Authors: D. L. Orton
Headlights cut into the foggy night and slip down onto the wet pavement. I squint into the darkness, trying to see who’s driving. The car stops at the top of the exit ramp, and the lone security lamp shines directly into the front seat. It’s Isabel, and she’s alone. “That’s her!”
The cab driver puts the car in gear.
“No, wait. Give her a second. I don’t want to scare her.”
The guy shakes his head. “What you gonna do when she gets home? Wait outside all night? She gonna call the cops, and they gonna put your ass in jail.” He looks over at me, trying to decide if I’m a serial killer or something.
“I just want to talk to her.” I’m surprised by the desperation in my voice.
He puts on his headlights and eases out into the street, staying half a block behind Isabel’s car. Ten minutes later, we watch her turn into an apartment complex and disappear behind a two-story building.
The cabbie pulls over to the curb. “You sure you wanna do this, mister? Ain’t no way you gonna get another cab tonight. You betta off comin’ back tomorrow when it’s light and ain’t no one gonna be thinkin’ you some rapist.”
He’s right, of course.
But something in me refuses to be reasonable. I have been looking for Isabel for almost five years, desperately searching for any trace of her, and now that I’m this close, I can’t take the chance that she’ll slip away.
“You seem like a nice kid. Why don’t you just call this thing off, and I’ll take you back to where I found you. No charge.” He holds out my twenty.
I stare at it for a second, then shake my head.
“Your ass, mister.”
I open the door and hop out into the cold, foggy night. “Thanks for the ride.”
The cabbie watches me for a minute, still frowning, then makes a U-turn and heads back the way we came, talking with the dispatcher.
I walk down the driveway until I come to a dead end, then shut my eyes and listen.
Somewhere close by, I can hear a warm engine ticking in the still night air. I move toward the sound, wondering how she could have disappeared so quickly.
It doesn’t take me long to find her car. I cup my hands and peer into the driver’s side. It’s dark and empty.
I turn and look at the well-lighted apartment buildings, but there is no sound or movement. I decide to check on the other side of the parking garage, my heart racing now that I realize I may have lost her.
I stay in the shadows, keeping my back against the stucco structure, but moving quickly. I slip around the end of the building and plow into the woman I’ve been following.
She shrieks and falls back, stretching out her arm as if holding a gun.
I raise my hands. “Sorry!” Up close, she doesn’t even look that much like Isabel. “I thought you were someone e
And then my eyes are on fire, the burning agony spreading into my nose, mouth, and lungs. I collapse onto the muddy grass, struggling to draw a breath, my eyelids swollen shut and my whole body writhing in pain.
Two hours later, I’m hunched over on a cracked plastic chair in the Taraval Police Station when Dave walks in. His hair is disheveled and he’s as pissed off as I’ve ever seen him.
Can’t say I blame him.
He takes one look at my muddy shirt and swollen face and softens his expression a bit. “Shit, Tego. What happened?”
I grab my jacket and stand up. “Ask me tomorrow.”
He glances over at the chubby police officer behind the counter. “He free to go?”
She puts down her pencil and crosses her arms, glaring at us over the top of her glasses. “Yes. The woman didn’t press charges. Seems the cabbie who dropped him off convinced her it was an honest mistake.” She looks pointedly at me. “But I suggest you stop following unfamiliar women home late at night, Mr. Nadales.”
I swallow hard and nod. “I think I got that part.”
She shrugs and goes back to her paperwork.
“Thanks for coming,” I say to Dave. “And sorry about, uh, interrupting.” I slip on my jacket and start coughing, hacking so hard my eyes water.
He shifts his weight and exhales. “If you’re looking for sympathy, you’ll find it between shit and syphilis in the dictionary.”
I take a tentative breath. “I guess I deserved that.”
“For christsake, Tego, why’d you go and follow her home?”
I stride out after him into the misty night. “Because I’m a dumbshit.”
“You can say that again.” He puts his arm around my shoulder and leads me across the street to his Corvette.
“Sorry,” I say. “And thanks again for the ride.”
“Ah, no worries. You probably saved me from an ugly scene when I had to pick between the two of them in the morning.” He opens the passenger door and waits for me to get in. “And I fucking hate to kiss smokers.”
“Thanks.” I take a deep breath. “Shit, what a night.”
He gets in on the other side. “I can’t wait to meet that ex-girlfriend of yours.” The tires squeal as he whips a U-turn in front of the police station. “She must have been one damned good lay.”
Table of Contents
Diego: Out on a Limb
Shannon: It’s a Miracle
Diego: The Undead
Lani: Lost and Found
Diego: Angels and Demons
Shannon: Finders, Keepers
Lani: Playing With Dolls
Diego: Range of Emotion
Shannon: Ghost Busters
Lani: The Quick and the Dead
Diego: Shuffle the Cards
Lani: Suit Yourself
Diego: Over My Head
Lani: Unchained Memory
Diego: Naked Honesty
Shannon: Up in Smoke
Diego: Test Her Wings
Lani: Pickup Lines
Diego: Drowning in Hope
Lani: Without a Flight
Diego: Into Thin Air
Shannon: Yellow Brick Road
Diego: Walk on Water
Shannon: The Supreme Sacrifice
Diego: Lights Out