I sighed, trying to wipe the water from my eyes. Why did it always have to be a dark and stormy night? Why couldn't it be a bright and sunny morning, or even a blustery and cool afternoon? I narrowed my eyes trying to see through the gloom.
There had to be a better way to do this. Sneaking around and hiding behind bushes was all well and good for a detective novel where excitement and anticipation kept you turning the pages but it was a whole lot less glamourous when you were actually knee deep in muck. I slowly shifted my weight trying to ease a cramp in my back without rustling the bushes and giving myself away.
A snapping sound behind me caused me to jump and whirl about in panic.
"Relax sis, it's just me!" My brother's goofy grin broke through my alarm and I put a hand to my chest in relief. "What are you doing here?" I hissed quickly looking away from him and back to the house. If he caused me to miss the shot I was going to kill him. "I followed you of course. You know you're not very good at this cloak and dagger stuff." He playfully punched my arm and I clenched my teeth in frustration. "Keep in down will you. I'm working here." "Working?!" he scoffed but he did it in hushed tones at least. I nodded and kept my eyes trained on the house, it would be any minute now. "A few weeks ago when dad played that charity gig I ran into Mrs. Williams."
The senators wife had been upset, distraught even, and far enough gone on the nectar to have lost the icy demeanour she was known for. Naturally I moved to comfort her. It had nothing at all to do with the fact that I was hoping to find out if some of the stories I had heard about the senator were true. Well almost nothing to do with that.
It seemed that the senator had been spending just a little to much time at the house of his new assistant and, naturally, Mrs. Williams assumed he was having an affair. She had confronted him earlier that night and he had denied everything but she didn't believe him. Not knowing where to turn and not wanting to go public she needed proof and had no way of getting it.
As she told her story an idea started to form. She wasn't the only 'high-profile' individual who needed inquires handled discreetly and everyone knew that Sunset Valley's private eye was anything but. I could do this! I could be the private eye to the stars, so to speak. Having spent most of my teenage years traveling and assisting my father I knew this world and I certainly could keep a secret. Besides there was a perverse pleasure in knowing something that was hidden from the public.
"So that's why I'm here getting drenched to the bone. Senator Williams has been in there for a couple hours and if I'm lucky I might get a shot of him saying goodbye to his little sugar on the side as he leaves." "Are you sure about this Mint? I'm sure the senator has bodyguards around here somewhere and something tells me that they wouldn't take to kindly to you spying on him." "Don't be ridiculous there's no one here but us." I glanced around nervously hoping that was true. "So..." "Shhhhh," I hushed him quickly. I'd seen movement behind the curtains and I pulled my camera out checking the settings for the hundredth time.
It was raining harder than ever and the temperature had dropped low enough so that I could see my breath. Hoping the downpour was enough to mask me and my camera's noise I risked being spotted to stand up and get a better angle for the pictures. Sure enough it was the senator leaving the house and he wasn't alone.
I snapped wildly trying to keep focused while the rather unexpected scene played out before me.
"What the berry?" I heard Per breath behind me. I didn't pay him any attention, this was incredible and I had to get some good pictures or no one was going to believe me. As the senator said his passionate goodbye I heard movement behind me and thinking it was Per doing something silly I just whisper a quick "Hush!" before continuing to snap away.
The sounds quickly got louder and I began to get irritated. "Per!" I snapped and turned to get him to settle down. What I saw made me stop dead. Per was locked in the arms of a man in a very different way than the two on the porch were. This must have been the bodyguard Per mentioned but why hadn't I seen him before? And where had he come from?
Biting my lip I risked a glance back at the porch to see if we were heard but the senator was in a whole other world at that moment and seemed oblivious. One problem down. I looked at my brother, one to go. The bodyguard was tall, trim and muscular with a silly crop of blond hair on his head. He was obviously a trained professional, each move of his was practiced and precise. Normally I would have said Per would be fudged but what he lacked in skill he made up for in enthusiasm. I watched as he landed a lucky punch on blondie's nose. There was no way I was getting in the middle of that. With the energy Per was flinging those punches around he would be just as likely to him me. I looked around for something I could use and grabbed the first thing my eyes fell on.
It became clear quite quickly that the flamingo's flimsy plastic head wasn't going to do any real damage. Maybe if I was lucky it would annoy blondie to death. I was starting to get fed up with my weapon of choice and was ready to toss it aside when I got in a lucky hit to blondie's eye. Bellowing in pain he took his hands off Per's shoulders and brought them up to cover the injured side of his face giving Per the opportunity for one well placed kick.
That was all we needed and we both sprinted away leaving blondie to nursing two injuries. We ran until we reached a park and hiding amongst the trees we both collapsed gasping for air.
When I had got my breath back enough to speak I looked up at Per. "So why did you follow me?" "Well," he said not quite meeting my gaze. "You'd been sneaking out the last couple of nights. Lola said she thought you'd met a guy but I wasn't so sure. I wanted to make sure you weren't in any trouble, maybe even rescue you if you needed it." He looked me in the eye before blushing the red vibrant against the light green of his skin.
"Guess I was the one who needed rescuing instead, thanks." I laughed. My stupid brother, always so galant and brave but never thinking things through. Of course if he hadn't been there then I would have been the one that bodyguard grabbed and my career would be over before it started. Maybe I should bring him along a little more often, maybe. Uncomfortable with the idea of the conversation turning emotional Per put his arm around me and started to lead me out of the park. "Come on the Milky Ways are playing tonight and I'm not going to miss it because I was getting sappy in the rain with my sister." he teased. I couldn't resist. "Don't you mean soppy?" I asked wringing out my shirt as we walked. We both laughed as we headed to the car and out of the rain.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "Hurry up!" In the end I decided to go with Per to the concert and my delay in getting ready was beginning to frustrate him.
He put up with it though because I could get him backstage. I told him it was a woman's prerogative to make sure she looked her absolute best when she was going out. He seemed to buy that but Moon, of course, saw right through me. "Say hi to Malt for me when you get there." She sang after me as we walked out the door.
"What was that about?" Per asked with a suspicious tone. "Nothing. She knows the band's manager that's all." I tried to put a cool nonchalance in my words but the narrowing of his eyes told me I hadn't quite succeeded. He might be my little brother but he was still plenty protective of me and my sisters. With any luck one of the candy fluffs that hung out around the band would distract him and he would leave me in peace once we were there.
Having been my dad's assistant for all those years had its advantages and as promised I got us back stage with no problems. Of course back stage for the Milky Ways was a little different from backstage with my dad.
I blushed and tried not to look too closely at whatever, Flax, the lead singer was doing with those two girls and quickly left the room. "You must be Mint." The silky smooth tones that melted my bones made me jump as they were practically whispered into my ear. There, leaning so close I could feel the warmth of his body was Malt.
Grateful for the chair that was next to me I reached out and steadied myself to keep my knees from giving way under the force of his brilliant caramel eyes. "Hi," I breathed out barely audibly. I stood staring for just a moment before I could gather my wits and respond properly. "How do you know who I am?" "You look remarkably like your mother. She's the reason I got into this business. The way she managed your dad's career was nothing short of spectacular." Of course, everyone was always comparing me to mum. That's why I stopping helping dad I never could get out from under her shadow. He looked me up and down taking full measure of my appearance. Suddenly extremely self-conscious I fiddled with my bracelet while he continued his examination.
"Yes you are remarkably like her. Only, and don't tell her I said this," he leaned closer eyes glinting with some hidden secret. "Only much prettier."
The fire that had died down in my face flushed again and I hated to think of the shade of bright red they must be. His hand reached out and tucked a stray lock if hair behind my ear and once again I had to hold on for dear life as the world threatened to collapse under me but this time instead of the chair I reached for him.
"Malt!" One of the girls I had so studiously avoiding looking at earlier burst into the room at that moment. Wild eyed, gasping and of course stunningly beautiful. I would have cheerfully strangled her if it wasn't for the next words that came out of her mouth. "It's Flax He's been poisoned!"