Lie or Die: A Shelby Nichols Adventure (10 page)

BOOK: Lie or Die: A Shelby Nichols Adventure
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“There is one more thing I need to ask you before I go,” I said. “Savannah and Josh are really looking forward to going to Orlando. I promised Savannah I’d talk to you today so we could book our vacation tonight. I can check with your secretary about the week we want to go, and make sure your schedule is clear. Is that all right?”

“Yeah, I guess so.” Chris tugged me out the door, thinking I could walk him to the food court. A sigh escaped him. He felt pushed into a corner about the vacation, but since he hadn’t been around much, it was probably his fault. Plus, he felt guilty for not spending much time lately with the kids or me, so it was probably the right thing to do. Who knew, it might even be fun.

I smiled, happy he was resigned to his fate. “I’ll go by your office on the way home and clear it with your secretary.”

“Okay,” he said. “By the way, how’s your ‘case of the stolen money’ going?”

“I’m making progress,” I said. “I’ll have to tell you about it when we have more time.”

“Okay.” He felt bad that he had been gone so much. “It’s a quick walk from here to the food court. Do you want to grab some lunch with us?” Chris didn’t think the others would mind, especially since they’d gone over everything they needed to cover in the trial for the rest of the day. 

“Sure. That would be nice,” I agreed, happy that he wasn’t ready to say goodbye. We entered the food court and got in line for a sandwich. Carrying our trays, we found the others, who were happy to make room for us.

“I’m glad you joined us,” Adam said to me. “It’s always nice to have a pretty face to look at. Helps with the digestion.” He was thinking I was like a breath of fresh air. This trial was getting to him. He couldn’t wait until it was over and he could breathe again.

I was surprised that none of the stress showed on his face. He didn’t want to think about the trial, so I asked him about his family. Mild curiosity about me came from David, but his thoughts centered mostly on our conversation.

It was time to leave before I knew it, and I walked with Chris toward the courthouse before taking a detour to his office. We said goodbye, and he was walking away when I heard it. Someone was thinking about Chris, and how he was the other lawyer they needed to take out. Unless he agreed to lose the case. He’d start with threats, but if that didn’t work, he’d hurt him lots worse than the other guy.

“Chris!” I called, my heart pounding. He glanced over his shoulder, hearing the panic in my voice. As he reached my side, the threatening thoughts faded into the distance. The person was gone…for now. “What’s wrong?” Chris asked.

“Someone was here,” I whispered. “Watching you. Thinking about taking you out. They’re going to threaten you first, give you some time to respond, but then they’re going to hurt you worse than they hurt Gary.” I clutched him. “Chris…I’m scared. This isn’t a joke.”

“I can see that,” he said, frowning. “At least it sounds like I have some time. I’ll be all right for now, but I’ve got to go. I can’t walk in there late.”

“Okay,” I said. “But watch your back, and if you can, try and figure out what is going on.”

He nodded, gave me a quick kiss, and rushed toward the courthouse. I watched until he disappeared inside, worry tightening my stomach. I had to find out what was going on. I had a feeling it had everything to do with Uncle Joey, and it made me mad.

Why did he always have to be involved in our lives? Although, for a change, this didn’t have anything to do with me, and upon further consideration, I was in the perfect position to get to the bottom of this. Uncle Joey or not, no matter what I had to do, or who I had to do it to, anyone threatening my man was going to be sorry.

 

 

Chapter 6

I entered Chris’ office and talked to his secretary about our plans for Orlando. We chatted about our vacation, and she was happy to clear his schedule for the week we wanted to go. Savannah would be thrilled.

That accomplished, I decided to pay a visit to Uncle Joey. He’d wonder why I was there, and I had to decide if I should tell him what I knew about the trial, or listen to his thoughts and figure it out that way. Of course, when I thought about it, I really didn’t know anything about the trial. And it was probably better to level with Uncle Joey, since we were on the same side anyway.

As I pulled into the parking garage, it suddenly occurred to me that Felt wasn’t following, and I didn’t have to worry about him. Yay! At least something had gone right today.

I got off the elevator on the twenty-sixth floor, and entered Thrasher Development. Jackie wasn’t at her desk, and I worried that I’d missed Uncle Joey. Maybe they were at lunch? I probably should have called first.

Trying to figure out what to do next, I was startled by a bulky figure ambling down the hall. Doug. Since Doug had taken over Ramos’ security job, maybe I could persuade Ramos to be my husband’s bodyguard once he came back. Of course, Chris would hate that. Probably Ramos would too.

“Hi, Shelby,” Doug greeted me. Caution was the only thing that filtered through his thoughts.

“Hi,” I said. It almost seemed like he was guarding them. Now why would he do that?

“Is Uncle Joey here?” I asked.

“No,” he answered quickly. “He and Jackie are gone somewhere.

“For lunch?”

“Yeah, for lunch.” He was thinking that I complicated things, but it… He cut his thoughts off with an effort. “They should be back soon. Do you want to wait?” He hadn’t meant to say that, but I flustered him.

“Sure, I’ll wait.”

He didn’t expect me to say that either. “Okay. You can wait in his office if you like.”

I shrugged. “Fine. Have you heard anything from Ramos?” I asked.

“No.” He was thinking
yes
, and when I raised my eyebrows, he changed his answer. “I mean yes…he’ll be back soon.”

“That’s great,” I said.

“Um…I’ve got to get back to my office.” He backed away from me, then turned and hurried down the hall. From what I could gather, he didn’t like being around me very much. Now why was that?

I turned in the opposite direction toward Uncle Joey’s office, and went inside. I liked the décor in here, and the view from the window was spectacular. After watching the people and traffic below without a sign of Uncle Joey, I decided to give him a call.

He answered after the first ring. “Shelby…what can I do for you?”

“I’m at your office,” I explained. “I need to talk to you about something. When do you think you’ll be back?”

“I’m on my way right now,” he said. “I’ll be there in about ten minutes.”

“Okay, see you then.” Knowing I had a few minutes, I decided to see if his safe was in the same place as it was before the re-model, and tugged on the landscape painting hiding it. I figured it would swing out. Instead, the painting practically flew off the wall. I reached out to grab it before it crashed, but the corner hit the floor, and a piece of the frame broke off.

Damn! At least the glass didn’t break…but still! I searched the floor for the broken piece, then got on my hands and knees to look under the couch. I finally found it lodged beneath the couch, and strained to reach it. With a grunt, I clasped it in my palm just as the door opened behind me.

A deep chuckle sounded. “Babe. What are you doing down there?” It was Ramos!

I scrambled to get up, chagrined that he caught me in such an embarrassing position. “I…a…accidentally knocked the painting off the wall. I’m just trying to put it back together before Uncle Joey gets here.”

“Let me see.” He held out his hand for the piece. With a red face, I plopped it in his palm, and turned to heft the painting onto the couch.

“It goes right there.” I pointed to the bottom corner. “Maybe we can fix it with some superglue, and he won’t know.”

“I won’t know what?” Uncle Joey said, coming into the room.

“You said ten minutes,” I blurted. He fixed a pointed stare at me. Oh great! Now I had to tell him the truth. “Um…that I accidentally knocked the painting off the wall, and the frame broke. But I can fix it. See…I just need to glue this piece in here…” I took the piece from Ramos, “and it will be good as new.” I pushed the piece into the corner and it held, but it looked pretty bad. It was easy to see it was broken. “Well…almost as good as new.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Uncle Joey said, his voice tinged with amusement. “Looking for the safe, huh?”

What could I say? “I was just wondering if it was still there.” I glanced at the wall. “Guess not.”

Uncle Joey’s lips twisted in amusement. Ramos was thinking that he hadn’t minded the view, and I gave him a dirty look. His eyes widened, and then he smiled even bigger. Yup…he was right, even if I wouldn’t admit it.

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t keep my exasperation from showing, so I quickly turned my back on him.

Uncle Joey put the painting back on the wall, thinking this wasn’t the first time it had fallen. He had the painting situated just right on the hanger, so that if someone moved it, it would fall off. That corner piece had broken several times now. He should probably get it fixed, except that he always knew if someone had moved it from how it looked after. Kind of like an alarm, only better, because he usually knew who had been in his office. And the look on my face…

“Argh!” I said, throwing my arms up. He knew I was listening, and I called him a few dirty names in my mind. Thank goodness he couldn’t ‘hear’ me.

“So…how come you’re in my office?” Uncle Joey asked.

“Doug told me to wait for you in here.”

“Doug?” Uncle Joey frowned. “He was here?”

“Yes,” I said cautiously. “Why?”

“Because I told him to clear out this morning. He was gone when I left to get Ramos from the airport. I wonder what was he doing back here?” He glanced at me. “Did you pick up anything from him?”

I glanced pointedly at Ramos, but he just grinned. Uncle Joey didn’t seem to notice, or care that Ramos was listening. I pursed my lips. I could play this game too. “He told me you and Jackie went to lunch, although now that I think about it, I insinuated that that’s where you were. He just kind of went along with it. He didn’t want to talk to me. After telling me to wait in your office, he hurried back to the security room.” There…I hadn’t given myself away.

Uncle Joey knew I hadn’t exactly answered his question. He turned to Ramos. “You’d better check the office and equipment for any kind of tampering.” Ramos nodded and left.

“Why did you fire Doug?” I asked.

“The guy who recommended him didn’t realize that Doug’s last employer was missing a few thousand dollars the day after Doug quit his job.”

“So Doug stole it?”

“He couldn’t prove it, but it looked that way to him.” Uncle Joey shrugged. “I don’t want anyone in my office that I can’t trust, especially with my security. So I had to let him go.” He paused, and pinned me with his gaze. “What was he thinking? You can answer now that Ramos is gone.”

I smirked, but it wasn’t worth arguing about. “That’s the strange thing. It was almost like he was guarding his thoughts. I know he didn’t like being around me. I flustered him. But that’s all I got. It’s too bad you didn’t wait until I was here before you fired him. I would have known if he really had stolen that money.”

Uncle Joey sighed. “It doesn’t matter now. He’s gone. Ramos is back. I don’t need anyone else.”

“Did Ramos find out anything in Seattle?”

“Only that Kate isn’t there.”

“Does he think she’s dead?”

“No,” Uncle Joey shook his head. “She was there, but she left about the same time Hodges was killed, and Ramos couldn’t find any trace of her.”

“That’s too bad,” I said. “Do you think she’d come back here?”

Uncle Joey huffed. “Not likely. She knows I want my money back. This is the last place she’d come. I guess I’ll have to hire a good private investigator to find her. You know anyone?” He thought maybe I’d want the job, since I had my own agency.

“Oh no…I don’t want the job. My agency is a consulting agency, not a private investigator thing. There is this guy who’s been following me though. He might take the job.”

“You mean that same guy from the Museum Gala that Chris used your stun gun on?” He chuckled with derision. “I don’t think so. Why is he following you?”

“I’m looking for the stolen bank money, and since that was his job first, he won’t give up. So he follows me around, thinking I’ll lead him to it, and he can get the reward money.”

“Sounds exasperating. Maybe he could have an accident and end up in the hospital for a while. It could be arranged.” He was serious. He’d do that for me?

“Tempting…but no,” I said quickly, before I took him up on it. “But that reminds me of why I’m here. It’s about the trial you were concerned about? The one with Webb Enterprises?”

Uncle Joey shuttered his thoughts. “Yes. What about it?”

“Did you know someone beat up Adam Webb’s lawyer?”

“Yes, I heard.” He was wondering how I knew Adam’s name.

“Do you know why?” I persisted.

“Why do you want to know?” his eyes narrowed with suspicion.

“Because Chris took over the case, and now he’s a target. I was there earlier, and I heard someone thinking about threatening him to lose the case, and if he doesn’t…well, they’ll hurt him. Worse than they hurt Gary. Why would someone want Chris to lose the case?”

“Hmm…” Uncle Joey knew the answer to that, he just didn’t want me to know.

“It’s because of you.” I said, picking up some of his thoughts.

“Yes,” he huffed. “But that’s not for you to know. I’ll take care of it. I’ll find out who it is and stop him.” He was thinking about having him ground into fish food. He owned a plant.

“Okay,” I said quickly, before I heard any more. “Then I’ll try not to worry about it, but if you need my help with this, you’ve got it.”

“Good,” he nodded. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Well, I guess I’ll go then.”

“Wait. There is something you can do for me.” He was thinking that he needed to shake things up, especially if someone was after him. He took a seat at his desk, and pulled a manila envelope with a substantial bulge from the bottom drawer. “I want you to deliver this for me. The address is on the top. Give it to Nick, and come back here. I want to know what he’s thinking.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s better you don’t know,” he said. “Take my word for it. But don’t worry. You’ll be safe. It’s nothing dangerous.”

“Okay,” I said, a little nervous. I didn’t want to become his ‘mule’. “What if Nick’s not there? Should I leave it with someone else?”

“No…bring it back here.” He handed the package to me. It wasn’t as heavy as I thought. “Will it fit in your purse?” he asked. “That would be best.”

“Yes, probably.” I crammed it in, but couldn’t zip my purse up.

“Good.” He checked his watch. “See you in about half an hour.”

I left the office, seeing no sign of Ramos or Jackie on my way out. Where was everyone? I got in my car, and pulled out of the parking garage. That’s when I realized I didn’t have the address in front of me because it was on the package. I turned right, and managed to drive while wrestling the package out of my purse without looking down. I heard a rip and cringed. Had I just torn the damn thing?

I left it alone until I came to a stoplight. The package was halfway out of my purse with a gaping hole torn down the side. Damn-it! I wasn’t supposed to look inside, in fact, I didn’t want to look inside, but I couldn’t drop it off like that. I needed tape. I could probably fix it without looking inside.

I found a supermarket and parked in the corner. Taping it might not be the best thing. They’d know it was tampered with. Maybe I should just buy a new manila envelope, and re-package it. If I did that, I’d know what it was. But Uncle Joey wouldn’t know that, and neither would Nick.

I pushed the package under my seat and locked the car. In the store, I found the manila envelopes and the packing tape, and bought them both, still unsure how to proceed. Knowing what was in the package could give me leverage where Uncle Joey was concerned. That would be a good thing. It would also help me decipher Nick’s thoughts. Another good point. On the bad side? I might be breaking the law, and it would be better if I didn’t know.

I heaved a sigh, and pulled the package out from under my seat. The rip was on the bottom. If I shook what was inside to the top, I could fold the envelope, and tape it up without looking. I pulled out the tape, straightened the envelope, and looked. I couldn’t help it. I figured it was drugs or money, so what did it matter?

Only it wasn’t drugs or money. It was a hard-drive from a computer. At least that’s what it looked like. Dang. Feeling bad because I had no self-control, I quickly folded it up, and put lots of packing tape around it. This package was not going to rip again.

BOOK: Lie or Die: A Shelby Nichols Adventure
4.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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