Saturday, February 13, 2016

Savvy Saturday Love-Style: The Best Valentine by Holly Hunt

Liz smothered a smile, looking at the man in front of her. He was looking through his pockets for a pen, even though his phone was hanging half-out of his jacket pocket. She rested her head on her hand, her elbow on the bar, and watched him.

She'd seen the man around town before, but she'd not spoken to him. He'd spent all night watching her as she danced with Lisa. She'd sent him a couple of smiles, encouraging him over, and he'd finally joined them around two-thirty in the morning. It was now a quarter to four, and she was looking to head home.

"Gotcha!" he called, pulling out a pen and holding it out to her.

Liz smiled and reached over to rescue his phone from his pocket. "I'm not that old-school, sweetie."

Phil flushed, putting the pen back in his jacket. She held the phone out for him to unlock, then filled in her name and number.

"Well, then, I will see you later," Liz said, and reached out to kiss the man on the cheek.

She smiled as she caught a look of happiness on the man's face, and turned to leave the bar. A young man, a few years older than her twenty-one years, reached out to grab her ass as she walked past. She reacted lightning-quick, grabbing his thumb and twisting it over his head. She glanced over to see Phil taking a step forward, but turned her attention back to the man moaning in pain in front of her.

"You're lucky I left my badge at home tonight," she told him, twisting a little further. "Or I'd arrest you for sexual harassment. Keep it in your pants, asshole."

She let him go and gave Phil a little wave, trying not to giggle at the dumbstruck look on his face. She left the bar and headed home, humming under her breath.

Today was a good day. She couldn't help but wonder what shit the next day was going to bring.


Liz rolled out of bed and yawned, her neck and one of her wrists cracking. She rubbed at her face and looked at her hands, then winced. She'd forgotten to remove her makeup before she went to bed, and now it was smeared on her hands and face.

Groaning, Liz hauled herself out of bed and tottered to the bathroom, taking note of the time and groaning again. She was on shift again in an hour, and would have to wake up fast.

Having relieved herself, Liz turned the shower on and climbed in, turning the cool water on faster as she stepped under it. The cold water woke her up, and she set about washing her hair and teeth, then scrubbing at her face with a flannel to remove the smudged makeup.

As Liz stepped from her shower, her cell rang. She looked at it, curious, for a second, then scrambled around the bed to get to it before it could stop.

"Special Detective Rhodes."

"Hi, um, is this Liz?"

Liz broke into a smile, glancing at the clock. She had a few minutes she could spend on a call. "I dunno. Describe her for me."

"Tall, leggy blonde, about twenty-two, hot as an angel and wicked as a devil."

Liz laughed. "Yeah, that sounds like me."

"Oh, good." Phil sighed on the other end of the phone. "I thought you might have given me a dud number."

"Nah, I don't do that. I'm a copif I don't like the attention, I just pull out my gun."

"Wait, you had a gun on you last night?" Phil sounded unnerved.

"I've always got a gun on me," she said, putting the phone on speaker and laying it on the bedside table. "I just try to find ways not to use it."

"Oh. Well, um, I enjoyed last night," he said, flustered, and Liz smiled as she dried her hair.

"So did I. It was fun."

"So, um, did you want to go out and get coffee with me?"

Liz shook her head out, letting her hair fly around the place. "Sure, when?"

"Um, tonight?"

Liz winced. "I'm on shift tonight," she said, then hunted through her drawers for panties. "Why don't we go for dinner tomorrow night instead?"

"Yeah, no, that's—well, that sounds good to me."

"Then it's settled. You find us a restaurant and send me the details. I finish my shift at nine tomorrow morning, so any time after four would be great." Liz pulled on her blouse, did up her pants and pulled her hair up. "I have to go, but you have a good night."

"Yeah. Yeah, you too."

Liz picked up her phone and disconnected the call. She smiled to herself as she tucked it into her back pocket, pulling her boots on and heading through the house to the front door.


The night was quiet, and for that, Liz was grateful. It was a day or so before Valentine's Day, and she was worried there would be an influx of men being assaulted or killed by irate girlfriends for suggesting they just ignore it that year. Liz sat behind her desk, filling out paperwork for the robbery she'd covered the day before, trying to remember everything relevant to add into the report.

"Detective Rhodes."

Liz looked up at the sergeant, then stood up. "Yessir?"

The man smiled. "So you're the one my son has taken a fancy to?"

Liz frowned. "Your son, sir?"


Liz's eyebrows lifted in surprise. "He's your son, sir?"

Bill sat down in the chair next to her desk, gesturing for her to sit down as well. "He is. I just wanted to get that out of the way before you two go too far. He's spent his entire life around police, and, well, I'm not honestly surprised that he'd be attracted to one. Especially one so beautiful."

Liz felt a blush creep up her neck, and she looked the man in the eye. "Yessir. Thank you, sir."

Bill smiled and stood up. "Look sharp, Detective. It's almost quitting time."

Liz glanced at the clock and smothered a smile as her phone went off. "So it is. Thank you, Sergeant."


Phil's instructions had her wandering down the main street a few hours later, dressed to the nines and feeling a little uncomfortable in the cold late-winter air. She looked at the restaurant behind her and then again at the traffic coming up the road.

Phil jogged up to her, panting a little, and gave her a flippant bow. "Liz! Imagine seeing you here!"

Liz couldn't help but smile at the man. "Phil. What a surprise."

Phil straightened up and held out his elbow. "Sorry I was late, my dad held me up. Wanted to talk about something."

"Yeah, I didn't know Sergeant Donhowi was your dad," Liz said as he opened the door for her.

Phil winced. "Yeah, he told me about your conversation. I'm sorry, I didn't think he would seek you out."

Liz patted his hand reassuringly. "Seek me out? Sweetie, he's my boss."

Phil turned red, and he seemed to be holding in laughter.

"What?" Liz asked, turning a little red.

"How many women work under him?" Phil asked, then turned to the maître d. "Donhowi, table for two."

"Just me, why?"

Phil looked like he was trying to decide if it was wise to answer her. She jabbed him in the side.

"Ow! Okay. I'm laughing because dad used to call you 'that beautiful bitch' when you corrected him, and he came home ranting."

Liz didn’t know whether to be happy that he thought she was beautiful, or furious that he called her a bitch.

"He hasn't done that in months, though. Oh, no!" Phil said, catching the look on her face as she sat down. "He never said it in a bad way, it was usually in wonder and frustration, not anything bad."

Liz let it go. Phil said that Bill hadn't said it in months, so she was happy to move on. "So, you already know I'm in the police force. What do you do?"

Phil smiled, taking the menu from the waiter and waiting for the man to leave. "I'm in college, doing some criminology courses."

Liz grinned as she looked down the menu, and glanced at Phil. "Law enforcement runs in both our families, then."

Phil frowned in confusion. "What makes you say that? Is your dad a cop too?"

Liz shook her head. "No. Mom's the police commissioner."

Phil stared at her long enough for the waiter to come back. He had to do a quick scan of the menu and ordered something quickly while Liz pretended not to notice.

Liz's phone, sitting in the middle of the table, vibrated. Sighing, she looked at the screen. "I'm so sorry," she said, standing up and taking the phone. "I have to take this."

Phil nodded, waving her off. "Please, do."

Liz squeezed his shoulder and headed for the bathroom. Once inside, she tapped the green button and lifted the phone to her ear. "Special Detective Rhodes."

"I hope your date was going awful, because you're about to run out," Lisa said, a horn honking in the background.

"What makes you say that?" Liz said, her heart sinking.

"Some asshole took a kid last night, and he's been found."

Liz frowned. "Why is that our problem? If he's been found, you don't need—"

"When I say found, I mean half of him," Lisa said, and Liz heard the indicator of her car ticking in the background. "I'll send you the address and let Denise know I've given you the heads up so dispatch won't call."

Liz sighed. "Okay. I'll be there soon."

"Lisa out."

Liz sighed, looking at the screen of her phone. She left the bathroom to the raucous of the dining room, and made a beeline to where Phil sat.

"I'm sorry," she said, picking up her handbag. "That was my partner. A kid was kidnapped last night, and they just found him."

"That doesn't sound like a job for the homicide department… Oh no." Phil's mouth opened in horror. "No, go, Liz, I completely understand. We'll reschedule."

Liz sighed in relief and pecked him on the cheek. "Thank you! I'll be in touch."

She almost bolted out the door and to the cruiser. Lucky she kept a spare set of clothes in the car, just in case.


Liz spent the next few days pouring over photographs and reports of the crime scene, searching out clues to help her solve the case of the dead child. All other work in the homicide departmentwhat little there was that wasn't siphoned off from other departmentswas halted, the department working to solve the murder.

"I don't think I've ever seen this place so quiet," a voice said from above her table, startling her out of her dark thoughts. "It must be bad."

Liz leaned back, closing the folder in front of her so Phil wouldn't have to see the close-up photograph of the boy's face, liver removed from his mouth. "Hey, what're you doing here?"

"Brought you lunch," he said, smiling and handing her a paper bag. "I thought you'd like something to eat. Dad said no one's really stopped since you got that phone call."

Liz, feeling a bit guilty, reached into the bag and pulled out a sandwich, soda and apple. "I'm sorry I haven't called, but—"

"No, it's alright, I understand," Phil said, smiling and sitting down on the chair beside her desk. "Like I said, dad told me you'd all been nose to the grindstone since then."

Liz smiled at him, cracking the soda and chugging half of it before starting on the sandwich.

"This is touching," Bill said, putting a hand on Phil's shoulder. "Did you bring me lunch too?"

"Not even close," Phil said, smiling at Liz.

"Damn." Bill looked at Liz, who pulled the food closer to herself and making it clear she thought it would be stolen at the first chance. "We have a meeting in ten minutes. McCarthy found something, and we need to formulate a plan."

Liz nodded, washing down the last of the sandwich and starting on the apple.

"Well, that's my cue," Phil said, standing up. "Hey, message me when you're free, and we'll go from there."

"Thanks, Phil." She stood up and pecked him on the lips. "You're wonderful."

Phil smiled after her as she headed for the meeting room, smiling at him as she shut the door after her.


"Well, you see here," McCarty said, looking around the group. He was clearly nervous, and Liz found it surprising. Normally, Bill would have presented the information, but as this was such a huge case, McCarthy was forced to share his findings. "I followed this set of boot prints in the mud. The ground was dry enough not to make bootprints by the time we got there, so we have an approximate time for the body being dumped."

"Or someone could have walked through the lot before the body was dumped?" one of the other detectives said.

"Well, I thought that too. But it's been raining for a week, and only dried out about four hours ago. The body's temp said that the victim had been dead about four hours – so that tells you how long he'd been hanging there."

"Which means what?" Liz asked, sitting at the back of the room.

"Which means that we have to go ask this man—" Bill flicked a switch, and the slide against the wall changed, "—what he was doing at exactly that time."

The picture was that of a wallet lying open on the ground, with a man's licence showing. The wallet was dry, but the leather had sunk a little bit into what was now dry mud. It had been left there around the same time as the bootprint.

Liz smiled internally. This would make the hunt so much easier. She might just get a proper date within the next week or so!

"We're dispatching uniforms to arrest him and bring him in," Bill said. "Congratulations, guys. Once we get his confession, and his fingerprints, I'm sure this will be an easy solve for such a gruesome murder."

Muttering broke out as the homicide department left the small room. Liz went back to her desk, smiling, and put the murder file away. She may just send Phil a message now.


Liz hadn't been assigned to observe the interview with Charles Housen, the suspect in the murder, so she and Phil arranged for a date a few days later. They would go and see an action film, have dinner and see where the night went.

They had a delightful dinner, and things progressed. Liz invited him to her home, and he agreed. They had a few drinks in her living room, and the next thing Liz knew, she was waking up to her phone buzzing, Phil sprawled across her naked body on her living room floor. The bubble of contentment was burst, and she swore repeatedly under her breath, attempting to ignore the phone and go back to sleep.

"Shit," she muttered, ruffling through the clothes on the floor until she found her pants, and the pocket with her phone. "Rhodes. This better be good."

"I hope you and Phil weren’t getting too hot-n-heavy," Denise of dispatch said, sounding a bit flustered. "You're being called in. Bill wants you in Carriage Way in ten minutes. A kid's gone missing."

"Then talk to vice," Liz said, dropping her head back on the floor and looking at Phil. "Kidnapping has nothing to do with me."

"It does now," Denise said in a no-nonsense way. "There's every sign it's just like the last one. You have a serial killer on the loose."

Liz sat bolt-upright, then shook her head when Phil rolled over away from her, clearly still asleep. "Tell him I'll be there in a half-hour. I have a man to wake up first."


The Best Valentine is a prequel to Holly Hunt's novel The Holiday Killer. Want to find out what happens next? Click here

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