The Christmas Contest 1,200 Words
Angela's heels clacked on the pavement. Through the rehabilitation center's glass doors she could see Duncan waiting in his wheelchair. His faithful attendant, Jerry, hovered behind the investigator.
Duncan took in the details of his approaching girlfriend's appearance. Angela made him want to leap from his seat. He didn't require a wheelchair, but the clinic's policy demanded he be pushed from the facility. He still limped, but he'd worked hard in rehab, focusing on his future, and had recovered faster than anyone thought possible.
Angela tried to make it to Edinburgh every other weekend to encourage Duncan and keep him company. She stayed with the family, but the Dewars made themselves scarce at the therapy center when she visited, giving the couple time to be alone. The Scotsman extracted a promise from the lass that when he was released, she would greet him and take him home. He hadn't seen her in three weeks and couldn't wait to hold her in his arms, away from the hospital.
As Angela drew closer to the doors, Duncan's grin grew by degrees until the muscles in his cheeks ached. She had almost reached the entrance when he noted a startled look on her face, then a crowd rushed between them and blocked his view.
Storming through the sliding doors, a noisy group of a dozen people charged towards Duncan. Bright lights from flashing cameras went off, producing temporary blindness. Confused, the investigator had no idea what was happening.
"Here he is, boys. The hero of the UK," a vaguely familiar female voice rose above the din.
"How does it feel to find redemption?"
"When did the two of you get back together?"
"How do you plan to spend the reward money?"
"Have you had any contact with Caroline Menzies?"
"How did you keep your relationship hidden from the public?"
Questions fired like bullets from an automatic weapon at Duncan, who remained blinded from the brilliant bursts of light.
"Now, now. Can't you see he's tired? Pictures only, boys. That's what we agreed upon," the female voice said.
He turned his head to see who was orchestrating this gang of what he now understood to be reporters. As his pupils dilated and his vision returned, he saw who spoke. There, dressed in a strapless, dark brown leather bustier with matching skirt and spike-heeled boots, towered Cassandra Baines. Her platform stilettos raised her to well over one and a half meters, giving her a height advantage. The former model stepped next to Duncan, bent at the waist, and planted a kiss on the investigator's cheek, angling herself to the cameras, allowing the photographers an ample view of her bosom.
Duncan squirmed away from Cassandra as best he could, seated in the wheelchair. It didn't occur to him to get up and leave. His old girlfriend draped her arm around the investigator and pulled him close, sitting on the edge of his chair, as cameras flashed, lending the drab lobby the lighting of a discotheque.
"That's it boys. Clear off," Cassandra ordered as a security officer for the hospital approached the group.
The reporters dissipated as quickly as they'd arrived, leaving Duncan alone with Cassandra and a stunned Jerry. The Scotsman scanned the room for Angela, but she was nowhere to be seen.
"What do you think you're doing?" Duncan asked, incensed.
Cassandra's smile transformed into a hurt expression. She jutted her lower lip forward in an exaggerated pout.
"Just helping you get back on your feet. Imagine the publicity this will generate for your consulting venture. Now, everyone knows you're here to stay. You should be thanking me instead of scowling, Poppett."
Cassandra bent over Duncan and, placing a palm on each side of his jaw, attempted to draw him into a full blown kiss.
"Uhm, uhm," someone cleared their throat behind Cassandra.
Duncan jerked his face free while Jerry looked on, bemused at the scene. Cassandra straightened to her full height and turned to see who dared interrupt her mini-tryst.
"Excuse me," Angela said in a business-like tone, stepping to one side and then moving her body between Duncan and the former model. "Are you ready?" his girlfriend asked with a pleasant voice, smiling at both the investigator and Jerry while ignoring the woman.
"Yes," Duncan rasped out.
He tried to keep his eyes off Cassandra, but gave her a sidelong glance as Jerry wheeled him from the lobby. His old girlfriend tapped away on her mobile phone, ignoring their procession. Duncan couldn't remember the last time he felt so awkward. Everything happened so fast. What must Angela think?
Jerry, who by now had collected his thoughts and formed an opinion on the scene in the lobby, saw Duncan into the passenger seat of the car. Duncan said his good-byes and thanked his attendant. Jerry gave him a wry smile, as if to say Now you're in for it, before shutting the vehicle's door. Duncan studied Angela. Her hands trembled at the wheel.
"I'm sorry, Angela. I had no idea that was coming."
"Just what was that?" Angela asked, her eyes trained straight ahead.
"I don't know. I suspect Cassandra is trying to cash in on the media attention I've had since the story broke about the treasure at Lindisfarne. I tried to get away from her."
Duncan had been instrumental in discovering a lost hoard of riches, hidden by the monks on Holy Island hundreds of years before. His recent case had almost cost him his life and when the press got hold of the details, Duncan featured prominently in their headlines. Years before, he achieved brief fame for a breakthrough technique he'd invented employing mathematics in accident investigations. It was then he'd dated Cassandra Baines, a well-known model in the UK.
"That's not what it looked like," Angela said, her voice full of anger.
The lass flashed her cellular at Duncan, who took the phone in his hand. There, on the on-line page of Edinburgh's leading rag, was a photo of the investigator leering at Cassandra's cleavage with a pleased expression on his face. In reality, the camera angle affected the photo; he had tried to pull away from the model with a look of disgust, however, that wasn't the story told by the picture. It appeared Duncan drew back for a better look at the beauty's figure, his visage reflecting nirvana.
"That's a delirious smile if I've ever seen one," Angela commented as she drove the vehicle from the car park.
Duncan thought at light speed. He needed to dig himself out of this hole as fast as possible.
"Now, Angela, can't you see I'm an injured man? I've just been released from hospital. I had no idea she would show up. I was looking forward to seeing you come through those doors. I'm a weak and helpless invalid. In fact, you could have your way with me now, quite easily," he said. Humor always appeased Angela.
"If I had my way with you at this moment, you'd be on that curb over there, thrown on your duff!" Angela retorted, pointing to the pavement as the vehicle rounded a corner.
Maybe humor wasn't the way to go.