Home for the Holidays (Siren Publishing Classic) (8 page)

BOOK: Home for the Holidays (Siren Publishing Classic)

And then he turned and walked away.

“I intend to.”


* * * *


Nelly climbed up into the driver’s seat of the truck. It wasn’t easy. She would insist Jack add running boards so she could get in by herself. Then she had to pull the seat forward. Jack was over six feet tall. She was five four. Even with the seat pulled all the way forward she could barely reach. Luckily, she knew how to drive a stick shift.

She was going to toss her phone in her purse when it buzzed. She checked. She had fifteen messages, twelve of them from her assistant. What could be so important? Well, whatever it was, it could wait. Just then, her phone rang again. She looked at the caller ID. It was the office. She turned off the phone and tossed it into her purse.

It was only a five-minute drive to the police station. She drove into the visitors’ lot. Luckily there was a nice big spot available at the end. She pulled in and then hopped out of the truck and locked it behind her.

She stomped into the front door of the police station and went up to the front counter. It was a small station. There were two counters, just one of them staffed, and a closed door beside the nearest counter which she assumed was how people were granted entrance to the inner sanctum.

“I’m here to see Jack O’Dell. I understand from Detectives Clouder and Ramirez he was brought here for questioning.”

The uniformed desk sergeant looked at her and then down at his computer screen. He typed in a few words.

“Yes, O’Dell. It might be a while. You can sit over there and wait or come back tomorrow.” He then went back to what he was doing before she arrived.

She didn’t move, staring daggers at him.

“Yes?” he inquired, a sarcastic edge to his voice.

“I said I wanted to see Jack O’Dell and I want to see him now. I’m his lawyer and if you don’t take me in to see him, I’ll be calling a judge and pressing charges. You understand me?” She glared at him, almost daring him to fluff her off again.

He looked at her again and swallowed hard. He picked up the phone and punched in a few numbers. “It’s Sergeant Monroe on the front desk. O’Dell’s lawyer just showed up. No, I can’t put her off. Can someone come out here to escort her back to see her client?” He paused. “I understand. I’ll tell her.” He put the phone down. “Please have a seat. Someone will be out shortly.”

She looked at him, and just then, the door opened and an older couple came out. The woman was crying and the man looked angry as he stopped to comfort the woman. Nelly took the opportunity to slip in the still-open door and make her way into the station.

There were a number of desks. She looked around for a familiar face. Sergeant Monroe ran up to her, horrified. “You can’t be back here without an escort.”

“Do you think I am stupid, Sergeant? You were told to put me off and delay me as long as you could. Consider your role complete. Now just point me to where they have Jack and you can get back to your desk.”

She looked at him. He looked miserable but pointed toward the back. He nodded to a junior officer who was sitting back and enjoying watching Nelly intimidate his superior officer. “Wipe that smirk off your face, Andrews, and take Miss O’Malley back to the interrogation area. Keep an eye on her until you hand her off to Clouder and Ramirez.

The young officer hid a grin and then led her to a door. He held it open and followed her through. She could see that there were two doors on each side. She assumed one door on each side was the interrogation room and one was the viewing room. Officer Andrews opened the first door on the right and held it for her. She could see Clouder and Ramirez looking back at her.

She ignored the open door and walked to the second door on the right and flung it open. Jack was sitting at the table, in handcuffs that were attached to a long chain attached to the floor. She avoided looking at him for now. She had to stay focused on the business at hand. But she could see that his head was bowed. When he heard her voice, he looked up briefly and then looked down again, at his chained hands, the colour rising in his face. With him were two plain-clothed detectives.

“Detectives Smith and Durance, I’m guessing.” They both nodded warily. And there was a commotion as Ramirez and Clouder followed her into the interrogation room.

She ignored them.

“I’m Jack O’Dell’s lawyer. You’ll have to cease your interrogation immediately.” Jack’s head came up suddenly. He looked at her.

“Mr. O’Dell isn’t under arrest. We just wanted to ask him a few questions.”

“And do you always handcuff people who aren’t under arrest?”

Smith, or maybe it was Durance, had the grace to colour slightly. “He’s a big man and he made threatening gestures. We felt it was safer for all of us. After all, if he hit a cop, he’d be charged with assault on a police office, a very serious crime.”

“Ahh. You handcuffed him for his own good.” She pulled out her cell phone and photographed the cuffs and chain. Durance, or maybe it was Smith, made a move to grab the phone, but Clouder stepped in.

“Do you have to do that?”

“Do you have to handcuff someone who you say isn’t under arrest?” Clouder nodded and Ramirez came around and removed the cuffs. Jack stretched and rubbed his wrists. He was now watching Nelly very closely.

“And did you read him his rights? Did you give him a phone call?”

She could see from the looks that they cops exchanged that they hadn’t.

“Like we said, he wasn’t under arrest. He was just brought in for questioning as a ‘person of interest.’”

“Bullshit. Do you always handcuff ‘persons of interest’? I could have your badges over this. Maybe I will, just for the fun of it.” She whipped around quickly and pointed at Ramirez. “And don’t you think of taking my phone and erasing those photos. Or I’ll be after your badge too. All this man did was be a Good Samaritan. And you treat him like this.”

“This ‘Good Samaritan’ had means and opportunity to sabotage your car.”

“But what was his motive?”

“He wormed his way into your favour pretty quickly. Maybe he didn’t want to kill you…just shake you up a bit. He’d be the big hero when he rescued you.”

“And how would he even know I’d stop for gas? Or did you think he sent all his staff home and hung around the pumps on a rainy afternoon before Thanksgiving on the off chance a single female would need gas and stop by. Oh, and that female would then use the restroom, giving him a chance to sabotage her car. And if that were the case, why would he cut both the power steering and brake lines? Surely one would be enough to cause me car trouble. In fact, why cut either line? Wouldn’t putting a slow leak in one of the tires be a more effective way to cause me car trouble without risking my life? Or maybe you think he wanted me dead because he has a thing for corpses?”

The cops all blanched at her words, as she built her case for Jack’s innocence. With her last words, she could see that she’d won, so she could afford to be gracious.

“As the person driving the car that was sabotaged, I really do appreciate your efforts to find out who tried to hurt me, but it’s not this man.”

Just then, there was a knock and Officer Andrews hurried in. It really was getting crowded in the interrogation room.

“I thought you’d want to hear this right away. It’s the city cops. I’ll put them on speaker phone.”

After the requisite greetings, Detective Singh told them what they’d discovered. “We checked out the parking spot Miss O’Malley said she parked in. There are definitely traces of brake and steering fluid on the ground and filings from the lines themselves. We figure that’s where the sabotage happened.”

“Do they have any suspects?” asked Clouder.

“As a matter of fact, they mentioned a name. Lori Barker. She’s an admin assistant for—”

“Leo Abernathy,” interrupted Nelly. “It was his parking space I was using. It was Lori who told me I could. And I already told you that I saw his wife looking really upset when I was leaving.”

“Yes, it was Mrs. Abernathy who put us on the right trail. She’d suspected her husband was cheating on her and came into the office to get evidence while her husband was off golfing. She thought he was with his mistress, but he really was at the golf course this time, establishing an alibi as it turned out.

“You see it was Lori he was having the affair with. She wanted Nelly to park in Leo’s spot because she was single and her car was distinctive. She was trying to wind up Mrs. Abernathy so she’d blow up and everyone one would think it was her that sabotaged the car.”

“But why would anyone want to sabotage my car? It doesn’t make sense. And there was no guarantee I’d die in the crash. In fact, I walked away without a scratch.”

“That was her bad luck. She didn’t count on two things. One, the holes were too small, and you left the highway when the brakes and steering failed, and two, you were a really good driver. By the way, did Lori help you with the boxes?”

“Yes. We went down to my car at lunch time to load up the trunk. Then I went back to my office for an hour to finish some paperwork”

“Apparently, she saw that some of the papers you had packed and she was worried that when you looked at them closely, you’d realize what was up. They didn’t need you to die. Although that would have been a bonus because that would delay the investigation since no one else would likely have understood the significance of some of the papers you had.”

“A bonus? Really? I think I need to have a chat with Lori.”

Detective Singh cleared his throat. “Are you going to be her lawyer, too?”

“Hell no. I’m going to make sure the book is thrown at her. Stealing is bad enough, but attempted murder…”

“Don’t worry. We have plenty of evidence to make the charges stick. Apparently Mrs. Abernathy had her suspicions, too, and the evidence she collected to ensure a good divorce settlement will also ensure conviction on the embezzlement charges. Turns out hubby had a gambling problem and he’s broke. But the firm will give her a nice reward for turning all the evidence over to the police. She could have destroyed it because it makes her look bad because she suspected he was embezzling and didn’t turn her husband in, but when she found out that they’d tried to hurt you, she gave us everything.”

“I won’t represent Lori or Leo, but Mrs. Abernathy, I’d be happy to represent her pro bono.”

“No need. The firm has declined to prosecute and no way the DA is going after her when it’s Leo and Lori who are the two main villains of the piece. Although it looks like the attempted murder could have been all on Lori.

“Leo and Lori had been having an affair and doing some embezzlement from the company and they thought if you were found with those papers in your possession, that would distract everyone long enough for them to skedaddle with their ill-gotten gain. Making an anonymous call to Mrs. Abernathy to get her down to the office before you left could have been a genius diversion.”

“That explains why Lori stopped me to chat when I was leaving. She was trying to delay me. She must have been relieved when the elevator doors opened and Mrs. Abernathy got off as I was getting on.

Can my client and I go now?” The cops all nodded.

Hesitantly, Ramirez said, “There’s some paperwork, and we’ll need a statement from both of you, but that can wait until Monday.” She glared at him. “I mean Tuesday. Would Tuesday be okay?”

“Tuesday afternoon should be fine. Jack?”

He nodded.

“We’ll see you here on Tuesday. Detective Singh, if you would like a statement as well, I’d recommend you be there on Tuesday as well. I’m on vacation for the rest of the week and I don’t plan on leaving my boyfriend’s apartment until Sunday evening when I have to drive back to the city. Good day. Come, Jack.”

She reached down and took his hand and led him back to the door by the entrance. Sergeant Monroe had a box and a large bag beside him.

He cleared his throat.

“I have Mr. O’Dell’s personal belongings here. Sir, if you would just check to see that everything is in order and sign here.”

Jack took his shoes, belt, jacket and large paper bag. Then he looked in the paper bag and coloured slightly. “It looks like everything is here.” He wouldn’t meet the desk sergeant’s eyes, which was okay, since the desk sergeant was looking everywhere but at Jack.

Nelly was intrigued. She picked up the bag. Jack’s colour rose. She looked over at Sergeant Monroe, who also blushed and looked away. She smiled and turned to Jack.

“Well, what are you waiting for? Put your shoes on and let’s get out of here.”

They walked out to the parking lot in silence. She led him to where she’d parked his truck and handed him the keys. He looked at the truck and at her. Maybe her parking job wasn’t all that good after all. In fact, it was terrible. The truck was at an angle and took up two spots.

Biting his lip, Jack walked around to the passenger side and opened the door. He picked her up and placed her on the seat. Then he went to take the bag from her, but she hugged it close.

“These are all for me, I assume.”

He coloured again and nodded. Had he gone mute?

He shut her door and walked around to the driver’s side and got in. It was clear that he was distracted, or he would have realized that she had moved the seat forward. His banged his knees against the dash and swore. Then he reached down and unlocked the seat so he could move it back into position. Then he leaned over, strapped her in, and kissed her hard on the mouth. Then he did up his own seatbelt and put the truck in gear.

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