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Stand back, the Emergency Services Unit officer called out to Janey. Ive got the gear to break down the door.

What gear? Janey yelled.

A hatchet.

A hatchet? Janey cried.

A hatchet, he confirmed. Its a beauty.

Be careful, she urged, then remembered to add, please.

Ill try. How much room you got in there?

Not much.

Thomas whimpered. He and Regan were standing at the other end of the kitchen. The apartment was full of detectives, patrolmen, and emergency services personnel.

Well, here goes. The ESU officer lifted the hatchet over his head and brought it back down against the door. The metal head struck the heavy wood with a snapping, crackling sound not unlike twigs burning in a fireplace.

There goes Bens security deposit, Regan thought.

It took several minutes, but finally bits of the door had been hacked away. Another few minutes and Janey was stepping through the jagged opening and running into Thomass waiting arms.

Murmurs of relief and good job rippled through the kitchen. One of the police officers stepped into the living room to pass along the good news to the cluster of folks out there and in the hallway, including a couple of neighbors and the buildings superintendent.

Regan stood back as Janey and Thomas locked themselves in a passionate embrace. She certainly doesnt seem as meek as she did this morning, Regan thought. Well, its the quiet ones who will get you every time.

Miss, one of the detectives said to Janey, when she and Thomas finally unhinged from each other. Im going to need to talk to you.

May I use the powder room first?

Of course.

While Janey disappeared down the hallway with her purse, Regan decided to take a quick look in the bedroom. She hadnt had a chance to look for Bens journal once they realized Janey was locked in the closet.

The bedroom was a mess. Bens nightstand had been emptied onto the floor. His closet had been picked apart. Photographs, books, papers, and clothes were strewn all over. Regan lifted up a few of the papers, a couple of pairs of pants, and then she spotted a spiral notebook sticking out from under the bed.

Regan picked it up and opened it. It was Bens journal! The first page was marked January 1st of this year. She quickly flipped through the pages. The last entry was dated Wednesday, March 10th. Two days ago. Unbelievable.

It was a fairly brief entry.

Well tomorrow is our big day to break the news to Thomas at the club. Its exciting. The big party is Saturday. I told Nat I wanted to invite a date. He told me hes breaking up with his girlfriend. He said it would embarrass him to bring her to the party because of their age difference. I told him fuhgedaboutit!

Regan turned back the pages. There were more brief entries that didnt reveal much. And then the one marked February 28th was longer.

Today Nat and I went bowling. We got to talking about Sadie Hawkins Day. I said it was too bad there was no February 29th this year. Maybe some nice lady would ask me out. He started to laugh, and I knew something was up. Finally he admits hes been seeing someone a little bit. The sly devil! He said he likes her, but theres only one problem. When you get close, her perfume is so strong. I told him to go buy her a new bottle. I said maybe Ill find someone and we can go to the clubs anniversary party together. Then he said he felt guilty. I said, about what? Wendy? Shed want you to be happy. He just shook his head and said he didnt want to talk about it. So I let it go. I still say a double date would be fun.

Regan flipped through the remaining pages. No name of the girlfriend. No other references to her. Oh, Ben, why didnt you ask Nat her name?

Regan dropped the notebook on the bed in frustration and walked into the living room. Thomas was sitting with his arm protectively around Janey as she answered the detectives questions. Her perfume was kind of strong, Janey noted.

Regan paused. Perfume? But then she heard a voice in the doorway and turned her head quickly. Mary Ruffner was scribbling notes as she talked to Officer Dowling. so she came here to pick up the food she had dropped off yesterday

I can just imagine tomorrows headlines, Regan thought.

| Fleeced | c