“I’m fine, Dale. The docs said I might have a light concussion, that’s all,” Anne told her partner as they walked out to his car in the hospital parking lot. Dale Melon shot her a skeptical look. He’d been her partner for the last two years and knew better than to try and convince her to take it easy. That was what captains were for.
“What happened to the guy who picked me up?” Anne asked for the fourth time that morning. The police officers that had been with her at the hospital had been circumspect about Kurt’s whereabouts.
“His story checked out, so we let him go this morning,” Dale said grudgingly. “Can’t you remember anything more about last night?”
“No. If I had, I’d’ve told you the other twenty times you asked last night,” Anne snapped. She took a deep breath. “Look, I’m sorry. I should have told you where I was going last night, but I honestly can’t remember what happened after that SOB clocked me.” Dale’s rugged features softened into a warm smile. She hated lying to Dale, but Anne was sure that he shouldn’t be dragged into last night’s insanity. She was having a hard enough time dealing with what happened. Anne wasn’t sure if Dale would survive.
“I’m just glad you survived. From all the brass we collected, there was one hell of a firefight,” Dale said, driving towards her apartment.
“But no bodies?” Anne asked.
“No bodies, no blood, no DNA,” Dale confirmed, “It’s as bizarre as our murders.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t someone just letting loose with some homemade full autos?” Anne asked, “That would explain why someone would knock me out to prevent me from telling.”
“That’s what we’re telling the public, but Jason doesn’t think so,” Dale answered. Jason McMurtry had been Army CID before joining the department as a homicide detective. From the few conversations Anne had with the intense detective, it was clear he’d investigated more than one nasty battle scenes.
“Any more leads on our murders?” Anne asked.
“Just a setback,” Dale said. “Those DNA samples from the first two crime scenes came back as contaminated. We didn’t get anything.”
“All of them?” Anne asked. “How is that possible?”
“Believe me, CSU is having to answer that question right now,” Dale said, “The field people are saying they followed procedures and the lab screwed up. The lab is saying the field people screwed up the collection. Whatever actually happened, we don’t have anything to run in CODIS. Anyways, you don’t have to worry about that for a few days.”
“Paid administrative leave. Yay,” Anne said flatly.
“You discharged your weapon. That plus your medical means you’re benched,” Dale said. “Don’t worry. I’ll keep you posted if anything breaks.”
“Thanks,” Anne said as he pulled into her apartment complex. Dale put his hand on her arm as she started to get out.
“Listen, try and get some rest. Please? I don’t want to have to explain to your mother why you’re in the hospital. Again,” he said, with a smile to soften the last word. She couldn’t help but return the smile.
“I will. Try that is,” Anne said. He laughed as she shut the door. She didn’t let the scowl cross her face until she was climbing the stairs to her apartment. If this Avalon stuff wasn’t bad enough, she had nothing to find her murderer. To top it all off, she couldn’t do anything. She paused for a moment. She couldn’t do anything officially, but the Avalonians said that they’d help her. Veronica’s little touch had made the doctors see injuries consistent with her cover story. Why couldn’t Veronica’s magic help her figure out who was behind her murderers?
Anne paused at her door. That was odd. Delicious smells were coming from apartment. Since she’d talked to her mom before leaving the hospital, that couldn’t be the source. She very much doubted a robber stopped to make himself breakfast. One of her exes? She doubted that, but odder things had happened. The department had taken both her sidearm and backup for the dockyard investigation. Dale had offered his backup, and now Anne was regretting refusing the pistol. She was about to creep back and call Dale when the door opened.
“It’s about time you got here,” Kurt said, “Your food was about to get cold.” Anne froze in the hallway. She was having a hard time reconciling the tall, blond German’s handsome features with the frilly, pink apron he was wearing over his clothes. “I’m sorry, did I speak in German by accident?”
“Where did you get that?” Anne asked, pointing at the apron.
“This thing?” he asked, in a mock seductive tone, “You had it in your pantry. Now, will you come in?” Anne laughed as Kurt led her into the apartment. It was a comfy one-bedroom affair full of hand-me-down furniture from her grandparents. On the table were four covered dishes and a place setting.
“Where did you get those?” she asked, pointing at the table.
“They were in your pantry, in the back,” Kurt answered, surprised at the question.
“I have covered dishes?” Anne asked as she let Kurt guide her to the table.
“*Ja*. Although, that would explain why they looked unused,” he answered, with a light tone. As she sat, he uncovered a plate of eggs and bacon followed by another of pancakes that looked like they were used in an advertisement.
“When did you do all of this?” Anne asked.
“Well, after your *Freunde* from the police were done questioning me, I came here,” he said. “Erik told me when you’d be discharged and so it wasn’t hard to have breakfast waiting for you. I very much doubted you’d have anything to eat at the hospital. Fortunately, you had all of the necessary ingredients in your kitchen.”
“What are you talking about? I haven’t done shopping in ages,” Anne said as she took a bite of the pancakes. Damn, they were good. Then, her police instincts finally made their appearance. “Wait, how did you get in?”
“*Detektivin* Hearst, I am a trained intelligence operative,” Kurt said, “Do you really think your locks posed that much of a challenge?” His tone was joking, but Anne felt an icy pit in her stomach. Kurt read her expression and his own face grew serious.
“*Detektivin*, after last night’s events, we needed to make sure that Arem didn’t have someone waiting for you when you came home. Since I was already tasked with watching you, it made sense for me to do so,” Kurt said, “Until this is resolved, you may as well get used to the idea that we will need to periodically sweep and secure your apartment.”
“Until this is resolved? You don’t mean helping me with the murders. You mean until I get dragged to this Avalon,” Anne said quietly. *Please don’t let him say it.*
“Probably, but that will be Erik’s call,” Kurt said, bluntly. Anne cringed at the words. His blue eyes melted into warm sympathy. “It is horrible when things beyond your control destroy your life. Especially when those things weren’t even known to you. I would change that, but I can’t. So would any of the Avalonians. All I can do is promise to protect you as best as I can and do whatever I can to make your life a little better.” Anne fled from the table into her room.
Damn it all to hell, she wanted to be angry at him. She wanted to scream, and rail, and maybe throw things at him. How dare he look at her with those eyes! Why did he have to be so *truthful?* Anne yelled a long string of curses at the door. Suddenly exhausted, Anne walked over to her bed and flopped down. Why couldn’t Kurt be more like Erik? From what Anne had seen so far, she was pretty sure she could get a hate on for Erik. Kurt, on the other hand, was confusing all of the instincts built up over a decade spent on the police force. At some point in her rumination, Anne fell asleep.