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Shaded Legends the Story written by Lavender Crompton

Click here for part II of the story

Part 1

            London was beautiful in October. The breeze crisp, signaling the close of the year. 1921 had been good. The end of the Great War brought peace and prosperity. Prosperity was evident in the building towering before me. Built in the Victorian style, its columns inspired dignity while demanding respect. It should with a down payment of $63,000. A sensation I was not familiar with swept through me. Nerves. Why? I know these people. Well, most of them and they wouldn’t have extended the invitation if they didn’t want me in the agency. That a few ulterior motives had influenced my decision ceased to matter as the door opened. Geddes stood in the doorway, arms outstretched.

            “Lavender Crompton! You’re a sight for sore eyes! You look grand! How was the trip from New York?” her Scottish brogue delighted my ears. 

            I moved into Geddes embrace. “Gratifyingly uneventful. No rough waters or pirates.” My hands on Geddes shoulders, I studied her. “Dear Geddes, it has been too long.”

            Geddes pushed the door open further. “Come in, come in. Excuse the mess. We’re having some renovations done. Derringer, another of our officers you’ll meet later, had a bit of a mishap with the stove. Blew the thing to pieces.” As Geddes was want to do, she revealed all this in one breath.

            “Is that his real name?’ I asked, thinking of the small pistol.

            She shrugged. “You know, I don’t know. That’s always what we call him. You know how our business is.”

            Indeed. A plaque hung above a doorway leading from the entryway.

 

     SHADED LEGENDS: Now and for always a work in progress:

ever changing as we constantly stive for that elusive star.

 

            I snickered. “I love the name.”

            Geddes smirked. “Shaded since we have so many identities. Legends since we’ve been in the business so long, we need to keep making up new ones.”

A large handsome bloodhound came to greet us. “Ah, Toby. Still looking great. Eve will be so pleased to see you.” I said.

The three pound Chihuahua in question was at the apartment impatiently awaiting my return. I thought it better to get settled before bringing her. As we walked down a carpeted corridor, I noticed names on distorted glass and took note of various lock weaknesses. The lock pick set in my black bag called to be put to use.

            “Casing the place?” Geddes asked. “I have already changed my locks. Consider yourself challenged.”

            My reputation for being able to pick almost any lock was known throughout many cities. In the last agency where I had met Geddes they called me the office “maid.” Have a secret? Something you can not risk anyone else discovering? Don’t put it in your office. Whether or not you asked for cleaning service was not the point. Ideally you were not exactly supposed to know and some had put mousetraps and fake rats in their desks as harmless retribution.

            “Always good to have a cleaning service that keeps an eye on the agency from the inside.” I replied.

            We reached and end office and my name was already on the white warped glass.

“Here we are.” Geddes declared cheerfully. “Home sweet home.”

            We turned at a deep voice behind us, “You must be Lavender.” A man stood tall and stern, assessing what he saw. A younger man stood silently behind him. Geddes gave the tall man a chiding look.

            “Lavender, this is Crextin.” She had heard of Crextin and done some background, but was not entirely expecting this imposing, and apparently rude, man. There was a slight disdainful curve to his mouth, but mischief glowed in his eyes. Ah, a test, I thought. He expected me to cower, but would be disappointed if I did. I inclined my head slightly, a queen greeting a peasant. The young man snickered.

            “Derringer,” Crextin barked, “go see if Penelope the tailor has that information she promised.”

            “Right boss.” He tipped his hat. “Glad to meet you, Miss Lavender.” With that Derringer was gone.

            “That’s our boy wonder.” A feminine voice supplied. “Crex’s right hand, but mainly his feet.” The woman was slender and moved with fluid grace. Or would have if she hadn’t stumbled slightly. Crextin’s eyes narrowed briefly. She sent a wink to Crextin, their connection unmistakable.

            “Shell!” I exclaimed as we embraced. I caught the faint odor of whiskey. So, Shell was drinking. More importantly, it appeared she was hiding it again. More than once I had found Shell in alleyway outside Shell’s apartment building. I would get her inside, not easy as Shell was at least five inches taller, and stay to make sure she did not leave or harm herself. The next day Shell would beg me not to say anything. Now I had to discover if this Crextin was a enabler. Under no circumstances would I allow Shell to fall back into that abyss. Entering my new office, I noticed a small stack of case files on the desk.

            “Your reputation precedes you.” Shell said, squinting as she opened the blinds.

            “So it would seem.” I replied, setting down my black bag. No noise came from the action. The bag was made for silence. As were the various knives and travel kit inside. The 9mm Walther compact pistol, however, was not.

 

            Pouring over files at my desk sometime later, I looked up as a familiar shadow fell across the room. My husband, Simon, filled the doorway. Simon was a detective of a different sort. An agent for British Secret Intelligence, his current cover involved a table at the back of the local pub and a shady identity. A booze runner by trade, this particular shady persona also cleared the records of less than stellar detectives-for a price. I wasn’t entirely certain what that might have to do with British Intelligence, but I learned long ago some things you just can’t know. I smirked when Simon walked in and stood to the side of the window. Cautiously peering out, he shut the blinds.

            “Worry wart.” I murmured affectionately

            Simon merely grunted. “Any more notes?”

            I nonchalantly produced a folded piece of paper from the desk drawer, much like a conjurer, holding it between my index and middle finger.

            “It reads pretty much like the others.” I yawned and stretched.

‘Quit while you’re ahead. Get out of the game or we’ll take you out permanently.’ Frankly, I’m vaguely insulted. If you are going to send threatening notes, the polite thing to do would be to master the language.”

            I knew Simon wanted to shake me. There were times he couldn’t understand my tough as nails and cavalier down to the my serious business black boots attitude. At least most of the time.

            “It doesn’t take poetry to kill you, Lav. Be reasonable, no one in town is talking. Your name so much as comes up and they look stricken with plague. This stinks of politics.”

            “Of course it does, but regardless of first impression, this isn’t faction politics.”

            “What makes you say that?”

            “No bottom feeder would have been able to push me out of my medical practice and leave my reputation in ruins. Someone at the top of a very long ladder has dirty hand. I was chosen as scapegoat. I intend to find out what is rotten, where and why I took the fall. At the same time, no faction cares enough about me or what my career is to go to the effort. They wouldn’t have anything to gain.”

            Simon sighed. “We can still be on a boat to New York tonight.”

            I shook my head. “I’m aware of the stakes Simon, but I like it here. I like my career, regardless of how I came to it. I may never go back to medicine, but I refuse to allow some petty thugs to push me around. Again.”

            “Do your directors know of your little penpal?”

            “Not yet.” I smiled. “You aren’t the only one with loyal, useful friends.”

 

            I sat quietly as Geddes and Shell carefully examined the notes. The door opened and a woman with long, curling brown hair walked in.

            “Hi, I’m....just call me Shady. I hear you have a poetically deficient friend?”

            I snorted and gestured to the papers. “If that is what there is to look forward to, I weep for the future of the written word.”

            Shady looked slightly taken a back as she sat, then laughed. Geddes passed her one of the notes and she looked speculative for a moment. “This has the ring of politics, yet....not.”

            Shady looked up. “Any discarded threads found nearby?”

I reached into my bag and pulled out two small plastic baggies, each with a thread in it.

            “I’ll take those to Penelope. She should be able to find out something.”

            “Thanks Shady. I went to talk to her and she did everything but ignore me.”

            “Yes, she can be somewhat difficult. She happens to like me.”

I opened my mouth to agree, but stopped when the door opened. Crextin waltzed in, followed closely by Derringer carrying a sheaf of papers.

            “Lavender dear,” Crextin drawled, taking a seat, “you are quite popular in certain circles and how shall we say, less so in others. I could not, however, find any evidence that you are throughly despised enough to provoke this.”

            I nodded. “This feels too juvenile for that.”

            “Juvenile or not, this is serious.” The new was well modulated, but had the distinct edge of authority.

            “Kopper.” Geddes smiled. “Meet another of our distinguished officers, Lavender.” Someone snorted.

            I studied Kopper. He was tall, but somewhat lanky.

            Sticking out my hand I smirked. “Hello Kopper. You were once with the Chicago PD correct?”

            Kopper’s eyebrows rose. “How did you know?”

            “Your accent has the Chicago lilt to it and your voice is that of a cop. No nonsense, yet could go either good cop or bad cop. I should know, I’ve, uh, come across a few.”

This time both Geddes and Shell snorted.

            “Did you find something Kopper?” Shell asked.

            “The librarian took me aside and told me she found this tucked in a returned book. Frankly, I was shocked. She never gives me the time of day. When I asked why she was now, she said she had a real affinity for Lavender, could tell a genuine book lover. Apparently Lavender has returned more overdue books than anyone.”

            The scrap of paper in question was crisp and white. Scratched across, in the same handwriting as the others, read:

            Notes not working. L. Crompton won’t back down. More sever action necessary.

            Shell studied the note carefully. “Someone is either very stupid or very clever.” she held the note out, pointing. “This little blue bit in the corner that has been torn is part of the insignia of City Hall in New York.”    

Now for Part II of the story

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2006