It’s an interesting challenge to pace weekly stories in a way that continues the pace while ensuring the characters and the story keep moving. When you’re in a book, it’s easier to control. In Aeron’s series, I use the different POVs to increase tension so, as I have challenged myself to stick to one scene, it’s fun to try and work with the same characters yet in a slightly different way. All while keeping you, the reader, conscious that they are still looking for Aeron and without the luxury of several drafts to ensure it isn’t too confusing!
Anyway, I hope you enjoy and, as always, please excuse the typos,
Act 3 Scene 6
Frei strode into the yard at the back of their makeshift base. She was glad that Renee had placed a GPS signal on Pucker’s car but she wasn’t happy that someone had informed Pucker they were going to try and help Lavelle. She had to have been aware to strip the house completely.
“Urs, I don’t get why you’re in a bad mood,” Renee said as she hurried after her up the disjointed stone path. “We have Pucker’s location.”
“Because,” Frei started then shook her head and carried on toward the makeshift “experiment laboratory” they’d needed to put up because Susan’s habit of setting alight to furniture through research.
“Because…?” Renee kept in step but her legs were shorter so she was powerwalking. “Urs, you don’t get mad often… so?”
Frei stopped and spun to face her. “Gem is stupid enough to side with her, yes…” She waved at the laboratory. “But that place was wiped down and I don’t know if that car had Pucker inside.”
Renee frowned toward the laboratory. “Alanna told her.”
“Yes.” Frei put her hands on her hips. “You knew?”
Renee turned so she faced the house. “The Bite sisters are ex-slave owners who say their parents got hurt and they got put into slavery because Alanna was trying to rescue the slaves?” She shook her head. “The story is a thin one, Alanna said it the same way each time.”
“Rehearsed?” Frei shoved her hands on her hips.
“Yes, but you’re emotionally involved so you didn’t catch it.” Renee smiled up at her with such affection it was like the way she gazed at Aeron. “Your heart might pretend its stoic but you’re not. Alanna played you.”
“Just Alanna?” Frei glanced at the laboratory.
“I’m trying to figure out Rachel. She loves her sister but her version, when they were bickering, was that Alanna and Pucker…” Renee let through a soft smile again. “They were working on getting rid of the parents.”
“That is not what I heard,” Frei furrowed her brow unsure why Renee was gazing at her and annoyed that it made her feel emotional and want to do something Aeron-like such as cwtch.
“Rachel said Alanna liked Pucker, that Alanna is attracted to women and that she wasn’t… then they bickered about hair.” Renee reached up and straightened a strand of Frei’s fringe. “Alanna’s story was that she couldn’t be Pucker’s mistress when Rachel was saying she didn’t seem to mind who she slept with.”
“I did not hear that either,” Frei tried to look away from Renee’s gray eyes but it was hard when she was smiling that way. “I am the investigator.”
“Who is finding it hard to concentrate because your heart is too busy focusing you on Susan… even though you are supposed to be calling Theo.” Renee peered up under her dusty blonde eyebrows. “And you are worried about Alanna and Rachel, yes, but you’re far more distracted by love.”
“I am not that focused on Theo or Susan.” Frei folded her arms. “I can concentrate.”
“I meant the fact that Gem killed Jessie’s adopted parents or was part of it and…” Renee pulled Frei’s arms out and slid under them. “You keep heckling Abby to find Aeron.”
Frei sighed and tried to tighten as though she didn’t want a hug but her arms ignored her and pulled Renee in. “I was far better at my job when Jessie and my family needed me.”
“Because we had dimwit.” Renee rested her head to Frei’s shoulder. “And we both feel like we’re missing half our hearts.”
“We are.” Frei squeezed then pushed back before the odd lump like feeling in her throat got worse. “You are far more composed.”
“No, but you’re being strong when I need you and now I need to back you up.” Renee nodded toward the house. “Nan told me we have to do this the old fashioned way, so I planted that GPS device as a dummy.” She tucked her blonde hair behind her ears. “When they take it off the car because they were expecting us to plant it, it’ll set off an alarm at the local police station.”
“How is that helpful?” Frei rolled her eyes.
“Because the police will find the car at the property they’ve used as a decoy.” Renee held her gaze like she should be following. “As in the local police will show up in uniform at Gem’s location…?”
Frei pinched the bridge of her nose.
“It will back up what you set in place with your computer? That Derek Lavelle is investigating him?” Renee studied her for a moment. “You’re still looking confused.”
“How does that help us find them?” Frei threw her hands in the air. “How does that help us find Aeron?”
“Because…” Renee took a breath and led her over to the hedge that Susan had tried to prune and take a blood pressure reading from. “We don’t need to find Alanna, Derek or Pucker, we showed them where we are and that the very expensive high value slave is here.”
“That is also unhelpful.” Frei waved at the laboratory. “So, they will try to get to Rachel.”
“Susan is here, Black.” Frei narrowed her eyes. “She has not been through boot camp.”
“She is going back to your estate because you can’t concentrate with her around and she has the samples she needs to work there.” Renee let through a soft laugh. “Don’t pout.”
“I am not.” Frei studied the broken stone that made up the path. “I do not understand how your strategy is supposed to work.”
Renee stroked over one of the leaves rustling on the hedge. “Psychology. Derek is married to Pucker but he’s of little importance other than to keep whoever his FBI friends are quiet; Pucker is the main owner, from what you said she’s been pushing for more influence since she was with Bite.”
Frei nodded. “Like most mistresses.”
“Yes, and from what I have gathered about slave owners, a marriage is about strategy not love and a mistress is there to buy and sell slaves and protect them.” Renee patted the leaf and smiled. “Alanna had no reason to get rid of her parents because, if what she says is true, then she would have inherited anyway.”
“I have been trying to understand that myself.” Frei let through a weary sigh.
“Between chatting to Susan and avoiding Theo.” Renee tutted then smirked. “Rachel has had the medication.”
“Yes.” Frei folded her arms. “And?”
“Alanna didn’t have any real traces in her blood. Susan double checked.” Renee cocked her head. “Why would you enslave one sister and put her in Caprock while giving her a medication to confuse her memory and not the other?”
“Because the other sister was in on it?” Frei strode about from the grass lawn to the hedge, her mind whirring. “But why get rid of Rachel?”
Renee motioned for her to keep going.
“Why would Rachel be of consequence?” Frei strode faster trying to focus herself. “She was of such high value that Owens put herself at risk to rescue her.”
“Yes, and Alanna?” Renee grinned with such affection that Frei stopped.
“What?” She put her hands on her hips again.
“It’s usually me wandering around while you smile at me.” Renee shrugged. “You’re kinda cute when you do it.”
“Don’t expect flowers, Black.” Frei glanced at the laboratory again. “If Alanna stood to inherit, she would have.”
“Yes, and Alanna vanished and then showed up here with the oddest memory.” Renee cocked her head. “And she bears no resemblance but she definitely got Rachel chatting.”
Frei stared at the laboratory again and then narrowed her eyes.
“Rachel was very… interested in talking to me when her sister was around.” Renee waved her hand in encouragement. “And gazed and blushed when you spoke to her.”
“This is normal.” Frei turned to scowl at Renee. “She has taste.”
“Alanna didn’t so much as check you out,” Renee put her hands on her hips. “But her guy-interested younger sister did.”
“Alanna has less taste…” She paused then narrowed her eyes further. “Rachel is not who she says?”
“Neither of them are.” Renee shook her head with a smile. “Rachel is Alanna, at least I suspect she is.”
“She is lying?” Frei held up her hand. “No, she had the medication… she must think she is Rachel… Susan believed Gossett was her father… it’s the medication.”
“And who would benefit from feeding her that but then find it difficult to be a mistress to another woman?” Renee thumbed at the laboratory. “Who would need to change her likeness because she needed to appear older?”
“Her own sister.” Frei glared at the stone path feeling her throat get emotional again. She loved her sisters. She was still looking for her younger sister… She blinked back the flash of Suz on the ground. “She did that to her parents? To her family?”
“Yes,” Renee said with a soft smile. “And before you think I’m clever, I am holding up my hands and saying that Aunt Bess and your mom figured it out. I just spotted the inconsistency when they were talking.”
“Old fashioned,” Frei said and glanced up at the house. “Or more so wise.”
“Yup.” Renee thumbed to the laboratory as Susan and Rachel headed out carrying Susan’s notes. Piles of notes. “Which is why we’re moving our POI to a safe location.”
Frei went to Susan and took the piles of paper from her. “You need to see where you are placing your feet.”
Susan looked down at the path. “I fell a few times but that’s not my eyesight, that’s the path.”
“It is uneven.” Frei glanced toward where Renee had been standing but she’d disappeared. She clearly wasn’t keen on Susan seeing her.
“It is.” Susan hugged herself. “I’m being flown to your house… Jessie is going to help.”
Frei heard the chopper starting up at the front of the house and her throat started to annoy her again. “Jessie is a wonderful assistant.”
Susan walked alongside her but away from reach. “I guess Theo will be more able to assist in rescuing people.”
Frei said nothing but walked Susan to the chopper and placed the papers inside.
“I will update you on my progress with Rachel.” Susan went to get into the chopper.
“I…” Frei caught hold of her hand trying to ignore her mother’s curious gaze from the cockpit. “You are wonderful assistance.”
Susan paused and looked down at Frei’s hand. “Thank you.”
She turned to get in again.
“I…” Frei caught her hand again. “I need to concentrate. I need to be… I need to concentrate.”
“I understand.” Susan’s voice was wobbling though and she turned away again.
“I worry you will get hurt.” Frei let out a wheezed breath. “I caused you enough hurt when I made you investigate your father.”
Susan nodded and got into the chopper. “That’s not the part that hurts.”
Frei met her mother’s steely gaze and hunched. “He is not assisting me here.”
“Okay.” Susan stared ahead as she buckled herself in next to Rachel who seemed to have either fallen asleep or had been darted.
“I’m glad you will be looked after by Jessie,” was all that would come out. “I… need you safe… I don’t want someone to disturb your conversation with the chair.”
Susan kept staring ahead. “Thank you.”
“I…” Frei felt her mother staring again so shut the door and tapped it before striding to stand on the lawn and watch the chopper float upward.
“You could have just told her that you love her,” Renee said from beside her as the chopper eased away over the trees. “She wanted you to say that you loved her.”
“I tried.” Frei rubbed at her annoying throat. “But she wanted me to tell her that I loved her more than him.”
“Yes.” Renee cocked her head.
“I love him as much.” Frei grumbled through her breath. “He calls and I feel as attached.”
“But the guy doesn’t know you love insane medical staff.” Renee studied her then held up her hand. “I’m not heckling. I’m here when you need me.” She took hold of Frei’s hand. “We have some chumps’ butts to kick.”
Frei let herself be led back toward the house. “This would be more useful to my head.”
“That’s why I did the psychiatry, Urs.” Renee turned and flashed a beaming affectionate smile. “And I have your favorite popsicle to help your heart.”
Frei managed a smile. “I once explained that to Aeron in Caprock when you were in a mood.”
Renee glanced up at her. “That you like popsicles?”
“We discovered she liked ice cream… cookie ice cream.” Frei chuckled at Aeron munching her way through the tub.
“She had to eat ice cream over me and you didn’t tell me?” Renee poked her. “It would have been helpful to know.” She poked her again. “Did she really say it was over me?”
“You were working Owens.” Frei shook her head trying to understand how she hadn’t spotted what Owens had been doing or why Owens hadn’t asked for help. “She looked as happy about it as Susan does over Theo.”
Renee poked out her bottom lip. “I used vials. I wasn’t into Owens.”
“I know that but you didn’t tell Aeron you love her.” Frei shook her head and headed in through the front door. “I managed to tell Theo and Susan I love them.”
Renee pursed her lips. “If I’d have told Aeron I loved her and wanted to way more than cwtch her, she’d have been confused.”
“No, she wouldn’t have.” Frei stopped and searched gray twinkling eyes.
“Yes, she would have.” Renee pulled her earrings out and rubbed at her earlobes. “She doesn’t think I could love her, same as Susan.” She smiled up at Frei and kissed her on the cheek. “They don’t realise how much taste we have.”
Frei gave in and pulled Renee into a hug. “We have the best taste.”
“Yup.” Renee hugged her back then chuckled as two warm arms wrapped them both up. “And we have cwtches.”
Frei laughed as Aunt Bess squeezed them both and lifted them to place them facing the kitchen. Yes, where there was a Lorelei, there were always warm, loving cwtches.