Jamie Hill Triple Threat (6 page)

BOOK: Jamie Hill Triple Threat
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She looked out the window a moment longer and then turned to face him. “That sounds wonderful. But I’m afraid we’d never want to leave.”

It was dark and they couldn’t see each other’s face clearly, but he seemed to understand what she was telling him. He smiled and squeezed her arm. “The feeling is mutual. Maybe another time, then.”

“Yeah.” She settled back into her seat, and he removed his hand to drive them away.

Jack was a few blocks from
Crystal
’s building when he passed a convenience store and read a big sign advertising cigarettes on sale for three dollars and sixty-nine cents a pack. “Jesus,” he muttered, “when I quit smoking, I'd been paying forty-eight cents, plus two cents tax, for a pack. I can’t believe…” He trailed off and looked sharply at
Crystal
. “I thought there was something different about you today. You quit smoking?”

“Yeah,” she smirked. “When my pack ran out. I can usually make a carton last until payday, but it’s been an exceptionally stressful week.”

“I’d say,” Jack agreed.

“Man, if smokes were fifty cents a pack today, I’d be in clover," she mused. "My clothes might still be wet at the Laundromat, but I’d have damn cigarettes.”

Jack pulled into the next convenience store he passed and looked over at her. “Are you going to buy smokes on payday?”

“You bet I am. I know I need to quit, but that’s probably not going to happen during the week I discover a dead body and become a surrogate mother all at once.”

He put the truck in park and shut it off. “What kind do you want? I’m going to get you a carton.”

“Nah, you don’t have to do that,” she protested, but Jack grabbed her hand.

“Crys, if you’re going to buy them on Monday anyway, then what’s the point of waiting? You’ll probably feel better tomorrow if you have them.”

“I’m sure I will. Generic extra lights will be fine. I buy whatever’s cheap.”

He grinned. “Those are like smoking air, anyway. Okay, I’ll be right back.”

Crystal
smiled and he went into the store. Returning a few minutes later, he carried two bags full of stuff. He put the bags in the back of the truck, and returned to his seat with one pack of cigarettes.

“If those bags were full of cigarettes, I’m set,” she told him.

Jack grinned and pulled one smoke out of the pack. He puffed on it to light it, and handed it to
Crystal
. “There you go, babe. Knock yourself out.”

She took it and inhaled, lowering her window partway to release the smoke. She exhaled and murmured, “God, Jack, you’re my hero.”

He chuckled, and headed to her apartment building.

“So what was in the bags?” she inquired.

“Just a few things to hold you over until you get to the store. Kids need milk and juice and stuff.”

“I know they do,” she muttered. “I’m doing the best I can.”

“Yes, you are,” he answered gently. “I wasn’t trying to offend you, I just wanted to help.”

Crystal
sighed and tossed her cigarette butt out the window. They were back in the real world, and there was Ralph lurking in the doorway to her building.

Jack pulled into a no-parking zone in front and glanced back at the sleeping boys. “Why don’t we carry them up, and I’ll come back for the pizza and stuff?”

“Okay.”
Crystal
suddenly very tired. She got out of the truck and snagged one piece of pizza from the full box. “Hey Ralph.” She handed it to him. “Keep an eye on Detective Dunlevy’s Explorer, will you?”

“Yeah. Hey, Crystal, thanks! Sure I will.” He nibbled on the pizza as he slunk back into the shadows.

Jack picked up Mark while she hefted
Devon
onto her shoulder. They headed into the building. Once they were up one flight of stairs, Jack asked in an amused voice, “What do we think Ralph’s going to do if someone tries to screw with my truck?”

Crystal
chuckled. “Probably run away pretty fast. But he’ll holler first, and hopefully the noise will scare whomever off.”

“Like the noise from my car alarm might?”

Crystal
paused and looked down at him. “You have a car alarm? You might have said something.”

Jack nudged her arm and they continued up to the third floor. “What, and shatter all the mystery on our first date? I’ve got to save a little something for next time.”

Crystal
had to stop again to laugh. “Damn, Jack, you slay me. You really do.”

“I try, sweetheart.” He gave her butt a gentle nudge this time.

Devon
was dead weight and she knew Mark had to be as well. “I’m going, I’m going.” She gave a big yawn and went up the last flight of stairs.

“Where are we putting these guys?” he asked.

“We’ve been sleeping at their place, so they can be in their own beds. I guess we’ll go there.” She pulled her keys from her pocket and unlocked Dave’s door. She hit the wall switch and looked around. Everything was just as she left it. “Guess no Dave yet.” She went to the bedroom and settled
Devon
gently on his bed.

Jack settled Mark in the other bed, and slowly removed the boy’s jacket.
Crystal
did the same to
Devon
, and covered both boys with their blankets. She pulled their door partially shut and clicked on the little night light in the hall.

Jack looked around. “I’d like to go through this place, see if there’s anything that might help me.”

“Not while the boys are here.”
Crystal
shook her head. “Do you suppose you could do it while they’re in school?”

“Sure.” He nodded, still looking around.

“I can give you a key,” she said.

“Where do you sleep?”

She motioned to the next bedroom. “Dave’s room.” Jack gave her a pointed look and she shrugged. “I changed the sheets.”

He smiled and leaned against the wall. “So were you and Dave…?”

Crystal
looked at him, and leaned back against the other wall. “Is this for the investigation?”

“Do you see my notebook?”

She tossed him a look over her shoulder and wandered to safer territory in the living room. “When Dave and I first met, yeah, we slept together. Then I found out that he slept with every woman he met, and probably a few he didn’t even know. But it was when I caught him boinking an off-duty hooker while the boys watched TV in the next room that I really wised up. I went and had myself tested for everything imaginable, and decided it was time for some self-imposed celibacy.”

“How’s that working for you?” Jack gave her a devilish grin.

She grinned back and shrugged. “Things have been better. Things have been worse. But at least I know I’m not contagious.”

“So your tests came out okay?”

She looked at him again. “This for the investigation?”

“You know it’s not.”

She raised her eyebrows and walked over to the door. “Got your second wind to run down and get that pizza?”

“Only if I don’t have to run.” He headed out.

“Hey Jack?”

“Yeah?” He stopped and looked at her.

“Just so you know, my tests came out perfect. I like to tease, but I’d never tease about a subject like that.”

He let his eyes run up and down her body once, then shook his head. “Perfect, eh? Pretty much what I expected. Be right back.”

She watched him as he headed down the stairs, and when he returned she had her apartment door open and led him inside. “We’ll keep the food at my place. When Dave shows up, he’s buying his own stuff.”

He unloaded the bags of food into her refrigerator.

“Jesus, Jack.” She lit a cigarette nervously. “You didn’t have to buy all that.”

He stuck in the two pizza boxes and closed the fridge door. “You’ve got two growing boys to feed. This won’t last long.” He took a step toward her and she stepped backward, puffing on her smoke.

“Don’t I know it,” she agreed. “So, will you call me when you find out anything about Dave?”

“Absolutely, and I want you to call me if he shows up. I don’t care what time it is.”

“I couldn’t do that,” she said hesitantly.

“I’m going to be up late working this information into the system anyway. If he turns up, I really want to know. Promise you’ll call me.”

“Okay,” she agreed. “But I hate to think of you losing sleep over me, Jack.”

He looked her up and down again. “It won’t be the first time.” He looked into her eyes longingly.

Crystal
sensed he wanted to kiss her, and the thought made her nervous as hell. She took a step toward the door to get out of his range. “I’d better get back to the boys. I guess I’ll be talking to you.”

“You will,” he nodded. “You definitely will.”

She smiled as he watched her close and lock her apartment door, then step into Dave’s place. “Good night Jack. Thanks again, for everything. It was a great day.”

“Yeah, it was. You’re welcome. Lock the door.”

She grinned and saluted him, and closed the door between them.

“Lock it!” he called out.

“I did! Go home.”

He rattled the door. “Piece of crap lock.”

Crystal
chuckled. “Go home, Jack. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight Crys,” he said softly.

She heard his footsteps on the stairs, and sighed.

 

* * * *

 

She talked to Jack again late Sunday afternoon.

“Have you eaten?” he asked before saying hello.

“God, yes. We’ve done nothing but eat all day long. It’s nice to be full.”

“I thought maybe I’d bring over hamburgers.”

“We have food, we’re good. But thanks.”

“I know, I just thought you might like to hear what I found out today.”

“Damn, you work fast! Yeah, I would. Come on over, but don’t worry about the hamburgers.”

“What, did you get a better offer or something? Did Dave show up and take you all out to Red Lobster?”

She laughed and realized she wanted to see him. “Okay, I won’t argue with you. Bring hamburgers if you want, and fries. Lots of fries. Who cares if I can’t fit into my clothes from stuffing myself so much?”

“I don’t believe you have to worry. I’ll be there in half an hour with hamburgers and lots of fries.”

“Cheeseburgers?” she added, trying to sound timid.

“If that’s what you want.”

Crystal
smiled to herself. “Thanks. See you soon.” She hung up the phone and continued smiling as she tidied up her apartment. The boys were playing a game, and she kibitzed over their shoulders until she heard the knock on her door.

She opened it and smiled at the delivery man. She was definitely warming up to the way he looked in his tight, faded jeans and that worn leather jacket.  “Mmm, cheeseburgers.”

“And fries. Lots of fries.” His smile and the quick sparkle that flashed in his dark eyes led her to believe he wasn’t exactly sorry to see her, either. Before she could expand on that theory, he looked past her and said, “Hey guys. Hungry?”

“Yes!” Both boys responded, and helped him carry the sacks to the table. She poured milk for the boys and water for herself and Jack. They sat down together and ate. He asked them about their day, told about his. It was such a normal thing, sharing like a family. The situation clutched at
Crystal
’s heart. She ached for life to feel as normal as that moment did.

The boys washed up and they returned to the living room to finish their game.

Crystal
said softly, “It’s going to be hard to talk with them awake.”

Jack nodded and stretched back in his chair. “That’s why I thought we’d talk after they’ve gone to bed.”

She looked at the clock. It was barely six-thirty. “They don’t turn in until eight-thirty on school nights. And I need to give them baths.”

He shrugged and gathered the fast food wrappers into one bag. “Sounds fine. I’m in no hurry.”

Crystal
watched him clean up, wondering if this guy was for real. She stepped to the window and opened it a crack. She lit a cigarette and puffed as she continued to watch him.

“What are you playing?” He strolled into the living room and looked over Mark’s shoulder.


Sorry.
Crystal
cheats. She doesn’t make
Devon
go back when she knocks him off,” the older boy replied.

Jack shook his head and stretched out on the floor between them. “That’s just plain wrong. Why don’t you start over, and I’ll play?”

“Sure!” Mark cleared the board and set it up for a new game. “You playing,
Crystal
?” he called to her.

“Not if you’re afraid I’m going to cheat.” She puffed her cigarette.

BOOK: Jamie Hill Triple Threat
4.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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