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A Short Break

We now take a short break and will return on March 15th with "Little Boy Lost."

More details over at the News section.

If you need to catch up on previous installments so you can be up to speed, head over to the Episode Archives.

See you back here on March 15th!

"Peek-a-Boo" - Part Eight

Pivoted and drew Bonnie.

A woman wearing a black blouse and long skirt sat in a wheelchair in the corner of the room by the door. Her silver hair was pulled back in a bun and her eyes were closed.

"What the hell--?" I said. Then recognized the face.

Mother Olson.

"Is that--?" said Mouse.

"Yeah," said Val. "Olson's mother. Embalmed, I think." She shuddered.

"You've been in here all this time with her?" I said.

Val nodded.

"Delusional, psychotic, and now this?" Mouse shook her head. "Triple freak show."

"We're getting you out now," I said. I holstered Bonnie, unslung the shotgun, and walked over to the wall ring. Loaded the last four rounds. Fired two at the ring and blew it to pieces.

"We'll get the rest of it off at the Red Dog," I said. I reslung the shotgun and coiled up the cable.

We got Val to her feet and started toward the staircase when the upstairs hallway light came on and a woman's shadow appeared on the staircase wall.

"We have guests, Sammy," an older woman's voice said. "You should've told me."

"I didn't know, Mother," said Olson.

I glanced toward the figure of Mother Olson in the wheelchair, then looked at Mouse and Val.

Val went saucer-eyed.

Mouse mouthed: Fuck.

"I don't know who you are," Olson said, "but you can't stay."

"Yes, they can, Sammy," Mother Olson said. "They can watch your wedding to the whore."

"She's not a whore, Mother," said Olson.

"You saw her. Soiled by the world."

"I've cleaned her up, Mother. She's fine now."

I looked at Val, at her empty eye socket.

Val lowered her head and looked away.

"Don't contradict me, boy," said Mother Olson.

"Let me handle this, Mother," said Olson.

"Goddamn psychos," Mouse said under her breath.

Mother Olson's shadow moved away. Then Olson's shadow appeared on the wall, a shotgun in hand. He pumped a round into the chamber.

I drew the Twins and leveled them at the stairs.

Val stepped behind me. "I'm back here. You're armored."

"Good call," I said.

Olson went down a few steps then stopped so we only saw him from the knees down. The shotgun's muzzle poked through the railing supports toward us.

I slid left, taking Val with me.

Mouse did the same.

"Doesn't have to be this way, Olson," I said.

Silence. Then: "You're the cop from earlier."

"Put the shotgun down and let us leave. Or this could get ugly."

"I'll let you go," Olson said. "But Valkyrie stays."

"No deal. She comes with us."

"I'm trying to be nice."

"So am I."

"You're going to make me lose my patience."

"Same here," I said.

"Let them stay," said Mother Olson. "It'll be a whore party."

"Quiet, Mother."

"How dare you, boy!"

A loud slap.

Olson staggered partway down the staircase, caught the railing with one hand, and stopped himself, his back to us.

"Hey, Olson!" Mouse said from behind me.

Olson looked over his shoulder and howled.

I turned.

Mouse had wheeled Mother Olson out of the inner room and was holding one of her Bowies under the embalmed woman's neck.

Another howl.

I looked back at Olson.

He had spun around, his back to the wall, the shotgun leveled at us through the railing supports.

"Do something, boy!" said Mother Olson.

Correction: said the Mother Olson Voice.

It came from Olson.

"Let her go," said Olson, his voice shaking.

Then his face shifted slightly. Still Olson, but not quite Olson.

And the Mother Olson Voice said, "This whore is hurting me, Sammy. Are you going to let her do that?"

"Quiet, Mother."

"Dirty whore. I told you, Sammy, but you didn't listen."

"Shut up."

"Little boys who play with whores never listen to their mothers."

"Shut up, Mother."

"But I'll make you listen before she hurts me."

"Mother, I said be quiet!"

"Before she hurts you, Sammy. She's not taking you away from me. She can go to hell."

Olson's expression froze halfway between a scream and a snarl. His face twitched and shook.

Three seconds later, he snarled and said, "Mother! No!"

Then he screamed, a piercing wail.

Cue. Subvocal.

The world slid into slo-mo.

Olson raised the shotgun barrel.

I crab-crawled left, the Twins tracking. Caught a quick glimpse of Mouse tackling Val.

The shotgun boomed, the muzzle blast lighting up the basement.

Mother Olson's head blew apart in a shower of embalming fluid and gore and the blast pitched the chair and the body backwards.

The Twins roared and bucked four times each. Rounds splintered the railing, punched into Olson's chest, slammed him against the wall.

He crumpled onto the steps.

The shotgun slipped from his hands, fell over the side, and into a pile of black garbage bags.

I stood up, Twins still trained on Olson. "Mouse?"

"Five by five, Kat," she said.

Quick glance at her. She was helping Val to her feet.

"I'll take point," I said. "Val between us."

Mouse drew her other Bowie. "Check."

We headed up the staircase.

Olson sat slumped against a blood-smeared wall, legs splayed out on the steps, head down over his chest.

Val turned away when we passed him on the steps.

"Bastard," she said under her breath.

We made our way down the small hallway, through the kitchen, and into the garage.

Mouse stopped and gestured to the tarp covered car. "Her runabout."

"Drive it out," I said.

Val said, "Extra keys under back bumper."

Mouse nodded and retrieved them.

I pulled the tarp off the car.

My phone chirped.

It was Eddie.

"What happened?" he said.

"It's over," I said. "Any outcalls?"

"A few. Got them all."

"Good. We're heading out."

"Tried calling when the car was heading back toward the house. Kept losing the connection."

"Bad signal inside. How's it out there now? We clear?"

"Wait one." A short pause, then: "Clear."

I nodded to Mouse and Val. "Let's go."

* * *

Forty-five minutes later we were back at the Red Dog.

I had just finished talking to Doc on my cell phone when Revell came out of the bar's back office carrying goggles, leather gloves, and a plasma cutter. He stopped next to me in the back hallway.

"Cable is off," he said. "Mouse is getting her big cup of tea."

"Spaseba, Revell," I said. "Thank you."

He nodded and headed toward the stairwell.

I went into the office.

Val was sitting at the desk, staring at the far wall, hands folded on the blotter in front of her. A white gauze bandage covered her right eye.

I sat on the corner of the desk. "Absinthe's on her way."

Val nodded.

"Called Doc and told him. You've got surgery at 0900 tomorrow. Replace your optic. And Tinker'll re-key the roundabout."

Another nod.

The door opened and Mouse came in with a steaming mug. She went to the desk and set it down in front of Val.

Val gave her a weak smile and took the mug with both hands.

"Need anything else?" said Mouse.

Val shook her head.

Mouse nodded and dropped herself into the couch.

Val sat and sipped her tea.

The only sound in the room was the creak of the chair whenever Val moved.

Ten minutes later, Val let out a long exhale, and said, "Two and a half years. Always met with clients. Always the personal touch. No more. Not after that."

"Not necessarily," I said.

"Kat," said Val, "I just got--"

I held up a hand. "I know. What I meant was, you could still go. You'd just have muscle."

"Muscle?"

I nodded. "Mouse and I could stand in. Or if we're not there, I'm sure Jake and Mikey would be game."

Val thought for a moment. "That's true."

"And," I said, "something tells me that Absinthe would be more than happy to lend a couple of the boys from the White Rabbit."

She quirked at eyebrow at me.

The door opened and Absinthe strode in. She stopped just inside the room.

Val stood up from the desk. "Abs," she said and a hint of a smile turned up the corners of her mouth.

Then Absinthe went saucer-eyed and sucked in air through her teeth. "Your eye--"

"Taken care of," I said. "Doc. Tomorrow."

Absinthe let out a long exhale and nodded. "Okay. You ready, Val?"

Val said, "Ready. Let's go home."

They started out the office door. Then Absinthe stopped and turned to me and Mouse. "Thanks again."

"Anytime, Absinthe," I said. "It's what we do."

After the door closed behind them, Mouse turned to me and said, "Remind me never to accept presents from strangers."

"Will do, partner," I said.

God, I love my job.

--END--

NEXT TIME: "Little Boy Lost"

"Peek-a-Boo"
Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

"Peek-a-Boo" - Part Seven

It was an hour and a half later when we finally got on Highway 42 heading west.

I called Eddie and put the phone on speaker.

"What next?" he said.

"We're headed back to the Olson house," I said. "This could be cake."

"It's never cake," said Mouse.

"Or it could go south real quick. If it does, I need you to intercept all emergency calls coming from the area."

"Got just the thing."

"Good. I'll tell you when to start monitoring lines."

"Two things," said Eddie.

"Go."

"The car just left the house. About four minutes ago."

"Where to?"

"Don't know. But it's heading west on Donovan. Tracking with the sky-eye right now. And I've got a visual confirm with a traffic cam on Grayson and Collins, about four blocks west of the house. I'll keep you posted."

"What's the other thing?"

"A week ago, Olson made the following buys. Two pairs of handcuffs and a set of stainless steel ankle restraints. BDSM shop on Lower East Side. Then a twenty-five thousand cred bridal gown. Boutique on the Promenade."

"Shit," said Mouse.

"I don't like where this is going," I said.

* * *

The sun had just dropped below the horizon when we pulled to the curb halfway up the block from the Olson house.

Lights were already on in most of the other houses on the block.

Except Olson's.

I checked my optic clock.

19:22:45

"Wait for full dark," I said. "Then we go in."

Mouse nodded and leaned back in the seat.

I reached into the back seat where I had set the shotgun, grabbed it, and loaded four breaching rounds into the magazine.

* * *

At 19:45, all the streetlamps on the block flickered on.

I sat up in my seat and called Eddie, gave him the signal, and hung up.

"Let's go," I said to Mouse.

Five minutes later, we had gone through the side gate and into an unlocked back door that deposited us in the garage.

No one took notice of us.

Inside the garage, I could see the silhouette of a small car backlit by the light coming in through the garage door's windows.

I pulled a mini-flashlight from my gear belt, turned it on, and shone the beam at the garage floor.

A blue tarp covered the car. I knelt in front of it and pulled up a corner of the tarp.

Val's runabout.

I half-turned and gestured to Mouse.

She frowned and nodded.

I kept the light aimed at the floor and scanned the garage. Stacks of boxes lined one wall. A pegboard with tools and several shelves occupied the other wall. Next to the shelves stood a door leading into the house.

Mouse inclined her head toward the door.

I turned off the flashlight.

We went in and stood in a darkened kitchen. The shades had been drawn shut, outlined by a thin line of light from outside.

I popped my optics to low-light mode. Pan and scan.

Spotless. Clean counters. Empty sink.

Tidy.

Beyond the kitchen was a small dining area with a table, four chairs, and a vase with fresh flowers.

Listened.

Nothing.

Mouse tapped me on the arm and pointed to a doorway on our left, between the kitchen and the dining area.

I nodded, drew one of the Twins--Bonnie--from the right-side holster under my jacket.

Mouse drew one of her wakizashis.

We went through the doorway and emerged in a small corridor next to a staircase leading up to the second floor. I could see the living room to the left and the foyer and front door to the right.

I listened again, still heard nothing, and edged forward.

And stopped.

A dim sliver of light came from beneath a door on our left.

Mouse and I exchanged looks.

I tried the door.

Locked.

Looked the door over. It opened inward.

Holstered Bonnie and unslung the Remington, chambered a round, and aimed at the doorjamb near the lock.

Mouse pulled out a pair of throwing blades.

I mouthed a count to three then fired, the report from the shotgun echoing in the quiet. The round blew a hole through the lock and the door swung open.

Stairs--wall on the left, handrail on the right--led down to the basement.

The dim light came from below.

I spotted a wall switch, pointed it out to Mouse.

She nodded.

Popped out of low-light, and flipped the switch.

Lights flickered on below.

I slung the Remington cross-body again, drew Bonnie and Clyde, then started down the steps, my back against the wall, the Twins tracking.

Halfway down the steps, I got a better look at the basement and felt a chill zig-zag up my spine.

A section had been walled off and turned into an inner room, fitted with a metal security door and a large window. Inside the room was an ornately decorated bedroom with a four-poster bed fitted with floral sheets.

Valkyrie stood on the other side of the window.

Our eyes met and my gut dropped.

Her trademark skull and crossbones patch was gone, an empty, blood-caked eye socket in its place.

Then Mouse stepped down next to me. "Holy fuck," she said.

I holstered the Twins and bolted down the steps, taking them two at a time, and rushed to the door, tried the handle.

Locked.

Dammit.

I went to the window.

Valkyrie just stared at me.

I motioned for her to get back.

After the third time, she stepped aside.

Unslung the shotgun and loaded four more breaching rounds. Aimed at the doorjamb, between the handle and the lock, fired. Pumped a round. Fired again. Pumped. Fired.

Three more rounds and the lock gave under the barrage and the door popped open.

I pushed through and stepped inside.

Val collapsed to her knees, half-laughed, half-cried, and let out a shuddering exhale. "Am I glad to see you guys." She gave us a hysterical giggle. "Or halfway see you."

I slung the shotgun then knelt on one knee and put my hands on her shoulders. "Are you okay?"

She put a hand to her right cheek. "Bastard tore out my optic," she said through gritted teeth. "Said it made me unclean."

I felt her shaking.

"You're out of here," I said.

"Can't," she said and gestured at her foot.

I looked.

Around her ankle was a steel ankle restraint attached to a length of thick steel cable. The cable snaked across the floor and was attached to a wall ring.

And just above the wall ring, a wedding dress hung on the wall.

"Shit," I said.

"I know," said Valkyrie.

Then I noticed a shape to my right.

(to be continued...)

"Peek-a-Boo" - Part Six

Thirty seconds into Eddie's infodump, I stopped him and said, "Does anything stand out?"

"Not a bloody thing," said Eddie. "It's all pretty normal, innit."

"I was wondering that, too" said Mouse.

"But then I ran the son," Eddie said. "Totally different story."

"Sam?" I said.

"That's him. Olson, Samuel Joseph. 38 years. Born '04." A tapping of a keyboard, then: "He's been quite naughty."

"Naughty?" said Mouse.

"Expelled from university for harassment. Stalking."

Mouse and I exchanged looks.

"Where?" I said.

"Seattle Metroplex. Old Washington University. In '22. Then three restraining orders filed with SFPD on three separate ocassions. '27, '28, and '30. Stalking again."

"Never caught?" said Mouse.

"Caught back in Seattle. Campus Security. But charges were dropped. Olson ended up at hospital for psychological eval and treatment. I show him on antipsychotics since then."

"Oh, wiz," said Mouse.

"One more headache," I said.

"Also, never caught in San Francisco," Eddie said. "Just the orders filed. Moved back to BC in '32. No more charges or restraining orders filed since the move. But"--more tapping keyboard--"I did find him on the 'net. Signed up on twenty-two VirComm sites between '32 and '39. 'Net handle of 'WhiteKnight'."

Mouse snorted a laugh. "Delusional and on meds. This gets better and better."

"Just wait. In '38, he started getting banned from those sites. Guess why?"

"Stalking," I said.

"Right you are. To date, he's been banned or blacklisted from all of them. After '39, no 'net activity. But last year he comes back to six sites as 'SirLancelot.' Good behavior this time."

"Until now," I said. "Thanks, Eddie."

"Kat," said Mouse. "Over there.'

I looked toward the Olson house.

A woman stepped off the front porch and walked toward the car in the driveway. Tall and slender, graying hair tied back in a bun, dressed in a dark button-up sweater and dark ankle-length skirt.

She went to the trunk of the car, opened it, took out four loaded plastic bags, set those on the ground, closed the trunk lid. She squatted, picked up the bags, straightened, and started back toward the house.

Then stopped.

Turned slowly around and began a slow scan of the area. As if memorizing everything she saw in front of her.

She stopped scanning in our direction.

"Don't move," I said to Mouse.

"Way ahead of you."

The woman continued to stare in our direction.

Held my breath. Made?

Seconds passed. Felt like hours.

Then she continued her slow scan. Full 360.

When she finished, she picked up the bags again, and went back into the house

I heard Mouse let out a sharp exhale. "That," she said, "was wicked weird."

"Olson said she was out," I said. "How'd she get back in without us seeing her?"

"Didn't see anyone drive up to the house and drop her off."

"This is getting really weird."

"Fucked up, more like it."

I stared at the house again.

There was a connection there. Somewhere. Had to be--

Then a thought struck.

"She's in the house," I said.

"Val?" said Mouse.

I nodded.

"Another hunch?"

"Think about it," I said. "Olson's had a history of stalking women. He finally gets one. What do you think he's gonna do?"

"I'll gut him first," said Mouse.

"He's gonna keep her close by," I said.

"You mean locked up in the house somewhere."

"Yeah."

"What about Mama Olson? Think she's involved?"

"Pretty sure. Helping out somehow. Don't have that part totally figured out yet."

"What if you're wrong about this?"

"I'll take the chance."

Another thought struck. I called Eddie and told him what I had in mind.

"I'll see what I can do," he said.

"Keep us posted." I hung up.

Mouse grinned and rubbed her hands together. "I like it. What now?"

"Gear up. Go in."

"Slice and dice."

"Yeah," I said.

"Wiz."

* * *

Back at the Red Dog.

Back in our working clothes: dark t-shirt, black BDU trousers, and knee-high lace-up motorcycle boots. Black leather biker jacket for me. Black leather trenchcoat for Mouse.

We geared up.

Standard for me. Twins with combat loads. Eight reloads on my gear belt. Drop leg pouch on left leg with four flash-bangs.

Mouse was strapping on her wakizashi harness and I could see the handles of two Bowies in hip sheaths. A brace of throwers was slung across her chest.

I went to the gun locker next to my bed, took out the Remington 870 shotgun, and slung it over one shoulder. Then grabbed a dozen breaching rounds and shoved them into my jacket pocket. Val would be locked up behind a door. These would get us in.

I checked my optic clock.

17:27:35

* * *

I stepped out the back door into the alley, heading toward the loaner.

Felt the hairs on my nape salute. Whirled, dove back through the door.

Mouse said "Hey--!" when I collided with her.

And the rest of her protests were drowned out by the chatter of automatic weapons fire from the alley mouth.

We went sprawling along the back hallway in a tangle of arms and legs.

I heard rounds slam into the back of the loaner and blow out a tire before the armored and reinforced back door slammed shut.

Thank you, Tinker.

Revell stepped into the back hallway, a SPAS-12 shotgun pulled to his shoulder, barrel sweeping.

"Cover the door," I said to him.

He nodded.

I got to my feet, went through the bar, and out the front door.

Caught a quick glance of a brown full-sized sedan rounding 48th Street, tires squealing, heading east.

Damn.

Mouse came up next to me, breathing hard. "Anything?"

"Brown sedan," I said. "Could be an Imperial or a Cascade. Same profile."

"That it?"

"Yeah."

"Crap. Doesn't help much."

"Nope."

I looked down at the sidewalk and saw the pile of spent shells. Bent down, picked one up. "9mm," I said.

"Kat," said Mouse.

I heard the tone in her voice. Turned my head.

A dead cat hung off a spike on the Red Dog's front door.

"Again?" I said.

"Can't be David," said Mouse.

A memory came back. "Wyld Boyz," I said.

"Your friend with the dreadlocks?" said Mouse.

"Yeah."

"Fuck."

"I know. One more headache." I pulled my phone out and dialed Specs.

When he answered, I said, "We need another car."

(to be continued...)

"Peek-a-Boo"
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Part 5 | Part 7

"Peek-a-Boo" - Part Five

The Harbor Cafe sat on the corner of 18th Street and Harbor Boulevard, near the southern edge of the Marina district, a narrow, streamlined, stainless steel rectangle edged in red neon. Inside, on black and white tiled floors, a long counter with floor-mounted stools dominated one wall while a row of booths sat against the front wall next to windows that faced Harbor.

A bald man in a red and gray flannel shirt sat at the counter working on a big plate of food. A corp sat in a nearby booth, sleeves rolled up, sandwich in hand, peering at the screen of a minicomp.

A petite blonde server came around the counter, a smile on her face. "Table for two?"

"We're looking for someone," I said. "She came in this morning."

The blonde frowned. "I wouldn't know. I just started my shift two hours ago." Then her face brightened. "But I can get the manager. Charlie. She's been here all day. She'll know."

"Thanks."

She went behind the counter and disappeared into the kitchen.

A few minutes later, Charlie came out from the kitchen wiping her hands on a dishtowel and stopped behind the counter. A sturdily-built fiftyish woman with a thick mane of curly blonde hair who seemed more at home wrangling large pieces of machinery than working in a diner.

"I'm Charlie," she said in hearty, trumpet-like voice. "Who's askin'?"

"We're friends of Val," I said. "We heard she was here this morning."

Charlie gave us an appraising look. "Edgerunners, huh?"

"Yeah," I said.

She nodded. "Val was here. 'Round eight o'clock." She gestured toward a booth at the far end of the diner. "In her usual spot."

"She's a regular?" said Mouse.

"Ayuh, she's a reg'lar," said Charlie.

"She met with someone today," I said. "Here."

"She did. Young fellah. Good lookin'--if you like 'em homely."

"Can you be more specific?"

Charlie thought a moment. "Tall and skinny. Had dark hair. Big nose. Wore black."

"When did he get here?"

"About half after eight. They talked. Left about half an hour later."

"Together?"

She nodded.

"Which way?"

"Back onto Harbor," said Charlie. "In her car."

"Val's?" said Mouse.

"Auyh. Blue runabout."

"Did you happen to catch the name of the guy she met?"

Charlie shook her head. "Sorry." Her brow furrowed. "Is Val okay?"

"We hope so," I said.

* * *

On our way back to the loaner, Eddie called.

"Got a lead on your MBV buyer," he said. "Woman by the name of Ekaterina Olson."

I stopped. "A woman?"

"A woman," said Eddie.

"When did she buy it?" I said.

"Last week. Monday."

"Got an address?"

"Sure." He rattled off a street and number. "In Bayside."

"Can you do an info dump?"

"Yeah, but it'll have to wait a bit. Got something else to take care of."

"Call as soon as you have it."

"Done."

I hung up.

When we got to the car, Mouse said, "How do we want to do this?"

* * *

Ekaterina Olson lived in Bayside in a two-story tract house with a front porch and a well-manicured lawn.

The door cracked open a few centimeters and a pair of eye peered through.

"Yes?" said the eyes.

A male voice.

I flashed a badge. "BCPD," I said in a professional sounding voice. "Is Ekaterina Olson in?"

"What's this about?" the eyes said.

"Better if we speak inside," I said. "May we?"

"Oh. Sure."

The door opened wider and the eyes turned into a thirtyish man, tall and skinny, and pale. Slicked back dark hair formed a widow's peak. Angular face with a hawk-like nose. Dressed all in black.

Wagner's description of his Mystery Man.

Charlie's description of the Smith that met with Val.

"Thank you," I said. stepping into the foyer. "I'm Detective Gibson." Gestured to Mouse. "My partner, Detective Sterling."

"I'm Sam Olson. This way, please."

Olson led us into a living room with pastel yellow walls, a cream-colored carpet, and floral print curtains. A beige couch strewn with tasselled throw pillows dominated one wall, flanked by a pair of wooden end tables, and a fireplace occupied the opposite wall.

Mouse and I sat down on the couch.

Olson stayed standing. "I was just about to have some tea," he said. "Would you like a cup?"

"No, thank you," I said.

Mouse shook her head.

Olson excused himself and stepped out.

We heard the clink of silverware from the kitchen. A few moments later, Olson appeared with a steaming mug cupped in his hands. He settled into the armchair across from us.

He took a sip from his mug, then said, "How can I help you, Detective?"

"Is Ekaterina Olson your wife?"

Olson gave a small smile. "No, Detective. She's my mother."

"May we speak to her?"

An odd expression flashed across Olson's face. Too quick for me to catch.

"She's out at the moment," Olson said. "Spending the afternoon with friends. Maybe I can help?"

"We understand she recently bought an MBV convertible from Fairchild Motors," I said.

"That's right," Olson said. "A silver one. Is there a problem?"

"We hope not," I said. "Right now, we're just trying to gather information."

Concern crossed Olson's face. "I see. I hope there's nothing wrong. It was a birthday present to herself, you know."

"Nice present," said Mouse.

"Birthday?" I said.

Olson nodded. "Her 60th. 'Elegance deserves elegance,' she always says."

The hairs on the back of my neck saluted.

Bingo.

I said, "An MBV is definitely elegant."

Olson inclined his head at the fireplace mantle. "Those photographs. Mother. When she was younger."

"May I?" I said.

"Be my guest," said Olson.

I got up and went to the mantle.

There were four old-style photographs, printed, encased in ornate wood frames. All were of a willowy, dark-haired woman with porcelain skin and an alluring smile, dressed in shimmering evening gowns. In each photo, she had a different pose, but held a big bouquet of flowers and wore a sash with the words "Miss Bay City" emblazoned on it in cursive letters, then a number: 00, 01, 02, 03.

She looked familiar for some reason but I couldn't place it.

"Miss Bay City?" I said.

"Beauty pageant," said Olson. "Four years in a row. Elegant?"

"Very elegant," I said. "Thank you for your time, Mr. Olson. We'll be in touch if we need additional information."

"I hope I was able to help," said Olson. "It didn't seem like much."

Mouse got up from the couch. "It was a good start."

"Maybe if you could tell me what you're looking for specifically I could be of more help."

"I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to say," I said. "Not at this time. I'm sure you understand."

The expression flashed across his face again. Just like earlier. And then it was gone.

"I understand perfectly," he said.

"Thanks again," I said.

* * *

"It's him," I said.

We were back in the loaner, parked up the street, watching the Olson house.

"Olson?" said Mouse

I nodded. "I think he nabbed Val. Remember the note left on the MBV? It said 'Elegance deserves elegance'."

Her brow furrowed. "What about the car? Mommy bought it, but it was delivered to the White Rabbit for Val?"

"That's the part that's not making sense right now. But he does match the description Wagner gave us of his Mystery Guy. And he matches Charlie's description."

Then a thought struck. Goosebumps ran up my arms and a chill zig-zagged down my spine.

"Those old pictures. Over the fireplace Did you notice something?"

"No."

"Mother Olson looked a little like Val. Darker hair, but the same body type."

Mouse frowned. "You think he's got mom issues?"

"Not sure, but I don't like where this is going."

My phone chirped.

Eddie. I put the phone on speaker.

"Got it," he said. "You ready?"

(to be continued...)

"Peek-a-Boo"
Part 6