Harlan woke up the next morning with a cramp in his back from sleeping on the couch. He looked around and saw a pair of green eyes staring intently at him.
“What are you looking at?” he asked.
“Mrrow,” Louie said, flicking his tail.
“Are you hungry too?” he asked the cat.
“Brrrt,” Louie replied, and then sauntered into the kitchen.
Harlan rubbed his eyes, sighed, and then sat up, looking at his surroundings. In the middle of the night, Dixie had placed a granny-square afghan on him. He grinned.
Since he was the first one up, he wandered into the kitchen and searched for the coffee and the coffee maker. He was in the middle of going through Dixie’s canisters on her counter when her voice surprised him.
“Find what you’re looking for?” she asked, hand on her hip.
Harlan looked her over. She was barefoot and wearing what appeared to be a Hello Kitty bathrobe. Her hair was up in a messy bun.
“Just looking for the coffee. I’m dying for some this morning,” Harlan replied in a gruff voice.
“No problem. You’re just looking in the wrong place,” Dixie said.
“Obviously. All I could find was tea!” Harlan said, chuckling.
“Oh, just hold your horses. I have coffee. I make it for the ladies when they come over,” Dixie said, walking over to the refrigerator and taking a canister from inside. Have a seat, and I’ll make you some.”
Harlan looked at her for a moment; then he volunteered to make the coffee.
“Fine, suit yourself. I’ll feed Louie while you make it.” Dixie said, smiling, and the two busied themselves with their tasks.
Louie jumped up on the counter and waited for her to serve him a can of cat food. Dixie lowered her head and gave Louie a little head bump before serving him. She smiled and turned around to find Harlan very close to her.
“Um, sorry,” he said.
“I’m not,” Dixie replied, then quickly scooted to the other side of the counter. “I’m going to get dressed.” She quickly hurried to her bedroom and shut the door behind her.
“Good gravy girl,” she admonished herself while looking in her dressing table mirror. “The last thing you need is another man in your life, even if he is good looking. And a cop.” She had to admit, having a cop for a boyfriend had its’ perks, especially if you had a bad ex-boyfriend. As she finished her morning makeup routine, she smiled at herself in the mirror, happy with the natural-looking results.
Dixie got dressed in a pair of jeans and a light blue Henley top. She pulled on a pair of cat-themed socks and headed into the living room. It smelled delightfully like fresh-brewed coffee, and she inhaled deeply.
Harlan walked into the living room with a plate full of peanut butter toast and placed it on the table.
“How do you like your coffee?” he asked.
“A dollop of cream and a teaspoon of sugar,” she said, eyeing the toast greedily. “Thanks!”
Dixie bit into a piece of the toast, and Harlan joined her, handing her the cup of coffee.
“Hungry I see,” Harlan said after a sip of coffee.
“Funny how terror can make you feel that way,” Dixie said, meeting Harlan’s gaze. She frowned. “I’d almost forgotten overnight.”
“Is there anything you can think of that might shed some light on this?” he asked. “Someone is brazen enough to bash your window in broad daylight. Not to mention trying to blow up your car.”
“I have a guardian angel looking out for me,” Dixie said. “He or she has been working overtime for the past few years.”
“I bet,” he said. “All kidding aside, whoever is doing this thinks they won’t be caught. If we’re lucky, they’re going to slip up.”
“Or they’ll hurt someone else,” Dixie said, putting down her piece of partially eaten toast. “I’m worried about my friends.”
“I wish I could tell you that everything will be okay, but we’re stuck waiting until the killer makes another move,” Harlan said, munching on a piece of toast thoughtfully. “I wish we had something more to go on. The murder weapon in the first case had no fingerprints. Forensics is still working on the bomb parts. We probably won’t find any prints on the note you received through your window either if the killer is any good at covering their tracks. If nothing else happens, we’ll have to hope that a witness comes forward,” Harlan explained.
“I don’t want to wait around for the killer to take me out, or Louie. I’m tired of this cat and mouse game. Pardon the pun, Louie,” she said. Louie looked up at her from his breakfast for a moment, then returned to polishing off his food.
“Do you have any work to do today?” he asked, trying to change the conversation.
“I need to drop off some brochures around town. I need to drum up some new business,” Dixie replied.
Harlan took a big swig of coffee and finished his toast.
“If you need to go anywhere today, have one of the officers take you. Whatever you do, don’t announce where you will be today to anyone, not even Angie, okay?” he asked.
“Why can’t I tell Angie?” Dixie asked.
“She might tell someone else, someone who would want to hurt you,” he said, looking her straight in the eye. “I don’t suspect your aunt, but loose lips sink ships. She knows most of the people in town, and I’m betting it may be someone she knows. The killer did say that they knew you, right?”
“Angie’s friends are as peaceful as baby lambs. They’re all over 60 years old. What could they possibly do? And they most certainly wouldn’t hurt me anyway; I’ve known most of her friends since I was a child,” Dixie said.
“Most of her friends, that is the point,” Harlan said. “You don’t know ALL of her friends, and that is the problem. I’ve got some leads to chase down today, but I’ll be in touch later, okay?”
Harlan stood and thanked Dixie for her hospitality. He gathered up his things and left, promising to talk to her later.
After he had left, Dixie had to make some phone calls and order a new window. She wondered if she should have bars installed on the windows too.
The phone rang, jarring her nerves. She glanced at the caller ID and saw it was coming from the Dog and Suds diner.
“Hello?” Dixie asked.
“Dixie Carver?” the woman’s voice asked.
“My manager asked me to call about your ad on the side of our building,” the woman said.
“What ad?” Dixie asked, confused.
“The ad that is spray painted in pink. My manager is pretty peeved about it,” the woman said. “Hey, I don’t judge anyone, but if you are in that kind of business, you should keep it on the down low, not painted near the entrance to the parking lot.”
“What are you talking about?” Dixie, absolutely confused about the direction the conversation was going.
A man’s voice came on the line, which startled Dixie.
“Hey lady, either you come and clean this up, or I’m going to call the cops. I don’t go for this kind of crap. I run a family business, capisce?” the man said loudly.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Go ahead and call the cops. They just left my house after eating breakfast!” Dixie said, hanging up on the man.
Dixie would have ignored the call after everything she had been through, but another call came in with a similar complaint a few minutes later. All hell was breaking loose, and apparently, everyone in town was thinking the same thing: she was now running an escort service.