Laura Dunnell, manager of Fredericksburg Credit Union, sat behind her desk looking over the monthly report of loans her bank had approved. She had started as a teller and worked her way to the top of food chain within five years. Her five year plan accomplished, she now looked forward to what the future held.
Of course, no one here knew her younger brother, Tricky Rich, was a convicted felon and pedophile. This was her dirty little secret, and she guarded it with a ferocity unseen anywhere other than a battlefield. At 18, she’d left home and distanced herself from her immediate family.
Laura was no longer a gangly freckle-faced waif. Her long blond hair was cut in the latest fashion, her clothing was name-brand and expensive, and her past was long forgotten-or so she pretended. Her love for her family, even her monstrous baby brother, still held. She loved them with all of her heart, but she could not associate with them. Her hard-earned success was fragile. One loose pebble, one slip of the tongue, and her whole house of cards would come crumbling down.
I love you, but you must stay away from me, she told her mother. I’ll send you a monthly payment, but you must never enter my bank or show up at my house. Our success depends upon your ability to obey these rules.
Her mother had followed the rules to the letter, but her brother had not. He’d shown up more than once to her job demanding money, or trying to sleaze his way into her circle. This afternoon, her mother had called her and informed Laura that Richie had died.
As hard as she tried to feel sorrow, Laura felt nothing but relief.
It was growing dark as Lilly and I drove back to the precinct after interviewing Mrs. Dunnell. I was tired. Breaking bad news was not something I was skillful at. Lilly would take charge usually, but Mrs. Dunnell was hostile to her attempt, and thus, it fell to me.
Emotions cramped my style. I tried to keep an even keel, a sense of balance, but there was no balance to maintain in this case. Tricky Rich had broken his mother’s heart, and she had still loved him. Now, he was dead, and she was once again heartbroken.
Lilly leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. “You did good out there with Mrs. Dunnell,” Lilly whispered. “You showed compassion to her, and she opened up to you.” I didn’t say anything, because I had no idea of what to say. So, I changed the subject.
“Janko knows something is going on between us.”
Lilly turned and looked at me. I kept my attention on the road. She didn’t say anything for several moments, but then responded with ‘how?’
“I don’t know, Lilly. He said we must keep it professional if we plan to remain partners. No kissing, no touching, none of that. No long, lingering looks either.”
“So, what? We investigate crimes and save the love until we’re off shift?”
“That’s what he suggested. ‘Tear it up when you’re not here,’ or something to that effect.” Lilly laughed and said cutely, “I can do that.”
“That’s what I told him too, except I really don’t want to.”
Lilly glanced at me slyly and grinned, gave me a wink and whispered, “me either.”
I parked the car in it’s assigned spot, and got out. “Am I coming over to your place, or are you coming to mine,” Lilly asked, as she unlocked her Toyota Camry. “I’ll come over,” I said, as I opened her door for her. She gave me a smile, her eyes stared deep into mine as she blew me a kiss.
“Hurry,” she whispered. “After, I will cook you dinner.”
This crazy train we were on was running ninety to nothing, but man, what a ride. I watched as she drove out of the lot, and I got into my truck and started for my house. As I drew near to my mobile home, my headlights flashed upon red taillights of a black Chevrolet Suburban. Two official looking people stepped from the vehicle as I parked my vehicle and shut it down.
I got out, and the tallest of two men stepped toward me. In the low light of the evening, I could make out only a few of his features. His face was thin, his eyes shifty. Both men wore black trench coats and fedoras.
“Detective Thermopolis Konan? I’m Agent Smith with the FBI.”
“Okay, Agent Smith. What are you doing here?”
“May we come in?”
“No, we can talk out here.”
“Okay, we need to talk about your current case. You are treading on several months of hard work our agents have put in. You and your partner need to back off.”
“Look, Agent Smith, we’re investigating the death of Ana Marie Hendricks. We’re not out here looking to tear down anything you and your fellow agents are working on. Tell me what you’re investigating, and we’ll go in the opposite direction.”
The shorter man stepped close. He was shifty-eyed as well, but he was built like a tank. Wide in his shoulders and chest, he looked as if he could bench press my truck.
“You don’t listen good,” he growled. “Maybe I should put you in the hucklebuck.” I had no idea what a hucklebuck was, but it didn’t sound like something I wanted to experience. “Back off,” he snapped, “or get hurt. Your choice.”
For good measure, he jammed two thick fingers into my chest and leaned forward so I could see his eyes. I grinned and pointed a finger at him. The tall man gave me a tight grin.
“This guy,” I said chuckling, “he’s like a villain in a bad horror movie.”
“You’ve been warned detective. Investigate Ana Marie’s death, and leave everything else alone.”
I watched as the pair got back into the Suburban and drove off into the night. My phone chirped and I looked at the screen. It was Lilly. Her text read: Feds?
It appeared that our work day wasn’t over. I climbed back into my truck and drove over to see Lilly. She met me at the door. Neither of us had time to shower or change clothes, but even wearing the same thing, Lilly made my heart race. She kissed me full on the lips, and I found that I enjoyed it as much as all the others I’d received from her throughout the years.
“Ew, mom. Stop it,” Gareth said. “That’s gross.”
Lilly laughed and turned to her son. Gareth wrinkled up his nose at me, stuck out his tongue, and raced into the living room. “Come on in. Were they waiting on you too?” I walked in and shut the door behind me and locking it. Lilly watched me but said nothing.
“They were. What did they tell you?”
“That we’re impeding their investigation and ruining months of work their agents have done.”
“Yeah, I got the same message, and a threat.”
Lilly took me by the hand and led me to the couch. She sat down next to me, and I pulled her closer to me. She leaned against me, and I could smell the sweet fragrance of her hair.
“I’m not surprised they threatened you, Konan. You have that effect on people.”
“What? No, I don’t. Or, I don’t have that effect on you.”
“No, but I understand you, and more than that, I love you.”
I love you too, I thought to myself. She turned and looked at me. Tears wet my eyes, and I wiped them. Lilly gave me a soft smile, time seemed to stand still, as I pulled her toward me and whispered, “I love you too, Lilly.”
This emotion was new to me, but somehow it felt right. Lilly and I knew each other on a level that defied understanding, nothing was hidden from the other, we two knew we belonged together.
Until the stars fell from their place in the night sky, until the sun was extinguished, until hell froze over, our love would last throughout the eons.