Chapter One

He awoke freezing. The cool night air had been welcoming last night, so he'd opened the window before he'd gone to bed, but he was quickly beginning to regret it. The chill in the morning September air reminded him that fall was on its way. And living in Wisconsin meant that winter would be here sooner rather than later, bringing nothing but snow and more snow in its wake. But having grown up here all his life, he, Garin Christopher Lee, was not one to shy away from winter's icy blasts.

Throwing off the covers, he crossed over to the window and shut it. He looked out of the frost covered window at the Milwaukee skyline and wrapped his arms around himself to get warm. Coffee seemed like an excellent idea, so he went to the kitchen to make some. Opening the cupboard door, he stood there, staring at the empty space where the canister of caffeinated goodness usually was; then he remembered that he didn't have any coffee. He had run out a few days ago. Heaving a sigh, he closed the cupboard door and walked to the bathroom.

Well, he thought, a hot shower is just as good as a hot cup of coffee. He turned on the hot water until it started to steam, and let the scalding water flow across his body until the chill was gone. He soaped, he lathered, he rinsed, until he felt that all of his problems had washed down the drain.

Being a private investigator had its perks, but it also had a lot of draw backs. For example, he lived in a crappy studio apartment. The pay was bad, but to him, it beat sitting in a police station or driving around in a police car all day long. But it also meant that bills were hard to pay, since people aren't always in need of private investigators. He'd come close to being evicted a few times, but he always managed to find a way to pay the rent. He didn't have a car (cause he couldn't afford one), which didn't matter to him; he just rode the bus.

Feeling satisfied that he was fully clean, he stepped out of the shower and toweled off. The cold of the slate flooring chilled his bare feet. He'd always hated the flooring in this apartment; it was always cold, even in summer. But it didn't matter then, because it felt nice when it was hot outside; but in winter…well, let's just say it was like walking across a sheet of ice. Going to the closet, he rummaged around until he found something warm to wear. Blue jeans and his nice comfy gray sweater.

Tennis shoes tied, he grabbed his keys off the hook and headed out the door. He had some errands to run and he wanted to get them done early. While he waited for the elevator, he checked his messages on his phone. He heard it reach his floor. Walking forward, head down and not paying attention, he ran right into the person that was walking out, spilling the contents she was holding in her arms.

"Oh, excuse me," he hurriedly replied. "I am so sorry! I didn't mean to do that. I wasn't paying attention. Here, let me help you." As he was bending down to help pick up her dropped items, he looked at her and stunned by what he saw. He wasn't quite sure what it was, but there was just something about her that he found irresistible. Maybe it was the gorgeous blonde hair; or maybe it was the dark purple plastic frame glasses she wore. Or maybe her shy smile and beautiful hazel eyes. Whatever it was, he thought she was stunning.

"Oh, no," she stammered, "it's my fault, too. I wasn't expecting someone to be standing outside the elevator. Kind of stupid, actually. Seeing as other people use it, too, not just me." She was rambling, but he didn't care. He was enjoying listening to the sound of her voice.

He snapped himself back to the present. "Again, I apologize. I hope I didn't break anything."

She looked at her bundle and shook her head. "I don't think so," she replied.

He was glad for that. He didn't want her to remember him as the guy who broke her phone or something. He smiled. "Good." He started to turn to go in the elevator and turned back and said, "I hope I run into you again sometime…I don't mean literally, of course, but, you know." Stupid, stupid, he thought to himself. Of course she knows that. She's not an idiot.

She shyly smiled and replied, "Yeah, me, too." He felt his face turning red and was grateful that the doors had shut.

Who was she? She lived in his building, but he'd never seen her before. Maybe she just moved in? Perhaps. He'd have to find out. After all, finding things out about people was his job. And he wanted to find out all he could about her. She fascinated him. Racking his brain, he tried to remember what she had with her when he ran into her, literally. Did she like to read? Was she carrying any books? Did she like listening to music? What were her hobbies? Try as he might, he just couldn't think of what she was carrying. All he could remember was her face. That beautiful face. Every time he closed his eyes, he could see it, and he'd smile. But then he began to realize that this was probably a bad idea to do in public. Because when he opened them, people were giving him funny looks. Maybe later, he thought.

He had reached his destination. The bus came to a stop and he stepped off. First things first. It was his mother's birthday in three days, and he had to buy her a gift. Second, he had to mail said gift. And third, he had to get back home and find out all about his mysterious stranger.

He walked down the street until he came to The Grand Avenue Mall. Shopping in downtown Milwaukee was always a treat for him. He'd had fond memories of coming down here during Christmastime to go window shopping with his family. They'd wait until his dad got home from work, pile into the car, go see the Christmas lights, and walk around the mall. He didn't always have a lot of money, so he couldn't come here often and go shopping. But he tried to make sure that he always had money to buy gifts for his family for birthdays and Christmas. He knew that his mom liked scented soaps and things, so he went to Bath and Body. Picking out something he hoped his mom would like, he paid for it, and headed to the post office. His mom lived on the other side of town and she'd probably get it just in time for her birthday.

Walking to the bus stop, he couldn't help but get the feeling that he was being watched…and followed. He tried not to make it look like he was glancing over his shoulder. Coming to the bus stop, he stood there and waited. He casually glanced to his right, but didn't see anyone. Huh, he thought. Maybe it was just his imagination. Stepping onto the bus, he settled into a seat and glanced out the window and took one more look to see someone was watching him. Still, no one. Well, whatever it was, the feeling went away as soon as the bus pulled away from the stop and started rolling.