Here is this week’s scene from Renee and Frei with a guest appearance from head of internal affairs, Abby Fleming.
Please excuse any typos and bloopers!
Abby Fleming could have done without asking for Renee Black’s help. She didn’t mind dealing with Frei because she was always consistently distant, stoic and gave little away. Renee, on the other hand, tended glare in a way that even when Abby had been engaged to her, still made her hunch.
“Why isn’t she talking?” Renee asked, her gray eyes hard as she folded her arms. “She must know her husband is a jerk.”
Abby fiddled with her own wedding ring then flinched when Renee flicked her gaze to it then intensified her glare. Abby wanted to glare back. She wanted to hurl things across the room at her and demand to know why Renee had let her think she was MIA but she wouldn’t. Just the fact that she was sitting across from her made it hard to speak. She was alive, scowling, cheeks glowing with health even if she looked tired but she looked good. She looked fitter than Abby had ever seen her; she looked… pained.
“You can’t answer?” Renee waved her off and turned to Frei. “Urs, you dragged me half way across the States for this briefing. I should be looking for Aeron.”
And there was why Renee looked pained and why Abby couldn’t get her tongue to work. Renee had always been to-the-point when she wanted something emotionally but she’d never carried that absolute loyalty in her eyes when she and Abby were together. She looked vulnerable, hopeful, and the way she played with the St. Christopher’s around her neck must mean Aeron had given it to her.
“Urs?” Renee pursed her lips. “Has your hair gel sedated you?”
Frei raised her white blonde eyebrow. “We’re waiting for you to calm down, Black.”
Which only made Renee’s nostrils flex and Abby almost laughed, almost but she couldn’t. Renee had always had that effect on her.
“Have you?” Frei peered down her nose.
“Yes.” Renee folded her arms again and her biceps flexed.
Frei glanced at Abby but she dropped her gaze back to her wedding ring. She was a married woman, unhappily married but still married. She had daughters, a husband. Renee might look amazing but she was in love… with someone else. So, why wasn’t her heart getting the memo and slowing down to a normal rhythm?
“Fleming believes that Alanna Lavelle may still be a slave,” Frei said as if talking about doing a training exercise. “However, only free-persons can marry.”
“Free-people?” Renee shifted in her seat, mood gone, concern in her eyes. “I haven’t heard you use that term before.”
Frei didn’t so much as blink. “Because we’ve only discussed slaves and slave owners.”
“Then give me a freaking definition.” Renee fired it but her body language was relaxed, as if she deliberately adjusted it to put Frei at ease.
“Someone who is not a slave,” Frei fired back like Renee was in kindergarten. “A slave would usually only be Derek Lavelle’s mistress.”
“Unless she’s posing as a wife?” Renee chewed on her lip.
Frei and Abby exchanged a “duh” look. Derek Lavelle was the head of an FBI task force tasked to apprehend those involved in abducting and exploiting people.
“But, even if she’s posing, they’d need legal documents of marriage… how would that effect her status as a non-free person?” Renee tucked her blonde hair behind her ears—A habit that Abby loved. Then Renee glanced over and her eyes hardened again. “And why haven’t you kicked his ass?”
“He’s one of Hewitt’s favorites,” Abby managed sounding more like she was answering a superior not an ex-fiancé. “I’d be delighted to kick his ass but mine looks better without bullet holes in it.”
Renee managed a smirk. “I remember.” She turned back to Frei. “So?”
“The marriage looks legal so she must be a free-person.” Frei flexed her white blonde brows then fiddled with the glass of whiskey at her side. “My mother doesn’t think this is so.”
“Have you talked to Alanna Lavelle?” Renee asked Abby and her voice softened.
“I don’t have bullets in my butt,” Abby said, feeling confidence flow from somewhere and irritation. Then again, Renee had always made her feel conflicted, confused, vying from awe and love to infuriation. “She’s Lavelle’s wife. I’m the head of internal affairs. If I show up and start asking about the slave trade, even the dumbest criminal is going to realize they’re being investigated.”
Frei nodded. “Which is where we come in.”
“Am I the only person who sees an issue here?” Renee threw her hands in the air and got up to stomp around. She used to wear out the porch when she was in a mood and it used to drive the huskies nuts. “I mean, Urs, the whole slavery network knows who you are and so does Hewitt.” She flicked her hair back again and rubbed her hands over her jean-cladded thighs. “I’m pretty certain that, even without an introduction, people in the FBI will know who I am.” She shrugged. “I look like my dad for a start.”
“Actually, you look more like your mother right now,” Abby shot, enjoying Renee’s flinch, and she fiddled with her wedding ring again. “Ursula has said that her mother can provide a disguise and, Renee, Lavelle won’t look further than your bust.” She pulled open the file on her lap and held up a picture of Alanna Lavelle. “You’ll need to work her carefully. I’ve seen a lot of women doting on their husbands but she seems to be thrilled just to be around him.”
Renee blew out a breath which made her blonde hair flutter. “She must be a slave.”
Abby turned the picture around in confusion. Yes, Alanna Lavelle was quite pretty in a handsome sort of way but Abby wouldn’t have exactly called her extremely beautiful… unlike the two women in the room.
“Why do you feel she is?” Frei asked as if she already knew the answer.
“She’s got huge earrings,” Renee said as if trying to cover her blush. “Must be from the tags.”
Frei narrowed her icy blues. “That was not the reason you inferred.”
Renee shrugged. “She sort of reminded me of Aeron for a second.” She clasped the St. Christopher’s in her hand. “She’s not really like her… but she is way too attractive for him.”
Abby studied Alanna Lavelle’s picture more closely. “She looks nothing like Aeron.”
“I concur,” Frei said and turned to Renee. “She’s blonde and shorter than you.”
“I’m five seven, that’s not short.” Renee folded her arms then stared at the picture more closely. “She looked like Aeron for a second…” She rubbed at her head then sighed and slumped into the nearest seat.
“Do you think that’s Aeron showing you?” Frei asked like it was a normal question to enquire.
“No, I just think I need to drink with you less and sleep more.” Renee’s eyes misted. “It’s desperation.”
“Yes, it’s hard when someone you love goes missing,” Abby said meaning it to sympathetic only it sounded like an insult.
Renee glanced her way. “Was that before or after he got you pregnant?”
“Before but it was definitely after you slept with a slave owner,” Abby said, sounding more bitter than she wanted to.
“I used vials,” Renee muttered then stared at her hands which trembled. “And, like I said, I was a mess you didn’t need.” She met Abby’s eyes with a warmth and sincerity in hers. “I’m sorry I made you go through this.”
“I saw you everywhere,” Abby said trying to ignore the urge to hug her or do something her husband, Martin, would yell at her for. “But… unlike when I lost you, I am absolutely certain that Aeron is somewhere making countless other people fall in love with her.” She straightened up, hoping it would brush off the hurt. “I also know that you’ll find her and that she will not enjoy you berating her for whatever it is that has you in one of your legendary moods.”
Frei smiled a tight lipped smile. “She told her that she loves her.”
“I’m not angry because of that,” Renee shot then growled then got up and stomped around some more. “I’m angry because—”
“She tied you to a raft and threw you in the river, yeah, I got it.” Frei rolled her eyes and sipped at her whiskey.
“She threw you in a river?” Abby smirked. She liked Aeron, in spite of how gut-wrenchingly beautiful, talented, loving and just freaking wonderful she was. But, clearly Aeron was crazy.
“She kissed me, tied me to a raft while she told me to go and find the woman I love and tell her that I love her… then she threw me in a river to stop Williams from shooting me.” Renee’s eyes fired up, her arms flexed, her cheeks filled with that rosiness and she waved her hand around. “Seriously, Abby. She threw me in the freaking river.”
“Good on her,” Abby said still smirking. “I’ve wanted to throw you into rivers countless times.” She held Renee’s gaze. “When you find her, tell her that if she wants to dunk you now, she’ll want to dunk you a whole lot more when you’re under her feet and getting dog fur on the bed.”
“I didn’t get dog fur on the bed.” Renee’s innocent look wasn’t convincing. “Much.”
Frei sipped at her whiskey again. “I’m with Fleming. I want to dunk you all the time.” She pulled her laptop out from a case beside her. “Hopefully Alanna won’t. We need you to forget her loyalty to Lavelle and that will mean winning her around.”
“I’ll need more vials then,” Renee mumbled then held Abby’s gaze. “Brief me.”
Abby nodded. “Alanna, is in an ‘up down’ relationship with Lavelle, whether she’s a slave or not. He does the talking and she nods and talks only when he holds her gaze.” She produced the surveillance photos. “Her social background is vague. She didn’t attend any college and there seems to be no record of her going to high school.” She held up her hand and tapped each finger. “Her language use is limited, she uses short phrases with basic words. She’s definitely got a lilt of a foreign accent but otherwise her accent is neutral to the point neither I nor Gould could place it.”
Renee chewed on her lip like she was soaking in the detail. “How does she function in conversations?”
“Like a slave,” Frei said with a stunted tone. “You’ll have to earn any disclosures.”
“You think I should signal an across relationship?” Renee rubbed at her calf with her other foot.
“No, she seems to show little respect for anyone below her social setting.” Abby pointed to one picture with Lavelle ignoring three junior FBI agents who were trying to get her attention. “I’m not sure how you can reach her.”
“In the way she does everyone else,” Frei said without so much as changing the timber in her voice. “She bugs them.”
Renee’s eyes flashed with temper then she narrowed them then she pursed her lips. “Maybe she’ll throw me in a river?”
“Only Aeron is dumb enough to do that,” Abby said then handed over the file. “Get me information, Renee and I might be able to help.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Renee said then saluted and turned to Frei. “If Aeron ever asks, I didn’t need to use vials. You did the sweet talking.”
Abby smiled. She didn’t need to know Aeron well to know that she wouldn’t believe a word.