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Nathan 59

Emma was excited at the prospect of returning to work, since really, she had no reason not to.  As long as she was careful, the bruising didn’t bother and they were beginning to fade nicely. She wasn’t as excited at leaving Nathan’s home, for he’d made her stay fun, warm, welcoming and well sexy (need she say it)?  After all the heady days, nights, morning, and afternoon delights, she was going to miss their playful romping. Alas at some point she had to return to the real world.

He hadn’t answered when she’d suggested he return with her for Christmas to her family.  Since he usually painted disappearing to Italy or France for the Holidays, secretly, she hoped he would accompany her so she could introduce him to her family and get her father’s read on all that was Nathan.

He drove her home and assisted her inside with her bags.  “You don’t have to do this, Emma.  You know you can stay.”

“I could, your right. However,” tracing his face with her fingertips and locking her hands behind his neck she continued, “I doubt I’d get much work done.  There are…distractions at your place.”

“It’s easy to turn your back on the garden, in fact, I moved the chairs.  The only distraction is the beautifully decorated tree.” His gentle but deepening kiss punctuated the very distractions she had suggested and so enjoyed.

Returning to earth she said, “Unfortunately, I don’t get paid to be distracted. I get paid for journalistic integrity.  And yes, we did manage to make some headway on the story in question, but I’m sure my boss has a list of stories awaiting my return.”

“Since I’d rather be ahead of the game, not behind it, as I really really want to leave for my holidays on time, I must dig in and get serious.”

“I’m looking forward to distracting you more this evening.  I’ll have Jim pick you up around 7:00 and we’ll have dinner together. I have something special in mind for you.”

“A surprise?  What surprise?”

“You’ll have to wait and see.”

“Now that’s deliberately mean.  I didn’t think you had it in you.”

“It’s worth the wait, you’ll see,” Nathan promised with one last earth-shaking kiss.

Heading out the door, well aware that one of his men Harold and his wife Gracie, were the detail assigned to watch over Emma and would accompany her at all times from the moment he left.  He’d given them explicit instructions regarding procedure. At this juncture, he was sure she was safe enough at the newspaper office.  Once she was out in the field anything could happen.  Nathan swapped out his operatives every second day so that neither (in this case Emma) or anyone following her would catch on.  The likelihood was minimal at least.

Jim had given him the perps name from the Zoo and his follow-up suggested he was a freelancer, taking money wherever for whatever.  He was without scruples.  Nathan’s investigation through other sources suggested he had a violent background, but nothing seemed to stick.  Although the police departments in Vegas knew he was involved in several cases they couldn’t fabricate facts and the evidence was either tainted or he’d covered his tracks well enough to leverage charges.  Unfortunately, while there was enough evidence to suggest he’d been involved and probably masterminded the incidents in question, nothing pointed the finger solidly in his direction.

Nathan 58

Nathan had waded through the muck and mire before both literally and figuratively.  He’d do it again, now, to protect those less fortunate who had fallen at the hands of the greedy uncaring sociopath responsible.  These weren’t martyrs to the cause, they were victims. Everyday people victimized through no fault of their own.  Sylvia Westwood simply because she happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, witnessing a take-over.  Marks, because he was determined to uncover the truth, but without backup, didn’t have the required weapons to protect himself.  Emma, because she had taken up the cause, but who had the full backing of ‘all that was Nathan’.

This was his cause now!  Vehemently Nathan silently pledged vengeance and justice for those already lost and to protect those who would see the guilty punished.

His men were secretly digging into and climbing the ladder of contacts leading to the man standing on the top rung of that seedy ladder.  No matter how much time it took, Nathan was determined to win this war as he had done before.  Though this one was more personal, his cold calculating determination would bring them down.  All of them.  He vowed this with his soul.

Anyone witnessing the fierce expression on his face at that moment would have run, hard and fast and found a hole to dig into and never surface again.

Nathan 57

Nathan’s people had been in contact with a few underground types, wandering, talking to the so-called derelicts of the city, the people others walked by trying to ignore, those that needed invisibility and remained silent in their revery. The helpless victimized by life.

His own contacts had unearthed the possibility of another player in town come to claim what he thought should rightfully belong to him.  This was not news to Nathan.  There had  been rumblings that someone with wealthy contacts had been making a subtle move in this area for over a year. Since it was a high-roller, no one had cracked his identity as yet. He’d managed to remain incognito far longer than a year, Nathan knew.  It would take several years of speculation and contacts to make inroads into what already existed, was in place.

There was a stir in the underbelly of the city, talk of a new movement, new people hoping to stake a claim to the dark side of the city.  If the talk had merit, their leader was not new to Seattle, but a long time resident who had been making waves for awhile, but not had been unable to establish a foothold. This information from those most affected corroborated what he already new.

The enemy may be faceless, but there was always a trail.  Nathan was now intently focused on finding through the breadcrumbs left behind, where that trail led.  His immediate concern for Emma, he’d become even more watchful.  Infuriated they struck out at Emma and before her, Marks and Westwood, he seethed, his indignation hot.  They didn’t realize he’d now shine the spotlight of his own organization and contacts on their endeavours and he wouldn’t stop.  Anyone that new Nathan’s tenacity, knew he was like a dog with a bone, once firmly clasped, he would not let go.  Especially when the stakes were this high!

 

 

Nathan 56

When Nathan entered the living room, it was to find Emma packaging a few parcels she’d obviously missed earlier. “What’s this?  I thought you were finished.”

“I was- the family presents.  I always find a few items that I give out to those without.”

“And do you have someone in mind?”

“Actually, I do.  I was hoping to visit Sylvia Westwood’s family.  Since this must be a difficult time of year for them, I bought some decorations they could share as a family, a giant snowman that lights from inside so he’s bright and cheerful, but not overdone and I’ve included an extension cord in case it’s needed.”

“That’s a thoughtful gift, Emma.  I’m sure it will touch their hearts.” As it did his.  Such a gracious thought.

“I was hoping we could drop by sometime mid-morning. I phoned and they were agreeable, so…”

“Sounds perfect to me.”

Breakfast was later than usual so by the time they were finished, showered and dressed, it was indeed mid-morning, due to a little in shower delight.

When they arrived in Nathan’s Porsche, he parked discreetly, a half block from their home.  Alighting from the car, they noted well-manicured lawns, homes festively decked with thoughtful and elegant lighting.

Emma’s knock was almost immediately answered by a lovely woman stamped with sadness around her eyes and in her smile, but welcoming as well.  “Hi, your Emma Banks?” she asked quietly but firmly.

“Yes, I am, and this is Nathan, a very close friend of mine.”  She shook their hands before inviting them inside.

“Please, come sit by the fire.  There’s nothing more special any time of the day I find.”

“Your home is lovely Mrs. Westwood.  Thank  you for agreeing to see us.  I know that this must be painful for you still, I can’t imagine it being otherwise, ever.”

“There are days, Sylvia’s loss is raw and as fresh in my mind as the day the officer’s arrived to tell us about it.  Others, I manage better.”

“Some new information has come to light, and I’m delving into incidents surrounding what happened to your daughter.  I know you spoke with the police then, and must have done considerable reflecting since.  I was wondering if anything new had come to mind, and if you would consider going over incidents, happenings around that time.”

“I’m not sure I get what your after.”

“Did you notice any changes in your daughter’s behaviour within a few days of her death?  Did she seem edgy, concerned, or nervous at all?  Were there any indications she was anxious about going to work, or any changes in behaviour that surprised you?”

“I have to give that some thought.  It’s not something I considered at the time, the shock was so overwhelming, the loss, the hole in our family, I just . . .” She grabbed a tissue and delicately wiped at her nose.  Composure gained, she continued, “You know it’s true, I didn’t remember it until now, but she was just a little edgy.  When she put her coat on to leave, she’d give a great big sigh as if in preparation for something.  I remember now, thinking she must be nervous about her upcoming exams. ”  Smiling she added, “She was such a stickler for perfection.  Even the meals she prepared prior to exams, had to be just so, presentation, cooking, aroma.  At the time we were delighted to participate.  In hindsight, she was different.  Whenever she caught me looking, just looking at her, perhaps she saw the question I was about to ask, she’d smile brightly, hug me and hurry off.  But it’s true, there was something…”

“So she never expressed verbally any concerns she might have.”

“No, no she didn’t it was in her manner, it was so peripheral, I barely noticed.”  Her laughter held a bitter edge to it, “I should have taken more notice.”

“Mrs. Westwood, hindsight is often clearer than the reality.  We have little else to focus on.”Reaching out she took Mrs. Westwood’s hand in hers and held on.  “Your daughter was a delightful, brave, determined young woman.  She loved you and if she had concerns she no doubt wanted to spare you any worry. ”

“Thank you for that.”  Mrs. Westwood acknowledged Emma’s words with a smile tinged with regret.

“You say you’re looking into my daughter’s death.  Why is that?”

“Someone has come forward with new information.  I’m attempting to verify the facts as imparted.”

“How does that change anything?” Mrs. Westwood asked confused.

“Well, from what I’ve learned, your daughter wasn’t in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I, we,” she looked over at Nathan, “believe she witnessed an event she wasn’t supposed to and she was killed as a consequence.”

“You are telling me, my girl was murdered?” Mrs. Westwood was very agitated.

“The witness described events surrounding her death that have led to another death.  The reporter that covered what happened, did some digging, and within a month he was involved in a hit and run accident and perished.”

“My god, are you talking cover-up?”

“I’m afraid I am.  As yet, we don’t know what your daughter witnessed, but it was something major.  I intend to find out what that was.”

“I don’t know what to say, how to respond.  First I’m horrified at the thought she was murdered, we always suspected it was a failed robbery, but more than that, there have been other deaths?  How many?”

“At this point, I’m not sure.  The Detectives that worked Sylvia’s case believe it to be true even though we can’t corroborate this as yet.”

“Emma herself was attacked and pushed down a flight of stairs when she started investigating.  Therefore we believe there are some high ranking individuals involved and we intend solving this case.”  Nathan’s eyes glowed with anger and determination.

“If there’s a possibility of harm to you or anyone else, please stop!  Sylvia has passed, nothing will bring her back and I for one don’t wish any harm to anyone else.”  Her hand went to her throat and her fingers fidgeted.

“Mrs. Westwood, I’m in no danger, I have Nathan to protect me.  Your daughter wasn’t as lucky, but she deserves justice, as do you, as does Mr. Marks.”

“If you proceed with this, will you keep me informed?”

“Most certainly, Mrs. Westwood.  If you think of anything else that relates, please give me a call.”  Emma handed her contact information across.

“Mrs. Wesetwood, take my card, you call me if you have any difficulties due to our visit.”  At her startled look Nathan added, “Since we’ve begun investigating, there has been a renewed interest in the case.  Some involved though in a minor capacity through friendship even, have been threatened.  If anyone suddenly shows up, your family is followed, anything, please contact me immediately, I’ll take care of it.”

“You’ve given me a great deal to think about.  I’ll have to go over all you’ve said with my husband.  First to find out if he recalls anything unusual and second to watch lest he’s noticed anything unusual.  Believe me, I will contact you immediately.  Of that, you can be sure.”

As they walked back to the car Nathan commented, “So, it would seem that Sylvia Westwood had for a time at least reason for concern prior to her death.  Since her mother only mentioned a couple of occasions when she noted a change, I imagine it was only a couple of days prior.  Whether she got curious and started delving into something, or it was happenstance and she literally fell into an incident remains to be seen.”

Nathan 55

Dressed warmly, with hot chocolate in hand, they jostled their way to the car, laughing, teasing and eventually hopped inside.  Jim was pleased.  He hadn’t seen this light-hearted side of Nathan in too long.  Emma was indeed a blessing in disguise.  If she weren’t already taken, he might have tried for her attention himself.  However, he could see they were well on their way to falling for each other.

Jim pulled into the Woodland Park Zoo and dropped them at the entrance before heading to park the Benz before hustling to catch up.

Nathan had given him a ticket beforehand, so he produced the ticket to hotfoot it inside the grounds to follow discreetly behind them as they stopped and gazed at the beautiful display.  They were in no rush and sauntered leisurely among other families enjoying, laughing, joking, equally enthralled with the evening display.

Nathan was instantly alert and taking Emma in his arms, discreetly signally Jim who raced on in behind Emma.  A man watching, no staring at Emma from the sidelines had been following as if sizing the situation up obviously intent on making a move on Emma.  Immediately Jim was on him, and following a brief but worthwhile scuffle as Jim saw it, the man was felled and Jim hauled him off to the sidelines where he discreetly examined the man’s pockets and removed a knife.  He’d have a sizeable headache when he woke, but he was out of commission for the time being.  Jim opened the wallet and took note of his name and address.

Jim continued following ever watchful in case there was another accomplice they hadn’t spotted.  So far no one else seemed interested on the pair who had continued with the crowd.

Afterward, Nathan suggested they drive around for a bit, looking at the lights in a few neighborhoods closest to his home.  “Nathan, how did you know, it’s something my family does every year.  We all pile in the car, well cars now, and head out.” Emma laughed delightedly, “I’ve never grown out of it.  It’s something we’ve done since we were little and I still enjoy seeing the creativity each family manages to devise.”

Nathan pulled her close and wrapped an arm around her shoulders as Emma snuggled in.  In truth, they were driving to ensure they didn’t have any unwanted company following.  After forty-five minutes, they returned to Nathan’s and upon entering, Nathan handed their outer gear off and as they entered the living room, Emma stopped to enjoy the tree they’d decorated together.  Nathan spun her around and began dancing around the room holding her close.

“You are always full of surprises.  I had no idea you were such a romantic.”

“Still waters. . .”  Nathan smiled.

“I’m enjoying learning about those still waters.  Your obviously a complicated man, but you have some simple truths as well.  You’re romantic, you are fabulous company, very entertaining, you love to laugh nearly as much as I do, you are a gracious shopper . . .”

Nathan grinned, “Please go on, I’m enjoying the exhalation. . .”

That of course, led to a light-hearted wrestling match which ended in a delightful frolic around the living room.  When Nathan finally captured Emma, he asked, “Interested in a late night snack?”

“Surely.  In front of the fire?”

“Absolutely.”

Nathan 54

Later that morning, Nathan received a call from one of his men.  He motioned to Emma indicating he’d be back and disappeared.  Emma’s eyebrow quirked in questioning concern as she couldn’t help but wonder if the call pertained to their ongoing investigation into Ms. Westwood’s demise.

After clearing up after her card writing stint, Emma changed into a comfortable tunic top in rich royal blue with a flamboyant white flower across the shoulder ending at mid back with embroidered stitching through the middle of the flower.  Along with it she added black leather looking skinny pants and topped the outfit off with black high heels and pearl earrings.  When her makeup was finished, she returned to the living room and found Nathan sitting cross-legged on one of the chairs, a thoughtful look covering his face.

“So what’s on the agenda today, Nathan?  You very generously took care of my needs yesterday, my turn today.  How would you like to spend the day?”

“I was considering a walk through Woodland Park Zoo later tonight.  We can add something special to the hot cocoa and wander through the light display.  It’s lovely, very well done.”

Settling comfortably on his lap, wrapping her arms loosely about his neck, Emma teased his lips nipping and kissing, “Tell me more!”

Nathan settled more comfortably in the chair and ran his hands up and down her sides and along her inner thigh which had her tingling with sudden ache and delightful promise.

“What else do you have in mind, Nathan?” she continued her experimental discovery nipping his earlobes before laying kisses down his neck to the open vee of his shirt.

“I’ll do better than explain, why don’t I simply show you?”  With that Nathan stood, and Emma wrapped her legs around his waist as her onslaught continued as they headed for the bedroom.

Dumping her on the bed, he landed on top of her, excitement guiding his eager hands, arousal easily noted as Emma’s hands explored his body.  Need, excitement, hunger combined and took over their headlong flight into desire.

 

Nathan 53

Emma spent hours either wrapping her gifts or placing them in coordinating bags and then followed up with delightful and special cards with special thoughts attached.  Even the bows were selected with care.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever witnessed such care with gifts, wrappings, bows and cards, Emma.  You really delight in the wrap and cards as much as the gift giving.”

“I do.  I could literally spend hours in card shops.  I love finding something unique and special that fits.”

Nathan hugged her close.  “You are constantly surprising me.  I love seeing all the various angles and depths and nuances that you possess.”

“I don’t think I’m that different,” Emma countered.

“I can’t wait to see the looks on all their faces when they see the wrap, the card and then the gift. I sincerely doubt there will be a dry eye in the house.  Not to mention the comical cards you’ve also obtained.”

“Yeah, but it’s supposed to be special.”

“That’s not a complaint, Emma, rather an observation about you, how special you are, how much you care.”

“In that case, thanks.”  Pulling him closer she responded with, let me show you how much I care.”

 

Nathan 52

Their morning routine was relaxed and enjoyable.  A mix of continued pleasure followed by the existential realities of life.

Since Nathan wasn’t overly concerned about list-making, he enjoyed watching Emma’s since she was involved in deep concentration relating to the gifts she was considering for each person on her list.

Before setting out on their journey of discovery, Nathan asked, “What events do you engage in that make Christmas special to you?”

“What I call ‘home Christmas’ we sing carols around the piano, we reminisce about other Christmas’s, we take long walks, stoke the fire and sit with eggnog, my dad plays chess with anyone that will play, we bake.”

“How abut you, Nathan?”

“It’s been years since I bothered on a personal basis.  The staff gets Christmas to New Years off and don’t arrive back until the 5th.  They bake like mad creatures before-hand so the fridge is fully stocked as is the freezer and if I’m home I can grab whatever I need.”

“I often take off to Paris or Milan, check on the art galleries there or take the opportunity to paint, without interruption. Every year is different.”

“Locally, I usually miss many events as I’m usually at home with my family.  The one event I haven’t participated in as yet is riding the Argosy ship. It’s something I’ve really wanted to participate in, dining on board, it sounds romantic and fun.”

“What have you in mind for gifts?” Nathan asked curiously.

“I was considering some locally made crafts, jewelry, home decor made by local artisans as well as stocking stuffers perhaps smoked salmon, bins of tea and chocolate-covered Rainier Cherries.  Gifts my family aren’t likely to obtain back home.”

“In that case, I suggest we start on Capital Hill as a jumping off point for our journey.  They have some lovely items there that might fit the bill.”

They headed out, hands linked, with hot coffee in hand.  “My sister, Jenna, loves everything Asian. I thought I might hit ID as they have some authentic asian cuisine as well as, hopefully, some gifts that might work with her style.”

“Let’s see, Angeline is into good food, so I was thinking Smoked Salmon, and a kitchen shop since she’s into cooking.”

“Daniel and Fran have a very modern home so anything ultra modern works for them.”

“Mom loves elegant and has a collection of tea cups while Dad loves chess so I was thinking, a glass chess set.”

“Very eclectic mix.”

“They are indeed.”

“What about you, Emma, what would you like?”

“You.”  Emma moved to face him and said, “Just you.”

“Surely there is something more basic that you’d like.”

“No, not really.”

They wandered hand in hand from location to location, and both Emma and Nathan’s hands were full of packages.  Nathan finally sent Jim to the vehicle with the first load as it seemed they weren’t finished as yet.

“Well, I think I’ve nearly finished.  I haven’t found something special for Dad yet.  I was really hoping for a chess set so he can carry on a couple of games.  He has one ongoing game with Daniel that they have dusted off and played every Christmas for the past four years.”  She laughed at the memory.  “I must prepare you, the kibitzing is unrelenting.”

“Sounds like fun,”  Nathan responded.

“Oh, be prepared, if it’s not snowing, for a game of football or basketball, depending.  If we get a deluge of snow, it’s snowmobiling or snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.”

“So I need to come prepared.”

“Definitely.”  Emma smiled. “You an outdoor type, Nathan?”

“I can hold my own,”  he assured her.

“Good to know.”

“I have a ton of Christmas decorations which I’ve instructed the staff to find.  When we get home, we can decorate the indoor tree in the living room.  I leave the rest to the staff to enjoy and enjoy they do.  You’ll be surprised at the change when we get back.”

“Ohh, sounds delightful, I can’t wait.  Oh, do you have any Christmas tunes?”

“I’m sure we can download a few.”

“Awesome, there’s nothing like decorating to Christmas music.”

When they arrived at Nathan’s and entered, Emma halted abruptly.  The kitchen looked like a winter wonderland.  As she wandered closer she exclaimed, “Wow, you are all so talented, this is beautiful!”  Her unprecedented delight animated her face and her eyes glowed.  “How lovely.”  The staff simply nodded and smiled.

They ate steak, baked potato, salad and a delicious truffle in the living room beside a glowing fireplace.  “More wine?”

“Yes, thank you.”

They relaxed for a half hour, exchanging what they considered fun moments with family and friends.  “Ok, what about decorating that tree?”  Nathan suggested.

“Is it real or fake?”

“Please!”  Nathan nodded to a young man who quickly brought in a tree blanket and extension cord and within minutes a massive tree, easily 15 feet tall was set up in front and cornering the bookshelf left of the garden window.  Quickly boxes of decorations appeared.  Emma stood and opened several boxes and found a variety of colours, white, blue, red, some green and gold as well.  “Pick your favourite, Emma, we have enough to mix match or we can use a single colour.”

“These look antique, Nathan.  Were they your grandparents?”

Nathan tapped her nose, “Yes, they were.  I have a very eclectic mixture so I leave it to your imagination.”

Emma opened box after box and the contents were simply breathtaking.  Together, they placed all the bulbs and decorations and when finished, Nathan was delighted by her compilation.  It was eclectic but beautiful, and the colours and styles she’d chosen worked beautifully together.  “Emma, I have to admit, I think this is one of the most beautifully decorated trees I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing.  Thank you.”

“Goodness, it’s my pleasure, Nathan.  What a treat!  Such beauty is difficult to define although I have to say it’s gorgeous.”

Together, they broke out a bottle of wine and sat in two chairs now sitting in an L-shaped fashion facing the tree.  A sigh escaped through Emma’s parted lips.  “I could sit here forever and simply enjoy.”

“Do you mind if I take a few pictures for my family?  They’ll love this.”

“Wait a second, I’ll get my digital camera.”

Emma took several pictures from differing directions and angles thoroughly involved in the moment.  Nathan was truly delighted with her complete absorption in the job at hand.

 

 

Nathan 51

“I’ve never met braver, sweet Emma.  You bravely press on when others stop.  I read some of your articles.  Your honest, straight as an arrow, you never waver and you fight the good fight.  It’s apparent in all of your work.”

“I suppose, I never really looked at it that way.  It was a matter of fighting for those unable to stand and fight back. There is power in the written word.  Good and bad.  I chose the good.”

“It’s a choice, Emma.  You could have chosen a different path, just as easily.”

“No, Nathan, I couldn’t.  It wouldn’t have been within my purvue.  So it really was a choice, but not at the same time.  I couldn’t look myself in the face if I did anything else.”

“You up for a walk, Nathan?”

“Anytime, love.”

“Let’s get some fresh air.”

“Anywhere in particular?” he asked, assisting her to her feet.

“I’d love a leisurely walk around your gardens.”

They wandered through the fragrant flowers along the casual meandering path consisting of a mixture of gravel and mulch with its magical tone set by a variety of subtle lighting.  “I love this garden, Nathan.  It’s magically mystical.”

Nathan pulled her closer to his side and kissed the top of her head. “It’s meant to be, Emma.  I haven’t placed a fountain on the grounds yet.  I’ve been watching the night sky and the sun to determine placement.”

“Personally, I think it would be a beautiful addition to the back gardens at the far end of the walk, with a circular path around it leading back the way you came from  and intersecting through the middle.”

“You may be right at that.  I’ll have to give that idea some in depth thought.”

Although it was late, they circled the expansive garden a second time before heading indoors.  “I’m taking time off for Christmas and I’ll be at my families from the 23rd until January 2.  I was hoping you’d come stay with us so we could enjoy Christmas together.”  Emma’s suggestion surprised Nathan.

“You’re sure?”

“I am.  I think they’d love you.  I know they would.”

“That reminds me, I’d like to do some Christmas shopping tomorrow.  You up for that?”

“With you?  Most certainly.”

“Good, then I think we should retire early so we aren’t too tired to enjoy the experience.”  Her words belied her movements as she pulled his head down and watched his twinkling eyes flame as she nipped his lower lip and then deepened the kiss.

 

 

 

 

Nathan 50

“I’m picturing the moments of her death, Nathan.  How terrified she must have been, how alone, nowhere to run to and no one to save her, nowhere to hide.  What pictures must have flashed through her mind when she knew she was going to die, and couldn’t do anything to save herself.”

“I’ve never given death much thought, we all die, it is inevitable, but to die in such a cold black empty void, for her life to end this way? is beyond unfortunate or tragic.  It’s utterly senseless!  Inhuman!”

It seemed nothing could disquiet Emma’s thought process, so Nathan decided he’d work with it.  “Do you have the names of Mark’s  co-workers?  Perhaps we could contact a few of them and check what, if anything, they might have known, any conjectures they might have made.”

“Yes, yes, your right, Nathan.  I simply can’t sit still at the moment.  I’m haunted by that beautiful face.  It’s impossible for me to put away.” Looking across at him she said, “Thank you for understanding, Nathan.”

Nathan understood all too well the thought process, caring for and protecting the innocent while damning the guilty.  He’d lived on that edge, that precipice often enough.  Indeed, he’d had to re-train his mind, cool his jets and reign in his hot headed hot blooded urges or he would have beaten a number of vile creeps half to death for the atrocities committed.   There were many occasions when, without Jim’s presence and intervention, he could and would have gone too far and carried justice into vigilantism.  It would make him no different than them, and he was.

“I’ll take half his notes, you take the other, see if he mentions anyone by name, if not, we’ll take a look at the Editor’s page and find names of others working for the paper during the time period in question.”

“I don’t see anyone mentioned,”  Emma puffed out on an exaggerated breath.

“Nor I.  Which means, finding out who worked there, which is easy enough to do.”  Nathan quickly finished the search and found three individuals working during that time period, but oddly enough found two that had also left.  “Interesting, during that same time period, four months between her death and Marks’, there were two reporters that left. Coincidence or something else?” he wondered aloud.

Emma picked up her cell and found a phone number listed for Michael Brookman, and dialled.  At his hello, she introduced herself and her profession before explaining the reason for her call.  When she hung up she told Nathan, “He didn’t have anything interesting to add other than he liked Marks and still felt his loss.  He was a great guy and helped him out when he was stuck on a direction for a story.  Said he hadn’t heard anything unusual regarding Marks death and hadn’t considered it might be anything but an accident.  I could tell I got the wheels turning by the end of the conversation, though.  He told me he’d do some discreet checking, see if he could find any new information.  I warned him to be very careful about who he spoke with.  I could tell he was anxious but excited too.”

“Next is a Raymond Halliday.”  Nathan handed her the name and phone number.

Mr Halliday was nervous, right from the get go.  “Mr Halliday, you seem nervous.  Is that related to our current discussion?”  Emma nodded at Nathan.  “Why is that, Mr Halliday?”  Emma began writing.  “I see.  So you had some immediate concerns relating to Mr Marks’ death but chose not to voice them.  I get that.  You must have been extremely nervous if you considered both incidents connected.  No, Mr Halliday, you did the right thing.  Family comes first!”

“Do you have any idea who might have been involved? Whether anyone contacted Mr Marks after any of his articles?”

“Thank you for your time, Mr Halliday, I appreciate it.”  She paused, “No, Mr Halliday, I always protect my sources.  I will not mention you or anyone close to  you, I guarantee you that.  Alright, and you take care, Mr Halliday.  Merry Christmas.”

“Now that was enlightening.”

Nathan nodded, “And?”

“Seems Marks was onto something, mentioned two members of a local gang that hung on the fringes trying to make good.  They are wanted by the Police but have managed to cover their tracks either by threats, turning up at witnesses businesses, workplaces or homes, letting whoever they wished to harass know by sheer presence it was in their best interest to keep their mouths shut.  Said it happened to Marks a couple of times at work.  He’d been leaving the building alongside Marks when some biker dudes rolled up alongside his vehicle and sat staring at him before smashing out his tailights and leaving.”

With a concerned sigh she continued, “After Marks’ death, the same thing happened to him and on one occasion, they were outside his little girl’s school and one of the bikers, a woman, was entertaining his daughter.  When he raced to his daughter, pulling her behind him, they told him he’d better take care, that any information Marks might have shared should have died with him.”

“It was obvious he was still scared, his voice was shakey, and he wanted a guarantee that I wouldn’t use his name in any subsequent articles.  You heard my side of the conversation.”

“So, Marks was definitely onto something and someone shut him up as they did Sylvia Westwood.  They’ve managed to contain the information by threats to everyone close to him.”

“Time for my team to take over.”  Nathan affirmed with a look that definitely brooked no question and no doubt.

“I don’t mind telling you, I’d be incredibly nervous if I were covering this situation alone.  I don’t know . . . I don’t know if I’d have been brave enough.”

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