The Ghost of
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
"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
"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.
"What's this guy look like any way?"
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
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.
"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!"
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
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
"Then why would you send my bags to
"Well, we can't help it if you got on the wrong airplane ...."
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.
Hill House didn't have her room reservation, either. They
had received the cancellation just the hour before.
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."
"What seems to be the problem here?"
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."
"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
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?"
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
"Should I call a doctor?" Tipper asked as she
spied the medic alert bracelet on
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
"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.
From behind them they heard a voice say "Well, Tipper strikes
"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
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!”
"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?"
"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."
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
"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
"Sounds better than stale croissants and weak
"I knew you'd see it my way. Come on."
"All right," said
"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,"
"Okaaaaaaaaay," Tipper said.
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.
Tipper's eyes were wide. "Omigosh, omigosh,
omigosh," she said. "
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,"
Tipper bent down and peeked upwards at
Tipper chewed on her bottom lip. "Outside the shop. Maybe we should have Doc check you out?"
ever drawn blood on a human before?"
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.
"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,"
"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
After hesitating for a tense moment, Tipper slipped the needle
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
"You got a pet?" she asked
"Uh, yeah, a dog.
Her name is
"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 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
Tipper flicked off the lights of the office. "Lobstahh
is ALWAYS in season. Have you had it before?"
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 …"
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.
"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
"It's good," she said, chewing on it thoughtfully.
"It gets better. Now, take the claw in your hands and break it in two …."
"… 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."
"Grasp the body like this," she said, demonstrating, "and bend it backwards like this till the tail breaks off."
"Natch," said Tipper. "Now push the meat out one end with your fork."
"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."
"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
"It's ok, Arthur. Let her go…"
Taggart just dropped the lead.
"Well I missed you too! And were you a good girl in
"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
"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
"Jeans. Live in them, and T shirts, sensible shoes, the
hills here are killers," she said, tossing
"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
disappear. She and Tipper took turns running the stuff to the room and watching the washer and dryer.
On the last load, Tipper sent
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- ‘
"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
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.
"Ms. Andrews, can you tell me where you were yesterday?" he snapped.
"And where did you have dinner?"
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
When Mort finished he asked "Do you understand this warning?"
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
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
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
Tipper took a seat at the kitchen table, while Jessica set the kettle on for tea.
"I guess you DO remember
"I remember," said Jessica. "That egg must have left an awful stain.
"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.
"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
"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
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
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.
know the blood you found on
"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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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. "
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
"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."
"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
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
"Ridiculous," said Tipper. "Taylor Andrews is the girlfriend of the
"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
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."
"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
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
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
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
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
"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.
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.
"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
“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
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.
him, waiting for his response. Taggart studied her and then
"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.
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.
"And why is that?"
Taggart paced to the window and then back again.
Brook followed Taggart's gaze to where
"And I know you have just the person to transport her.
Here are her papers. She can travel with you as a working dog."
Donald nodded. "I've spoken to her adjunct about
"The court has allowed a five day continuance because of this. We have to get them, Donald."
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
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
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. "
"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
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."
"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,
"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
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.
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
"This must be
"Yeah, actually," Mort answered. "It's a long story. Look, we'd better get going."
Tipper followed Mort, Seth, Jessica, and
barbecue sauce that she'd seen hanging around Jessica's house.
"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
"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
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
At that moment
"The hidden door," Jessica said. "Someone's behind it."
Mort pulled the excited
A flight of stairs led down into blackness.
Jessica nodded mutely, and let
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,
"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.
"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
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
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
"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,
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.
Fordham took the opportunity to beat a hasty retreat for the
cellar exit. The woman strode forward toward the two figures on the ground.
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.
"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!"
"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,"
"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 –
"Anthony!" she cried, and flew into his arms.
"Hello, sweetheart," Anthony Thomas said as he
smoothed her hair. "Not quite the
"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.
"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.
"Look, a guy like him doesn't come around every day, or even every year. Marry him. I would."
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
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
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
"I know you… I've seen you before. You were the one
with Frank when he died." Was it - did
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
"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
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
"Housing? It gets VERY cold here in the winter…" laughed Anthony.
"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?"
"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.
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
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…"
He chuckled and slipped his arm about her waist, drawing her
near. "Let’s get some of that
"Ya think?" she asked, a bit distracted.
To be continued…