Enjoy chapter two :) It was written by Alice !

Maren was never a high maintenance girl, perhaps that was why she found herself sitting in a run down two room apartment above the fish market. The smell was enough to drive any sane individual away yet here she sat with her feet tucked underneath her as she flipped through a magazine.

It was one thing to be alone on a Friday night but another thing all together when she had been invited to go out yet kindly refused. The nurses wished her to join them in their weekly Friday night bar hop but when it came down to the bottom line, Maren was just too tired.

She threw the magazine down to the coffee table only to let her eyes wander to the small black and white television set which buzzed in the background. "Another young John Doe was brought in this morning by a local farmer. Reports say that the man was found floating down river on Mr. Harold Filard's ranch property. Investigators are still trying to locate the whereabouts of the actual crime scene. The river has been blocked off for two miles..."

The television went black and Maren groaned as she set the remote down. "Just what I need to hear, my new town is plagued with mysterious murders. I'm sure that will help me with my new found sleeping problem." She rolled her eyes at her own sarcastic remarks. There wasn't much to the apartment, it needed a lot of paint and maybe less light, but at least it was livable.

Slowly she made her way into the one other room of the apartment, a small bedroom which held only a bed. The light flickered on as she hit the switch and immediately she was horrorstricken with the sight before her. In the corner of the room laid a smelling rat which was soaked to the bone in it's own blood. Curiosity overtook Maren and before she could realize it herself, she was hovering over the carcass.

Several long lines stretched over the body like thread, the blood seeping through them. A cat had found it's meal for the night but the rat gave haste and made an escape but could not save it's life.

Maren frowned and kicked it with the toe of her shoe. It was dead. "Oh now, I suppose I must get rid of this. It figures, I deal with the sick, the wounded, the dead, and yet I'm still afraid of a dead mouse!"

- o - o - o -

Saturday was her first day off in two weeks after she had begun working full time at the hospital. Maren needed to stay busy because when she wasn't, she didn't know what to do with herself. Perhaps she had OCD or perhaps she just thought too much, but that was how she wound up in the market at seven o'clock in the morning buying window cleaner.

She would be lucky if she could pass the hardware store again without purchasing fresh paint. Fingering the several bottles of window cleaner Maren finally pulled away with the cheapest one. It was silly of her to start with such purchases when her first paycheck had to go to the first down payment of her new car.

"I see you're still an early bird on your day off," a voice chuckled from down the isle. Maren peeked up from beneath her blond hair to see Dr.

Snewstrum facing a large display of baked beans.

She smiled warmly as he turned and approached her, shaking her hand in a warm greeting. This Russian man was not at all intimidating despite his large size, he instead was warm and kind. The fact that this man loved children only boosted his image. "Good morning Dr. Snewstrum, it's a pleasant surprise to find you about today!"

He laughed, twisting his shopping basket in his hand. "Maren, I insist that you call me Ivan. I'd hope that you'd consider us more friends than colleagues."

A smile flirted to her lips, warming her face. "Ivan," she rolled smoothly off her tongue, "I think that would work just fine."

"Very good. Now that you consider us friends you'll have no trouble joining me for dinner tonight. We can go out and I'll show you downtown. I know you declined the girl's offer to go to the bar last night but I won't let you out of this." He smiled in victory. Of course she wouldn't say no, he was her boss.

Her hands tightened around the cleaner and she smiled softly. "Let me get you my number."

With a quick flash of the hand Ivan held out a business card instead. "There, now no one has to dig out a pen and scramble to find any paper. Give me a call about four, then you can give me directions to your place and I can pick you up."

Barely nodding she watched as Ivan walked away, disappearing around to the next isle. Her eyes narrowed at the card wondering if he had planned the whole thing. Now not only did she have a mind busy on the mysterious wounded or the murders, now she also had to think about Ivan and his intentions. She did not come here for love, she came here with a mission to help these people.

Her eyes flashed to the other side of the isle where there was a sale on wood cleaner. Mentally she cursed, picking up the cheapest product there. Her mind was still on cleaning at the moment.

- o -

The whole way home Maren couldn't believe it herself, the hardware store was having a sale on paint. That was how she found herself carrying one grocery bag full of cleaners and two cans of cherry red paint for her bedroom.

She ambled up the rotten stairs to open her apartment which would permanently smell like fish. The rooms were dark and she sucked in a breath knowing something was off. Reaching to the wall, her fingers itched to find the light switch. It was her luck that the living room held no windows.

When her fingers finally did brush against the switch she flipped it up nearly screaming when a small figure dashed across the room. The paint went flying and she backed out of the room slowly.

A black cat sat on her sofa. A bad omen.

"Don't be ridiculous Maren, it's only a stray. You probably left your bedroom window open," she muttered to herself in reassurance. She leaned down on one knee stretching out her hands. "Here kitty kitty kitty." She smiled, clicking her tongue. "Here kitty kitty."

It hissed and made no moment towards leaving it's defensive crouch. There would be no way she'd let that thing have her apartment. Thoughts of finding the landlord sprang into her head but she shook them away. No, she didn't want to cause a fuss. Of all the things she had on her mind, house hunting was not a welcome thought.

She got up and walked into the room ignoring the hissing of the cat. The door was left open so the feline could leave freely yet it stayed perched atop the couch.

Maren slightly narrowed her eyes, watching the cat as she scooped up her new belongings. Taking the paint into her room, she closed the door and began work on applying the new paint. She knew she should have checked with the landlord about it, yet she knew he wouldn't mind. Free manual labor never hurt anyone.

The room was finished quickly, seeing as it was small. Maren herself was covered in the red paint but she didn't mind. Already the room looked better. It was a fresh start to the old room. The paint made her remember that her hair still needed to be colored as well. "Next paycheck I suppose," Maren smiled.

She exited the room to find the front door open still. Skipping to the square of wood she closed it gently. When she turned around she nearly screamed again, pressing herself against the door. The cat sat on the couch still, staring after her as though Maren would be it's next meal.

Maren opted for another option. She slid along the wall towards the small table and fridge which made her kitchen. She fumbled with the fridge and opened it seconds later. She pulled out a half eaten can of tuna and set it on the ground. Almost immediately the cat pounced on the can and began to feast.

"Oh no!" Maren held her face looking at the clock above the television. The dial read five to five. "Ivan," she whispered, feeling stupid. "Dear me, I should call him right away. I hope I don't get fired for this!"