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Rose & Ghun in Simply Murder-Episode Nine: I’ll search all night for you. Sigh.
“Jacob, tell me you can do it,” I said.
The 19 year old college freaky genius was staring open mouthed at Monika…again. He slowly turned toward me and blinked. “Umm, yeah, I can do it,” he said weakly. “I just need the number.”
Monika leaned past him and using a pen on his desk wrote a number down. I could see his face flush at her closeness and her scent. I had become more and more immune as the hours and ticked by. “How long will it take?” I asked. She was Lori’s niece. Any other thoughts had pretty much left the building.
Jacob picked up the piece of paper as if it was fragile. “As fast as I can. I’ll call you when I get a location fix.” He turned and began to work.
I nodded to Monika and we slipped out the door. The dorm hallway was empty and we made it outside without meeting anyone. We were lucky no one was on duty at that time of night. We were lucky it hadn’t been a woman we were using. Linda would have been my next stop across campus if Jacob hadn’t been awake.
“You’ve been very quiet since the Romeo and Juliet reveal,” said Monika. We were both scanning the trees and bushes along the sidewalks as we neared the parking lot.
“Just thinking what to do next,” I said.
“Lori told me about the two of you,” she said.
I slipped in behind the wheel of my emerald green Mini Cooper. “There really wasn’t much to tell.”
“Maybe not much but it was a lot,” said Monika. She clicked the seat belt. “If things hadn’t been the way they were, you two might have been different.”
“Maybe, but I always just look at things as happening the way they do and move ahead. No reason to look back, no reason to moan and groan.”
I knew she was looking at me. In a Mini you couldn’t help but know what the other person was doing, but when you were alone you didn’t think about needing extra room for other people. I just waited, but not for long. “Good.”
That wasn’t what I was expecting. She settled back in the seat and looked ahead and hummed a song. “Good? That’s it?”
“Yeah, what, do you want a sobbing moment of begging you to be all pain and anguished or something?”
“Well, no, but…”
“This isn’t a movie, Rose, this is real. I want you focused on getting my sister’s killer. If we can get him then we might stop this war,” said Monika. She started humming again.
I drove for several seconds before talking. “Now that I know what is really going on we can go to another place that might help us out.”
“Down Under Mike’s,” I said.
She turned quickly in her seat. “Are you crazy? You’ll get killed in there.”
“They won’t lay a finger on me. Not unless they are wearing gloves like you do all the time,” I said.
She looked at her leather covered hands and then my face. There was a bit of disappointment there for her to see. I didn’t blame her.
The car was quiet. Had I damaged things beyond repair? Sometimes it was better that way even if it wasn’t what I wanted. Down Under Mike’s appeared before us. We both looked around before getting out of the car. Then we slowly made our way along the cobblestone street to the ancient dive bar.
Monika walked in first with no apparent problem. I followed and could hear the sizzle. The alarm had gone off. Every eye looked toward me. Gloves went on. The demon possessed didn’t like to get burned when they punched me.
“What’s so important about Miles Stratford?” I asked.
Lori leaned forward on the step beside me. “We have to find him and settle things,” she said.
“You mean kill him.”
“He killed one of ours.”
“How can you be sure it really wasn’t an accident? He could have just been driving that fast,” I said.
“There was no accident,” said Lori. “There was a battle. Miles and Phyllis were in the same nightclub when things became uncomfortable. She left, he followed and then he forced her car into a spin. When she stopped he and another man jumped out and went after her.”
“Two on one, not very gentlemanly,” I said.
“It was two on two,” said Lori. “But the other was pinned for too long. Phyllis was dead and the sirens were sounding so Miles and his friend ran.”
“And the pinned friend?”
“She freed herself and made it home. But some witnesses had seen Miles speeding away and it was assumed that it was a hit and run,” said Lori.
I looked at Monika. She was staring at the ground and her fists were clenched. She was holding anger inside, she was shaking that much.
“We can handle this, Lori,” said Martin.
“No we cannot, not the way Trevor can,” said Lori. “This is what he does. We are simply fighters. He is as a detective who avoids fighting. He will think our way out of this and if not he can fight it out.”
“He needs her to protect him,” said Martin. “Look at him, he is broken already. A man that does not fight is not a man.”
Monika was in Martin’s face before any of us blinked. “He took down Marcos Li in a matter of seconds, could have killed him. He had a pistol shoved down the throat of Stratford. What have you done?”
“Not be trapped in a car,” said Martin. His eyes betrayed his regret at the words before his lips closed over the last syllable. It was as I thought. Monika was the trapped friend who had watched as her sister had been decapitated.
“Well, either Carl Stratford was lying or he really doesn’t know where his son is. Either way it’s time to get started,” I said. I stretched slightly to disguise the need to get rid of the numbness in my butt from sitting on the steps so long.
“Where to start?” Lori asked.
I smiled. “Miles is a child of this generation. Kid can’t go without a cell phone and I imagine he has a high priced one. I’m going to see if I can track it down.”
They all looked at me with blank looks. “What?” I asked.
Monika shook her head. “That is the simplest thing I have ever heard of. Why we did not think of it is beyond me.”
Lori smiled. “Because we were not thinking like a detective. Why do you think I sent you to him?”
“Because you still think he’s cute,” said Monika.
Martin stood taller. “She’s a married woman, little one. Be mindful.”
It was my turn for a facial reaction.
Lori frowned slightly and turned away.
The memories of the pressure from the greeting burned away.
Rose & Ghun in Simply Murder-Episode Six: Say What?
The house was a long rambling one story structure set up on stilts. Like I said we had passed through almost swampy marsh type land before, well we were even deeper now. Moss hung from the trees surrounding the house in a veil that hid it from day and night.
It had been a long time since I had been here, been welcomed here. “You sure they know I’m coming?” I asked.
“What do you think?” Monika asked as she nodded to the railing above. We stood and stared up at the line of people. It wasn’t the happiest gathering I had ever seen. I recognized a lot of faces…with the same unhappy looks I had last seen years ago.
“I’m not dead, so I guess that’s a yes.”
Monika moved first and headed toward the wide stairs leading up to the house. I followed close behind. I didn’t want any space between us in case a family member got jumpy. They would have to hit her if they went after me.
“Walking might close to her, boy,” said a deep voice. I looked around but the voice could have come from anyone.
Most of the people seemed to be glancing toward an older man, a big man. I would say ugly man but I don’t want to be mean. Okay, he was ugly too. But I don’t mean that in a bad way. “She’s been my protector the past 12 hours or so and been doing a good job. I see no reason to interfere with her record,” I said. I voiced it to the crowd as I looked at everyone.
I had guessed right. The big man slowly nodded. “Smarter than you look then,” he rumbled. “Looks like she didn’t do too good a job with that face.” I touched my left eye and lip. “No, I mean the other side.”
My mouth dropped a little and the crowd laughed. I smiled with relief. But I wasn’t going to let my guard down yet. Monika had stayed close to me and she wasn’t relaxed at all. “No sir, she was a bit late for that one.”
“Trevor, are you going to give me a hug or stand there like an idiot?” I looked in the direction of the question. There was Lori looking as young as ever. I climbed the step two at a time and she met me near the top. The hug was sincere and long. The feel was familiar and wanting. And the fingers pressed with more than a welcome.
“Get off of her!” The voice was closer than I would have thought. I was thrown back against the rail and toppled over. I twisted in the air and landed lightly on my feet as my knees bent slightly to adjust for the impact.
“Martin, no!” The shout from Lori was a bit too late as a figure flew down toward me. He didn’t make it.
A much smaller figure blurred across and slammed into the man, knocking him clear of me. Monika landed and crouched down between the two of us. “I’m his protector. Didn’t you hear the man?”
Martin stood up. He was the biggest man I had ever seen, while I was standing up and not bleeding. “He’s not welcomed here. Then he touches my sister.”
“She sent me for him,” said Monika.
“And I told him to touch me,” said Lori. “And I touched him back.” She landed beside Monika.
Martin stared through clenched eyes toward me. “You letting women fight for you?”
“Dang right,” I said. “I would rather women fight for me than men.”
There was silence for several moments. I heard mosquitoes, frogs, and maybe an alligator. Then I heard salvation. A slightly muffled giggle came from above. Then others joined in. Martin’s face began to twitch. Then his lips spread into a toothy smile that gleamed in the shadows of the mossy trees. He nodded his head. “Okay, I agree,” he said as he moved forward.
I relaxed slightly as he passed by me. “But no touching my sister,” he said and jabbed me with a finger.
“I don’t go where not invited. I’ll just say that,” I said.
He glared at me and then slowly began walking up the stairs. I looked at Monika and Lori. Monika was watching Martin and Lori was watching me. “Same sense of humor and bravado,” she said. “But you’ve picked up some moves.”
“Move or die,” I said.
“He would have lost,” she said.
“If I lasted long enough.”
“You would have. You’ve always been a fighter, in will if not in ways,” she said.
“Big enough hit and my will would have no say.”
She looked at me and concern spread through her eyes. “You’ve survived all these years, barely. If he even grazed your skin he would have burned.”
“You don’t,” I said.
She smiled. “We shared a moment before it all changed.”
I looked at her and the feelings swirled and the turmoil began again that I had fought for so many years. “Why did you send her to me?” I asked and looked away.
She could tell the pain I was in. I could hear it in her voice as she spoke. “A war has started. Our clan against another. Not of our doing but we have to fight. We need you to help stop it.”
“You saying help you I’m your only hope?” I asked as I channeled one of my favorite movies.
She slowly nodded. “Yes, that’s what I’m saying.”
I looked away and Monika caught my eye. There was a touch of pleading there. I sat down on the steps of the house and hung my head in my hands. “What demons do I have to fight?” I asked.
“It’s not which ones you have to worry about,” said Lori.
Monika simply nodded. Her focus was on the rutted dirt road with three foot ditches on either side. One wrong weave and we were stuck. If we met a wide car we were done for. My nerves were showing. “Are you sure it’s okay for me to come out here? Things are a bit different than last time.”
“I was sent to you for help, so I imagine you should be welcomed,” she said.
“You know how to make a man feel at ease, don’t you?” I said.
A closed lipped smile crossed her face. Even from the side I could see that mind reading expression come to her eyes. She somehow dug deeper down into my meanings than I even knew were there. Monika wasn’t a model beauty, but she was an exotic mix of whatever she was and it fit together to make for a pleasant work of art.
I keep mentioning her looks because at this point she hadn’t said much. I knew there was intelligence there, and humor, but she had kept herself close so far. Lori Jackson was an African American woman I had grown up with, but I had no idea what Ghun came from. My best guess from Monika’s features was the Far East somewhere.
“Well, I was told I wasn’t welcomed after things changed,” I said staring ahead.
I could see her glance at me out of the corner of my eye. “Things change, Rose. People change and situations change. Needs change.”
“So I’m needed so now I am accepted?” I asked.
“Don’t question it, just take advantage of it,” she said. Like I said, intelligent.
“If you….” The tree fell right in front of us. Monika didn’t have time to come to a complete stop and we tapped the tree turned log hard.
Monika was out and on the hood of the Jeep before I was even able to lift my head up. Her stance said this wasn’t an accident. I opened the door and stood beside the Jeep with both guns out. I was going to at least look helpful.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Rose, you don’t want to do this,” said a voice from nowhere.
“Well I can’t exactly go anywhere,” I said. I had an auto reply set in my mind. Sometimes I couldn’t control it.
Something big came up and over the log at Monika. She fell flat onto the hood and the body slammed into the windshield. It was a large man, way large. I spun as I heard crackling behind me. Both barrels came up and settled on another form, tall and thin this time. Why couldn’t I get the big ones to shoot? I could hit a big one.
“Now, now, Mr. Rose, let’s not do that,” said the stick. “We just don’t want you getting involved in anything that’s not your business.”
“I stubbed my toe when we hit the tree. It’s my business now.” I hated my mind setting.
“Your corpse,” he said. He was fast but Monika was faster. She landed on his head. And I literally mean his head. She drove it down into the dirt and there was a sick sound that I didn’t want an explanation of.
“More are out there, we have to go,” she said. She slid through my side of the Jeep and I followed.
It was only seconds and we were speeding back the way we came. I saw Monika searching the side of the road. “Looking for something?”
“Side road, barely, but it can get us home,” she said. The wheel jerked suddenly and I fell against her, but it didn’t bother her steering. She was hard as a rock. Soft looking but all muscle. We bounced through the woods which were really almost swamp. Monika didn’t bother looking behind, she stayed focused on ahead.
She should have been looking to the side as well. “Whoa!” I couldn’t help but yell as the arm reached through the window. There had been a thump as if something had fallen on us.
“Shoot him,” she said calmly.
“But I might kill him,” I yelled.
“You or him,” she said and kept steering.
I grasped for a solution. My fingers found the window button and the glass began to rise. The face on the other side was not ugly but it was mean and it almost laughed at the thought of a window stopping him. But that was all the distraction I needed. I slammed the gun in my hand through the glass at the face. He reacted the way I had hoped. He flinched.
Then he fell.
“Should have killed him,” she said.
“He’ll just keep coming.”
“You know a lot for someone who doesn’t do anything with it,” she said.
“I know.” I was silent as she drove. No matter what he was I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t kill. It just wasn’t in me. I couldn’t pull the trigger to wound him in case I accidently hit him wrong. I may have failed the Bible but I wasn’t going to fail God.