Authors: Maddie Cochere
Windy City Hunter
by Maddie Cochere
Copyright 2012 by Maddie Cochere.
All rights reserved, which includes the right to reproduce this book or portions therof in any form whatsoever except as provided by US copyright Law.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Amazon.com and purchase a copy for yourself. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used factiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or the publisher.
Jacket design by Gillian Soltis of Columbus, Ohio
Detective Bentley’s blood pressure was on the rise as he paced the hallway of the unfamiliar police station. Chicago was the last place he wanted to be two weeks before Christmas. He had no clout here, and his demands for answers had only served to further aggravate the officers on duty.
It was past midnight, and he still didn’t know where Susan and Darby were being held. Worse, he didn’t know which one of them was being charged with murder. He stopped for a moment to rub his temples in an effort to alleviate the throbbing. A quick glance to the main doors showed near blizzard conditions outside.
Great. Just Great.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Two days earlier …
A creased map of Chicago was spread across my lap, and I was desperately trying to figure out where we were. A mandatory detour at the bottom of the exit ramp, and we suddenly found ourselves on the west side of the interstate rather than the east. We had lost all sense of direction and appeared to be in a less-than-desirable neighborhood. Most of the buildings were run down and splattered with graffiti. An entire block of buildings had been boarded over. The two gas stations we had already passed were abandoned and their pumps removed.
It was snowing heavier now, and an anxious feeling started to build in my chest. We were only thirty minutes from the condo, but I had to pee again, and I couldn’t wait that long. I hated this part of pregnancy. My bladder had become the size of a peanut.
The drive from Carbide City, Ohio, to downtown Chicago, was only six and a half hours, but with one lunch break and three pee breaks so far, we had already been on the road for almost eight hours. The detour was yet another delay.
The gps system in Darby’s car had been stuck on
ever since we hit a huge pothole in Toledo. Hoping for a different result, I turned it on and tried again. “Recalculating, recalculating,” droned from the device in an aggravated female voice. I punched the off button.
“Darby, we’re going to be murdered,” I said. My voice was snappish, and I couldn’t hide my fear. “You hear about it all the time. People get off the interstate and end up in the wrong neighborhood. They’re found days later with gunshots in their heads.”
“Don’t be silly,” he said with a chuckle. “Those are urban legends, and we’re not going to be murdered. We just need to make our way east. Help me read the street sign at the next intersection, and then try again to find where we are on the map.”
I peered through the snow to read the crooked sign as we drove past. “Hasselhoff Street,” I said. “How did David Hasselhoff get a street named for him here?”
A loud laugh erupted from him, and he asked, “How did you get Hasselhoff from Harrisburg?”
His laughter was infectious, and I started to laugh with him. “I don’t know. It looked -”
My voice died in my throat as a gunshot rang out. I instinctively leaned forward to duck below the windshield, but my seatbelt locked from the quick movement, and I could only lean forward about three inches. I frantically pulled and clawed at the belt in an effort to release it. I was aware I was making whimpering noises.
“Susan, what in the world are you doing?” Darby asked with a look that let me know he was nearing laughter again, and my seatbelt debacle was entertaining to him.
“Darby Tapley! That was a gunshot! One of us could have been killed!” My voice conveyed my terror, but his expression didn’t change. “What’s so funny?” I asked. “This isn’t funny, and you’re starting to make me mad. We haven’t even been gone one day, and already we’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, and someone is shooting at us, and I can’t hold this much longer. If you don’t want a wet seat, you need to get us out of here. Please.” My voice was now one of desperation.
“Are you done?” he asked with a broad smile. “That wasn’t a gunshot. It was a backfire from a car that passed us going in the other direction. We’re fine, and if you’d look at the map and find Harrisburg, or …” he focused on the next street sign, “Townsend, we’d know which way to go.”
I felt foolish, but I was still scared and more than a little irritated he found my fear humorous. I resumed searching the map, and a few seconds later, I was able to give him directions. “Turn left onto Duquesne and left again on Broad. Broad is a main street and should run us back over by the interstate.”
Ten minutes later, we were pulling into a busy Quickie Foods, a gas station-food mart combination with a Check Casher store attached at one end.
We didn’t need gas, so Darby backed the car into a spot at the side of the lot. My seatbelt was off before he had the car in park, and I bolted across the parking lot for the food mart doors. The clerk behind the register glanced my way as I ran through the doorway, and I said one word to her, “Restroom.”
She smiled and pointed to an arrow almost directly over her head. Colorful blinking Christmas lights all around the outer edges made it hard to miss, and it clearly read in large letters: RESTROOMS. I shrugged my shoulders in embarrassment, flashed a smile her way, and rushed around the corner to a small hallway. I shoved the door open, and it banged the backside of a large woman who was waiting in line. A line! Of course there was a line.
The woman turned, scowled, and said, “Excuse me?”
“I’m so sorry,” I said sincerely as I began an explanation for my rudeness. “I didn’t mean to hit you with the door. I wasn’t thinking there would be a line, and I’m pregnant, and I was in such a hurry, and I’m sorry.”
The woman didn’t appear to accept my apology as she continued scowling, gave me an up-and-down once-over, and turned her back to me with a snort noise for emphasis. I did feel bad, but there was nothing I could do about it, and all of my concentration was necessary to keep my bladder in check.
Both toilets flushed at the same time, and several seconds later, a young girl emerged from one stall. It was quickly occupied by the next woman in line. It was probably only a minute later, but it seemed like ten before the second stall door opened, and an elderly woman came out. The next woman in line entered, and only the woman in front of me stood between me and relief.
A closer look around the small restroom showed it to be quite clean. The red and white checkered tiles on the floor and walls were bright and shiny. The sinks were clean, there were no paper towels on the floor, and the counters weren’t splashed and sloppy with water. I wondered if the building was new and how often someone was in here cleaning. Christmas music was being piped in, and there was an evergreen scent in the air.
I’m making a Christmas memory in the restroom at a gas station
flashed through my mind.
“What?” asked the woman in front of me. She had turned around and was facing me with an even worse scowl on her face.
“Excuse me?” I asked. She was in my space now, and I had no idea why she was addressing me.
“You’re making noises. You sound like a wounded puppy,” she said.
I must have been whimpering again. I really needed to get that in check before it became a habit. I felt my face turn red, and I said, “I’m sorry to be bothering you. I don’t mean to, but -”
“Go. Just go,” she said cutting me off and pointing to the open stall.
“Thank you. Thank you,” I said with relief and gratitude as I scurried in and shut the door.
Ten minutes later, I had a hot mocha cappuccino in hand and was climbing into the passenger seat of the car. There were a couple of bags of groceries and a gallon of milk from the food mart on the back seat, but Darby was nowhere to be seen. I could only surmise he was taking a turn in the restroom.
It was cold. The temperature was hovering right around freezing, which made the snow heavy, wet, and it was piling up fast. Salt trucks had been running up and down the interstate, but the roads here hadn’t been plowed yet, and they were going to be hard to navigate soon.
I settled back in my seat to watch people. Everyone seemed to be getting gas, and then running into the store for milk and other items to carry them through the possibly snowed-in weekend.
There was only one car parked in front of Check Casher. It was an old-school, boat of a Cadillac, and a guy was leaning against the passenger door. He was tall and lanky with dark hair, and he was wearing a bright red jacket, black jeans, and on his feet were black shoes with pink shoelaces. His look was unique, and he stood out as he leaned against the white car. I couldn’t help but watch him. Why was he just standing there? He had to be cold. His jacket didn’t look warm at all, and he didn’t have anything on his head.
Didn’t his mama teach him to dress for the weather?
I smiled at the thought. My mom would have had me bundled up in snowsuits all through high school if I wouldn’t have put my foot down when I was six and demanded to wear normal clothes like the other kids.
Before I could wonder any more about the guy, a man in a business suit came out of Check Casher and handed an envelope to him. He stood taller as he took the envelope and tucked it into his jacket. There was a quick verbal exchange between them. The guy pointed a finger in the man’s face as he spouted his words while the man in the suit barked something back and pushed the guy in the chest. Nothing more was said, and the guy with the pink shoelaces hustled around the corner of the building.
Well, that was fun to watch, but what was Darby doing? He should have been back to the car by now. The cold was starting to seep beneath my clothing, and I was uncomfortable. I took another sip of my cappuccino before surveying the lot and surrounding buildings again. There was still no sign of him, but a man hunched down in a small black car caught my eye. He was holding a map in front of his face, but it was obvious he was peering above it and watching the man in the suit who had just climbed into the white Cadillac, started it, and was slowly backing out of the parking space.
The man shoved the map aside onto the passenger seat, put his car in gear, and pulled out from his own spot. He was an attractive man with mussed brown hair, as though he had been running his hands through it. Several
days’ growth of facial hair added to an overall scruffy Jeffrey Dean Morgan look. As he drove past our car, he caught me staring at him. Before I had a chance to look away, he had his hand raised with two fingers up in a v-formation. I thought he was giving me the peace sign, but he quickly moved his fingers to his eyes and then he pointed them toward me. He was giving me the
I’m watching you
sign. What a jerk. He pulled out of the lot behind the man in the Cadillac.