Whisper softly or you're dead

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Chapter thirty-two.

Setting a trap?

Kate woke up slowly, the autumn sun streaking through the blinds. She loved these autumn mornings when the sun rose later, illuminating the patio outside. This room like all of the rest of the house illustrated Defoe’s warm but tasteful decorative style. Unlike other men’s houses she had known there was no heavy masculine dark furniture or dark blinds. The furniture was light oak, no dark mahogany in sight. The drapes were plain and matched the duvet covers on the beds. His master bedroom faced the patio and had a small balcony outside where vines and plants grew side by side.

He was a man at peace with nature and himself, clearly comfortable in his own skin. Books filled the shelves in every room and pieces of art decorated the rooms. Rugs covered the floor and a Birman cat sat on the window seat regarding Kate when she entered the room. She was eyed up and judged, the cat’s narrow slanted eyes focusing on her calmly, assessing her, until the feline jumped down and sat beside Kate offering herself up to be stroked.

‘‘You should be honoured. She doesn’t like many women. She hated my last live-in girlfriend. I’m afraid she is rather possessive of me and used to drive Marla nuts if we sat together on the sofa; always climbing my back or sitting on my knee. I had to ban her from the lounge and Marla suffered retribution, her clothes being scratched and covered with fur. It was the final thing that made her leave me.’’

She stroked the cat who arched her back. ‘‘My last boyfriend hated my cat as well. She isn’t as elegant as this lady but she knew her worth and used to paw me if we got too intimate. She was a real passion killer and he said it was her or him.’’

‘‘You chose her over him?’’ asked Defoe shocked.

‘‘I had found he had been cheating on me so it wasn’t much of a choice. It was easier than having to kick him out after accusing him of being a cheat. He sulked and left of his own accord without any screaming or shouting.’’

Defoe guessed that was her style. No rows or fights, just a quiet dismissal. Kate hated conflict. She would stand up for herself when her back was to the wall but would avoid an argument if she could. She was like him. He saw enough darkness and viciousness in his work. He wanted a tranquil existence. His house reflected his moods. The rooms were spacious and huge windows let in the natural light he thirsted for during his weekends off and the long summer evenings when light was at its best.

Kate turned in her bed. No warm body. Defoe was an early riser. It was only eight o’clock but he had gone. His clothes from the night before were on the chair beside the bed. A note on his pillow was placed with a red rose.

‘‘See you for breakfast after my run. Use any cosmetics in the bathroom. There are fresh clothes and robes on the chair next to the bed. Make yourself something to eat and drink if you can’t wait or order something in. The menus are on the kitchen surface next to the microwave. Darrell.’’

As usual he had thought of everything. She supposed when you were as wealthy as him he could buy in help and make life as stress free as he could. She grabbed a robe and padded into the kitchen. Curiosity made her open her laptop and key in his name on Linked in. He was in fact a co-director of Defoe Holdings, one of the biggest real estate companies in Florida. His Cousin Joshua Reynolds was the CEO.

He must be loaded but lived a very simple life. She turned the computer off and went into the bathroom and ran a bath. She earned a good salary but this luxurious house was out of her league. Never would she be able to afford a mansion like this and she wasn’t sure she wanted to.

Her mother and father lived like this in a great mansion but they lived separate lives. Her mother had tolerated her father’s many adulteries because he had tied her up with a prenuptial agreement which would deprive her of most of the marital capital and income if she divorced him. She would have had enough to live on for most women but Grace Masters was a materialist who loved the money and status that came with marriage to one of the most respected leaders of a Fortune 500 company.

She ran his house with militaristic efficiency and entertained his clients to his satisfaction. For that she had the life style she desired and he avoided her bed. They were both content with the arrangement. Her coldness and formality extended to her relations with her children.

‘They were a necessary by product of marriage,’ she admitted. She provided the heir and a spare and a daughter and after that felt she had done her duty. The children had been parcelled off to boarding school when they were ten. Kate had found her school a warmer more caring environment than her home and would have stayed there in the holidays if she could. Instead, she had found friends who would take her to their houses for a week or two and spent little at time at home. She had enjoyed her time with her brothers who she rarely met out of vacation time. When time for uni came she found a uni far from home and never went back during vacations, her trust fund providing enough to rent a home during the holidays.

She paid duty visits once every two months for Sunday lunch but never stayed to supper. Her father was disappointed she had not taken a business degree and worked in his companies like his sons. He showed some interest in her career, but the conversation soon turned to business and his companies, his sons following his lead. Her mother would leave the dining table for one of her tennis matches or social gatherings as soon as she could. Kate felt unwanted and unneeded; being in the wrong place at the wrong time, unwanted and uncared for, ancillary to the ’real ‘members of the family who served her parents’ purpose of developing the family corporation; a failure, someone who had let the family down.

She shivered. She didn’t want to end up like her mother. She wondered how Defoe perceived his future wife. He had said last night he would like to marry one day and have children. She would have to find out before they got too serious. She had no intention of being trapped and become a trophy wife herself.

Defoe came back to find her in the kitchen happily humming to herself. She was grilling bacon and beating eggs.

‘‘Omelettes, or scrambled eggs or French toast with bacon?’’ she asked.

‘‘I’d love scrambled eggs, my favourite.’’ She had remembered from their last morning the breakfasts he liked. His last girlfriend had barely cooked. He had cooked breakfast, or they had eaten out. She resented cooking, wanting to preserve her perfectly manicured nails. He loved cooking and hadn’t minded but now he wondered what they had had in common. She had wanted to eat out and party all the time, enjoying showing off her new clothes and jewellery in the bars and social engagements they had attended.

She was a model he met at one of his Cousin Josh’s charity functions he had attended in his place. She had been one of Josh’s old flames. She had latched on to him instead when she found he was one of the directors of Joshua’s business. Flattered by the attentions of this beautiful girl he had fallen under her spell and had been drawn into the luminous and fast world of celebrity modelling and had enjoyed it for a while, even being offered a modelling contract himself which he had declined.

The fast-paced life with her shallow friends who had wanted him for any contacts he could provide and who flagrantly used illegal substances had palled. He had worried when Marla looked thinner and thinner and confronted her when he found her using drugs which kept her weight low. She would kill herself he told her, but she laughed in his face and said he was behaving like an old man. Defoe never used anything. He had tried soft drugs in High School, but his studies had shown the affects hard drugs had on a young mind and he had volunteered at a clinic for drug addicts. After seeing how the lives of families were destroyed he vowed not to touch the stuff.

Marla’s behaviour had become increasingly more erratic hence the row over the cat until she said she had had enough. She had walked out before he had had to ask her to leave. It was too late for her. A cocaine overdose had taken her life two months after she left his life.

He had been grateful she had made the decision to leave but he had kicked himself for not acknowledging the signs earlier and having the courage to confront her before she damaged herself fatally. His guilt had made him avoid long-term relationships for a long while, but Kate was restoring his faith in himself and women and he could see himself changing his status in the future if he and Kate became more serious.

He pulled out a seat and poured out coffee for both. She placed perfectly cooked eggs and bacon and toast with mushrooms and tomatoes in front of them and he piled in. She smiled wondering how he could put so much away and still not put on an ounce, but he had run for miles that morning.

‘‘So, did you just run?’’

‘‘No, I did a few press-ups and other exercises. I thought it was a bit early for you.’’

‘‘You were right. I like my lie-ins. I’m no masochist.’’

‘‘Perhaps I could convert you,’’ he said taking her into his arms and kissing her. She smelt delightfully of apple shampoo. It was a shame they had to go to work and plan how to catch Madeline Hilenko. He would have had other plans for them which involved his bed.

He had spent the night with Kate locked in his arms. He had let her sleep after hours of boisterous love-making and had slept soundly until his alarm had woken him. He ran because he found it the best way of concentrating his mind for work. After work, he went to the gym or ran again to pound the stress from his system. Sitting outside, watching the stars, had relaxed him even more and he wanted her to move in with him but they had to solve the case first. He would be a bastard if he preyed on her vulnerability and asked her to move in with him now.

‘Down Boy!’ she said giving him one last kiss and he let her go. He let the dog in and fed him. The hound tried to knock her over and then to lick her to death. Well washed and loved she put him out so they could get some peace.

‘‘Time for work. I am for a quick shower and we will make Cradley’s meeting. He deferred it to nine-thirty. Your lab rat has examined the torso but hasn’t much to add to what we already know.’’

‘‘I’ll wash up,’’ she said throwing the pans in the sink and making quick work of them as he headed for the shower. Domestic harmony, he thought; liking it; what his parents had enjoyed before his Dad died.

They arrived for the conference, Cradley updating them. ‘‘Hilenko was on the board selecting the scholarship students for the drama scholarship. She was a former drama group member and a renowned old girl, a perfect choice they believed. Sara was easy pickings for her. Then she laid her bait.’

‘‘She will want the eyes now,’’ said Kate.

‘‘What we want is for you to reel her in. We can bug you and you can tape your conversation. Get her to admit to what he has done and then we nail her. You will be covered by our cops all the time.’’

‘‘What do I need to do?’’ asked Kate. She felt butterflies inside but refused to show her fear. Despite her attempt to be brave Defoe saw some tell-tale signs. She always frowned and bit her lip when she was nervous. She was nibbling it now and he took her hand in his and squeezed it reassuringly.

She turned to him and what she saw in his eyes made her heart lurch. He was looking tenderly at her, the way a man looks at a woman whom he loves. Perhaps it was more than a temporary infatuation they shared. At times of adversity when people’s backs were against the wall they recognised what was important to them. She knew she loved this man. She may have only dated him a few times but she had been attracted to him for years, simply denying the chemistry that flowed between them.

‘‘We need to put the wind up Madeline Hilenko. Make her panic and reveal herself to you. What would make her react and come after you?’’

Defoe intervened. ‘‘If she were to leave the area and Hilenko could not reach her. We could put out she is moving to another country to get experience in a different field. Somewhere far like Aus. She has relations there and it could be realistic. A teaching post and research for a professorship instead of practical forensic work. Kate has written academic papers so this would be believable.’’

‘‘One of my Profs at med school works now in Melbourne,’’ said Kate. ‘‘I’ll email him and make sure he backs me up if Hilenko queries it. This woman is clever. She might second guess what we are up to.’’

‘‘We need to publicise this in the most discreet way. How is the best way to do this Kate?’’

‘‘I’m giving a paper this weekend at a conference. Usually the organiser introduces me and will say something about my background. He could slip it in. It could then be printed in the papers. Local forensic scientist takes up research position in Aus. after gaining great experience working for the local police region. The local paper loves anything that emphasises what we are doing to fight crime.’’

‘‘It is a done deal,’’ said Cradley. ‘‘Kate email your Prof in Aus. I’ll talk to the editors of the local rags. They will love the information. Local girl is future Professor!’’

He sat at his desk chewing his pencil. ‘‘We now need to get your house ready for her and entice her there.’’

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