A/N: We all have fantasies. But at what point do they cross the line?
Three of the girls who worked in the FBI's HR office were gathering for their usual lunchtime gossip session. Every other employee's faults, work habits, and family were fair game. One of the participants, Diane Black, was a trim, dark haired clerk. While she wasn't beautiful, as defined by LA standards, she was attractive and she prided herself on dressing to show off her assets. Under normal circumstances she was riveted by office gossip. But a major distraction had just walked into the lunch room. Special Agent Fritz Howard had taken a seat at a table with his partner Jerry Oakes and Special Agent Jackson. She didn't want to be obvious but couldn't help but let out a small sigh as her eyes followed him.
Her spell was broken when Corinne Bentson spoke in a low, conspiratorial tone. "I have some news that may interest you, Diane."
While none of the women in the group were agents, it hadn't taken special investigative skills to make each woman aware of Diane's unrequited love for Special Agent Howard. And they all had turned to look. They had to admit that he was one fine specimen. And if they were forced to be completely honest, they would have to admit that they all had enjoyed fantasies involving a naked Fritz Howard on more than one occasion. In addition, while they thought Diane was a little intense, they sympathized with her. They knew she dated frequently but never seemed to hold onto a boyfriend for long.
When Corinne saw that she had everyone's attention, she leaned forward and keeping her voice low so no one at a nearby table would hear her said, "Guess who put in a NAC this morning." Everyone at the table had been employed by the FBI long enough to know that the Bureau had an affinity for acronyms and used them for virtually everything. They also knew that NAC meant Notification of Address Change form.
"Fritz Howard?" Diane's eyes widened.
"Yes. He dropped it on my desk this morning. You know he took a couple of days off. He must have been moving."
"Where to?" Diane's voice disclosed more than a casual interest.
Suddenly mindful of privacy regulations, Corinne admonished, "Now you know I can't tell you that, Diane."
"I wonder if he's moved in with a girlfriend," Polly Garritson mused.
"I don't know. The NAC doesn't ask for that kind of information."
"Well, if he does have a serious girlfriend, that's one lucky woman," Polly said.
Diane suddenly realized she was in danger of overplaying her hand so she only nodded in agreement. Still, she desperately needed more information.
That afternoon, Diane's mind was in overdrive. She was a clerk and unskilled in any sort of detective work. It was difficult for her to come up with a plan which would give her the information she needed without getting caught and probably disciplined, possibly even fired. But she needed to know where he had moved to and if he had a girlfriend. As she worked, her plan took shape.
When everyone clocked out at the end of the day she headed into the Ladies Room and stayed there until all was quiet. Then she headed back into the HR office. If anyone saw her she would just explain that she left something and had to come back for it.
She sat down at her desk long enough to satisfy herself that everyone was gone and that she would not be observed. Then she moved to Corinne's desk and rifled through papers looking for the NAC. It was no longer there. Then she remembered their health insurance so she moved to another desk and searched until she found it. Diane was relieved to see that he still had a single policy. She copied the address on a piece of scrap paper, put all of the paperwork back the way she had found it, shoved the slip of paper into her purse and left.
Diane was in the habit of going home by way of Fritz's condo every few days even though it was out of her way. She took satisfaction in seeing the warm glow of his lights and imagined herself there with him cooking his meals, sitting beside him and, of course, sharing his bed. "The love making would be spectacular," she thought. But there were no lights on tonight and the blinds were closed. And there was a For Sale sign on the lawn.
If she had owned a GPS she would have punched in his new address and driven there. But she had long ago discovered that technology was not her friend. Even her basic cell phone was more than she could handle at times. But she was resourceful so she stopped at a nearby book store and bought the latest edition of the Thomas Guide for Los Angeles County.
At home that evening she mapped out the route she would take from her apartment past Fritz's new address. But it was an even longer route than before so she knew she had to wait until after work.
The next day when she found the house she saw a large U-Haul parked in the street beside the house. She was sure the U-Haul must be Fritz's but couldn't understand why it would still be there several days after he had moved. "Those things cost money," she thought, "Why wouldn't he just empty it and return it?"
There were no cars in the driveway so she felt comfortable driving around the block, then parking her car a few doors up and studying the house. Soon a large car, followed by a familiar SUV, drove up and she watched three people get out: Fritz and an elderly woman were in his SUV and a younger woman with long blonde hair emerged from the car. After opening the door and helping the elderly woman from the SUV, Fritz walked with the two women up onto the porch. Diane shrank down in her seat. Her heart was pounding for fear that she would be spotted and that Fritz would recognize her. But their backs were to her the entire time. She watched him open the door for the two women and follow them into the house.
"That was too close for comfort," she thought so she started her car and drove away. But if she had waited a few more minutes she would have seen Fritz leave the house, retrieve a few things from the U-Haul and drive away.
It was Saturday and, at long last, Mama was going home. Brenda tried to show restraint but she couldn't wait to get Mama to the airport.
Mama noticed. "Don't worry, dear. I'll be out of your way soon and Fritz can finally move all of his things in."
Now Brenda felt bad. Had she been that transparent? "Oh, Mama. Fritz can move his things in by himself. I just want to spend every remainin minute I can with you," she said as she hugged her mother.
"That's sweet, dear. I know you're lying but I love it anyway," Willie Ray said with a twinkle in her eye. "But I want to get to the airport in plenty of time. Those lines move so slowly and I have to take off my shoes. I'm just glad I'm not flying with your father. When we flew to New York to see your brother your father fussed and fumed for two whole hours."
"Really? I would think Daddy would understand the need for security measures," Brenda replied.
"Oh, he does. He just wanted something to complain about."
"Well, I'm glad he didn't come with you this time. And thank you for not tellin him about Fritz."
"No, I won't tell him. But you'd better tell him soon."
"I don't know how, Mama. He's gonna be so mad."
"Yes, he will be. But he'll get over it a lot faster if the news comes from you, Brenda Leigh." Willie Ray saw downright fear in her daughter's eyes so she continued, "Give me a few days to tell him about Fritz and show him the pictures. I'll tell him what a wonderful man Fritz is and how much he cares about you. And then you call your father and tell him. And I'll pretend that I'm learning about it at the same time."
"But he's still gonna explode."
"He certainly will. But the news has to come from you. Otherwise he'll have a harder time accepting Fritz." Willie Ray still saw doubt on Brenda's face so she gave her daughter a stern warning. "Don't you let him find out about it from anyone other than you. That would make it much worse."
"I know," Brenda sighed. "You're right."
"Oh, look at the time. We'd better get going," Willie Ray grabbed her purse and her tote while Brenda picked up her suitcase and closed the door behind them.
When she got back home Fritz was reintroducing his boxes to the house so Brenda grabbed a box and walked into the house with it. "Let me change my clothes and I'll h..." Brenda didn't get to finish her sentence because Fritz grabbed her and gave her a deep kiss.
"You were saying?" Fritz continued to hold her.
"I was just about to say that if you continue to kiss me like that you might prove useful, after all," Brenda quipped. "Now let me change my clothes so we can get the rest of your stuff in and finally get rid of 'that tacky U-Haul'."
Fritz grinned at her, gave her another quick kiss and went to retrieve more boxes. Since he had moved most of them in while Brenda was on her airport run, they finished up quickly and Brenda followed him in her car while he returned the U-Haul.
They had just turned the corner at the opposite end of the street when Diane once again drove by. She saw his SUV parked in front of the house but didn't see the blonde woman's car. And she noticed the U-Haul was gone. "I wish that meant that he'd locked her in it and driven it into the Pacific," she said.
When she pulled away Diane decided to go by Fritz's old condo just in case they were there. She didn't see Fritz but she saw something almost as good: an Open House sign. She quickly parked the car and entered the condo. After signing the register with her mother's maiden name she stood in the hallway looking into the living room. While she liked the furnishings, she was surprised. She saw Fritz as being more contemporary than the Queen Anne furniture and art work that she was seeing.
Diane walked through the condo slowly taking everything in. She was thankful that the real estate agent was busy with a middle aged couple. That left her free to imagine Fritz in front of the fireplace. She moved into the bedroom and caressed the bed. She lingered there a minute, then walked into the bathroom and imagined herself with Fritz naked in the shower lovingly washing each other. Returning to the bedroom she imagined herself in that bed with Fritz. She stayed there long enough that the real estate agent finished with his potential buyers and moved to her.
"May I answer any questions for you?"
"What? Oh, yes," Diane recovered quickly. "Does this condo come furnished?"
"No, I'm afraid not. The real estate agency leases the furniture and the window treatments."
"Oh, I thought maybe the previous owner was selling the furniture too."
"No. We just like to furnish these condos when we show them. It gives off a much more homey vibe," the agent smiled at her.
"Well, that's disappointing. I am looking for something in this price range. But I'd like it to be already furnished."
Diane eased away from the agent and returned to her own apartment. "Well, finally I got to see his condo," she prided herself as she drove home.
The following Monday at lunch, Polly Garritson was eager to share the gossip she'd picked up when she had gone to the break room for coffee that morning. "Well, girls, I've solved the Fritz Howard mystery." No one could miss the pride in Polly's voice.
"What have you heard?" Corinne asked.
"I found out that he's not living alone. He moved in with his girlfriend. And you're never going to believe who it is." When she had held her friends' attention long enough she continued, "LAPD Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson." And then for emphasis she said "THE Deputy Chief Johnson that all the agents hate. Can you believe it?"
"What? That can't be right. Every agent either hates her or is afraid of her," Corinne said.
"Actually, both. But it's true. I heard Jerry Oakes telling Tom Benedict about it when I went for coffee. And he should know. He's Fritz Howard's partner," Polly was adamant.
"But the guys say she's a bitch. They even call her 'a real ball buster'. I can't believe that Fritz would go for someone like her." Diane added, "He's too nice. He deserves a woman who is sweet and loving."
"Well, since he's moved in with her he must have figured out a way to protect his balls," Polly said and everyone at the table laughed.
"I wonder what she looks like," Diane said. "Has anyone seen her?"
"No, but I've heard that she's beautiful," Polly said. "When we get back upstairs I'll google her and see if I can find a picture of her."
Later Polly called Diane and Corinne over to her desk and showed them a photo of Deputy Chief Johnson that she'd found. The woman was in her LAPD uniform with her hat on. Her hair was pulled back into a bun and her expression was solemn.
"Wow," Diane said. "The guys think she's beautiful? Not to me. I think she looks like a horrible shrew."
"I don't think she looks bad at all. But I guess Fritz Howard's opinion is the only one that matters," Corinne said and the women returned to work.
Over the next few days, Diane drove by the little bungalow every chance she got. "What does he see in her?" she frequently asked herself. "What does she have that I don't have? I just don't get it." One night as she was watching a Hallmark Channel movie about an unrequited love finally fulfilled, Diane started to cry. "It's not fair!" she sobbed. "I saw him first. I've loved him for years. And she waltzes in and takes him away from me? No way! I've got to think of some way to get him back."
The more she thought about that bitch stealing her Fritz the madder she got until her hatred reached a white heat. Finally her molten hatred formed the genesis of a plan. The next day she applied for a gun permit and since she had no criminal record she didn't have to wait long to be approved. Then she withdrew money from her savings account and bought a small, easily concealed handgun. Diane used the store's recommended shooting range to practice. She was a terrible shot but decided that she would be so close to the bitch that good shooting skills wouldn't be necessary. On her way home she stopped at the mall and bought a blonde wig, a baseball cap and a large pair of sunglasses.
But how would she work it so she was alone with the bitch? How would she get into the house when Fritz wasn't there? And what about the old lady? She didn't know who she was and she meant her no harm. Was she there all the time? If so what would she do about her? And could she really kill another human being? She was assured that she had the answer to that last question. She hated the bitch so much that she took pleasure in thinking about killing her. But she forced herself to temper her enthusiasm. "I won't get a second chance so everything has to be perfect," she told herself.
That night she watched a murder mystery movie on TV. The villain took pains to make sure that he learned his victim's routine. Diane decided that she also needed to know the bitch's routine so she studied when she came home from work each night. But it became evident to Diane that she had a problem. Apparently the bitch's hours weren't predictable. She frequently worked really late hours and when she was home at a normal time Fritz was there too. She wasn't seeing evidence of the old lady so she decided she didn't have to worry about her. But she realized that she also needed to study the bitch's morning routine. After two weeks of getting up early and watching when Brenda and Fritz left for work, Diane realized that after working late the bitch would sometimes stay home later the following morning. After Fritz left for work she would have her chance. So her best plan was to watch carefully the night before when the bitch came home late and then call in sick the next morning.
But how would she get into the house? Since both Fritz and the bitch were law enforcement officers chances are they had a security system. She had seen shows on TV where silent alarms were used so she didn't dare try to break in. Besides, she was hardly strong enough to kick in a solid wood door.
She finally chose a ruse which she hoped would work. She would wait until after Fritz left for work when she knew the bitch had worked late the night before so she was home in the morning. Hopefully she would still be a little sleepy and sluggish. She would knock on the door and tell the bitch that Fritz had asked her to pick up a set of papers he had forgotten. That should get her inside the house. When the bitch went to look for the papers she would draw her gun and shoot her. It would have to be fast. "If I can draw my gun first, I've got her," she concluded.
But the best part of her plan would come after she killed the bitch. She would attend the funeral pretending to be distraught over the bitch's death. She would tell Fritz that she had known her and say nice things about her, repeating things she would read in the bitch's obituary and hear during her eulogy. And she would console him. She would invite him to join her on break at work and continue to be sympathetic and supportive. She would invite him for a home cooked meal and he would be grateful and soon ask her out. Then he would see that he belonged with her and he would be hers for the rest of her life. "This plan is perfect," she smiled to herself.
The next day at lunch Polly alerted Corinne and Diane when Fritz Howard walked into the lunch room. But this time he stepped up to Bruce Canton's table, exchanged a few words and both men left together.
"Oh, too bad, Diane. Now we've lost the only good reason for eating here," Corinne said.
"Don't worry. I have a plan. Fritz Howard doesn't know it yet but he'll soon be all mine," Diane replied with a strangely intense voice and an expression that was both hard and smug.
Polly was surprised by both Diane's tone and expression so she pressed her for more information. When none was forthcoming she concluded with a little reality orientation. "You do know that his girlfriend is an LAPD Deputy Chief. You do remember that, right?"
Diane gave a strange little laugh and said, "Not a problem. I can deal with her." And although both Polly and Corinne tried to extract more information from her, Diane just smiled in a self-satisfied way and said nothing more.
To be continued...
A/N: Now please review. Thank you.