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Operator

By Allison H. Pierson All Rights Reserved ©

Mystery / Thriller

Blurb

A strange woman named Lochlier Lyall has somehow gotten a whole town under her spell, but authorities in the area aren't fooled by her sweet and motherly persona. They've sent their newest, brightest detective, Eddie Valliere, to the small, fictional town of Groverfield to find out what Lochlier is doing to the citizens and put a stop to anything she may be scheming. But with everyone in town completely loyal to the woman, and a select few bowing to her every whim, it may end up being far more than he bargained for.

Assignment

Eddie Valliere hadn’t been in this line of work for long. In fact, he’d only very recently joined this line of work after completing the education requirements. And he’d only barely managed that.

He shuddered at the thought of the look on his parents’ faces when they found out he’d gotten a D in every single class. But, oh well. Who cared if his grades had been low once he’d hit college? He’d been a damn prodigy all through the rest of his schooling and he felt he had earned the chance to slack off. And, of course, right after he graduated he’d gone right back to being a prodigy.

He’d only been on the force for a little over two years and already he was getting his Detective’s shield. Oh, he could not wait to put on that brand new, shiny gold badge. There it was, right there, in his hands. He’d only gotten it the day before and he was finally, finally going to be allowed to wear it. It felt like it had been weeks, when in reality it had only been a few hours. He’d hardly slept, he was so excited.

He’d only gotten even more jittery when he’d heard through the grapevine that the Detective Sergeant already had a case ready for him.

“Eddie!” There was a viciously loud knock on his door. He cringed. Rufus. “Eddie I’m-better-’n-you Valliere, you get yer shield-bearin’ ass out here right this instant!”

A groan was his response as he sat down his beloved, brand new shield and went to the door of his small apartment - which was littered with papers, cigarette butts that had fallen from his large variety of ashtrays, and perhaps a few dishes he had forgotten to wash.

He yanked the door open a fraction, “What do you want, Rufus?” He frowned up at the taller man through the crack.

Of course, Rufus was wearing his typical shit-eating grin and loose flannel shirt as he stood in the hallway. “To congratulate ya, Ed.” The southern Illinoisan guffawed.

What was it with him and laughing at strange moments? It seemed he always laughed when nothing was funny. Eddie sighed. “What are you laughing about, anyway?”

Sometimes he wondered why Rufus had moved here to Northern Ohio, let alone to Columbus, though he was kind of glad for the man’s presence - it reminded of his home… Which was, conveniently, located in Southern Illinois. Why had he moved here, anyway? He was sure he’d had a reason...

“You.” Rufus’ grin somehow widened further. Eddie was surprised his cheeks didn’t split open, but that feeling was somewhat overshadowed by his irritation at Rufus’ response. “Ya graduated High School some four er five years a’fore ya were supposed to as the damn val-eh-dictorian -” His thick southern accent seemed to thicken the more he spoke, “- spent something like two or three years after that just laying around yer ma’s house, and then managed to enroll in and finish College afore ya were even 21!” He gave a loud cackle, “And here ya are, already a full-fledged detective - yer a real workhorse!” He slapped his shoulder. “And only 22 and a half years old!”

Eddie sighed, rubbing his shoulder. “Is there anything else, Rufus? I need to get ready for work.”

The 22-and-a-half year old stood in a set of baggy sweatpants and a thin black tank top, bright red hair messed all to high hell from how many times he’d ran his fingers through it out of nervousness. His feet were bare.

“I was gonna take you to the Precinct, actually.” Rufus chuckled, his delighted smile fading into his usual lazy one. “Hurry up, I’ll be in my truck.” And he turned and headed down the hall and down the stairs.

Although Eddie was hesitant to admit it, he was thankful that Rufus had come to pick him up. His personal vehicle was currently on the fritz, and his police cruiser was in the parking lot at the Precinct… Halfway across the city. Had Rufus chosen to wait until he got to work to “congratulate” him, he’d have been walking a mile and a half here in about five minutes.

He hurried through changing his clothes, happily fixing his shield onto his jacket before yanking on some socks and his work shoes. He paused in front of a mirror, attempting to make his hair look presentable. He swallowed hard, fiddling with his tie, and decided he’d better get downstairs before Rufus changed his mind about driving him to work.

Despite that thought, he lingered a moment longer to admire his badge. He had been waiting for this day ever since he’d joined the Police force… And damn was he proud that it had finally come. He reminded himself that he still had to tell his mother and father about it, but, just as that hadn’t taken priority the day before, it still didn’t now. He’d get around to it whenever he felt up to it - he wasn’t all that keen on the thought of speaking to his parents at the moment.

After all, the last time they’d spoken, his father had told him he’d never become a Detective because of all the slacking he’d done in College.

That had been almost eight months ago, if his memory served him. He’d been so angry he’d spent the day at the shooting range, firing off his pistol into target after target while pretending it was his father. It wasn’t his proudest moment, he’d admit.

Of course, he remembered, he’d have to supply proof to his skeptical father. So he dug his phone out of his pocket, snapped a selfie in the mirror, and was then on his way. He strapped his gun holster to his hip and made sure the gun was loaded; his keys were grabbed from the table and tucked into his pocket. He thought for a moment, wondering if he needed anything else.

He checked off all of his necessary items under his breath, then sighed in relief. “Good, I haven’t forgotten anything. That’d be a hell of a way to start my first day as a Detective.” He shuddered at the thought, flipped his living room light off, and exited the apartment.

Usually he wouldn’t bother locking the door, but since he had a lot more at stake now he decided it was worth it to start doing so. It felt odd to pull the locked door closed - he felt as if there was some sort of significance to it, although he wasn’t sure what could possibly be significant about closing his door.

He shook his head and made his way down the stairs and out to Rufus’ large idling blue truck.


When they arrived at the Precinct, Eddie had begun to fidget. What if the Sergeant really did already have an assignment for him? What if he screwed it up?

He’d be so embarrassed - he’d never be able to show his face in this town again! He found himself swallowing quite frequently on the way into the building, throat beginning to dry out. He paused to get a drink from the water fountain, hoping it would help him to stop swallowing so much.

It did not.

And he had scarcely seated himself in his new office (his very first office) before the Sergeant knocked on the door frame. “Valliere!” He barked, though the young Detective knew he was just a generally loud man and wasn’t intending to be frightening.

“Yes sir?” He sat up straighter.

“To my office.” He winked. “I have an assignment for you.”

Eddie’s heart skipped a beat. So Dana hadn’t been lying to him. This was great! “Yes, sir!” He got up immediately.

The Sergeant nodded and left his place in the door frame, marching off to his office. Eddie scurried to his door, tripping over a box of his things and landing on his face. He laid there for a moment to gather his thoughts, got up, and checked his reflection in the window to make sure he wasn’t bleeding. He sighed in relief. That would have been embarrassing to explain, but as it was he wouldn’t have to.

He walked, back straight, to the Sergeant’s office.

“Take a seat.” The Sergeant motioned to the chair in front of his desk. Eddie obeyed without question. “Now, I realize it’s only your first day as a Detective, and that up until now you’ve always worked with a partner…” Eddie tried to control his breathing while the man continued. “But there’s a case we need a fresh detective to take. We’ve had experienced men on the case for years, but none of them have found anything. You’re pretty much our last hope.”

Eddie’s eyes widened. “Wait, really?”

The Sergeant nodded. “Yes. Really.” He plopped a manilla folder onto the desk between them, opening it and then sliding it in Eddie’s direction. “We need you to investigate a woman named Lochlier Lyall.” He tapped the picture attached to the files. “We have reason to believe that she’s in some way connected to, or may actually be, an underground character named ‘The Operator’. The Operator is thought to be responsible for the deaths of up to 20 people in just the past three years, and any information we can gather about Lochlier will help to either eliminate her as a suspect or charge her for these murders.”

Eddie took a good look at the file, noting that she’d been marked as having a ‘sweet, motherly’ demeanor by multiple previous detectives. That was either the best ruse he’d ever seen, or this was the most unnecessary case he’d ever heard of… And to be honest he wasn’t sure which was true. But then he noticed something - she lived in Groverfield. That wasn’t exactly in or out of their jurisdiction. Groverfield was kind of like no-man’s land for Police.

“Sir… You expect me to perform surveillance on a woman in Groverfield?” He looked up in disbelief. “They hate cops down there!”

“Our previous detectives have had no problem - it seems that a detective’s badge is different to them than a regular police badge. In fact, they seem pretty fond of detectives.”

“If you say so, sir.” He sighed. “I’ll do it, nonetheless.”

“Good man! I knew I could count on you.” The Sergeant chuckled. “You can head out whenever you’re ready… And don’t worry, we’ll be funding you generously.”

“Thank you.” He sighed in relief. If he was being funded, he wouldn’t have to use any money from his savings account - where half of all of his leftover money went when he got paid. There wasn’t a whole lot of money left over after he’d paid all his bills and bought groceries, of course, but he always put half of it away regardless. It didn’t matter if he only had $10 left over, $5 of it went into the account.

It was something his mother had taught him to do. “Every little bit counts!” She’d always said, and of course she was right. And because of her advice, he had a lot more money in his savings account at all times than he ever had pocket money.

“You should prepare yourself.” The Sergeant suggested, “You’ll be gone for a while.”

Eddie nodded. “Sure hope I’m still getting my paycheck.” He meant it as a joke, externally.

Of course, the Sergeant knew he really was worried about it. “You will be.”

“Good.” He stood up. “I’ll get ready, then. Am I gonna be in a hotel, or…?”“For the first few weeks, yes. If you don’t find anything before two months are up, we’ll see about getting you into a house.”

“Alrighty.”

He strode back to his office. He still had to get all of his stuff unpacked into the drawers of his desk - he couldn’t leave until that was done. Not unless he wanted to be thinking about it the whole time he was on the case. He looked around at the multitude of small boxes, sighed, and began doing that.

And that was why, when Rufus finally clocked in an hour later, he went to visit Eddie and found him sitting on the floor surrounded by empty boxes.

“Havin’ fun down there, Eddie?” He chuckled, leaning against the door frame.

Eddie snorted and turned to look at him. “Something like that.” He looked back at the boxes - none of them were very big, honestly. “I just could’ve sworn I had more stuff.”

Rufus waded through the mess over to him. “Nah, this looks like everything to me.” He patted Eddie’s head. “Heard ya got a case already.”

“Yeah. In Groverfield.” He looked up at the, currently, much taller man.

Rufus grimaced. “Good luck, Ed. Don’t die, yeah?”

“I’ll do my best,” He stood, knowing Rufus would get out of his way.

The man stumbled back, as he’d expected, trying to keep from getting head-butted. He glared at him, briefly, but it was very quickly replaced by his usual smile. “Ya in a hurry, buddy?”“Little bit.” He admitted. “I just have to pick up all these… Boxes…?” He looked around, seeing them all stacked up already. Rufus grinned at him. “When did you…?”

“While you were turning around to look at me.” Rufus shrugged.

“How?” He scrunched his eyebrows together. “I didn’t even hear you move them!”

“You weren’t paying enough attention then.” Rufus turned to leave. “Oh, by the way, since you’re gonna be in Groverfield, keep an eye out for anyone who hangs around Lochlier Lyall too much.” He glanced over his shoulder. “I’ve heard they tend to be pretty nutty.”

“That’s gonna be kinda difficult, seeing as I’m supposed to be watching her.”

“You’re screwed, then. Just… Don’t make her husband mad at you, whatever you do.” Rufus shuddered. “Last I heard, he’s suspected in the murders of two of the detectives who were on the case before you. Seems like a real sweet guy, though. Nobody but us thinks he did it.”

“That’s… Nice.” He ran a hand through his hair, effectively tousling it again despite having fixed it. He sighed again. “Any tips on how to not piss him off?”

“Don’t mess with his wife.”

Those were the last words that Rufus spoke before he left. And when Eddie peeked out of his office, the brunet was nowhere to be found. “Where…?” He looked around, then decided it was probably best not to question it. Questioning the Southern man typically didn’t end well - although nothing bad ever happened, per se. It just gave him a headache that he wasn’t usually eager to deal with.

Instead, he chose to figure out what all he was bringing with him to Groverfield. Clothes, of course, were a must. His gun, badge, keys, and money for groceries would be highly advised as well. But was there anything that he just wanted to bring? Nothing came to mind.

And so, before 8AM rolled around, he had headed out to his cruiser to drive home and pick up some clothes to take with him. His laptop, he reminded himself on the way, would be important as well, as he was expected to keep very meticulous records of everything while he was investigating this woman, Lochlier. He took a moment, parked outside his apartment, to read the information he currently had on her.

Enclosed in the manila envelope were various snapshots of the subject going about her daily life. The official picture enclosed was her driver’s license photo. The file held some basic information about her on the first page - the usual necessary information, such as name, age, height and weight.

He read it off under his breath to make sure he comprehended everything. “Lochlier Lily Lyall, pronounced ‘Lock-lee-ear’; Possible alias: The Operator; Known aliases: Loch (pronounced ‘Lock’), Lochy (‘Lock-ee’), Dr. Lyall; Age 27; Born in Springfield, Illinois; Current Residence is at 23 Lingdon Road in Groverfield; Black hair, blue eyes…” He had always wondered why it was necessary to include the features you could clearly see in the case picture, “5’3’’, 134 pounds; Occupation: Clinical Psychologist.” He nodded slowly, she certainly sounded like she’d be sweet and motherly, if she was any good at her job. “Notes: Has a tendency to express her anger verbally, especially toward Detectives who continually stick their noses into her business in a way that is anything less than polite.” That was good to know. He’d have to remember to be nice to her. Checking the rest merely revealed things that the other detectives had noticed about her.

He could read those later.

A last, cursory glance, showed her husband’s name was Tobias Lyall. There were a few pictures in which he was included. Absently, Eddie noted that the man was cute and was clearly still in a bit of a rebellious phase if his navy blue hair was anything to go by. Bright blue eyes accompanied it, and usually a bright smile did as well. Yeah… He was definitely cute - and he meant that in the most objective way possible.

He shook his head and stuffed the file into the glove compartment. He got out of the cruiser and made his way back up to the apartment that he’d only left an hour and a half before. It sort of confused him to find it locked, before he remembered that he’d locked it himself. He shook his head again, muttering some commentary under his breath as he got out his keys and unlocked it.

He went around his apartment, grabbing random items he might need while he was gone. He stuffed as much clothing, casual and otherwise, into his suitcase as was physically possible for the admittedly small bag, and made sure to grab every pack of cigarettes he happened to have in his freezer - another thing his mother had taught him. It kept them fresher longer, and made it less expensive to buy them in the long run. He could buy a few cartons while they were cheap, and store them in his freezer for when they got expensive.

He yawned hugely, glancing at his clock. He wondered if the Sergeant would get mad if he just took a brief nap...

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