Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 25

(To read from the beginning go Here.)

One eye still on Handsome in case he turned rabid again, Anne turned to the icebox. She extracted two Coke bottles and slid them onto the table.

Handsome continued to stare into the middle distance, his head wobbling in steady denial. More confident now, she rummaged for the bottle opener. There was more to all this than they had realized. There must be. Things weren’t adding up. Or rather, it was like trying to add three and five and coming up with the answer purple.

She popped the cap off the Coke and handed it to Handsome. He blinked slowly and then set down the gun to accept the bottle. He turned the bottle up and took a swig. Anne slid the gun toward her and then scooped it into her lap. He made no move to stop her. He seemed coated in a layer of cement that made his movement stiff and heavy, dulled his features and turned him a little grey.

She opened her own Coke and gulped some down. The fizz worked to loosen her vocal chords. She spoke in the soothing, but slightly authoritative tone of a school nurse. “Let me tell you what I know.”

His eyes rose from inspection of the formica table and focused on her face. “Do you know what’s going on? What happened to Carol?”

Anne poured out the tale of her lunch with Carol and all that had happened since. As she spoke, she could see the gears of his mind creaking back to life. Muscles bunched and tightened in his shoulders and he leaned toward her across the table.

“You’re sure she never left East Orange?’

Anne shook her head.

He whipped his hat off and ran his fingers through his hair, setting it on end. “I should have known something was wrong when she didn’t telegraph that she’d arrived safe. I just thought she was being cautious.”

Anne captured his gaze. “Now, you need to tell me what you know. Everything. Let’s start with your name.”

“You’ll help me nail him to the wall?”

“We’ll get him.”

Red-rimmed his eyes as he nodded. “My name is Tom Deschamps. It started about six months ago. This guy, Rick Armstrong, approached me about doing a little job for him.”

“Hands up!” Bellowed commands filled the kitchen as the swinging door exploded inward. “Get down.”

The clock sprang from it moorings and shattered on impact with floor.

Anne ducked, flinging her hands over her head.

Tom’s chair was overturned with him still in it and two men swarmed over him. Strong hands pulled Anne to her feet. The gun in her lap clattered to the floor. One of the men snatched it up and thrust it in a pocket. A dark suit bustled her into the living room.

“You okay?”

Trembling, Anne looked up into Erik’s eyes. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Secure.” Someone called from the kitchen.

A deep V puckered beneath his eyebrows. “Saving your tail.”

“You’re too late for that.”

“What do you mean by that? Don’t try to tell me you were having a chat with a neighbor. You’re not even supposed to be up here.”

Anne put her hands on her hips. “Who are those guys?”

“Agents. We’re taking you into protective custody.”

Three men hustled Tom from the kitchen. His hands were cuffed behind him, and from the swelling around his eye, he was going to have one doozy of a shiner.

Anne shook her head. “What if I say he has nothing to do with this?”

Scowling furiously, Erik took her arm, forcing her to look at him. “Does he or not?”

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