon.”

“I promise I’ll behave. Scout’s honor.”

She took up his tray, tipping her nose in the air, she walked to the door. “Mm hm, I bet you wasn’t even a Boy Scout,” she said as the door shut behind her.

“I was too a Boy Scout for a whole semester.” He grinned broadly, taking another huge bite.

“Why didn’t you stay in?” Kacy asked.

Deacon’s smile faded slightly as he remembered. “I got moved to a new home, they couldn’t be bothered to take me, so I had to quit. It wasn’t a lot of fun anyway, since all the kids came with their moms and dads. I didn’t have anyone but Mr. Petry, and he was about seventy years old.”

“Deacon, were you ever happy growing up?”

He stayed silent so long, she thought he’d forgotten her question, but he was thinking.

“Once in a while, yeah. Mostly, I wasn’t really happy at all. I don’t think I ever got really happy until I met you.” Having said more than he intended, he concentrated on his food.

Kacy sat quietly until a telltale sniffle escaped her. “I’m sorry, I’m being bloody awful again. I can’t seem to keep my emotions in check. I feel like I’m on this roller coaster ride that has me up and down like crazy.”

Wiping his hands and lips on the napkins, he held out his arms to her. She came willingly, lowering the side rail, she lay next to him, her head on his shoulder.

“It’s all right. I’ll be out of here soon, and you won’t have to see another hospital room for a long time. That’s what is really getting to you, isn’t it?”

She nodded, wiping her eyes on the sheet. “I just keep remembering. Oh, it was awful, Deacon. He was so still, so pale and he never, ever came back so I could say goodbye. I used to sleep next to him in that horrid bed, praying he’d wake up and tell me everything was all right.”

She snuggled next to him, sniffling. He felt her tears warm and wet on his hospital gown.

“Go home with Dino and rest. When the doctor comes by I’ll find out how soon they’ll cut me loose. Maybe I’ll get lucky and they will spring me tomorrow.”

“Oh, tomorrow! I completely forgot! Pete’s parents are coming in. What am I gonna do?”

“Call them, tell them to rent a car, and have Dino give them directions.”

“Have Dino give who directions to where?” Dino walked in the door just then, carrying another bag of food. “You already ate?”

“My fault, Dino. I went for a walk, and there it was like Mecca.”

“No problem, I’m starving. Mind?” He sat down and started to eat. “Who needs directions?”

“Oh, Pete’s folks are coming in tomorrow. I was going to go pick them up, but under the circumstances….”

“I’ll go, no problem.”

“I was just going to have them rent a car and drive up.”

“With Pete’s mom as intense as she is? Hell no, I’ll get them. She’d have Ev crazy before they got out of town. I can ignore her.”

“You won’t mind?”

“Not at all. People want a friendly face coming into town. It’s been a while since I saw them. Maybe I can help prepare them.”

“For seeing me, isn’t that what you mean, Dino?”

The older man nodded. “I have to admit, it was rather a shock to me. I honestly didn’t know what to think when I first saw you. I swear, I think you guys are brothers.”

“Kacy told me Pete was adopted, it’s very possible that we were.”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 47

“I’ll go, you need to be here, Kacy.”

Her smile of thanks was rather weak, but the touch on his hand reassured Dino that she was grateful. She dropped her head, a deep, shuddering breath coursing through her petite frame. That and a renegade sniffle gave away her tears.

“No crying allowed, young lady,” Deacon mumbled.

“I can’t help it. I saw your face after surgery, it was so pale. You looked like you were dead! Like Pete looked when he was— I had this horrible, this awful….” She sobbed, unable to control the emotions welling up in her. “You lost so much blood!”

“I’m fine, except for this bum leg. Must have happened when I slipped off the water fountain, I felt something snap when I landed. I lost my balance, the bad leg gave out.”

“Oh, Deacon, if I lost you, I don’t know what I’d do!”

Dino walked quietly back in the room as Kacy tried to compose herself.

“Nurse says you are being given Demerol and Visteril and due for a dose in a few minutes.”

“How did you get that information out of her?” Deacon was curious.

“I told her you were my half brother, and Kacy was your wife, otherwise we’d not have been allowed in. Cindy and I used to date back in high school.” He shrugged. “Maybe I’ll call her and ask her out again, sometime.”

The door opened and a tall, blonde woman, who was built rather like a Nordic goddess, entered, carrying a syringe full of medication. She smiled broadly at Dino, nodding deferentially to Kacy as she moved toward the bed.

“I hear someone is in pain,” she grinned. Her manner was brisk and friendly.

Kacy turned her head. “I’m sorry, I’m not overly fond of needles.”

Cindy chuckled understandingly. “It’s all right, Mrs. Stewart. We’ll make this quick.”

She put the needle into his IV port, and Deacon felt a cool trickle up his arm.

Deacon grinned “Thanks.”

“So Dino tells me you two are half brothers?”

“Yes,” Deacon lied and tried to sound convincing.

“Same mom,” Dino said. “My folks got divorced when I was little. Remember, my Mom moved away and remarried.” It was partly true anyway, his mom had moved and married again.

“I see,” she looked between the two men who resembled one another in basic build and coloring. She didn’t look fully convinced, but not as if she were going to raise a stink about it either. “Dino, I go on break in about twenty minutes, want to grab a cup of coffee?”

“Sure, Cindy. That would be fantastic.”

He opened the door for her as she went out. His eyes followed her down the hall and he closed the door, the squeak of her crepe soled shoes echoing behind her.

“She’s nice,” Deacon said, his voice sounding tired.

“She’s pretty too,” Kacy added. “You could do a lot worse, Dino. Invite her to dinner soon.”

Deacon made a rather crude suggestion earning him a surly reprimand from Kacy. “Be nice!”

“I am being nice! That’s the nicest thing a man can do for a woman.”

“You only wish!”

“You two sound as if you want to be alone. I’ll cut out. Kacy, get some rest. You’ve been up all night. I’ll bring you some breakfast when I get back.”

“Thanks, Dino. You know where I’ll be.”

He leaned over, kissing her on the cheek briefly touching Deacon’s hand.

“You be more careful. Okay, little brother?” He winked.

“Will do.” Deacon laid his head wearily back against the pillows, the Demerol making him drowsy. “I’m wiped out, Kacy. I’m gonna try to sleep a little. Go home, get some rest.”

“I’m not leaving, Deacon.”

“Have Dino drive you home after you eat, okay? Will you please get some rest? I want you in top form, for when I get out of this place.”

Her smile was tender, tinged with fear and sorrow. “All right. But I’ll be back this evening, if not sooner. I’ll bring you a hamburger or Chinese or something I imagine the food is pretty bad.”

“Pizza and beer.”

“The only beer you’ll be having is root beer, my love.” She kissed him tenderly, sitting down on the edge of the bed. “You rest, I’ll be fine.”

Deacon closed his eyes, Kacy sat beside him, humming softly, songs he didn’t recognize, but they were soothing and sweet. She had a pretty voice. The last thing he was aware of, she kissed him softly on the lips.

When Deacon woke later, the sun was higher in the sky and he heard the sound of the food cart rumbling down the hall. From a distance, the food didn’t smell too bad, but he wasn’t convinced. His tray was delivered, and he was not disappointed in how nasty his meal really was. Soggy scrambled eggs, limp bacon, watery grits and a dry biscuit. A choice of hot tea or orange juice and a warm fruit cup. The tea tasted like old coffee and the biscuit would have made a good floor tile. He moved the items around, pretended to eat and shoved the tray aside.

He found the menu selection beside his plate and looked through to see if there was anything he could actually stomach, marking things at random. “I wonder if I’d get better food if I told them I keep Kosher,” he said aloud.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 46

Sticking his head out first to judge the drop, he was glad to see he’d been fortunate enough to come out above, but to one side of the drinking fountain. There were really two of them next to each other, at slightly different heights, but wide enough to stand on easily. Turning his body, he pushed himself out feet first. Feeling the wall with his toes, he was grateful to find the drinking fountain also held his weight, although it groaned loudly when he stood on it.

Taking a deep breath, he prepared to hop off the fountain, but slipped on the shiny metal. Hitting the floor harder than he intended, his sore leg gave out as he landed. He felt something pop, a sharp pain, followed by a dull, receding ache as if part of his mind had simply stopped functioning on that level.

Kacy screamed hysterically, pounding the door and calling his name. Now that his escape was complete, he called to her.

“It’s all right, baby, I’m coming!”

He gasped sharply as he dragged himself upright, holding onto the wall. Stumbling forward, he lost his balance, falling on the tile floor, gasping and gritting his teeth. His bad leg refused to hold his weight, so he dropped to his knees, crawling along the hallway. Groping his way to the office, he followed the sound of her voice. Keys out, he unlocked the door and Kacy fell into his arms. She was hyperventilating, although, he noticed absently, her face and eyes showed no sign of tears.

Kacy helped him up, supporting his weight on her shoulder as he propped himself against the wall. Limping, gritting his teeth, he hobbled to the door a few feet away. Together, they stumbled out into the fresh air. The door was unlocked and Deacon knew he had locked it behind them when they came in.

Kacy locked the door behind them and helped him to the car. He fell into the passenger seat, handing her the keys so she could drive home. He reclined the seat, pushing back as far as it would go, his leg screaming at him for all the abuse it had taken.

“You’re bleeding, Deacon,” her voice was tight, panicked.

He looked down and saw he’d been ripped up by the staples in the wall board, but there was something more to it that he couldn’t quite understand.

“I hurt,” he sighed, his eyes falling shut of their own accord. “God, I hurt.”

“I’m taking you to hospital.”

“No, I’m all right. Just take me home, baby. I’m fine.”

“You’re not! You aren’t in any position to argue.” She tied her bandanna tightly around his upper calf before starting the car.

She drove rapidly over the causeway and to the hospital at the base of the bridge. The emergency staff took one look at him and got a gurney. Deacon had enough energy to hand Kacy his wallet with his insurance card and driver’s license before he passed out. He only partially heard the thump of the doors as they swung shut behind him.

Deacon became aware of hushed voices, the smell of clean sheets and antiseptic. Wrinkling his nose, he tried to sit up, only to have a sharp pain stab through his lower right leg. He realized his leg was suspended at an odd angle, held in place by something he couldn’t see. The room was minimally lit, the voices seemed to be outside.

A hospital. Damn, she’d told him she was taking him there. He tried to speak, but his throat was too dry. It came out as a croak, but someone heard him and the voices outside stopped. Kacy stuck her head in the door, expectant expression on her face. She looked worried, as if she had been crying.

“He’s awake! Hey, handsome! Don’t scare me like that again, okay?”

Deacon smiled weakly, motioning for a drink. She poured him some water from the obligatory insulated pitcher and handed him a plastic cup. He drank it greedily, his throat rasping with each swallow. As if it had drained his strength, he handed the cup back, nearly spilling it on the bed. She took it carefully, set it aside and grasped his hand gently in both her own. He became cognizant of the fact that his other arm was full of needles and tubes and something was clipped to his index finger. It pinched uncomfortably, but was nothing to the throbbing pain in his leg.

“What happened?”

He saw his leg suspended at about a thirty degree angle and tried to wiggle his toes. A surge of burning misery followed the attempt, causing him to swoon again. Kacy patted his hand, trying to rouse him. A kiss on his lips did what no amount of hand slapping could, and he raised his beneedled arm, clasping her head gently.

“He’s not so badly hurt as we thought then,” he heard Dino’s voice a few feet away.

“You’d have to kill me for me not to respond to her kiss,” Deacon rasped, his throat still dry and tender. “What happened?” he repeated.

Kacy drew a chair up to the side of the bed and sat down, her head just above the railing. “Well, somewhere in your great escape, you broke your tibia clean in two and the bone decided to pop out of the skin. It was rather horrid really and you bled all over Dino’s pretty car.”

She tried to keep the concern out of her voice, to make it light hearted, but she couldn’t quite pull it off. Deacon touched her cheek gently, brushing away a stray hair.

“No worries, I’m fine. My leg hurts like a mother, what are they giving me for pain?”

“I don’t know, Deacon. I’ll ask the nurse,” she stood to go, but Dino put a restraining hand on her shoulder.

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 45

She remembered a time in college when she was painting in the box office. The large window was uncovered, opening onto the lobby. Her current boyfriend, who had just become box office manager, went out of the room. She thought she saw him in the corner of her eye, standing in the lobby looking up at her, hands on hips, as if deciding whether she was doing a good job or not.

Losing her temper with him, she fussed for him to quit standing around and help her, only to have him respond from behind her that he was painting the base boards, and had been for some time. She never lost that sensation of being watched the rest of the evening, and into the late hours of the night. Walking back to Ronnie’s car, she’d felt as if dozens of eyes watched her, and could almost hear another set of steps behind them. She’d stayed spooked about that for weeks. She had the same sensation now.

The lamp next to her blinked twice and went out. Trapped in the dark, she stifled a scream. No one could hear her outside and it would only alarm Deacon if he did hear it. She was sure he was looking for a way out, maybe he’d called someone on his phone. She could only pray.

“Why didn’t we tell someone where we were going?” she whispered. “Because we’re bloody fools, that’s why. Bollocks.”

Disturbed by the silence and the dark, she started singing to drive the demons away. Singing one hymn after another, she felt a tiny bit better, but wasn’t comfortable until she wrapped Deacon’s sweater around her head and shoulders and sat on the floor with her back against a blank wall, the door and windows in plain sight.

Deacon sat down in disgust, sighing heavily. He reached for a cigarette, then decided against it. He didn’t dare light anything in this old, wooden building. He hadn’t let the crew smoke in here, he wasn’t about to break his own rule. Leaning back against the wall facing the door, he tilted his head back, hands propped on knees, and tried to relax and think.

How long had he been in here? What about Kacy? She must not have been able to call anyone. He was sure that if she were able to, she’d have been at the door, letting him out. All sorts of visions of her being murdered, or raped, or both, flashed in his mind like a macabre strobe light.

Surely he’d have heard if something was seriously wrong. But he knew that was stupid. A bomb could go off outside, they’d hardly have heard it. He could barely hear cars go by on the busy street a few yards away.

Resting his head against the wall, he gazed upward and stopped mid sigh. Of course! Banging his head on the wall, he looked around for something to climb on. The ceiling was a dropped acoustic tile, making the height somewhat lower than the one in the hallway. He figured it was probably because the air conditioner ducts were put in well after the building was erected. However, if air ducts could fit up there, so could he.

The idea of crawling around in the filth and dark wasn’t very appealing, but it beat being trapped all night in the bathroom, with Kacy across the hall afraid or hurt. He had to take care of her. He pushed the apprehension aside and found a broom. With it, he managed to knock a tile over the sink out of the ceiling, exposing a slit of utter blackness. Fingers of doubt tickled his spine, as he remembered how many nasty spiders liked dark attics, but after the tenting the exterminators had done, it was unlikely to be infested at the moment.

Popping the tile harder, he cracked it and was able to pull it free while standing precariously on the sink. It creaked ominously under his weight, but held. Grabbing the wooden beam and peaking through the hole, he hauled himself upward, gaining a purchase for his feet against the wall. His habit of wearing hiking boots paid off, the rubber cleats grabbed, and kept him from slipping on the wooden paneling. He levered himself through the hole, slithering slowly and cautiously onto the cross beams.

A glance out the hole to orient himself, he set off crawling on the beams, running perpendicular to the direction he wanted to go. Keeping himself at right angles to the beams, he should progress into the foyer and prayed he could get out on the other side. He wouldn’t let himself consider the possibility of being trapped in this dark and spooky space with no way out.

It was awkward crawling, holding a flashlight in one hand, so he set it an arm’s length ahead, crawled up to it, repeating the process until he got to the end. He saw a lot of old spider’s webs in the small space, but none of them were occupied. Judging by the number of crumpled forms he saw on the old insulation below, there were no current occupants. For that he was grateful.

Just as he feared, he saw the way blocked by a wall separating the bathroom from the lobby. Letting out a string of curse words, which would have set Mrs. Sanderson on her ear, he studied the wall carefully. From what he could tell, it wasn’t sheet rock, but plasterboard. His adept fingers felt the surface, searching for a seam. If he could find that, perhaps he could kick part of it free and climb out the hole, dropping to the lobby below. Dino wasn’t going to be very happy, but then he would rather not have his friends trapped overnight in the theater, either.

Luck was with him and he found a seam. There were studs here, but this hadn’ not been hammered into one, just stapled together. For once, Deacon was happy to find shoddy workmanship.

He leaned back on a beam, supporting himself carefully. Pulling his legs up in front of him, he grimaced. His sore leg had felt fine until now. Suddenly, it gave him a clear message that he was overdoing it. Ignoring the discomfort, he pulled his powerful legs back to his nose. Lying on his back as well as he could, he kicked both feet at the plasterboard wall. The noise of impact echoed sounding like a gun had gone off. He heard Kacy scream his name, but couldn’t stop to answer her. Again and again, he hit the wall with all his strength, until he had a hole he could fit through. It was going to be uncomfortable, but he would make it.

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 44

“Yes, ma’am, I remember.” He saluted sharply and picked up the corner roller.

They worked hard for several hours, then it started to get dark and Deacon thought they should be getting home.

“I’ll take the brushes and rollers to the bathroom and start cleaning them out. You close cans and stuff. I have to go to the bathroom anyway.”

“Okay, I’ll be fine. I’ll light the lamp to see by, you take the flashlight.”

Deacon picked up the large, heavy duty flashlight and their various tools, piling them high, holding it all in one hand while he walked down the hall and across it to the restrooms. He could hear Kacy humming in the office, the door having been left open to air out a little of the fumes.

The bathroom door slammed shut behind him, giving him the odd sensation of being cut off. He dismissed it, annoyed with himself for letting his paranoia and superstitious fears get to him. He kept remembering scenes from The Sixth Sense about the little boy who sees dead people. Given the pervading chill in the restroom, it was an appropriate setting for something creepy to happen.

He used the toilet then started in on the paint pans, brushes and rollers, running the water on full. Unfortunately, there was no hot water, so clean up was a lot slower. Whistling as he worked, he thought he heard a sharp sound, like a door banging shut and a stifled scream.

“Kacy?” He shut the water off to hear better, nothing met his straining ears. “Kassandra?”

Striding to the bathroom door, he grabbed it, trying to fling it open with his right hand, his left holding the flashlight. The door didn’t move. Thinking perhaps it was a push door instead, he pushed hard, but the door still didn’t budge.

He thought he could hear Kacy calling to him, but he wasn’t sure. The doors were solid wood and the old place had been well insulated when Sophie’s husband remodeled it, so he couldn’t really tell. His own voice sounded muffled as he yelled and banged. Shining the flashlight on the door, he realized there was no keyhole or dead bolt on this side. He’d be willing to bet the same held true of Kacy’s office. He began a systematic search for another way out of the bathroom.

Kacy was quietly cleaning up their mess, closing cans, picking up drop cloths, when she heard the bathroom door slam shut. It held an ominous note of finality. Not wanting to be surprised from behind, she left the door open and made sure she was facing it while she finished her clean up, the hairs on her neck feeling creepy-crawly. She had turned partially away from the door when it banged shut. She screamed involuntarily as it did so.

“I swear, if he’s playing some kind of sick joke on me, I’ll kick his ruddy arse!”

She stormed across the room, tugging and pounding on the door. Her voice didn’t seem to carry very far, but she yelled anyway. The door was an old fashioned lock on a flange which came across the door jam. It had no dead bolt or key hole on the inside. She was trapped.

She thought of calling Deacon and chewing him out for locking her in the room, when she saw her phone was completely dead. She’d been too preoccupied last night to put it in the charger. The desk phone had no dial tone.

“Damn.”

With her lantern in hand, she set about looking for a way out of the room, but the windows were covered with metal bars on the outside, she had hardly noticed before. Digging in her desk produced a screwdriver and a hammer, but little else of any use. The closet had even less to offer, just a lot of dead Palmetto bugs and dusty old papers.

Going back to the door, she wondered why Deacon hadn’t let her out yet, when it suddenly occurred to her that maybe he couldn’t. Perhaps he hadn’t done this, suppose someone else had? They could be trapped in here. If someone set the old place on fire, they would die.

Banging and yelling at the door in panic, she screamed Deacon’s name to no avail. They were trapped until someone let them out. Determined not to give in to her fears, she hunted more, going back over the same territory, to see if there might be something she had overlooked.

Deacon explored the small windows of the bathroom and determined he could never get through them. Even if he could open them, they looked painted shut, a quick flick of his measuring tape convinced him that his shoulders wouldn’t fit, no matter how hard he might try. Reaching a hand to his belt, he went to grab his cell phone and realized, with a lurch, that he’d left it in the car. Fat lot of good it would do. Maybe Kacy’s would be in better shape and she could call. Maybe someone was already on the way.

This was getting her nowhere, Kacy decided after about ten minutes of futile struggling with the window, which had carelessly been painted shut years ago. She had nothing to pry the paint out of the seams. Deacon had been using his knife, but taken it with him when he’d gone to the bathroom.

Deciding that she was stupidly wasting her energy, she sat down in the middle of the floor, trying not to think about fires. She had always feared dying in a fire. After witnessing Pete’s accident, and the extent of his burns, she was even more terrified.

There had to be a way out, there just had to be! Leaning against her desk, she closed her eyes and tried to focus on the problem. That was far worse than having her eyes open, since she could imagine all kinds of horrible things creeping up from behind. The thought of ghosts sent a shiver up her spine. She was quite superstitious where old buildings like this were concerned, having had her own share of eerie experiences in them.

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 43

“I’ve known Dino a long time, Mr. Stewart. He has driven some tough business deals in his time, but he’s always been honest. You can’t say that about a lot of men as rich as he is. He’s invested well, and followed principles others fault him for. In other words, he has true ethics, which can’t be said for many business people.”

“Have you looked into the cast and the other business owners along the strand? Real estate agencies, developers? Surely, someone more likely will present themselves.” Deacon drove his point home. He never would suspect Dino of such atrocities and couldn’t fathom anyone else doing so.

Reyes rose suddenly, ending the conversation. “Thank you, both. Ms. McDermitt and I have to be going now. We appreciate your time, and we’ll be in touch if we need to speak with you again.”

“Is that a polite way of telling us not to leave town?” Kacy was angry with Reyes for his innuendos concerning Dino.

“No, Mrs. Du Champs, it’s a polite way of telling you that we will contact you later.”

The two police officers walked silently out to their car and drove away. Deacon watched them from the doorway, then shut the door and walked into the living room. Kacy picked up one of his cigarettes and lit it, inhaling deeply.

“I didn’t know you smoked.”

“I don’t, but I used to. I’m so aggravated right now, I could throw things! How dare they even suspect Dino of such underhandedness! It makes me furious!” She coughed slightly and took another puff.

“Kacy, they have to work from the obvious to the less obvious. They will determine that Dino isn’t responsible, don’t worry. I wish we could get to the bottom of it, though. I’d hate to have his reputation dragged through the mud.”

“Dino is such a kind person, how could anyone think such a thing?”

“Those closest to him know it’s not possible, but society talks, my love and we both know it. Gossip is not reserved to the poor.”

“Bloody, awful, no good, rotten…!”

“People judge others by their own actions. If they would lie, cheat and steal for a buck, they expect others to go to the same lengths. We know Dino isn’t like that, but lots of people will think he is.”

“I know. I have to get out of the house and do something. I’ll go mad if I don’t!” She started pacing around the living room, the cigarette burning, forgotten in her hand.

“Want to go to the beach, or maybe go to a museum in Daytona?”

“No, I need activity.” She saw the dreamy expression in his eyes. “Other than that,” she giggled. “That only occupies us so long, and then I start thinking again. I was hoping we could go paint that bloody horrible office of mine. There’s plenty of light with all those windows. It shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Are you sure you want to do that? It’ll be pretty lonely and spooky there.”

“We’ll both be there, how spooky can it be with the two of us? I have a portable iPod deck with batteries, we can set that up and have a paint party. I can’t stand that color scheme another minute! I already bought the paint.” Her grin was a challenge to him.

“All right, let me change into my grungy clothing and we’ll go over. I could use something to do too. If there is enough paint, we’ll hit my office too.”

“Way ahead of you. I bought enough for both.”

They changed into their grubbiest clothing, complete with bandannas over their hair, and headed to the theater. The power company trucks were there with their heavy equipment, putting in the new pole. Deacon wondered if they could possibly finish before it got dark. He had brought a large flashlight and a Coleman lantern he’d found in Dino’s hurricane supplies, in case they needed the light later.

Kacy went into her office chattering happily and Deacon made sure the door was locked behind them. Just to satisfy his own obsessive tendencies, he went through the theater. Common sense compelled him to check every window and door he passed, explore every closet and storage cupboard until he was satisfied they were alone. He even went so far as to double check the little windows in the restrooms to be sure they were locked.

He admitted to himself that although he had been quiet, if someone had been in hiding, it would have been easy to avoid him, following him and hiding where he had already looked. He wasn’t compulsive enough to go back and recheck things in a different order, but he would be cautious.

Kacy was busily mixing the sealant for their first coat. She had bought rollers, pans, brushes and the neat little tools for around windows and cutting corners.

“You buy out the entire paint store?”

“Almost. I got some pretty stencils and such to do in here. You’ll think it fussy, but I also got a nice wall paper trim for either the top of the room or the mid-line. If we want to be really fancy, we can paint that old wood at the bottom a different shade, but I don’t think you care that much.”

“No, ma’am, I sure don’t. I could use this office, and not blink an eye.”

“You would not! These colors are horribly distracting. The last lighting designer must have been color blind.”

She applied the base coat with enthusiasm, quickly and expertly. Deacon was impressed at her speed and skill.

“Don’t just stand there gaping, do the tops of the windows and start on the corners, I can’t reach. Tall people are God’s ladders, you know.”

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 42

“Except to be friends of Dino’s, no. We were in Florida, briefly, after our wedding. We sailed with Dino to the Bahamas and back.”

“Didn’t Father Charlie die in his sleep?” Deacon asked.

“Yes, after a long illness. It was not unexpected,” Joan McDermitt announced. “So in effect, it wasn’t an accident. It was an anticipated occurrence.”

“Could that be the angle?” Deacon stood up, pacing back and forth as he thought. “Maybe the three things aren’t really related in any normal sense. Taken literally, and at face value, none of these things was accidental. Even Pete’s incident, that could very well have been deliberate. The playhouse paint job certainly wasn’t accidental, and neither was Charlie’s death.”

“None of us had thought of it that way, Deacon. I think you’ve hit on something,” Reyes said contemplatively.

Kacy touched the photograph of Pete’s accident tenderly. “How could anyone have got this?”

“Film footage maybe? Lots of odd things get put on the Internet.”

Kacy shook her head adamantly. “No, it’s really not possible. This particular shot never made it to the movie. In fact, I had all the copies of the actual explosion confiscated by law, and destroyed. I didn’t even keep any of the negatives. They had access to private documentation, the original film or something else.”

“This can’t be a clever forgery?” Reyes asked.

Kacy and Deacon both looked at the photo again with a professional eye.

“It’s possible,” Deacon conceded, “but unlikely. With computers you can get a pretty credible looking photograph, but there are telltale signs if you know what to look for. I’m not an expert, but I’ve done some montages from time to time. That looks genuine, not enhanced. You’d have to have it analyzed by an expert to know for sure.”

“We’re back to where we started,” Kacy groaned.

“Not entirely,” Ms. McDermitt spoke up abruptly. “We have a relationship, of sorts, between incidents, however convoluted it might be.”

“Have you got a motive yet?” Deacon asked.

“After talking to the florist and the bakery owner, we’ve decided it comes down to money. Lots of it. Still doesn’t give me a perpetrator.”

“If Charlie had been married, we would be able to suspect the wife. As he was a priest, that’s one less suspect.” Ms. McDermitt gave a wry smile.

“Any other relatives besides Mr. Sawyer?” this from Reyes.

“Not in the Sawyer line,” Kacy answered. “Just Dino. His aunt died childless and there were just the three, Sophie, Charlie and Dino’s father. Dino is an only child and has no children.”

“One of the ex’s?” Deacon had to ask, considering that was foremost in his mind at the moment.

“Not likely. We checked into them first, of course. All of them married rich men, and most of them divorced quite well.”

“I gather Ms. Du Champs and I aren’t suspects then, since you are discussing this so openly with us.”

Reyes laughed. “You barely know Mr. Sawyer, a very recent acquaintance. Although the suspicious incidents occurred after your arrival, it’s unlikely. Ms. Du Champs has been a close friend for many years, also unlikely.”

“Well in movies and books, it’s always the person you least expect it to be, isn’t it?” Deacon said testily.

McDermitt smiled. “That’s fiction, Mr. Stewart. If police based their theories on Agatha Christie, we’d be in sorry shape. You’re right, normally we don’t discuss a case with those we question. However, there’s something to be said for being candid.”

Deacon suspected that part of their visit was to judge their reactions, and further eliminate suspects. They were being critically scrutinized by both officers and he had an even stronger suspicion that the McDermitt woman was more than she seemed. She was a keen observer of body language and was careful to portray a casual, open mien. Deacon was a better than fair observer himself. She and Reyes were concealing something.

“I hope you don’t seriously consider Dino a suspect.”

Deacon could play mind games as well as anyone. Being in theater for years, even backstage, you learned a lot about people and acting. He knew what to look for, and how to portray a specific role. These two police officers were playing the role of blissful ignorance, and Deacon didn’t appreciate it.

Ms. McDermitt nearly gave it away. She glanced briefly at Reyes whose lips pursed. The faintest shake of his head was hardly discernible, and probably wouldn’t have been, if Deacon hadn’t been looking so carefully.

“Because it would be a gross misuse of the police resources to even consider him. Although, it would be a perfect blind. I mean, he’s filthy rich, gains little from insurance if the old place burns, but if he could acquire the properties next to him, it would be a multi-million dollar proposition. The question is, how badly does he need the money, and do you seriously believe he would do anything so unscrupulous?”

McDermitt paled ever so slightly under her makeup, but Reyes held up better. He had known Dino for years. It was quite possible that this was the department’s theory, but not his.

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Crime Makes an Entrance ~ A Love Under the Sun Romantic Suspense by Dellani Oakes Part 41

Deacon tickled her more. “Eventually, you have to give up.” He stopped tickling her, kissing her instead, his hands taking an erotic journey over her body. “Or you could just succumb to my manly charms.”

“Succumbing to his charms, is it then? Well, I must admit, you are a wee bit charming.” She made a playful grab for his crotch.

“Only a wee bit? Hmm, haven’t we had this conversation?”

Deacon pressed hard against her, holding her tightly so she could feel his excitement. He kissed her, letting his hands roam around finding interesting things to fondle under her clothing. She looked up dreamily.

“All right, I admit it. You are very, greatly charming.”

Around one o’clock they remembered Reyes was coming by and hopped out of bed. They showered quickly and dressed. Deacon watched Kacy put on her clothing and dry her hair, thinking he had never seen anything so beautiful in his life.

“You’ve an odd look to your face, what are you thinking?”

“The truth, or a cleverly worded evasion.”

“Truth.”

“All right,” he held her close to him, nibbling her neck. “I was thinking how incredibly beautiful, sexy and exceedingly wonderful you are. And I was also thinking what a lucky bastard I am for having you in my life, and how much I love you.”

“I love you too, Deacon. More than I ever thought I would ever love again.”

He kissed a single tear off her cheek. “I never was truly happy, until I met you. It’s a new sensation, and I am hopelessly addicted to it.” The doorbell rang and he reluctantly disengaged. “Too bad Reyes is prompt. He’s early.”

“You go open the door and let him in. I have to finish my hair and make up.”

“You look great as you are. Don’t worry about it, just brush your hair, you look fantastic.”

“I’ll just be a minute.”

Pete had never told her that. He had always told her she was beautiful, but only after she took some pains with herself. She had loved him so much in the beginning, but realized in a sudden rush of anguish, that they had been growing apart the last couple of years. More and more often his jobs had taken him on remote locations, where she couldn’t join him.

She had spent nearly six months in New York, working on and off Broadway with various companies, contracting out as she was doing here. At first, she and Pete had taken turns making the long flight between New York and LA. Then it had gotten to be too expensive, too much time, too much trouble.

In a sudden epiphany, she realized that their relationship had practically been over, before Pete had gotten hurt. He had died in her heart a long time ago. She thought she should feel something akin to sorrow or despondency, but she couldn’t. She wanted to see Pete’s face in front of her as she had so often over the last year, and it kept being supplanted by Deacon’s.

“Kacy?”

She put the final brush stroke to her hair, pinched her cheeks for a little color and went out to welcome Reyes. He was there with woman who looked more like a doctor than a police officer, but Kacy didn’t say so. Deacon made a pot of his very nearly lethal coffee. She poured herself a cup, taking her time in the preparations of her mug. It was a little ceremony to keep her from the feelings of foreboding she sensed from Deacon and Reyes.

The woman was enigmatic, hard to read. She might be a counselor, Kacy suspected. Reyes’ news must be bad, and this woman was there to insure Kacy didn’t do anything crazy.

“Joan McDermitt,” the woman said when she was introduced. She had light blonde hair pulled back severely in a French twist, her pale blue eyes were almost cold and certainly calculating. She was pretty in an austere, ice princess way.

“Ms. Du Champs, Mr. Stewart says he mentioned our earlier conversation.”

“Yes, Deacon told me you’d called, no details, the swine!”

“I asked him not to, ma’am.”

Kacy digested that piece of information, shifting her shoulders uncomfortably. “I see. What’s so terrible that you can’t discuss it with me?”

Exchanging a look, the two police officers glanced at Deacon, who shrugged.

“This is why,” Reyes said quietly as he handed her an envelope.

Kacy’s hand hovered over the contents as she tipped the items onto the coffee table. Each was in its own carefully labeled evidence bag. Selecting the note, she scooted the pictures and the clipping into chronological order. Her face was blank, unreadable, which to Deacon was more frightening than hysterics. She stared at the pictures for several minutes after she read the note. Her face grew pale, but she otherwise did nothing overt. Deacon wondered what was going on in her mind. Her hands shook, the only indication of her emotional state.

“I don’t understand,” she said faintly. “How can all this be related?”

“We were hoping you could tell us. Did you or your husband have any connection with the theater?”

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