A Dubious Secret

  A Dubious Secret

Chapter One

Colton Banyon carried several pieces of paper in his left hand. The papers were copies of the various lab reports and the doctor’s opinion of his condition. The doctor told Colt that he had made an official diagnosis, but Colt could read, and the papers said that it was just an opinion. Banyon had just left an Eye, Ear, Nose, and Throat clinic located in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg, Illinois. It was only mid-morning, but Banyon was already frustrated.

The doctor told him that he had tinnitus. Most people that have it know it as a ringing in the ear, however no test could verify it and no cure was known to the disease. Colt quickly adjusted his attitude as he spied his new car. The deep-green Jaguar gleamed in the sunlight. He’d always wanted a Jaguar and now he owned one. He climbed in and fired the engine to life.

The truth was that Colt was pretty sure what the noise in his ears meant. The past year had brought Colton Banyon a lot of good news and now there was this bad news. It was because of his last adventure. He had heard and seen a ghost while attempting to stop an Aryan supremacist group from unveiling a tablet that recounted the history of the Aryan race. The climax occurred in the old house where Banyon had lived as a child. Banyon had been labeled a hero. The ghost was freed from a curse and a man named Walter Pierce had disappeared.

The next day, a lawyer gave Banyon the last will and testament of Walter Pierce, along with an autobiography. Banyon inherited an ongoing business, several million dollars in working capital, and control of several thousand acres of land on eastern Long Island. It all had belonged to Pierce and now it belonged to Banyon through a will that he never knew existed.

The problem was that throughout the adventure, Banyon kept hearing a voice in his ear. The voice usually spoke in riddles, but it passed on information. Sometimes the voice told Banyon what to do next. Sometimes it told him about things that he was looking for. After the adventure, the voices stopped. But a different voice had come back about a week ago. Banyon could not make out any of the words—kind of like he had a poor cell phone connection. But the signal was getting stronger.

Banyon had hoped that he was done with ghosts and voices. He’d been told that he was predisposed to connect with ghosts and spirits, but he wanted no part of that. He’d made the appointment at the clinic to see if there was a medical cause. Now, he was sure that there was a more sinister answer.

The ride out from Schaumburg in the new Jaguar helped to calm Banyon and improved his attitude. He pulled off the highway and headed up Route 59 towards South Barrington and his new home. It was a sprawling ranch set on two acres of high priced land. As Banyon cruised up the circular driveway, he noticed a Porsche parked by the front door. The driver’s door was open and a very shapely female leg was tapping a spike heel on the pavement. While the leg was exposed to mid-thigh, there was no hint of a skirt to be seen. Loni, he thought, a smile crossing his face.
Colt was out of his car in a heartbeat. Loni had that kind of effect on him. He tried to act casual, as he was sure that she was watching. Loni never missed a thing. He started to walk towards her car and heard the unmistakable deep thump of heavy-metal music coming from the car. As he reached the door, he held out his arm. “May I help you out of your car, miss?”

A slender hand emerged from inside the car and gripped his as the second leg appeared, followed by long black hair. Colt realized that he still hadn’t seen a stitch of clothing. Then the hair spoke. “Well thank you, Jeeves.”
As she gracefully exited the low-riding Porsche, Colt couldn’t help but admire the Asian beauty now standing before him. She was about 5 foot 2, with black hair down to her waist, and weighed less than one hundred pounds. She looked as delicate as a flower, but Banyon knew that she was an accomplished fighter with lightning reflexes, and more than ten years of experience in law enforcement. She was impulsive, inquisitive, intelligent, and had no idea whatsoever why any man would even look at her. She considered herself a failure in life because her Chinese parents wanted a boy.

Although she was a native to America, born in Hawaii, Loni Chen was a product of ancient Chinese heritage. Socially, she believed that her place was two steps behind a man. On the job, however, she was a relentless tiger. Colt had met her a year ago. She was chasing the white supremacist group that eventually showed up at Colt’s old house. She was a detective for the Streamwood Police Department. Colt had recognized the huge chip that she carried on her shoulder and befriended her.

Since he was fourteen years older and in a solid relationship with another Chinese woman at the time, she accepted him as a friend. He soon discovered that she had a very specific goal. His name was Carl Heinz and he was the captain of the Streamwood Police Department. She had no idea how to corral him.

Colt had given her good advice on men and she now had moved in an apartment with Carl Heinz, but was a partner in a private detective agency with Colt. He was an investor in the firm.

Deep brown, almond-shaped eyes peered at him from behind a curtain of hair. “Colt, it’s great to see you,” she said in a singsong voice that seemed to float through the air. As she stood before him, she flicked her hair and it all disappeared behind her shoulders. A quick wiggle of her lithe body caused her short, pleated, tan skirt, which she always hiked up to drive, to drop down to a respectable length. She wore a matching sleeveless top. Her shapely legs balanced upon spike black heels.

“You look delicious,” was all that Colt could muster.

“You have been working out,” she replied. At six feet tall and around one hundred and eighty pounds, Colt towered over her.

Suddenly, she leaped forward and threw her hands around his neck, giving him a big hug. Colt responded with a quick kiss on her smooth forehead. She immediately retreated and pensively studied the ground.

“Okay, what’s wrong?” Colt could tell that she had something on her mind, but she would never bring up a subject without prompting.

“What, can’t I come to visit an old friend? I haven’t seen you in over six months. I haven’t talked to you since what’s-her-name left you and took off with the pool boy. That was a long time ago.”

“He wasn’t a pool boy. He was her ‘soul mate’ from the old country. You can’t compete with soul mates, you know.”

The quick tug on his heart must have registered in his eyes, as she immediately responded. “Soul mates are overrated.”

“I think we should go inside and have a visit,” Colt replied, realizing that she wanted to talk.

They entered the house through the front door, which Colt rarely used. He usually used the garage door that was off of the kitchen. The foyer was large and square with rooms leading off in three directions.

“Are you hungry? Do you want to eat something?”

“Maybe you can show me how to prepare some food. I can only make a mess,” she replied.

Colt knew that this was her way of accepting his invitation. She believed that no one would ever do anything for her just because he wanted to, but teaching her something was permitted. He turned and headed for the kitchen. He could hear her shoes tapping on the marble floor as she followed.

He poured her a glass of white wine and they had a toast to friendship. He then began the process of ferretting out what was on her complicated mind. She stood right next to him as he cut lettuce and vegetables for a salad. She was completely silent and this was unnerving to Colt. She usually chattered up a storm, asking impossible questions and commenting on every point, however minute. He expected her to ask why he was using lettuce, it had no value, she would say. But she remained quiet, sipping her wine and occasionally shifting her weight from one small hip to the other.

“Is everything kosher at the police department?” Colt inquired, running a list of possible topics through his head.

“The streets have never been safer for the good people of Streamwood,” was the half-hearted answer.

“The agency seems to be doing alright. I got a check from you a couple of weeks ago. You have already paid me back over half my investment.”

“I’ve been spending good quality time with our clients,” Loni said.

Colt was in the process of putting shrimp into a saucepan when his head snapped up. He knew that she didn’t talk like that. “How is Carl?”

“That bastard,” she hissed. The floodgates were now open. “He’s been seeing another woman. He thinks that I don’t know. What an asshole. He claims to work late and comes home and just goes to bed. He doesn’t look at me anymore. I’ve gotten too old. I nag him. I have to dye my hair now. What next, dentures?”

Colt quickly turned off the stove, refilled her wine glass, and led her to a sofa in the large family room. She walked as if she were in a trance, bumping into the end table and letting out a chorus of expletives.

Loni was highly competitive and often saw any other woman as an adversary to be crushed and eliminated. Colt had seen it firsthand. He had seen it when they set up a sting at a local hotel to obtain information about the white supremacy group. The representative from the supremacy group was a willowy blonde who clearly used her female charms to try to seduce Colt. Loni was posing as Colt’s assistant, and was there for protection. As the blonde raised her skirt to intrigue Colt, Loni also raised her skirt. When the woman left her seat, plopped down next to Colt and tried to provide a little hands-on seduction, Loni lost it, and a major fight broke out. Both women provided an undignified show that all the men in the lobby would remember for quite some time. Colt saved her from being disciplined by claiming that the woman was taking advantage of him, and Loni was just protecting him. That small lie was the basis for the strong bond of friendship that now existed between them. Loni could not believe that anyone would stick up for her, but Colt had.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Colt asked in a soft tone.

“I ought to move out, teach him a lesson. But I have nowhere to go. Who would take in a has-been like me?” she cried.
Red lights, sirens, and a host of early warning devices were going off in Colt’s head. She wants to live here, he thought.

“Loni, if you are in trouble, you know that you can come here. Are you in trouble? Or, is this just a little tiff between you and Carl?”

“He doesn’t understand me like you do. He has told me nothing. He wants to hide his affair. He is probably having sex with her right now.”

“Have you asked him about the other woman?”

“No, why should I?”

“Are you and Carl getting along in bed?”

“Of course,” she said. Then she looked away. “Well, at least until I found out about the bimbo. I won’t have sex with him now.” Her voice was defiant.

“I bet that he started working late when you refused to have sex with him. Am I right?”

“Maybe. How could you know that?”

“Loni, he thinks that you are mad at him,” Colt said. “You won’t sleep with him, so he thinks that something is wrong with him, that you don’t care about him anymore. He is probably just as upset as you are.”

Colt noticed that Loni suddenly had several tissues in her hand, although she didn’t have a purse with her and Colt couldn’t see where she’d secreted them on her petite body. What she really needed, Colt concluded, was some tender loving care. “Look sweetie,” he said, “you are one of the most desirable women that I have ever met. You are smart, sexy, and a good companion. I would go anywhere with you and be proud to have you on my arm And I’m sure that Carl would too.”

Their conversation lasted for several more hours. Colt kept trying to rebuild her confidence and she kept making belligerent remarks about cutting off body parts. The whole problem had started when Loni had come to the police station to have lunch with Carl. She noticed an attractive woman standing in Carl’s office. As she crept closer, she heard Carl refer to “that old hag,” and Loni instantly knew that they were talking about her. She turned rushed from the office crying. That evening, Loni had “closed the doors” and started obsessing about Carl’s affair.

At that point in the conversation, Colt excused himself to use the bathroom and called Carl Heinz on his cell from the toilet.

Carl told him that the woman in his office that day was his sister’s daughter. “The old hag” was Carl’s ex-wife. They’d been discussing some family history. The niece had flown into Chicago on business and showed up at the stationhouse unannounced. Carl went to find Loni but was told that she had come into the station, but had left almost immediately.
“Loni is a wacko,” Carl said gruffly. “I don’t mind telling you, I’m getting a little tired of her mood swings.”

Her impulsiveness had gotten her in hot water before. She did have a tendency to jump first then ask how deep the water was. Colt started to develop a strategy to put his friends back together. He knew that Loni would have gathered information about the woman. Once he settled on a course, he left the bathroom.

“So, Loni,” he began. “Who is this bimbo that Heinz is bedding? I mean, do you know her name?”

“I checked for her name on the sign-in sheet by the front desk at the station. Her name is Sarah Louden. I’ll get her someday,” Loni slammed her drink on the coffee table.

Colt smiled. “Isn’t Carl’s sister a Louden?” Colt replied, his voice calm.
“Yes, but…”

“And hasn’t he referred to his last wife as ‘the old hag’?”

“Yes, but…” A light bulb seemed to appear above her head.

Suddenly, a cell phone appeared in her hand and she pressed a number. After a short eternity, she spoke into the phone. “Is this Sarah Louden? Well, this is Detective Loni Chen with the Streamwood Police Department, she lied. I have been reviewing last week’s sign-in sheet and noticed that you came to the station to see Capt. Carl Heinz, but you never signed out. Can you explain that?”

Her face lit up like a Christmas tree. She was suddenly relaxed and slumped down on the couch. “I see, your’ Uncle Carl took you to lunch and you just forgot to sign out. No, he is not in trouble. Not anymore. Thank you for helping me out.”

Colt waited for a large smile to cross her face. Instead, he got tears, lots of sobbing, and a wailing that she was useless, stupid, and unfit to be in the company of any man. She followed that up with, “I don’t know if I forgive him yet.” Colt went back to work on managing the damage.

By five o’clock Colt was pretty sure that the old Loni was back. They returned to the kitchen and he began cooking again. Loni said, “Why are you using lettuce? There is no nutritional value in it.”

She was all round the chopping block, looking, touching, and making remarks about how good Carl was going to feel that night when she got home. Now Colt was the one who was jealous. She was bouncing off the walls. At one point, she started to dance, twirling and thrusting her pelvis like a teenager to the music that was piped throughout the house. Her movements were unmistakable; she was horny.

***

Colt was just putting the finishing touches on the scampi when the phone rang. He had been watching Loni move about the kitchen. He remembered how she had protected him from that Aryan asshole Michael Dean. She had moved with the same fluid motion when she literally kicked his ass. He suddenly wondered about Walter Pierce. Pierce was there in the house. Did Pierce really die in the fire?

He picked up the cordless. “Colton Banyon.”

The voice that replied sent a shiver down his spine. “Two will come with a book to find the one that is left.”

“Who is this?” Colt he said, looking at the ID pad for the number. There was no phone number listed. A dial tone buzzed into his ear. Colt stood there in shock. “No, it can’t be,” he reasoned aloud. “You are dead.”

Loni came rushing over and grabbed his arm. “Colt, are you okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Banyon did not speak.

“Colt, you’re scaring me again,” stated a visibly shaken Loni. “The last time that you looked like this was when we were in that tunnel and you kept talking to someone I couldn’t see.”

“I know, Loni. Believe me, I was there remember,” Colt said. “You didn’t hear the phone, did you?”

“Colt the phone didn’t ring. I thought that you were making a phone call when you walked over to it.” She grabbed onto Colt as if he was going to fly away and buried her head in the crook of his arm. Mentally, she was back in the old tunnel on Long Island with Colt when he started talking to someone that she could not see. The unseen voice gave Colt directions to a hidden room where they discovered the body of a man who had died many years earlier. She had been shaken by the experience and was deeply troubled by Colt’s apparent ability to see and hear the dead.

“Loni, it is not over.”

“What is not over?”

“The curse from Walter Pierce is not over. He has found me, again. That phone call was from him. I’d recognize that voice anywhere.”

“What did he say?”

“He said that ‘two will come with a book to find the one that is left.”

“Oh, my God,” Loni replied. “He wants us to go on another adventure, and I know why.”