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Mystery and Crime
Evil in Paradise - Part 4
by Begin Again
| Category: || Mystery and Crime Fiction |
Posted:|| June 19, 2010 Views: 296|
"Excuse me, miss."
Deep in thought, Carrie didn't hear the man approach her table. His voice startled her and her head snapped around toward him. She visibly cringed as she took in the uniform clad man addressing her.
"Sorry, didn't mean to frighten you."
Carrie took a deep breath and let it out. Her eyes remained locked on the caramel colored ones staring back at her. Finally, she felt composed enough to speak. "No problem, I guess I'm just a little on edge with everything that's been happening around here."
"Yeah, I saw you talking to Agent Stafford. Not meaning to stick my nose in your business ma'am, but Joy was a friend of mine. I just wondered if there was any news."
"You're a friend of Joy's?" Carrie was skeptical.
"She's been studying this here area for nigh on a year now. I helped her out now and then."
"Really? You don't strike me as someone interested in plants and bugs." She couldn't really decide why she'd come to that conclusion after the words tumbled out of her mouth. It wasn't like her to make snap decisions about other people, but for some reason, he made her nervous.
"Oh no, ma'am. I wouldn't know one plant from another. I just like to tinker around with fixing things and whenever any of her equipment broke, she'd ask me to take a look."
"That's nice." Carrie pushed her chair away from the table and stood up. "Please excuse me, but I really must be going. My friends will be worried." She wasn't sure they had even returned from showing the FBI the stream, but she needed an excuse to end this conversation.
He stepped backwards. "Sorry, ma'am. Didn't mean to hold you up. Like I said I was just wondering about Joy."
A wave of guilt washed over her. Maybe the man was a friend of Joy's and was as concerned as she was. She offered him a small smile. "Sorry, but as far as I know, they haven't any further information."
"That's too bad. I was hopin' they'd found something."
"Me, too." She stepped around the young man. "Hopefully, they'll find her soon."
"You have a nice day, ma'am."
"You do the same." Carrie walked briskly away, wondering if he could have been the man talking to Joy yesterday. She'd wanted to ask, but was afraid she might tip Agent Stafford's hand. At this moment, the man, whoever he was, might not be aware that someone saw him talking to Joy.
Upon arriving back at her cabin, Carrie checked for any messages from her friends. Not finding any, she decided a shower was what she needed. After her sleepless night and hectic morning, it would be relaxing. Dropping her clothes in a pile on the bathroom floor, she adjusted the temperature and stepped into the cascading water, letting the tension slip away.
Reluctantly, she stepped out of the shower and toweled dry. Her exhausted body was limp and pliable from the shower and she wanted nothing more than a quick nap. Turning off the shower, she could see that the water was not running down the drain properly. She'd have to call the desk and let them know so a maintenance man could take care of the problem.
Wrapping a towel around her body, she left the bathroom, fully intending to call the desk and report the sluggish drain. Instead, the bed seemed to be calling her name, and before she knew it, she was snuggled beneath the fresh sheets, fast asleep.
Forty-five minutes later, the girls, having returned from their hike, pounded impatiently on Carrie's cabin door.
"Carrie, are you in there? Answer the door, girl friend." Beth's voice penetrated the door into the room.
"Maybe that FBI hunk has his hands on her." Taylor laughed and the other girls joined in.
"Wouldn't mind being interrogated by that one." Natasha offered.
The door swung open and a bleary eyed Carrie, wrapped in a sheet, stood staring at them.
"We aren't interrupting anything, sweetie, are we?" Again the girls burst into laughter.
"Only my dreams." She stepped away from the door and the threesome followed her into the cabin. Talking all at once, they quickly filled Carrie in about their hike with the other agents. They'd had quite a pleasurable time and had promised to meet the guys for cocktails after a quick shower and change of clothing.
An hour later, the foursome, refreshed and cooled, ambled into the bar. A boisterous call from a corner table directed them to the eagerly awaiting men. Carrie had stopped at the desk to report the drainage problem and found a cocktail already waiting as she joined her friends. Taylor introduced Carrie to their newfound pals and after shaking hands, the bunch soon were acting as if they'd known each other for years.
Carrie recognized the desk clerk as she approached their table.
Hmmm ... wonder if the drain was a bigger problem than anticipated.
The clerk offered a pleasant smile to all of them and was quickly invited to join the rowdy crowd.
"I'd love to, but I'm afraid I am still on duty for the next four hours."
"Aww, what a shame. The more the merrier I say."
Taylor jabbed her elbow into the agent's side. "Hey, don't be greedy. If we aren't enough fun for you, feel free to move yourself to another table, my friend. Wouldn't want to cramp your style."
Hank, the youngest and most daring of the bunch, leaned real close to Taylor's ear, whispering, but loud enough for all to hear, "Love, you are more than enough for me. Forget the rest of this mangy pack of guys."
Thanking him with a quick peck on the cheek, Taylor turned her back on the other agent before bursting into laughter again. Everyone at the table joined her.
"I'm sorry to interrupt your fun, but there's a message at the desk from FBI Agent Darryl Stafford, Miss Underwood."
Everyone looked at each other, drawing their own conclusions about the message. Pushing her chair back from the table, Carrie stood up. "Excuse me, I better see what this is about. Maybe there's news about Joy."
"Or maybe he just wants to do an in-depth interview with you." Taylor chimed.
"Yeah, I'd watch that one, Carrie. He's known to be a smooth talker." Hank laughed and his co-workers immediately offered their confirmation. Laughter erupted around the table.
Carrie left them as one of them ordered another round of drinks.
Back at the desk, the clerk handed Carrie the message. She unfolded the paper and read it.
Please give me a call at your earliest convenience. After talking with the town's people and local law enforcement, I have compiled a few pictures of men in the area that fit your description. Would like you to take a look at them. My cell is 555-0888.
Glancing back at the rowdy table she'd just left, she decided she'd never be missed and quickly dialed Agent Stafford's number. He picked up on the third ring.
"Hello, Stafford speaking."
"Agent Stafford, this is Carrie Underwood. I got your message."
"Carrie, thanks for calling me back. Hope I'm not interrupting anything, but I really would like you to take a look at these pictures. See if you recognize anyone."
"I'm not sure I'll be of much help. I'm afraid I didn't give it much thought when I saw him talking to Joy."
"Just thought maybe one of them might trigger something."
"Sure, Agent Staff-"
"Darryl ... please call me Darryl, Carrie." His voice sounded so smooth, like honey, as her name rolled off his lips.
For some unexplainable reason, she felt a warmth ooze over her body. Chiding herself, she remembered the other agents' comments about him before she answered, "Of course, Dar ... Darryl, I want to assist you as much as I can. My friends and I have joined a few of your fellow agents in the bar. Would you like to join us?"
The other end of the line remained silent as the seconds ticked by. Carrie wondered if she'd lost the connection. The deafening silence seemed like minutes instead of seconds.
"Hello ... Darryl, are you still there?"
"Yes ... yes, I'm still here. I was just thinking, maybe it would be better if we met somewhere a little quieter. I know my fellow cohorts and business is the last thing on their minds at the moment."
A smile spread across her face as she remembered the boisterous group she'd left only moments ago.
"You're probably right. I can vouch for my sorority sisters as well. When it's time to relax, they can get mighty rowdy as well."
"Have you eaten?"
"Actually, I haven't. Guess my mind has been on Joy and everything else that's happening. By the way, I assume you would have mentioned if there was any news about her, but have you heard anything else."
"Unfortunately, I haven't, but sometimes no news is good news."
"You're probably right, but I'd feel so much better if we heard something. I can't imagine her car being packed and ready to go and then she just disappears somewhere else. It doesn't look very good."
"All the more reason for you to take a look at these pictures. The guy might be the clue that leads us to her."
"Yes, I agree. He appears to be the last person she spoke with. Maybe he can tell us if there was a change of plans."
How about I meet you in fifteen minutes at the caf©. They serve an outstanding southern fried chicken dinner. Do you like chicken? If not, everything on the menu is marvelous."
"Okay. I'll tell the girls and meet you in a few."
"Looking forward to it." His end of the line went dead.
Suddenly, Carrie felt as if a warm, comforting arm had just let go of her. An image of resting her head against Darryl's chest and listening too his soothing voice flashed through her mind.
Stop it! You should be ashamed. Take a holiday from James and you're letting your emotions play foolish games. The man merely wants to do his job, nothing else.
Carrie started back to the table to tell her friends about the change in plans, but her thoughts wouldn't cease to fill her head.
One can look and admire, can't one? God wouldn't have made such hunky specimens if he didn't want females to appreciate his work.
Reaching the table, Carrie explained the message, amidst many off-colored remarks by the agents and her friends, before excusing herself. She could feel a little extra bounce in her step as she hurried toward the cafe.
Waiting outside on the veranda, Darryl watched as she approached. A wide grin spread across his face. Thoughts of her sitting, wrapped in a blanket this morning, crossed his mind. He wondered if she was aware of how vulnerable she looked with her hair tussled, a bewildered child. As she moved closer to him, he couldn't help but admire the beautiful woman that was about to join him. Guess it was his lucky day!
Only moments earlier, he'd received the call that Joy's body had been found several miles away by the stream. He wouldn't tell Carrie until later. He knew she'd be mortified, and he wasn't sure he was willing to tell her that Joy had been viciously decapitated. He hadn't taken the news well himself.
Pushing the ugly, disgusting thoughts aside for the moment, he smiled and greeted Carrie. He hoped she'd recognize one of the photos. It was the biggest, maybe only, clue and he needed a break in the case.
Meanwhile, having fixed the sluggish shower drain, the maintenance man fondled the black lacy bra and panties Carrie had hastily discarded on her bathroom floor earlier. A faint scent of her perfume drifted past his nostrils. Tucking the lingerie inside his shirt, he turned the light off and left the cabin.
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