“I apologize for that.  I thought I was a better actress. They’ve obviously noticed I’ve been on edge lately.” Her smile held reservation but she persisted.  “I’ve been going through some unusual problems lately. Admittedly I’ve been a little gun shy since the divorce, that and too busy to become involved with anyone.  The kids aren’t used to seeing me with men ‘strange’ or otherwise,” she quipped.

There was a look in her eye that suggested there was more.  “Glad we cleared that up.  I wouldn’t want to fight off a half dozen men for your attention.” Eilea laughed outright instantly feeling more relaxed. “What kind of difficulties?” he asked, intrigued, unsure what to expect.  Eilea sketched a quick picture for him.

“Have you talked to the local detachment about this?”

“Yes. They ran what fingerprints they could find but weren’t hopeful.  A few days before we left, Joe Morton dropped by and told me it was a dead end. They have the tapes from the answering machine too.  Obviously, solving the mystery and obtaining enough concrete evidence to convict this individual will take time and effort.  The Officer in Hardy suggested he’s smart enough to take precautions anyway.”

Paul whistled.  “Wow, and you haven’t told them what’s going on?”

“No.  I didn’t want to worry them needlessly.  I hoped, figured, it would stop.  Unfortunately, the situation has escalated.”

“In light of what you’ve said, I’m definitely taking you to the Sergeant to verify my identity. Hopefully, we can come up with a plan to help while you’re here,” adding, “we’d better get going or the kids will think I’ve kidnapped you.” He winked.  They hastened to the cashier’s desk then hurried outside.

As soon as the kids spotted them from the far exit, the race was on.  The whole rowdy bunch laughed uproariously as they sped toward the car, chanting victoriously, “You nearly made it, but we won.”

Paul and Eilea conceded graciously.

Turning to face Paul she asked, “Where is your car parked?”

“Actually, it’s a truck, and it’s parked by the other entrance.  It’ll take me a couple of minutes to retrieve it, then I’ll show you the way to the station.”

The teens hopped into the van.  She watched the teasing and laughter and when loud music blasted from the van she cringed. The music suddenly stopped and a window rolled down.  Cliff called out, “Hey, Eilea, didn’t think I’d ever see you fall for a guy.”

“Up your nose with a rubber hose!”  Eilea called back. Cliff threw himself around the back seat of the van, laughing uproariously at her jest.

Minutes later Paul pulled up behind them in a black GMC two door impressively decked out with all the bells and whistles.  He honked then motioned to them to follow.  “Ok, guys, here we go,” Eilea whispered aloud.

Minutes later they were at the police station and Eilea found herself walking alongside Paul into the building. The teens lagged behind chatting in the van.

“Sergeant, I’d like to introduce you to Eilea Martin.

“Ms. Martin.”

“He’s a felon!  The worst criminal you ever laid eyes on ’cause he steals hearts, and doesn’t even know it.”

The Sergeant looked at Paul, took the hint and added, “All kidding aside, Paul is a fine officer and a real gentleman.  That I can verify.”

Smiling, Eilea thanked him.

“Paul, would you come here a minute?”

“I’m officially on holiday, remember?”

“Yeah, yeah, I have something to ask you.  Come on, it won’t take a minute.”

Paul laughed before directing Eilea to the coffee machine which she immediately declined since it smelled strong and pungent. “No thanks, I’ll pass,” she grinningly replied as Paul followed the Sergeant out of the room.

Leading Paul out of ear-shot, The Sergeant said, “Paul, what’s going on?”

Paul filled him in on her circumstances. “Needless to say, she’s feeling a little edgy.”

“It sounds serious enough to warrant investigation and protection.”

“Besides the issues she’s facing, she’s a lovely woman and I want the opportunity to get to know her. As a result of what’s been happening,  I figured a little reassurance was in order. She’s not the kind of woman you just pick up.”

“How the mighty are fallen.”  Paul blinked at him and half grinned, half smirked.

“Eilea, her kids, and their friends are on holiday.  She hasn’t enlightened them regarding the trouble at home, so keep it down in case they show up.”

Page 20                                                                                      Page 18


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