This week’s episode of Renee and Frei is ready for you to read. My usual reading is less enthusiastic than usual as I’m under the weather but, as always, please excuse bloopers and typos and enjoy catching up with the intrepid Susan Gossett. (and if you don’t know who Susan is… check out her story for free: The Whistleblower)
Renee And Frei: A New Assignment
Susan Gossett had some issues with her memory. Some of the time, she remembered that she was on the run from the authorities; wanted for illegal experiments on the patients of Serenity Hills, and she quite liked Ursula Frei.
Other times, she remembered that it was Frei who persuaded her into helping the Serenity Hills’ inmates; Frei who had set her up in a hospital in the middle of nowhere to help other people she’d “rescued,” and Frei had been cozy with some man called Theo.
And, right now, Susan wasn’t in the mood for Frei or her requests.
“Mom, Susan is busy with Miranda… kinda,’ Jessie said as Susan waved off the call as she focused on Miranda’s blood results. According to the results, Miranda was pregnant but Susan was sure that she should know that already. So why had she run the bloods? Hmm.
“Susan, we need you to assist us. Alanna is a complex character who may have medical needs.” Frei’s tone was stoic and cold to other people but Susan could hear the fed up inflections.
“I’m busy dealing with a patient,” Susan muttered then doubled checked Miranda’s file. She’d been pregnant a while… eight months… that explained the change in her estimated glomerular filtration rate. Was she checking for complications? Susan wandered over to her computer, at least she was sure it was hers because someone had placed a sticky note with “Susan’s Computer” on it.
“Alanna has memory issues… or perhaps some kind of mental disturbance… Renee needs to understand if it’s physiological before she applies psychology.” Frei’s tone didn’t change but her tired sigh gave her mood away. “I need your opinion.”
“Ask Theo, maybe he has medical qualifications.” Susan tapped away on her keyboard pretending to write notes because she couldn’t remember why she was actually at the computer. Being angry with someone made focusing on tasks difficult.
“Theo was a policeman,” Frei muttered, stoic tone gone. “Unless I wish to know of any criminal convictions… in Bavaria… I do not think he would be helpful.”
Jessie raised her eyebrows and tucked into her packet of chips as if watching sport.
“I’m sure he’ll be a friendly ear anyway,” Susan tried to focus on the screen but it was blank. She’d forgotten to turn it on. Hopefully Jessie wouldn’t notice. “I have to go, Miranda needs a…” She didn’t know why she had Miranda’s notes now, not helpful. “Laparoscopy.”
Jessie shook her head, long brown hair bouncing about.
“A tonsillectomy?” Susan asked.
“Susan…” Frei grunted then sighed. “I need your help with Alanna. I need to help her in order to find Aeron. You like Aeron.”
Susan knew that. She might have had a terrible memory but some people were too wonderful to forget. “Why?”
Jessie chomped on her chips and turned to her own computer.
“Why?” Frei’s stoic tone turned grumpy-ish. “Aeron is my friend, she is more than a friend… she means…” She grumbled under her breath. “She is truly special.”
Jessie nodded. “We love Aeron.”
Susan folded her arms. “Of course we love Aeron. If you’re having an affair with her too…?”
Jessie sunk down behind her chip packet.
“An affair?” Frei’s tone got more clipped. “I am not insane. Renee would perform surgery on me… drunk.”
“Yuh huh,” someone said in the background. “With a razor on your hair.”
Susan and Jessie winced.
“Will you help?” Frei asked with an impatient tone.
“I’ve forgotten the question.” Susan stared at her screen. Had she turned it off or forgotten to turn it on?
Jessie sniggered. “Mom wants you to check over Alanna so they can decide if she’s crazy physically or mentally.”
Susan chuckled. “If she is near your mom, then both.”
Frei cleared her throat. “I am still on the line.”
“I don’t care. I’m not talking to you.” Susan turned to the blank screen then at the print outs in her hand. Ooh, Miranda was pregnant. “I have a patient to talk to.”
Jessie held up her hand. “Sorry to interrupt but you were checking Miranda’s bloods as routine… or that’s what you said… and Mom is really sorry she upset you by hanging out with Theo but they need your help to find Aeron and then you can throw stuff at her.”
Someone chuckled in the background on Frei’s call. The voice sounded quite familiar.
“Tell your mom she has women with her as well as some policeman and I will look at her patient’s file but I will charge for a full consultation.” Susan turned from her screen then strode over to the file on the opposite desk… for some reason. “I’m busy.”
“Susan, I do not have a file. You need to come to our location and check her over,” Frei said with an exasperated tone… well… for her. “I need you.”
Jessie “awww’d” then nodded to Susan.
“I’m not going. I have a patient to deal with here and you are not going to win me over when you smell of aftershave.” Susan nodded to Jessie who pulled a face and cut the call.
“You kinda really need to go and help,” Jessie said munching away. “I don’t get why Alanna will help us find Aeron but Nan always says that nut stashes aren’t always appreciated until you put them in chocolate.”
Susan wasn’t sure she knew who Nan was but chocolate was also unforgettable. “I am needed here.”
Jessie smiled. “Grandma will fly you there then fly you straight back and I’ll let you take my temperature and run bloods on Miroslav?”
“Hey,” someone yelled from the open doorway. “Why do I have to have bloods?”
“You’re not taking your meds enough,” Jessie yelled back. “You passed out twice yesterday.”
Susan nodded then pursed her lips. She always remembered patients, even if not by name, yes… Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome… secondary… caused by… She stared at her files. “It’s caused by an overactive autoimmune response.”
Jessie grinned. “Yup. You’re working on resetting that.” She crunched more chips. “You still need to go help Mom… You can hit her more easily when you throw stuff.”
Susan tilted her head. Jessie was very good at reasoning.
“What about Miranda?” She chewed on her lip.
“You have nurses, I’m on speed dial… Grandma flies real fast.” Jessie sounded a lot like Aeron with her inflections sometimes. Aeron like with a Frei-ness.
An absolutely magnificent blonde woman strode in with all to familiar mannerisms and that impatient, stoic look that made Susan’s heart flutter… but not pathologically. Emotional response to Frei-like stimulus… fascinating.
“I am doing this to help Aeron,” she mumbled then took the sheet of paper in her hand over to Jessie. “Someone needs to break it to Miranda that she’s pregnant though.”
“Will do,” Jessie said with a wink.
Susan nodded to the blonde lady—clearly Frei’s mother—and headed out of the room. Now, why was she angry at Frei again?
Renee checked her dart gun then her tactical kit before clipping herself to the rope. Some activities were synonymous with Frei: whiskey drinking, half a phone conversation, and abseiling down buildings wearing tactical kit.
Frei was already on the ground outside a residence of one of Derek Lavelle’s associates. Normal people would have just used their cover and snooped using their covers; normal people would have established a relationship over a period of months and got an invitation; normal people would actually clip themselves to the safety rope… Renee rolled her eyes then headed down the wire… but then “normal” people didn’t have a girlfriend with no memory and a boyfriend who was the nephew of a slave owner.
“Do I get a brief on why we’re infiltrating?” Renee said, touching her speak button on her neck.
“No.” Frei hurried around the side of the building, then poked her head back around. “Detach the rope. Move faster.”
“Grumpy.” Renee did as ordered and sprinted to her. “Hostiles?”
“Not unless you count the gardener.” Frei peeked through a gap in the blinds. “And he limps.”
“I used to limp. I could still shoot.” Renee followed as Frei ducked across and up to the front door. “Cameras are scrambled by the way.”
Frei peered at her through the slits in her mask, icy blues giving a perfect “duh” look. “You were able to see without large lenses in your spectacles.”
Renee frowned, not that Frei could see through her mask. “So why are we sneaking?” And she sounded more like Aeron than a commander… and Frei was taking ages to pick the lock.
“Because that’s what burglars do,” Frei said in a stoic tone and pushed open the front door.
“We’re breaking and entering?” Renee muttered but followed as Frei headed in through the door and scoured each room off the hallway. Then she returned to the first room and threw over a desk with a computer on it, making sure not to let the computer drop too heavily that it would break.
“Um… clear?” Renee mumbled as Frei pulled pictures down off the wall then ruffled up the cushions. “You weren’t kidding about the breaking and entering, huh?”
Frei stopped and stared at her.
“What?” Renee glanced over her shoulder as Frei fixed on the security box on the wall that was flashing.
“Perfect.” Frei hurried through the house then grabbed an ornament from the side and smashed the window on the back door then kicked it open and sprinted out across the lawn.
Renee threw her hands in the air then sprinted after her. “I know this might sound obvious to you… but huh?”
Frei vaulted over the nine foot high fence without missing a step.
Renee took a breath, jumped and Frei caught her hand then yanked her up and over. They dropped down onto the empty sidewalk then Frei sprinted down to the corner and climbed up a tree.
Renee stared up at her as police sirens sounded nearby. “How much Susan did you take?”
Frei grabbed her by the arm and hauled her up into the tree as police cars raced by.
Renee grabbed Frei by the shoulders. “Hello?”
Frei attached something to Renee’s waist then shoved her out of the tree. The wire tightened and she rappelled down the zipline into the estate where they’d parked their car.
Frei landed next to her, detached the line then got into the car.
Renee sighed and followed. “Do I get a reason?”
“I want him to think someone is looking for his accounts,” Frei said as she started the car and drove them out of the back gate. “I want Alanna Lavelle to think that it isn’t me.”
Renee held on as Frei picked up speed. “We have company.”
“Good, use the pistol in the glove compartment.” Frei nodded to it. “Alanna is acting as if she knew me from Caprock and that she was an ex-FBI agent. I want to see how she acts when someone targets an associate of Lavelle.”
“Then why couldn’t I just be told that?” Renee leaned out of the window. “On your order.”
“Fire.” Frei held them steady.
“Tires out,” Renee said, pulled herself back in and unloaded the pistol. “This could have been my grandfather’s it’s so old.”
“Jessie, do you have the feed?” Frei asked as the car tailing them skidded to a spark-spraying halt.
“Yup, patched it through to Grandma Paws,” Jessie said with a chomp. Did the kid ever eat anything but chips?
“Grandma Paws?” Renee asked glancing at Frei.
“Hey, Blondie,” Bess said with a chuckle. “I got the feed, ladies. The police look like they ain’t got much of a clue.” She let out another chuckle. “But they headed to the safe like you wanted.”
“Glad someone got briefed.” Renee folded her arms.
“Mom needed you to look like you didn’t know what she was doing,” Jessie said mid-chomp. “So you didn’t look so slick.”
Renee pursed her lips. “I am good undercover.”
“You’re the best, Black,” Frei shot and screeched them into the estate Bess was set up in. “But I wanted you to heckle.”
Renee sighed and shoved open her door. “I can heckle… You want me to heckle…?” She took off her mask and waved it at her. “You ever pay attention to working at heights practice?”
Frei pulled off her mask and strode toward the front door. “I do not need heckling now.”
“Well, you’ll get it.” Renee marched after her. “How ‘bout the fact that I’ve never seen a thief break in by picking a front door then smashing their way out of the back. Any law enforcement could figure out you were staging it.”
Frei smiled at her.
“Alanna Lavelle has never been in law enforcement, Urs,” Renee muttered and headed in to see Bess with dinner on the table, Stosur setting up some kind of alarm system, and Susan talking to the cupboard about someone’s kidney function. “I’ll eat in my room.”
She ducked out of sight as Susan turned to see Frei. Yes, she might be able to heckle but she didn’t really want to jog Susan’s memory about their “relationship” in Serenity Hills… or the fact that Renee had used a lot of vials.
“I thought I was here to see your patient?” Susan asked in a mood that Renee winced at.
Bess and Stosur ducked out of the room with their plates and Bess handed one to Renee.
“We’ll eat in your room too,” Bess said with a grin then shut the door as Susan’s voice raised. “She’s got a good shot for somebody who don’t know where she is.”
Renee took her plate and headed up the stairs. “Should have brought the rappel in for Urs to use, huh?”
Stosur shook her head. “She will need more than a zipline when Susan realizes that she may be required to stay and assist reverse any physical problems with Alanna.”
“You’d think that but…” Renee pushed open her bedroom door not really sure why Bess and Stosur needed to eat in there too when there were about thirty odd other rooms. “Urs has a way of getting ‘round her.” She tapped the laptop. “Brief me.”
“Alanna Lavelle seems to clean up a lot of Hubby Derek’s issues. She acts like those mistresses.” Bess chewed on her food then waved her fork. “She shows up when his friend’s call and they don’t talk to her like she’s his wife.”
Stosur tapped the laptop and up came the feed of the house. Alanna was already on scene and scouring all while pretending to be a concerned neighbor to the police officers.
“She’s not interested in the safe,” Renee said between mouthfuls of something so scrummy her mouth was doing a happy-tingle. “She’s more interested in the ornament Urs used to smash the door.”
Bess hunched then glanced at the door. “She kinda reminds me of you in a mood, Blondie.”
“I’m a better shot,” Renee studied the screen. “Can you give us an idea about that ornament?”
Stosur chewed on her food. “It is gold but has been painted to look like stone.” She met Renee’s eyes with a shrug. “Some minor slave traders used this to evade police searches.”
“Why, they’d only need to chip the paint,” Renee fought the urge to lick her fork clean. “I don’t get it.”
“It is not the gold they hide but the papers inside it.” Stosur flicked her finger across the mousepad and images of ornaments from Jessie filled the screen.
“That’s from Caprock, isn’t it?” Renee cocked her head.
“Yup, our sneaky lady right here stole it in order to get Jessie’s papers when she was a peanut.” Bess smiled at Stosur and patted her on the back. “You’re sure mighty good at sneaking.”
Stosur bowed between chomping. Clearly that was where Jessie got her penchant for eating from. “It is an old fashioned system… even Hartmann might have found it antiquated but still in use, it seems.”
“So, why didn’t Urs pick up the ornament?” Renee asked as another crash sounded downstairs. “For protection more than anything.”
“I retrieved the papers instead,” Frei said from the doorway. “And replaced them with false ones that we can track.”
Renee cocked her head. “If you’re running up here for me to protect you, my track record with POIs sucks.”
“It does not suck.” Frei let out a sigh. “Susan has remembered that Miranda is pregnant, again, so is calling Jessie. She likes Jessie.”
And that was a proud mom smile she couldn’t hide.
“She is correct to,” Stosur said with a doting grandmother smile. Yes, Jessie could lift the stoic “Eis” side of the family with ease.
“And you were correct in thinking Alanna is more of a mistress than a wife,” Renee said and tapped the laptop with the butt of her knife. “She’s retrieving your papers.”
“I need to see my patient,” Susan yelled up the stairs.
Frei folded her arms. “Do not look at me that way, Black. I may steal your vials.” She turned and trudged down the stairs.
Renee smirked. “Telling her you’re sorry and you love her might work better.”
Frei stopped and turned to stare as if that was crazy. “It is easier to use whiskey.”
She carried on down the stairs as Renee turned back to the laptop. Yeah, normal people wore safety equipment; used the front door and their cover, and told people they loved them… but then normal people weren’t half as much fun to be around as Ursula Frei.