Excerpt for Waiting to Heal by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

M&M Investigations

Waiting to Heal


Phillip N. Hancock, Sr.

The following book is totally fictitious and any resemblance to actual places, characters or events is a product of the writer's imagination.

Text copyright @ 12/11/2017 Phillip N. Hancock, Sr.

ISBN:   9781370739042

Smashwords Edition License Notes

This e-book is licensed for your enjoyment. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please pick up an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not get it on line, or it was not picked up for your enjoyment only, then please return to or your favorite retailer and pickup your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Note: All cover artwork is a combination of free photo art combined with the authors use of computer programs and no copyrights were violated.

Cover photo was taken by Patricia Hancock

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32


Book Characters

Before you go

Other Books by this Author


Her lawyer friend had called her and asked if she had time and would take on a case for one of his clients. Agreeing and accepting, to at least see his client, she set out. If things panned out, as he had presented, this would actually be M&M Investigation’s second murder case. She was 5 ft. 10 in., an old 33 1/2 in human years and she had matured a lot during and since she closed that first murder case. That case, she had so eloquently solved, was a little over a year ago so she thought she was ready for a new one. Those two clients, husband and wife, had become her very good friends. When you get your client released from jail by finding the true culprit of the crime, you almost can’t help but make friends. She hoped she could also help this new client by some means and, just maybe, gain a new friend.

The address wasn’t far so the young PI (Private Investigator) decided she would check it out by herself. She drove the short distance and parked in front of the five story brick structure. Walking up she noticed there was no lock on the front door of the rundown apartment building. Once inside she saw the sign over the call button on the ancient elevator and it was easy to understand. A big red “NO” with the word stairs and an arrow below it pointing toward the worn staircase.

Five flights and a little breathless later she knocked on the apartment door of # 503. A small mature fine looking lady invited her in after they both introduced themselves. They sat for a short time while, the mature lady filled her in on what had happened and why she felt she needed a Private Investigator.

“I hope you won’t consider me too insensitive if I ask you some questions later to make sure I have the facts straight,” she asked the elderly lady.

“Don’t worry, after dealing with the cops accusations and comments for the last couple weeks, I have become a veritable unemotional piece of granite,” The lady assured her.

It seemed that the lady’s husband had taken a fatal fall from the fire escape outside their apartment window. After investigating the incident the police had come to the conclusion that he was not of sound mind and had taken his own life in order for his wife to profit from their life insurance policy. The life insurance company had then refused her claim due the suspected suicide conclusion reached by the police.

After talking with the tentative client for a short time, the young investigator decided to take a look at the crime scene if, in fact, it was a crime scene. She propped open the hallway exit to the fire escape and went out onto the shaky landing. Looking down she could see the fire escape was very short. It only ran down to the fourth floor then with that landing it ended. She turned and looked back at the wall behind her that led to the roof above and said out loud, “I wonder what is up there?”

She turned back to the fire escape leading to the lower floor and just before she took a step down something heavy landed on the landing behind her and slammed into her back causing her to go head first down those steal steps. Hitting her head first then with uncontrollable tumbling she was carried down the steps onto the fourth floor landing. Something she wore snagged on one of the broken rail’s metal post at that landing and prevented her from plunging those final four floors to the paved alley below. Semi-conscious she dangled from the fire escape landing and began to slowly swing back and fourth as if she was a pendulum on a clock.

Chapter One

Back at the Ranch

The early morning sun cast a bright slash across the foot of the bed and the angle of that slash was at least a clue to where she was. Even though she moved very slow the pain was sufficient to cause a sudden quick intake of breath that only acerbated the soreness in her rib cage. "Jesus, that hurt," she said to the empty room.

She looked at the ceiling and saw the faint outlines of the decorative stars that simulated a night sky. They had lost their luminance due to the brightness of the sun that had flooded the room with a disbursement of bright rays. The pale green wallpaper that decorated the room was another clue and putting all the clues together told her she was most likely in the second floor green room at the Haley's ranch and the pain told her she had been severely injured.

Sitting up in bed was an ordeal but she did it, "I've got to move super slow or I will be on the floor crying with this pain," and now she had her feet lightly touching the floor as she had continued to move and push through the somewhat searing pain.

"Oh, look, there is a spot right there, that little spot, that little, little, very small spot, it's the only place on my body that doesn't hurt," she said out loud as she pointed at a small area on her thigh that didn't hurt and wasn't black and blue bruised.

"Crap, I must be a real good listener because I keep talking to myself."

She looked out the 2nd story front windows and across the pastures that fronted the house. These open pastures ran down the quarter mile to the small shared lake road that allowed public access to these beautiful pastures and several others that bordered its route. In one of these pastures three mares and their recent folds grazed aimlessly through the lush grass that the spring rains had caused to flourish. Heads down they all moved independently as they munched on the plentiful green vegetation.

She heard them before she saw them as the honking they made was loud and continues. The large flight of geese flew across the open pasture as if they were simply heading north for cooler temperatures during the coming summer months. One of the trailing birds in the flight peeled off the flock and turned back and descended flaring its wings and slowing down as it softly touched down in the pasture. As if on some unseen signal, the rest of the flock suddenly turned and also approached as she watched, their honking was even louder and noisier than before. They flared their wings and slowly settled into the pastures close to where the previous bird was waiting and near the grazing horses. Their arrival was seemingly ignored by all the horses who didn't raise a head at the geese's landing, all except one of the young colts who lifted his head momentarily as if acknowledging the geese's arrival. Megan sat and watched for a moment as the large birds spread out waddling around as they began pecking at the grass and the nutrient found there.

Megan took her mind off the birds as she thought about her situation. She took a quick look in the mirror before she left the bedroom. The bandages on her head were sufficient to give her the look of someone wearing a turban. She wondered how much hair she had left under those bandages. The sleep ware she wore was adequate for entertaining so she didn't bother trying to change her clothes. She gently stepped into her house slippers and, taking it extremely slow, she made her way to the top of the narrow staircase. The thoughts of descending down those stairs seemed overwhelming and caused her to hesitate. This hesitation was swiftly aborted when the smell of bacon cooking accompanied by the smell of fresh brewed coffee hit her, like a well thrown pie, square in the face. These irresistible odors and the growling in her stomach told her she really needed both, food and coffee. The two together caused her to face the daunting task and suffer the pain as she navigated slowly down the stairwell.

"Well, well, hello sleeping beauty, the prince must have come by and kissed you awake," Paul Haley said as he rose and turned to the sudden motion and quite appearance of Megan at the foot of the stairs. He hesitated going to assist her but did stand and watch with paternal concern as she continued to slowly come into the ranch's great room. It was clearly apparent she was trying to hide the pain that severely hindered and slowed her to an almost snail's pace.

Sophia was in the kitchen busy at the stove and, due to her small statue, only her head was visible above the bar that separated the dining area from the small kitchen, "Pay no attention to his attempts at humor, it will just encourage him if you do." Sophia smiled at Megan and asked, "Are you okay? You are moving very slow, the pain tolerable or do you need something to ease it?"

"It's bothersome but I can handle it, my stomach is growling and I am in bad need of some coffee if it's not too much trouble?" Megan replied as she took the offered hand of Paul and grasped the table with the other. Using the table as a guide and with Paul's assistance, she slowly lowered herself into one of the dining room chairs. A very small, but noticeable moan, escaped her lips as she settled to the wooden surface of the solid oak hard chair seat.

"Should I get you a pillow? I know that chair is hard as they don't have any cushions and are designed for old hard assed farmers or ranchers," Paul said as he moved toward the front room.

"It's ok, I'm ok, I am fine now that I am seated and I want to stay this way, too much pain involved to get up again right now," Megan replied as she gently waved him off.

"Coffee fresh brewed and on its way now," Sophia said as she poured the hot dark liquid into a large John Deere decorative cup. The steaming cup in hand, Sophia made her way around the bar to the dinning table. "Keep your seat and I will take care of you, eggs, bacon and toast are on their way," Sophia said as she placed the steaming cup of coffee on the table near Megan then she proceeded back around the bar to continue Megan's breakfast preparation.

Megan wrapped both hands around the cup and slowly raised it to her lips. The first sip was simply amazing and seemed to put a little life into her, restoring some of her resilience. Her mind raced at the feeling and she thought, "If coffee can do this much, what kind of restoration can I expect from the breakfast that Sophia is preparing?"

Well, the restoration breakfast wasn't a total cure but it did go a long way at least in her mind. Feeling much better she slowly made her way back upstairs to get dressed. She wanted to somehow make her way out and meander into the pastures and visit with the horses.

Paul and Sophia cautioned Megan on her condition and her planned too soon outing but she wouldn't be dissuaded from her quest. The nearest pasture seemed miles away as she slowly painfully step by step made her way to the gated entrance while their dog Onyx followed. Megan petted the dog as she walked remembering how small he was when she was up here before, he was just a pup.

Resting at that gate lasted longer than she had planned but her pain made it so necessary. Onyx seemed to sense the struggles Megan was going through as he sat beside her softly leaning against her leg. Megan closed her eyes resting one of her hands on the dog’s head and holding onto the gate, with the other, for at least five minutes, simply waiting to get her discomfort under some control. The unexpected but gentle nudging by one of the horses, that had quietly approached, caused her eyes to fly open. She smiled and gently stroked the long face of that female thoroughbred. Her hesitation had now evaporated and she slowly unlatched and swung the gate open causing the large animal to move backward a few steps letting her and the dog through.

Megan pushed the gate closed behind her as she approached the waiting horse. She again stroked the horse’s face and then moved in closer. She moved past the horse’s head and wrapped her arms around her neck as she pressed herself against her muscular body. She stood and simply held on for a long time as the horse made no attempt to move backward or forward. The recuperative value that petting and hugging a beautiful race horse has not actually been medically measured but the strength and comfort she felt flowing from that wonderful animal, now emanating through her complete being, was nothing but amazing.

"Hey there," JJ said as he approached the pasture gate. "I knew it but I had to see it," JJ said as he petted and also said hello to Onyx.

"Hey JJ, you had to see what?"

"That you are outstanding in the field".

"I'm pretty good but I'm not sure I'm outstanding," Megan said with a smile as she turned to face her Private Investigating partner, James Jacques or JJ as it were.

"You look a lot better, it's good to see you up and about."

"Thanks, I owe my speedy partial recovery to Sophia's breakfast and the strength and comfort I gain when I hug this big beautiful girl," Megan said as she patted the neck of the waiting race horse, and you too, she said to the dog, giving it welcomed attention as she petted him.

"I believe it, Sophia's cooking and this beautiful ranch have the power to heal."

"So JJ, what are you doing here, I didn't expect you up this week?"

"Some progress on the case you were investigating has spirited me and raised some questions that you may be able to answer," JJ took Megan’s arm and assisted her through the pasture gate. Once she was clear he closed the gate then said, "Let's walk back to the house, I need to say hi to the Haley's then we can talk."

As if she had some kind of second sense, Sophia had a breakfast ready for JJ and was placing it on the dining table when Megan and JJ entered from the back patio area. JJ gave Sophia a big hug as she ushered him toward the waiting breakfast. He paused long enough to shake hands with Paul on his way.

"Wow, I didn't expect this but there is no way I'm going to refuse a country breakfast. You guys are just too much, it's no wonder Megan is back on her feet so soon, the powers of your ranch is simply impossible to explain."

"It's really nice of you to say that but I'm sure it's Megan's own motivation that has speeded her recovery so far," Sophia added as she gently pushed JJ toward his chair adding a hot cup of coffee as he sat.

Chapter Two

Hanging in There

JJ ate slowly as he caught up with the Haley's progress, here at the ranch. Paul had really come to life now that he, thanks to Megan and JJ, had been cleared of the murder of Roger Rankin. It had been Megan and JJ's first murder case and they had handled it with some aplomb. They had taken this closed case and, where the detectives had charged Paul Haley with the murder, they exposed the real culprit proving Paul was completely innocent of the charges brought against him."The horses look great and the new addition, wow, those babies are just gorgeous and so full of energy."

“It's almost unbelievable that something so young can race around and jump the way they do," Paul Haley said. "I assume it is survival instinct that gives them that ability."

"I'm pretty sure you are correct because what they are capable of is amazing," JJ rose from the table and gestured for Megan to follow, "I have some questions for Megan about her case and her injury if it's ok with you guys?"

"No, it's ok, I know you are trying to find out what happened when she was injured," Paul said as Sophia nodded her head in agreement.

JJ and Megan made their way slowly into Haley's ranch office and approached the chairs beside Paul's desk. "Can I get you some water, another cup of coffee or anything before we start?" JJ asked.

"Yeah, maybe another cup of coffee would be great if Sophia still has some in the pot," Megan said as she slowly lowered her aching body into one of the office chairs.

JJ soon returned with a half cup of hot coffee and placed it on the desk near Megan.

"I'm not sure I'm ready for this, my memory of that night is so flakey I might not be of any help in sorting out the details."

"Well, we can only gain what we can but we have to try."

"I keep having this weird dream and it is mixed up with what actually happened to me making it difficult to separate the two."

"Tell me about the dream ok, it might not mean anything but maybe I can help you separate the two, the real from the dream."

"Let me take you through how I got to the dream part, you know the factual stuff first. Mrs. Shirley Logan and I had tea at her apartment around nine o'clock that evening. We had discussed her husband's mood the night he died. She assured me he was in high spirits and he had never even hinted at being depressed or considering harming himself in anyway."

Megan paused and took a sip of coffee before she continued.

"I asked her if she knew what he was doing out on that dilapidated fire escape as it wasn't safe for anything or anybody and should only be used in an emergency. She said it wasn't even safe for that as it didn't even lead to the pavement below, it ended down one landing, still about four stories off that alleyway's paved surface."

Megan shook her head as she thought about her comments. "Mrs. Logan said that they heard a noise from that area and he went out to check. The responding investigators didn't believe her and simply wrote his fall to his death off as a suicide. Then when the insurance company sent their investigator in here they just followed suit and also wrote it off as a suicide and that gave them an out so they turned down her insurance claim. It made a lot of sense for the company but not for the policy holder."

Megan slowly rose and stood for a moment before making minor changes in the way she had been sitting then lowered herself back into the chair. JJ could almost feel the pain she was experiencing as she relayed the part of the occurrence she could remember.

"I decided I would at least take a look at the fire escape and see for myself where the incident took place. That fifth floor's emergency exit to that outside stairwell was from the hallway just a few steps from the Logan's apartment door and this was the expected route for all on that floor, that is if the inside stairwell was compromised and unusable. The Logan's also had the luxury of a cumbersome access to that fire escape landing through the bedroom window, if it became absolutely necessary. Mrs. Logan also told me the stairwell could take you to the fourth floor, if there was no other way out and just getting off this floor was critical."

Megan paused and raised her head and looked at her partner, "this is where it gets a little flakey and mixed up, at least in my memory. I went out in the hall and looked at the emergency exit door. I noticed it wasn't alarmed but I assumed there was no access door handles that would allow entry from the outside so I wouldn't go out there unless I blocked the exit door open. I took a small chair from Mrs. Logan's dinette set and once I had the door open I blocked it from closing with that chair. I went back and told Mrs. Logan that I would be returning shortly then went out through the exit door onto the metal landing of the fire escape."

"I looked at the blank wall to my left wondering what was up there on the roof above me only about 10 feet up. I turned and looked down the fire escape and saw the landing one floor below and I saw that the fire escape did end there. Something banged behind me but before I could turn around I was hit in the back and sent head first down the metal steps of that fire escape."

Megan rose from her chair and slowly paced back and forth in front of the desk as she continued, "The next thing I remember is looking down at the dark alleyway several floors down. My feet were swinging back and forth below me and I seemed to be bent in the middle and hanging from something. I heard a very loud scream in an extremely high voice, kind of like a scream from Alvin and the chipmunks. The next thing I notice was someone looking out the window not more than ten feet from me and level with whatever I was hanging on. It was a lady, a cartoon lady, with huge eyes saying over and over, OMG, OMG as her eyes seem to bug out from her head like in one of those cell phone photo shopped Snap Chat videos."

Megan slowly returned to her chair and sat back down again, " That little lady was so animated that it was hard to believe she was real. I actually thought I might be dreaming. It reminded me of those dreams I had when I was in middle school, about that animated black pencil, you know the Onyx Quill case. Everything was simply a cartoon but it reeked so of realism that it frightened me."

"Yes, I remember that case we had just become partners and I helped you try to solve that mystery. This however is real and almost deadly. You must have been out of it after that fall down those bruising stairs and the injuries you sustained must have caused you to imagine those things," JJ said.

"That isn't the half of it, I saw the red and blue lights coming and turning into the alley but the car was also a cartoon car. It kind of bubbled to a stop and two cartoon cops jumped out and started running circles around that little vehicle jumping up and down, throwing their hands up in the air and saying, in a cartoon voice, what will we do, what will we do? They would occasionally stop and point up at me and then grab both sides of their faces then run around the car as before. They made me think of those Keystone Cop skits during silent movie days."

"How long did this go on, these cartoon vision I mean?" JJ asked.

"A long time. I just hung there slowly swaying back and forth watching the action below. It wasn't long before the ladder truck bent to come down the alley. It actually bent and curved around the edge of the building and yes it too was a cartoon truck with cartoon fireman. They sent that ladder out and swung it around like a scene from a 1963 movie "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." firemen were hanging on and swinging out like crazy."

"Weren't you frightened with those visions?" JJ was animated when he asked this question.

"Actually no, I was laughing at the antics, anyone would have, besides, those little animated firemen came up finally and carried me down that ladder to the top of the fire truck then down onto the ground. I looked at the ambulance, with its red, white and yellow lights flashing, and suddenly everything changed and looked real and this is where I must have passed out. I don't remember anything after that until I woke up in the hospital."

"Were you in a lot of pain while you hung there?"

"Not that I can remember, at that time I wasn't feeling anything as far as I know."

Chapter Three

A Life Saver Pack

"JJ, can you tell me something?"

"If I know it I will be glad to tell you."

"Why didn't I fall to the pavement below when I was pushed down that fire escape? Why didn't I end up like Mr. Logan?"

Megan's close call was beginning to really hit home and JJ watched a tear slowly trickle down Megan's face. JJ reached out and took both of Megan's hands in his and tried to reassure her that she was safe. He then told her what he had learned from the police and firemen that had rescued her.

"It was a little something you had done two days earlier that saved your life."

"Something I did, what did I do," Megan asked.

"You know how you loved to wear those tight fitting pants, the ones you liked so much," Megan started to say something but JJ waved her off and continued, "I know, I know, they look good on you but they are inconvenient as they do not have any pockets and your refusal to carry a purse was a hassle. You were always going places with your wallet and keys in your hands and you were tired of doing that. Long story short, two days before your plummet down those stairs you purchased a Fanny Pack and started wearing it everywhere."

"Buying a fanny pack saved my life, no, no, I'm not confused, but you're going to have to fill in the blanks," Megan said as she shook her head. She did this slowly trying to avoid causing any pain.

"You made sure that fanny pack would stand up to rough treatment and stay secure no matter the circumstances and that's what did it. That fanny pack belt caught on a piece of the broken railing, the railing that should have but no longer surrounded that fire escape landing. That belt caught and held you in that dangling position until those cartoon firemen rescued you and carried you down to the pavement and the waiting ambulance."

"My new fanny pack saved my fanny, hilarious, simply hilarious. Well, from now on, I am wearing that puppy until the cows come home, literally, I'm not going to be caught dead without it. Ha ha, ok, maybe that isn't the best comment under these circumstances."

"Man, you are one funny lady. You shouldn't forget that this thing is unbelievably serious, your life was on the line," JJ said as he slowly shook his head in disbelief at Megan's lite treatment of this crime and her off the cuff comments.

"Did you take a look at the scene of the crime, did you go out on that fire escape?"

"Of course, there is no way I could stay away from that, you're my partner and my best friend, I have to get to the bottom of this attack on you."

"Anything jump out at you?"

"Not really, I found that the only unhampered access to the fire escape is through that hallway and fire escape door outside of the Logan's apartment. I took a good look at the fire escape and the surrounding area. I notice some minor abrasion in the stucco wall in back of the fire escape's railing. That stucco wall is about ten or so feet above the landing and leads up to the roof of the building. I want to find a way to get up on that roof and take a look around to see if there is anything up there that could have some connection with that attack on you."

"Take someone with you if you go up there, I think someone is very serious about that area, promise me you won't take any chances. One of us recovering is enough and I need you out there and I need you with full mobility," Megan just had to add.

"Don't you worry, I value my body too much to take foolish chances," JJ hugged Megan and then continued, "you take care of yourself cause I want you back out there helping me with this and the other cases that are lingering in the wing. I am headed back to the city and I will find someone to go with me to check out that roof ASAP and I will let you know the results."

"Thanks JJ, I will take care."

Chapter Four

The Ladder of Success

JJ called Jim Blackstone, one of Megan's friends, and asked him if he would help with a little investigation into the reason for the attack on Megan. Jim was eager to help and couldn't wait to be of some assistance in bringing in those responsible and making them pay for their violence. JJ rented an extending ladder and met Jim in front of the Login's apartment building. The ladder barely fit in the old elevator, which had evidently been repaired, and JJ had to manipulate the ladder around leaning it across from corner to corner from front to rear so the doors would close.

They propped the fire escape door open and guided the ladder through. Finding a reliable position and secure footing on the landing of the old fire escape was somewhat exasperating and several short climbing attempts were made before JJ was satisfied and felt comfortable with the stability of the ladder.

"I'm going up now so I want you to hold the ladder and monitor my progress," JJ told Jim.

"No sweat I will be right here hanging on." Jim replied.

As JJ climbed he noticed that the scarred marks on the stucco wall, behind the ladder, looked like a shadow of the ladder he was climbing. As a matter of fact the shadow of the rungs of his ladder fell into the scar marks on the wall as if there had been a ladder there before. JJ looked for any holes in the stucco that might have been used to adhere some type of climbing apparatus previously located on that wall. Unfortunately he found nothing except the scars on the blank wall he was scaling.

"JJ, go slow, you have no idea what to expect when you get to the top of that wall," Jim said as he pointed at the top of the wall, "there may be danger up there."

"10-4, I will, I don't like surprises when it comes to murder or attempted murder."

JJ reached the point where he could now reach up and grab the top of the wall. He slowly raised up and peeked over the top of the wall. He took his time and did a 180 thereby taking in the whole roof. It seemed that nothing was amiss and nothing stood out as a possible hiding place that might provide any type of concealment.

"I'm going over onto the roof, you might want to follow me."

"On my way as soon as you're clear," Jim said as he started his climb up the ladder.

Jim caught up with JJ and he too stepped onto the roof. JJ was just standing there taking his time with a detailed look around. Not much to see but some air handlers and old TV antennas and some satellite dishes. All the dishes were pointing in the same direction with the same attitude so they would pick up the signal from the stationary orbiting telecommunicating satellite equipment several miles away in close orbit to the earth.

"Anything jump out at you?" Jim asked.

"Not sure, plenty of open space up here but it seems there is very few points of access," JJ said and then pointed across the flat surface then continued, "I'm going to look for any actual preplanned roof accesses as I'm sure our use of the ladder was not in the original blue prints."

"Sounds like a plan, I'll look on this left side if you want to go to the right?"

JJ simply nodded his head as he was deep in thought when he turned to his right and started his search.

JJ took his time as he examined the right side of the roof. There were some indentations in the flat roofing material that left the impression that something had sat there for some time.

“Hey Jim, you see anything unusual?

“Nothing really stands out. There are some marks here that looks like something was dragged across the roof,” Jim said as he pointed at the scar marks. “There are also some dents like the legs of a table had been in place with something heavy on it.”

“I’m seeing the same things on this side,” JJ said as he squatted down and looked across the roof to where Jim was standing., “looks like there was a long row of tables placed here. Little indentations run all the way across and reach from me to you. I could see two rows of small random dents when I squatted down.”

“Ok, I see them too,” Jim said as he squatted down and looked across at JJ.

“I believe something has been removed recently as some of the dents have started to heal from environmental exposure, you know, like heat would do to this tar like substance,” JJ said as he pointed at a couple of the indentations.

Jim nodded his head in agreement as they both headed back toward the ladder they had used to access the roof.

“Hey, what is this?” Jim said as he pointed at two small pieces of rope that were each knotted around a metal bar attached to the inside of the roof wall they had climbed over.

They both examined the rope and saw that the rope pieces lined up with worn groves in the wall as if the two pieces of rope had at one time been longer and ran over that wall parallel to each other.

“What do you think?” Jim asked as he looked at JJ.

JJ looked over the wall at the scar marks on the wall behind the ladder and said, “Rope ladder is my guess. A rope ladder with wooden steps that hung from this bar down over the edge of the wall causing those two groves and the scars in the wall that shadows our ladder’s rungs.”

“I agree, that would be my assumption,” Jim added.

“Access for individuals maybe, but not for any sizable equipment or tables.”

“Again, I agree, there must be another access point of some sort,” Jim replied.

“Robert B Parker’s Jesse Stone said, if you don’t like your answers, check your premises.”

“Did he mean literally?”

“Not sure but, I’m going to make a trip around the perimeter of the roof and see if I can find another access point,” JJ said as he started his second search.

Jim started his search in the opposite direction. They walked the interior of the roof foot by foot. They found an access hatch for maintenance behind one of the air handlers but it too was to small of an access for equipment of any size, it was only a manhole of sorts. Looking at the edges of the building they found some minor scarring on the back side. Looking down from the roof the back of the building was a blank brick wall with no windows and the wall ended in an alley with a paved access road that came in from the nearby street.

“Seems simple enough to move equipment up or down from this point and hey look, this frame work swivels and one beam extends out beyond the edge of the roof. I thought this was some necessary roof structure, didn’t realize it swiveled, it looked fixed in place,” JJ said as he had held onto the frame work to look over the edge of the building realizing then that it moved.

“Attach a small electric hoist to that beam here and you got everything you need to move equipment,” Jim said as he checked out the small holes in the end of the beam that JJ had moved back from the edge toward him.

“I agree but I don’t see a source of power that would allow the operation of an electric hoist. Hey, maybe they used a simple block and tackle hoist, you know, manpowered,” JJ said as he swung the beam from Jim’s hands and he took a closer look as he again checked out the end of the frame work where the holes were drilled.

“Extension cords, portable generator or manpowered hoist, it doesn’t matter we agree that it would be a piece of cake to move some heavy or awkward equipment off the roof,” Jim supplied as he patted the edge of the roof where the evidence of some recent activity was present.

“I’m heading back down our ladder and have another talk with Mrs. Logan and see if she had heard any unexplained activity, either in the hallway, out on the fire escape or from the roof top, anything since Megan’s fall,” JJ said as he headed back across the roof.

“Ok, you go that way. I’m going to check out that other access and see just where it leads,” Jim said as he pointed at the manhole hatch over on the other side of the roof. “I’ll meet you at Mrs. Logan’s apartment in a little while.”

Down on the landing below the ladder JJ looked back up and started to remove the ladder. He paused then let the ladder lean back against the wall. “Better leave it here in case that other access doesn’t lead anywhere,” he thought and voiced out loud. “We can always come back out and get it.”

Chapter Five

Hug a Blazing Nightmare

Megan brushed the forefront of the horse and softly sang as she worked. The horse she brushed had its name engraved in the bridle she wore. Blazing Nightmare was tall, beautiful and fast as the wind. Her individual track record was close to the all time track record. Megan wasn't sure why she was called Nightmare. She planned to talk to Paul and find out why this gorgeous specimen was given that moniker as it would seem to leave a negative connotation. "There is no reason anyone should call you a nightmare as you are so gentle and seem to love attention, I would call you Blazing Beauty if I had an input," Megan said as she rubbed the horses face.

Several large geese circled overhead as she continued brushing Blazing Nightmare. Megan paused her brushing and watched the geese come in and flare their wings as they settled into the lower pasture. "What a rush that must be, to be able to fly around with an unhampered view of the ranch area and then land in the plush pasture to gather and peck away at whatever nourishment they found so enticing as to draw them to this particular ranch," Megan softly spoke out loud just for her own ears. Blazing Nightmare took this moment to nudge Megan with her nose to bring her attention back to the brushing she had been enjoying. “Ok, ok, I’m back at it so you can just relax and enjoy.”

Megan made sure she brushed the horse down completely. She hugged the horse’s neck, patted her on her head then kissed her on the cheek while saying, “See you later big girl.”

She had been wanting to get over to the upper pond and check out the beautiful lily pads that had sprung up there since the end of the drought. Now that she had a little more mobility she thought this was a perfect opportunity.

Quiet had overtaken the pond on her approach. The water run off from the surrounding hills had refilled the pond and for unknown reason the lily pads had come back fully flourished and now covered the pond from bank to bank. The pink and gold flowers over the huge green almost twenty inch in diameter pads was a lesson in what can come naturally without any human contributions or planning. She placed her hand on one of the pads near shore and was humbled at the size of each pad and amazed at the speed at which they had grown. Megan sat on the bank quietly waiting for a while. She looked at the unbelievably beautiful lotus blossoms and then after a few minutes the frogs began their songs again rocking the quiet with their melody of croaks and buzzes.

Megan wasn’t there long before she heard the bell that signaled breakfast was ready. The sound and tone of that bell was so clear and loud that it carried to all corners of the ranch. That particular bell came from Switzerland by way of a friend that worked as a Director at Genentech. This Director friend had been sent to Switzerland for a conference with managers of all the Genentech's facilities. While out shopping, in her spare time, she spotted the large bell with its unusual and colorful attaching harness. After hearing the volume and tone of its ring, she decided to bring it back for her friend to use at her ranch. Sophia has been using it ever since to get everyone’s attention for whatever and from wherever they might be on the ranch.

"Smells like heaven in here," Megan said as she entered the ranch house turned and washed her hands in the kitchen sink then dried them on a paper towel, "what is with the bacon you are cooking, it has the best smell and it is the best I have ever eaten."

"Local organic farm raises cows and pigs and then they butcher them and make the product available for purchase to surrounding neighbors and local merchants," Sophia replied, "and I agree with you, it is the best. Come, sit, I'll bring coffee and your breakfast."

Megan knew she would just be in the way if she tried to help herself in the kitchen so she took that offered seat and let Sophia do her thing. She also knew that Sophia would bring her bacon, two eggs over easy, hash browns and a couple slices of buttered toast with the homemade blackberry jelly in place on the table.

"Heard the bell and headed in, am I late?" Paul asked as he also turned and washed his hands in the kitchen sink following with the paper towel which was evidently the routine at the ranch.

"Right on time. Sit, I'll serve, coffee or juice?" Sophia asked as she lovingly guided Paul to his chair.

"Coffee please and thanks hon."

“Paul, I have to ask. Blazing Nightmare, why would anyone name that beautiful gentle horse a nightmare?” Megan asked.

“You’re not the first to ask. You are right about her here at the ranch, she is just the best to work with and to be around.”

“So, you admit that the name doesn’t fit her.”

“I didn’t say that. What you haven’t seen is her at the race track during a race.”

“What could that venue have to do with that Nightmare name?” Megan asked as she didn’t understand what could be different.

“Well, you know she is the fastest horse I have ever seen or had a hand in the training. I also think she is determined to win every time she goes out on the track, she seems to sense the importance of being in front,” Paul held up his hand indicating he wasn’t finished. “When she wins her races everything is just fine, however, if for some reason she looses, and doesn’t cross that finish line first, she becomes impossible and will continue running around that track long after the race is over. If the starting gates haven’t been removed she will charge those gates and slide to a stop seconds before crashing into those gates. It’s not a pretty site and the jockey can only hang on as he has no control, and for whoever might be on board, it is like that nightmare you can never wake up from.”

“I would never have guessed, I just thought the name was inappropriate.”

“The name has a two part meaning. Blazing when she is in a race, Nightmare if she doesn’t win,” Paul explained. “Not only that, sometimes she is so anxious to get on with the race it is impossible to get her into her stalls in the paddocks. I’ve seen her drag two grooms around the area when they try to back her into a stall. The last race she was in they had to walk her around the paddock and saddle her while she walked pulling the groom around by the harness lead. I saw the jockey mount and then I saw him quickly dismount because she was going to head for the track before they were called. Somehow she was controlled enough so she did get to compete and won that race by three lengths.

Chapter Six

There’s No One Here

Mrs. Logan had made tea and was resting in her chair when JJ, after knocking and getting permission, entered the small apartment.

“How are you doing Mrs. Logan?”

“Oh, I’m ok, please call me Shirley as I believe we are friends now. Please have a seat,” she said and shyly smiled. “Would you care for some tea and where is your friend?”

“Tea would be great, Earl Grey, if you have it. Oh and, Jim will be here shortly, he had to check out something real quick.”

JJ started to rise but Shirley motioned him back down, “I’ll get it, I know where everything is.”

Shirley returned in no time at all as the pot was already hot. “Sugar or honey?” She asked.

“A spoon of honey would be great.”

“A man after my own heart, I love honey in my tea.”

“Mrs. Logan, ah, Shirley, I need to ask you about things since my partner, Megan’s accident.”

“Oh posh, that was no accident but you go ahead and ask away.”

JJ nodded in agreement with Shirley, “We were up on the roof and noticed that some equipment had been removed from up there recently. We were wondering if you had heard any unusual activity or noise in your hallway, out on the fire escape or maybe something coming from the roof?” JJ asked. “Anything ring a bell or seem unusual?”

“Well, as you probably realize, my hearing is not as good as it used to be but I have still heard some things but was afraid to investigate.”

“And well you shouldn’t, we don’t know yet what or who we’re dealing with,” JJ forcefully stated.

“Well, that old fire escape is bolted to the wall there and when someone or something goes on out there it causes some vibration on the wall and shakes my wall hangings,” She said as she pointed at the window and end wall of the living room. Then she continued, “What I was hearing mostly was late at night and it simply sounded or felt like someone walking up the fire escape, it shook my pictures on that wall,” Shirley again pointed at the wall and window that led to the outside fire escape.

“Is that still going on?”

“Actually no, for the last week or so it has been quiet with no activity as far as I could tell.”

“It has been about two weeks since Megan fell, so you’re telling me that the activity stopped about a week after Megan fell and then nothing since.”

“I think so but I can’t be exactly sure.”

“JJ?” Jim said from the hallway as he tapped on Mrs. Logan’s door.

“Hey Shirley, there is my friend Jim, could you invite him in?”

“Sure,” Shirley said as she rose and went to the door, “Hey Jim I’m Shirley, will you come on in and would you also like some tea?”

Jim looked at JJ sitting there, a cup raised as if saluting and said, “Thank you and sure, tea would be fine.”

“Tea? We have time for tea?” Jim asked JJ after Shirley left the room.

“I always have time for Earl Grey with a touch of honey,” JJ said as he again saluted with his cup, this time with a big smile on his face.

Shirley returned with a steaming cup of tea, handed it to Jim then took her seat.

“Shirley was telling me that there was quite a lot of activity out on the fire escape for about a week after Megan fell then for the last week or so nothing.”

“Did you see anyone out there?” Jim asked Shirley.

“No I just heard things. After Mr. Logan fell and then Megan fell there was no way I was going to even attempt to see what was going on,” Shirley said as she slowly shook her head.

“And I told her that was the smart thing to do as we have yet to know what was going on out there or who we are dealing with,” JJ added.

“I was wondering about the people in these apartments. Shirley, do you know any of the other occupants?” JJ asked.

“I know the old guy across the hall, Mr. Bailey. He is a retired postal worker. He lives by himself as his wife passed away several years ago,” Shirley Logan paused a moment then continued, “There were a bunch of young men who lived down on the next floor, but I think they moved.”

“Moved? So the apartment below you is empty, is that correct?” JJ asked.

“Yes, I believe it is empty. Why, are you looking for an apartment?”

“No, no, I just thought the young men there might have seen or heard something.”

“They might have, they only moved a couple weeks ago, shortly after Megan’s accident. They said it was too dangerous to live here.”

“Any idea where they might have gone?” Jim put in.

“No, I don’t. Maybe the super has a forwarding address or knows where they went.”

JJ and Jim shook hands with Shirley and said thanks for the tea, the help and the info, then they said goodbye. Their next stop would be to try to track down those young men who had vacated the apartment below the Logan’s. They went back out on the landing and retrieved their ladder before leaving.

They stored their ladder in their vehicle and headed back inside to try to find the apartment manager. They found the office on the first floor and both read the small sign that was duct taped to the door of apartment # 1. Apartment Manager along the top of the sign with Pete Miller right below all on the same sign. JJ looked at Jim and both shrugged then JJ knocked on the door.

“There’s no one here!” came from somewhere inside.

JJ and Jim both laughed at that comment and then JJ said, “I fell for that one when I was in kindergarten but I’m a little older and smarter now.”

“You’re not going away, are you?”, came from inside but much closer to the door and the hallway.

“We just need to ask you a couple of question, it will only take a minute of your time.”

A shadow moved across the peephole and a moment later they heard the lock being thrown then the chain and slide removed with it swinging down and rattling against the door. The door was slowly opened and a man of about forty stood in the doorway.

“Mr. Miller?” JJ said.

“Pete will do and you are?”

“Sorry Pete, I’m JJ and this is Jim, we are with M&M Investigations and we are looking into the two incidents that occurred on the fire escape on the fifth floor.”

“You need to talk to my lawyer, he can answer your questions,” Mr. Miller started closing the door in their face.

“Our questions are not about the case they are about your tenants that lived on the fourth floor below the Logan’s,” JJ said as he placed his palm against the door preventing it from closing without some considerable pressure from the manager.

“That room is empty, those tenants checked out.”

“We saw that, do you know where they went, did they leave a forwarding address?” JJ persisted.

“No, they left me a note inside the apartment that they were leaving but I never actually saw them go or receive anything about a forwarding address from them. The door was open when I made my rounds one day and I saw the apartment was totally empty. We go month to month here and they didn’t owe me any rent so I didn’t pursue them in any way. This management job is a part time thing, I have a real job that keeps me away most of the day so I don’t see a lot of things first hand, in fact, most of the things I find out about are after they have happened.”

“It’s ok, I understand completely. Thanks for your time Pete, if you think of anything please give me a call,” JJ said as he handed Mr. Miller his business card.

Chapter Seven

Maggie’s Rig

Mimi Stroud, a very cute 18 year old, was back on the street again. She was still somewhat in shock over what had transpired. She sat down in the back of the alley, closed her eyes, and let her thoughts return to when she left home several weeks ago.

She remembered sitting on her bed and waiting in her room until her mom had left the house on her way to work. Even though her room was on the second floor she clearly heard the front door as it slammed with just a little more force than necessary. Mimi thought that maybe her mom was just as pissed off as she was and maybe, this time, she had let her mouth take her just a little too far. They both had said some things that they would have a hard time taking back.

Whatever, it was done and she had decided to now prevent recurrence of another verbal assault. She rose from the bed and went to the window and watched as her mom backed out of the driveway and sped away. She went to her closet and drug out her smallest roller suitcase. She selected just the minimum clothes she would need to simply exist, folded them neatly and packed them in the small case.

Down stairs she selected one of her mom’s shopping bags then did some pantry and refrigerator raiding. She didn’t overload the bag and only took items that wouldn’t require cooking. She had no idea when she would have a stove she could use.

She got a blank sheet of paper and sat at the table thinking about what she could say that would make sense and not be so melodramatic. Deciding she wrote, ‘Mom, we obviously have different ideas on where my life should be headed. I’m 18 and considered an adult so I have to try to be one. I know I don’t know everything but I need time to think and clear my head so maybe I can see what I want. I have my cell and I’m not going to block you but I’m not going to answer for a little while. I will call you when I am ready and maybe we can sit down and talk without being so ugly with each other, Mimi Stroud.

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