Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 31

(To read from the beginning go Here.)

If Rick flattened Tom, what would she do? On the other hand, if she intervened it would definitely blow her cover. Anne bit back a grimace. Maybe she could draw her attention to herself another way.

She backed away slowly, as if she were trying to avoid notice. A quick jab of her elbow and a table lamp landed with a satisfying crash on the floor. It’s porcelain base turned into a grenade as it smashed, sending shards of china flying in every direction.

Both men turned to her. Rick grabbed for her arm and she snatched it back, whirling for the door. Please God, let Erik have gotten the bugs in place. Her fingers brushed the knob before he tackled her. She crumpled and the momentum carried her forward. Her forehead slammed into the heavy wooden door and she crumpled to the floor.

A million camera flashes exploded before her eyes. Dazed, she blinked and raised shaky fingers to her forehead. They came away splotched with blood. She could feel it trickling down the side of her face.

Rick hauled her to her feet but for some reason she couldn’t seem to make her legs cooperate. Her knees were about as rigid as cooked spaghetti. Her train of thought hadn’t just been derailed it’d been blown up. She tried to think. She had to ask Rick something. Desperately she dredged through the jumbled contents of her brain.

He nudged her back into a chair and she collapsed gratefully. Frowning furiously, Tom handed her his handkerchief and she dabbed at the gash.

“Don’t move.” Rick’s glare pinned her to the seat, not that she could have moved anyway. He crossed to the liquor cabinet and poured himself a stiff drink.

That was it. She had to make him admit to killing Carol. A flash of pride at recovering the lost information fueled the return of her ability to speak, even if the words did feel a little mushy as they exited her mouth. “You gonna kill me like you did Carol?”

Tom’s gaze skittered from her to Rick and back again.

Rick’s sneer was eloquent. “You’re certainly asking for it as much as she did.” He swigged the last of his booze. “But first you’re going to get me those papers.”

Tom’s fingers flexed in and out, bunching into fists and releasing. “Are you saying that you did kill Carol?” His tone had a strangled quality to it.

“I don’t know why you’re wasting so much effort on that broad. She was going to betray you. Betray us. You’re better—”

An animal cry erupted from Tom and he dove at his former employer. Rick toppled sideways but as they grappled he quickly gained the upper hand.

Anne found her feet and stood. She couldn’t tear her eyes away from the brawl.

They gained their footing again and separated, circling one another like boxers trading jabs.

Anne glanced around for a weapon of some kind. If Tom started to lose again, she needed to be able to help. No way was she going to let Rick get the upper hand again.

At last, Tom landed a good solid uppercut and Rick staggered back a pace. He leaned against the liquor cabinet shaking his head and blinking as if he were as dazed as she had been a moment ago.

Anne gulped in a relieved breath. But something was wrong.

A sly smirk flashed across Rick’s face.

She stepped forward, hand outstretched.

Too late.

Rick’s arm swung back out toward Tom, only this time it was holding a whiskey bottle.

The bottle connected solidly against Tom’s temple and he slumped to the floor.

Anne scrambled to his side. “You didn’t have to do that.”

Rick nudged the fallen man with the toe of his shoe. “He’s becoming more trouble than he’s worth.”

He grabbed her arm and dragged her into the hall. “Harry!”

No response. He stalked to a door and pulled it open. Inside Anne caught a glimpse of a narrow staircase leading down into a cement-floored basement. The rumble of some kind of machinery floated up to them.

“Hey, Harry!”

The machinery ground to a halt. “Yeah, Boss?”

“Get up here and keep an eye on Tom. I’ll be back in a few hours.”

“Sure thing.”

“And, Harry.”

“Yeah Boss?”

“Don’t let him leave. He’s not a friendly anymore.”

Dear, Lord. Where were the Secret Service agents? Why weren’t they swarming the place?

Rick’s grip on her arm tightened again. It was going to be black and blue in the morning. Providing she survived until morning. He propelled her out the front door.

She glanced down both ways down the street but couldn’t see either of the vehicles that were supposed to have agents in them.

Where were they?

The pea sized ball of fear that lay in her stomach all evening suddenly blossomed and sprouted shoots that twined around her heart and lungs constricting until it was hard to breathe. She was being silly. They were there somewhere. Right where they were supposed to be. Of course they couldn’t be easily seen, that would defeat the purpose. Erik was there, somewhere in the darkness. Watching and waiting.

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