Authors: Lexy Timms
“Check the front,” the older officer said to his partner, and they both pulled their flashlights off their thick uniform belts. “Mr. Wade, please come along with me to see if anything is out of place. What’s in the back?”
“The entrance to the garage for the bikes we store, and our clubhouse.”
“Yes, for the Hades’ Spawn.”
“Hmph,” said the officer, whose tag said Rawlings. “Any reason anyone is there now?”
“No. Closed up for the winter. The last time I used it was last month for my wedding reception. I’ll reopen it in the spring.”
“Wedding, eh? Well, let’s check it. Maybe a homeless person thought it was a good place to bunk.”
That was possible. Luke had put in some mini-apartments, looking to rent them, but that plan didn’t work out; not since a deadly shootout had taken place there.
The floodlight for the back switched on as the motion sensor caught Luke moving in to the back parking lot. He checked in the windows of the garage as the officer swung his flashlight in; everything seemed fine. He walked to the front door of the clubhouse, and it was secure. “There’s a door in the back,” Luke said.
“Any floodlight there?”
“Then walk behind me.”
Rawlings walked swiftly toward the back of the clubhouse; the gravel at the side of the building crunched under his feet. Luke didn’t move as fast and soon lost sight of him in the nighttime gloom.
“Stop! Police!” Luke heard. He doubled his steps and almost collided with the police officer.
“Sorry, Mr. Wade. Whoever it was got away before I could chase him. But it looks like the lock’s broken here.”
Luke inspected the lock and shook his head. Sometimes the things people did amazed him. “You mean the guy heard the alarm and stuck around anyway? Isn’t that weird?”
“Yeah, it is. But since you did have a trespasser, this call won’t count against you for a false alarm. You might want to think about getting a guard dog to patrol the area.”
“Thanks for the idea,” said Luke. But he seriously doubted he was going to get a dog to hang around the shop.
“Do you have something to board up this door?” said the officer
That wasn’t going to help Luke much, as the building and the door were metal. He went inside the clubhouse, pushed as many tables and chairs from the bar area as he could against the door to hold it shut, and exited by the front door. By the time he was done, the police were gone. A creepy feeling of someone watching washed through him when he climbed into his truck to go home. He shook it off and blamed it on the events of the night.
The next day, Luke
sat at the desk across from Emily, on the phone with Matt Stone. He mentioned nothing to Emily about the night before except to say that the alarm had been a false one. He had no intention of worrying his wife or putting any unneeded stress on her. It had just been a one-off, so there was no need to worry. “Thanks, Matt. That’s great news.” His voice didn’t sound cheerful and he could see Emily’s eyebrows press together as he hung up the phone.
“What did he say?” Emily played with a paperclip on the corner of the papers she was holding.
“That we can get the Mexican passport application online, and send it to the Mexican consulate with the application fee.”
Emily nodded. “Okay, I’ll get it off the Internet and print it. Here,” she said, holding up the result of her morning’s work. “Sign this.”
Luke looked over the form his wife handed him. “What is it?”
“It’s a request to the DMV to send you a copy of the change of title for the bike you sold all those years ago. We need that to get so we can get the taxes taken off your tax bill.”
“Really? We have to go through all that?”
“Yes. And some other paperwork, too, that I still need to dig up. I suppose you don’t have a copy of the receipt for the plates you turned in or the bill of sale?”
“I don’t remember if I turned in the plates, and I just took cash for the bike. I was busy getting inducted into the navy.”
Emily suppressed a sigh. The young Luke she remembered wasn’t that responsible – apparently with his paperwork or his possessions – and it was causing problems now. “Okay, we’ll deal with one item of proof at a time.”
He grinned and winked at her. “It was a nice bike, though; a 1977 sportster Ironhead. I bought it after my other bike got trashed. That’s when I fell in love with sportsters. Boy, could that bike move.”
“Uh-huh,” said Emily. “Well, you have three other bikes we’re paying taxes on, baby, which are coming up next January. I’d like this one off our list.” She patted her belly. “And add this little sportster to your list.”
He kissed her cheek indulgently. “My little accountant.”
“Who loves you very much.” She bent down and picked up the sales from the week. “I’m going to take this cash to the bank.”
“You want me to go with you?”
“Nah, it’s not that much. I’m just going to the drive-up window. After that I’ll go home and put my feet up.”
Luke winced when she said “It’s not that much” and mentally kicked himself. Emily didn’t mean it as offensive. He looked down at her feet, which were beginning to swell from sitting for a long stretch, and grimaced. He knew as well as she did that the swelling feet were not a good sign. “When are you going to see the doctor again?”
“In a couple weeks.”
Luke helped her with her coat, and wrapped her scarf around her neck. “I want you to call and make an appointment sooner. Your blood pressure should be checked.”
“Such a mother hen,” she laughed.
“Better a mother hen than…,” he stopped, not willing to voice his thoughts. The doctor told both of them about the dangers of pre-eclampsia, a condition where the mother’s blood pressure soars dangerously high, leaving the mother at risk of stroke or worse.
“It’s okay, Luke. I feel fine.”
“You know darn well that’s no assurance against pre-eclampsia. No more pizza for you,” he scolded. “And no more restaurant food. We’ve been playing fast and loose with salt restrictions and that’s going to stop.”
Emily rolled her eyes. “Yes, sir; now let me get to the bank.”
“Okay,” he said. “Be careful.”
“Luke,” she protested.
“Baby. I lost you twice. I’m not going to lose you again.” He told her that all the time but there was no way he was letting her go from him ever again. No matter what.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “There’s not a chance in the world I’m letting you out of my sight ever again.”
made it to the bank and then realized they didn’t have anything for dinner. She wanted to make sure there was something on the stove before Luke came home. Otherwise he’d insist on cooking, and the resulting mess would be more work than if she did it herself. Something made in the slow-cooker could work. Maybe stew. That was easy enough.
She walked into the grocery store and was immediately drawn to the Thanksgiving flower displays. Done in greens with white, yellow, and orange carnations, the table decorations were cheery and bright. Still, seeing the twenty-five-dollar price tag, Emily couldn’t bring herself to purchase one. Every dollar counted, and this was a frivolity they couldn’t afford.
“Pretty, aren’t they?” said a masculine voice with a Hispanic accent behind her.
“Yes,” said Emily, looking over her shoulder. An elderly man, about her height with salt and pepper hair and brown skin like he spent time in sun, stood next to her.
“You should get one.”
“Not this time,” she said.
She shrugged her shoulders. “I’m just here to get dinner.”
“That’s nice. Women nowadays don’t seem interested in cooking.”
She smiled. “Well, my mother always cooked, so I suppose I come by it naturally.”
“I’m sure your husband appreciates it.”
“I suppose,” said Emily. The man seemed unnaturally interested in her, and his close proximity to her made her feel creeped out. People tended to invade her space bubble these days because of her belly. She still hadn’t gotten used to strangers coming up and wanting to put their hands on her belly. She hated it, actually.
“When’s your baby due?”
It was a question Emily got often when she was in public, but this man who’d come out of nowhere definitely left her feeling unsettled. She wanted to just go home. It was silly, but she just wanted to be anywhere but here. “Listen, I have to go. Nice talking to you.”
The man grabbed her arm. “Emily, please don’t go.”
She jerked her arm up to dislodge his hand. “How do you know my name? I don’t know you.”
“But I know you, Emily. You’re Raymondo’s wife. I’m his uncle. My name is Raymondo, too. He was named for me.”
Emily’s felt her eyes grow wide, and backed away slowly while her heart thundered in her chest. Luke told her about his uncle and his involvement with the Mexican drug trade. “Leave me alone!” she shrieked. “Don’t come near me.”
A store security guard walked to them quickly. “Is there a problem, ma’am?”
“This man grabbed my arm!”
Icherra raised his hands. “It’s a misunderstanding.”
“Stay away from me. From us,” she hissed at Luke’s uncle. “We don’t want anything to do with you.”
“Do you know this man?” said the security guard.
“I’ve never seen him before, but I know of him. He’s a criminal.”
Icherra’s eyes changed from warm brown to icy dark, and Emily shivered. “You should learn the meaning of respect,” he snapped.
“Enough!” said the security guard. “That’s enough out of you. Leave the store before I call the cops and have you arrested for assault.”
Emily thought it was a wonderful idea to have Icherra arrested, but it looked like that wasn’t happening. Icherra backed away, then turned and calmly walked out of the store.
“If you want to do your shopping,” said the guard, “I’ll keep an eye out and make sure he doesn’t enter the store again. When you’re done, tell the cashier to call me and I’ll walk you out to your car.”
She managed to grab the groceries she needed and appreciated that the guard carried them as he walked her to her car. Her heart racing, she thanked him for the millionth time and drove off, locking her doors and watching her review mirror the entire ride back.
She was still shaking when she arrived home. She took the bag with the stuff for dinner and left the rest for Luke to bring in when he got home. Nervously, she looked around the parking lot to check her surroundings. She wished fervently that Luke was home now, but the last thing she wanted to do was upset him while he was at work. He’d rush home and then worry obsessively about his uncle showing up.
And she didn’t want to set her little sister off, who called just as she put the groceries on the table. Angela the snitch would call Luke and fill him in on everything, spinning things into a situation much worse than it was, upsetting her on-edge husband.
“Is everything okay?” Angela asked. “You sound off.”
“No, I’m fine,” Emily insisted. “I just need to put my feet up, is all. I got a little tired at the store and decided to take a nap. It’s not like they need me at the shop.”
“You know what the doctor said. If your blood pressure goes up any more, he’ll put you on bed-rest.”
“Yes,” sighed Emily, “I’m aware.”
“Don’t dismiss this, Em. This is your life and the baby’s we’re talking about.”
“Sometimes you sound just like Dad.” The words flew out of her mouth in a bitter tone. Immediately Emily regretted it. She shouldn’t snipe at Angela because her sister had a better relationship with him than she did. Then again, Sam Dougherty wasn’t her biological father; just the man who’d married her mom when she was pregnant.
“Well, maybe I should. You don’t seem to be taking your condition seriously.”
“It’s not a condition—yet. And I do take it seriously. I just don’t want to talk about it 24/7, okay?” Even Emily heard the peevishness in her voice, but really, who was the older sister here? She was tired of how her family treated her, like she was going to screw up at any time.
“Okay, Em. I’m just worried, is all.”
“Luke worries enough for the whole family. Believe me, if he thought I wasn’t okay he’d close the shop and be right here with me.” She sighed and blew her bangs off her forehead. “I’m sorry, Ange. I’m just tired and cranky. I don’t mean to be complaining. I’m being horrible. Sorry.”
“Complain away, sis. I don’t mind and I’ll let you get away with it for another eight weeks,” Angela chuckled. “You’ll be at Sunday dinner, right?”
Sunday dinner wasn’t just a ritual at the Dougherty house; it was a rite as holy as a Catholic mass, at least in the eyes of their mother. “How can we not?”
“Awesome! See you then.”
Dredging and browning the beef for the stew and peeling and cutting the potatoes gave her something to do to take her mind off this threat. But the back of her mind mulled over the problem, and in the end she decided that she needed to call Matt Stone and let him know about this latest development. He might not be able to do anything directly about Icherra, but he had a way of explaining things to Luke that made sense to her husband.
Just as Luke wanted, she made sure the stew was low in salt, going so far as to use a low-salt beef broth for the base. She found it hard to eat a low-salt diet. Foods just didn’t have the flavor without the demon salt, but she recognized that it was important for her baby’s health, so she followed her doctor’s advice. Just one salty item was enough to pack on the water weight, which drove up her blood pressure.
She rubbed her stomach. “Just a couple more months, baby, and we can get back to normal.” Whatever normal was. She had no idea anymore.
After combining the meat, potatoes, a couple quartered onions, and a bag of baby carrots in the crock pot, she turned the appliance on high and sighed with relief. The slow-cooker would take care of the rest. Now she could put her feet up.
Only now she was keyed up and everything she looked at needed cleaning. The bathroom got her started when she spied toothpaste dried in the sink. Then, naturally, the toilet needed cleaning. Then the bedroom needed straightening, the living room dusting, and the kitchen a good wiping down of all the surfaces. She damp-mopped the kitchen and the bathroom floors before she decided the apartment was clean enough. Nesting, her mother would call it.
By now the delicious smell of stew cooking wafted through the rooms, reminding Emily that she hadn’t eaten anything for lunch. She started for the kitchen when the edges of her vision started to go dark, and she felt lightheaded.
“Oh boy,” she said out loud. “I guess I pushed myself too hard.” She groped for the edge of the sofa, trying to steady herself, but her knees gave way. Everything seemed fuzzy and far away as she slid slowly to the floor.
And then everything did go dark.
one-ninety over a hundred, patient unresponsive on the scene, collared and boarded because of a suspected fall.”
Emily blinked and tried to get her bearings. She couldn’t move and this frightened her, especially since her body jolted in a swaying motion that made her stomach sick.
“Where am I?” she croaked. “Where’s my husband?”
“Try to relax, ma’am. You’re in an ambulance en route to Middletown hospital. Your husband is following us in his car. He found you passed out when he came home from work. Can you tell me what happened?”
“I don’t know. I felt dizzy, and I don’t know, like everything was far away. My legs gave out. I don’t remember how long I was out.”