(To read from the beginning go Here.)
“No. I’ll be fine. I can stay here with Jilly.”
Erik looked her up and down, her calisthenics with the window earlier clearly had him peg her as a nervous Nellie, but she had her pride. “I’ve got a pal. He’s a cop. he’ll come over and keep you girls safe while I’m gone.”
Relief burbled through Anne though she hated to admit it even to herself. She busied herself with cleaning up the mess from the lemons. “Whatever makes you comfortable.”
He did not move for a moment, but Anne could not bring herself to meet his gaze.
“It’ll be okay.”
Tears pricked her eyes, and she dashed at them. All she managed to do was get lemon juice in her eyes. With a little cry she rushed to the sink. Who was she trying to kid? She was no intrepid sleuth, no girl Friday, no Lacey Carew. She just wanted the nightmare to be over. She wanted Carol to call and say it had all been a horrible mistake.
Erik placed a tentative arm around her shoulders. How easy it would be to lose herself in the security of strong arms and broad shoulders. When she didn’t pull away he turned her toward him and cradled her head in the hollow of his throat.
His finger curled into the hair at the nape of her neck. “Once I get these papers to the office, they’ll have to take this case seriously. I’ll have more resources and we’ll nail these guys.”
Anne pulled back just a step. “Sorry about that, I got some lemon juice in my eye.”
Their gazes locked for a long minute. His Adam’s apple bobbed. He lowered his mouth toward hers. Anne’s eyes began to drift closed. Then like a dog reaching the end of its chain he stopped short.
He cleared his throat. With an awkward jerky motion he plucked a bit of non-existent fuzz from her cheek. “I better go call Tom.”
He spun on his heel leaving Anne to bang her forehead with the heel of her palm. Good grief she was turning into a goofball. What had gotten into her? Somehow she had slipped out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie and into a Technicolor romantic farce.
She woke Jilly, and by the time she had taken the time to wash her face and brush her hair, Erik’s buddy had arrived. Introductions were completed with a minimum of fuss, and Erik was out the door with the precious evidence.
Tom settled in front of the radio, with his feet up on the coffee table. Unsettled and edgy, Anne retreated to the kitchen to brew more coffee. Jilly cornered her as she spooned grounds into the percolator.
“Anne, I’ve got to get to rehearsal.”
Anne blinked and spilled some of the coffee. “You’ve got to be kidding. Have you forgotten that you were kidnapped last night?”
“I haven’t forgotten. It’s all extremely vivid, thank you very much. I haven’t stopped shaking since last night, and my ankle is killing me, but this role is my shot at the big time. I’m not going to throw it away.”
“It’s not safe. They know where you work.”
“It would be safe if we took Tom with us.”
Anne sighed. She had no desire to go all the way down to the theater. “I’ll tell you what. You take Tom with you and I’ll stay here.”
“They don’t have any reason to think that I’d be here, so I should be safe enough.”
Jilly seemed to consider. “You sure?”
“Yeah, I’m sure.” And becoming surer by the minute. Some time alone might be just the chance she needed to wrap her head around all that had happened. “Go work your magic on Tom.”
It took even less time for beautiful Jilly to wrap the cop around her finger than Anne had expected. The coffee hadn’t come to a boil before they were out the door with scarcely a toodle loo.
Anne checked the locks on every door and window in the apartment then settled in the spot Tom had vacated. The radio continued to babble and she got up to turn it off. She resumed her seat. The wall clock ticked on and on in monotonous drudgery. When had it become so loud.
She tried to marshal her thoughts. There were things that just didn’t add up. Why for instance would they try so hard to get those papers back unless there were more to them than just the type of paper? Surely they could have moved operations. Murder and kidnapping had only drawn more attention to them.
Her thoughts twisted in on themselves spinning and swirling away like overcooked spaghetti. She stood and paced the room. Back and forth, back and forth. As monotonous as the ticking clock.What she needed was something to distract her. Something else on which she could focus. And she knew just the thing. She had to get cracking on The Mystery in the Mango Grove. Just like Jilly, this was her big break. Or at least it could be. The only problem was that her typewriter was upstairs in her apartment.