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Take-Out

Deviant Behaviors #1.5



By Adan Ramie









CONTENTS

Take-Out

Sneak Peek of Cluster B

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Copyright 2016 Adan Ramie

All rights reserved.





This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, places, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.





License Notes

This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only, and may not be resold or lent to other people. If you would like to share this book, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite e-book retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author!













TAKE-OUT


Detectives Harry Thresher and Cal Gafferty left the captain's office together without a word between them. Cal hung his head like six-and-a-half feet of chastised puppy all the way to the elevator at the very end of the hall. Harry nudged him as they stood in front of its closed doors. He swung his head to look over at her, and she gave him a halfhearted smile.

"Listen, things are going to be fine. They can't expect you to have done anything else in that situation. If you hadn't been quicker to draw than me, I would have been the one who pulled the trigger. It was an honest mistake."

The elevator dinged and the doors opened on a young crime scene analyst staring up at the ceiling on the elevator. Harry cleared her throat and the woman turned around, her face already blooming crimson.

"I'm so sorry," CSS Busy Biznicki said, hurrying out of the elevator and stopping beside Harry. "I heard something clicking, and I was wondering what it was. How did it go with Captain Briggs?"

Cal winced and stepped onto the elevator. He turned to face Harry, and she gave him a wave to go on without her. The doors closed and left Harry and Busy alone at the end of the hallway.

"That bad?" Busy asked, transferring her bag from one shoulder to the other.

Harry sighed. "We're on administrative leave pending review by the police board. As of right now, neither of us has a job, and he's got a family to support."

"Shit," Busy whispered. She moved aside as a uniformed officer passed them on the way to the stairs. She watched until he walked through the door, then turned her attention back to Harry. "They know you both saved that woman's life, don't they? What you two did is a really big deal. They can't just take your livelihoods away over, over..."

"Over a blatant disregard for protocol, going against direct orders, crossing state lines without permission, and negligent homicide?" Harry offered. Busy's face fell, and Harry offered her a crooked smile. "But we saved a life... At least one that we know for sure, and I have no qualms about believing we saved more."

"Exactly!" Busy said, her smile returning. "Putting dangerous people behind bars is what you're supposed to do." She glanced at the closed elevator door, then back at Harry. "I guess he's taking it pretty hard, isn't he?"

Harry leaned against the wall, shoved her hands into her pockets, and sighed. "Yeah. He feels totally responsible for what happened. I know deep down he realizes it was adrenaline; he would never have pulled that trigger if he would have known what was going to happen."

Busy glanced up at the wall clock. Harry followed her eyes and pushed away from the wall. "I'm keeping you."

"No!" Busy insisted, then blushed and smiled sheepishly. "I was just thinking that I need to clock out. It has been a hell of a long shift, but at least I know we nailed the guy."

"Moon Cycles?" Harry asked.

"Yes!" Her smile faltered. "I think it will sink in the next time we have a full moon and we don't find anything gory."

Harry snorted and jingled her keys in her pocket. "Good luck with that. Since the open carry debacle started, you can't even walk into a Wal-Mart or a restaurant without some lady getting her head blown off by a toddler or two guys getting into an old fashioned duel over a spilled margarita."

Busy nodded her agreement. "I wish they would leave the guns to the people who know how to use them." She glanced at Harry's side, which would normally be strapped with her department issued weapon.

"Do you carry?" Harry asked.

The younger woman barked out a laugh she had to stifle with the back of her hand. "Are you kidding? I would blow my foot off the first time I tried to strap a gun on. I'm dangerous enough to myself walking around unarmed."

Harry couldn't help the grin that spread across her face. Busy Biznicki had a habit of tripping her way from the car to a crime scene, only to transform into a picture of grace once she was surrounded by evidence. "You should let me take you to the range one day," Harry suggested. She slipped a card out of her front pocket, pulled the pen from behind Busy's ear, and scribbled her cell phone number on the back. She handed both back to Busy, who was gawking at her like she had just done a magic trick. "Or we could go out for drinks."

Busy blushed, but took the business card and pen. "As long as we don't try to do both..."

A comfortable silence passed between them, and then Harry clapped her hands together to break the lull. "Well, you need to get yourself clocked out, and there's a six-pack in my fridge that's calling for me." She pushed the elevator button. It dinged, and Busy gave a little jump. The doors opened and Harry stepped on, then turned to face Busy.

"What about tonight?" Busy asked, turning on her heel to look at Harry.

Harry smirked. Hook, line, and sinker, she thought. "Give me a call."


#


Two hours later, Harry was freshly showered and propped up on a tall chair at a bar she didn't regularly frequent. Not many people knew her here, and that was the way she wanted it. Muddy water was never fun to swim in, especially when you frequently ended up the shark in the scenario. She slipped her coat off and draped it over the back of the chair. She hated new coats; hated the way they smelled, the way they whined and crinkled every time she moved, and the way they never quite broke in like the old coat you've had since you were a kid. She raised her hand for another beer as a hand lightly tapped her on her shoulder. Busy. She pulled out the chair next to hers and gave her what she hoped was a charming smile.

"Sorry I'm late," Busy said, and glanced at the clock over the bar. "Oh, I guess I'm not."

"You're not," Harry said, taking the beer from the bartender. "Whatever she wants is on my tab," she said to the young man, then turned back to Busy.

"Thank you." Busy ordered a beer, the same blue bottle as Harry's, and pulled a tray of unshelled peanuts toward them.

"I'm always early. You learn things that way that you wouldn't normally be privy to if you were on time." Harry grabbed a peanut and started to shell it. "So, tell me more about this Moon Cycles case. I would have begged for it, if I hadn't been tied up with... Well, you know." She popped a peanut into her mouth so that she could shut it. As much as she wanted to talk about it, to get it all off her chest, she knew this wasn't the right time.

Busy shook her head. "I don't want to talk about that case for another minute. I'm so sick of it. I already bought all new calendars that don't once mention a lunar phase." She shuddered, popped a peanut into her mouth, and tossed the shell into a bucket on the bar. She washed it down with a gulp of her beer. "That case is going to haunt me."

"I know all about that," Harry answered. She took a drink of her beer and grabbed another few peanuts, and the two lapsed into silence.

They sat and munched peanuts; both watching the people around them in a subtle way that made it look to a casual observer that they were lost in their own imaginations and trying to work out the next thing to say. Harry took a long drink from her beer, dusted her hands off over the bucket, and raised a hand to get the bartender's attention.

"How about we have something stronger? Take the edge off a long, hard day."

Busy agreed, and Harry ordered them shots. They had one round, then another. On the third, Busy's cheeks were hot, and the exposed skin of Harry's neck and breastbone were starting to ripen with blood. Harry chased the last of the tequila taste away with the rest of her beer, then asked for another round.

"Do you do this a lot?" Busy asked, gripping the bar with one hand. She covered a hiccup with the other, and grinned at Harry.

Harry slipped off her chair, draped her coat over her shoulder, and held out a hand to Busy. "Enough that I can tell you need a break." Busy allowed herself to be helped down. Harry grabbed their two fresh beers, held out an elbow for Busy to take, then led them away from the bar into a deserted corner that wasn't home to a loudspeaker blasting a curious mix of pop, hip hop, and country music.

"How did you know?" Busy asked, and plopped down into her chair. She took the beer from Harry and sighed. "Do you smoke?"

"No. Do you?" Harry asked. She wouldn't have expected it from her. Since Harry had quit, she had been able to smell it on some people from across the room. Busy, on the other hand, always smelled like something vaguely sweet: vanilla, spices, cinnamon...

Busy shook her head, then raised a hand to steady it with her eyes closed. Her smile wavered, then came back as she opened her eyes again. "No, but sometimes when I drink tequila, I really crave one. Something strong but smooth."

Harry grinned and downed half of her beer. "We could go buy a pack. There's a store just up the street that doesn't blink if you walk in half-drunk asking for smokes."

"I'm not sure if I'm up for a lot of walking," Busy said, and eyed her beer with a look of mild distaste. "I think I drank too fast."

Harry stood and held out a hand to help Busy up from her chair. "Then that's why you definitely need to take a walk. A little fresh air will do you some good."

Busy allowed herself to be helped into her coat, and Harry ran her hand along the fuzzy collar as Busy wrangled the three-quarter length sleeves of her blouse in. Busy trailed closely behind Harry as they dropped their bottles into the trashcan. Harry paid her tab, got her card back, and nodded to the girl at the door on her way out.

"I didn't realize how hot it was in there," Busy said. "It feels nice out tonight." She rubbed her hands together and Harry watched, mesmerized, as her short, thick-tipped fingers slid back and forth over each other with a smooth, dry whisper. "How far did you say the store is from here?" Busy asked, and turned to find Harry looking at her. She smiled shyly. "What?"

"You're beautiful." Harry reached out a hand to grab Busy's and pulled the stumbling younger woman away from the pothole that almost took out her ankle. Busy swore softly, then squeezed Harry's hand in thanks. Harry turned back to watching in front of them, wary of what she knew wasn't the best neighborhood. "It's another block or two away."

"Don't you live around here?" Busy asked.

Harry looked both ways, then started to cross the street. Busy struggled to keep up on the kind of heels Harry never expected to see her in. Harry slowed her stride until Busy matched it. Their palms slid together without the clammy feeling that most first dates engendered. Another thirty feet or so, and they had crossed the parking lot and were walking inside the deserted convenience store. Harry held the door for Busy, and for a moment, their hands disconnected. Harry could feel the weight of her absence like a brick wall in her chest. She realized suddenly that what she wanted most from Busy was to be with her, smelling her skin and breath and hair.

"What kind do you smoke?" Busy asked from the counter.

Harry realized she had stopped at the door, then pulled out her wallet and walked to the counter. The woman behind the register gave her a knowing look as she passed over a twenty. "Pack of Marlboros."

"Short Smooths?" the cashier asked, the pack already in her hand.

Busy looked at Harry with her eyebrows up, but Harry nodded at the cashier, took the pack, and handed it to Busy. The cashier counted out her change and wished them a good night. Harry walked outside and sat down on the bench a few feet from the front door, pulled a zippo from her pocket, and held a hand out to Busy. The cigarette pack slapped her palm a little too hard, and she met Busy's eyes as she started to tap a rhythm out on her jeans to pack them.

"I thought you didn't smoke?" Busy said, her voice accusing.

Harry peeled the film off the pack, stripped off the foil, tapped two sticks out, and closed it all back up. She stuffed the pack in her coat pocket and put the cigarettes into her mouth. She lit one, handed it to Busy, then lit the other. The zippo went back into the pocket in her jeans beside her keys. It had been in the same spot for over twenty years, and she didn't ever intend to change that.

"I used to. I smoked for most of my life -- off and on -- but I quit last year." She took a long drag off the cigarette in her mouth, then pulled it out and started to roll the filter between her thumb and forefinger. "It comes back so easily that you would think you had never quit. That's why it's so hard to stay off the damn things. They're easy to get, and the habit is so akin to our natural biological compulsions, it's almost like taking a bottle from a baby."

Busy sat down beside her and took a puff of her cigarette, then made a face at her. "These aren't very good."

"What kind do you like?" Harry leaned forward, her elbows on her knees and her head dropped low between her shoulders.

They both watched as a group of young men walked across the parking lot. One looked their way, and Harry's hand instinctively moved to lay her fingertips on the bulk of the gun that was no longer at her side. The young man recognized the gesture and they all quickly crossed the street without looking back at Harry and Busy again.

"Menthols," Busy told her, watching the group of boys go. "Camel Crush is a good brand for sharing, because you get to have it both ways." She let a moment pass before adding, "I like to have choices."

"Does that only go for cigarettes, or do you feel that way about other parts of your life, too?" Harry asked. She turned her eyes from her boots to Busy's face.

A smile played at the corner of Busy's mouth, and she took another puff off her cigarette. She held it like a college girl before she made the subtle move between 'social smoker' and 'dedicated smoker.' "What do you mean by that?"

Harry shrugged, then leaned back against the bench with one arm up on the top rail. She rolled the cigarette between her fingers, took a puff, then let that arm dangle between her legs. She glanced over at Busy, who was watching her with something like amusement. "I'm just wondering what kind of person you are. Are you the type to make up her mind, or to flounder around between two poles, wondering which one to choose?"

Busy laughed, and the sound was lovely and soothing to Harry's ears. "Are you asking if I am on the fence about my sexuality?"

"Are you?" Harry answered.

Busy stood up, put out her cigarette in the ash tray on top of the trash can that stood beside the bench, and then settled down on Harry's lap. Harry flung her own cigarette into the empty lot and wrapped her arms around the warm body in her lap. Busy leaned closer until their cheeks touched, and Harry could feel Busy's lips against her ear.

"I know what I like. Do you?"

She kissed the spot behind Harry's ear where it met her jawline, and Harry shivered. Harry licked her lips as Busy ran her hands down Harry's neck and into her coat. Busy pulled back just far enough that Harry could take her in for a long moment, then she leaned forward and pressed their lips together. Harry lost herself in the intoxicating scent of her; beyond the smoke and the beer, the smell of her skin was like a dessert shop.

As she deepened the kiss, Harry sucked in the aroma. Sweet and dark, it brought to mind a memory from before she knew what a strange life she lived. At only a few years old, Harry had gone to live with her grandparents, and her grandmother still baked every day. Harry stuck her pudgy finger into a fresh blueberry tart one morning, and her finger still showed faint signs of the extensive burns her grandmother cried harsh, regretful tears over.

Busy pulled away. Her cheeks were red with the blood that pumped so heartily beneath them. She stood up and pulled Harry to her feet. "Let's go."

"Go where?" Harry asked, reeling from the kiss and its sudden end.

Busy wrapped her arms around her again under her coat. She looked up at Harry with her lips parted and her eyes glazed. "Your apartment. Your car. A bathroom. Something."

Harry laughed, kissed the eager young woman on the top of her head, then pulled herself free of her grasp. She took Busy's hand and started to lead her back toward the bar.

"Don't you live around here?" Busy asked again.

"It's this way," Harry told her.

They crossed the street and walked toward Harry's apartment holding hands. A drunk woman coming out of the bar bumped into Busy and knocked her off her heels and onto the sidewalk.

"Watch where you're going, queer," the woman said, and snickered. Behind her, a man slouched up to them with a look of hunger on his face.

"What's up, bae?" he asked, wrapping his arms around the woman and cupping her breasts with his hands.

Harry helped Busy off the street. Busy favored her right ankle, and Harry put an arm around her to help her support herself. "Excuse us," she said to the couple blocking their path.

"You need to apologize," the drunk woman said. The man stood up a little straighter, but didn't take his hands from the exposed bra of his date. "You ran right into me."

"We're sorry," Harry said in a gravelly voice that drew Busy's attention to her clenched jaw. "Can you please excuse us so that I can help her home? She's hurt."

"I'm hurt," the drunk woman demanded, suddenly listing to the side. Her date barely grabbed her in time before she spilled out onto the road. "I think we need to call the cops."

Harry nodded. "Sure. I have the captain of the local precinct on speed dial. We're good friends."

The woman straightened a bit and glanced at her date, whose eyes were wide with something between panic and anger. "You know, on second thought..." She didn't finish her sentence, but dodged out of their way with her date on her heels.

Busy laughed weakly. "You definitely use the badge to your advantage, don't you? Even if you don't have it to flash."

Harry gave her a tight smile. "I do what I have to." She bent down to check out Busy's swollen ankle. "You should really stay off it, because it doesn’t look good."

"I'm okay. Just help me to your apartment, and we can play doctor."

Harry stood up and grinned. "You're feisty tonight."

"You've never heard the phrase, 'Tequila makes her clothes fall off'?"

Harry laughed, propped Busy up on her shoulder, and started walking toward her apartment. "I think that's a country song."

"Country songs know what they're talking about when it comes to booze and sex," Busy answered, limping along beside her. "Tequila is my weakness. It makes me bold."

Harry kissed Busy's temple as they rounded the corner. "We're only about a block away, but I could call a cab."

Busy waved off the idea. "I'm fine. I can barely feel it."

"All right, but if you need to rest..."

Busy leaned her head onto Harry's shoulder. "Then I'll lean on you."

They walked the rest of the block with Busy leaning on Harry, only a slight hobble to her walk despite her ankle and her heels. When they reached the bottom landing of the stairs, Busy made a face.

"There's not another way up?"

Harry chuckled softly. "What, like an elevator? No such luck." Without waiting for permission, she leaned down, scooped Busy into her arms, and started the slow, sideways trek up the stairs. She stopped on the landing halfway up and let Busy down.

"Am I heavy?" Busy asked, biting her lip in a futile attempt to hide a smile.

"No, I'm just a weakling," Harry said. In truth, her head was spinning from the heady cocktail of booze, nicotine, and the deliriously amazing smell of Busy’s body so close to hers. She picked Busy back up and walked her the rest of the way to her apartment. Inside, Harry put Busy down on the sofa after a couple of swipes to knock away books, remotes, and a haphazard pile of workout gear.

Busy put the back of her hand to her forehead and let herself be draped across the furniture. "My hero," she said in a high-pitched voice. It took on a heavier, Southern belle accent as she added, "Why, however can I thank you?"

Harry got to her knees in front of the sofa and unbuckled the clasps to take Busy's shoes off. "No thanks necessary," she told her. "I'm happy to be of service." She dropped the heels to the floor and laid a hand across Busy's swollen ankle. "How bad is it?"

"Not bad, I'm sure," Busy said. She didn't sound sure. "R.I.C.E. should be all I need."

Harry puzzled out the word for a moment, then stood up. "I'll be right back."

She walked out of the living room and down the hall to the bedroom. She dug around in the closet until she found a sleeping bag and an extra blanket, piled her pillows on top, left the bedroom, and walked into the bathroom. With one hand, she fumbled around in a drawer until she found an ACE bandage and a bottle of over-the-counter pain relievers. She kicked the drawer closed, fumbled to turn off the light, then walked back to the living room. With everything piled on her recliner, she winked at Busy, then walked back out to the kitchen.

She pushed a couple of empty bottles into the recycling bin, tossed a mostly-empty bag of chips into the trash, poured a glass of cool water, then grabbed a beer out of the fridge and a rarely-used ice pack from the freezer. She brought everything haphazardly to the living room, and placed each item on the coffee table in front of Busy before turning around to take a look at her.

She was dozing with Harry’s favorite pillow under her head, and had her foot propped up on one of the throw pillows Harry's ex had left behind. Asleep, Busy looked to Harry like something out of a movie. She looked too perfect. Her thick, dark eyelashes rested delicately on the freckled tops of her cheeks like moth's wings. Tendrils of hair had started to escape the twist in which she had bound them; they framed her face, frizzy and wild, and made her look younger than she was.

"Hey," Harry whispered, gently nudging Busy's shoulder. Busy's eyes floated open, and Harry smiled at her. "I have something you can take for the pain." She reached behind her and poured two of the little capsules out onto her hand. With the water in one hand and the pills in the other, she turned back around and handed them to Busy.

"Thank you," Busy said, her voice already starting to go hoarse from her little nap. She dropped back onto the pillow with a sigh. "I don't normally drink like this."

"I know," Harry said. She grabbed the ACE bandage, sat down on the edge of the sofa, and lifted Busy's foot. Busy winced, and Harry rubbed a hand over her shin. "Sorry. I'll make it quick."

She wrapped the ankle deftly, well-versed in the practice after years of shunning doctors and hospitals, then placed it gently back onto the throw pillow. She got up, grabbed the blanket and the sleeping bag, and held up both to Busy's squinting eyes.

"Which one do you want?" she asked. Busy pointed to the comforter. It was worn in places, and had lost a large amount of feathers over the years, but the effect of being wrapped in it was like nothing Harry could ever describe. She tucked the blanket around Busy, then turned around and grabbed the ice pack. "I'll take this off in a few minutes. For now, you should rest."

"I'm sorry," Busy said softly. "I know this isn't what you expected when you invited me here."

Harry kissed Busy's forehead. "I'm just glad I could help. Get some rest, and I'll make us breakfast in the morning. What do you like?"

"Food," Busy answered with a smile. Her eyes were closed. "Goodnight, Harry."

"Goodnight."

She watched Busy doze for a few minutes, then opened her beer and took a drink. She walked with it to the bathroom, where she took a two-minute Marine shower -- a trick she had learned from her grandfather back before she really understood that she would never one day turn into him -- and toweled off in the steamy little room. She pulled on a white t-shirt and a pair of baggy boxer shorts from the cabinet, dried her hair with her towel, then hung it over the shower curtain rod to dry. Eyeing the beer, she skipped brushing her teeth, and with her hair hanging damp on her shoulders, walked back out into the living room. She pulled back the blanket far enough to see the ice pack, and gently pulled it away from Busy's ankle.

"Hey," Busy whispered.

"Sorry for waking you," Harry said. She sat down beside the couch with her legs crossed and her arms on the tops of her knees. "How are you feeling?"

"I'm okay." Busy reached out a hand and tugged a piece of blonde hair that lay against Harry's face. "I don't think I've ever seen you with your hair down."

Harry tucked her hair behind her ears. "You're one of the only people who has seen it that hasn't also seen me naked." She grinned. "I was just about to turn on the TV. Will it keep you up?"

"No," Busy said. "Thinking about seeing you naked might, though."

Harry stood up. "There's always next time," she said, and built a makeshift bed in the recliner beside the sofa.

"You don't have to sleep in here. I know you have a bed back there somewhere."

Harry chuckled, then settled into the sleeping bag with her half-full beer and the television remote. "You forget that you have my blanket and pillow."

"I'm sorry." Busy yawned and pulled the blanket closer under her chin. "It's a nice blanket."

Harry brushed off the apology. "It's the least I can do for getting you too drunk to walk."

When Busy didn't answer, Harry leaned forward and glanced over. Busy was asleep again. Harry got comfortable, turned on the television to a low volume, and flipped through the channels until she finished her beer. Then she muted the TV, left it on a local scrolling announcements channel for light, and fell into a deep sleep.


#


The next morning, Harry got up quietly, flipped the channel to local news, and did a cat-like circuit of stretches and bodyweight exercises as she waited for something to catch her eye. Nothing jumped out at her until she came back from the kitchen with a cold bottle of water to wait for the waffle iron to do its magic. The Moon Cycles killer had struck again -- it was one last blow, a final goodbye, that police had only known about after his arrest. She watched with a scowl as the thin body was carted away on a covered stretcher.

A woman was yelling, being held back by a pretty uniformed cop Harry didn't recognize, as the teenage body was put into the waiting ambulance. Harry glanced behind her and saw that Busy was still asleep, so she turned up the volume enough to hear what the reporter said to the angry protester.

"Ma'am, what leads you to believe that this death was not the work of the illusive Moon Cycles killer, Coy Dale Cowherd?"

The woman pulled her arms out of the police officer's grasp with an outraged, self-righteous tug. She let the woman go, but stayed close behind her to watch.

"Because this one is totally different, Mandy."

"The police said the girl was malnourished and beaten," the reporter told the woman, then pushed the microphone back into her face. "Doesn't that sound like him?"

"Hell, no," the woman answered. She looked into the camera. "The victim is a young woman. Can you name a single other one of his victims that wasn't a young boy?"

"His first victim..." Mandy began, but the woman cut her off with a venomous laugh.

"The so-called first victim was his mother, who doesn't count because she was only killed once she found him with the first boy. He already admitted that much in his disgusting manifesto. The rest have been boys, all of them under the age of 14, and all of them molested. This girl doesn't fit."

The reporter turned back to the camera, and the officer pulled the woman back out of the frame. "A troubling thought in the soon-to-be-closed case of the Moon Cycles killer, Coy Dale Cowherd. I'm Mandy Walton. Back to you in the studio, Rochelle."

The shot changed to a woman in the studio with a headline about Black Friday shopping safety. Harry flipped off the TV and turned around to check on the waffles. Busy was looking up at her with a frown.

"Hey, good morning," Harry said. "Breakfast is almost ready. Need some more Tylenol?"

Busy cleared her throat. "And water. I'm parched."

Harry handed over her bottle and poured two capsules from the bottle on the table into Busy's open hand. Busy took them, drank down half the bottle, and tried to hand it back to Harry.

"Keep it. You need it more than I do," she said, and walked back into the kitchen. She flipped the waffles out of the iron, poured in fresh batter, and closed the machine again. "What do you like on your waffles?"

"What do you have?" Busy asked weakly.

Harry glanced into the refrigerator. She hadn't been expecting a guest. "I have some prickly pear jelly. Homemade. Or... I think I have syrup somewhere." She grabbed the tub of margarine and daubed it onto each of the four waffles on the plate.

"You make your own jelly?"

Harry laughed and stacked the waffles neatly on the plate. "No. I have friends who live in New Mexico that send me things like this all the time."

"I'll have that, then," Busy said.

As Harry brought in the waffles and jelly, Busy struggled to get up. Harry plopped her wares down on the table and helped Busy to get comfortable, propping her ankle gently back onto the pillow that she placed on the table. She handed over the plate, and Busy grinned.

"These smell amazing."

Harry walked back into the kitchen to check on hers. "Wait 'til you smell the jelly. It goes really well. It brings out the tartness in the buttermilk."

Busy let out a little moan of pleasure, and Harry felt a tremor in her knees. She walked to the fridge, grabbed a fresh bottle of water, and glanced through the kitchen to the living room. Busy was bent over her plate, shoveling one forkful after another into her mouth.

"Don't overwhelm your stomach," she warned, and checked her own waffles. They were cooked enough to be eaten, and she flipped them out onto her own plate. She unplugged the machine, daubed her waffles with margarine, and then cleaned up her mess. She stacked the mixing bowl, spatula, and the knife from the butter in the sink in some warm water. Then she put away the butter, grabbed a fork, and walked into the living room.

Busy was halfway done, and looked up with a sheepish grin as Harry walked in. "They're delicious. I doubted you could cook."

"It's just waffles," Harry said. What she left out is that she could cook, and pretty well, or so she had been told. Spending half of your life in relationships and the other half as a bachelor did wonders for a person's abilities.

"Delicious waffles." Busy shoved another forkful into her mouth and washed it down with the last of her water.

They ate in silence for a few minutes. Harry watched Busy over her plate as the color started to return to her cheeks with each bite. Outside the curtained window, the sun rose brilliantly in the sky over what was probably going to be a stifling day.

"What are your plans?" she asked as Busy pushed her plate onto the side table by the sofa.

Busy struggled into a more comfortable position, wrapped herself back up in the comforter, and shrugged. "I didn't really have plans. I guess I should make my way to the doctor," she said, waving a hand at her ankle.

"Probably a good idea, whether you take a few sick days or not," Harry told her. She finished her waffles and laid her plate atop Busy's on the table. "I have crutches if you need them."

Harry reveled in the sound as Busy laughed. "Why do you have crutches?"

"Have you met me?" Harry asked. "I'm a menace. I've been injured so many times, I have almost a whole hospital stock of supplies in my apartment."

Busy shook her head, regretted it, and closed her eyes. "Ugh. Remind me not to drink tequila anymore."

"I can't make any promises," Harry said. She stood up, grabbed the plates and the jelly, and walked back into the kitchen. She raised her voice so that Busy could hear her without turning around. "Now that I know tequila is the lubrication your clothes need to slide off..."

"Very funny," Busy replied. "What do you plan to do today?"

Harry put the dishes into the sink, put the jelly away, and wrapped an apron around her clothes to keep them dry. "Take you to the doctor, of course," she said, and turned to the sink to start washing dishes.

"You don't have to do that!" Busy insisted.

Harry made quick work of the dishes. "I know, but I want to. Besides, you're already here, so it almost seems like a waste of time to take you all the way home and let you find another ride."

Busy was quiet while Harry finished the dishes, dried her hands, and hung her apron back on its peg on the wall to dry. She walked into the living room and stood over Busy.

"You're a very nice person," Busy said. Her tone was unreadable.

Harry smiled uncertainly. "You make that sound like an accusation." Busy shrugged and held up her hand for Harry to take. Harry helped her onto her feet, wrapped Busy's arm around her shoulder, and asked, "Bathroom?"

Busy nodded, and Harry walked her to the bathroom. She deposited her on the lip of the bathtub, less than a foot from the toilet, then walked outside the room and leaned against the wall by the door.

"You weren't very nice to me when we met," Busy told her, pitching her voice so that she could be heard through the closed door.

"I thought I was very nice when we met," Harry said. She could remember the scene like it was yesterday, and probably would for a long, long time. It was one of the bloodiest, most sadistic crime scenes she had ever seen. A woman had been brutally beaten, raped, and left for dead in her own apartment. She had met Busy for the first time as she entered the scene, and the young CSS had gushed over Harry's track record as soon as she heard her introduced. Harry smiled at the bittersweet memory.

The toilet flushed, and a few moments later, the sink started. When the water turned off, Harry tapped on the door. "You can come in," Busy told her. She was standing by the sink, one hand on the towel rack and her injured leg dangling an inch above the floor. Harry led her back into the living room to sit down on the edge of the sofa. "I guess I meant after that. You were so hot and cold, I didn't think I could even deal with you anymore. I was on the verge of asking to change my schedule so that I could avoid you."

Harry winced. "Sorry. With everything that was going on... But I don't have an excuse. I'm an asshole. It's something I'm trying to work on." She looked Busy up and down. "Do you want to borrow some clothes? I doubt you want to go to the doctor dressed like that."

"Like what?" Busy asked, a smile turning up one corner of her mouth.

Harry bit one side of her lip and let the other raise in a smile. "Like you're out on a hot date with someone who's going to get very lucky."

Not that it was true, Harry thought. Busy looked sexy, but didn’t look like she was giving it away. She left enough to the imagination to drive Harry more wild than if she had showed up nude.

Busy gave her a dirty look. "Do you even have anything that isn't..."

"Isn't what?" Harry asked, her grin never slipping.

Busy shook her head as if she were searching for the words. "So... you?"

Harry laughed out loud. "Let me see what I can find. I'll bet I have something that someone left behind." She walked out of the room to let Busy ruminate on what she said, and returned with a pair of yoga pants and a pink, glitter-printed t-shirt with cap sleeves.

"Do a lot of people leave their clothes behind when they come to your apartment?" Busy asked. She made a face at the clothes. "Is this all you have?"

"Some do," Harry said. She wouldn't take the bait. "It's either that or one of those one-piece romper things that looks like it would be more appropriate for a toddler than an adult."

Busy grimaced. "What kind of women normally come back here with you?"

Harry sat down in the recliner and pulled on her socks. "Let me put it this way: Last night, I brought home a way higher class of lady than I normally do."

Busy laughed despite herself. "I'm not sure how I'm going to get these on," she said, glancing from the yoga pants to her swollen ankle.

“Want help?” Harry asked. “Don’t worry. I won’t try to seduce you.”

“Dream on,” Busy said, then nodded. She adjusted herself so that she could take off her pants, and groaned as her ankle bumped against the arm of the sofa. Her fingers fumbled with the buttons of her jeans. She tilted her hips far enough to pull the jeans down over them, then relaxed and lie back as Harry took over, gently pulling them over her wrapped ankle. Harry tried to keep her eyes off the slinky green lace of Busy’s underwear as she slipped the yoga pants back up Busy’s thighs.

“Don’t even think about it,” Busy groaned as she tilted her hips again to pull the pants up over her thighs. “I can’t believe I did this to myself.”

Harry smiled and turned around as Busy started to unbutton her blouse. “Who knew you were such a lightweight?”

Busy nudged her with her uninjured foot, and Harry turned back around. The transformation was complete, and Busy looked no older than the girl who had worn the outfit to her home. A hot flush of guilt shot through her. The woman of the yoga pants had been of age, but barely, and Harry would be glad to see the clothes leave her apartment.

“What’s wrong?” Busy asked.

Harry shook her head. “You need shoes. What size do you wear?”

“A seven,” Busy said, not convinced, as Harry got up and walked out of the room again. When she came back, Busy couldn’t help but laugh. “What are those?”

Harry tossed her the slippers, and Busy stared down at them as Harry plopped back down in front of her. “Probably the only thing I have that won’t trip you up.”

“What size do you wear?” Busy asked, craning her neck to look at Harry’s shoes. She had thrown on the battered sneakers she normally jogged in.

“Nine.” She took the slippers from Busy and slid one on each foot. Busy made a noise in the back of her throat as Harry finished with the injured one. “Let’s get you to the doctor before I make this any worse. Where should I take you?”

“Dr. Branch. I-10, mall exit, past all the stores and Wal-Mart.” She held up a hand to be pulled to her feet, and Harry obliged. “Thank you for taking me.”

She was in Harry’s arms, and the feel of Busy’s skin against her own was a tactile dream. Harry sucked in a breath through her nose, and realized that the spicy scent wasn’t just a lotion or perfume. It was the scent that seeped from her pores. It was in her sweat. Harry licked her lips and croaked, “My pleasure.”

Busy grinned at her, then nodded toward the door. “Let’s get going before she fills up. She takes walk-ins every day, and if you don’t get there early enough, you could wait half the day.”

After the doctor, Harry drove Busy back through the better part of town to a nice apartment in a gated complex. It had an elevator, so Harry reluctantly let her walk. The doctor had said the same – rest, ice, compression, elevation. She needed to stay off of the ankle as much as possible, and wanted to see Busy again in a week to be sure.

In her apartment, Harry’s jaw dropped. The place was pristine. Busy hobbled in, dropped the bag she had borrowed, and went straight for the fridge. She rifled through it, pulled out a few takeout containers, deemed them edible with a sniff, and turned back to Harry.

“Want some leftover Chinese?”

Harry made a face. “Depends. What is it?”

“Fried rice and potstickers. I also have some surprisingly edible frozen eggrolls, if you’re interested.”

“That sounds good to me,” Harry said, and walked over to join Busy in the kitchen. “Go on and sit down. I’ll make lunch.”

Busy shot her a dirty look, but Harry nudged her gently with a hip back out of the kitchen. “Fine,” Busy shot back. “But you have to actually re-cook the potstickers. You know, in a pan?”

“What else?” Harry asked, and opened the freezer to search for the questionable eggrolls.

Busy settled into one of the plain wooden chairs at the tiny dining table, propped her crutches against the wall, and watched Harry while she cooked. Harry, for her part, tried to be entertaining. A little over twenty minutes later, she served up three dishes and two empty plates.

“I thought you probably liked to serve yourself,” Harry explained, and Busy beamed at her.

“How did you know?”

Harry shrugged, then walked back to the refrigerator for drinks. “What do you want to drink?”

“There’s iced green tea in the black jug. I’ll have that. No ice,” Busy ordered as she started to pile rice onto her plate. “You can have whatever you want.”

Harry glanced over the neat contents for a moment before settling on the green tea as well. She poured two glasses, put the jug back into the refrigerator, and brought their drinks back over. Busy waited patiently with her full plate, looking ravenous.

“Start without me,” Harry told her. “I won’t be far behind you.”

As Harry piled her plate high, Busy ate fast. Her appetite was strong, probably stronger after the fiasco of the night before, and with the pain medication on top, Harry wondered if she would ever stop shoveling forkful after forkful into her waiting mouth.

Busy glanced up and found Harry staring at her, and grinned closed-mouthed. “What? I’m starving. Aren’t you hungry?”

“Sure,” said Harry, spearing a potsticker with her fork. “Maybe not as hungry as a baby rhino…”

Busy kicked Harry under the table with her good foot, and they both laughed. “You’d better watch what you say. I might get offended.” She took a bite out of an egg roll that was surprisingly crisp and well-made. “Baby rhino?” she asked, an eyebrow raised.

Harry laughed and shrugged. “It’s what came to mind.”

“You must watch too much TV,” Busy said around a bite of egg roll dripping with soy sauce. It leaked a little at the side of her mouth, and Harry’s eyes focused on it unbidden. “What?”

Harry shook her head and looked back down at her food. Her back ached from the straight-backed chair at the doctor’s office. She tried to stretch it, but only managed to dump a drink in her lap. “Son of a bitch!” she hissed, and jumped up. A towel dangled from the refrigerator door a few feet away, and she strode over, snatched it from the door, and brought it back to soak up what liquid had spilled on the table, chair, and floor.

“It’s all right. No big deal,” Busy was saying, but the back of Harry’s neck burned with fury.

Her own voice sounded odd and strangled. “I think I should go.” She looked up at Busy from her kneeling position on the floor. “I’m sorry. I always screw these things up.”

Busy scooted her chair closer with her good leg and put her cool palm against Harry’s hot cheek. “It’s okay. It’s just a spill. Besides, I can’t let you leave with wet clothes. You’ll catch your death outside.”

They locked eyes, and Harry could feel it pass through them again – the same current from the night before, a jolt that said if they moved just so, there would be nothing to stop them from ending up in bed together. Busy smiled, wiped a bit of crispy wonton from Harry’s lip, then pulled her up onto her knees by the collar.

“So take your clothes off,” she said.

Beyond the smell of salty cabbage and pork that lingered on their hands and breath, Harry could still detect the sweet, cloying scent of her, and as her mouth started to water, Busy inched forward until their lips touched. Heat bloomed from her mouth to her throat, down her chest and stomach, and drove its roots deep into her core.

She stood, kicked off her shoes, and stripped her wet shirt and pants from her body like an unwelcome shell. Pushing the crutches aside, she lifted Busy from her chair and carried her out of the kitchen and down the hall, searching for the bedroom. Busy stared in wanton awe as Harry gently laid her back on the bed.

“It’s cold,” Busy whispered.

Harry knelt down, unwrapped the cord from around a tiny space heater, and plugged it into the wall. With the twist of a dial, a gentle hum filled the room. Harry stood back up and let her eyes run down Busy’s prone body. Her breath came out in a shudder. Busy smiled and held out her arms to Harry.

Carefully, Harry spread Busy’s legs and positioned herself between them. The thin material separating them was maddening. She wanted to shred it, to leave the pieces lying on the floor and bare the delicious smelling skin, but she wanted to do this right.

“What are you thinking?” Busy asked.

Harry smiled and brushed a stray curl out of Busy’s face. “We don’t have to do this.”

Busy’s mouth curled into a grin, and one eyebrow arched up as she wrapped her arms behind Harry’s neck. “You might not, but I do. I’ve wanted to do this since the day we met.”




For a sneak-peek of the next book in the

Deviant Behaviors series, Cluster B, read on…



CLUSTER B

Chapter 5

The floor of the youth shelter was always dirty. It was one of the first things Harry noticed about the place on her return. The first time she set foot into Regina’s Flock, she had thought it would be the last, and she hadn’t paid much attention to the state of the place. Now she wondered how many people in her county did the same thing with their young, homeless population, and felt a gush of shame well up from her chest to her head. She held a foam cup in one hand and gripped a cigarette pack in her pocket with the other. Closing her eyes against the pathetic sight, she blew at the open notch in the cup's lid and hot steam poured out.

"A little early for you, Detective?"

Harry opened her eyes and saw Sanura Johnson. Her slacks clung to her, tailored well in a deep purple that brought out the bronzed gleam of her dark skin and went well with her mottled cream silk shirt. Her eyes shone as her mouth curved into a wide grin. She gave Harry a once-over before she walked over and joined her at the door.

"You can call me Harry."

The counselor's smile widened. "But I like 'Detective' so much more. All that power and virility wrapped up in three syllables... Mmm."

Harry stopped fiddling with her cigarettes, took a drink of her coffee, and forced her eyes wander the sparse room. Sanura Johnson was attractive, and Harry was more than interested, but she needed something that another random bedmate couldn't give her. She couldn’t engage.

"Well, as of December, getting that title back is still a matter of debate," she told the counselor, then cleared her throat. "So, what can I do to start getting this fundraiser together? I know you all only have a month or so. Surely things already need to be done."

Sanura's lips came together in a tense pucker for a moment, then her face went smooth again. "Of course. As I hope David already told you, the fundraiser is going to be based on the artwork, music, and writing of the youth who make this place home or use its services. It’s a lot of work. The first step is getting enough of the youth here to volunteer to make and sell their work to the donors who wish to see them off the streets."

"Is that hard to do?" Harry asked after a drink of her coffee.

The counselor shrugged one shoulder, and Harry couldn't help but watch the muscle ripple there. The woman was lithe, feminine, and had smooth, hard muscles that burned in Harry's mind. Harry turned her eyes, but she could still see that arm in her mind. She wondered whether the rest of Sanura Johnson was the same shade of dark, molten copper.

"It's harder than you might think, Detective." She glanced at Harry. "I mean, Harry."

Harry smiled. "And how do you normally get them to volunteer?"

Sanura leaned in close so that her breath slid across the skin of Harry's neck. "Now, where would be the fun in me telling you? That's something you have to figure out on your own." She pulled back with a seductive smile. "Good luck."

With a quick turn of her heel, the counselor strutted back across the room and through a hallway toward what Harry presumed was her office. Harry watched her all the way, the curve of her back sliding precariously from shirt to pants in an arc that could rival a theme park slide.




THANK YOU, READER!

Thank you for reading Take-Out!


I appreciate you for taking a chance on my work, and want to ask you for a quick favor. Could you leave a review on Goodreads or the retailer where you bought this book? Books like mine live and die by reader ratings.

Adan



Adan Ramie is a Texas native who lives with her wife and children in a town not unlike Andy Griffith’s Mayberry. She loves coffee, cats, and binge-watching on Netflix.



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