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  by Tony Stewart

Two undercover cops are unknowingly on a collision course with two gangsters.   And in the middle of the action is a pop singer and his singing partner wife ... and an abducted baby.


from the short story collection

Summer Reading for Winter Nights



Chapter one


Billy and Sheila



Billy jumped up with a start from his slumbering position on the hard, lumpy, motel mattress as the thunder roared seemingly only inches away from his sleep filled head.         

   He rubbed his eyes vigorously in a desperate attempt to wake up all the senses that controlled his body as the storm continued to rage outside the darkened room: the never-ending strikes of lightning creating strange, unreal images in the otherwise darkened room.  He knew instinctively knew that time was of the essence, and he needed to be in charge of every second, every event that may pass through his life over the next few hours.  

   Slowly his sight adjusted to the constant changes in illumination, while his mind began the process of adjusting itself from the horror and fear presented to him by the scattered dreams that had been haunting him throughout the unexpected afternoon sleep he had just awoke from, to bringing him back into the cold reality of life in the present.

   He could feel a dull throbbing in his head as something partly remembered began tantalizingly to rise, and then fade again, in his slightly befuddled brain.   Billy wondered what it was that he had forgotten - and the significance of its attempt at being brought to the fore.   ‘Was it important?’ He wondered. ‘Must try harder to remember – it just might be.'

   With great effort Billy dragged himself up and went to the bathroom, automatically shutting the door behind him before turning on the light.  He turned on the tap, grabbed the face washer that sat on the bench and stuck it under the running water until it was saturated then pressed it to his face as hard as he could, allowing the cold water to run down his chin, splashing on to his chest: it’s cool freshness quickly clearing the final cobwebs that had formed in his head.    His mind began adapting to the changing conditions memories, once rekindled, create. 

    His brain became active, perhaps slightly overactive – and then, without any warning, an adrenaline influenced rush of blood ran through his veins sending a thousand forgotten thoughts screaming through his head at a hundred frame a second …and he understood too well the importance of what his mind was trying to tell him, and more importantly, he remembered where he was, and why.

   He turned the light off before opening the door and walked back into the bedroom where he began staring blankly through the window at the exploding storm, his brain soon lost deep in thought at the action he would have to take shortly.   

   Eventually Billy pressed a button on his watch causing it to light up momentarily.  ‘Four thirty in the afternoon,’ he mused disbelievingly at both the length of time that he had slept and the incredible darkness that the storm had created so early in the afternoon.  Again his mind began to wonder how he had he got himself into this mess.

   ‘Where is Sheila?’ He wondered to himself.    She had promised to ring him hours earlier and there was no message on his mobile to indicate that he had slept through her call. ‘Damn her tardiness!’  He cursed under his breath.

   As if influenced and menaced by his increasingly dark and brooding manner, the storm momentarily receded from its violence – replaced with the more subdued sound of a soft gentle rain falling lightly upon the tiled roof of the appropriately named 'Hideaway Motel'.   In total contrast to the serene softenss that now surrounded him, the phone shrieked out in the sudden stillness of the night at a thousand decibels.

   “Hello!” he snapped, picking up his mobile, checking on the name dislayed on the small screen before answering it.

   “Hello, darling,”   Sheila’s soft, sultry voice waxed lyrically down the line. “Sorry I took so long, but the storm knocked the power out.   I had to go downtown to use a phone,”

   “Why didn’t you use your mobile?”

   “I think it’s being monitored,”

   “Damn!”  Billy’s voice was quickly becoming more and more agitated. “So what do we do now?” he asked in a voice that dared an answer.



Chapter two


James, Greta and Jessie



Several hours earlier, seventy miles drive to the north of the Hideaway Motel where Billy was fretting the arrival of his associate, a soft breeze was gently wafting through the trees as Greta and James Morrison walked slowly, hand in hand, along the rose lined path leading to 'The Mews', a small white garden cottage lazing idly in the remnants of the day’s light and within walking distance to the village of Greenway-on-Hills.

   They had rented the cottage for two weeks as a welcome reward to themselves following the success that they had had with the release of their first record.


   It was not like they had had overnight success.  They had been friends, lovers and a singing duo almost since the day that they were born, but this was to be the first time that they had been able to take time off from their hectic schedule since they had left school and become professional musicians - other than the two months break Greta had taken to give birth to their daughter.

   But that had been before they had acquired their recording contact; when their finances were not so secure and James had been required to perform solo for that period in order to ensure them of income.


   James had been almost two years old when twelve-month-old Greta, her parents and siblings, had moved into the house next door.  There had been an immediate bonding between the two families and as the years progressed Greta and James became inseparable.  By the time James was thirteen they were going steady, by fifteen they were secretly engaged, and were married on Greta’s eighteenth birthday.  All with their parent’s blessing.


   When Greta was about twelve she and James had discovered that not only did they both have beautiful singing voices but, to everybody’s delight, they also had a natural blending.


   Following years of Karaoke, school dances and endless home duets it had seemed nonsensical for them to consider anything else but a singing career as a duo once school was finished.


   Eventually they took the step to realize their dreams and turned professional, hired a management team, and were ready for the fame that awaited them.   


   But, like all that seek their fame and fortune, they had first to pay their dues.  For nearly two years they had survived on small gigs in bars, some seedy - some respectable, charity shows, and the odd shopping centre promotion.  


   Small payments made in order to follow their dream, but still they dared hope that fame lay just around the corner.

   During that first year into their career drive, a small blessing by the name of Jessica had joined their little group.   Unlike a lot of singers trying to make the big time, Greta and James had the good fortune of having, and using, two loving families who would bend over backwards to help them.  Not only to support them during the hard times, but always available to mind Jessica when they were performing.

   They had finally gained their big break when a local shopping centre had a combined baby show and midday concert to mark the centre's tenth anniversary and they had been booked as the entertainment.  Greta's mother had suggested that they enter Jessica in the baby contest seeing as how they would all be there anyway.


    By a stroke of luck Jessica won her event and when the television station covering the promotion realized that Greta and James were the proud parents they talked them into singing a song to her in front of the camera.

   Originally, the footage was only meant to be shown on the local news, but the station manager saw a human interest story in it and arranged for the item to be networked.


   As a result of the national exposure they were invited on to a couple of major network entertainment programs and from these appearances they got a recording contract and the rest, as they say, is history.


   Their first release went straight to number one and it had taken them on a wild exciting hayride across the length and breadth of the country appearing on stage with some of the biggest acts in the country.


   Their second record also charted and their third song was about to be released and it was expected to do even better than the first, but, of course, this would mean touring again.  The year had been hectic physically and mentally exhausting … and it had meant being away from Jessica a lot.


   They had decided that they deserved at least a short rest and some time with Jessica, even entertaining the thought of slowing down in a year or so.  For them singing was fine, but they had found that they didn’t need the fame and fortune as much as they had originally thought.

  The record sales and the contract had let them put aside a rather nice nest egg and they knew that they could always sing together because they would always be together.  A large audience was just a nice bonus.   But since Jessie had arrived a settled family life was fast becoming more their priority.   They had decided to rent 'The Mews', a small private cottage situated in a quiet little country town that they had learnt about from their agent Charley Mance, and he had even arranged for them to hire a highly recommended nanny to help look after Jessica during their stay to give them the opportunity to come and go as they pleased without having to worry about her.

   They had arrived two days earlier and everything had seemed so perfect, so relaxing, they knew they had made the right choice in taking the break and today was proving to be no exception.  The nanny was going to take care of Jessie while James and Greta took a meandering trip through Gladstone Park, an award winning park situated three hundred yards from The Mews.

   Passing through the brilliance of the bright, beautifully perfumed gardens they were both guiltily pleased that they had the benefit of the nanny to take care of Jessica for this was one of these days that seemed idyllic to be together, uncaring and unworried about the world at large, and just simply recapturing, momentarily, the joy and rapture that encompasses the hearts of young lovers.

   Everything about the day, the weather; the surroundings; the world was perfect in their eyes.   Without saying a word, their minds and hearts working as one, they stopped walking, embraced and kissed: they kissed; without embarrassment; without undue excitement, but with the lingering understanding and acceptance of the love they felt for each other.  For both of them this was fast becoming the best day of their holiday to date; perhaps the best day ever … that was, of course, before they returned home and walked inside to the disturbing quietness of an empty house.


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