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   Chapter 7 Brownie Oxford and the Ashland Affair

Brownie Oxford and the Ashland Affair: Brownie Bk1 By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 11355

Updated: 2018-03-07 14:22

Chapter 7

No brilliant insights had reached me by the time Swift re-appeared on my doorstep with a breakfast burrito in hand. The only thing I could think of was to ask him if Dave had passed the investigative process Swift had no doubt put him through. Feeling slightly sneaky, I had hidden my lists in the bottom of my laptop bag.

"So, " I began, trying to quiet the nervous butterflies in my belly as I peeled back the wrapper. "Did you find out if Dave was involved or not?" Swift sighed as he settled into the desk chair and popped the lid off of his paper coffee cup. He shook out a packet of sugar, tore of the top and spilled the white crystals into the dark brew.

"Dave Reynolds is the nephew of George Whitaker, aka Mr. Salesman." He looked up from his coffee. "I'm sorry. It looks as though he was involved." I nodded slowly and let out a sigh.

"At least I know, " I said. And I didn't have to worry about telling Swift I could see images of Dave with the others. It knocked one of my issues right off the list. I tried to focus on the positive and ignore the sting. "So has he been arrested or anything?" I asked.

"He is currently missing. It looks like Whitaker was waiting to see if you passed his test before notifying anyone else, so it is doubtful anyone other than Dave knows your name. We haven't figured out who gave them your file." I watched Swift clench and unclench his jaw at the thought of it. Slowly, he lifted his coffee and took a sip. I took a bite of my burrito to give him time to push it to the side even as worry began to gnaw in my belly.

"So what personal information is in my file?" I asked after a few minutes.

"Not much, " He told me, he looked at me with an odd look to his eyes. It was one I had only seen a handful of times. I carefully continued eating my burrito, hoping I didn't look too eager. Every time Swift had shown me that look, he had ended up revealing things that I was pretty sure I wasn't supposed to know. He lowered his eyes to his coffee cup and I knew I had earned a secret.

"As you were underage when we first started working with you, I listed you under a different name, Betty Watson to be exact. She died in a fire, but would have been nineteen at the time I met you. Her age allowed paperwork to be filed with fewer questions, as well as adding another layer of protection."

"You could do that?" I asked. Swift favored me with a sardonic look. "I know you can change people's identity, " I explained. "I just figured you kept an internal list so your whole office was on the same page."

Swift smiled. "I was given some leeway with you due to the …unusual circumstances. The director who allowed the leeway retired about a year later and suffered a massive coronary last year. His body was cremated and his ashes scattered. I declined to provide clarification to his successor, or anyone else for that matter since the decision had already been made. Your file is coded and if cross-referenced, anyone looking would find your name to be Betty Watson."

"Is that why you never refer to me by name when we work with others?" I asked. The thought had bothered me for years, but I had always believed that not referring me by name was a way to distance himself, so that I could be just a tool instead of a person.

"In part, " he confessed and I had the feeling the tool part still stood.



I realized I had half risen when Swift motioned me to sit back down for a moment. I thumped back onto the bed, feeling like a rabbit watching the hawk circling in the sky above.

"We will leave in a moment, " he told me. "I have had your stuff packed and sent to a storage facility. The bulk of your clothing is in a large duffle in my trunk with your medicine. I also picked up your jewelry box and tucked it inside. I figured everything else could be stored without worry. Now, I need you to pack. We have one stop and then we will leave the city. You will stay in an unregistered safe house."

"Unregistered?" I repeated, already rising to begin collecting my things. I tried to push aside my unease at leaving the city. I had been outside of the city before, numerous times in fact. Each of those times however had been with Swift and involved either short jaunts, often through what seemed like endless miles of nowhere to get to the center of nowhere or visits to secret rooms where dead bodies waited for me. Often there were large angry men with guns and knives. Sometimes, for a change of pace, there would be large angry women armed with guns or knives. The thought of leaving the city for an extended period of time did not fill me with endless ripples of rapture.

"A…friend of mine owes me a favor." Swift said in a tone that did not invite discussion.

"Right, " I said, trying to let it go. "Wait, we need to make one more stop before we leave."

Swift looked at me. "Where." It was less a question than a statement.

"A bank across town. I have a safety deposit box."

Swift wasn't happy about it, I could tell. He mulled it over as I told him the bank's name and location. As it was not the bank my accounts had been in and was far off the path of my normal activities, he finally consented. I sighed with relief as he agreed to stop by so I could take what I needed from my safety deposit box. I moved to gather my scattered things from around the hotel room, realizing as I added the hotel's tiny bottle of shampoo to my bag why Swift was willing to add my errand to the list.

"He doesn't think I'm coming back here, " I whispered to myself. Somehow I had the feeling that my next apartment would be far, far away.

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