The Ghost of Preston Giles


Written By Kats & AKD (c) 2002


Mild Pg (language)


Jessica sat in silence at her kitchen table, her eyes closed as Seth dabbed at the abrasion on her temple.


"Fool stunt if you ask me, Mort's none too happy `bout it ether. That shop owner’s very kind not to press charges against you."


Jessica knew that the lecture would continue even if she did say something. She knew that pursuing an idle thought could be risky. It was a hunch, something more than just sales to tourist were happening at a new store in town. She tried to tell Mort her suspicions, but he had let her know that he had personally seen every scrap of merchandise that they were selling, and nothing that they had was even remotely illegal.  It was too small of a building to hide any thing, and he had been in the building before it was a shop, he knew every possible corner that there could hide anything. There was still the feeling that she got. Something that kept telling her that something very wicked was going to happen if the shop was allowed to stay open. People seemed to be changing after they became steady customers there. Some were becoming more irritable, some, very distracted. Even after the brief visit inside the first time Jess felt as if her world was spinning. She had tried to tell that to Seth, he accounted it to her demanding schedule to finish her last book, Death Dance of the Marionettes.


Maybe her curiosity got the better of her. Going in the back way seemed like a great idea at the time. She never saw the dog, before or after it knocked her down and out. She wasn't even aware they had a dog. She woke handcuffed to the desk and a lump on the side of her head. The owner had used very strong language about her, and said that she had excessively much too much time on her hands to keep seeing things when nothing was going on.  But she knew she had heard another man’s voice in the background when the shop keeper had insisted it was just he and his female companion who lived at that residence. He had been speaking to the shop keeper in terse angry words saying something in reference to an audit, and that the quality would improve as they would move to the next level. There was also something about an initiation, and gathering that would happen with in the month. More would come, and Cabot Cove was the chosen "haven." That's when the “Dog" had attacked her.


Mort had strongly suggested a vacation. Seth was in total agreement. She only mutely shook her head at the thought of leaving her beloved Cabot Cove to the likes of who knows what.


Seth tried to reason with her. "There is no crime in taking a vacation!"


Silence, a pause, a sigh. "Seth - each time I do, some one dies.”


"That's preposterous Jess, and you know it!"


Jess looked out the window in the distance. She could just see the tip flags of the twin ships coming into the dock. She sighed as a sea gull flew into her yard and landed near her rose bushes. She could see something in its mouth. It dropped it, then pecked at it a few times.


Seth drew her back to the conversation. "People are murdered even if you're not there, it happens here as well."


"It's not the same Seth!! I like the idea of being able to leave my doors unlocked and waking up in my own bed. I – something is telling me that if I walk away from this, I won't be able to do that. "


"You're seeing things Jessica Beatrice McGill Fletcher and imagining things that are not there. You need to get away Jess, just a while, and leave the writing alone. The schedule that you placed yourself under to finish the books before catalogs come out is detrimental to your health, and mental stability! You said yourself that they want another before Christmas. As your doctor I am diagnosing you as being burned out. I am going to let that publishing company know that there will not be a book from you until you’re better.”


"I am not ‘burned out.’”


Seth raised an eyebrow daringly. "Are so!"


"Am not!" she said firmly.


"Are so!" Seth waited as she glared at him.


She was not amused. "Seth, I'm not as burned out as you believe..." She stopped, realizing her own admission. "Oh dear." Seth waited, allowing her to speak with her own decisions. "I don't want to go on vacation, Seth; I would rather just stay here to rest."


"You would still find yourself meddling, Jess.  It’s in your nature, and staying here would only allow you to get involved in something else. You need to keep to yourself and ignore the outside world and its problems. You’re not to work on any books, and you’re to stay out of everyone else's business.”


"Seth, I can't just sit here and just shut the world out!"


"That M'dear is EXACTLY what I want you to do, and it will be arranged." He went to the closet and pulled out an empty box. He went to her laptop and disconnecting it, placed it in the box. He did the same with her manual typewriter.


"What are you doing??"


"Making sure that you take a vacation! Everything remotely connected with writing is going to be placed in storage in an undisclosed area until I say so."


She was about to protest then stopped short. "All right, but what will I do?" she asked, folding her arms over her chest, while following him about the house as he collected all her note pads and writing utensils. She managed to rescue her favorite gold pen from the box, not being sure if he saw it, or just let her get away with it. She knew that in the attic she had one or two notebooks that were from when she taught and passed them out for the student essays. To her relief, he didn't venture up the `stairs of death' to retrieve them.


"Anything, except work. You did have a life before you started writing, a fairly active one as I remember. You need to do what you did before you became a writer..." He saw the hurt, and quick tears etched on her face, as if he had stabbed her. She turned away from him, blinking back the tears that threatened to spill out. "Jessie? What is it? Oh... I see... You started writing so you wouldn't have to face Frank's death. I don't know if you ever have - or if you have spent the last years just hiding behind doing other things. You filled your hours with the writing. Well, your life went on without him, Jessie MacGill, you had a life before Frank Fletcher. You need to find one now that he is gone.” He turned her to face him. He saw the tears were still on the edge and that he was a shy step away from endangering the friendship they had known for years. "We have had

this discussion before - you know my feelings about it, Jessica.”


Her voice was tight. His words had hurt her, but she didn't want to say any thing more than necessary. "How long will this be?"


"Until I say so. It may be a very long time, but it’s in your best interest.”


"And who else's?" Jessica thought to herself as she watched Seth carry the box to his car. She resisted the urge to just slam the door behind him. She leaned her head against the cool wood and allowed her emotions a quiet moment.





Taylor Andrews tapped her foot to the soft music that played in L.A. County's district attorney’s office. Anthony was on the phone and she could hear the irritation in his voice. She heard the click of the receiver and strode into the office. His face was grim - she knew that it was bad news.


"Close the door, thanks..."


"What? We leave in 6 hours, we need to get you packed, and both of us to the airport.” She reached behind her and firmly closed the door, making sure that it clicked shut. That in itself was different. They had all ways spoken in the open as secretaries’ tongues wag like puppy dog tails when it came to possible scandals. He closed his eyes, rubbing his chin wondering how he could put this nicely.


"One of the key witnesses in the Nightshade vs. the State of California case has disappeared. His name is Kent Fordham.  We know that he was too valuable for them to kill; we think he has fled, or that they paid him to take off. We're under two deadlines. One, the state’s, and the other is stopping this before it’s too late. He hinted that something, very big was going to happen within the month, something that would be our worst nightmares look like a day in the park unless we could stop it. The parent company, Sutton House, is crying foul as well, and unless we can find where he is soon, we will have a larger problem on our hands."


"Which means?"


"I have to do a bit more scrambling or we’re going to lose to this organization. It scares me how they can move into a quiet community, and bring so much death, and then shrug and say if the people are stupid they deserve it. It scares me even more that no matter how hard we work, we may not be able to stop it…"


"A fool and his latinum are soon parted."


"His what? Oh... well, it means that I can't be going on vacation just yet, I may not be able to at all. We can't even begin to estimate what damage this organization has in mind if they are not stopped."


"Anthony, this is my only chance to do get away and may be my last vacation. The tickets are non-refundable. We lose the deposit on the rooms, and it’s based on TWO people going, not just one! There isn't any one else that I would want to travel with, and you are well aware that I need someone to help me get on and off those flying deathtraps. I know it may seem very trite in light of what is happening. I understand that this is very important to you and the city, and the state. Maybe it should be important to me. Maybe I am being selfish to want you beside me. I need to do this, and I can't do it by myself. "


"Sweetheart, I had Mabel make alternate arrangements for you, and it’s taken care of. She spoke with the airlines to have a chair stand by if you need it, and a driver to take you to the hotel. Everything is within walking distance, and it’s a SHORT walking distance. Portland's airport is very small. Our courtrooms are larger! You will be pampered and cared for ... and as soon as I can join you, I will..."


"What's this guy look like any way?" Taylor asked as she tried to fight back the tears.


Anthony was curious as he flipped open a file. He seemed distracted for a moment as he shuffled the papers back into order. She saw a variety of photos in the folder, some quite plain, others very nasty. "Why do you ask?"


"So I can hunt him down and shrink wrap his scrawny hide to a pillar so he won't screw up our lives anymore...”


Anthony rose from his chair and walked over to her. He drew her into his arms. She stepped up to him and raised her face to his. "It means that we won't have to put Sydney in a kennel, and when I'm done, we will join you, and they are open ended tickets, so we

can stay a bit longer…" He gave her a light kiss on her lips. The moment was interrupted by a call from Mabel, his secretary. He sighed and sat back down on the chair to answer the phone.


Taylor bent over, gave him a wet kiss on his ear, then strode out, silently cursing this Kent Fordham that had ruined the vacation with Anthony she had been so looking forward to. As she walked by Mabel's desk, she thought she saw a smug look on the secretary's face. Maybe Taylor should have known when the limo transport didn't show up two hours before the flight as scheduled. She had a back-up transport planned, and a quick call to the limo place confirmed that the transport had been canceled.


She still arrived in enough time, and went to the curbside check in.  She had insisted on booking her own tickets; she had them and had confirmed them herself that morning. She discovered that her direct flight had been switched to several layovers and was going to take another 10 hours of air time with several stops in between. Taylor's voice hardened as she asked to see the manager in charge. She only told him once, showing him her Medical Id bracelet, and the release from the doctor allowing her to fly under the conditions that it couldn't exceed a number of hours in flight. He reconfirmed the confirmation number and informed her that the flight had been changed less than an hour before at her request. He went on to say that to change it back at this time would cost her several hundred dollars.


Taylor asked quietly if the person had given them the confirmation number to authorize this flight change. There was a moment as the manager’s fingers flew over the keyboard. His face paled as he shook his head.


"Then you changed my flight with out proper confirmation from me? And you expect me to meekly say okay, when such an act could, and would put my life in danger?  I don't think SO! I want my seat, on the flight that I booked and paid for, and I want it NOW!  And YOU WILL be hearing from my lawyer!"


The airline manager nodded to the security officers who stepped forward. "Could you come with us ma'am?"




The men looked at each other then the other officer said to her. "We just need to ask a few questions if you don't mind."


"But, I do mind, and” (She checked her watch) “I really do not have time for this." She turned back to the manager. "Fix this, Right NOW!"


Taylor felt a hand on her arm. It was the younger of the two officers. She removed her cell phone from her pocket and punched in quick dial. "Donald Brook, please. Yes, Donald, I am being detained by airport security. No, they haven't arrested me. Seems they accepted an unauthorized request to change my flight… Of course..." She reached for the

telephone book, flipped open to the lawyer’s ad and pointed to Donald's number. "I suggest that you cal this number right now, and tell your boys to unhand me at once."


Half an hour later Taylor was sitting in her original seat, breathing a sigh of relief. What ever Donald had said, it had made the manager blanch. She closed her eyes as the plane taxied down the runway, and wondered what else could go wrong with the trip.




Tipper listened with half interest as word at the local grocery buzzed that Jessica Fletcher was pretty much on her own.  No one was to bother her and it was sort of like the old fashioned Amish "Shunning." Seth didn't say for how long, only that NO ONE was to call her, as she needed a LONG rest. Of course every one had been telling Seth how tired Jessica looked.


She heard the voices fall silent as Jessica came into view. Tipper saw an older man walking with Jessica; he had his arm about her shoulders and gave it a squeeze as they passed the hushed ladies. She saw a look of tenderness in his eyes as he murmured something into her ear. Now that in itself was a puzzlement to Tipper. She knew most every one who lived in Cabot Cove. The man was not from the area, he had dressed

Impractically in a business suit just wouldn't keep you warm against the Maine chill. She noticed a splash of brown on the suit as well - he had to have had lunch at the docks. The barbecue sauce was a tough one to get out.




Taylor couldn't understand how on a direct flight a major airline could lose her luggage. All she had was her carryon, and a claim stub to wear for the next three weeks. At least she had her meds with her. She was so angry at the entire thing she wanted to spit nails. She had, however, taken out insurance, and they would replace her missing items, but that would have to wait until they knew where her bag went, or that she hadn't tried to commit fraud.  One young eagle-eyed attendant insisted that her bags did come to Portland, and swung about the screen to show Taylor, almost smug in the fact that the bags were safe and had arrived at the destination.


Taylor resisted the urge to pull the attendant’s perky tie apart as she pointed to the code following the baggage number. "Where is that???"


"Portland, Oregon," she said with a smile.


Taylor, having a hard time from it all, asked her, "And pray tell me, child - where are we?"


"Portland, Maine."


"Then why would you send my bags to Portland, Oregon, and me to Portland, Maine?"


"Well, we can't help it if you got on the wrong airplane ...."


Somehow Taylor knew that the limo driver wouldn't be there. Portland's airport was small, but it did have taxies and for the money, and the driver was willing to go the 35 miles (she had him tell her the rates BEFORE she got in).


The view from Hill House was spectacular. Waves crashed on the shore below and the wind whipped the breath from her lips. The hotel's wrap-around porch held sturdy wicker chairs with large potted plants about that lent a splash of color to the drab paint of the old Victorian house. Taylor paused upon hearing the clang of wind chimes. She looked and saw a metal triangle bell that had an infinity sign cut out of the metal on all three sides. The clapper of the bell was a second solid infinity sign as well. Taylor fumbled with the latch then strode into the near empty lobby to the desk where the manager stood. He seemed a bit put out to see her.


Hill House didn't have her room reservation, either. They had received the cancellation just the hour before. Taylor wanted to scream. She had paid for the trip with a check that she waved in front of the manager’s nose and demanded the money back. They could issue her a check in three weeks, when it cleared. Taylor took a breath, then started to yell at the person. Her check HAD cleared, they had her money, and how could she have canceled the room when she was in flight, and why would she? She needed the room. She had paid for the room, and she was going to get the room. She was told that they were booked solid with the peepers.


She shook her head. "If it was just canceled an hour ago, then how could it have been

taken so quickly? I arrived before the time indicated to guarantee the room, and the whole stay here has been pre paid!"


"Well, they over booked this weekend..." he began.


"Not my problem, and it WILL be your problem with the state commission’s department!" She saw three keys on the hook. "You have three rooms still, and a vacancy sign out. I have paid for the room in full, and the check has cleared. Now, this has not been the best of days, and unless you want me to sit outside with a sandwich board stating I am suing you for fraud and theft, I expect one of those keys to be mine shortly."


Taylor's voice had risen to a very angry level. Concerned of the possible impending altercation, Millie of housekeeping called Sheriff Metzger. He happened to be nearby, and heard her statement. People were beginning to gather in the lobby to hear what was going on.


"What seems to be the problem here?"


Before Taylor could speak, the innkeeper said. "She's causin’ a ruckus here, sheriff, we have no rooms available, and she won't take that as an answer...”


Mort looked at Taylor, who was shaking her head. "I paid for these rooms with a check that cleared two months ago. I arrive to discover that they have overbooked, and have bumped me from my room, and they are refusing to refund my money, which should come to 1699.89$ for the entire stay."


"Your money is not refundable on the grounds that you canceled your stay with us."


"First, that cancellation happened when I was in flight, and there isn't any way that I could have made the call, as the sheriff can see from my tickets! Second, I only have your word that I canceled, and seeing how your overbooked, I very much doubt that any phone call was made to that effect, and third, did you get the confirmation number for the room, or did you just take the person’s word at the other line that it was me???"


There was a pause. He flipped through there book and didn't answer. Mort looked at her and saw that she was very pale. "I suggest you do one of two things - and considering what you have put her through at this point, perhaps both. Either get her a room here, or book her a room at the Lighthouse Inn, and refund all of her money, now, in cash. Otherwise I am going to have to take you in for grand theft."


"The Lighthouse is booked solid too."


Taylor was shaking her head, then saw the corner of the entry. "What I would like to know as well is, what you did with the other room, and Mr. Thomas’s money as well?"


"Oh, well, Mr. Thomas's secretary said he would be delayed and to hold the room for him."


She drew in her breath. "He will be delayed for a long while - in the meantime, I will use his room, you will refund my money, and by his arrival, I expect a room of my own. Is that understood?" She didn't see Mort nodding behind her to let the innkeeper know that he’d better comply with her wishes.


Mort noticed that she only had one bag. "Is the other in the taxi?" he asked.


She shook her head. "It was shipped to Portland, Oregon. So, how was your day, sheriff?"

she asked as she signed the registry.


"Getting better all the time. May I give you a lift into town, so you can pick up a few things?"


Taylor smiled and nodded. "Sheriff, you are the first bright light I have seen today. Thank you."





Tipper was running late. Late from a de-quilling that should have taken half the time, but the cat had slipped into shock, and everything that could go wrong, did. The cat was still alive. It wouldn't be chasing after a porcupine for a long time.  It was going on seven and she was tired and hungry, and hadn't had time to get anything for dinner. She knew she would have to do a serious shopping trip, later. Basic things she needed now, but the only store within walking distance was an overpriced, understocked "Ye old Thyme" Mini-mart. She had a habit of carrying the bags just a bit too high to save her back. It was a bad habit, but not one of her worst. She rushed through the door and around the corner of the store side and smacked into a pedestrian who was coming the opposite direction. She heard a muffed cry, then a thud. Tippers eggs, milk and diet soda went in five different directions as she fell forward, tripping over the person she had run into. She heard a groan beneath the brown paper bag that once held her groceries.


"Oh NO!" she gasped. "Are you all right?? I'm so sorry!!! "


There was another groan then a weak, "No. I am not all right. It’s been a horrible day, and I have a migraine, and I really didn't need this right now, ya know? Oh, and you’re very heavy, can you get off of me???"


Tipper managed to get onto the sidewalk and pulled the paper bag off. She saw a very pale Taylor looking through squinted eyes up at her. Tippers hair had come out from her bun. Her eyes were wide, and from the expression on her face Taylor could tell that this happened a lot.


"Should I call a doctor?" Tipper asked as she spied the medic alert bracelet on Taylor's wrist.


She shook her head and sat up very cautiously. "The fact that I am still alive shows that it's not necessary. And I don't know who has planned this to happen - all I want to know is why, and what did I do to deserve this except to just to want to go on vacation...." She looked about a bit dazed as Tipper carefully removed the broken egg shells from her hair. Taylor looked down and saw the mess her shirt was, and that the milk had splashed on her pants. She pushed the debris aside and stood up. She was a mess. "Maybe in a few years I can laugh about this, but right now I want to cry, and I haven't done that in public since I was two, so if you will excuse me, I am going to go back to my hotel and do so."


"Look, you just had a nasty fall, and hit your head. It’s not been a good day for you - why don't you let me take you home with me, and I can at least make some dinner for you and help get that all cleaned up, or -"


"No, thank you. I just need to be by myself. You don't know who I am, and. I have no clue who you are."


"Oh, I'm Tipper Henderson; I'm Cabot Cove’s vet. ..."


"Great - just my luck to have almost the worst day of my life only to end it with a klutzy vet running me over!"  A clump of egg yoke fell with a soft plop onto her sleeve.


"Oooohhhhh - that's gonna leave a stain..." said Tipper.


"Ya think??"


From behind them they heard a voice say "Well, Tipper strikes again!" Taylor just shook her head and wondered to herself when the day had started to go horribly wrong, what she could have done something to change the outcome for today. It was growing darker, and cold, and she was hungry and she missed Anthony. She hunched up her shoulders and sniffled. She knew that either she could sit here and wail, or she could get up, and make the best of the horrible way that this vacation and started out. Taylor blinked back the tears and made her way to her feet.


"Um, is that a good idea?" asked Tipper.


"It is unless you’re planning to knock me down again! And from what I've just heard, you make a habit of doing this!" snapped Taylor.


Tipper looked up at her; a flicker of hurt from her sharp words went across her face. "Well, not a habit, really, it just happens..." Tipper said, her voice getting softer. "I'm really sorry, okay, I admit that I am at fault for knocking you down, but I am not responsible for the rest of your day being so bad. Someone else is, and its not me! So if you need to yell about them, okay, just don't take it out on me!”


Taylor took a deep breath and counted to ten.  "You're right, and I'm sorry," she said.

"Look, I'm a mess.  If I haven't totally loused things up, is that offer for dinner and a place to clean up still open?  I'd really rather not walk back through the lobby of the Hill House with ... pardon the pun ... egg on my face."


Tipper smiled.  "Sure, no problem.  Come on - first I have to replace all these groceries ..."  She turned to go back into the store, and was met at the doors by a grinning checkout lady holding a bag of groceries already packed and ready to go.


"Guess this does happen to you a lot, huh?" Taylor said as Tipper accepted the groceries with a sheepish grin.  Literally running into Tipper Henderson did manage to shock Taylor back into a vague awareness of the real world around her.  As they walked the few short blocks back to the veterinarian's house, she started to take note of the scenery - the blooming lilac bushes, the maple trees arching over the sidewalks, the brightly painted storefronts.  One shop in particular caught her eye. "What's that place?" she asked.


"That weird little store on the corner?  It's called Nightshade," Tipper said.  "It opened a few months ago.  Who knows how long it'll last."


"What do they sell there?"  Tipper snorted.


"Weird stuff," she said.  "Incense, crystals, decks of cards that are supposed to tell the future, that sort of thing.  It probably won't last the season."


"Huh," said Taylor thoughtfully.  Something about the store seemed familiar - impossible, since this was her first trip to Maine.  She pushed it out of her mind, and concentrated on the promise of dinner and a shower, not necessarily in that order.


It wasn't until four in the morning that she made the connection.  She sat up straight in bed, suddenly awake after a very deep dream she couldn't remember, and had two thoughts. The first was, "Damn, it gets light here early!" The second was "Nightshade - that's the name of the chain of stores Anthony's investigating!"


The next morning Taylor was about to leave her room to check out the Hill House's breakfast offerings when there was a brisk knock on her door.  Opening it, she found Tipper Henderson standing on the other side, looking dressed for action in jeans and a bright flannel shirt.  Taylor took an involuntary step backwards.


"Mornin'," Tipper said.  "Don't worry, I'm not carrying any groceries."


"So I see." 


"Look, we didn't get off to a very good start yesterday," Tipper said.  "I have the day off; let me take you to breakfast, and show you around - you can buy some clothes to replace the ones that got sent to Oregon."


"Sounds better than stale croissants and weak tea," Taylor admitted


"I knew you'd see it my way.  Come on."


"All right," said Taylor, "but after breakfast, there's one particular store I need to check out."


"I'm not sure why you wanted to come in here," Tipper said, brushing aside a strand of plastic beads as they entered Nightshade.  "I mean, they do sell clothes here, but they look more like tie-dyed tents to me!"


"It's not the clothes," Taylor said.  "Come on, let's just browse a bit.  I'll explain later."


"Okaaaaaaaaay," Tipper said.


Taylor wandered around the store, drifting from display to display. She saw scattered through the shop different objects that were triangle-shaped with the infinity sign in it and tried to puzzle briefly what it meant. It wasn't any astrological symbol that she knew of. Her interest shifted from the store's wares to the people running it.  On the day she had left Anthony's office to begin this disastrous so-called "vacation," she'd caught a glimpse of several photos on his desk.  The photos had been upside down and partially hidden under a stack of sheets from the file he was flipping through, but she remembered the face of the man it featured, and thought she might recognize him again if she saw him.


She paused in front of an ornamental sword hanging a bit lower than eye level on a wall. It held the same triangles and infinity symbols intertwined with gem stones. It was placed next to a display rack holding various pieces of crystal jewelry. Taylor continued to look around at the merchandise seeing a repetitious pattern of the same triangles ... but failed to see Tipper coming toward her.  The vet was so entranced by what she was seeing that she was decidedly not looking where she was going, and walked smack into the hapless Taylor.


Taylor pitched forward, caught off balance, and vainly reached for anything that would keep her from falling. Her hands found the hilt of the sword on the wall, but the hook it hung on was not equal to the task of supporting her weight, and she and the decorated weapon both crashed to the floor.


Tipper's eyes were wide. "Omigosh, omigosh, omigosh," she said.  "Taylor, I am SO sorry!"


Taylor bit back a few choice comments involving ballerinas, trucks, and gravity - after all, they were supposed to be making a fresh start of things this morning, weren't they?  Instead she assessed her situation - embarrassed but unhurt - and reluctantly accepted

Tipper's hands to help pull her back to her feet. "Don't sweat it," she said through gritted teeth.  "I'm okay.  Lucky I didn't land on that - I don't think the blade's been blunted on that thing."


"No, I guess not," Tipper said.  The small crowd of customers and staff who had gathered around began to dissipate as she reached down and picked the sword up backwards by the handle. "Funny, this can't be safe - I wonder if they have liability insurance to cover this thing."


"Uh, I don't know," Taylor said.  She wasn't really listening - instead she was watching the retreating figure of one of the store's staff members that had come running to see if she was all right after her fall, watching as he disappeared into a room at the back of the store marked "Employees Only."  He looked hauntingly familiar…


Taylor leaned the sword against the counter and bent down to pick up her purse. It brought her in direct line with a large display of burning incense. She felt her eyes water, and her head spin as something in the smell reminded her of – she couldn't remember what - burning peaches? She coughed from the smoke and shook her head. The room’s music seemed louder, and the beat of the percussion's began to sound like a heart beat. She did remember the impact as she went down to her knees. She didn't remember getting outside the store, only that she was sitting on the curb with her head between her knees and Tipper carefully checking the lump on the back of her head.


"What happened?" Taylor asked hoarsely.


Tipper bent down and peeked upwards at Taylor. "You sorta, went out of it for a while - I just told them you needed some air, you were breathing funny and wouldn't respond to me… you ok? Your eyes look horrible."


Taylor gave her a blank look as she slowly sat upright. "I think so. Where are we? I need you to do something for me… I need something in there …Where are we again??"


Tipper chewed on her bottom lip. "Outside the shop. Maybe we should have Doc check you out?"


Taylor shook her head. "I have this thing about doctors. Absolutely no faith in any one who is still practicing after 3000 years. Could you find out what that stuff was burning in the shop, and buy like some of it? Just enough to – well, I will explain later. Have you

ever drawn blood on a human before?"


Taylor saw the look of puzzlement on Tippers face. "Um…. I'm not licensed to do that to anyone… and I really wouldn't know if I could."


More confident, Taylor nodded. "Sure you could. It couldn't be different than doing it on a horse, or dog, would it?? And they teach young kids to do it for the blood bank, and it’s just a certification."


Tipper shook her head. "I really got to get you to Doc's place. It’s just up the street a bit."


"Please, it’s important, and I can fill you in later, but not here …"




Jessica worked silently in her rose garden. The shunning had given her time to catch up on things that she had put off for a long time. Things she had others do, like tend her prized roses. She was alone, but somehow - she couldn't explain it, but she didn't feel alone. Somehow, it was like there was someone with her, guiding her to find things that she had misplaced, or even what she – remembered – as soft kisses to her cheek when she was feeling a bit alone. Seth was correct. She HAD a life beyond the writing. She wondered what would have happened if she had never written the first story, or if Grady hadn't been so curious about it, and his girlfriend hadn't sent it off to Sutton House Publishers.


She felt a soft pat on her hand, and looked to see where it came from. – Nothing, no one was in the garden with her. She heard voices and looked between the branches of the bushes to see Tipper walking with someone that seemed very familiar to Jessica. The woman seemed a bit dazed as Tipper escorted her up the hill to her home. Jessica shook

her head. "Tipper strikes again!"


The phone rang in her kitchen. Jess knew that her answering machine would and should pick it up, but she needed to speak to someone, even if it was sneaking a call in or a wrong number, as every one knew that she shouldn't be taking the call. She managed to get the phone just before the machine picked up. "Hello?" answered Jessica.


"Jess, what did I say about you doing anything - and answering your phone is part of ‘anything!’" said Seth, a bit irritated. 


Jess knew that he was baiting her, and said softly, "Far be it for me to pry, but I think Tipper's struck again. They just went up the hill to her home, and the lady she was escorting didn't look all that well…"


There was a sigh at the other end. "I will check up on her in a bit. My main concern is for you currently, young lady.  As your doctor, I am allowed to check your promise to me… and what have you been doing??"


"Gardening, and clipping recipes. Ohh… it looks like its going to rain, I've my stuff outside, hold on a moment…"


She put down the phone, and hurried outside to where her gardening tools were and placed them in a basket. As she turned to go back into the house, she saw a sparkle in the grass. A few quick steps and she had scooped up the object and popped it into her pocket to examine later. Seth told her she couldn't write any mysteries, but it didn't stop her from researching her own back yard for them. He was still on the line when she returned a moment later. He spoke with her about her diet, and her sleep habits, and how she was to relax more.  When she was finished with the call, she placed some water on for tea, and slipping into a comfortable sweat suit, curled up on the sofa with a cup of tea and her book of Shakespeare to read.




"You aren't listening to me, Taylor – I can't do this!"


"Sure you can!  Like I said, how different can it be from drawing a heartworm test from a dog?"


"A lot different – like what happens to me if the State Veterinarian Board finds out about this!" Tipper said with a hint of hysteria.


Taylor waved the protest away.  "I'm not going to sue you, and I'm certainly not going to report you, even if you leave a bruise.  No one will know, I promise!"


"Yeah, well what I don't understand is, if you're so concerned about this, why you aren't having Doc draw your blood and test it," said Tipper.


"Because I can't be sure if my hunch is correct until I see the results," Taylor patiently explained.  "And if I am right, it is extremely important that it not get out – as it surely will if the physicians have anything to say about it.  That would ruin everything."


"For whom?  Oh, I get it, you can't tell me.  Well, fine, then.  If we're going to do this, let's get it over with."


Tipper went into the other room and fetched her black bag. She opened it on the coffee table while Taylor watched, and started sifting through the contents. "I don't use this much," she explained as she pulled out rolls of gauze, cotton cast padding, and elastic vet wrap.  "I see most of my emergencies at the clinic.  House calls are pretty rare. Let's see – cat-sized enema, dog motion sickness pills, equine rectal sleeve … oh, here we are, my supply of 22 gauge syringes."


Taylor rolled up her sleeve and resisted the urge to ask Tipper what one did with an `equine rectal sleeve' as the veterinarian swiped the inside of her forearm with an alcohol swab. Somehow, she had the feeling that she didn't want to know.


After hesitating for a tense moment, Tipper slipped the needle into Taylor's vein and drew back a couple of cc's of her blood with one smooth motion.  She capped the needle and put in her shirt pocket, then checked her watch. "It's noon," she announced.  "The clinic's closed til two, so no one should be there.  Come on, we'll bundle this up so it'll get sent out this afternoon, then we can go find some lunch."


The veterinary clinic was quite deserted when they arrived. Tipper let them in with her own key, and headed for the lab, where she collected a serum tube and a laboratory request form from a cabinet.  She injected the syringe of Taylor's blood into the tube, then set it aside to fill out the form.


"You got a pet?" she asked Taylor.


"Uh, yeah, a dog.  Her name is Sydney," Taylor said, confused.  "Why?"


"Can't be putting a person's name on this stuff. What type of dog is she?" Tipper asked.


"She's a cross between a teacup poodle and a Maltese - a Tea-poo-tese."


Tipper labeled the tube and the form with the name "'Sydney,' Taylor Andrews."  "Now, can you at least tell me what it is we're testing for?"


"Poison, illegal substances, that sort of thing. Maybe an organic toxin as simple as peach pits. All I know is, in LA people are dying after they go to that shop, and we need to know if they have moved to the next level."


Tipper gave Taylor an odd look. The glassy look in her eyes was still there, and there was evidence of some fine beads of perspiration on her forehead.  "How about `general toxin panel?' Would that do?  Along with basic blood levels?" she asked to keep Taylor focused.


Taylor nodded.  "Perfect. Now add this to your package, and have them run it too – and look for a match."  She held out the little ziplock bag that held the sample of incense Tipper had bought from the Nightshade shop at Taylor's behest. "So, if any one asks, it'll look like the pet came in contact with it and is sick, and we want to know why… right?"


Tipper nodded. "The lab boys are so busy, I don't think they'll question what type of animal it came out of." She finished filling out the form, slipped the incense sample and the serum tube in a plastic bag, and put them in the refrigerator together with a note for her technician.  "Okay, we should have the results back in twenty-four hours," she said. "In the meantime, how are you feeling? I still think we should have Doc look at you – you're still a bit off."


"Just a terrible case of the tummy rumbles.  Few shakes, but that may be from the ritual bloodletting," Taylor said with a grin. "Let's go have lunch, my treat.  I hear this place is the mothership of lobsters. Are they in season?"


Tipper flicked off the lights of the office. "Lobstahh is ALWAYS in season. Have you had it before?" Taylor shook her head. "Not fresh … I don't think I could bear to see the little guy get boiled.  I couldn't do it, ya know?"


Nodding, Tipper led the way in the near dark of the vet's office to the brilliant outside. "There are ways to put them in so they feel no pain upon immersion. But I know of a place that we can go where they do it discreetly in a way back kitchen unit. You'll feel better with something light in you …"



Taylor looked up from the lobster on her plate to Tipper; she seemed a tad pale. "It's looking at me," she said.


Tipper, a lobster of her own in front of her, paused with a French fry dipped in ketchup halfway to her mouth.  "It's not looking at you," she said, "it's dead."


"That doesn't make me feel any better, somehow."


"Oh, don't be silly.  Here, I'll show you how to do this," Tipper told her.  "First, you'll need to put on your lobster bib."


"Do I have to?  I'll look like a three year old! I haven't needed to use a bib since then either."


"You'll be grateful for it later," said Tipper.


Grudgingly, Taylor tied the plastic bib's strings around her neck.  "Okay, now what?"


"Twist one of the claws off at the body, like this.  Okay, good.  Now, you pick out the meat from each section, and then you can move on to the main claw."  Tipper watched as Taylor tentatively followed her instructions, and retrieved some lobster meat.


"It's good," she said, chewing on it thoughtfully.


"It gets better.  Now, take the claw in your hands and break it in two …."


Taylor did this and let out a small shriek, dropping the claw and putting her finger in her mouth.


"… carefully," Tipper finished.  "Are you all right?  What happened?"


"It bit me!"


"It can't bite you," Tipper said patiently, "it's dead."


"Yeah?  Tell that to my bleeding finger!"  She displayed her finger to Tipper, who sighed.


"I can tell you're From Away," she sighed.  "Only an out-of- stater would manage to get themselves bitten by a dead lobster. Here," she said, offering a band-aid from her purse, "dry off your finger and put this on.  The salt water will only help. Ewww, you are a messy bleeder."


Taylor shrugged. "Comes with the health plan." She managed to get through the rest of that claw and the other one without incident.  Then Tipper moved on to the more technical challenge of the tail.


"Grasp the body like this," she said, demonstrating, "and bend it backwards like this till the tail breaks off."


Taylor copied her example, and was rewarded with a shower of salty lobster juice that splattered all over her plastic bib. "Whoa," she said.  "Now I see why the bib is so important." She placed the body and legs upright on the plate and saw more juices running out. She followed Tippers example of how to break the tail in two. She tried to pull it apart at the center.


"Natch," said Tipper.  "Now push the meat out one end with your fork."


"Great!" Taylor said when it was out of the shell.  "Now I can just eat it, right?"


"Um, no.  One more important step," Tipper said.  "Peel back this strip of meat along the top, and take out that little tube of dark stuff underneath."


Taylor hesitated as she heard a clatter of a claw and fork against a plate and a sizable lobster body part shoot out off of a neighbor’s plate across the room to land beneath an unoccupied table several feet away. She turned back to Tipper, a bit distracted. "What is it?"


"It's … perhaps better if I tell you after lunch."


"Oh.  Got it… um… So, do you guys laugh at us out-of-staters when they DO eat that tube?"


Tipper gave a grin and dunked a chunk of the tail meat in clarified butter. "All the time."




Later that afternoon, Jessica sat on the sofa and felt a sharp pinch into her hip. Frowning, she pulled the object out and saw that it was a pin, dirt encrusted, but the post and the clasp were still intact. The buzzer for her oven went off, drawing her into the kitchen where she placed it on to the counter. She opened the oven door and peeked inside at the small pot pie for one. Not something Seth would recommend, but it was what she wanted.  The pie had another moment to go. She looked at the pin and turned on the tap water. She could see lettering under the dirt, and wondered how it got into her yard. She looked over where she had discovered it, and tried to remember who had been in her yard. It took a bit of soap and a soft cloth to get off some of the dirt. She saw the words `Cornell' about the top of the pin, and olive branches along the base. She knew whatever it had been in wouldn't come off easy. She drew a glass of warm water and some soap, then dropped

the pin in to soak.


Five minutes later she poured the soapy water down the sink through her fingers and examined the shiny, clean pin that was left in her hand.  In addition to the `Cornell' name across the top and the olive branches, the pin sported a version of the medical caduceus, slightly altered: one snake curled around the staff instead of two, and instead of wings, the standard was backed by a large `V.'  Not the physician's caduceus, then, but the veterinarian's.  And Tipper Henderson, she knew, was the only Cornell graduate working in Cabot Cove's small animal clinic.


Jessica stared down at Tipper's pin, at war with herself. The temptation was very strong to take this up to Tipper's house to return it, because she knew Tipper and in her conversation-starved state, tea with the buoyant vet was an appealing prospect.  On the

other hand, the damned shunning forbade her from any contacts whatsoever – a frustrating ban, but one she had promised Seth to obey. For now…


Sighing, Jessica set the pin aside on the kitchen counter. She would decide what to do with it later. Right now, there were recipes that needed clipping.




In the back office of the Nightshade store, Bartholomew sat chewing on a long brown curled stick going over the sales figures for the day. A portly matron entered the room and nodded to him as she drew a second long stick of a dried vegetable wrap from the jar on his cluttered desk.


Bartholomew glanced up. "Where is he now??"


Meg, the co-owner of the store, shot a look upstairs. "I'd say just tag and bag the bundle and air ship it some place else. We've too much money in here to let that leach suck us dry…"


He shook his head.  "He is part of the family, we all have to care for our own, and he is just doing what he was told to do!"


Meg's laugh was bitter and harsh as she spat out some of the twig that she had chewed off. "He is a pig – pigeon, whatever you want to call him. He is doing his job, and I don't trust him in the least. You never had problems with the numbers balancing until he came and now our books look bad. And we don't even have a chance to get them in order before the auditor comes tonight…"


Bartholomew took her hand in his. "Meggerschnitzle, you know I would do anything to make you happy. We have to face this auditor for the organization.  If we pass, we can go to the next step and have a better chance at turning this place into our dream land. Think of it - running at full standards just in time for tourist season…"


She shook her head and looked up in the direction where she knew their guest was sipping his special brew watching the security monitors… "We won't have our dream until he is out of the nightmare… one way or another… and he's been looking out at every one, peeking out the main office door when he is supposed to stay out of sight.

Some one saw him today… the woman who knocked over the ceremony sword… She knows it's the real thing. Why is it hanging there again? It’s against all that we hold to display it like that! Why couldn't we place it behind the counter where it was?"


Shaking his head he sighed. "It’s what HE said we should do, until we are officially a center for the group, it has to have – it’s first – as he said. The others who know the sword will come forward and make contact… It will all be over soon Meg… very soon…Once we have the gathering here, it will be a new beginning for all of us. More will come, and we will be the rulers of this town…"


Meg just shook her head. "It will happen, even if we're not here. Of all the places that they picked to have one of these centers for enlightenment, this is in the most primitive area. Can't you feel it? They won't ever understand ENERGY here. They are using us, until the time is right. You won't be in charge if he has his way about it. He isn't caring about the old ways. All he sees is the money and the power that follows! They could come in here and clean house, and all the seed money we sunk into this place will be

gone. They could STILL do that! They could say that we're not producing, or we don't have enough followers, and in the time of initiation when they all gather, we could be the ones being sacrificed!"


He regarded her earnest face. "We have to follow what they want! We have to go down the path even if it is into the dark. We have to have faith that we too will discover the illumination that is promised in the old ways…"



Lt. Arthur Taggart entered the office of District Attorney Anthony Thomas holding the end of a pink thin leash. At the other end of the leash trotted Sydney, her silky white hair pulled up with a matching satin pink ribbon bow. Her leash attached to a slim pink collar that sported a variety of medals that dangled from the clasp. Sydney gave a soft whine of excitement; Anthony could hear her sharp little claws running in place as the lead held her back. He placed the paperwork into the folder and slid it into the out basket before moving his chair aside


"It's ok, Arthur. Let her go…"


Taggart just dropped the lead. Sydney got a running start and vaulted across the room on Anthony's lap where she stood on her hind legs and covered his face with a flurry of puppy smelling kisses.


"Well I missed you too! And were you a good girl in school today?" Sydney answered with a resounding short yip of agreement.


"She put the other police dogs to shame with her dainty ways, and she received her certification. She is now police K-9 trained, has one more class to go for her search and rescue, and even the commissioner was impressed with her to the point that he wants her on the drug task force. He has taken into consideration your suggestion to use the smallest dogs for that task force as they can go in and find things in places the larger dogs cannot. It means that you can take her with you in the plane area, and she won't have to travel in the cargo area. So when are you going to join with Taylor and start your



Anthony shrugged. Sydney was now settled on his lap and fast asleep. "I don't know. We were smart to video tape that affidavit, and we can use that as best evidence. The closest thing we can find is that he was able to get on a plane and headed to Philadelphia. We lost him after that. Tom Mallard's agency found that out when our own force couldn't. Or so I thought. I spoke with the super chief and no orders to locate him were given in a timely fashion. He didn't know about the APB, or that we were still investigating the Nightshade Company. In fact, he had heard that the case was dropped, and it came from this office. Now, I made sure that I knew where all the evidence was, and that it’s safe where it can't be tampered with. The planted evidence, what the office thought was the files, and lab work, has been compromised."


"That's very bad Anthony. Do you have any idea who has done this?"


Anthony shook his head. "But what I do have is a continuance from the judge, and a writ stating that the video can be used as best evidence if we can't find him."


"I know your not the type to give up, if you were you wouldn't be battling Donald for all these years. By the way, where is Mabel?"


Anthony shrugged. "She asked if she could go early, she had a doctor’s appointment to go to, to have a tooth pulled. She may be off for a few days… Which leaves us old guys to keep this little lady entertained until her mommy comes back to LA."


"Well, you have the continuance, why don't you take a bit of the time and give her mommy your best?"


Anthony shrugged again. "I tried calling the Hill House, and they don't have her listed as a guest, which may mean that she went to a different inn, or Mabel had her go elsewhere. I could all ways call Seth, or Jessica - I know she was planning on visiting them, but, she may just, need time to herself."


"Without you? Did you kids have a fight?"


Anthony shook his head. "No. I asked her to marry me, and she said no, end of discussion, no compromise. This trip was to be some time that we could spend together and just not worry about our jobs, or what would happen next."


 Tipper and Taylor spent part of the afternoon replacing Taylor's wardrobe with what Tipper called Basics.


"Jeans. Live in them, and T shirts, sensible shoes, the hills here are killers," she said, tossing Taylor several packs of men's t-shirts that were on sale.


Taylor caught them and put them in the basket. "It’s too cold just for T shirts…" she began.


"Oh, and we have these fleecy things. We won't find them here, there’s another shop along the way that we can get one, and you will be set."


It was beginning to cloud up and sprinkle by the time that they arrived at the hill house hotel. Tipper helped to carry her packages up to the room, and then unpack and together they discovered the hotel’s laundry room. Taylor didn't want to leave anything behind to

disappear. She and Tipper took turns running the stuff to the room and watching the washer and dryer.


On the last load, Tipper sent Taylor on ahead to the room to check the messages. She was a bit puzzled when she didn't come back down within the hour cycle. Going upstairs she gently pushed the door open with her toe to see Taylor sound asleep on the top covers of the bed, a bloody washcloth lying on the floor beside the bed. She folded it and tossed it into the sink of the dimly lit bathroom. She stood and watched Taylor breathing for a while. Leaving the cloths neatly hanging in the closet, and the key on the dresser she wrote a brief note for her that she would be by in the morning to take her to breakfast again, and if she was hungry later to give her a call. She chuckled as she closed the door, and heard it latch behind her. Only an outa stater would need to take such a deep afternoon nap like that. Something to do with no smog, and the sea air.


Tipper yawned herself and walked briskly to her home.  She glanced down the street at the Nightshade store, and saw a lady with dark hair and an expensive trench coat enter the store. A rental car was parked along side the curb. She shook her head. There was something about tourists. They had to be intelligent people before they came, but once on the vacation, they forget how to read and follow the laws of NO PARKING!



The telephone rang shrilly at 5:30 am waking Tipper. She rolled out of bed and went to the phone, sitting on the floor to answer it. "Dr. Henderson speaking, how can I help you?" There was a pause, and then a very tired voice came over the line. "Dr. Henderson? This is Sam speaking from the lab, you sent some samples in and you wanted to know the results ASAP. We saw from the samples that the blood was human, and knew that you were probably using it as a teaching aid for a new technician. We used it as well to train one of our new people, and discovered something, the person may not have been aware of. We're faxing the hard copy to your office, but there are some critical results you may need to know now for your patient…um- ‘Sydney’ – Taylor Andrews…"


"Hang on while I get a pencil." She stretched up to her desk and dragged down a pencil and pad. "Ok what do you have that's so interesting…?"


Tipper splashed water on her face refreshing herself after her brief shower. She couldn't go back to sleep now. She knew the town was up by 4 am. There were days she just wanted to sleep in. She knew that she would have to have a long talk with Taylor, and some words with Mort. Seth would be another person to talk to, but for now, she had to start with Taylor. She pulled on her shoes and her jacket and hurried out the door.



Taylor woke to see people moving in her room. She didn't move at first, only took a moment to blink and try to focus on something. Her head throbbed. She was able to get one eye moving in a direction to follow one of the people. It took a moment for her to distinguish that it was Mort speaking with the hotel manager at the door. Her mouth felt as if all of Hannibal's army had marched across her tongue. She managed to slowly roll over and even slower, sit up, clinging to the edge of the bed. Carefully she stood and walked to the bathroom where Deputy Floyd was dusting her wash basin. She walked behind him and stood, her arms crossed as she said clearing her throat, "If you wouldn't mind, I need to use this room for a moment?"


Deputy Floyd blushed and said, "Certainly, but you'll need to use the tub to wash your hands."


She nodded and closed the door between them, locking it for privacy. She could hear Mort yelling at Floyd. She didn't know why, but somehow, after the start of this trip, nothing would surprise her. She heard a knock at the door, asking her to come out. Taylor held her hands under the water wincing as the warm soapy water ran into the deep cut on her finger from the lobster. In a moment she came out, and saw Mort looking in at the sink, then back to her.


"Ms. Andrews, can you tell me where you were yesterday?" he snapped.


Taylor all but ignored him as she went to her night stand and drew out her prescription and swallowed one following it with a swig of cold tea. She gave a shrug. "With Tipper, shopped, got bit by a lobster, did laundry, and came up here to rest before dinner."


"And where did you have dinner?"


Taylor shrugged. "Haven't had it yet, Tipper said she was going to make lobster bisque… I should be getting ready for it soon..." She frowned. "Can I ask what you’re doing in my bedroom? You said yesterday? It’s tomorrow already?"


Mort nodded and looked at Floyd as he came from the bathroom. He had several things in the evidence bags, and was labeling the photos taken by the Polaroid. "We had a bit of a problem at one of the shops in town, and found some fingerprints on site. I ran them through the state linked computer, and discovered some of them to be yours. I also discovered that you have an arrest record, and are a wanted felon in four states. Tying the prints at the site and the amount of blood found here, I have no choice but to arrest you for the murder of Bartholomew Dixon. ..You have the right to remain silent; you have the right to counsel …"


Tipper strode up to Taylor's door and saw that the manager of the inn was standing in the hallway looking very smug. She heard Mort reading a Miranda warning to someone and saw that he was placing Taylor in hand cuffs. Taylor was looking decidedly confused, and a bit peeved.


When Mort finished he asked "Do you understand this warning?"


Taylor shook her head. "No. I don't understand anything right now. I have no clue as to what you’re saying, and what is going on." She saw Tipper in the doorway. "He says it’s morning, is it? What happened to dinner - we were doing the laundry?" She shook her head and placed it into her hands. The cuffs clanked against her medic alert bracelet.


Tipper drew in a breath and went to Mort. "I think its best if we had Doc here, now," She stood toe to toe with him.


He looked down at her and shook his head. "I understand how she could have convinced you that she is the damsel in distress, but she's a dangerous criminal, and a murderer. Right now she is going to jail to await the circuit judge and Doc can visit her in there."


Tipper went to Taylor. "Taylor, look at me… is there someone at home that you want me to call to get this straightened out?"


Taylor shook her head. "All this was to be was a simple vacation to see Jessie, and relax, and spend time with Anthony and it hasn't worked. I can't win, never could beat the odds and it’s just not worth it any more…"


Mort went to her and helped her up off the bed taking her personal items in a plastic bag. Tipper was the last to go, and watched them seal up the room with evidence tape. She saw the smug look on the innkeeper’s face and strode past him out to the walkway where she chewed her bottom lip. She could go to Seth, but he wouldn't be able to see her right away anyway, not till Mort booked her and tossed her in jail. She drew in a breath and started walking. She kept thinking about Taylor's words, and the more she thought about it, the faster she strode down the street, until she stopped, and found herself outside of Jessica's house. She knew the shunning was still in effect, and didn't care. Something was very wrong, and it was far beyond her humble detective skills. She raised her hand to knock…


The door opened before she had the chance.  There was Jessica, looking a little less tired but perhaps a bit more agitated.


"I know I shouldn't be talking to you …" they both said in unison.


Jessica laughed. "They say great minds think alike," she said.  "Please, come in, Tipper."


Once Jessica had shut the back door firmly against the rest of the outside world, she said, "Seth will have a fit if he finds out about this, but I'm starting to lose my mind, and I just have to talk to someone."


"Seth'll be calling for my head too," Tipper said, "but I also needed to talk, and specifically with you.  Taylor Andrews has been arrested for murder."


"WHAT? I can't believe that Taylor's not the type …Sit down, and tell me about it."


Tipper took a seat at the kitchen table, while Jessica set the kettle on for tea.


"I guess you DO remember Taylor, she said she'd met you and Seth in Los Angeles some time back," Tipper began.  "Anyhow, she came out here on vacation – she was supposed to have come with her boyfriend, Anthony Thomas – and things have been just miserable for her.  First her luggage gets sent to the wrong Portland, and then the Hill House loses her room reservation, then … well, you know about the groceries incident."


"I remember," said Jessica.  "That egg must have left an awful stain. That was Taylor? She’s changed her hair since I last saw her."


"It did.  Anyhow, it didn't stop there.  We were walking around town yesterday and went into that new age shop over on Oak Street, and not only did I nearly kill Taylor a second time, she got a whiff of something in there that's got her partially scrambled."


"Something – like what?" Jessica asked leaning forward to listen closer to what Tipper was saying.


"Some kind of incense or something.  Taylor made me draw a sample of her blood and send it off to get tested for opiates.  Came back positive, along with some other interesting results that I really need to talk to Seth about."


"Interesting," said Jessica.  "Then what?"


"Then last night Bartholomew Dixon gets run through with a sword.  Mort found a trench coat smeared with blood in Taylor's room; the blood types match.  There's a lot more blood scattered around the room and on Taylor's clothes; that also matches.  Except Taylor has an excuse, she cut herself on a lobster claw yesterday at lunch. But since Taylor and Bartholomew Dixon have the same blood type, A-, for all we know, she was covered in this guy's blood, not her own."


"They may have the same blood type," Jessica said, taking the kettle off the heat as it started to whistle, "but they don't have the same blood. Something that they wouldn't think to look for in the testing."


"You've lost me, Jessica. Look I know she has some levels that are off, but, that could be from even the aspirin that she took yesterday for her headache."


"It'll actually be fairly simple to determine whether the blood found on Taylor was from the murder victim or from yesterday's mishap with the lobster.  Pick a tea bag, Tipper, and I'll tell you what you need to ask Seth to do when you talk to him next."


Tipper settled on a bag of black currant, and listened. When they had finished exchanging information Tipper stood up. "Time to talk some sense into Mort's head - I'll let you know what I find out. Thanks for the tea." Tipper hurried out the door and strode with determination to the sheriff’s office.


Jessica closed the door and put the cups in the sink. She passed the phone, and her heart began to beat hard in her chest. Jessica pulled out her address book and removed a dog eared business card. It was too much of a temptation to get involved in all of this. She knew that if she called Anthony at his office it might be intercepted.


She hesitated. Her mind was making leaps that terrified her. With shaky hands she dialed the private number on the card. "…Sarah? Is Donald there?… Oh… Could you tell him Taylor's been in an accident?  I don't know the details beyond that she was run over by the town’s vet…Thank you."


She heard Sarah hang up, and then there was a second click. Her heart pounding faster, Jessica's fears were realized.  She felt a curious warmth, as if some one was giving her a long hug…Jess turned on the water and began to wash the dishes.


Tipper went to the Sheriff's Office in an attempt to introduce a little logic into Mort's head.


"Yes, Taylor's fingerprints would be on the sword, she grabbed it when she fell in the shop. And as it was on display, a lot of other fingerprints would be on it too. Were the other fingerprints on top of hers, or were hers on top? For that matter, how do you

know the blood you found on Taylor's clothing was Dixon's?" she said, after retelling the story of the Attack of the Boiled Lobster.  "After all, it was a deep cut, and Taylor kept picking at it.  It would have left quite a mess wherever she went."


"There was a mix of prints on the sword. A couple on top of hers, but some where it could only be if she held the sword. We haven't identified the other set yet, she may have had help with this. Oh, and she and the murder victim have the same blood type," Mort said stubbornly, waving the initial crime scene report at her.


"You can't arrest someone for having the same blood type as the murder victim!"


"No?  Well, how about this – the trench coat we found in her room, you know, the one smeared with all the blood?  Ms. Andrews admits that it's hers."


Here Tipper looked oddly puzzled. "How could Taylor's trench coat be with her in Cabot Cove?"


Mort gave her an exasperated look.  "Maybe because she owns it?" he said.  "People often pack their own clothes to go on vacation!"


"But there was a mix-up with her luggage. You knew that too! She went to Portland, Maine, but her bags were sent to Portland, Oregon," Tipper said.  "In fact, we spent all yesterday afternoon outfitting her with new clothes so she could stop living in the ones

she'd worn all the way out from LA."


Mort's face fell a little, and Tipper seized the opportunity to drive her point home.  "Furthermore," she said, "did you find anything else of Taylor's that wasn't bought yesterday?  Or a suitcase, and have they tested the blood to see if it came from a MAN

or a WOMAN?"


"All right, all right, I get the picture," Mort sighed.  "So somehow, somebody got hold of Ms. Andrews' coat, or one exactly like it, and is using it to frame her.  That suggests a West Coast connection somewhere."


"Yes," said Tipper, "which somehow I find troubling.  And hey – how did you know to go looking in Taylor's room for bloodstains in the first place anyway?"


Mort rolled his eyes.  "It was an anonymous tip," he said.


"From a man or a woman?"


"Floyd took the call; he said it sounded like a woman," said Mort.


"Sheriff," said Tipper, leaning on the desk, "I saw a woman wearing a trench coat go into the Nightshade shop last night on my way home from the inn.  She caught my eye because she'd left her rental car in the `no parking' zone, and it always irritates the heck

out of me when people do that."


"Rental car," said Mort.  "That would suggest that she's from out of state.  You didn't happen to get a license plate number, did you?"


"Uh, no," Tipper admitted.  "But I think I could recognize it or the lady again if I saw them. Sort of tall, dark black wavy hair and a very tan complexion."


"Well, it's a start," Mort said.  "But only a start," he warned as Tipper's face brightened somewhat.  "I'm not letting her go – especially not with her still coming off that big bender like she is.  The woman can hardly tell down from up, and she's liable to get run over by a pick-up truck."


"Withdrawal," Tipper said quietly to herself.  Now Taylor's strange disorientation that morning made more sense. It was definitely time to talk to Seth. Tipper started to walk to the door. Mort looked up from the papers that he was placing in the file.


"While you're here Dr. Henderson, it occurred to me to check your fingerprints against those on the weapon as well. You seem to be in deep with Ms. Andrews and it's very likely that you might be the accomplice that we are looking for…"


"Um, sorry Sheriff, that will have to wait, I'm due at a meeting. Tipper ducked out of the sheriff's office, her heart pounding in her chest. She knew that he would find her prints on the sword, and using his fuzzy logic, she would end up in the cell next to Taylor. All that would accomplish was to prevent her from investigating matters. Tipper halted in her strides and took a steadying breath. She shook off the growing fear and continued her path for answers.


Seth regarded Tipper as she came into his office. He was wearing a frown, and clicked his tongue at her. She braced herself for what was to come, then said in a rush, "I don't regret doing it. I know I shouldn't have, but I just had to."


"Rules are rules young lady, who we are, and what we do cannot make us exempt from them."


Tipper cringed a bit from the tone of his voice, then straightened herself out. "Yelling at me won't solve the problem. I know my limitations, and I DID want to come to you yesterday with what was going on - maybe this wouldn't have happened if I had, but she didn't want to have any thing to do with ANY doctor…"


Seth paused, did a double take, and then tilted his head. "Who didn't? Jess was fine yesterday when I spoke to her. I was referring to your visit to her… What are you going on about?"


Tipper froze, then closed her eyes for a second. Drawing a breath she said softly, "I was speaking about the blood work for Taylor Andrews…Sam said he was going to send it to you…"


Seth walked over to his desk and lifted up a file. "Oh, that… well, knowing Taylor, I do understand. Was that her that you ran over the other day?"


Tipper nodded, and said sheepishly, "Twice, and she has the goose egg on her head to prove it. Yesterday we went into that shop, Nightshade, and she came in contact with some of the incense, and it really … Doc, she's in Mort's jail going through withdrawal right now. He thinks she killed that guy, and they have the same blood type, and the trench coat that was found in her closet may be hers, but she didn't bring it, all her stuff was shipped to Portland, Oregon. If you compare from the samples that I took, and check for the organic compound, and her blood type, and the cross match … maybe the blood is his, but she couldn't have done it, and Mort says she's wanted in a couple of states as a felon, and…"


Seth sighed. "You’re beginning to sound like Jessica…" He picked up the phone and dialed a number as he looked right at Tipper. He didn't blink as he gave a request to the technician at the other end. He just asked after he hung up- "Did you see any evidence of blood when you last saw her?"


Tipper nodded. "Just on a wash cloth, by her bed, but she received a nasty cut from a lobster at lunch. She was asleep when I left, and from the covers, I don't think she moved the entire night… Sam called really early this morning and…"


The ringing of the telephone interrupted her. He sighed, and then picked up his bag and said to Tipper. "Mort suggests that I come down there. He says he's got information on the place where the man was found. And he suggests that I should check up on Taylor… he says she's acting like she had too much cappuccino"


Taylor paced the small cell in a nervous circle. She wouldn't stand still, couldn't if she tried. She looked up at Tipper as she came into the jail, then Seth. She tried focusing on them, and then shook her head as she saw the medical bag. She kept pacing in tight circles. "I keep hearing a voice tell me I have to do something and I don't know if I did…and it tells me to shrink-wrap someone.  I see a sword, and there is blood everywhere. I can't breathe from peaches. I don't know. There is something going on there I can't explain." She paused for a second. She looked at Seth again then said, "You can't help me, there is nothing to do here. All you can do is follow the trail back to the nest and see where the eggs are before the pigeon flies again. I keep seeing all the blood on the wall and the boy tied to the bed… But it’s not there and he isn't in pain any more. I'm responsible for what happened. I have to be, I should have known, or checked sooner. He is dead and it’s my fault."


Mort shook his head as he let Seth into the cell. "Don't know Doc, sounds like a confession to me."


Seth shook his head. "Taylor works with the DA of Orange County. When Jess and I went out there, Taylor had helped us catch the serial killer. What she is saying is from her memory, of the previous murder, not this one."


Tipper saw Mort head to his desk and pick up an ink pad and look about for the white cards for the fingerprinting. Tipper slowly backed out of the room to the door and hurried down the street. She had to think. The evidence against Taylor was very well planned. Every thing that had been happening to her had been as if someone wanted to get her into this position.  She heard a laugh, coming from a side street and glancing down it, saw Meg with another man that she remembered seeing briefly at the nightshade shop. Ducking quickly into a the pastry shop to get out of the line of sight, Tipper planned to follow them and hear what could possibly be so funny after everything that had happened.


"Can I help you Tipper?" asked the person across the counter. Tipper jumped slightly at the sound of her name.  She had only eaten there once, and the pastries really didn't impress her at all.


"Um, Yeah, I'll have one of those bear claws…" she froze as she heard Meg’s voice again saying that they could have lunch at the pastry shop.


"Anything else? For here or to go?"


"That blueberry tea, a large, a bag of the winegums and it’s for here…"


Tipper settled into a seat in the narrow corner and slowly dunked her tea bag.


It was a long cup of tea as she slowly ate the wine gums. Tipper wasn't much on candy. The view from the pastry shop was just people passing on the side walk.  She had to strain to hear the voices. She heard the clock chime and realized that she had been glued to the chair and the conversation for an hour (having finished off several bear claws and even more tea). She didn't know how many more she would have to eat.


A tinny tune echoed in the pastry shop. Meg pulled out her cell phone and hit the button to answer it then handed it to the guy across the table. "Yeah? … When? Ok, then, just take care of it…Hey, its all the better for us, ya know? Sure, this will put an end to every thing… no, it’s too small to do it here; lotta strays will do the work for us… (laughter) Yeah, some c4 will make him into real hamburger…Just do it. By the time they find all the pieces something else will take up their time and we'll be in the clear. What’s another D.A? …Sure, the taxpayers will thank us later… "


Tipper nearly choked on her tea. She could feel the guy’s eyes on her, and thankfully her own cell phone went off.


"Yes?… Where is your pup now?…. Well get him out from under the porch and bring him in… Oh - about two hours to dequill. Ok. Bye." She saw the counter person regard her with sympathy. Tipper shrugged and said "Can't even have a long quiet cup of tea without this thing going off. Thanks for the break, though."


Two hours later, the quills all removed and the dog sent home with a new appreciation for porcupines, Tipper took the information she had won at the expense of several bears claws and went back to the Sheriff's office.  Floyd greeted her as she came in.


"Afternoon, Tipper," he said.  "Come to see the Sheriff?"


"Yes.  Is he free?"


"He's just finishing up with Miss Andrews. I'll let him know you're here."


A few minutes later the cheerful red-haired deputy came back out and said, "Sheriff Metzger says come on in."


"How's Taylor?" was her first question when she walked into the office.


"A lot better than when you and Doc were here earlier," Mort said. "Like, she's actually starting to sound like she's making sense."


"Good.  Sheriff, someone From Away is calling the shots on what's been going on with this murder."


"I agree.  And the evidence is starting to indicate that it's Miss Andrews."


Tipper's heart sank – someone had it in for Taylor, and had it in bad.  "What do you mean?" she asked.


Mort picked up a handful of computer printouts on his desk.  "These are the phone records from the Hill House Inn," he said.  "The manager brought them over this morning voluntarily.  On it there are several calls placed from Miss Andrews' room the night before the murder to the Nightshade store, and also to several shady organizations in the Los Angeles area. It's all right here on paper – Taylor Andrews isn't who she appears to be."


"Ridiculous," said Tipper.  "Taylor Andrews is the girlfriend of the Orange County district attorney.  If she had strong links to organized crime, wouldn't that be awfully hard to hide from him?"


"Maybe she's a plant, a mole to get confidential information out of the D.A.'s office," Mort said.


"Maybe someone sees her as a threat, or worse, as a way to get to Anthony Thomas," Tipper countered.  "This whole thing stinks of a set-up."


"Yeah?" said Mort.  "And how can you be so sure?"


"Because I was with Taylor the night before the murder, for the whole evening.  We were over at my house, trying to wash the egg stain out of her shirt.  I was also trying to make up for running her over outside the Ye old thyme shop by cooking her dinner.  She didn't

go back to the inn until nearly midnight.  When were those calls supposedly placed?"


Mort leafed through the records and looked a little sheepish.  "Uh, between eight and ten-thirty PM."


"Well, then."


"Okay, okay.  So she didn't place those calls.  It still doesn't explain the remarkable coincidence of all this stuff going down as soon as she hits town.  What's the connection?"


"I don't know," said Tipper, "but it makes me very afraid for Taylor's sake."


Mort frowned, saw the fingerprinting kit on the corner of the desk and looked up to Tipper. "A moment of your time to satisfy a question doctor…"


Tipper gave him a puzzled innocent look, then glanced down at her pager. "That will have to wait Sheriff; I have an emergency at the office." 


Mort looks thoughtfully at her retreating figure. Something wasn't quite right about this.


Tipper decided to risk Seth's wrath and dared a second trip to Jessica's house. She looked over her shoulder the whole way to make sure she wasn't being followed or watched.  Oh, what the heck, she finally thought to herself.  Seth would probably find out anyway. She went on without looking back.


She had a momentary start when she rounded the corner and saw a man loitering outside of Jessica's house, then relaxed when she realized that it was just that guy with the obnoxious barbecue sauce stain. She smiled at him as she passed, and he nodded in return but said nothing.  Tipper dismissed him from her mind as she knocked at Jessica's back door. Jessica was there in an instant and dragged her inside.


"Things are worse than I thought," she said.  "I'm pretty certain there's a conspiracy going on, and Taylor's right in the center of it. The phone records show that calls to the Nightshade store, and to some places in L.A. that Mort's not to happy with. They were placed from her room, and when she was with me…So that means that its not just the goings on at the store, its- like a bad weed that gets in the yard and puts down roots to china." 


Tipper stopped when she saw Jessica nod. "Yes, I suspected as much when I placed the call to Donald's office today. I heard a second click on the line; someone was listening to the conversation."


"Donald? Who's Donald, and aren't you supposed to be resting?" came Seth's voice from the door.  He was leaning against the frame of the door and wore a peeved expression.


Jessica held up her hand. "I won't say I told you so. There is something very wrong with what is going on at that shop," she began.


Seth rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Mort went all over that shop, and they are a legitimate site of business. We have been over this before…"


Tipper shook her head. "Legitimate places of business do not sell opium derivatives to the customers!"


Seth fixed her with a steady gaze. "I went to the Nightshade shop, and they do not have that incense that you said you purchased yesterday. They don't even have a record of any sale to you, or that you were in the shop at all. And I compared the register receipt that you marked as proof to one that they print out and it’s different. Different paper and printing and type.  Furthermore, at Mort's request I had Taylor's medication tested, and it showed positive for the opium derivative. In fact, it wasn't what was supposed to be in the bottle at all.  I've been able to get her real medications filled here. However, with finding the drugs in her possession, this would lend credibility that she is who the police reports say she is. Both Jessica and I have worked with Taylor and know this isn't the case. Nor would she take the drug willingly."


Jessica sat in silence as Tipper paced in the living room. She stopped pacing and looked at Seth. "Maybe I should be very afraid. In order for them to be doing this shell game with the registers and setting Taylor up… She said that getting here was a nightmare, and

even here, things have been very bad for her, What if someone didn't want her here at all? Or to tie her up so that she couldn't find out something?"


"What would be so important?" asked Seth.




Donald walked up to Anthony as he opened his car door. "Do you have a moment?" he asked.


Anthony closed the car door, and followed Donald back to his car where he held open the door. He sat inside and closed the door, then waited as Donald got in on the drivers side.

"Has Tom found the snitch?"


Donald shook his head. "I received a message from Cabot Cove. Sarah took the message this morning. The woman said she was Jessica Fletcher. I tried to return the call, and I haven't been able to get through. The operator says that Mrs. Fletcher is under her doctor’s care and can't take incoming calls. I tried to contact Dr. Hazlitt, and his line is out of order. The operator couldn't or wouldn't put me in through to any one in the town. Out of curiosity, I called Nightshade’s toll free number and entered in the zip code for Cabot Cove… There is a new shop just opened on the main street." Donald stopped trying to form the words. Anthony could see the struggle on his face.


"It gets worse, so, just tell me," he said finally.


"The message from Mrs. Fletcher said that Taylor has been in an accident and that she was run over by the town vet. It happened the day she arrived. I can't get any information to see how she is doing. I tried to book a flight to Portland and everything is booked solid for three weeks."


"I have an open ended ticket. They have to take that…" He saw Donald shaking his head


"You can't go, Anthony. They are rooted in the town deep enough to control the phone systems… and the police force."


"Whoa, the local police too? Where did you get this?" Donald looked out the window.


"When Taylor tried to go to Cabot Cove, she had some problems at the airport; they were set to arrest her. She called me, and I was able to read them the riot act about unlawful detention. I ran a check on her, and it seems she is now a wanted felon in four states. I put a tag on the file and it was accessed from Cabot Cove. A notation that she was in custody was added this morning, as well as drug possession, and assault, and murder charges."


Anthony shook his head. "I believe the corruption has invaded this force and my office here in LA." Donald watched him get out of the car "Keep me updated,” he said then closed the door.


Donald saw him pull the car keys out of his pocket and tabbed the electronic ignition

switch to warm his car up as he walked towards it.  There was a resounding WHOOOMMPHHE BOOOMMM that shook the concrete car garage as Anthony's car exploded into a fire ball.


Mort regarded Taylor as she looked at the place mat that was under the dinner plate. She set it aside and had asked him if he had any thing to draw with. He produced a single dark gray crayon long abandoned from a kid.


"Ok, so, if I buy that you’re being set up on this, and your really dating the D.A., who I can't seem to get a hold of, or that lawyer friend of yours, or that detective agency, can you tell me what is going on in there that would cause this event?”


"The state of California vs. Nightshade, Inc. One of the members was to turn state’s evidence against them and tell how they manage to get entire communities addicted. He suspected that they had infiltrated the task force.”


“Did he say how they do it? I mean, come on, this one here is a mom-and-pop organization who maybe do a hundred or so a day if they are lucky, and are living hand to mouth …"


She shook her head. "The danger is in the recruiting of the *other* employees. Your

neighbor, the meat man, any one that they can use - even if it’s for planting information against someone to slow the investigation. Ask yourself why you can't make a call to the outside towns, and why the innkeeper was so eager to give you the phone records." She saw he was about to dismiss her and said, "Of which he forgot one very important item. The room wasn't registered under Taylor Andrews. I was in Anthony's room, # 305 not

#107. Check my room key in my bag against the room listing. The person who was in room 107 is your murderer."


Mort, curious, went to the safe, extracted her things, and looked at the key and the receipt for the room. He replaced them after comparing them to her registration receipt that was tucked safely in her wallet. Mort turned back to her and said softly, "You have my attention. But you realized I can't let you go, for your own safety. And it’s just supposition that the person in 107 is the murderer…."


Lt. Arthur Taggart sifted through the papers Anthony had on his desk. Sitting on a corner of the desk was Sydney who whined softly. They had just finished the classes when they heard the break on the police dispatch. They wouldn't let him see the body. Tom Mallards had held him back, saying that it was better if he just remembered him the way he was - before.


Arthur Taggart felt old. He sat down in the chair and closed his eyes. Sydney moved to his lap and planted her tiny paws on his chest, her little tongue flicked over the salty tears on his cheek. He heard the jingle of her medals and her soft whine. She snuggled under his chin, trying to bring him comfort.


He heard the sharp click of heals on the linoleum as Mabel entered into the outer office, then strode into Anthony's office. She stopped short and saw Taggart sitting in the chair. "Oh… I was just going to clean out the office," she began.


Sydney's little head whipped about and she wiggled off of Arthur's lap. She jumped to the floor and went over to Mabel, who she sniffed thoroughly. Taggart was almost too distracted to notice what was happening when Sydney gave a series of sharp yips. It broke his solitude, and he looked at Sydney who was sitting back, and looking at

him, waiting for his response. Taggart studied her and then called Sydney off and back to



"You’re not to touch a thing in the office. All of his cases will go forward as planned. We have all the evidence we need to shut down and pull out by the roots that weed Nightshade."


He watched as she blinked rapidly. "Yes, of course." She backed out of the room and closed the door. He waited, and watched the light to the outside line come on briefly.


"Good work Sydney." He rose a bit unsteadily and scooped Sydney up in his arms. He knew what had to be done, and who could do it.


Mabel watched his departure. Her heart beat fast in her chest. She watched him walk out, then gathered her purse. Glancing about the office she looked for any place where the other files could have been.  She was torn between loyalty to the organization, and self-preservation. She hurried out of the office, not even noticing the very plain-looking man who followed her.


A half hour later Arthur walked into Donald Brook’s office and told Sarah that he was seeing Brook. She blocked the door and said, "He is with a client now…"


Half a second later Diana opened the door. "It’s all right, Sarah," she said as she opened the door for him.


He put Sydney down on the floor and strode over to Donald's desk. "We need to get Sydney to Cabot Cove, Maine, today."


"And why is that?"


Taggart paced to the window and then back again. "Because Taylor's there, and it's the one store where they wouldn't suspect our secret weapon. From what we were informed, each computer has access to the main database. If we can find even one drug on the premises we can seize the records and shut them all down."


Brook followed Taggart's gaze to where Sydney was at the law library door. She stood expectantly, wagging her tail. Taggart turned and bent over to look into Donald's eyes.

"And I know you have just the person to transport her. Here are her papers. She can travel with you as a working dog." Sydney gave a happy yip, and began to scratch the door a bit harder.


Donald nodded. "I've spoken to her adjunct about traveling to Maine to see if he can get her released and this matter straightened out.  He will be leaving for the airport shortly. The company that they work for wishes to get this matter resolved as soon as possible. They were not happy with the revelation that Taylor is a wanted criminal. It’s not what their research shows."


"The court has allowed a five day continuance because of this. We have to get them, Donald."


"We will."


Seth heard the news flash as he was getting his dinner ready. He stood in numb horror listening to the details on the television before shoving it back into the refrigerator. He didn't remember quite how he arrived at the jail, only that Mort took one look at him and pulled out the flask of brandy he kept in the bottom drawer for people that needed a stiff drink.


Seth waved it away. "Where is Taylor?"


Mort indicated the lockup where she was sketching with a crayon and a place mat. A quick glance showed that she was sketching the cell's sink. She looked up at him and saw the pained expression on his face. His eyes were red rimmed from holding back the tears.


"How did it happen?" she asked quietly.


"Car bomb. It took out the corner of the garage, and sent most of his car across the west side of town. Death was instantaneous. I'm so very sorry Taylor. I know he loved you very much."


She turned away from him and said softly. "I didn't want him to be a widower so early in his life." Wrapping her arms about her upper body she faced the wall, unable to look at either of them. "You asked me, Mort, what it would take for a sane person to kill someone…I know who did this to him and when I find that person, I will kill them."


Seth chided her. "Taylor, that's not what Anthony would want you to do…"


"You’re right. He wanted me to marry him, he wanted babies and a normal life and to keep every child safe from the monsters like Nightshade. But he would want justice served. Justice is blind, but I am not. If the monster isn't killed, it will slay more innocent people. Maybe you’re right to lock me up, if only for their safety."


"If there is anything that I can do…" he said softly, wanting to comfort her.


She walked away from him and Mort, still holding herself and shook her head. "Was any one else hurt? Was he alone when he died?" she asked softly.


"That lawyer Mr. Brook was there - he gave the reporters what for when they were trying to get photos." She winced at the words, and then they saw a puzzled expression on her face.


"Any leads?" asked Mort.


Seth shrugged. Both men moved off out of the cell to give her a private moment. "The reporters feel that it's tied into his last case. Mort, Jessica told me a few hours ago that his life was in danger. I didn't listen then, and in view of everything that has happened I'm beginning to suspect that Jess was right in her suspicions all along. I don't know if a call to him would have saved his life…"


Mort shook his head. "Phone system isn't working quite right. You wouldn't have been able to call out any way.”


Seth cleared his throat. "Jessie feels that the phones are being tapped. There is a distinct possibility that our town has been compromised by this – organization." Mort drew in a breath.


"Here? In Cabot Cove where the crime rate is 2000% below the national average? Organizations for a crime syndicate?" Mort looked back at Taylor who just stood looking out the window fighting to keep control.


It was near dark when Gabriel pulled into the lot beside the rented apartment. Gabriel helped his companion inside and carried the bags into the two bedroom apartment. In a short time Gabriel was inside the police station with a folder under his arm.


"I'm here to secure the release of Ms. Taylor Andrews. I have with me a notarized copy of her employment profile that indicates she does not have a criminal record…"


Mort took the file from him and didn't even open it. "We know. However, she has threatened to kill some people, and in view of the attempt to frame her, we feel it’s in her best interest to keep her here."


"Has she agreed to this confinement? - may I see her?"


Mort walked him back to the cell and unlocked the door. She stood in silence looking out the window at the stars. She didn't turn around when he called her name, or even when he went directly behind her and repeated it. It was only when he touched her shoulder that she turned and began beating her fists upon his chest.


"YOU PROMISED you would take CARE of him YOU PROMISED!" she said, her body shaking with fury.


He didn't stop her blows. He only cupped her face in his hands and said softly, "We have."


She stepped back from him and turned away, hugging herself. Gabriel stepped out of the cell and went to Mort. "We need you to call for a search warrant to raid the Nightshade shop."


Mort tilted his head and leaned back on the chair. "Won't do us a bit of good, each time we do, there isn't any thing for us to find, and every scrap of evidence is gone. I don't have the man power ether, not that I am sure of any more. They would know about it too before the ink is dry on the paper."


"It’s what we are counting on. Will you work with us on this, sheriff? We need as many private citizens that you can swear into being deputies."


Mort looked back at Taylor and nodded. "I know of four that should jump at the chance. Just tell me how the company that you two work for became involved in this case?"


Gabriel looked back at Taylor who was still looking out the window. He returned his attention to Mort and said quietly, "From the research gathered by the district attorney office the company Nightshade was created several years ago, based on an author’s

historical research of the drug. The book was called Belladonna. Sutton House was the publishing company. Its owner was killed that year, and his murder skyrocketed popularity of the all of the books they printed that year. Especially that one. It spread as a cult, and then into merchandising. Within months of its opening, people in the community began to die. Crime rose and the incidents of child mortality increased as well. Sutton House became the parent company to Nightshade, handling the publicity, and shipping of the new age books published by them with exclusive distribution rights to the books and materials published by the company. Raids have been planned, and the company always comes up clean."


"Then if you’re telling them that you’re coming, how can we make this one any more effective? Ms. Andrews has informed me of the case. I know the odds, but how do you plan to get them on this??"


Gabriel gave him a smile.


Floyd and Andy looked at each other as they quietly entered the telephone switchboard office. Floyd looked at his watch and nodded. They heard the ring from the sheriff's office, and it being put through. Quietly they stepped closer. Andy aimed the video camera at the switchboard and caught her taking notes as she listened in on the conversation. He saw her pale and then after disconnecting the call, hurriedly reached for another plug and made the connection.


Floyd stepped forward and placed the muzzle against her temple as they heard Megs voice on the other line: "Hello?"


Floyd pulled the plug and hand cuffed her as he recited, "You have the right to remain silent…" Andy used tweezers and gloves as he picked through the trash. In it he found references to conversations dealing with Nightshade that she had overheard. Floyd

shook his head and clicked his tongue.


Jessica regarded Seth as he poured coffee for both of them. "Why on earth would he have you come here at this hour? What is going on, Seth?"


Seth handed the cup to her. "He was very cryptic but he said that he had to get something first, and then he would be right over… Jess, I'm sorry."


"For what?"


"Doubting you in the first place. I should have listened to you and so should have Mort, and then all of this wouldn't have happened."


Jessica went to her dearest friend and said softly, "Seth, you are the one friend in a thousand ..." she began. She was interrupted by the knock on the door. Mort, Taylor and a young man standing in the shadows were there.


"Doc, Mrs. F. we need your help."


"Of course Mort, anything," said Seth.


 Mort breathed a sigh of relief. "Good I'll swear you in on the way."


Gabriel said from the shadows, "I have two others that I will bring and meet you there."


Mort looked at him, "Do they need to be sworn in too?"


Gabriel shook his head and stepped back into the street. The three of them stepped into the police cruiser as Mort swore them in to be temporary deputies for the state of Maine.


Tipper had dozed off after coming home from the de- quilling on her bent bamboo sofa. The sharp wrap of knuckles on the door windowpane interrupted her dreams. She saw the familiar hat and tossing aside the covers went to her side door. With Mort were Taylor, Jessica and Seth.


Tipper opened the door. Taylor said softly to her "It ends tonight. Will you help us?"


"You betcha."  Tipper flew around the house grabbing her windbreaker, her Red Sox baseball cap, and her tranquilizer rifle while Mort briefly swore her in as a temporary deputy. There was a joyful little yip as she stepped outside, and looking down she saw Sydney straining at the end of her leash, her tail wagging with the speed of a boat propeller.


"This must be Sydney," she said to Taylor.  "Let me guess – she's been trained to sniff for narcotics, right?"  She had meant it as a joke, but no one laughed.


"Yeah, actually," Mort answered.  "It's a long story.  Look, we'd better get going."


Tipper followed Mort, Seth, Jessica, and Taylor back toward the waiting patrol cruisers, where Floyd and Andy were waiting.  She took one glance back at her house, checking to make sure she'd left the porch light on, and saw a tall, fair-haired young man standing in the pool of light cast by the low-wattage bulb.  As she watched, he beckoned to someone standing in the shadows, who nodded and set off in another direction, across her yard.  As he passed under a street lamp, Tipper recognized him as the gentleman afflicted with the

barbecue sauce that she'd seen hanging around Jessica's house.


Tipper tapped Taylor on the shoulder.  "Hey, who is that guy, anyway?" she asked.


Taylor glanced back.  "Him?  That's Gabriel, he's my adjunct.”


"No, I mean the other guy."


"What other guy?"


Tipper looked back; the other man had disappeared. "Nothing," she said.


It was late; the Nightshade shop was closed up and dark, with no signs of life inside.  A "closed" sign hung crookedly in the front window; padlocked chains looped through the door handles to hold them locked shut. Mort nodded to Floyd, who came forward with a pair of hefty metal cutters.  He snipped through the chains, which Mort caught in his hands before they could clatter noisily to the ground.


"Okay, this is the plan," he said to the others.  "I'm going in with Mrs. F and the dog to look for the drugs.  I want the rest of you to cover all the exits.  Seth, you're at the back door with Andy. Gabriel will take the side door, Taylor, you're to keep an eye on this front door with Floyd.  Tipper, there's a fire escape with an exit off the second floor, if you wouldn't mind climbing up there?"


"Sure," Tipper said.  She slung the tranquilizer gun across her back by the strap, and began to climb the wooden steps on the side of the building.


"Great.  That just leaves the basement exit."  He peered into the darkness, and found Gabriel standing outside of the light of the nearby street lamp.  "Hey Gabriel, where's that other person you promised me?"


"Already in place, with one other person I drafted along the way," Gabriel replied.


"Fine.  Are we all set, then?  Good.  Come on, Mrs. F, you and I are going in."  Mort took Sydney's leash from Taylor. Sydney gave Mort a questioning gaze as if to ask "Do you know what your doing?" before glancing back to her. Taylor gave Sydney a hand signal to go with him. It was hard standing outside while they entered, but the fewer people inside to contaminate evidence, the better. He and Jessica stepped inside quietly.


The interior of the cluttered store was dark, the atmosphere made all the more black for the heavy sweet smell that seemed to thicken the air in the room.  Mort took a cautious sniff. "Is that the incense smell you and Taylor were telling me about?" he asked.


"No," said Jessica.  "It's similar, but not quite the same.  Probably they've taken to burning a perfectly harmless incense to cover the traces of the drug since the trouble began."


Mort took an extra flashlight out of his pocket and handed it to Jessica.  "You lead the way," he said.


She switched on the flashlight and aimed its focused beam around the interior of the shop. "The office was in the back," she said as she picked her way among racks of tie-dyed clothing and shelves stocked with gargoyle figures of various sizes.  "But I think there is another room in back of that – I got the impression, from my first visit here, that it was a secret; the door had been fairly well concealed."


The office was cluttered with papers, most of which seemed to be invoices for the delivery of legitimate merchandise.  A piece of curled up fax paper caught Jessica's eye, lying on the floor next to the wastebasket. "Mort, look," she said.


The fax was of the front page of a Los Angeles newspaper.  Picking it up, Mort read the headline aloud:  "'Nightshade investigation moves forward despite D.A.'s murder.'"  He looked at Jessica.  "Looks like you were right, Mrs. F."


At that moment Sydney let out a single high-pitched yip, and scrabbled at an oriental rug draped across the back wall of the office.


"The hidden door," Jessica said.  "Someone's behind it."


Mort pulled the excited Sydney back and handed her leash to Jessica. Drawing his gun, he positioned himself next to the door.  "Stand back, Mrs. F," he said, and kicked it open.


A flight of stairs led down into blackness.  Sydney strained at her leash, whining frantically and scrabbling at the top step. "I guess we go down," Mort said.


Jessica nodded mutely, and let Sydney lead the way. At the bottom of the steps the found themselves in a basement, cluttered with scarred furniture and stacked from floor to ceiling with rows of crates and boxes.  Sydney pulled them over to one particular stack of crates, each locked with a padlock, and increased the intensity of her sniffing, then sat back and barked, very well pleased with herself...


Mort indicated to Jessica to point the beam of the flashlight to a lock on a crate. He extracted a pair of cutters from his belt, used the bolt cutters to open the crate and examined the labels on the containers.


"Narcotics and opiates," he said grimly.  "All of them.  There's enough of the stuff here to get the entire Midcoast addicted. Good work, Sydney."


"That's what I was afraid of. We could have stopped this before Mort, if …"


"I know, and Seth and I should have listened.  Come on; let's get back upstairs and …"


He got no farther before someone pushed Jessica aside and grabbed the sheriff from behind, holding a cloth soaked in the insidious drug over his face with one hand and twisting the flashlight out of his grip with the other. It clattered to the floor and rolled out of reach, throwing the area where Mort struggled with his attacker in the dark. Jessica heard a crash of boxes, and then a grunt as Mort went down. Sydney, with the leash released, avoided the struggle, then darted to Mort's attacker and began to worry the pant leg with a deep growl coming from her tiny body. The attacker shook her off and stepped back. Jessica hurried over to where he lay very still. Sydney placed her body between the attacker and Jessica, snarling and barking in a threatening manner.


"Mort!" Jessica cried softly, falling to her knees at his side to look for a pulse. At that moment a second torch was switched on, and brilliant light hit her full in the face.  Shielding her eyes, she slowly got to her feet and faced the mastermind of the Nightshade



At her post outside of the front door of the Nightshade shop, Taylor, all her senses strained to the breaking point, heard her dog's faint bark from inside. The bark became more insistent. "Sydney's found something," she said to Floyd.  "I'm going in." Before Floyd could say anything to stop her, she disappeared inside.


Trying to remember the layout of the store, she made her way back to the office and down the stairs into the basement, where she saw Mort slumped unconscious on the floor and Jessica confronting a man she thought she recognized.  Then she remembered where she had seen his face before – a photograph in a folder on Anthony's desk, a curiously

familiar Nightshade employee that she spotted before the drug in the incense had overcome her.  It was the missing star witness from the State of California vs. Nightshade, Inc.


Blinded by the light of the man's high-powered torch, Jessica seemed rooted where she stood.


"My name is Kent Fordham," he said.  "Welcome to my lair."  He had the business end of a 45 pointed directly at Jessica's head.


"Your efforts to enslave this town with your drugs have failed," Jessica said.  "Despite everything you have done to divert attention from yourself and to keep me safely shut away at home, you've been found out.  It's over."


"Is it?" Fordham said mockingly.  "Your Sheriff has been overpowered, the Orange County D.A. is dead, and you are here alone, in my power."


"Not alone," said Jessica.  "Tell me, did you kill Bartholomew Dixon?"


Fordham gave a short laugh.  "Not directly," he said.  "That was handled by someone else.  But yes, we all follow the orders, even to kill...  He'd outlived his usefulness, and in this business when you no longer need a tool, you throw it away."


As he spoke, Taylor, from her perspective, could see a figure creeping up behind Jessica.  It was a woman, and in her hands was a piece of metal pipe, which she slowly raised to strike.  Taylor tried to cry out a warning, but the words stuck in her throat. She knew that if she warned Jessica, Kent would fire on both of them. Something was so familiar about the murky shadow of the woman; Taylor's concentration was diverted into identifying her.


Her attention riveted by Fordham, Jessica was unaware of the danger she was in.  Suddenly, from out of nowhere, she heard a voice speak softly in her ear:


"Duck, Jess, now!"


She recognized the voice instantly, and in amazement she spun around to look behind her … but there was no one there.  But the action probably saved her life, because as the woman swung her makeshift club at her head, it dealt her a glancing blow instead of a killing one.  But a glancing blow was enough; Jessica joined Mort and landed stunned on the ground.


"You IDIOT!" the woman hissed from the shadows. "The one place that we could have cleaned up on, and you had to attract attention by attacking her in the first place. The Gathering cannot be postponed! Too many are coming here to turn them away from this chosen ground. Looks like it's a job for our watch dog to deal with these two… Go on - get out before others come… Give me that gun, you can't get caught with that one, its one they would know was from this location."  She glared down at Sydney who was lunging with snaps to her ankles. Sydney dodged the well-placed kick in her direction, and held her position, defending Mort and Jessica with her snarls.


Fordham took the opportunity to beat a hasty retreat for the cellar exit. The woman strode forward toward the two figures on the ground. Sydney bravely sunk her teeth into the pants material of the woman and began to worry the fabric with her sharp teeth. She raised the pipe over Jessica again, apparently intent on finishing what she had started.


"No!"  Taylor yelled, and flew at the woman, tackling her from behind. It sent both of them sprawling on the floor.  But her opponent was strong, young and agile. She would not be subdued so easily, even in the face of all of Taylor's fury.  She fought back, and in the struggle Taylor banged her head hard against a table leg, dazing her momentarily and allowing the other woman to gain the advantage.  When the stars cleared from her eyes, she found herself pinned to the floor, staring up into the face of the woman who had attacked Jessica, a face she now recognized all too well.


Suddenly everything became horribly clear to Taylor Andrews. "Mabel!" she said darkly in cold fury. Her hand reached up, grasped a shank of Mabel's hair, and gave it a vicious yank trying to throw off her balance. Mabel shrieked in pain and indignation.


Perched on the metal balcony of the second story fire escape Tipper fingered her tranquilizer rifle nervously.  A chill wind was whispering in off the Sea, making her shiver; she wished she had grabbed a heavier jacket.  So far nothing was happening, and with each passing minute her anxiety was growing.  To calm herself, she started reciting the names of the cranial nerves: "Olfactory, Optic, Oculomotor, Trochlear …"


Was that a noise from inside?  Shouting? A dog’s howl? Could such a noise come from a dog so small? Tipper was suddenly on full alert. "Steady now," she told herself.  "Trigeminal, Abducent, Facial … hello, what's this?"


Before she could name Cranial Nerve VIII, a moving shadow caught her attention.  Sure enough, someone was sneaking around from the back of the building.  The figure came into her full view, and Tipper recognized Meg trying to beat a silent retreat from the sinking ship.  In an instant she had raised her tranquilizer gun to her shoulder, targeted Meg in the crosshairs of her sights, and fired. Meg let out a cry and grabbed at her shoulder, pulling out the red feathered tranquilizer dart but not before enough of the powerful sedative had entered her system to bring her down.  As she sank to the ground she looked up at the veterinarian, her lips soundlessly mouthing a phrase.


"Same to you," Tipper growled.  She slung the rifle over her shoulder, and leapt down the rickety wooded stairs to join the fray.


"You BITCH!" Taylor snarled.  "You killed him!  It wasn't enough to undermine everything he did, you had to kill him!"


"Of course I killed him," Mabel said, not relaxing her grip on her, trying to gain the upper hand. The two women rolled on the dusty floor, each trying to gain the advantage. "I was losing control, and every time I turned around, there you were, you and your little rat-faced dog, getting in the way, spying on me, and usurping the trust that Anthony used to place in me!"


Taylor managed to free herself from Mabel's grasp and push herself out of arms reach. Mabel pulled a gun and pointed it at Taylor as the flashlight illuminated Mabel. "So you were the one who sabotaged my vacation!"


"Yes, I did all that.  I thought I was taking you out of the picture.  How was I to know you'd stumble right into the middle of the whole Nightshade scheme?"


"Whose idea was it to frame me?"


"Meg's," said Mabel.  "She already her some of the key players in town under her thumb – the hotel manager, the telephone operator, others - so it was easy to arrange."


"And the car bomb," Taylor said.  "I suppose you arranged that too."


"Enough of this," Mabel said.  "You've been a thorn in my side ever since Anthony met you! You should have died a long time ago, and after what s going to happen, your going to wish you were dead anyway… Ta Ta!" She pointed the gun – Taylor recognized it from the Decorative Weapons display in the store, but as she raised her arm, someone caught her by the wrist and jerked her to her feet.  Mabel dropped the gun and spun around with a shriek that was abruptly cut off when Taylor's rescuer knocked the secretary out cold with a well-placed fist across her jaw that sent her to the floor in a heap. Slightly dazed by what had happened, Taylor scrambled to her feet to see who had saved her.  She recognized him instantly despite the bandage wrapped around his forehead.


"Anthony!" she cried, and flew into his arms.  Sydney, yapping joyfully, danced around their feet.


"Hello, sweetheart," Anthony Thomas said as he smoothed her hair. "Not quite the Maine coast vacation I had envisioned for us, but I did promise I'd catch up with you here, didn't I?"


Taylor held onto him and said softly "When I heard that Donald was with you, I knew that he was capable of hiding you in plain sight, it felt as if someone had cut out my heart. I thought by not marrying you I could spare you from the pain when…But even not married – it hurt…"


"Shhhh dearest. That's a long way away… "


Tipper reached the outside cellar entrance just as the Barbecue Sauce man was emerging. Gabriel was standing outside waiting for him, and placed a hand on his shoulder. "You did well," he said. The stranger nodded silently, then turned and walked away, disappearing into the gathering fog blowing in off the harbor. Tipper never saw him again.


At that point Seth, Andy and Floyd joined them.


"Meg's unconscious by the north end of the building," Tipper said.  "I nailed her with a tranq dart."


"Good shooting," Gabriel said. "I'll go see to her; the rest of you can go down and help with the mopping up. Kent's waiting for you at the front entrance."  With that, he turned and vanished into the shadows. The four of them hurried into the building and down to the basement. Taylor winced at the sudden bright over head lights.


"Jess!" gasped Seth as he hurried down to the two injured ones.  He carefully raised her shoulders and held her in his arms until the ambulance came for them.




Sydney sat curled on Anthony's lap as Tipper and Taylor prepared tea for the group that had gathered in Jessica's living room. Both Jess and Mort had a few scuff marks from the event, but were no worse for the ware. Seth and Gabriel were deep in discussion about the benefits of herbal remedies off to the side of the living room. Tipper studied Anthony for a moment and then asked Taylor quietly, "Have you told him? Does he know?"




"Look, a guy like him doesn't come around every day, or even every year. Marry him. I would."


Taylor just shrugged. "I have an important decision to make first, and then he and I have to talk…"


Gabriel entered the kitchen and picked up the serving tray with the teacups on it just as the whistle to the kettle began to sing.  The three of them went into the living room.


 "… And I can't see any benefit to this – shunning," said Jessica. "No matter if I am here, or someplace else something happens. It wasn't job burnout at all!"


Tipper chuckled. "You can't say you followed the rules for the shunning, Jessica! You had that guy with you every time I saw you."


All heads turned to her. "What guy?" asked Seth, his eyebrow arched upward.


"Some man in the closet that you haven't told us about Mrs. F?"


"That guy, with the barbecue sauce on his jacket… You saw him Taylor, that second day that you were here…" Taylor looked a bit puzzled shaking her head slowly. "A natty looking guy about 6 foot something, grey hair, thin build…dark eyebrows…" Her eyes fell on a small photo on Jessica's mantle. "That's HIM!"


Jessica looked at the photo shaking her head for a second then fled the room. "Excuse me."


Tipper saw the exasperated looks on Seth and Mort's faces. Gabriel followed Jessica out of the living room, outside to her back porch.


"What?? What did I say wrong?? What's going on? That's the guy that I saw…"


Seth said softly, "Tipper, that man is Preston Giles. He was Jessica's first publisher, from Sutton House publishers Sutton house became Coventry, and, well, the two of them fell in love …"


Anthony tilted his head and said puzzled. "Sutton House is the parent company of Nightshade!"


Jessica could hear the voices in the living room telling Tipper about Preston. She felt tightness in her chest, then a soft gentle hand on her shoulder, one that she remembered from the garden. She turned and saw Gabriel.


"I know you… I've seen you before. You were the one with Frank when he died." Was it - did Preston really come back? I heard his voice in the cellar…"


Gabriel cupped her cheek with his hand "You are never alone Jessica."


Taylor and Anthony walked hand in hand down the streets of Cabot Cove with Sydney tucked in her coat pocket. Around them the falling leaves swirled and the nip of the sea was in the air. They were off to Ye Old Tavern for dinner.


"Do you think it’s over now? Mabel said something about a Gathering, that we couldn't stop…Something worse than death awaits this town. Anthony, we can't let that happen," said Taylor, clearly worried.


Anthony took a deep breath and looked around before saying, "It IS a beautiful little town…"


"No crime, not normally and housing here is very inexpensive," said Taylor softly.


"Housing? It gets VERY cold here in the winter…" laughed Anthony.


Taylor shrugged. "Better than earthquakes. Even with the threat of this – Gathering, I feel its safe here." She fell silent. Anthony stopped them just at the corner of the shops. He turned her to face him and pulled her off out of the sidewalk into an area out of the traffic’s way.


"It sounds like you want to stay here…" Anthony saw the struggle on her face.


"Well, I don't have a job to go back to. Gabriel wants me to have Donald fight it. Once the home office heard that I had a criminal record, and it’s STILL in the computers, that was it. My credit reports shot and I really don't want to go back to that smog… The only thing that I love about LA is you. And I do love you enough to go back, but I ask if you love me enough to stay here, with me?"


"Oh Taylor…" he said. He looked over her shoulder and returned a wave.


"Who?" He indicated the shops. "Just Tipper. Well, I know that here Seth and Jessica would take you care of, and it seems as if you made friends with Tipper. Sydney likes her too… Sweetheart, I have another year on my term as D.A. I have to finish that before I

could join you here…Is this a yes, to marriage?"


"It's an ‘I don't know’ to marriage, but I want to be with you for the rest of my life, no matter how long that may be… The voters think you died, Anthony. You don't need to go back…"


She is interrupted by a shriek behind them and the clatter of food items hitting the pavement.


"Oh no …" said Anthony. He started towards the sound. Taylor turned and saw Tipper on top of a thin young girl with reddish brown hair. She caught the unmistakable British accent cursing in the Queen’s English.


She held Anthony back as Tipper helped the woman sit up. "Omigosh! Omigosh, I am so sorry, are you all right??"


"Quite, if you could get your package off of me?"


"Oh! Yes … Are you all right? I'm Tipper…"


"Aptly named. I'm Samantha…"


Taylor looks to Anthony "Tipper strikes again…"


He chuckled and slipped his arm about her waist, drawing her near.  "Let’s get some of that Maine lobstahh that Seth was saying I should try…It's a good ending to the days work."


Taylor turned her head to answer and saw from the corner of her eye something sketched in the dusty window pane of a back door to a shop, something that hadn't been there the day before. She stopped and regarded the small triangle and the infinity symbol within traced on the inside of the glass.


"Ya think?" she asked, a bit distracted.


To be continued…