Join Asena and Marlene as they dive deeper into their case with a familiar face making an appearance. If you think you know what might happen next or want to make a suggestion, comment below and you may just see your suggestion show up in the next installment! As always, thanks for reading and feel free to check out the rest of Asena’s story.
“Is that him?” Marlene asked, pointing at the snow-covered man who had just walked in.
“If you ask that one more time, I’m sending you to the car,” I grumbled. Emmett was unsurprisingly late and I hadn’t slept much last night. Danny had called and I couldn’t bring myself to tell him we were still investigating. The guilt had kept me tossing and turning all night. I had texted him this morning to see if we could grab dinner tonight but he had been busy. I frowned, hating the idea that he might find out through someone else.
“Wasn’t he supposed to be here at one?” Marlene sighed. We had sequestered ourselves in the corner of a coffee shop. It was quiet, there were no cameras, and we were far enough from campus that no students were camped out in nearby tables.
“Yup,” I snapped.
“Hey,” she whipped her head over at me. Her hat was still on, red hair sticking up with static. “If you don’t want to do this, then don’t. I’m sick and tired of you acting like I’m a whiny child. I’ve helped you a ton already and I feel like you’re not appreciating me at all.”
My eyes widened. Her outburst had been quiet enough that no one was looking at us, but thoroughly shocking to me. I knew I was on edge, but Marlene always seemed happy and bubbly and I never thought twice that she might be upset with me.
I wasn’t sure if I should apologize or defend myself and before I could decide, Emmett walked up.
“Asena,” he said, unraveling a knit brown scarf from around his face. “Who’s this?” He looked Marlene up and down, mostly checking to make sure she wasn’t armed, but the small smile told me he thought she was cute too.
“An associate of mine. Nothing to worry about,” I promised as he sat down at the rickety table across from us.
“An associate? With a wire?” He frowned at her and her scowl didn’t help soothe his nerves.
“Really?” I asked, annoyed that he would even think that. “She’s not a cop.”.
“I’m actually her partner on this case,” she said, glancing at me with a raised eyebrow as if daring me to challenge.
“She has some insight to the case and has been helping me follow some leads,” I answered and I felt her relax beside me.
“Is this still the Pembrook case?” he asked and shrugged his coat off. He was wearing a nice blue sweater and his hair was mussed from the wind.
“Kinda,” I said and I felt Marlene inhale.
“I thought the jewels had been found?” he asked. “Also, I think I was promised coffee.”
“What can I get you?” Marlene asked sweetly. I was surprised at the gesture but controlled my expression. Emmett didn’t need to know we were arguing.
He smiled at her and ordered a caramel latte. She took her hat off and set it next to her cup. “Be back in a jiff,” she said and walked over to the counter, leaning heavily against it and chatting up the barista.
“What’s going on, Asena?” Emmett whispered, leaning in close. “No games.” His brow was scrunched and I could see the worry oozing out of him.
“That’s Marlene Pembrook,” I said, deciding honesty was probably the best bet. “We’re following up on her case. The jewels were recovered but it’s looking like Francis was a patsy. She’s hired me to figure out who murdered him and the condition is that she joins in.”
“Isn’t that dangerous?
“Of course it is,” I answered, rolling my eyes. “But she’s pretty smart, she’s the one who caught our lead. And she threatened to go snooping around on her own if I didn’t help her.”
He grinned at me, the tension leaving his face. “And you couldn’t let someone get hurt when you know you can help them.”
“Hey, if I wouldn’t let you get hurt, do you really think I’m going to let a rich, young client?” I responded, taking a sip of my coffee.
I nodded slightly to let Emmet know Marlene was walking back up, a coffee mug in her hand. It was smart, not getting him a to-go mug because it gave us a better chance of keeping him here longer and getting more information. I smiled at her, not sure if she had done it on purpose, but after the past twenty-four hours, I wouldn’t put it past her. She smiled back and her happiness was easy to spot. Another wave of guilt hit me. I couldn’t believe how much my actions seemed to influence her emotions.
“Here’s your cup of sugar and coffee,” she said, setting it in front of him.
He laughed as she sat back down and took a sip of her own plain latte.
“What did I miss?” she asked, glancing between us.
“I was just filling Emmet in on the case a bit. I explained that you had found our lead,” I answered her and she beamed at the praise. I turned back to Emmett, trying not to roll my eyes. “We think Francis’ overdose was caused on purpose. Until we can somehow get the toxicology report, we aren’t sure if he really did intake too many narcotics or if someone gave him something that was too pure. Either way, we figured you might be able to help.”
“Asena, you know I don’t deal the hard stuff,” he answered, leaning back as he sipped slowly, blowing on the steaming milk.
“I know,” I retorted. “But I also know that you know most of the guys who do deal the harder stuff. Could you poke around a bit, find out if anyone was looking for some purer coke or recently bought a large quantity?”
“Asena, asking those kinds of questions could get me killed,” he answered, no longer smiling as he set his cup down.
“C’mon, you can sweet talk anyone. Are you really telling me you can’t casually drop that into conversation with a someone whose life revolves around it?”
“No, I can’t,” he answered, glancing around the cafe. “They know I don’t sell that stuff. Worst case scenario, they’ll think I’m a snitch for the cops and I’ll be found in some back alley. Best case scenario, I have a bunch of dealers curious as to why I’m asking questions. Sooner or later, they’ll start talking and realize I’ve been asking around. No matter what they think my reasoning might be, I’ll still be a dead man.”
“What if you were acquiring it for someone else?” Marlene broke in.
“I mean, maybe. Most know I’m not interested in getting into that so it’d be a hard sell. And I would need to have a real client. If my story didn’t come with a lot of cash to back it up, it would never fly.”
“Then this is me, wild heiress to a billionaire, asking if you can find me someone who is selling a pure form of cocaine,” she said in a whisper, her eyebrow raised and a smile playing around the corner of her mouth.
I bit my lip, unsure whether or not to oppose. This suddenly stuck both Marlene and Emmett in a possible line of fire. No longer was this an innocent question or two, this was a drug deal. If they didn’t get hurt from the dealer, there was altogether too much of a chance the police would find out. And there would go her PI days and mine.
“I’d need a lot of cash,” he repeated, frowning. He definitely hadn’t expected the offer. He already was halfway out the door in his head and the furrowed brow told me that he had no idea what to think,
“I have the cash, trust me,” she answered, leaning her chin on her hand. “I’ll give you ten percent of whatever it’s worth as a finder’s fee as well.”
“Twenty,” he replied leaning forward.
“Fifteen,” she answered firmly. I had a feeling she had haggled before.
“Deal,” he said and grinned. I wasn’t sure the street value but I had a feeling Marlene was handing over a lot of cash.
“Guys,” I started, not sure where my sentence would end.
“Asena, this is a good plan. And one of the only ways to keep Emmett safe. And I don’t mind giving up the money. Trust me, my family won’t notice the difference.”
I sighed deeply.
“Emmett, this is the only time I will be okay with you dealing anything hard.”
“Deal,” he replied. “I couldn’t get a deal like this again anyways, with a PI watching my back and that much cash to go with it.”
Marlene sat back, a small smile on her face. She was proud of herself and for a moment, I let myself be impressed by her plan. This girl might be valuable after all.