Rosebud Murders


by
BmblBee



Part Six

Faith sprinted down the two flights of steps to the main floor of the Justice Building. She preferred it to taking the elevator in a desperate attempt to prevent her ass from falling any further under the increasing pull of gravity.

Breezing over to the receptionist desk, she slapped her hand down on the counter and smiled. "Morning, Tim. Hey you know where officer Masters is this morning? I need a driver and a back up for some field work."

Officer Tim Taylor gave her his best look of disdain and reached for his log. It galled him to no end that because of one lucky assignment this bitch was getting all the perks, the glory, and the easy extra pay of a detective while he was stuck here, in uniform, a twelve year veteran, doing dispatch.

Dispatch, in his mind, was woman's work. Just like washing the dishes, scrubbing the floors, sucking dicks. Taylor glanced up briefly at Faiths's lips and wondered who she was performing "woman's work" on. Reaching down, he adjusted himself, all the time watching to gauge her reaction.

She gave him none. Faith was a hell of a poker player.

Flipping over the top page of his clip board, Taylor found what he already knew. "Here. Officer Kennedy Masters worked till midnight last night but she was due to double back in and work the 9 - 5 shift this morning. It's...."
Taylor turned to check the large round clock on the wall behind him. "8:50. If you hurry you can probably catch her in the locker room before she takes her cruiser out on the road."

"Thanks Tim. Oh, by the way, you're doing a hell of a job here. You were born to be a dispatch, Tim. Keep up the good work."

Tim Taylor's face turned red as he seethed at the perceived insult. He watched her walk away and despite his hatred, or maybe because of it, stared at the sway of her ass in the tight black dress pants as she disappeared through the locker room doorway.

'Bitch!'

Faith flipped the handle and passed through the double doors. As progressive as the County Sheriff's was, this was the smaller of the district station houses and employed very few female officers. Because of that the women's locker room was only added in recent years. A converted interview area it contained fewer lockers, no windows, and only two shower heads in the wash up area.

Still, with less than three police women on shift at any given time, it was more than enough. Faith herself had often used it to clean up during the long hours working a case.

"Officer Masters? You in here?"

Faith stepped in and let the heavy doors swing closed behind her. She was almost afraid she had been too late and missed her when she heard the voice call out from the back lockers.

"Back here."

Faith peeked around and found Officer Masters standing by her locker. She was dropping her damp towel to the floor and just starting to pull on her black lace panties.

Slowly, smiling wickedly, Faith slithered up to her and slammed the locker door shut. Leaning down she began kissing the side of Kennedy's neck. A task made easier by the young officer moaning and tipping her head to the side.

"We alone in here?" Faith whispered as her hands slid around Kennedy's back and she pulled her flush against Faith's body, wrinkling her dark professional looking suit.

Kennedy chuckled. "A little late to ask now isn't it? Yes, detective, we are alone. Are you here to interrogate me?"

Faith groaned. Bad cop and innocent juvenile offender was one of their favorite games. Kennedy popped the tiny silver hook at the top of Faith's trousers and slid her hand down inside the red thong Kennedy had given her.

Slipping her fingers into the dripping pussy, Kennedy used the juice as lubrication and began briskly rubbing and fingering the swollen nub.

Faith's breathing became shallow, quick and erratic as she humped and pressed into the slim fingers. Kennedy rocked her smaller body and whined in a high, quiet voice.

"Please, detective. I have permission to be out of school today. Please don't tell my mother I skipped study hall. Maybe I could go home with you. You can help me with my studies. I have lots of homework inmy sex ed class. Can you teach me about sex?"

"Oh hell. Oh Fuck!"

Faith spread her legs a bit further and jerked as her pussy flooded Kennedy's hand with warm sticky juices. Quickly jamming her fingers back in Faith's hole she reveled in the feel of the hot wet pussy convulsing in satisfaction.

When the contractions slowed and finally stopped Faith jerked Kennedy's hand from her pants, roughly pulled down the black lace panties and pushed the young officer against the row of metal lockers.

Faith then dropped to her knees and allowed her tongue to repay the favor. Licking and stabbing with the tip of her tongue, Faith had her shaking and squirting in record time, nearly collapsing on wobbly knees.

Dropping, Kennedy sat down on the wooden bench and rubbed the palm of her hand over her still twitching clit.

"Damn Faith! Makes me wish I smoked."

Faith was running a comb through her hair, tucking in her blouse and doing her best to make herself presentable.

"You are smokin', Baby."

Kennedy struggled to her feet and resumed dressing, laughing at the corny response. She extracted her uniform and after climbing into it began buckling on her heavy gun belt. She added the cuffs case, the club strap, and the mace holder. Finally satisfied nothing was forgotten she turned back to her lover.

"Were you looking for me for some particular reason or just a quick happy, not that I'm complaining."

Faith was surprised. She had actually forgotten why she came in. "No, smart ass, I didn't come here for that, but thank's anyway it was great. Actually I came here to have you drive me back to the brownstone from last night. We need to interview the neighbors and have a look around in the daylight. It was my partner's idea that I take you."

Kennedy looked surprised. She knew well who Spike was but she didn't know he knew who she was.

"William Pratt? Why me?"

Faith laughed and after watching Kennedy secure her civies in her locker, led her back out to the lobby.

"Spike. He prefers to be called Spike. He saw me talking to you last night at the scene and I think he might be a bit hot for you."

Kennedy wrinkled up her nose in distaste. "EEEWWW. I hope you discouraged him."

Faith winked. "I told him you were married. I didn't mention the fact that you and the obnoxious Mr. Masters were separated. It seemed to do the trick."

Tim Taylor watched the two women walk out together, laughing and chatting easily. He scowled at the happy flushed look of them. It almost looked as though..........no couldn't be. He wondered, though, how much trouble he could cause with a little gossip whispered in the right ear.





Part Seven

Spike had dangled the strange young man's business card over the trash can but just couldn't make his fingers release. Finally, and with no reasonable explanation, he tucked it into the inside pocket of his suit coat. His reasons for keeping it were something he didn't want to examine too closely right now.

The boy's, Xander's, comment had shocked and scared him. How could he have known. Was he showing some gay sign. Giving off a gay vibe? He was sure he wasn't. No, after giving it some thought, Spike came to the conclusion that the boy was just guessing, besides, he hadn't said specifically what Spike's secret was.

Hell, everybody had a secret, didn't they? Something they kept hidden even from the people closest to them.

Spike decided the boy was fishing. Trying to plant a seed of question in Spike's mind and convince him of his psychic
abilities. No, it wasn't something Spike wanted to deal with right now.

He had other pressing problems on his mind. Other fish that were deftly avoiding being fried.

Crossing the duty room, Spike casually noted that none of the line officers who had joked with his partner had so much as a smile for him. He wondered briefly what they thought of him.

He had often regretted the loneliness of isolating himself from the comradery of the brotherhood, but knew it was the only way. The only way to maintain everything he had in life.

Slouching against the back wall of the elevator, Spike punched the button marked "B" and rode down to the basement. The lowest level of the building. The level containing the evidence rooms, the storage cabinets, and if you went far enough back, the morgue.

When the elevator stopped, Spike headed out, straight down the dim hallway, past the floor to ceiling shelves stacked with cardboard boxes marked with names, dates and felony categorizations.

Most cases solved and the evidence kept for a designated period of time then shipped to holding to be destroyed. Some of the boxes contained items to cases long forgotten. Victim and offender both nameless, faceless, unresolved.
A sad reality that thirty-two percent of the homicides in this country go unsolved.

He zipped around three more corners, followed the green arrows painted on the walls and arrived at the hallway's dead end, pun intended, to the solid double doors at the end of the corridor.

The signs on the doors read "Biohazard area" "Authorized Personnel Only" "NO SMOKING" and "Do Not Enter Without Protective Attire"

They were all signs meant to discourage entrance. They were all signs that were basically unnecessary as very few of the employees on duty directly overhead had ever been in this part of the building and had no desire to be.

Spike on the other hand had spent way too much time down here. Especially since his transfer to Homicide. He felt it was important to understanding and solving the case to be close to the victim. Since he didn't have that opportunity in life, he took the time to do it in death.

It also had proven invaluable in the preservation of the chain of evidence. He had never had one item compromised by the transfer through too many hands. It had made the difference in the conviction of more than one offender.

Snatching a white coat off a nearby hanger and grabbing a paper face mask off the shelf, Spike slapped his hand against the solid door and stepped in to the brightly lit room. The smell, as always, was overpowering. A sickly combination of antiseptic decomposition, chemical prep and..........pop corn?

Spike held the paper mask to his face in an attempt to continue breathing without gagging. "Doc? Doctor Ahn?"

"Yes, detective Spike. I am here at my desk."

Spike skirted around the two sheet covered figures lying on tables in the middle of the room and headed toward the short, dark skinned, Pakistani doctor who spoke in the halting, choppy, accented voice.

Sitting at his desk munching on a bag of microwave popcorn, the Coroner waved the bag in Spike's direction, offering to share.

Spike politely declined.

"I have been expecting you detective. I know I did not send you good news this morning. Of course none of the tissue and samples have been analyzed yet but I can tell you that the heart, lungs, and brain all appeared normal. She was a healthy young woman. I am certain that the final analysis will prove my preliminary finding of death by strangulation to be accurate. That's not really why you are here though is it?"

Spike shook his head and waited. "No sir."

The doctor then reached down and unlocked the top drawer of his desk and pulled out a clear plastic evidence baggy with a card attached. On the card he signed his name, title, time and date, and who he was releasing the evidence to.

In return, Spike signed the opposite side. The column marked "received." He timed, dated, and noted that he received the item from the ME. The chain of evidence was solid.

Spike held the baggy up to the light. It contained one pink rose bud, still alive but slightly wilted. He knew because he had a collection of three others locked in the safe in the evidence room.

They were all identical. At least they had been when collected. Since then, after detecting nothing that would lead them to their origins, they had, in turn, been chemically preserved, dried, and sealed.

He had been assured there was nothing to differentiate them from any other roses sold at the hundreds of street vendors and florist's shops around the city.

They contained no identifiable DNA other than the victims. That, to  Spike, was what made it most disturbing. The fact that the perpetrator had undressed the victim, inserted the flower, obviously wearing rubber gloves, then dressed her again without committing any type of sexual assault. Unless you consider "fucked by flora and fauna" a sexual assault.

Spike shook his head, his thoughts scrambling for reason.  'This was not a thug. This was someone whose motivation was in how the victim was found. A common rapist wanted power. Getting off was secondary. Ejaculation was not the ultimate goal, the conquest was. But this guy...'

Spike scratched his head. "Thanks Doc. You'll be sure and send me the final report when it's done won't you? Oh, and call me if you find anything out of the ordinary."

Doctor Ahn nodded and returned to his snack. "Your body is the one nearest the door if you want to take a look."

Spike nodded and started for the door, pausing by the silver metal slab. Tossing back the sheet, he looked into the peaceful face of the dead woman. If it hadn't been for the ugly bruises around her throat and the huge incision that ran from her neck to her pubic bone, he might have thought she was sleeping. Tired from a night out with friends. Happy, exhausted.

"I'll do my best for you. I promise," he whispered. Spike threw the sheet back over her face and with the paper mask still in his hand, walked out the door.





Part Eight

With the rose clutched safely in his hand, Spike jumped back in the elevator and headed for the third floor. He knew the forensics expert would already be in the lab and he hoped to sign this over to her before any of her lackeys arrived for the day.

Fred was the best. Spike knew if anyone could find something it would be her. That, and the fact that he trusted her silence implicitly. He knew there was more than one case he wouldn't have cracked without her.

Sailing through the steel door marked "No Admittance," Spike paused to look around the bright, spotlessly clean laboratory till he spotted the small, frail looking young woman with the soft southern accent. She smiled and waved when she saw him.

"Hey there. Mornin' Darlin' How ya'll this morning? I'm sorry to say I've been expectin' you."

"Hey, Fred. Yeah, bad news travels through the building fast. I don't think the press has gotten wind of the connection between this one and the other three, but it's only a matter of time. Then look out. Serial Killer will be plastered all over the headlines and if we don't come up with something soon, well, it won't be pretty."

Fred's smile and easy manner shifted slightly to concern. "Yeah, I know. They can be brutal. You got another contribution to our rare floral collection?"

Spike nodded and pulled the sealed package from his pocket. In turn they each signed the document and the chain of evidence was completed.

Fred laid the clear baggie reverently on the counter and reached for a pair of latex gloves, snapping them in place. "I'll do my best for ya, but I don't really have much hope. Whoever your culprit is Spike, he's smart. Knows what to do to avoid detection. Seems to know what we look for and avoids leaving any trace evidence. I'll give it my best shot, but, ya know, I feel like I'm letting you down."

Spike frowned and cocked his head to the side slightly, surprised that she would take the failure so personally.

"No. Hell, no. I know if anyone can find something, it's you. Shit, Fred, you're the best. If there's anything here I know you'll find it. Don't worry, we'll catch this bastard. He'll slip up, they always do."

Spike put his arm around the small woman and patted her shoulder.

"I hope you're right, Hun. I just feel so bad for these girls. They deserved better in life. They deserved life."

Spike gave her shoulder a brotherly squeeze. Fred had told him once, confidentially, that this was the reason she got in to this line of work. The science of justice. She wanted to make a difference in peoples lives and this was the way she could.

"Well I hope you find something this time cause right now we're getting nowhere fast."

Spike and Fred both jumped and quickly separated at the sound of the voice coming from the door way. Faith slightly shook her head and continued on till she stood next to her partner.

"If you're all done here Spike, we've been summoned to the high office. Chief Inspector Giles has called for us and I
don't think knighthood is waiting."

Spike gave Fred one last smile and a quick wink before heading for the door. Faith was already waiting by the elevator, her hands on her hips and a pissed off look on her face. "Jesus Spike. First, Officer Masters and now the fuckin' lab girl? Can you at least keep it zipped in your pants till this case is over?"

Allowing the stress, lack of sleep, and the unfairness of the accusation to overwhelm him, Spike snapped back. "Shut the fuck up. You don't know a Goddamn thing. Who the fuck do you think you are? Fred is a forensic scientist and deserves a lot more respect than "lab girl" and if you're accusing me of not doing my job and thinking with my dick, then fuck you!"

On that final declaration, the elevator door swung open and the angry partners stepped in. Like fighters in a ring, each went to their respective corners turning their backs on the other.

Faith's rigid back and straight shoulders were the first to slump, her voice quiet and remorseful. "I'm sorry, Spike. I was out of line. I know you're giving this case one hundred percent and I had no right to say that, about either of you.
I guess the frustration just got the best of me."

Spike relaxed, ashamed of his outburst, and turned around to face her. "No problem, Pet. We're both stressed out. We just can't afford to let this divide us. Oh, and for the record, I'm not chasing the lovely Miss Fred. She's just a friend."

Faith ran her hand down Spike's arm affectionately. "None of my business anyway, but maybe you should. She
seems nice and what the hell, a bit of the tequila might relax you some."

"Tequila?"

Faith laughed as she stepped out on the second floor. "Yeah, think about it. You drink it, suck it, and lick it
and it always leaves a bitter bite on your tongue."

Spike let out a whooping laugh and followed her into the lion's den.

"Well, I'm glad to see you two so happy. That must mean you have cracked this case and I won't have the mayor, the press, and the County Commissioners on my back anymore."

Spike and Faith both obeyed their boss's gesture and after closing the office door, had a seat, a hot seat.

"Sorry Giles, just a bit 'o the tension break. It looks like the other three. No forced entry, no rape or robbery, just the positioning and the damn rose. We're going today to speak to the families and neighbors, return to some of the crime scenes and review the evidence. Faith took a uniform already and went to the brownstone. Interviewed the boyfriend. I haven't talked to her yet. Did you get anywhere?"

Spike turned hopefully to his partner. He already knew the answer. If she had found anything she would have shouted it from the rooftop and thrown a balloon party in the station house lunch room.

Faith flipped open her black notepad, buying time, and scanned  what little she had. "The neighbor next door heard a loud thump around 11:30 which would fit with the time of death, but he didn't hear any voices. No shouts, no arguments. His door is positioned so that he would not have seen anyone come or go. The resident in the apartment catty cornered was not home. He works midnights at the rubber plant. The apartment resident directly across from the victim is an old man. Eighty-one, name of Homer Harvey. Hard of hearing but mentally sharp as a tack. He swears the only ones at her door were the cops and her boyfriend at 1am. Says he sees everything and no one else came or went."

"Fuck! How the fuck is that possible?" Spike stared at his partner hoping she had forgotten something. Just one fact. One simple thing that would make sense of all this.

She had nothing.

Giles shook his head.  "Get back out there. Find something and do it fast. If this bastard stays true to his pattern we have thirty days to catch him before he kills another one. I can't let that happen. If you two don't come up with a break this week, Detective O'Connor has expressed interest in taking over. Maybe a new perspective is what we need."

Spike was stunned. "Angel? Angel wants to take the case from us?"

Faith grabbed Spike's arm and dragged him away. She knew his temper was already close to the surface and she didn't want him fired because of it. Once out in the hallway she stuck her finger up to his nose and checked him before he could explode.

"Don't! Just don't. You know what an ass O'Connor is. What we need to do is break this case anyway we can and snatch it back from his slimy grip. Now I'm going to go type up my morning reports. You do whatever you need to do and I'll meet you down at Mabel's for lunch at twelve. Come on, Spike, don't give up. All we need is that one little pebble that leads to the landslide."

Spike shook his head. 'Angel. Fuckin' Angel. Apparently not satisfied to fuck me in bed, now he wanted to do it on the job.' Well, he decided, this was a scenario that required drastic measures.

Spike reached for the card in his pocket and pulled out his phone.





Part Nine

Finally taking the time to look at the card that the strange young man had given him, Spike smiled when he read it. It contained the boy's name, Alexander Harris, and his place of employment, Divine Creations Wood Work. Hand Made Furniture. It also listed an address and phone number of a small warehouse down in the factory district.

The thing that caused the grin, however, was what was written across the top of the business card.

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE

Although far from a sci-fi fanatic, even Spike got the X-Files reference. "Oh, great. The kid's a jokester. Well what the fuck did I expect?"

Turning the card over, Spike looked at the name and number that Xander had listed as reference. There was no part of this that Spike believed. He was a man of facts. Clues and tangible evidence. Things he could touch, analyze and put his finger on.

Things that could be presented and proven in a court of law, still, frustration and desperation were dangerous bedfellows, for men on both sides of the fence, and right now Spike's frustration was leading him to do something he would never admit. Not even under the threat of torture.

Spike dialed the number.

"Midvale Police Department. Chief Traynor speaking. How can I help you?"

Spike frowned. What the hell kind of department was it that the Chief answered his own phone?

"Yes, Chief Traynor? My name is detective William Pratt of the Stark County Sheriff's Office in California. Have you got a few minutes?"

The voice on the other end was pleasant and relaxed and, for some reason, put Spike at ease immediately. There was none of the curtness or professional rudness that seemed to be taught and perfected in the depatrments here on the west coast.

"Sure thing Officer Pratt. Callin' clear from California huh? Well what can a small town cop from Ohio do for you?"

Spike fussed with the neck tie that hung down the front of his shirt and figured, 'What the fuck'. He was in it this far, he might as well go the last mile.

"Actually, Chief, I was given your name as a reference. I'm kind of embarrassed to even discuss this, but what the hell.
I'm working a really difficult case out here. A homicide, and to be honest I'm coming up empty handed. A young man came to me right out of the blue and he said he could help me. Gave me some song and dance about being a ghost hunter or some shit. Anyway he gave me your name and number, said you could speak for him. Boy's name was Alexander Harris?"

Spike heard the warm chuckle and felt the fatherly comfort even across the more than two thousand miles that separated them.

"I know what you're thinking detective, but he's the real deal. Two years ago I wouldn't have believed it either, but let me tell you what happened and you can decide for yourself."

Spike got comfortable in his chair and decided, that he could do. "Sounds fair, Chief."

"Good, well, actually I've had two encounters with Xander. First one came about two years ago. Little girl out here came up missing. Three years old, by the name of Gracie. Gracie's mother called all frantic like. Said the little girl had been out playing in the back yard and wandered off into the woods. Probably after a squirrel or some such. Well
I'll tell you, we searched for hours. Officers, volunteers, fire dept. Nothin'. No sign of her anywhere. By that night we had to sedate her mother and restrain her daddy. By the second night we were starting to think the worst. Then out of the blue this young man calls. He asks if we got a missing child. He says he can help and describes the area where
she is. The rock side, the elm trees, the creek. I knew it immediately and when we went there, bingo. She was cold, hungry, scared and a bit dehydrated but alive. Course we checked out Xander's alibi. Employer just laughed and said Xander had been at work in California the whole time. He wasn't surprised though, I got the feeling I wasn't the first cop to call and check on him."

Spike wasn't sure how to process this information. It just wasn't a piece that fit into his puzzle maker. Still, he was intrigued.

"And the second time?"

All humor dropped from the Chief's voice as his story continued. "Second time, I called him. Jim Sliman, a good buddy of mine got himself shot and killed in a hunting accident, least that's what we thought. It appeared he had tripped, fallen on his own shotgun. But, ya know, somethin' just didn't feel right about it. I called Xander and damn if the boy didn't come here. Flew all the way here to Ohio to help us out. Well, when I took him to the spot in the woods he damn near fell over. Went all weak kneed and had to sit down. Said he could read Jim's final emotions. Said it was shock, sadness and betrayal. Said he wasn't alone at the last and we should look to a male relative. Only male relative he had was his younger brother. When we brought him in for questioning we put on a little pressure and he cracked straight away. Turns out he was fuckin' the missus. Also had a bit of a coke habit and the insurance money was earmarked to go up his nose. Said he had snuck out there, grabbed up the gun when Jim laid it down, shot him and slipped away. I'm tellin' ya, without Xander he would'a got clean away with it."

Spike's only response was silence. He didn't know what to say. He had a million questions, but none of them seemed logical and he wasn't sure where to start.

"Detective Pratt? You still there? I know how all this sounds, but as a police officer you know yourself that tips and leads come in the most unexpected ways. Don't pass by a penny on the street just cause it's laying tails up."

Surprisingly, Spike got the point of the homespun advice and had to admit it was valid.

"Yeah, you're right. Well, thanks Chief, you've certainly given me a lot to think about. Just one question Chief? Do you always answer your own phone?"

The easy chuckle was back and Chief Traynor answered. "Nay, usually Peggy does it but I gave her some time off to go get her nails done. This is a village of 2200 people, Detective. Me and two patrolmen do our best to keep crime under control and considering a barking dog or a loud party are usually the biggest things to happen,  it works out just fine. Now, take and old man's advice. Call Xander. You won't be sorry."

"Yeah, thanks Chief, I might just do that. Thanks for your time and keep those damn dogs quiet."

The Chief let out a laughing whoop and hung up the phone. Spike hung up his end, sat quietly for a bit then picked it up and with the card in one hand and the phone in the other, began dialing.





Part Ten

Spike had thought briefly about calling the Harris boy, but quickly dismissed it. No, he needed to look him in the eye. Search for the tell that everyone has when they lie. A twitch of the cheek, a quick darting to the eyes, a pause, a stammer, some movements so subtle to be almost imperceptible to someone not trained to seek them out.

It was what made Spike such a successful interrogator. He watched and waited. Started with the simple questions, ones that would encourage the white, unimportant lies. Sometimes it came quickly, sometimes it took forever.

Once or twice he began to doubt, but not for long because just as he was about to think he had found the perfect poker
face, it would happen.

That tiny quirk. The one individual weakness that signaled a red flag on lies. When that happened, Spike swooped in for the kill.  The questions rained down over the perp like fire and brimstone as Spike weeded through the answers, sorting the truth from lie.

In the end, Spike always got what he wanted. If not a full confession, at least all the facts and information he needed to lock the case up tighter than beefy top's asshole.

Which was why, at the last minute, he dialed a different number.

"St. John."

"Hey, Faith, it's me. I need to take a pass on lunch today. There's someone I hafta to go see. I'll give you a call later when I get back."

Faith's voice dropped low as she cupped her hand over the receiver hoping to avoid any eavesdroppers outside her small office. "Oh my God! Do you have a lead? Please tell me you have a lead. Is it a lead? Is it?"

Spike sighed. "Thanks, Pet. Knew I could count on you not to put on the pressure, yeah? No, it's not a lead. Not really, just an idea. A suggestion someone made. Probably won't nothing come of it. I'll call you later and we'll talk, 'k?"

Faith was just as glad. She knew Kennedy had a meeting with her husband to discuss the divorce and she wanted to stay free, just in case. The jerk had an ugly way about him and even though Kennedy had told her several times that she could take care of herself, Faith just wanted to be there, sitting in the back of the coffee shop they had planned to meet in. Just to be sure. Just to watch. Just because.

Spike pulled his suit jacket off the back of the chair and dropped his cell phone in the inside pocket. Even though he had the address of Divine Creations memorized he slipped the card in his pants and headed out.

The ride across town took about twenty minutes due to the traffic tieups and the morning mothers blocking the streets to drop off their school children. It was time that Spike took to consider what he was doing. It was enough time that he almost turned around at least three different intersections.

'This is fuckin' ridiculous. What the fuck am I doing? Hell, next thing you know I'll be standing on a cliff somewhere with a tin foil hat, wavin' a flashlight and waitin' on ET to take me home.'

Reaching the edge of town, Spike watched the residential area slip away into rundown rentals and finally industrial. He knew another two miles and the road would dead end at the shore.  The wharf.

Bustling with the activity of fishing boats, pleasure craft and upscale restaurants catering to the towns better citizens.
Spike had eaten there a time or two, but it didn't suit him. It was simply too painful to part with $50.00 for a small serving of something he didn't recognize, only to go home hungry and fix himself a peanut butter sandwich.

Pulling onto an alley off the main stretch, Spike followed a row of matching brick buildings. Each had a sign out front announcing their occupancy. As mostly wholesale businesses they were not designed to lure in customers, simply announce a location.

Third one in. Divine Creations Furniture. Spike whipped the Corvette into a small parking lot, taking the last empty space, and shut her off.

He sat there behind the wheel and shook his head. 'What the hell am I doing. I should be out there looking for real clues. Basic police work, that's what's going to solve this case.' He sighed and snorted. 'That's the thorn innit? No real clues to be had. Well, fuck, long as nobody finds out, what the hell.'

Before he could swing his pendulum of doubt to the other side again, Spike jumped out of the car and headed for the front door.

Stepping inside, he noticed the small dingy reception area was dark, dusty and seemly abandoned. The counter, straight back chairs and the four or five outdated magazines were all covered in a fine layer of saw dust.

Spike breathed in deeply. The wonderful smell of fresh cut wood and heavy polishing oils filled his nose and he wondered if that was the divine part.

Locating a small bell on the dusty counter, Spike had his hand perched to slam down when he was startled by a short, round, older man wiping his hands on a stained rag.

"No need. I'm here. Got a silent bell in the back that rings when the door opens. I'm Patrick. Welcome to Divine Creations, how can I help you? New bedroom set for the missus? Hand carved desk for the den?"

Spike cut him off with a flash of his badge and a smirk on his lips. Patrick's shoulders lifted then slumped as a resigned puff of air left his lungs. "Figures. What do you need?"

"I need to speak to one of your employees. Alexander Harris? Official business."

Patrick lifted the flap on the corner of the counter and gestured for Spike to pass through and follow him on into the work area of the shop.

Spike was surprised to see the building was much larger than it appeared. Several men worked quietly at their respective stations sanding, carving, oiling, and nailing their individual projects. A radio played softly somewhere. The atmosphere was quiet, calm, serene.

The last sectioned off area was the largest. As they approached, Spike recognized the top of the dark brown hair that bent over, his arm working rhymically as he sanded what appeared to be a bed headboard.

"Xander, my boy. There's a policeman here wants to speak to you."

At the sound of the old man's voice, Xander stopped his work and looked up. The smile from earlier returned and Spike was struck by the clear, open honesty that sparkled in his eyes. 'Maybe it wasn't the fresh wood smell' he thought. 'Maybe this is the divine creation.'

Spike mentally shook himself and cloaked his attitude in the practiced professionalism of his position. "Can we talk, Alexander?"

Xander's face lit up even more and he dusted off the plastic seat of a small chair in the corner of his cubical.

"I would like that very much. Please, call me Xander."




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