Ben is moving out of the house. Miranda is afraid it will prove to be the beginning of the end of the little family she is trying to build. Drew has been injured. Vin is still recovering. And Cindy’s party only ended a few minutes ago. It’s been a busy day.
“Hi. Are you Suzie? I’m…” Christina almost gave her real name. Then she caught herself. “….Christina. I was at the party next door.” She waved from the porch at the converted house where Cindy lived.
“I’m Miranda.” The woman shook her hand. She had the sure grip of someone who shook hands frequently.
Miranda? As Christina looked the woman over, taking in the red hair with streaks of black, the tight, rhinestone-studded jeans and the silky, low-necked top she recalled Cindy saying Suzie was the ultimate home maker where her best friend, Miranda, looked like a street walker turned gypsy. She kicked herself for not thinking of it to begin with.
“Well come on. Suzie’s in the kitchen with everyone else.” The woman lead the way through a nice old house full of hardwood floors and delicate furniture.
Two men and a boy sat in chairs around the kitchen table. The boy had flung himself across the tabletop and sobbed endlessly. A fine-boned woman with sandy brown hair stooped over the man who had been on the sidewalk, holding a wadded up dishtowel to the back of his head. Christina remembered the man was called Drew. The woman must be Suzie. That meant the other man would be Vin.
“Hey everyone.” Miranda gestured toward Christina, then wrinkled her brow. “What did you say your name was? That’s right, it’s Christina.” Miranda answered her own question before Christina could. “She was at Cindy’s party.”
“Hi.” Christina flipped her hand up at the wrist in a restrained greeting. “May I sit down?”
“Certainly.” Suzie straightened up. She pulled a chair out and waved toward the seat.
“Thanks. I just wanted to make sure everyone here was all right. When I heard the gun go off I was afraid Sean or Joseph might have shot someone.” Which was still a possibility since she had managed to touch each of them in most of the places they’d keep a gun, but not all. She thought it unlikely either had been armed at that particular moment, but couldn’t be sure.
She’d found a fair amount of blood on the stairs. It didn’t look like it had come from Drew, which meant he must have hit one of her suspects. She told herself she was here to check out the maniac who had pointed a gun into an apartment full of people, but there might have been another reason too.
“Sean or Joseph?” The guy with darker hair and a rounder face, the one who must be Vin, leaned forward. “You know those guys?”
Drew, now holding the dishtowel to the back of his head, also turned interested eyes toward her. In fact, everyone was looking at her with sharp interest, even the boy. Everyone tensed. The air became far more charged than it should have.
Like a chasm opening at her feet, Christina felt like she’d stumbled upon a really, really big mistake. She didn’t want to say too much, but she had to get these people talking. She shrugged, trying to make it look casual.
“Not real well, but yes, I know them.”
“Where are they now?” Drew asked.
“I have no idea,” which was the God’s own truth, much to Christina’s frustration. Their cell phones were both going directly to voicemail. She seriously doubted she’d find them at Joseph’s place and Sean didn’t seem to have a real home.
“What can you tell us about them?” Both men had hard expressions that reminded her of some of the guys in her department.
Then it struck her, they both looked like cops.
“Did you hear a gun go off? Were you shot?” Christina asked Drew, though she already knew he’d been hit with a bat. It had to have been his gun that went off. She was going for a diversion while she considered the possibility these men could mess up her espionage case.
Miranda snorted loudly. “Not today, but one of them shot Vin a week or two ago.” She gestured at the man with darker hair. “And the same one hit Drew in the back of the head with a bat just now.” She gestured to the man with the dishtowel, confirming Christina’s guesses.
“How horrible!” Joseph had actually shot someone. Recently. She’d always known he was capable of it, but to meet someone he’d tried to kill put a chill in her bones.
“We think it’s because Drew is an FBI agent investigating him, and Vin is helping him…”
“Miranda! That is enough!” Drew gave the pseudo-gypsy a hard look.
He must not do it often because Miranda’s jaw dropped. Vin gave her hand a squeeze. There were so many undercurrents in the room that Christina couldn’t keep track. She set it all aside. She was an agent under cover. She had to remember that.
“Oh, it’s OK. I won’t tell anyone,” she said.
Judging by the hard look in his eye when he glanced at her, she wasn’t likely to learn much more from Drew. Maybe it would be better to pump Miranda for information some other time. Christina shifted uncomfortably, unable to decide the best way out of this. Christina glanced toward the door uneasily. She had an urge to bolt.
“Drew. Stop. Can’t you see you’re scaring her?” Suzie stepped forward and put a gentle hand on Christina’s shoulder.
What a nice lady. If Christina weren’t in counter-intelligence, she would be very grateful for the support.
Drew leaned back, his eyes still hard, but apparently unwilling to badger her in front of Suzie. Vin was a different story.
“Tell us everything you know, and I mean everything.” His eyes shone with the light of the righteous in a full snit. She supposed she couldn’t blame him. If someone had shot her, she’d want to go after him too.
But she couldn’t very well give these men any real information or she’d loose her first solo case. Time to babble.
“I don’t know very much. I think they are both real cute. I met them at the Caribou bar, the one on Johnson Street over by where the laundry mat used to be?” This was technically true. It hadn’t been the first time she’d met them, but no one needed to know that. “They drink beer. I remember thinking the bottle looked good with Sean’s hair.”
She went on in that vein for several minutes, giving no real information and making herself look like a ditz. She even started twirl her hair. It didn’t take long for the guy’s eyes to glaze over.
Suzie went to the phone on the counter and placed a call. At first, Christina was afraid it was to the police or someone else who might screw up her investigation, but the few words she could catch sounded too personal, so she relaxed.
Miranda proved a bit more cunning. She settled into the chair next to the boy, who was watching Suzie with a worried look on his face. Christina found herself talking to Miranda, almost pleading her to believe the line of BS because no one else was looking at her.
“Sean and Joseph are both nice boys. I can’t believe either one of them would harm a fly,” Christina lied through her teeth. She fervently hoped this job wasn’t going to get her sent straight to Hell.
“You must not know them very well,” Vin said, bringing his gaze from the ceiling back to her face.
Christina smiled. That was exactly what she wanted everyone in the house to think. She shrugged again, trying to look helpless. “I guess not.”
“You should stay away from them,” Drew said rather paternally. “They are both dangerous men. As Miranda said, one shot Vin and the other tried to kidnap Ben.” He gestured toward the boy.
“You must have been very frightened,” Christina said to him. Cindy had mentioned him but Christina hadn’t taken much note. Now she did. Kidnapping was a federal offence – yet another way in which the FBI agent could scoop her case.
Ben looked around the table, and burst into tears. He must really have been frightened by the attempted kidnapping. Poor kid.
“It’s all set,” Suzie said to the boy as she placed her hand on his back. “Your father will be here in an hour to pick you up. I’ll pack your things and take them over later.”
You’d think the boy would be relieved, but if anything he cried all the harder.
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This is Suzie’s House 50: On the Case