Dangerous Liaisons

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Wisps of a winter ocean called out for Lucy Hamilton in elegant crashes and coursing swells, blending with a pale sunrise over the Pacific Coast rising in the east. Sea salt lingered in the fibers of the beach homes that lined the shores, rolling tides reaching inland for the Atlantic longingly. The Hamilton home remained silent, windows and doors untouched for weeks and dust beginning to collect atop surfaces around the spacious beach residence. Mail was piled up in the box just outside the door and surfboards were zipped away from the elements under the deck.

It seemed that just when the house had settled itself, the front door opened.

A January breeze powered through the home, altering the calm air within moments. A slicker version of Lucy bustled into the open floor plan, hauling a package in one arm and dragging a suitcase behind her with the other.

It had been 20 weeks since she’d been inside, but it felt like she never left.

The brunette left her suitcase by the stairs to the loft, bringing the heavy box over to the island counter and setting it down on the stone. She took one more trip outside, carrying her last piece of luggage and the massive stack of mail that had been crammed in the box.

Her palm skimmed over the varied envelopes and brochures, reaching a neat, hand addressed letter with a familiar name that brought nothing but a smile to Lucy’s lips. She used her fingernail to rip open the envelope, pulling free a folded piece of paper that she was eager to unfurl.

Dear Lucy,

I know it’s been a while since we last spoke. I enjoyed being able to meet for coffee at Sage Café. I never did have a chance to truly enjoy coffee as a kid so it’s nice to find someone who knows the best places. Sleep has been coming to me easier as time passes, especially since Hunter is indefinitely institutionalized. I’m glad no one else can be hurt by him. After the other bodies were found, I began receiving calls from the parents of the other girls, and I felt like there was nothing I could do to help. They wanted to know about their daughters, but I never knew there was anyone beyond Emily.

I’m not sure when you’ll get this, I know you’ll be away for a while on the East Coast. I hope it goes well for you, I have no doubt you’ll be amazing. So far, I’ve been catching up with online school, which has kind of been a pain. I’m already at a 10th grade level, so that’s something.

I was reached out to by a few universities, oddly enough. It was a strange feeling, something so alarmingly normal that it didn’t seem right. They said I could even go without a GED. They called it ‘special circumstance’, but it sounds more like they want good press. I want to be able to do it the right way – to be normal for once in my life. A lot of people said I was crazy for turning down top schools, but I don’t want to go on a pity card, you know?

I know you’ve refused to take back the money that you gave me when you first came to the house, so I’ve decided that I’ll just give in. But no, I won’t be stupid about it. I already have it in a bank, waiting for me until I do go to college. And hopefully, law school. Maybe you can help me out with that one.

I hope we can get together again soon, even with your soon-to-be busy work schedule. Maybe you can finally teach me how to surf. I’ll make sure to keep you updated with life and hopefully you’ll do the same for me.

~ Eliza

Lucy let go of a calm sigh, smiling to herself as she inhaled the seaside aroma of her house, setting down the letter on the counter. She untied the loose bun of rib length hair, evidence of time passed as she grabbed a knife from the stainless steel butcher’s block by the stove.

As the author slid open the tape lining the package from her publisher, her phone vibrated in her pocket with a message from her mother.

Smiling at the information of Johanna and Alex all packed up for the trip to Los Angeles later that night, Lucy had never felt so at peace with the world.

Lucy parted the flaps of the delivery that had arrived not an hour before her plane landed, timed out perfectly for her return to the West Coast. A wide grin spread across her lips, a giddy feeling greeting her as she ran a finger along the glossy hardcover of the first copies of Clockwork Ruins. “Hello, gorgeous,” she warmly said with excitement as she took out the top copy. Thumbing through the cream pages decked in her personally designed black font, she couldn’t help but let a smile staple into her face.

No matter how many times she published, the first copy was always euphoric.

Absently checking her watch, Lucy tucked a wave of hair behind her ear after setting the book down on the counter. She headed around the living room and snagged her two bags before taking the blonde wood staircase up to the loft.

Lucy smiled to herself as she glanced around her room, unzipping her suitcases after setting them on top of her neatly made bed. Although already in maroon slacks, a white blouse, and low heels, the author dug through her neatly packed bag and removed a blazer the same hue of her onyx shoes. Her eyes drifted to the wetsuits hanging in her open closet, hesitant as she clutched the jacket.

The waves seemed to echo outside, whispering her name longingly.

She hadn’t surfed once in her time away from Malibu, and it felt like it was killing her. It had become such commonplace that she felt as if she were missing herself if she went longer than a day without the caress of the ocean.

“Soon,” Lucy said aloud as her eyes trailed out the window, sliding on the the fitted blazer and adjusting the cuffs. She pulled her hair free from below the black material before adjusting her belt and attaching a holster that she’d failed to wear to the airport. A delicate hand removed a matte 9mm sig sauer handgun from the back of her slacks and replaced it in the slim holster at her side. She adjusted her blazer once more to cover the weapon, double checking she had her wallet and phone as she jogged down the stairs.

Lucy checked the time once more, picking her keys up from the kitchen island without taking a moment to gawk over the copies of Clockwork Ruins as she kept her pace up and went out the front door just as quickly as she has come through it.

She, for one, regretted taking the extra night in Virginia and was cutting it remarkably close to missing her first shift. But all in all, catching up with Jones was worth it.

Lucy locked up the beach home behind her, dragged away from the welcoming scent of the sea as she shut herself into her Jeep and started the engine. As the radio crackled back to life, she pulled her hair back in a low bun and secured it with the single hair tie resting on her dashboard.

As a song drew to an end, the practiced voice of a radio host came blaring into focus.

“Sixty minutes of ad-free music coming to you after after these short moments with me, if you can handle it.” An annoying laugh echoed through the speakers, holding something hollow despite them attempt to be funny. “Updates in your social media include the newest drop of author Stella St. Laurens’ Clockwork Ruins. Check out your local bookstore for midnight release parties and join a live Twitter Q&A with the woman herself at 8 p.m Pacific Standard! Rossi Strause has apparently broken up with her long time girlfriend and it wasn’t pretty. Hit us up on or website for more details and trust me, you do not want to miss the paparazzi shots we got of the argument. I-”

Muttering to herself slightly, Lucy reached forward and changed the radio channel over before leaving her driveway. She appreciated the shout out for her novel, as well as reminding her she did actually have to Q&A that night, but her interest was tainted once the radio star did his typical act of forcing celebrity personal matters into the spotlight. “That’s enough of that,” she softly said to herself, wondering why she even had the station programmed in her car.

Lucy’s travel time shortened, slipping her Jeep into Los Angeles traffic and leaving the comfort of Malibu. Blaring horns of angry drivers greeted her as the cramped highways always did, lengthening her sighs the longer she remained in the vehicle.

But after avoiding irritated breakdowns from road rage, Wilshire Boulevard offered a towering white safe haven for the author.

Lucy parked her vehicle in her designated spot in the staff lot, climbing out of the Jeep with haste as she checked her watch, making her way up to the front of the building. It was her first and last day of driving her own car to work, Johanna planning on helping Lucy get her company car home while she still had her own.

The newest arrival was easily greeted, recognized before she even got through the glass doors of the department. She was promptly shown the elevator, given the circumstances of her timeliness being slightly questionable.

Lucy thanked her escort once the middle age gentleman in a gray suit gave her the right floor number, letting the metal doors shut in between them. Her heart was beating heavy in her chest, recalling the last time she had stepped inside when matters were rather dismal. Careful sea shaded eyes watched the numbers fluctuate as she was carried higher, not realizing she’d been holding her breath until the doors parted on her floor.

“Well, well, well, look who decided to finally show up.”

Marina Phillips stood in front of the elevator, her arms crossed over a navy blazer as she guarded the criminalistics floor of the LA Field Office. A smirk lined her red lips, hair tightly pulled back and hidden warmth in her eyes.

Lucy let a wide grin spread across her face, “Better late than never.”

SSA Phillips tilted her head, motioning over her shoulder as she swiveled on her heel. “Come with me, kid.”

“Good to see you again, Phillips,” Lucy said as she joined Marina at her side, the pair walking through the open floor plan filled with cubicles and conference rooms.

“Sorry I didn’t say hi while you were in last time.” Marina kept a calm pace, heels clicking in sync with Lucy’s. “I didn’t want to compromise you, but Deveraux did his own damage. I didn’t mean for it to go that far, I apologize.”

Lucy gave a soft shrug, it clearly not a concern. “No worries. He’s determined anyway. Even if Jones had asked him himself, he wouldn’t have stopped looking into it.”

“I should be thanking him, honestly,” said Marina as the pair of them stopped at a neat but bland cubicle. “He finally dragged your ass in here, where you belong - and not in the interrogation room.” She motioned to the desk, a manila folder placed in the middle, “What you asked for last night.” Clearly with places to be, Marina had a job to do. “My office is two lefts at the end of the hall if you need me.”

Lucy smiled as she thanked Marina, the Supervisory Special Agent patting her shoulder briefly before heading off. Lucy picked up the file, opening the front cover before snapping it shut within a minute. Clearly pleased, she moved away from her cubicle instead of christening it.

Vance Deveraux worked seamlessly within the four walls of his small office, his suit jacket hanging on the back of his chair and his hair slicked up in a graceful style. A blue ballpoint pen hung between his lips, eyes focused on his computer screen as it paneled through varied classified information.

A knock on the open office door sounded, Deveraux’s attention lifting to the newest arrival.

“Ready for your first day with the big kids?” Vance questioned with a wide grin, holding out one of two coffees waiting on his desk as he rose from behind it.

Happily taking the cup he offered, the FBI legacy held up the manila file folder with a smile, “I’m already ten steps ahead.”

“You talk a big game, Hamilton,” remarked Deveraux with a knowing eye.

“That’s Special Agent Hamilton to you.”

“Well, well,” said Vance as he stood from behind his desk, “let’s get started. Where are we headed?”

Lucy only grinned, “Hollywood.”

Deveraux shook his head with a smile, picking up his car keys without question. “I had a feeling you were a hit the ground running kind of girl.”

“Absolutely,” Lucy agreed, already on her way out with her coffee in hand. “I couldn’t have it any other way.”

The two made their way across the expansive floor, the newest agent sending a wave to Ramos before she stepped into the elevator with Vance at her side.

“Sure you’re ready for your first case?” Deveraux question as the door shut, weight shifting as they began to lower through the LA field office.

“I’m just happy to be on the other side of the investigation,” countered Lucy with a laugh. She took a sip of her coffee as she handed over the file for Vance to skim, her cell phone suddenly ringing. Her eyebrows furrowed softly, pulling free the device from her slack pocket. Although it was unknown, she answered it anyway. “Hello?”

“By the looks of that badge, it seems like you’re finally ready to come get me.”

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