Sunday, February 8, 2015

Book 1: Chapter 7

Chapter 7

            Rhia hugged herself as she sank to the floor and began crying softly.  Did that really just happen?  He had cheated on her but now he thought he could get her back by begging?  It depressed and infuriated her.  She sniffed and wiped away her eyes as she got up from the floor.  She walked over to the fridge to look for some strawberries.  Cora walked in a few minutes later.
            “Oh good, Rhia, you’re home!” Cora said excitedly.
            Rhia looked up and forced a smile, “Yeah.”
            “I have some good news,” Cora looked at Rhia and paused, “Are you alright?”
            Rhia looked at the concern on Cora’s face.  She couldn’t hold in her emotion any longer.  She told Cora everything that happened outside with Dan.  She began sobbing as she talked to Cora.
            “You’re kidding me!  Who does that slim ball think he is?” Cora replied in disbelief when Rhia finished, “Well, maybe my news will cheer you up.”
            “That’s right!” Rhia sniffled and whipped her tears, “Now how do you plan to cheer me up?”
            Cora smiled, “I finished your house today.  As soon as we pack, we can move in.”
            “Really?  You finished so quickly!”
            “Really.  It’s done.  Would you like to go look at it?” Cora questioned.
            “Yes I do!  That’s just the thing I need.  Thank you so much, Cora.”
            A knock sounded at the front door.
            “You’re welcome.  You go fix yourself up and I’ll answer the door,” Cora suggested.
            Rhia walked into the bathroom as Cora walked to the front door.  She cracked it open to make sure it wasn’t Dan.  She didn’t recognize who it was.  Cora opened the door further, “Hello.  May I help you?”
            “Maybe.  Does Rhia Ferdsworth live here?” asked the woman.
            “She does.  Come in and have a seat.  I’ll go get her for you.”
            “Thank you,” the woman said as she stepped inside and took a seat on the couch.
            Cora walked down the hallway and knocked on the bathroom door.  “Rhia, someone is here to see you.”
            “Alright, I’ll be right out,” Rhia responded.
            When Rhia came into the living room, she saw Mina sitting on the couch ringing her hands.  Mina looked at Rhia and gave her a shy smile.
            “Hey,” she whispered.
            “Hey Mina!  I didn’t know you knew where I lived.  What’s up?”  Rhia asked.
            Mina gave her another shy smile, “I didn’t until I looked it up in the computer system.”
            Rhia was confused.  Why did Mina have to look it up?  Something must be up.  She rarely saw her co-workers outside of work.
            “That’s fine.  You look somewhat scared, Mina.  What happened?”
            “Well, after we locked up the library, Cameron made sure I got to my car safely.  I was about half-way home when I realized I left my phone in the processing room.  So, I turned around to go back and get it.  I parked my car close to the front doors and ran inside to grab my phone.  I noticed some lights were on downstairs.  I was about to go down and turn them off but then I heard some men downstairs arguing.
            “I backed away from the stairs as quietly as I could.  I walked slowly towards the library doors and heard them arguing about some sort of drugs.  I am pretty sure they were illegal.  I snuck back to the processing room to grab my phone and while I was in there I looked up your address.  As soon as I had it, I ran out the building and came straight here,” Mina finished.
            Rhia sat slightly stunned on the couch starring at Mina for a minute.
            “Are you sure?” Rhia finally choked.
            “Yes, positive.  I’m pretty sure they mentioned marijuana.  Rhia, I don’t know what to do!” exclaimed Mina.
            “We’ll think of something.”
            “You don’t think one of co-workers is involved do you?” Mina suddenly asked.
            “You know, that thought hadn’t crossed my mind yet but maybe.  If those men you heard don’t work with us, then someone who has a key to the library is helping them,” Rhia concluded and then asked, “Do you have any roommates?”
            “Yes, two,” Mina responded.
            “Good.  Make sure one or both of them knows where you are or where you’re going.  You could be in danger if those men heard you upstairs and especially if they find out who you are,” said Rhia.
            “Oh.  I didn’t think of that,” Mina worriedly replied.
            “I will try to keep tabs on you as well.  Cora and I were about to look at my newly finished house.  Would you like to come with us?” Rhia asked.
            “I suppose so.  I could use a distraction right now.”

            “What do you mean the deadline moved up?” shouted the first man.
            “I am just telling you what we have been instructed to do!  We have to move the stash by the deadline if we want to get paid!” responded the second man.
            “Does the boss know about this?” asked the first.
            “Yes, she does,” answered the second.
            The first man suddenly held up his hand for silence and he looked at the ceiling.  He thought he heard someone upstairs.  He glanced at the second man and silently signaled him to listen.  Once they heard the front door click shut, they both knew that someone had been upstairs and probably heard them arguing.  The problem was, neither one of them know how long that person was there or how much they heard.
            “We are going to have to find out who that was,” the second man said solemnly.
            “Yes, we are.  However, the first thing to do is inform the boss we may have been over heard,” said the first man
            “What are we going to do when we find out who it is?” questioned the second man.
            “Obviously find them and then deal with them however the boss wants us to,” answered the first man.
            They slowly walked back to the other end of the building in the basement discussing what they had to finish for payment.  They were also very careful to keep their voices down low just in case whoever heard them came back into the building.

            Ten minutes later, the three women pulled into the driveway of a small red-brick home.  Rhia was really excited to see what Cora had done to the inside of her home.
            “Here are the keys,” said Cora, “you can go in first.”
            Rhia grabbed the keys and walked a little faster towards the front door.  When Cora and Mina joined her, Rhia stuck the key into the lock and unlocked the front door.  She twisted the knob and slowly pushed the door open.  She stepped inside and flipped the light switch on.  Rhia let out a soft gasp.
            “Cora, it’s beautiful!”
            “I thought you’d like it.  Take a look around.”
            Rhia took her shoes off and left them on the tiled entryway.  She looked left and opened the coat closet.  It contained some empty hangers and a vacuum.  She shut the door and walked into the living room.  The fireplace went up two stories and was a rich golden color.  Off to the side of the living room was a little reading nook.
            It looked like it was pulled from a nineteenth century mansion.  Right of the nook was the kitchen and family room along with the laundry room, a half bath, and the door to the two-car garage.  All of the rooms were decorated with warm colors and comfortable furniture.
            Rhia walked to the stairs and went up.  She reached the landing and was greeted by a huge mirror at the top.  She absolutely loved it!  Off to her left was the master suite and to the right were two bedrooms, a full bath, and linen closet.
            “I don’t know how you did it so quickly, Cora, but I can’t wait to move in!:
            “Good!  Here’s my price, let me room with you please,” Cora pleaded.
            “Of course you can,” Rhia granted.
            “This is a beautiful home, Rhia,” commented Mina.
            “Thank you.  You can come visit any time day or night, Mina.”

            “Really?  Thanks!” Mina said appreciatively.

Book 1: Chapter 6

Chapter 6

            Rhia gathered up the materials she was using and took them back to the processing room to put away.
            “Mina, can you watch the front desk?  I am going to start closing things down.”
            “Sure thing.  I’ll be right up, Rhia.”
            Rhia stood in the doorway and kept an eye on the front desk until Mina walked passed her.  Rhia followed Mina behind the front and picked up the books she worked on.  She walked down to the check-in room and sorted the books accordingly and walked back up to the front.
            Mina and Cameron were checking-out customers as Rhia walked past.  She began walking down the aisles picking up misplaced books and telling customers the library was closing.  She dropped her load of books from the floor and tables down the hall and walked back up front.  Fitch fell into step beside her as she reached the foyer.  Rhia gave him a questioning glance as they walked back into the library.
            “Hello.  I’m Fitch.  You’re Rhia, correct?”
            “Yes,” Rhia hesitantly responded, “I am.  Nice to meet you, Fitch.  I’m kind of busy closing the library, I don’t have time to chat right now.”
            “Yes, I know.  Mind if I follow you to see how you do that?”
            Rhia thought that was a strange question but she replied, “I guess not.”
            Fitch quietly followed Rhia around the library as she straightened things, turned off computers, catalogues, and lights.  She could have sworn he stood slightly closer than necessary when she was closing the windows.  Then again, she was tired and could have imagined it.  She walked through the darkened library, Fitch following of course, to double check that everyone had left.  Rhia was satisfied and walked back up to the front desk to help Mina shut down the staff computers.  They grabbed their things and walked towards the door.  Cameron held to door open for them.
            “Thank you.” Rhia said.  She turned around and locked the closed door.
            “You’re welcome.  Would you and Mina like me to walk you ladies to your cars?” inquired Cameron.
            “Yes, please!” Mina quickly replied.
            “I’ll be alright.  I’m parked out front anyways.” Rhia responded.
            “Me too,” Fitch jumped in, “I’ll walk Rhia to her car.”
            “Good.  We’ll see you all tomorrow then,” acknowledged Cameron.
            “Goodnight,” Rhia called as she and Fitch walked out the front doors and Cameron and Mina walked out the back.
            “So, do you come to work tomorrow?” asked Fitch.
            “No, I don’t.  Why?” inquired Rhia.
            “Well, I do and was wondering if I could borrow your key?  I promise to give it back to you as soon as I’m done working”
            Rhia thought a moment.  She hardly knew Fitch and she wasn’t going to be working tomorrow.  She knew she wasn’t supposed to loan out her key but she didn’t see the harm.
            “Sure.  You can borrow it.  Just don’t let Adeline know,” Rhia instructed as she handed Fitch her key.
            “Thank you very much.”
            “You’re welcome, Fitch.  Goodnight.”
            “Goodnight,” Fitch replied as soon as Rhia was safely in her car.  He watched her drive off until he couldn’t see her tail lights anymore.  For some reason, he had an uneasy feeling and he didn’t like it.

            Once Rhia assured herself she had everything, she locked her car and walked toward the stairs to her apartment.  As she approached the stairs, she thought she sensed someone watching her.  She turned around to check but didn’t see anyone.  Shrugging, she continued toward the stairs.  The light was out again and she sighed as she started to climb the stairs to her apartment door.  She again sensed that someone was behind her.  Rhia dropped her hand to her side and slowly turned around.  Dan came out of the shadows and stepped in front of her.
            “What are you doing here?” Rhia asked in a strangled whisper.
            “I need to talk to you,” Dan answered.
            “About what?!  You stalking me?!  We have nothing to talk about.  We’re through.  I think you know that.”  Rhia heatedly responded.
            “I have something to say to you,” he replied as he closed the gap between them.  Rhia put a hand out to stop him from coming closer but Dan grabbed her wrist and continued, “I need to talk to you about what you saw the other night.”
            “There’s no need to explain it.  I’m not blind, Dan.  I know perfectly well what I saw.  If you didn’t want to date me anymore, all you had to do was say so.  There was no need for you to go around dating Aly behind my back!” said Rhia coldly.
            “Aly and I are not dating!  We’re only friends,” he said hotly.
            “For some reason, I don’t believe you, Dan.” Rhia replied sarcastically.  “Now, please let go of my wrist before I scream bloody murder.”
            “Don’t believe me?” Dan asked incredulously, “Then maybe you’ll believe this.”
            Before Rhia could react, Dan pushed her against her apartment door and placed his lips firmly on hers.  His kiss began gently then became rough and hard.  Rhia tried pushing him away, but Dan pinned her hands against the door.  He began kissing her urgently when Rhia got an idea.  She gave in a little and Dan relaxed his hold on her.  Rhia took her chance and quickly kneed him in the gut.  He broke away and gasped in pain as he backed up a few steps.
            “What did you do that for?” Dan grunted.
            “Dan, we are not dating anymore.  It’s over.  You obviously have some commitment issues to work out.  I don’t think you even know what you want.  It’s a wonder our relationship lasted as long as it did.  Now please go away and do not ever do anything like that to me again!  Next time you want to contact me, send a letter,” Rhia scolded.
            “Fine Rhia.  Have it your way but next time we meet, don’t count on me being friendly,” Dan softly threatened.

            “Goodbye Dan,” Rhia firmly responded.  She walked into her apartment and locked the door behind her.

Book 1: Chapter 5

Chapter 5

            Rhia parked her car and grabbed her bag.  She frantically hit the lock key as she ran toward the employee entrance of the library.  She didn’t like being late but she was hoping work would be busy enough to keep her mind off of everything that happened two nights ago.  She was still annoyed with herself for not seeing any signs that Dan was cheating on her.  In hindsight, she felt like she now saw them everywhere.  She had been so distracted thinking about it that she realized she was late for work when she glanced at the clock.  She sincerely hoped she had a few things to do before opening and hopefully Mina wasn’t early.  Again.
            She unlocked the door and went in.  She took a left and went into the check-in room.  She turned on the lights and computer and went back into the hallway.  She came out of the area marked “Library Staff Only” and headed towards the front doors.  She saw Mina walking up to the doors pulling out her phone.  Rhia ran the last few steps and popped the door open.
            “I was just getting ready to call you,” Mina exclaimed as she bent to pick up the newspapers.
            “Well, good thing I saw you then.  Saved you a phone call!”
            “Perhaps.  I came early.  I was going back to my car when I glanced up and saw yours suddenly parked out there.  So, I walked back up here.”
            Rhia sighed.  “I was hoping you hadn’t come early.  I’m sorry.  I was distracted with my thoughts before I realized what time it was.”
            “I suppose I can forgive you this time,” Mina replied, “Let’s go get everything ready for opening.”
            “Well, alright.  Why are you so excited about it today?”
            “Our new reference librarian starts working today.  I heard he’s quite the looker and I’m anxious to meet him.  So, I wanted to come early to make sure the library especially nice looking for him.”
            Rhia laughed.  “Mina, if you aren’t the most amusing girl I’ve met, I don’t know who is.”
            Mina gave her a saucy look and said, “Girl! You just learnin’ the definition of amusing.”
            She winked and sauntered toward the main doors of the library.  Rhia laughed and followed her into the library.

            Two hours later, Rhia glanced up from the clerk’s desk and noticed Cameron was approaching.
            “Hey Cameron, what do you need?”
            “Hello Rhia.  I was just coming up to assist you until our new reference librarian gets here.  Is that alright?”
            “Yeah, that’s perfect.”
            “Great. Thank you!”
            Rhia smiled and continued covering her small stack of paperbacks while Cameron helped the customers that came up to the desk.  They exchanged some quiet conversation while Cameron waited for more customers to come to the desk.
            “Excuse me,” said a masculine voice, “I am looking for Cameron Dogada.  Do know where I can find him?”
            Rhia looked up from the desk.  Her eyes landed on a six feet of well muscled man.  He had thick, jet black hair and piercing blue eyes that reminded her of the ocean.  He talked with politeness but his dress showed he sort of had a devil may care attitude.
            “I do indeed, sir.  I am Cameron Dogada.  I am assuming you are our new librarian Fitch Stonestreet.”
            “That’s correct.  Glad to finally meet you.”
            “Same here.  Why don’t you follow me back to my office in the children’s library and we can start your training.”
            Rhia watched them as they walked away.  Mina came from the back room with a stack of books ready for new stickers to be put on.  She noticed Rhia sitting with the scissors poised in the air looking towards the back of the library.
            “What are you daydreaming about?”
            “Huh? Oh,” Rhia shook her head, “nothing.  Cameron just took the new librarian back to his office to start training.”
            “What!?!  Rhia,” Mina was giggling, “you kind of looked star struck.”
            “Oh hush!”
            “Well, at least tell me what he looks like.”
            “Um…,” Rhia didn’t know how to put him into words exactly, “I didn’t get a very good look at him.”
            “Sure you didn’t.  For some reason, I don’t believe you.”
            “Sorry,” was all Rhia could think to respond.

            Fitch followed Cameron to his office.  “So, what more do I need to know about this position?”
            “I think Chet already gave you all of the details you need to know, did he not?”
            “Oh no, Chet gave me details about that.  I was talking about my reference librarian position.”
            “Yes.  Well, that is not too difficult.  The director will ask you to do specialized projects occasionally, but other than that, it is simple.  You are going to have charge over all of the pages.  Pages are the people that shelve the books after they come in and keep the shelves looking nice.  All you need to do is make sure every section gets books put back into every day by a page and that they keep the stacks looking neat.  As for the public, you basically answer questions and help them in depth on the computer.  You will get the hang of it as you get into it.”
            “Thank you.  That sounds like it should be simple enough.  So, do you know when I should be getting a key into the library?”  Fitch queried.
            “I tried to have a copy ready for you today, but the director said that she will not authorize a key to be given to you until she has meted you personally.  Since we now have the basics down about your job, let me take you around the library and I will introduce you to all of the employees that are working.”
            “Sounds like a good plan, who are we going to meet first?”
            “The other full-time employees, then we will move to the others,” replied Cameron.

            Fitch thought he had a good feel for the layout of the library.  Cameron was helpful in discreetly pointing out possible hiding places for stashes of drugs.  The only downside was that the walk-through did not include the entire building.  He wasn’t going to get his key for a few days but he was hoping he could get Rhia to temporarily lend him her key.  He sat down at the reference desk and started thinking of a way to work that out as he waited for a customer to assist.

Book 1: Chapter 4

Chapter 4

            Fitch pulled into the parking lot of the police station.  His drive to Arizona had certainly been a long one, but highly uneventful.  The most excitement he had was finding the truck and Harley, he temporarily owned thanks to the security bureau, at his home.  He couldn’t wait to pull that Harley off and start riding it around.  Fitch sighed as he parked the truck in a visitor slot.  He jumped out, locked the doors and pulled out his phone as he started walking towards the station entrance.  According to his notes, he was supposed to speak with a Detective Chet Orzolek.
            “Hello sir.  How may I help you?”
            “Yes, hello.  I am looking for a Detective Orzolek.  Does he happen to be in?”
            “Let me check.  One moment.”
            The dispatcher walked off into the police station while Fitch took a look at his surroundings.  The police station was very clean and organized.  It was also completely void of any personality.  He didn’t much like all of the glass and security doors that surrounded the foyer.  Interior design certainly wasn’t the strong point of the department, but it could use a bit of a warmer more welcoming feel.
            “I am Detective Orzolek,” thundered a deep voice, “And whom might you be, sir?”
            “Hello Detective.  Fitch Stonestreet,” he stuck out his hand.
            “Glad to finally meet you Stonestreet,” he took Fitch’s hand, “Follow me down to my office and I can fill you in.”
            The two men nodded their thanks to the dispatcher as they passed through the security door.  Fitch again took the chance to check his surroundings.  The rest of the police station was just as void of personality as the foyer was.  The only exceptions were the few family photos and calendars that decorated some of the cubicles.
            “I have never seen such a clean looking and cold feeling police station,” Fitch commented.
            Orzolek chuckled, “Me neither!  We just recently moved from our old one to this new one.  By the time you leave our humble town, it should be getting back to feeling disorganized and welcoming.”
            Orzolek finally reached his office door and unlocked it.  He opened it and gestured Fitch inside.  He went in and took a seat as Orzolek followed and closed the door behind him.
            “I don’t know how much your superiors filled you in on the situation, Agent Stonestreet, but I am going to fill you in on everything I know so far.”
            “They only told me the bare minimum about the situation and that you are my first contact,” Fitch replied, “since you’re supposed to fill me in on the rest.”
            “That’s something at least.  As you should be aware, we recently discovered that a drug trafficking operation is being conducted within the limits of our city.  Being only fifteen miles from the Mexican border, this isn’t very surprising.  However, it might surprise you to know that we have discovered that a city employee, in the public library, is suspected to be benefitting as head of this new operation.  The only problem is that we do not know which librarian is responsible.  We do know that they have a key to the library giving them access to the building at any time.”
            “Can’t you just check the security cameras?”
            “I wish we could.  Due to privacy issues and certain laws that surround the public library, we have never been able to put cameras anywhere within or on the library.  That would have been our first move, believe me.”
            “That seems a bit silly but I guess that makes some sense.”
            “Yes, well I hope we can change it after this charade is over.  Now, you may also know that there is one undercover agent already in the library.  He has been working for the past three months to give us most of the information we have.  Thus far, he has cleared all of the clerks and pages and other part-time employees from our list of suspects.  That means that our culprit is a full-time, salaried city employee.  He has also discovered that the drugs are being stashed in the unused basement portion of the library where city administration used to be.  We do not know exactly where.  The last thing you should know is that we do know most of the drugs smuggled in are marijuana and occasionally cocaine.  So, do you have any questions Stonestreet?”
            “A few.  First of all, do we know when they bring the drugs in or take money back and to whom?”
            “No, we don’t.  They are smart enough to keep changing the times and days and not stick to or create a routine.  We think the person who delivers changes as well.  There are at least two people involved, possibly three.  However, only one, for sure, is working in the library.”
            “Hmm.  That is good to know.  It will be one of the first things for me to work on.  Second, do we know who in Mexico they work with or what city they operate out of?”
            “Possibly.  We do have an idea on who but no certain which city where they make all of their exchanges.”
            Fitch grunted, “I guess that is all the information I am going to need for now.  But there is one more thing.  Do you know where I’ll be living while I am here?”
            “Ah yes!  Living arrangements.  That is what I finished putting together just before you arrived.  There is an elderly woman that is looking for a good, handy renter like you.  I called and gave her all your information that she needs.  She is quite excited to meet you and her rent request is well within your budget.”
            “Excellent.  I am glad to hear it!”

            “Now, follow me and we will begin getting you situated before you start working tomorrow.”

Book 1: Chapter 3

Chapter 3

            Rhia stood frozen in the kitchen, staring at Aly and Dan together in front of the stove.  Aly noticed Rhia as Dan was moving in closer.  She gave Rhia a wicked grin and an evil twinkle flashed in her eyes as she closed the gap between herself and Dan.  Cora’s eyes widened when she bumped into Rhia and then saw what was happening.  She and Rhia needed to make a quick exit. Cora dashed to the bedroom to grab a change of clothes for herself and Rhia.  Rhia was still in the same spot when Cora came back to the kitchen.  She grabbed Rhia’s hand and pulled her towards the front door.  Dan eased away from Aly and turned with a satisfied smile on his face.  It immediately disappeared when he saw Rhia standing by the door.  His expression looked pained and guilty briefly before becoming totally expressionless.  Aly turned her attention back to the dinner she and Dan had on the stove.  Dan took a step toward Rhia, “Rhia…”he began apologetically.
            “Don’t,” she whispered.
            Rhia then spun on her heel and fled through the open front door past Cora.  Cora turned back to see Dan closing the gap between himself and the front door.  She shook her head and slammed the door behind her.  Cora ran down the stairs towards her car.  Rhia was already sitting in the passenger seat staring dead ahead.  Cora got in without a word and drove straight to the Bullfighter Buffet.

            The Triple T was waiting in the lobby when they arrived.  Cora handed Rhia the bag of clothes and told her to go change in the bathroom.  Tyler stood up and looked at Cora.
            “I thought you girls were going to change at home.”
            “We were.  When we got back to our apartment, Rhia caught Dan and Aly, um, together in the kitchen.  I’m assuming that’s why Dan was ‘busy with work’ and Aly was ‘sick’.  We are changing here instead.  Rhia is still slightly shocked,” Cora finished empathetically.
            “Don’t worry, we’ll be easy on her,” said Tix, “but it looks like you get to handle the rest of our teasing.”
            “Fine by me.  Why don’t you guys go pay for dinner?  Rhia and I will find you in a few minutes.”
            “We’ll do that, but don’t take too long.  We would like to help cheer Rhia up if we can,” supplied Toroak.
            “Thanks guys,” said Cora as she headed towards the bathroom.
            “I’ll see what I can do,” offered Tix 
“Leave it to my cousin to ruin a perfectly fun evening,” muttered Tyler.
            A few minutes later, Rhia and Cora found their table.  Cora glanced around, “So, how does this work?  Do we order or do we pile heaps of food on plates?”
            “You’ve really never been to a buffet before, Cora?”
            “Um, no.  We don’t have many restaurants where I come from.  The population is only 260.”
            “Well, come with me and I will show you the wonders of a buffet restaurant,” Tyler said with an extravagant waive of his hand.  He and Cora walked off to get plates.  Tix and Toroak watched them walk off and then they looked at Rhia.
            “Would you like us to get a plate of food for you?  And a glass of water?”
            Rhia nodded and softly said, “Yes please.”
            Tix and Toroak got up to go get their plates and hers.  Cora passed them as she came back to the table.  She slid into the boot next to Rhia.
            “Are you doing okay?  Are you going to eat anything?”
            “I’m doing okay.  Tix and Toroak are grabbing me a plate of grub.  What happened to Tyler?”
            “He went back into the kitchen to talk to Holder.”
            “Oh.  I’m sorry about my mood at the moment.  I’ll try not to be sullen until we are back at our apartment.”
            “Don’t worry about it.  I think that the guys understand.  Actually, anyone would really. I mean, you have been dating Dan for nearly two years. He basically just betrayed you.”
            “I know.  I think that is the hardest blow.  I feel like I’ve wasted two years of my life dating a person I thought I knew.  It looks like I never knew him at all”
            “Well, if you want my opinion…”
            “Not really.”
            “Too bad.  Aly and Dan seem better suited to each other once you think about it.”
            Rhia though a moment. “That’s true.  You know, Cora, the more I talk to you about the situation, the worse I feel.  Maybe we can talk about it some more later.  On another note, how are things looking at my house?”
            “Things are going beautifully!  Thank you for giving me the job.”
            “No problem.  Hopefully we will be able to move in soon.  I need to get out of our apartment as soon as possible.  Where are those boys with my food?  I’m starving!”
            “Right behind you chatter boxes.”
            Rhia turned around, glad her mood had improved slightly, to see the speaker of this new voice.  “You must be Holder.”
            “Indeed I am.  Please call me Skiff.  Any friends of Tyler are welcome to.”
            “Thank you, Skiff.”
            Tix and Toroak slid into the booth on the other side of the girls and Tyler pulled up a chair at the end of the table.  “Skiff, these are my friends, Tix, Toroak, Cora and Rhia.”
            “It’s nice to meet you all.  Please enjoy your dinners and I will be back shortly with a surprise for you.”
            “Thanks Skiff," came the united reply.
            He waved acknowledgement as he walked back to the kitchen.  Tyler looked at Rhia, “You’ll like this surprise best I think.”  He winked at Cora.
            Puzzled, Rhia asked, “Why’s that?”
            “You’ll find out when Skiff comes back.”
            “Whatever you say,” Rhia sighed.
            They continued with their dinner getting second and third helpings.  Despite Rhia’s situation she laughed and giggled at every joke and teasing gesture the guys threw at her.  When Skiff came back from the kitchen, many of the group was stuffed from all of the delicious buffet dishes he made.
            “Hopefully you are all overly stuffed and satisfied, except for Rhia.  Rhia, I have a special treat for you here.  I am told that it is a favorite of yours and I hope you enjoy it.”

            Rhia blinked.  She hadn’t even noticed that Skiff had his hands behind his back.  One hand held a small bowl of fresh strawberries and the other held a small container of Nutella.  There was only one way that he could have known that strawberries and Nutella were her favorite treat.  Rhia looked at Tyler who turned to Cora and winked.  Rhia turned to Cora with tears starting to well up in her eyes.  “Thank you,” Rhia whispered as she gave Cora a hug.  She blinked rapidly and looked over at the guys, “Thank you so much.”

Book 1: Chapter 2

Chapter 2

            “Agent Stonestreet:  One of our men has discovered that the drug traffickers are stashing supplies at a public library in Arizona near the Mexico border.  He is currently undercover within the suspected city and the surrounding areas.  We are assigning you to a position within the library.  You are to discover where the drugs are being stored.  Please be aware that this mission is dangerous due to possible drug cartel involvement and the close proximity to the Mexican border.
            “After you discover where the drugs are stored, you are to contact your partner and together you will bring in the drug traffickers—alive if possible.  There is a retired agent within the area who has been informed of the situation.  They will be keeping an eye on you and assist you when and if necessary.  If you need to contact that agent for any reason, your contact, Detective Chet Orzolek with local law enforcement, will inform you how to do so.”
            “Wait!  How soon will I be leaving and how am I getting there?”
            “You are leaving as soon as you arrive home.  Transportation is already parked at your house.  Pack for an Arizona summer and a long drive. Good luck, Stonestreet.”
            The line went dead.  Fitch hung up and signaled to merge back into traffic.  Sometimes having high security clearance was annoying.  They could contact you anytime and anywhere.  However, it did have its perks.  Fitch was wondered what kind of vehicle they left at his house but he supposed he would find out soon enough.  He pulled into the garage, parked his car, hopped out and closed the garage door.  As he walked over to the side of his house, there was a black Chevrolet Silverado backed up to his fence.  It had four full doors and a six inch lift with mud tires.  It was beautiful!  Too bad he probably wouldn’t get to keep it.  He walked past it towards the gate but turned around when he noticed a bike in the bed of the truck.  He leaped into the bed to take a closer look.  The bike was a cherry red Harley Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight.  Fitch gave a satisfied grin; life in Arizona was going to be good!
            This is when having high security clearance and twenty-four seven contact pays off.  Fitch walked in through the back door and went to his bedroom.  He pulled out a duffle bag from under the bed and started packing his casual summer clothes and shoes.  Hopefully they were appropriate for a murderous Arizona summer.  What kind of clothes did librarians wear anyway?  He thought to pack some of his suits and nicer casuals just in case.  Fitch Stonestreet.  He mused.  What name would they come up with next?  Of all the undercover aliases he has had thus far, this one was by far the most bizarre and probably his most amusing.  Not that this mattered any, but he was curious.  He zipped up his duffle bag and walked with it to the kitchen.

            He grabbed a couple of water bottles from the fridge and tossed them onto his bag on the counter.  Looking in the pantry, he realized there wasn’t much in here either.  He snatched some chips and fruit snacks and tossed them into a grocery bag.  He picked up his keys off the counter, swung his duffle bag over his shoulder and walked out the back door.  Tossing his bags into the passenger side he walked around to the driver’s side of the vehicle and hopped in.  He put the keys in the ignition but paused a moment to open the center console between the front seats.  He pulled out the Fitch Stonestreet information and glanced at it before he started the vehicle.  He sighed as he put the information back in the console.  It was going to be a long drive to Arizona.

Book 1: Chapter 1

Chapter 1

            Rhia sighed and snapped her phone shut as she rolled her eyes.  She bent over and finished tying the laces on her bowling shoes.  Cora looked at her quizzically but didn’t say anything until she finished lacing her own shoes.
            “What’s the matter Rhia?”
            “Daniel just sent me a text.  He said he won’t be able to join us for bowling tonight,” replied Rhia.
            “Is it just me, or has he been doing that a lot lately?”
            Rhia paused.  Daniel’s job sometimes required him to work late nights, but that didn’t happen very often.  “Well, his company does have a game coming out pretty soon.  I suppose Dan is just making sure all the visual development is correct so far.”
            “Hmm… you have a point,” mused Cora.  “Who else is coming?”
            “Tix, Toroak, and Tyler.  You haven’t met them yet.”
            Rhia bent over to finish tying her bowling shoes.  Cora opened her mouth to ask another question but was interrupted by loud commotion in the doorway.  Rhia looked up to see Tix, Toroak, and Tyler all trying to squeeze through the doorway at the same time.  She caught Tyler’s eye as she tried to suppress a smile.  She looked over at Cora and they burst into laughter.
            “I have a feeling this is going to be one of the most eventful bowling games I’ve ever played,” giggled Cora.
            “I’m going to have to agree with you there,” agreed Rhia.
            Tix, Toroak, and Tyler finally managed to get through the doorway in an orderly fashion and approached the counter.  Cora and Rhia got up and looked for bowling balls they wanted to use while the threesome paid for their games and collected their shoes.
            Toroak spun around, “Hey Rhia!  What lane are you two ladies on?”
            “Eleven!” Rhia shouted.
            She went back to the lane with Cora and they proceeded to enter their bowling names.  When the boys approached Cora turned and asked, “Okay gents, what names shall I put you under?”
            They mumbled to each other as they tied their shoes.  “We don’t know yet.  What are yours?” asked Tyler.
            “Rhia is Bruiser and I’m Whirlwind,” replied Cora.
            “In that case, I want to be Gutter Slut!” said Tix.
            Cora looked pained.  “Um…okay.  You?” she said pointing to Toroak.
            “I want to be Thor!”
            Rhia quirked one eyebrow and Cora giggled.
            “Alright then.  And you, sir?” Cora looked up at Tyler.
            Tyler looked over and said, “I’ll go with Flash.”
            “Wait!” Toroak cut in, “I don’t want to be Gutter Slut anymore.  I want to be Goliath.”
            “Done.  We have Bruiser, Whirlwind, Thor, Flash, and Goliath the changeling.  We are bowling in that order,” Cora announced with authority.  Tyler grinned.
            “Now that we have that settled, Cora, I would like to introduce you to the Triple T,” Rhia said.  “This fine gentleman is Stephen Tixfenthaler.  We call him ‘Tix’.”  Cora nodded at Tix.  The curly blonde with light blue eyes had a tall, muscular frame.  He looked to be about six foot two or so, she guessed.  He had a great smile.  “Next to Tix, is his brother, Toroak Tixfenthaler.”  Toroak was the brown-eyed, dirty blonde version of Tix.  Only he was about five foot eleven.  If it weren’t for the height difference, she could have mistaken them for twins.  “And finally, we have Tyler Roland, the leader of the pack.”  Tyler’s red hair framed a strong face with kind green eyes.  He was the shortest of the three, about five foot nine.  Rhia gestured to her, “And this, gentlemen, is the lovely Cora.  My roommate who will be moving into my new home with me as soon as we have it ready, “She paused and smirked  “She’s also the interior designer.”
            Cora smiled, “It’s nice to finally meet all of you.”  She looked at Rhia, “Bruiser!  Start bowling, we have a bet to win.”  Rhia moved to pick up her bowling ball.
            “Hold it!  What bet are you talking about?” Tyler looked at Cora quizzically.
            She looked him square in the eye, “If the girls win, the guys pay for dinner.  If the guys win, they still pay for dinner.”  Cora grinned as Rhia laughed and released her ball down the lane.  Cora looked triumphant, “Strike!  You heroes better watch out, we’re off to a good start.”
            “Hey!  No fair!  We’re paying for dinner either way,” Toroak whined.
            Tix chimed in, “How about this, if we win, you ladies pay for dessert.”
            Rhia and Cora glanced at each other and replied in unison, “Deal!  Bring it on gents!”
            Although the girls were outnumbered, they managed to win the game.  Of course, it had nothing to do with the different bowling styles that were used.  The girls couldn’t help it if Tix bowled granny style half the time and Toroak threw gutter balls every other turn.  Regardless, that was what made the game fun and eventful.
            As they left the bowling alley, Tyler turned to Rhia, “Where are Dan and Aly?”
            Rhia sighed, “Well, he texted me just before you three got here and said he wasn’t going to make it.  He told me it was because of an urgent project has that to be done by tomorrow morning.  Cora got a text from Aly that said she was feeling really sick.”
            “Oh.”  Tyler, Tix, and Toroak exchanged a quick meaningful glance with each other.  Cora noticed this and hoped that Rhia had not, but she wasn’t sure.  Cora knew something was up, but she didn’t know what.
            “Okay boys, where are you taking us for dinner?” asked Rhia.
            Tix grinned at them.  “You might not like it, but we’re going to the new all-you-can-eat buffet on Main Street.”
            “That’s fine with me.  Since when did we get this new buffet?  It’s not a chain restaurant, is it?” Cora queried.
            “Nope! It’s an original buffet restaurant started by some new rich fellow in the area with a passion for cooking up a storm,” Tyler replied.
            Rhia looked interested, “Ooh.  This sounds pretty intriguing.  How do you know so much about the owner, Tyler?”
            “Well, he is an old friend of mine from college and we just recently discovered that we’re both new to the area.”
            “This chap sounds interesting.  What’s the name of his restaurant?” asked Toroak.
            “It’s called the Bullfighter Buffet,” responded Tyler.
            Toroak grinned, “This just keeps getting better!  Now I have to ask, what’s his name?”
            “Clampton Skiffington Holder.  He likes to be called Holder, but I like to call him Skiff.”
            “Well, before this next adventure at Bullfighter Buffet, Cora and I would appreciate it if Tix would be so kind as to drop us off at her car.  We’d like to go to our apartment and change out of our work clothes.”
            “I thought you ladies drove!”
            “We were close enough to walk from where Cora parked.  You don’t mind do you, Tix?”
            Tix smirked, “No, that’s fine.  You’ll just have to squish in the back seat with Toroak.”

            A few minutes later, Cora and Rhia pulled up in front of their apartment.  “Are we taking my car or yours to the buffet?”
            “Let’s take yours, Cora.”

            They ascended the stairs to the second floor to hear Aly giggling and a man chuckling.  It was unusual for Aly to sound so upbeat when she was sick.  Rhia opened the door and stepped inside.  She stopped immediately at the scene before her.