I thought I’d add another part of Big Sky Siren.
She looked down at her clothes. Her faded cotton T-shirt looked like it had come right out of the bottom of the laundry basket, which it had. She pressed the palm of her hand down the front of the shirt in a failed attempt to press out the wrinkles.
No wonder Detective Salazar had looked at a loss for words when he’d first seen her. She sighed, nothing she could do now. Good-looking men never took a second glance at plain girls like her anyway. Why fuss over how she looked? She didn’t care if he was drop dead good-looking and swaggered. She didn’t care that his shoulders filled the doorway, or his dark eyes melted her bones. She needed to cowgirl up and go back in there. She pushed the door open.
He stood by the coffee pot, pouring the black liquid into two cups. He looked at her and smiled. “I hope you don’t mind,” he lifted the pot in her direction.
“Of course not, thanks for pouring.” She placed the pastries on the table.
After he placed the cups on the table, he pulled out a chair for her. She caught the scent of musk and spice. It blended with the deep aroma of the coffee.
He sat across from her, closing his eyes before sipping from the steaming cup. “Umm, this is good. The hospital coffee tasted like plastic.” She smiled and pushed the plate of pastries in front of him.
“What do you need to know, Detective?”
“Call me Tony,” he said after taking a swallow of coffee. “I’d like you to describe everything. From the first scream you heard until the police arrived in the alley.”
Interlocking her fingers in her lap, she thought back to the dreadful events of the night. In the chaos, she had almost forgotten the break-in. “I came downstairs because of a noise I heard in the kitchen. It was just before midnight. At first, I thought it was Tighe coming to work. He never shows up until midnight or later. My clock always shows later.”
Tony stopped writing and looked up at her. She wasn’t sure if it was because of his exhale or his shoulders drooping, but a second, he looked exasperated. “I hope you are going to tell me Tighe came to work early?”
“No. I found the back door open and the tray cart toppled over, but there wasn’t anyone in the kitchen.” She stiffened at the recollection. “After checking nothing had been taken from the safe, I called 9-1-1.”
He pulled the cup from his mouth and his eyes widened. “Did you tell any of the officers about the break-in?”
“No, the situation with the kids was so intense, I forgot all about it until after I came back here. Jimmy told me a detective would be stopping by and I didn’t want to go back into the alley.” A shiver ran through her at the recollection. “I thought I’d wait. It was during the first call to 9-1-1 when I heard the first scream. After the call, I looked outside and heard it again. I was pretty sure it came from the alley.” She put her hands back around the mug, the heat warmed her cold fingers.
“Is tonight the first time anyone has broken into your place?”
“Yes, well, no, I’m not sure.” She felt like a complete idiot. Anxiety and exhaustion clouded her memory. “I found the door open last week, around the same time. But it was so windy I just locked it and figured the wind had blown it open. Sometimes the latch doesn’t catch.”
“It wasn’t that windy tonight.”
“No, not windy enough to blow the door open like last time.”
“So we have to rule that out.” His tone sounded stern. He sat still for a second, but then in a softer tone he said, “Okay, I’ll look into any reported break-ins around the same time and talk to patrol. I’m not sure if the two things are related, but after tonight I’m sure they’ll be paying extra attention to the alley. I’ll ask them to do the same here. You have my card, so call if anything, and I mean anything, is out of the ordinary.” He gestured with his hand for her to continue.
“When I heard the second scream, I grabbed a flashlight and ran to the alley. I saw this guy dragging Madison. I think he was trying to drag her further into the alley. I yelled for him to stop and let go of her. I walked toward them, but I didn’t know if he had a weapon, so I moved slowly. He stopped moving backwards and I stood still.” She paused before lowering her voice, “I didn’t want him to hurt her.”
Tony stood and walked to the coffee maker. She sensed a hesitation before he turned, leaned back on the counter and gripped the edge with his hands. “You know, what you did tonight was a brave thing.” His voice betrayed his disapproval. “You probably saved both those kid’s lives. But you still took a dangerous risk. He could have had a gun, or gone after you.”
He shook his head, grabbed the coffee pot and refilled both their cups. He sat and leaned across the table, “I don’t want another person in the hospital, Keeva.”
She pinched her lips and crossed her arms. Frustration began to build at the events of the evening, with herself and now with the detective. Whatever had happened tonight, the only thing she’d had control over was running into the alley. It was something she would do over in a heartbeat. She decided to ignore his comments and tell the story.
“As I was saying,” she paused and looked at him to see if he had any further comments, “I couldn’t see much of him since it was so dark, but I could see his features a little. He looked in my direction. It was eerie.” Keeva probed her mind, trying to remember any more details, none emerged. “Then he pushed Madison. I focused on her when she ran toward me.” Lifting the cup, she lowered it without drinking. “By the time I looked up again he was almost at the other end of the alley. As I said earlier, Madison kept screaming about Todd and crying. When she pointed at Todd, I ran to him.”
Tony wrote a few things in his notepad, and they finished their coffee. He stood and pulled keys from his pocket. She felt like he was stalling. Maybe he didn’t want to go out in the cold.
“Is your car in the parking lot?” she asked.
“No, it’s across the street.”
“I can let you out the front door, it’s a bit closer.”
She pulled the key from her pocket and walked over, unlocked the door and pushed it open for him. Tony stopped next to her. Acutely aware of the close proximity of his body, her legs became rubbery. Shit, she was in such trouble around this man. Doing all she could not to stare at his face gave her two alternatives: to stare at his chest or to turn away. The latter was not an option and she felt like a fool staring at his chest. “Should I call if I remember anything?” she asked before realizing he’d already said that. What a moron. She bit her lower lip and peeked up at him, maybe he hadn’t noticed her stupidity.
The smoothest smile she had ever seen crossed his face, and his black eyes crinkled at the corners. The moonlight through the door highlighted their glint. “Maybe you should just call.” He winked and walked out the door.
Still smiling when he entered the cold car, Tony barely registered the chilled leather seat. He already missed the warmth inside the café. No, he missed the warmth of Keeva. A rumble, like a volcano erupting, had risen in him and a deepening urge to stay with her had grown the longer he had sat in the café.
Pressing his head against the car seat, he closed his eyes. “Get a grip. She’s just a woman like any other.” No sooner had the words slipped from his mouth than his conscience pricked him telling him he was a liar. She was not like any other woman. Tonight she had run into a darkened alley, chasing off a lunatic to save Madison and Todd. Add calm, cool and beautiful to brave, she added up to be one special lady.
He sighed. He still had a job to do. He opened his laptop and found the message with Mac Ryan’s address. He figured Keeva would call to warn her brother if she knew he was going to interview Mac, so he had held back the information. A tinge of guilt crept through him, and he suddenly felt sorry for the deception. He pushed back an urge to run back and tell her the truth and was surprised at his sudden remorse. Lying to catch the bad guys was a norm for him and he had never felt guilty before.
Several minutes later, he walked through the maze of two-story apartments. His flashlight lighting the walkway, he found the apartment marked 115 and pressed the bell.
Pressing the bell a second time, he stepped back to wait. The apartments sat on the edge of town, allowing Tony a nice view of the vast sky dotted with hundreds of stars. He rang the bell again. He heard a bang, followed by a few muffled curses, and then the door cracked open. A man appeared at the door wearing only a pair of jeans. His hair, though shorter, stuck out in the same wild curls as Keeva’s.