Brown Betty: I'm Getting Sentimental Over You - Chapter 1
Once upon a time, there was an accomplished detective named Olivia Dunham… and boy, was she cheesed off. She never liked being awoken from a great night's sleep by a ringing phone, but she liked it even less when the bed she was sleeping in wasn't hers.
It wasn't like she didn't like the bed – on the contrary. She'd had quite a few very enjoyable nights in it, last night being a particular standout. She just liked to be out of it – and the house - before the fella on the other side of it woke up. She winced when she saw a tousled brown head shift on the pillow next to her and groan.
Getting up stealthily, she crept into a dark corner of the room and answered. "Dunham," she whispered.
"It's Broyles," came a deep voice on the other end.
"Well, hello there, Chief," she said, hushed. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
"What's with the voice, Dunham? You comin' on to me?" Broyles droned in an amused voice. "Or… do you have company?"
"None of your beeswax… sir," she countered. "'Specially since I haven't worked for you in a very long time."
"Yeah, well, never you mind that. I'm actually extending you a professional courtesy. Got a case here that's what they would say in my ball-playin' days is right in your wheelhouse."
"Oh, yeah?" Dunham couldn't hide it. She was intrigued. When it came to his cases, Broyles made the Sphinx look like Chatty Cathy – he never gave up anything, especially not to Olivia Dunham. "Color my interest piqued. Where ya at?"
"The Tower Hotel, Fifth and Piedmont."
"Can I wear my good shoes?"
"Yeah, this one's pretty clean," Broyles replied. But get here soon, before the lab boys finish up. You'll wanna see it, Dunham. Trust me, this one has you written all over it."
"Be there in ten." She hung up the phone, frowning when she turned and saw her bedmate now fully awake and sitting up. "Sorry about that. Didn't mean to wake you."
"That's okay, doll," the young man said, smiling as he rubbed the sleep from his big blue eyes. "It's a nice change. I actually get to say good morning to ya." His smile faded immediately when he saw her getting dressed. "Or goodbye."
"See, there's another difference between us, Bishop," Olivia Dunham said as she threw on her clothes and her overcoat. "I hate goodbyes."
As she sashayed out the door, she didn't quite hear him softly say, "Not so different."
Room 711 at the Tower Hotel wasn't the swankiest address in town, but as Olivia Dunham stepped across its threshold, she decided it beat some of the fleabags she'd been in – mostly during her time with John.
John. That dirtbag. That lousy, lyin'… Olivia shook her head to clear the cobwebs of anger. She'd just come from the bed of a man who'd just loved her cross-eyed, and she was thinking about John? It was amazing how different the two men were; John Scott was movie star handsome, all square jawed and quarterback solid. John was a cop's cop, no-nonsense and by-the-book… or so everyone thought. He treated everyone and everything the same way: full speed ahead. If he wanted you, John Scott would have you – whether it was putting you in jail, or getting you in the sack. He never took no for an answer, not that Olivia ever said no to him. She would meet him at any sleazy motel he told her to go to, and even wore the perfume he gave her, even though it smelled like after hours in a whorehouse. She pretended the earth moved, even when it didn't; sex with John was sweaty, heavy and quick.
After the fact, Olivia Dunham told herself she'd never understand why she stayed with him, but who was she kidding? She loved the louse, and when he betrayed not only her, but his whole country, she was shattered, and vowed that the little hotel where Olivia Dunham's heart resided was closed for business – this property was condemned.
Now, Peter Bishop? He was another kettle of fish entirely. He needed two days' growth of beard to make him look older than twenty, and was six feet two inches of quick-moving, fast-talking string bean. Long as a mile, and as lean as Olivia's last police paycheck, he had a smile so sweet, you wouldn't need sugar for your cup of joe, and eyes the color of a spring morning in the country. He could sell ice to an Eskimo with that silver tongue of his – and that tongue, in Olivia's opinion, was good for a helluva lot more than just talking. Oh, he was smooth, Peter Bishop. Very smooth… and dangerous.
Nina Sharp wasn't entirely wrong when she told Olivia that – Bishop had a rap sheet as long and colorful as a sailor's tattooed arm. Funny thing was, though… for all of Peter Bishop's shady connections and dirty dealings, Olivia never for a moment doubted that beneath that shine-ola lay a heart of gold. He was so courtly, it was kinda ridiculous – holding doors, and always making sure his hand was at the small of Olivia's back when they walked together. It was like he was always trying to guide her to that same happy place he occupied when they were together.
Sure, she had her doubts when they first met, but she'd been given false information; she'd been told by Dr. Bishop that Peter had stolen Walter's vital glass heart. Thinking back, she was surprised she'd forgiven Bishop for playing her for a chump – most guys who did that were singing soprano now. But, she figured, Peter himself had forgiven the desperate old man – still loved him, even – so who was she to argue? Peter had slowly, carefully begun to teach Olivia Dunham how to trust again.
And he scared her to death.
"Dunham, you comin' in for a landing any time soon?" Broyles's voice broke her reverie, and she realized she was staring into space in the doorway of the hotel room.
"Huh? Oh, sorry, Chief. Whatcha got?"
He led her over to where the body lay. "Hermione McCallister. Age 46."
Olivia looked down at the woman; she seemed to have simply dropped dead, no sign of a struggle or foul play. "Huh. Heart attack?"
"Not sure until the knives back at HQ get a hold of her, but it looks like," Broyles replied.
"And this is interesting to me… how?" Olivia asked from beneath the brim of her fedora.
"It's interesting in that tomorrow was supposed to be Hermione McCallister's wedding day."
Olivia felt a twinge of sorrow, but quickly filed it away. "Folks die every day, so I'd figure that some of them do it the day before their wedding. Law of averages," she said, trying to sound nonchalant.
Broyles took out his iPad and started scrolling through photos. "George Collyers. Miles Delancie. LaShawn Dupree." He spoke the names quietly as he scrolled through the photos, which were of various bodies on various floors, all just as dead as poor Hermione McCallister. "All dead. And most of them were engaged to be married, or in relationships."
"Well, we haven't started talking to the neighbors, but I'll betcha dollars to donuts that Miss McCallister here is marrying somebody she only just met."
"What?" That hooked her. Damn that Broyles, he knew her too well. "Only just met?"
"Ah, see? I told ya. Right in your wheelhouse," Broyles gloated briefly. "According to folks who knew him, George Collyers was a loner. Only went to the library, and work, and then back home. No social life, nuthin'. All of a sudden, he's dressin' like Diddy and shopping for engagement rings." He scrolled back to another photo. "LaShawn Dupree. Voted Most Likely to Become a Nun in high school. Never had a boyfriend, was three days from gettin' hitched when she died."
Broyles scrolled one last time. "Miles Delancie. Dropped dead an hour after he literally shouted from a rooftop his everlasting eternal love for one Mary Jane Ostrowski. Which would have just been tragic, except for the fact that until two weeks prior, Miles Delancie was gay."
"Golly," Olivia said softly. "None of these folks had anything in common?"
"Aside from unlikely whirlwind romances? Not much. So, Dunham, whaddya say? Wanna lend a little shoe leather to this?"
"I charge 400 a day plus expenses," Olivia smiled sweetly.
"Aw, Dunham, ya kill me," Broyles smiled back. "I think you'll do this for free."
"Oh, really? What makes ya say that, Chief?"
"For starters, you can't resist a story of love gone wrong. But mostly, because every single person we've talked to said the same thing about our vics – that it's like they drank some kind of love potion." At Olivia's quirked eyebrow, he said, "Now, who do we know that makes stuff like that? If you don't want my boys goin' over to the lab your fella works at, and questioning Doctor Walter Bishop in their unique fashion, I think you might want to get on this, toot sweet."
"He's not my fella," Olivia protested.
"Whatever. Ask the questions, Dunham… or I will."