To Bedevil A Beauty (Southern Sanctuary - Book 5), страница 1
To Bedevil A Beauty
Southern Sanctuary – Book Five
Copyright©2014. All rights reserved by the author. Do not copy or re-distribute.
This is a work of fiction.
Front cover design; Fiona Jayde
With love to my Beryl. May everyone be blessed with such an inspirational grandmother; who is always there for them, always interested and loves you unreservedly. Where ever you are now Nana (hopefully front row centre at the big bingo hall in the sky) I’m sure you are completely chuffed that I’ve named my heroine in your honour. It’s the least I could do.
Ramsey Hughes scowled across the dimly lit room at his police department appointed therapist. This was his twenty-second visit to the head shrink, and if he hadn’t been certifiable prior to commencing treatment, he was pretty sure he was ticking all the right boxes now.
Who wouldn’t be strait-jacket material following six months with nothing to do but stare at four blank apartment walls and attend the shrink’s office every second Tuesday? Waiting, with ever growing impatience, to be cleared to return to active duty.
What were his superiors thinking? So what if he’d been undercover for two years. Big fricking deal, it was what he’d trained for. Okay, so he’d been living and breathing the role of a leg breaking thug for a syndicate of lower than low scumbags running drugs, women and illegal gambling dens. It had been exhausting - yes, but thanks to him, every one of those fuckers was now doing hard time behind bars.
You would think he’d be a hero. You’d think the powers-that-be would want to put one of their best undercover agents back to work ASAFP.
Lord knows, there were plenty more assholes out there believing they were above the law and perfectly happy to rain down misery on those around them to make a quick buck selling drugs, pimping women, stealing, extortion, fraud… the list was endless. He knew better than anyone, he’d lived in that world for the last two years, not to mention the five years prior to that. Three of them spent undercover with a motorcycle gang and two years working on the Perth docks, tracking and eventually cracking an international trafficking ring involving teenage girls.
He wasn’t stupid or naïve enough to think that when he finished up in Sydney and returned to Melbourne he’d swan right into another undercover gig. There was paperwork still to complete on the last job and even if another assignment was waiting in the wings, he knew from experience that a top notch new identity took time to establish, even for the wonder-kids in the police tech department. He’d been working on the assumption that he was in for two weeks of desk duty, three at the outside. What he hadn’t been expecting, was for his superiors to despatch him to a head shrink for evaluation.
The fall-out from that first fifty minute session of pure unadulterated hell had resulted in his new carefree life of indefinite leave, with pay. Under strict instructions to get a life and keep seeing the shrink until he was deemed fit to return to duty.
Get a life? The fact that he’d never had much of one was of the reasons they’d chosen him for undercover work in the first place. No family, no ties, only a few friends, who hadn’t been all that concerned when he’d dropped off the map.
The other big reason they’d assigned him undercover work was the fact that he looked like the complete antithesis of a cop. No one looking at him would think cop in a million years. At 6.4ft he hulked over everyone around him. But there was more to him than just his sheer size, there was the speed and stealth in which he moved his broad muscular frame. Ramsey had been told too many times to count that no one as big as him should be able to move so lightly on their feet. Though few would admit publically, it wasn’t just Ramsey’s hulking frame that triggered their innate flight or fight response, what disturbed them the most was the state of absolute stillness he could obtain. Sinking into the shadows. Making you forget he was even in the room, until he moved, then wham, he scared the living bejesus out of you.
For all his adult life Ramsey had been very aware of his impact upon those around him. How men instinctively flinched and backed away from him and how women held their breath in fear as he passed by. Reacting not just to his size but to his penetrating dark grey eyes and many would say ‘cruel’ face, with his blunt jaw and slightly crooked nose.
Most people looking at him noticed the eyes first, and then would quickly transfer their attention to the two white long parallel scars that travelled down the left side of his jawline and throat, where it looked as if someone had attempted and failed to behead him… twice.
It probably didn’t help matters that his shaggy mane of uncontrollable brown hair fell into his eyes and scraped the top of his collar. He was tempted to shave it all off, but he knew that without hair he looked even more psycho killer murderer on the loose, men and women actually physically cowering in fear when he entered a room. Great for when you’re undercover, acting as a leg breaker. Not so great when you’re trying to prove to some head shrink that you are sane and normal.
Worse, Ramsey knew that even when he was relaxed and fairly happy with the world, for some reason it didn’t translate to his face. He’d overheard more than one whispered comment that he looked like any moment he was going to hulk out and go for someone’s throat. Even when he was smiling and laughing, those around him tended to inhale sharply and take a deep collective watchful breath, except for little kids. Little kids adored him. If there was a toddler running around wild, they were generally headed in his direction, much to the consternation of their - in chase mode, oft times screaming - parents.
Maybe he should reconsider doing something about his hair, like letting a professional clean up his hack and chop job for one thing. Probably a pointless exercise, nothing else he’d done since his return to Melbourne seemed to convince the doctor that he was a normal, fun loving guy, who just wanted the all clear so he could get back to his job of impersonating the scum of the earth.
But whatever he was selling, shrink dude was definitely not buying. Not the crappy two bedroom apartment he’d taken a lease out on. Not the fact that he shaved every day, despite the damn scars that made everyone stare his way. Not the fact that he arrived promptly for every one of the twenty-two head shrink sessions thus far.
Perhaps the problem lay with his clothes. With his massive frame it was hard to find suits within his budget to fit, and let’s face it, he really wasn’t a suit kind of guy. Give him jeans, a t-shirt and motorcycle boots any day of the week. So it might be the clothes the shrink was having an issue with, but frick, he’d like to see the Head Doc find comfortable shoes if he had feet the size Ramsey did.
Nah, it would be nice to think that a wardrobe makeover was all it would take to set him free of this regularly scheduled slice of hell but Ramsey was getting the distinct feeling that communication was the shrink’s main gripe when it came to him… or for that matter, his lack of it.
Ramsey had always had a hard time communicating with others, mainly because no one ever expected anything witty or intelligent to come out of the mouth of a guy who looked like he would be perfectly cast in every after-school movie as thug number one.
Besides, in his chosen career, silence, was effectively golden. When he was working undercover, his scum bag bosses wanted silent, threatening, yes-men. They didn’t want to engage in a discussion on string theory or listen to his opinion that Eddie Izzard’s Deathstar canteen skit was the funniest thing… ever. Ramsey had learnt very early on in his career to keep his mouth shut, watch and observe. That didn’t mean he didn’t have opinions or a dry sense of humour, he just wasn’t used to vocalising any of those though
Case in point, his first session with the shrink. His opening joke about the far reaching effect on the Gregorian calendar, if the medical community’s insistence that an hour was actually made up of fifty minutes grew to be a widespread belief, had fallen - ding-dong, the witch is dead - flat. In fact, the shrink had actually flinched away, as if he believed Ramsey was about to go on a rampage because he wasn’t getting his money’s worth for the session.
Which bought him to session twenty-two. Sitting frozen on the sofa, trying to look as non-threatening as possible, keeping his voice soft and low as he answered in short sentences every question the shrink asked. No sudden moves, no going off script and trying to develop a rapport with a guy who - for all his training - had a blind spot when it came to associating size and width with intelligence and control.
Head down, play the game and he knew he’d make it out the other side. He always had in the past.
Except this session, it was the shrink who’d gone off script. Inviting a colleague to sit in on their session. She was one of those cool, calm, elegant older ladies. Late 60’s probably, fit and stylish in a peach coloured dress and complimentary cream scarf tied around her throat. She had sleek grey hair, flipped up at the edges, a confident friendly smile and warm brown eyes that caught the light strangely, making it look as if little gold sparks were flaring occasionally in their depths.
Ramsey fought to clear the scowl from his face, remember non-threatening. How had the woman introduced herself? Alma… that’s right… Alma Richart, but not Doctor Alma Richart. Maybe she was one of those progressive ones, who didn’t like to shove their titles down a patient’s throat. Hmm, she was a new and interesting variable, but as yet, besides introducing herself, she’d said nothing, letting El Hefe shrink do all the talking.
The only reaction Alma had made so far was to laugh, when he’d relayed that he’d been unable to follow through on the doctor’s suggestion that he join a pottery class because when he’d turned up at the local community centre they’d automatically directed him to the self-defence class. When he’d returned to reception to rectify the mistake it was to find the person manning the desk had locked all the doors and turned out all the lights. Alma had laughed in further merriment when he shared that he guessed the person manning the door must have presumed he was there volunteering as the attack dummy. El Hefe shrink hadn’t even cracked a smile, just scowled and made a quick decisive note on his clipboard instead.
For fuck sake Ramsey, he reprimanded himself. Quit it with the wise cracks. Remember, short answers, and keep hand gestures to a minimum. El Hefe shrink was a flincher and he was going to give himself whip lash if he kept reacting every time Ramsey so much as made a move to scratch his nose.
The rest of the session had crawled onwards in the usual sombre fashion, replicating the previous twenty-one sessions. When his ‘hour’ was up, Ramsey had gratefully gotten to his feet, tamping down on the urge to roll his eyes as his shrink cowered for a split second. His colleague Alma, didn’t appear to be intimidated by his size or the quickness of his movements, standing up also, she offered him a genuine warm smile and a handshake.
He never did learn exactly why she’d been present for his session and being the curious type he couldn’t help but use the heel of his boot to ever so discreetly slow the progress of the door closing behind him.
“As you just witnessed, Detective Hughes has a long recovery road in front of him before I can clear him to go back to work undercover. Don’t you agree Mrs Richart?”
“No, I’d say the exact opposite actually. Now that I’ve met him, I’d say that Detective Hughes is absolutely perfect for my needs.”
“I really think you should reconsider-”
The rest of El Hefe shrink’s words were cut off as the door came to a complete close. Damn, he knew the shrink had it in for him… long road to recovery his ass. Recovery from what? And what did Alma Richart mean when she said he was perfect for her needs? Distracted he hauled out his vibrating mobile phone and answered the blocked call.
“Hughes, Randall Browning here.”
Why did that name sound familiar? Someone he’d worked with? Someone he knew? “I’m sorry, who?”
“Randall Browning… Police Commissioner.”
Gulp, he knew the name was familiar, but Browning was like his boss’s, boss’s, boss’s boss. He realised he’d yet to make any response, pull yourself together man, this could be about a job. “Sir, do you have some undercover work for me?”
“Not exactly. Have you heard of the Southern Sanctuary?”
“Problem?” Ramsey queried, stepping out of his office into the large airy open central work area of the Haven Bay police station.
No one jumped. No one cowered away. In fact, his presence was rewarded with a couple of welcoming smiles and one look of pure relief. He couldn’t count on one hand the number of times that had happened in his adult life time.
Now he was the one who fought not to flinch. When would he get used to that title? It had been five weeks now, man up already and accept that this is your new life. Temporary new life, he amended mentally. All he needed to do was survive six months in this Mayberry mind-fuck town, where the locals were super nice, super friendly and ridiculously good-looking. A perfect example of the local citizenry was the four police officers currently crowded around the dispatcher’s desk.
Mentally, Ramsey had dubbed them the JLA (Justice League of Australia). Which made today Superman-day, as all four McKenzie brothers; Mac, Cam, Zeke and Gideon, were on duty. The brothers were uniformly tall, hovering around the 6.2ft mark, broad shouldered, black haired, blue eyed and square jawed. All four looked as if any moment they would unbutton their khaki work shirts to reveal a cape and spandex, taking to the skies in a single bound to fly off to save puppies and damsels in distress.
“We’re getting a couple of reports coming in Chief.” Mac McKenzie, the oldest of the brothers spoke up.
Ramsey didn’t bother to ask for the call log, if he’d learnt nothing else in the last five weeks it was that the station didn’t operate that way. Instead he looked to the station dispatcher, Maureen Bright, and the cell phone she held clutched in her hand.
Maureen was the equivalent of a lightning rod when it came to all the latest news, information and happenings in their three town district. In five minutes or more the station phone would commence ringing off the hook with the official emergency calls, but he’d quickly learnt to trust Maureen’s uncanny ability to be ahead of the game when it came to trouble. Just as he’d quickly learnt to shut his office door when making personal calls, the woman had the hearing of a bat.
“Tell me.” He directed his request at Maureen.
“There’s trouble at the camping ground over at Reverie Valley, a fire. I think the girls are going to need back up. It’s contained now but there’s property damage and finger pointing going on.”
Ramsey nodded, Reverie Valley, was a town located a twenty minute car ride inland and had its own police sub-station, manned during daylight hours by two female police officers. The Valley held a famous arts and crafts market every Saturday and since today was Friday, the camping ground would be packed solid with people.
Maureen dutifully responded. “I’ve heard on the grapevine Barty is taking a stroll along the far end of the beach, heading towards the cliffs.”
“He’s the nudist right?”
Five heads nodded emphatically in agreement. Thankfully mostly only locals utilised the long gorgeous stretch of Haven Bay beach, but still, an elderly man running around naked was cause for concern.
“Anything else?” Knowing this district, there was bound to be a kitten up a tree somewhere. In five weeks he’d quickly discovered it was far from a hotbed of activity, just a constant stream of niggly minor annoyances.
“Well, there’s the sheep.”
Of course there was. Ramsey fought the urge to roll his eyes, he supposed at least livestock made a nice change from trapped kittens.
Maureen continued talking. “They’ve invaded Southey’s Bar and Grill, causing chaos and scaring the patrons.”
“Cedric must have fallen off the vegan bandwagon again.” Cam volunteered. “What was he thinking going into the grill? He knows those sheep are watching him like hawks.”
“The man bought his sheep into town?” Ramsey frowned. Small town life was a mystery to him.
“Their…” Gideon coughed as his brother Zeke abruptly elbowed him in the ribs. “Very attached, was what I was going to say…” turning to send his brother a quick fleeting dark blue glare.
“Okay, well sounds like we have a busy afternoon ahead of us. Cam and Mac you head for the Valley to provide back-up. Zeke and I will take the sheep and Gideon can…”
Ramsey ceased talking as the station phone abruptly began ringing. Maureen visibly jumped, gasping in surprise. No way should that phone be ringing just yet, it was just not possible. Reflexively she snatched it up, bringing the handset to her ear, very aware of the interested audience she had surrounding her, only four of whom would be aware of how absolutely unprecedented this incident was.
“Hello… I mean, Haven Bay Police, how may I help you today?” She unconsciously frowned. “Dear… you need to speak up… I can barely hear you.” Maureen frowned again. “Oh, no. Hmmm, the cats? … Oh, those cats. Well yes, I can have someone out there immediately… what was that? You’re… breaking up. You want them to bring what?” Maureen abruptly yanked the phone away from her ear as the dial tone sounded. She looked up at the five men surrounding her. “It seems Judge Beryl Malone has been locked out of her house and needs assistance.”