CHAPTER 5

Benton had spent half the night on the phone with Victor after making sure that Shadow was sound asleep in the bed next to him. The beginning of the conversation had been a screaming match about Shadow and her lack of sticking to her deals, which had caused Benton to have to get completely out of bed and walk out into the hallway at 2:00 hoping to hell that Shadow didn’t wake up. “Look.” Benton said. “I’ve already talked to her. She’s going to give you the rest of your money.”

She’d better.” Came the harsh reply.

And you have the chance to make ten more.” Benton said as he checked his watch; 2:15, Wednesday morning. He sighed. He wanted to go back to bed.

Really?”

Shadow fucked up the accounts.” Benton stated. “She transferred it all into one account. I’ve since had it transferred out into multiple accounts, but we need this fixed immediately. We got an unexpected visit from Chief Breck Monday morning.”

Shit.” Victor grumbled. “Who all was he questioning?”

It was just Shadow and I. He didn’t give any details as to who else he was going to talk to.”

Fuck.” Victor grumbled. “I told L that I should have been in charge of moving the goddamned money.”

So you see my dilemma.” Benton stated with a grin. “We need you to dig through these new accounts and deal with them. None of us want to go to jail for twenty to life.”

Victor resisted the urge to curse further. “Get me all of the information and meet me at the Cracker Barrel at noon tomorrow. I’ll see what I can do. It might be that it’s too late and we’ve already lost the money.”

Benton sighed. “I’ll be there.” He stated before closing his phone and going back to bed. Shadow made a noise that sounded a lot like a huff when he moved the covers to slide next to her. He had just barely gotten comfortable when he felt Shadow’s head edge up onto his chest and her arm wrap around his side. When her boney fingers began digging into his flesh, he moved her hand, holding it in his until she quieted.

Shadow sighed. It was 9:00, and she had been entering files into the database all morning. So far, she hadn’t seen anything that interested her. There was no new information on the Company that she could find. In fact, she had began searching through all the files titled ‘Jones’. There were 50 of them. The first one had been a Sam Jones. The second one was Charlie Jones. She began cursing after the tenth one wishing that they were in alphabetical order according to First name instead of in the order they had gotten the cases. She supposed she’d be having better luck if she knew when the Company file had been started.

Shadow walked into the secretary’s office around 11:00 irritated and tired of staring at the computer screen. "You have all the stuff ready to hire a secretary. Why haven’t you?”

A secretary could have helped Shadow tremendously at this point. She needed someone who had been at the Shaughnessy Agency awhile, and who knew the files and cases. As it was, Shadow felt like she was spinning her wheels in a vat of quicksand.

"We’ve never needed one." Detective Shaughnessy replied.

"Right." Shadow said. “Then why do you spend all day at that desk? And how in the hell do you keep the files and mail organized.

Detective Trace does that.” She replied just as the doors to the agency opened drawing everyone’s attention forward.

"Can we help you?" Detective Shaughnessy asked, thankful for the interruption.

"Yes I’m looking for a person." The man said as he pulled out a picture of a seventeen year old female. "This is a picture of the person I’m looking for. Her name is Tasha Quade" He handed Detective Shaughnessy the picture.

"We’ll do our best to find her. I didn’t catch your name?" Jody asked, glancing at the Polaroid image of a redheaded teenager standing on a beach in jeans and a T-shirt.

"My names Dacon Days. That picture is a few years old."

"Okay, we’ll contact you if we find anything." Detective Trace said. "What’s your phone number?" He wrote it down on a post it as the man spoke.

"Why would you want to find this woman?" Shadow asked.

"I just want to find out how she is." He replied. “She used to babysit my kids. She left suddenly about eight years ago saying that she would call me when she got to where she was going, but she never did.”

Shadow nodded. “Just a simple location?”

He nodded. “The last place I heard she was at was Florida, but I live here and don’t want to travel to find a detective down there.”

Shadow nodded again. “Any limits you want to place on this?”

No, spare no expense in finding her.”

Shaughnessy nodded. “I need you to fill out a few forms, and we need a 1000 dollar deposit since it’s out of state.”

Shadow watched as the man was handed the paperwork. She hadn’t realized that they asked for information up front. She suddenly wanted to find the forms that had been used to start the file on the Company. She figured that would be a huge help in locating the digital file. She looked over at Benton. The look on his face told her that he was thinking the same thing, and she smiled slightly.

Detective Shaughnessy decided to interrupt at this point. "We’ll call you as soon as we have any information."

"Are you so out of date that you’ve never heard of Dacon Days?" Shadow asked once the man had left.

"I’ve heard of him." Detective Shaughnessy said. "He’s spent some time in jail for aggravated assault, but he’s done his time and is considered rehabilitated."

"He’s not rehabilitated. He’s out of jail and back." Shadow stated. “He probably wants to find that girl and abuse her.”

"Shadow’s right. We can’t give Dacon Tasha Quade. He’d kill her" Benton said, backing up Shadow.

"No, Detective Shaughnessy is right. We have a job and we’re going to do it." Shadow said, suddenly recanting. "We should start looking in the computer files for her. Get some records on her. We could run a background check."

"It’s nice to know you’ve finally decided to agree with me" Detective Shaughnessy said as she stood up and walked into her office.

Detective Trace and Benton walked into their offices leaving Shadow alone in the front. She sat down in the chair that Jody had been occupying to think. Tasha Quade. She sighed. It was a name that Shadow hadn’t heard in years. In fact, it was a name that Shadow would have rather forgotten. However, it was a name that she had used to open some of the accounts.

Shadow turned on the computer at the secretary’s desk and inserted a floppy into the drive. It contained a virus that would knock down all the computers in the office connected to it. That, of course, eliminated Shadow’s since she had had hers taken off the network. She was now accessing the internet through a cable connection. When she finished the program, she pulled out the disk and turned off the computer before walking into her office.

At noon, Benton left the Shaughnessy Agency and drove across the street to Cracker Barrel to meet with Victor. He brought with him the three binders of information on the bank accounts.

Victor already had a drink in his hand when Benton walked up to the table. It was significantly more crowded today than it had been Monday.

“I see you brought the information.” Victor commented as he took another drink from his glass.

“Yeah. This is all the information.” Benton replied sitting down at the table and ordering a drink from the prompt waiter.

Victor slid the top binder towards him and opened it. “Impressive.” He commented idly. “She may have gotten us into a lot of trouble with something this big.” Victor had only had an idea of how much Stephanie was worth, and he had been certain that they wouldn’t be able to get their hands on all of it. “She got all of it didn’t she?”

She did.” Benton replied as he drained his glass and ordered two more drinks with his lunch.

We’re in trouble.” Victor replied as he finished glancing through the second binder just as their lunch was brought to them. He picked up his sandwich and watched Benton.

I already knew that.” Benton replied. “Can you fix it?”

I can try, but I’m not promising anything. If the Fed’s have already been alerted to this transfer, it’s too late.” He kept his tone low as he didn’t want anyone accidentally overhearing them.

Benton nodded. He had known that as well. “Do the best you can.”

Shadow walked out of her office around 1:00, slightly disgruntled. She had been looking over the casework that Shaughnessy had given her yesterday while waiting for Benton to take her to lunch. As she glanced at the clock on the wall in the front office, she realized that he had never stopped by. Instead, he was now standing and talking with Detectives Trace and Shaughnessy. Shadow sighed and walked over to the secretary’s desk and sat down. For once, it was unoccupied by their ignorant employer.

"Our computers have shut down so we can’t look for Tasha." Detective Trace said.

"Yeah, mine has to." Shadow commented, glancing at Benton briefly. "Do you know what the problem is?”

No.” Detective Shaughnessy replied. I’m going to call a repair man tomorrow since it’s almost time for us to leave."

At 5:30 they all left the agency. Shadow slid into her black Corvette convertible and drove to the airport. She had her Sea/landplane prepared for flight and twenty minutes later she took off for Sarasota, Florida...

She landed at the pier at Bennett Cargo at 3:30 in the morning. Unlocking her door, she walked into her less than modern office. It was more like a small wooden warehouse sitting on the coast of Florida. Shadow sat down at her battered executive desk and turned on her expensive computer. In fact, as Shadow glanced around her well worn office, she realized that the computer sitting on her desk was the most expensive thing in the building. The chair she was sitting on had to be at least six years old by now.

A moment later, she was tapping in the passwords to access the duty roster of the Mexican border patrol. She found out that between the times of eleven and noon no one would be one patrol.

She chuckled as her chauffeur walked through her office door and said. "I thought you’d be working at that detective agency in Michigan?"

"I am, but I said I’d be in a meeting until tomorrow." Shadow said and stood up. "I need to be in Mexico this afternoon." That wasn’t the entire truth. It was already Thursday morning, and she was over 24 hours late. Her phone had been ringing off the hook all night. Grant was furious.

Oh?”

Shadow nodded. “Grant called me the other morning. He needs some stuff moved by tonight.” She sighed. “You know how it goes. The cops need a good drug bust story so they start raiding the warehouses along the border.”

Eagle Pass again?”

Yeah. Fucking border towns.” She grumbled standing from her computer. “And you know the damned warehouse isn’t located in the fucking city. It’s about 50 miles further west.” Not that Shadow would have called Eagle Pass a city. It was more like a doorstop to Mexico. Though, it boasted itself as a major trade route into Mexico. That had always worried Shadow, and she felt like she had a right to be worried. About once every six months, they were being raided, and she was pushing time on this one. It was quite likely that she would arrive right as the cops started the bust.

Shadow sighed and walked out of her office. It took her 45 minutes to refuel, preflight, and load her airplane. Glancing across the ocean, she waited for her chauffeur. There was no need to really take him, but she wanted the extra body and firepower.

Her Piper Seneca five had been refurbished with a glass cockpit, GPS navigation, long range tanks, and two wing guns. Those had been tricky to install. They were essentially two inches below the landing lights and disguised to look like trim for the wings. The trim, however, was more for airflow around the drag inducing machine guns.

The back end of her plane had also been extended by a foot to allow for more cargo to be held. This meant that a 20lb weight had to be added to the front cargo hold every time she took off with a full load. Otherwise the aft CG would ride so far back she’d never be able to land without tearing the tail off the airplane. She had already had to replace the tail hook four times before she decided to weight the front of the plane. It didn’t help that there were only two rows of seats in the back instead of the standard three.

They took off for Texas two hours later and arrived at Eagle’s Pass around 2:30. They had the cargo loaded by 3:00. "This is ready to go. Where’s Shadow?" Grant asked.

"Hustling pool." One of the men who had been loading the cargo replied.

"Go get her and tell her her plane’s ready." Decker ordered.

The man walked into the mansion and found Shadow in the pool room hustling money off one of the druggie natives. "Plane’s ready."

"Great." Shadow said with a grin. "The native’s running out of money."

Shadow walked out of the mansion a few minutes later and boarded her plane. She and her chauffeur took off for Mexico. “Chihuahua.” Shadow commented.

Really. That’s a new one.” Her chauffeur replied.

Not really.” Shadow commented. “They have warehouses at Chauhtemoc. We’ll be landing on some abandoned road about halfway in-between, loading a semi and taking off again.”

About three quarters of the way into the flight, Shadow asked. “What do we have on board?”

Two AK-47’s, two M-468-LE’s, a couple of colt .45’s and whatever you’re harboring on your body.” The chauffeur replied. “Not to mention the two 50 caliber wing guns.” He knew that all this ammo wasn’t to fight off the cops. It was the other rival drug gangs in the area. Mexico had practically become a war zone in the past few years. Hell, going to jail was a cakewalk compared to getting caught in the crossfire of a territory battle.

Shadow was flying at about 700 AGL about 50 miles out from the border. “We’re going to have to go up.” She began a slow climb into a cloud bank at 1500 feet. It was going to be instruments for the next 75 miles, but it beat the hell out of getting gunned down by the border patrol.

The chauffeur would have closed his eyes for this part of the flight as it scared the hell out of him every time she did it, but if he did that he’d be puking all over the plane. Instead, he fixated his gaze on the instrument panel in front of him for the hour that it would take them to clear the border.

She landed in the water next to the coast of Mexico and ordered the cargo unloaded before she walked into the mansion. The parlor was the first door on the left, and she poured herself a stiff drink before calling the Shaughnessy agency.

"Shaughnessy Agency." Detective Shaughnessy answered, "Can we help you?"

"This is Detective Conn. That meeting is going to take the rest of tomorrow as well."

"Make sure that you’re here Friday.” Shaughnessy replied before hanging up the phone.

The delivery, surprisingly, went smooth aside from an argument with one of the loaders. Shadow liberally chewed his ass in Spanish before hitting him in the face with the butt of her .45.

Fucking Mexican’s.” Shadow exclaimed once they had taken off again. “Did you do the fuel calculations?”

The chauffeur chuckled before answering. “We have enough to get back to Bennett Cargo and refuel.”

Shadow groaned. “That means I don’t get paid tonight.”

You wanted to fly with a headwind.”

Not like I had a choice.” She replied with a sigh. She knew that Grant would mail her the check or wire her the money, but she hated waiting.

Shadow landed at Bennett cargo at 6:00 Friday morning and stepped onto the pier. “Goddamn I hate going to Mexico. I can’t fucking believe people take vacations there.”

Her chauffeur gave her a pat on the back before heading into the office and the garage to check on the limousine that no one had driven in over a week.

Shadow unlocked her office and sat down behind her desk. She picked up the phone and called Eagle’s Pass. Grant answered the phone.

It’s done.” Shadow stated.

You didn’t land back here?” He asked.

No fuel. Crossing the fucking border took longer than it should have due to strong headwinds.”

That’s fine. I’ll wire your money into the usual account. It should be there by tomorrow afternoon. Call me back if it isn’t.” He paused briefly. “Have you talked to Decker lately?”

Briefly. Why?” Shadow asked switching ears.

He’s going to want your help in about a week and a half.

They’re going to make their move in Indonesia.”

Shadow laughed. “He knows I have other things going on.”

And you know he can’t see anything past the bottom line.” Grant replied. “He’ll probably call you in a few days if he hasn’t heard from you.”

Shadow sighed. “I’ll be expecting it then.” She said as she hung up her phone. There was always something to do. She never had a moment’s rest, and right now she was in more trouble than it was worth. She knew that the shit had probably hit the fan back in Michigan by now, and that scared the shit out of her. She would have wanted to take Benton with her on this trip, but he was mad at her. “Come on!” She yelled for her chauffeur. “I have to get back to Michigan. Are you coming with me?”

CHAPTER 6

They landed around 7:00 in the afternoon Friday. Shadow was exhausted as she stepped from her plane onto the tarmac at Kent County airport. “I’m tired.” She commented dully.

The chauffeur nodded as he finished tying the plane down. “You should probably head back to the hotel and get some sleep.”

Probably.” Shadow replied as they walked through the corporate terminal and out onto the parking lot. Her car was parked about five blocks away in the massive lot. What made things worse was that it was still packed with cars. “You’re driving.”

The chauffeur grinned slightly and took the keys from his tired Employer. After getting directions from Shadow, he headed down the road towards the hotel she was staying at.

Shadow laid her head against the cool glass of the passenger’s door glad to not be driving for once. She had nearly had a conniption when they had told her that she couldn’t bring her chauffeur. Shadow preferred drinking in the back of her limousine or Sedan rather than driving. In fact, she realized that she was sober right now. Just crossing the Michigan border had added 25 lbs to the weight of her shoulders. There was so much left to do. So many loose ends. Benton. Stephanie, Victor… Not to mention she still had the cops to deal with and that money to transfer and that damned file to find.

Shadow jerked in the seat opening her eyes. That last thought had been enough to jolt her wide awake. She had been gone for two days. She hadn’t bothered to call anyone back in Michigan. She didn’t have any clue what might be going on here.

Taking his hand off the gear shift, the chauffeur had placed it on her thigh. “Are you all right?”

Shadow inhaled. “I’m fine. I just remembered a few loose ends that I need to tie up.” She didn’t want to go into detail on how much trouble she was in, but she knew it was a lot.

She stepped out of the black Corvette at the lobby doors of the hotel while her chauffeur went to park the car. She had told him the room number, so she simply walked into the lobby. It was deserted. There wasn’t a soul inside. Even the desk clerk was sitting in the back office. Shadow could see a shoe just inside the door way and hear the clicking of a keyboard.

Stepping onto the elevator, she rode it to the fourth floor like she had done a thousand times before. At least, that’s how it felt to her. Part of her wanted to go home and sleep. She had a mansion and servants ready and willing to cater to her every whim. Most of her wealth had come from L. The other part of it, she had earned through various cargo runs and ‘jobs’. She had amassed quite a fortune in the last 15 years. Though, she was glad she was no longer working in one of L’s bordellos. She had grown extremely tired of that by the time she was 16.

Pulling out her cell phone, she tapped in the quick dial for Benton. She listened to it ring four times before Benton’s sleepy voice answered. “Hello?”

“Benton?”

“Yeah. I’m here.” He replied as his tired mind finally placed the voice. “Shadow!?” He sat up on the bed swinging his legs off the side. “Where the hell have you been?”

“I had to make a run. I told you.” She replied as she slid her keycard into the reader and unlocked the door.

“You did not.”

“I thought I did.”

“I’ve been worried sick. I thought they had arrested you.” Benton stood from the bed in order to locate his pants. Finding a pair of jeans, he began to slide them on. “Shaughnessy said you were supposed to be at work today.”

“It took longer than I thought.” Shadow was shaking her head as she walked over to the bed and sat down. “I wasn’t. Why? What’s happened? Have they started arresting people? Is Stephanie out of the hospital?” His alarm had triggered Shadow’s panic.

“It’s been all over the goddamned news.” Benton replied finding his keycard and exiting his room. “The reporters have been to Stephanie’s hospital room. They’re trying to link the car accident with the missing money.”

Shadow blinked as she kicked off her shoes. “You’re kidding.” She watched as her chauffeur entered the room and sat down on the couch, turning on the T.V.

“I am not kidding. I am far from kidding, and I’m on my way to your room.”

She walked over to the door in socked feet and opened it. Looking down the hall she saw Benton stepping off the elevator. She had closed her phone and sat it on the sink counter and waited for Benton to reach her room. Once he was inside, she began speaking again. “How in the hell can thy blame the car wreck?”

“They’re trying to link them. Saying it was an attempt on her life instead of her stupidity.” Benton replied walking over to the small wet bar and pouring both him and Shadow drinks.

Shadow groaned. “WHY!?!” She screamed. “Why do they always have to assume everything is fucking connected. We didn’t touch her car.”

“And Stephanie isn’t doing anything to dissuade them. She’s playing the ‘helpless victim’.”

Shadow’s chauffeur remained silent and on the couch as his employer and Benton discussed the problems. He had heard a few rumors out in Sarasota, but nothing substantial and nothing that had caused him to worry. This, however, had gotten his attention.

“Damnit.” Shadow cursed. “We still have that money to deal with.”

“No, I have Victor on that.”

Shadow groaned. “You said you weren’t going to ask him.”

“I had to. I spent all night the other night talking to him on the phone, and then I gave him all the paperwork the next day. That was Wednesday.”

“Yeah. You said you were going to take me out to lunch.” Shadow said looking at the floor briefly.

He turned to look at her and frowned. “I completely forgot. But the money is being handled.”

Shadow nodded. “I want to leave here. Soon.”

Benton nodded. “Just give it a few more days.” He knew why she was antsy. It was the same reason that he was antsy. They could both feel the shit about to hit the fan. Looking to her, his gaze softened. She was okay. Not in jail. But he had been worried sick. He had spent the last two days alternately reading up on the casework that Shaughnessy had given and pacing the office.

Shadow walked over to him and wrapped her arms around his waist. “So you’re not mad at me anymore.”

Benton shook his head as he sat her drink on the counter and began rubbing her back. “I’m not mad anymore.” The worry had killed his anger. The last thing he wanted to see was her locked up in jail for the majority of the rest her life.

When he felt her sink against his body, he realized just how tired she was. Looking down at her after taking a large drink from his glass, he could see her eyes closed and her breathing slow and even. Benton grinned and sat his glass down in order to pick her up. She was falling asleep against him. “You’ve been awake since you left, haven’t you?” He murmured as he carried her to the bed. He couldn’t very well lay her on the couch as she now had her chauffeur with her. Since she was already in baggy jeans and a large T-shirt, he didn’t bother to undress her further. Instead, he laid down next to her and fell asleep himself.

The chauffeur checked the room over and then left to rent his own room. He wasn’t sure why Shadow wanted him here. Her limousine was back in Florida. Shrugging, he left, listening to the door click shut behind him. He knew she’d call if she needed him.

They arrived on time to the Shaughnessy Agency Saturday morning to spite Shadow’s unwillingness to get out of bed. The compromise for her missing Friday had been that she had to work on Saturday.

“Have you looked over those case files?” Benton whispered into Shadow’s ear as they walked into the front office from the hallway. He could hear Trace and Shaughnessy talking in her office with the door open. When Shadow shook his head, he spoke again. “Let me get my papers and I’ll meet you in your office.”

“Okay.” She replied opening her doors remotely. Her office was exactly how she had left it Wednesday, which meant that no one had been in it. She doubted that even maintenance could get into her office. The handles were more for decoration that actual use, and Shadow grinned.

A few minutes later, Benton entered her office and watched as the doors seemed to close by themselves. “Interesting.”

“I think so. It keeps nosey fuckers out of my office.”

He laughed, setting the mound of papers on her desk and pulling another office chair up to the front. “These cases are strange.” He stated as he sat down and began flipping through a few pages. “These haven’t been closed yet. Detective Shaughnessy has a few notes at the end of each case, and it looks like she hasn’t contacted the clients on the final outcome yet.”

Shadow pulled a few of the pages towards her and began reading. “This is about Decker.”

“That’s what got my attention. The case was started by Greg Locke and Alexis Locke.”

“Greg Locke. Isn’t he a Police Officer for the GRPD?”

“Has been since 1994 according to this.” Benton replied handing her another sheet of paper.

“Hmmm. Interesting.” Shadow commented. “It says here that Alexis suspected Decker of cheating on him.” She paused. “So she wanted to find out for sure?”

“It appears that way. If you read further down the case file. They found the woman that he was cheating with. Actually. It looks like it’s a couple of women.” He picked up a Polaroid picture and turned it so that Shadow could see.

Shadow laughed outright. “That’s Stephanie Hook.”

“Yes. Benton said and flipped up the other picture.

“I’ve never seen her before.”

“That’s because that’s L. Bay’s wife. He had her killed in 1994 for cheating on him.”

Shadow’s eyes went wide. “You’re shitting me.”

“He couldn’t kill Decker, so he killed her.”

“Why couldn’t he kill Decker?” Shadow asked.

“He’s useful. He makes L billions of dollars a year.” He replied, as he watched Shadow grimace and make a disgusted noise. “Anyway, this gets better. Detective Trace was investigating this one and apparently he had to fly all over the globe to keep up with Decker. The affair with Stephanie obviously happened here. But the affair with L’s wife happened in Brazil.” He watched as Shadow nodded. “So, Detective Trace takes pictures, documents the conversation’s he overhears…” Benton paused. “Looks like be bugged a couple phones.”

“He bugged Decker’s phone?”

“No, he bugged the two he could bug; Stephanie’s and Alexis’.” Benton replied, reading further down the page. “Most of the conversations were brief according to Trace’s notes. Simply when and where to meet.” He paused again briefly. “So he spent three weeks doing this. At the end of it, they tell Alexis what they found and where his next interlude was going to be so that she could catch him in the act.”

Shadow laughed. “That was probably not smart.”

Now this is where we get pure notes after all this was typed up.” He began reading the handwritten notes at the end of the file. “Three days later, the news showed a picture of Decker’s Grand Rapid’s mansion. It had yellow police tape cordoning off the area. Alexis had been murdered.”

“Damn.” Shadow commented.

“Yeah. So the police never solved that case.” Benton replied. “I watched it on the news in 1994. The notes here suspect Stephanie of killing the woman.”

Shadow blinked. “Then why didn’t Shaughnessy take this to the police. In fact, how did the police not find out about the investigation?”

“There’s a chance that no one breathed a word about it.” He replied. “More than likely, the few people that knew were paid off.”

Shadow exhaled in a half sigh. “So what opinion are we supposed to give on this?”

“Beats me. But we might want to take a trip to the hospital and visit Stephanie.”

Shadow laughed. “That’s a brilliant idea.”

Fifteen minutes later they arrived at the hospital. Shadow and Benton rode one of the many elevators up to Stephanie’s floor. The nurses’ station was empty, so they simply walked down the hall peering into each room. Stephanie’s room was at the end of the hall. Thankfully, there were no reporters around. Benton summed it up to them having either gone to lunch or gone to work on the newest update for the case. Either way, he didn’t feel like talking to reporters.

Stephanie had several I.V’s pumping various fluids into her body and quite a few white gauze bandages. "You look better than I thought you would." Shadow commented as her and Benton stepped into the room. Stephanie appeared to be watching some talk show about cheating trailer trash hicks with 15 kids.

"They say I’ll be out of here any day now." Stephanie said glancing away from the TV and towards her visitors.

“That’s great.” Shadow commented enthusiastically.

"That’s why I think you could help me out I need a shipment delivered to Japan, and I heard you were a pilot.”

"I have other business obligations." She stated smoothly.

I still have money. They only managed to hit one of my accounts.”

Shadow raised an eyebrow. Inwardly, she was backtracking to see if she had known that Stephanie had more than one account. She thought she remembered something about Stephanie having one more small account, but it wasn’t worth Shadow even bothering with. “That’s great. Keep that money to pay your medical bills.” She stated. “I don’t have any interest in going to Japan. Further more, I don’t own anything big enough to make that trip.”

Benton was aghast at Shadow’s words. They had talked about this earlier. She was supposed to agree with Stephanie. “Shadow.” He stated her name softly.

But I do.” Stephanie replied. “My airplane is sitting out on Lake Michigan. You could use it, and I’ll pay you half a million dollars to make the delivery.” Stephanie knew that the large shipment she was going to send Shadow on was worth at least ten million, and she needed to get rid of the chips.

Shadow inhaled, thinking. “Let me think on it for a couple days. I’ll have to reroute my schedule if I decide to fly your trip. That will take me a day or so to organize.”

Stephanie nodded. “Take your time. I don’t need it delivered until next weekend.”

Shadow and Benton turned to go, sensing the end of the conversation. Shadow turned around a moment later. “By the way, Decker called the agency a few hours ago wondering how you were.”

Stephanie perked up. “Really? I haven’t heard from him since shortly after his wife died.”

That was 1994.” Shadow replied with a slight smile.

Stephanie nodded. “It’s been a long time. I used to tour him around the city when he was here.”

How did his wife die again?” Shadow asked.

She was shot like 15 times but an unknown assailant.”

That’s horrible!” Shadow commented appearing to be mortified.

Yeah. They never found the killer.”

Did they ever find the gun?”

No, but it was a .9mm.” Stephanie replied.

Shadow nodded. “One more crazy left to roam the streets.” She sighed. “Well. I’ll see you later.”

With that Shadow and Benton walked out of the hotel room. “What do you think?” Benton asked.

I don’t know. She was happy to think that he called.”

Benton nodded sliding his arm around her as they exited the hospital for the parking lot. “What time is it?”

About two.” Shadow replied.

You hungry?” Benton asked glancing over at her.

She nodded. “We forgot breakfast this morning, and lunch.”

He chuckled. “So we did, but we weren’t late.” He replied taking the last turn that would lead them back to the agency. “Let’s order pizza while we look for that file.”

Sounds good to me.” Shadow grinned.

How’d that meeting go Wednesday?" Detective Trace asked as soon as Shadow and Benton had entered the office.

"He went to another Detective, a cheaper one." Shadow said and opened her office, door by remote control.

"You’ve done a lot more to your office than just the door." Detective Shaughnessy said leaning forward and glancing inside the door.

"Maybe." Shadow Said. "But I think I’ll be staying here for awhile, and I can’t work well with cheap things around me.”

Detective Shaughnessy nodded. "How have you progressed on those cases that I handed you last week?"

Reasonably well. Though, we couldn’t figure out why the Locke file was still open. It looked pretty closed to us. The research was done and handed to the client.”

Greg Locke wanted us to try and find his daughter’s killer.” Jody replied. “He was hoping that we might be able to find something out that the police didn’t.”

But the killer was never found. Seems to me that one of the women he was having an affair with might have done it.”

Jody nodded. “Yes, but it’s more complicated than that.”

Shadow raised an eyebrow. “How so?”

Shaughnessy looked around the room. “It just is.” Changing the subject. “I’d like to see inside your office for a moment.

"Sure, go ahead." Shadow said triggering the remote to close the doors.

Detective Shaughnessy walked over to the doors and asked.

"How do you get into this office?"

You don’t.” Shadow replied with a smirk. She had no idea what files were laying on her desk and no desire to have Jody sifting through them.

"You bitch." Detective Shaughnessy said. “That is part of my agency and I have a right to know what’s in it.”

“You might.” Shadow replied. There was no way Shadow was letting her inside her office today. “My office is a mess.”

“You’ll let me in that office right now.” Shaughnessy demanded.

“I won’t.” Shadow replied calmly. “Until you tell me just why you wanted me to review that useless case?

“I want your opinion on it.”

“Are you sure? That was an awfully high profile case, and I’m betting that you never told the police that you had information on it. Now, I’m wondering why? Greg Locke wouldn’t have wanted you to keep quiet. Stephanie would have. Decker certainly would have. What about the second woman? Did she have anything to do with the murder?” Shadow smirked darkly. “I’m thinking that Stephanie and Decker got together and paid you to stay quiet. They probably even paid you to destroy the files, which you didn’t do. Perhaps they’d like to know that those files still exist.” Shadow paused. “In fact, you’ve been keeping quite the tabs on that particular group of people. You must have 20 files on them.”

You bitch.” Detective Shaughnessy cursed, spanning the distance between her and Shadow in seconds and grabbing her by the head. Shadow was shoved into the desk and connected with the edge unable to stop the scream as her ribs impacted the hard wood. Turning around, She instantly lost her temper and slugged Jody across the face.

Detective Shaughnessy then grabbed Shadow by the arm and hair, shoving her into Detective Docks, who had stood up to stop the fight. Shadow took the opportunity to kick Detective Shaughnessy in the side of the leg, causing her knee to buckle. She then lunged out of Benton’s arms and began kicking Jody while she was down, landing punch after punch to her face. “You should stay away from things you know nothing about!” Shadow snarled.

Shadow!” Benton yelled, lunging forward and grabbing her around the arms and waist. “That’s enough.” He ordered as Detective Trace pulled Shaughnessy off the floor and restrained her.

Okay.” Detective Trace said, nearly out of breath. "What do we do now?"

"We leave." Benton said. "We can’t get anything done until everyone cools off.”

She started this shit!” Shadow yelled.

I did not. You started this years ago!” Shaughnessy yelled.

Enough!” Benton yelled, still restraining the struggling Shadow. “We are going outside.” With that he pulled Shadow out of the office and into the hallway. “Would you calm the fuck down?!”

Shadow snarled.

Come on.” He released her partially, keeping one arm around her waist as they walked towards the elevator.

Five minutes later, they walked out the doors of the office complex and into the parking lot. “I think I hate her”

You do not. You’re just pissed.” He replied, rubbing her back lightly. “Let’s go get a drink and calm down.”

A few minutes later they were in Benton’s car and headed for the 76th street bar. “You’ll feel better after a drink.”

Shadow just grumbled for the l5 minutes that it took them to reach the bar.

Sitting down at a table in the back, they were greeted by a waitress promptly and both ordered vodka.

A few minutes later, the bartender walked over to them with an entire bottle of vodka and two tumblers. "Don’t you guys usually work until 5:30?” The bartender asked.

Yeah, on the days Shadow doesn’t lose her temper and deck the boss.” Benton replied with a slight grin as he realized just how funny that sounded.

"What happened" The bartender asked.

"My boss doesn’t like her employees redecorating their offices, but her decorating was cheap. So I completely remodeled mine including the doors, and she pitched a fit. She wanted to get into my office and I told her no. She called me a bitch and then hit me.”

Benton sighed. “So they closed the agency for the rest of the day.”

"Yeah, and we have nothing to do so we came here" Shadow said with a grin as she flexed her hand. She could feel the deep bruises.

Sounds like you’ve had a day. This bottle’s on the house.” He said with a smile before walking away to tend to other customers.

"I didn’t start that goddamned fight." Shadow grumbled.

"We all know that she’s had it in for you ever since she hired you." Benton stated. “She’s going to have to get over it.”

"If she knew me why’d she hire me?" Shadow asked downing, the tumbler of vodka in one swallow.

"She didn’t do it out of the kindness of her heart." Benton said.

"Who does?" Shadow asked pouring herself another drink.

"Nobody. She hired you because you were qualified." Benton said. "And she needed another Detective."

Why?" Shadow asked.

"One of her old boyfriend’s wanted a job, and she didn’t want, him working there. He had been the only person who had applied for the position until you applied. So she hired you and told him that the position had already been filled."

Shadow grinned. "Do you know if she’s dating, now?"

"I think she’s dating Detective Trace." Benton replied.

"Are you serious?”

Quite.” Benton replied. “He spends an awful lot of time in her office.”

Shadow laughed.

"I see a sucker at the pool tables. I gotta go." Benton said suddenly as he stood up.

Shadow looked confused for a moment and sighed as she poured herself another drink. She had more to say, but she couldn’t really blame him. Sometimes people just stood out as needing to be taken advantage of. Hell, in their line of work that ‘sense’ could make one rich. Of course, her and Benton were already rich. She wondered, sometimes, why they still did this. They no longer needed the money. Tonight, she would have much preferred to sit and talk than hustle anyone. She supposed that was why she was still sitting at the table and not looking around for a target.

Sighing, she looked at her watch. She’d give him twenty minutes and then leave. Then, she realized that she had ridden with him. Groaning, she finished her drink and poured herself another. She glanced over her shoulder at Benton, who appeared to be cleaning up the table. Shadow would have put her head down if it were permissible. Unfortunately, all bars had a ‘no head down’ policy.

Benton had managed to grab a game with the man. He was fairly certain the well dressed individual couldn’t play for shit. Benton let him break the balls and was fairly impressed when he also managed to pocket a stripe. He watched the man make three shots in a row before missing.

Smiling jovially, Benton chalked his cue and lined up a fairly easy shot before pocketing the ball in the far corner. He only had $100 riding on this game, but it was always worth the challenge.

After making four shots in a row, he purposefully missed the fifth so that he could check on Shadow. Glancing over at her, he saw her head move. She had been watching him. Benton would have walked over to the table and gotten her, but he couldn’t leave the game and trust this man to leave the balls as they were. Instead, Benton waited for her to look at him again before motioning her over.

By the time she arrived behind him, Benton was pocketing the balls again. There were six balls left on the table, and he intended to simply finish the game. Making all six shots in a row, he turned to see Shadow standing a few steps behind him with her drink.

When she didn’t approach him, he walked over to her and placed a hand on her shoulder. “You still hungry?” When Shadow nodded, he spoke again. “Did you want to eat here or back at the hotel?”

The hotel is fine.” Shadow replied a little short.

He nodded as the man handed him the money and walked off disgruntled. “You done with your drink?”

Yeah.” Shadow replied downing the rest of it in one swallow.

Benton was almost feeling like he should apologize for something as they walked out the 76th Street Tavern. He could tell that Shadow was upset with him, but he couldn’t figure out why. “You’re upset with me.” He finally stated as they pulled out onto the street.”

And I have every right to be.” Shadow snipped.

Benton stopped at a red light and looked over at her. “What did I do?”

You went to play a goddamned game of pool.”

He blinked confused. “I… I always play pool when I go to the bar. You know that?”

But did you have to do it today? I fucking get attacked and you want to make some quick money.”

Benton leaned back in the seat as if defeated as he pulled away from the light, rubbing his eyes with his free hand before shifting gears. “Okay. So it was bad timing.”

And petting me on the goddamned head and buying me dinner isn’t going to make up for it.” Shadow spat as she leaned against the door. “I had shit to say and you walked off.”

Benton raised an eyebrow at those words. He actually felt guilty about it. Though, he was pretty sure he had no reason to feel guilty, but she was definitely working him over. “How can I make it up to you?” When Shadow said nothing, he sighed. This was ridiculous. However, he couldn’t exactly tell her that. “What is this, Shadow? This is more than you taking a punch.”

This is me being pissed at you!” She snapped, beginning to realize that she was taking out her bad mood on him.

Whoa.” Benton stated as he pulled into the parking lot. This was feeling a lot like a lover’s spat, and he had never dictated any such thing. In fact, they had never even had sex; many attempts, no sex. He turned to look at her disgruntled form slouching against the door and realized that he had no idea what to say. His first thought had been to give her the money that he had won from the game, but he knew that she wouldn’t want it. She might take it though.

Sighing, he opened his door. This was not the way he wanted to start off the weekend, especially not with the person that he wanted to spend the weekend with, alone. Many silent moments later, they both stepped out of the car and walked inside the hotel. “Shadow?” He questioned once they were in the elevator.

What?”

Why are you mad at me? This isn’t about the pool game.”

Shadow shrugged and continued leaning against the side of the elevator until the doors opened.

Benton looked at her exasperatedly. “Are you coming to my room?” When she shook her head, Benton resisted the urge to become angry and grab her. Instead, he stepped off the elevator with her. “You’re going to sit in your room and drink all weekend?”

Yes.” Shadow replied. “Sounds like a great idea to me.”

It sounds like a shit idea to me.” He replied. “Let me order you something to eat. Come up with me.”

I’m not hungry.”

I don’t care if you eat or not.” Benton replied. “But you’re not going to drink alone all weekend.” He placed his hand on her arm and nudged her back to the elevator. “I half came out here to visit you, and that’s what I intend to do.”

Shadow said nothing throughout the ride up to his room and simply plopped herself on the couch once she was in his suite.

Benton ordered the food before walking over to the couch and moving her legs so that he could sit down. Of course, half a second later he was being used as a footstool. “You can use me as a footstool, but you have to tell me what’s on your mind.” He said as he began to massage her calves.

Nothing is on my mind.” Shadow replied with her eyes closed. In truth, she didn’t want to talk about it. She had no idea why she was so pissed at him. It felt more like she was pissed at the world.

Benton sighed. “You can lay there and sulk and be pissed, or you can tell me what the hell is bothering you.”

I’m going to lay here and be pissed.” Shadow responded irritated, huffing and shifting on the couch.

Is it about the scam?”

No.”

Is it about Detective Shaughnessy?”

No.”

Is it about me leaving you at the table at the bar to go play pool?”

Shadow sat up then. “It’s about the fact that I fucking love you, and I had shit to say and you walked off!” She yelled and stormed into the bathroom, slamming the door.

Benton sat stunned and unmoving. Out of everything she could have said that was the last thing he expected to hear. Breathing deeply, he stood and tried to collect his thoughts. A million things had run through his mind at once. He wanted to tell her that she was being foolish. That she couldn’t have meant what she said.

Of course, part of him was glad that one of them had finally broached the subject. He had expected it to be himself one day as Shadow had never been overly affectionate with him. In fact, this was the first time that they had ever spent any quality time together. It had allowed for them to sleep in the same bed, hold each other, and kiss. They were all things that he had gotten from her in brief stolen moments and things that he missed once they were back to work.

It was then that he recalled her statement at the restaurant a few days back. She had said that she’d missed him. He hadn’t had an opportunity to respond. It was then that there was a knock on the door and the call of room service. Walking over to the door, he let the waiter inside to set up the meal while he went to the bathroom door and knocked gently. “You can’t hide in there all day.” He said in a half joking manner.

I can too.” Came the muffled and... Cracked? Reply.

Well, I suppose you can, but the food’s here.” He watched the waiter set up the table with plates, food, glasses and wine. “And I’m not promising that I won’t eat it all if you don’t come out.” He closed his eyes hoping to hell that she’d open the damned door. He hadn’t even tried the handle to see if she had locked it. He didn’t want to barge his way inside. He wanted her to come out willingly so that they could talk about this and eat.

When the door finally opened, Benton breathed a sigh of relief and was somewhat startled when Shadow hugged him forcefully. Looking down at the puff of red hair, he couldn’t help but chuckle. She almost looked as though she were trying to meld herself to him. He began to stroke her hair and her back and he moved them from the bedroom to the sitting room. “Why does that upset you?”

Because it’s not supposed to happen.”

Why? Did someone tell you that you couldn’t love? Was it written in the job description somewhere and I overlooked it? Or did L tell you that? Because if L told you that, I have no problems kicking his middle aged ass.” When he heard Shadow laugh, he relaxed slightly. “So, tell me. Why is it so bad?”

Because I don’t want to go to jail.”

Benton’s brows furrowed in confusion. What did jail have to do with how she felt? It took him a moment to realize that it all went back to her previous statement at lunch. “Shadow. I would not let them take you to jail. If that were going to happen, I’d whisk us both away where no one could find us.”

Shadow looked up at him then. “You would?”

Baby, I’m not going to jail and neither are you.” Benton replied placing a soft kiss to her forehead before guiding her over to the table. “It would be the biggest jailbreak ever if they managed to incarcerate you. It’d make the news for months.” He pulled out one of the dining room chairs for her and waited until she sat down.

Once she had, he walked over and sat down as well. The waiter had already made them each a plate and covered it with a warming lid. “I’m just glad I didn’t bet on this particular topic.”

Why is that?” Shadow asked with a slight grin.

Because I would have lost. I honestly thought I’d be telling you that I loved you before you ever thought of it.”

Shadow laughed as she removed the lid from her plate. “Prime rib?”

I figured we could both use a good meal after all the shit.” He replied with a grin.

Shadow took a bite, then spoke. “So?”

So eat up before it gets cold.” He chuckled.

Once they were done eating, they both headed for the couch to relax and watch some mindless TV.

So?” Shadow repeated. She wanted to know more on his thoughts.

Benton looked down at her. “So.” He paused. “So you’re not alone.” He leaned down and kissed her.

Shadow wrapped her arms around him, snuggling her head against his side and the arm of the couch. “I can’t wait till we finish with this.”

Neither can I.” Benton replied.

So you have Victor trying to work with the accounts?”

He nodded. “Yeah. He wasn’t overly optimistic, but he was going to give it a shot.”

Shadow sighed and nodded. “And that my fault, and that’s why we’re in so much trouble…”

Benton pulled her up against him and held her. “You should have known better, but that doesn’t mean that you did. All we can do right now is work with what we have.”

She nodded as she felt Benton’s hand slide under her chin. Looking into his eyes, she pressed her mouth against his. A moment later, she felt his hands beginning to caress her back.

Benton had been ready for a drink and a nap after the huge meal. However, Shadow was doing an excellent job of reawakening him. Her squirming in his lap was doing wonders for his arousal, and he picked her up.

Carrying her into the bedroom, he kicked the doors closed. He wanted no interruptions this time, and if it happened to be Brian again, the man was going to end up head first into a wall. Benton had been interrupted every time he wanted to make love to Shadow for the past two years. Now they had a free weekend with no work interruptions and no domestic servants bustling around to scream and point and alert others in the mansion.

Undressing her slowly, he began to kiss his way up from her thigh to her mouth, stopping at her breasts to lick and nibble at her nipples until she began to moan and writhe. He undressed himself a moment later before capturing her mouth with his in an eager kiss.

Shadow slid her arms around him, sliding her fingertips down his well defined back. She could feel his sex pressing gently against hers as they kissed. As her arousal became more and more prominent, she began to press her hips upward, wanting him to enter her fully, and she gasped a little and closed her eyes as she felt the tip of him slowly pressing into her.

Benton was getting antsy as he began to enter her. This was the farthest they had ever gotten without interruption, and his ears strained to hear any would-be noises outside of the bedroom. Hearing nothing, he continued his slow thrust into her body.

Shadow moaned, her legs completely wrapped around him as he entered her. The passionate kiss that followed allowed them both to become accustomed to the way it felt to be completely connected.

Seconds later, she could feel him beginning to piston slowly pushing them forward into a rhythm of lustful passion.

Benton could feel her muscles beginning to clench around his swollen manhood. Various muscles throughout her body began to tremble and spasm gently. When he heard her moan harshly, he pistoned harder, wrapping his arms around her firmly. His moans were becoming feral growls and grunts with each forceful thrust.

Shadow’s hands clenched on his back as her body began to freeze for the briefest of seconds before she arched radically against him, screaming as the deep muscles within her body began to clench and spasm.

As he felt her orgasm, Benton pushed into her harder, the desire to imbed himself completely inside her overwhelming. He was practically grinding their bodies together as he felt the first hard waves of his orgasm. Moaning with each thrust, he began to slow, feeling her muscles still tight around him. “More?” He panted.

Shadow’s response was a deep heated kiss, and he began to piston into her again, careful not to overload her senses at first. He knew this wasn’t going to take as long because they were both still on the edge. Seconds later, they were both screaming in impassioned bliss. It was the third round that had them collapsed into each others arms, panting and snuggling under the warm covers.

Placing sated kisses to her mouth, Benton grinned slightly. He was deeply satisfied and relaxed, and she was half asleep in his arms. “We had to wait entirely too long for that.” He whispered in a slightly raspy tone.

Mhmmm.” Shadow responded, eyes closed as she snuggled deeper against him, the warm feel of his body helping to further relax her and put her to sleep.

The rest of their weekend was full of good food, good wine, and more sex. Both of them had lost count by Sunday night. Though, they were making jokes on keeping a scorecard.

***

Shadow and Benton emerged from the bedroom around 7:00 to find Brian watching TV on the couch fully dressed and ready for work as a GRPD police officer. He chuckled at the expressions on both Shadow and Benton’s faces. He had had to listen to them panting and moaning most of the weekend unless he was at work. It had made for some good locker room jokes at the station. “I see you two finally got it over with.” Brian replied with a smirk.

Benton laughed pulling Shadow against him and kissing her fully on the mouth before she had time to get embarrassed. Benton and everyone else knew that she was sexually active, but they all also knew that she preferred to keep it quiet. Unfortunately, this weekend, they couldn’t have kept it completely under wraps. “Heathen.” He murmured into her ear before addressing Brian’s comment. “That obvious?”

Brian laughed. “I think half the hotel could hear you two. Especially at 3:00 this morning.”

Shadow cringed against Benton. He had woken her sometime in the middle of the night with kisses and then pulled her on top of him where she had ridden him until they had both collapsed in a humid overexerted pile.

Of course, their shower this morning hadn’t exactly been PG rated when he had pushed her up against the warm tiles for an early morning before work romp. “Could you quit it now.” Shadow muttered from against his chest.

Benton chuckled. “Come on. We have to get to work or we’re going to be late.”

Benton and Shadow finally walked into the office at five after eight.

"You’re late." Detective Shaughnessy said.

"Shut up for once." Shadow said as she sat down behind the secretary’s desk. "Have the computers been fixed yet?”

Detective Trace nodded. “I’ve called the repair company. They’ll be out today.”

Jody Shaughnessy’s eyes had gotten wide when Shadow had told her to shut up. It had taken the last five seconds in order for her to compose herself. “You can’t tell me to shut up. I pay your goddamned check. In case you’ve forgotten!”

"No. Of course, you know I could never forget that." Shadow replied sarcastically as she stood up.

It was then that Benton intervened and pulled Shadow against him. “I think we all need to quit this.” He said, stroking Shadow’s still slightly damp hair. “We need to call off this interpersonal war and let the past be just that. She paid for that remodeling herself. She doesn’t remember causing you any grief.”

Jody growled. “How can she not fucking remember?!”

“She just doesn’t.” Benton replied. “I’ve talked to her at length over this. She has no recollection of ever meeting your family or your boyfriend.”

Jody sighed. “Get out of my sight. Go review those cases.”

Benton ushered Shadow into her office before going to his own. A few minutes later, his cell phone rang. “Benton speaking.”

“You have to tell me about your weekend.” Brian said, laughing.

Benton chuckled. “There isn’t anything to tell. You heard the outcome.”

Brian laughed. “Yeah. But I want to know how it got there. You guys have been trying to hook up for years.”

Benton took a deep breath and checked to see that his door was closed. “In a rather roundabout argumentative way, she told me she loved me Saturday night.”

“You’re kidding!” Brian exclaimed as he stopped his car at a red light.

“I’m not kidding. I was floored.”

“Well, hell. How long has it been?”

“About five years.” Benton replied. “We started getting close when Samantha died.” He paused. “God, it’s been more like eight.”

“Wasn’t she shot in her sleep?” Brian asked.

“Yeah. I was a little pissed that night.”

Brian chuckled, remembering the aftermath. He had run in when he had heard gunshots. What he saw was a hysterical Shadow being held by a calm and collected Benton. “You were a little more than pissed, my friend.”

“She was selling us out.” He replied. “The only thing I felt bad about was that she was Shadow’s best friend in Brazil.” Benton sighed. “She was selling out L and me.” He paused. “I spent that whole damned night trying to calm Shadow down. She had been asleep on the couch in a heroin haze when I walked in the front door.”

“That’s right. Shadow was passed out in the chair in the Foyer.”

“She heard the gunshot and came running faster than you did. When she saw the room…”

“She went hysterical. I remember that. Nobody could fucking calm her down. The doctors ended up pumping her full of Dramamine.” Brian said.

“She was still hysterical two hours later. She finally passed out in my lap. I slept with her in the parlor that night because I didn’t want her going back to her room and shooting up.”

“And that was the beginning?” He asked.

“That was the beginning. Though, L got suspicious and started sending me out on long distance jobs. The beach was the final straw for him.”

“Jesus. I forgot about that. What the hell are you going to do about L?”

“I don’t know yet, but I know I’m not going to spend months away from her anymore. Just seeing her this week, I can see the toll the past few months have had on her, and myself.” He added

Brian nodded to himself as he parked at the police station. “She’s been stressed. Every time I see her she asks me how you are and what you’re doing.”

“I figured that much.” Benton replied.

“Well, I have to get in here and do some digging.” Brian said as he stepped out of his Mercedes.

“Tell me how the investigation is going.”

“I’ll call you on lunch.” Brian replied and hung up.

Benton closed his phone and decided to go check on Shadow. Knocking on her door, he waited for the doors to silently open. The TV on the wall was playing the latest news coverage in the Stephanie case. “You okay?” He asked as the doors closed silently behind him.

She grinned. “I’m a little tired due to someone keeping me up all night.” Shadow replied from her vantage point on the couch.

Benton chuckled as he walked over to the plush black leather couch. It reminded him of the ones in her mansion in Sarasota. “Homesick?” He asked, sitting down.

Shadow nodded. “I miss my servants and my limo.”

He chuckled. “Making any progress on the Locke file?”

“A little. I’ve been on the phone all morning talking to Officer Locke.”

“What did he have to say?”

“That his daughter’s killer was never found. They drug in a few potential suspects, but nothing ever came of it.”

“Did he mention names?”

“Well, of course they interrogated Decker and Stephanie.” Shadow paused. “They couldn’t question Mrs. Bays because she was killed the week after Alexis.”

Benton hmm-ed. “Did they ever question Jody?’

“Surprisingly enough, they did. They even searched the offices. They never found any files.”

“How in the hell did they not find these files?”

“Perhaps she had them moved before the investigation?” Shadow suggested.

“Someone would have had to tip her off though.” Benton replied.

“That’s the catch.” Shadow said standing up. “I can’t figure out who would have done it unless it was Decker or Stephanie.”

“And Decker is about as tight lipped as they come. Stephanie wasn’t saying much either.” Benton sighed.

“No, she wasn’t, but she’s all over the news at the moment. It would be nice if we could pin her to this murder and take the heat off ourselves.”

Benton nodded as he watched Shadow walk over to the couch and sit down. He pulled her into his lap. “There has to be more information on this. Are you still close to the bartender at the 76th street bar?”

“Of course.” Shadow replied with a sly grin. “But I’ve never gotten anything out of him that I didn’t have to sleep with him for.”

“I think you need to try a new tactic, because if you sleep with that man, I’m going to kill him.”

“Benton!” Shadow exclaimed horrified.

“I just thought I’d give you fair warning.” He replied with a grin as he pulled her into his lap. “You are hardly undersexed.”

She grinned. “Benton, I’ve had to sleep with almost all of my targets.”

“I know that, but that doesn’t mean I had to like it. It just wasn’t my place to say anything unless they were violent with you.”

Shadow frowned slightly. “Is this going to become a theme?”

“Probably.” He replied. “Now that I have you, I want you to myself.” He kissed her forehead gently.

Shadow laughed. “And how are we going to get past L?”

“Brian just asked me that. I have no idea.” He paused. “Well, I have half an idea, and it doesn’t involve telling him anything about this weekend.”

“I can’t wait to see that.” Shadow murmured, snuggling in his lap with her arms around him.

A moment later, Benton felt her head resting in his lap, and he began to stroke her hair. He knew she was tired. He was tired, and it was his fault. Of course, he was inwardly cursing her willing body. Laying his head on the arm rest, he dozed.

Shadow woke up startled by some sound in the office about three hours later. She had been asleep in Benton’s arms, except at some point they had stretched out across it and someone had grabbed the blanket off the back. “What was that sound?” She asked sleepily.

“Hmmm?” Benton questioned, lifting his head off the arm rest, rubbing his sore neck. “I didn’t hear anything, hon.”

“Oh. What time is it?”

Benton glanced down at his Rolex. “Shit. It’s one. Brian was supposed to call me back when he went to lunch. He was going to give me the latest updates on the Stephanie case.”

Shadow groaned from against his chest as she felt him digging for his cell phone.

“Hey now. The sooner we clear this mess up, the sooner we can go home.” Benton stated as he opened his phone with one hand and checked his voicemail messages. “Fuck. I missed him.” Grumbling, he dialed the number.

“Officer Brian speaking.”

“Brian, what’s the word. Can you talk?”

“Where the hell have you been?” Brian exclaimed. I called you five times between 11:30 and 12:45.” Pausing. “One second.”

Benton closed his eyes as Shadow adjusted herself against him. “Okay.” He replied tiredly.

“You were asleep.” Brian stated as he got into his cruiser and closed the door. “Anyway. This is how it’s going down. They’ve questioned Stephanie extensively and she’s given out a whole host of mother fucking names. She’s named you, Shadow, Victor, and Detective Shaughnessy.”

“How in the hell did she manage to implicate detective Shaughnessy?”

“She mentioned something about being stalked by her detective agency a few years ago.”

Benton laughed. “She’s just sunk her own ship then.”

“I know. I remember that case. It was all over the news as well, but don’t be surprised if you get a cop car in your area. They’re starting to go interrogate suspects starting today. Just keep your stories straight and you should be fine.” Brian paused. “Okay. They’re looking for me. I have to go back inside.”

Benton hung up the phone. “He said we can expect visitors.”

Shadow sighed. “I say we kill her.”

“That was the first thought that crossed my mind. No Stephanie, no case.”

At 5:00 Shadow and Benton left the Shaughnessy and went back to his hotel room. “So how do you want to do it?” He asked once they were safely inside.

“I think we should just go shoot her.” Shadow replied as she saw Benton checking his voicemail messages.

“Well, looks like we’ll get our chance. She’s getting out of the hospital tomorrow morning.”

Shadow walked into the bedroom and sat down on the bed. “Should I use my .45 or my Lugar?”

“I’d use the .45.” Benton replied with a laugh. “More stopping power.”

Shadow laughed. “Should I gun her down in front of the police station?”

Benton rounded on her with a horrified look. “Hell no. I heard about that. Are you trying to give me a heart attack?” He paused. “Speaking of which. What did you have to give that man to come get you?”

“Victor?”

“Yes.”

Shadow swallowed and looked at the floor. “Nothing.”

“Tell me you didn’t.”

Shadow inhaled and continued to look at the floor.

“Oh god. Shadow? Why?”

“I. He. It.” She breathed. “I don’t know.” She looked up at him, hand going to her mouth.

Benton inhaled trying to remain composed. “That man is almost old enough to be your father.”

“Are you mad at me?”

Benton closed his eyes for a brief moment. “No, just please don’t do it again.”

Shadow nodded and laid back on the bed. “So we go to her house…”

“And we just kill her.” Benton replied, sitting next to her on the bed. “I’m not in the mood for elaborate schemes these days.” A few minutes later, Benton shifted her further onto the bed so that he could lie down. While lying next to her, he contemplated alibis. They were certainly going to need one. “Movie tomorrow night?” He asked.

“Movie?”

“Mhmmm.” He sounded as he closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around her. “There’s a new one coming out tomorrow.”

“What’s it called?”

“Some space adventure. I forget the name. Has a little bit of a cult following. They started doing prequels a few years back.”

Shadow breathed, snuggling against him. “We can go see that, but I want popcorn.”

Benton chuckled. “You can have all the popcorn you want.” He replied as they slowly fell asleep for the rest of the evening and night.

It was Benton’s cell phone that jolted them both awake shortly after midnight. He reached to grab it off the nightstand as he felt Shadow jerk and burry herself against his back with a startled gasp. Placing his hand on the device, he whispered. “Shhh… It’s just my phone.” Opening it, he answered. “Hello?”

“Benton. It’s Victor. I’ve finished with the accounts.” He paused. “However, it was just as we feared. Several of the accounts have been frozen.” He paused. “How many accounts did you say there were total?”

Benton made a half asleep sound as he thought. “Six and 40.”

Not as bad as I thought then. “The ten at BB&T was frozen. I got the five at Bank of America. The two at that credit union was easy enough to get, and I managed to get six of the eight at The Bank of New York before that one was frozen. So we have a total of 12.”

“Out of 40!” Benton yelled sitting up in the bed.

“Yes. Less than half what we had hoped for.” Victor stated. He had long since gotten over the anger. He had spent the greater majority of the afternoon destroying his hotel room. “It’ll be an even split for three a piece. It’s more than we usually get.” That had been Victor’s final conclusion and the one that had stopped his rage.

Benton sighed as he turned his head slightly to view Shadow curled up against his back. He noticed that her head was now in his lap, and she was going back to sleep. Benton wondered just how exhausted she had to be to sleep through this. “Three. Christ.” He grumbled. “I suppose it’s better than nothing.”

“A damned sight better than nothing.” Victor responded. “When I entered the last account and started pulling money, it was being shut down.”

“That’s fine then.” Benton said, keeping his composure. He had been looking forward to a good ten million. “I’m going to go back to bed.” With that he hung up the phone and looked down at the pile of red hair in his lap. Checking the clock, he realized that it was after two in the morning. Edging her gently out of his lap he stood and undressed before undressing her and putting them both under the covers. They had been asleep on top of the bed and covers.

 

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