Death and relaxation, p.27
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       Death and Relaxation, p.27

           Devon Monk
 

  “Delaney?”

  I paused, but didn’t twist back to look at him, since I was pretty sure that would make my wound bleed.

  “I saw Walt, Heim’s deck hand, the night before Heim drowned. He…he was drunk. He’d been at Jump off Jack’s and was talking about making money that had nothing to do with fishing. I don’t know what he was talking about. Didn’t care. Still don’t care. But…well, he left town the next day and Heim shows up dead. Think that’s anything?”

  I let go of the door and turned all the way to face him again. “Was he with anyone?”

  “Who?”

  “Walt. Did you see him talking to anyone else in the bar that night?”

  “Chris was there.”

  “Chris is always there. Someone else?”

  “Yes!” he said triumphantly, as if it had just occurred to him. “The blonde. She was there. Sat at the table with Walt. I know she did. Left before he got chatty. Is that helpful? Does that help?”

  Margot was in Dan’s neighborhood. She would have been aware of his comings and goings. She might have seen the gun he kept in his car. But how would she know he intended to shoot at me?

  “Delaney,” he repeated. “Does it help?”

  “Not yet. But if it does, I’ll let you know.” I left the room and walked back to my desk. I picked up the desk phone and called Myra’s cell.

  “Officer Reed,” Myra answered crisply.

  “Hey, Myra. Don’t be mad at Pearl.”

  “Where are you?” she growled.

  “At the station. I’m fine. She made me happy-face oatmeal and gave me my meds.”

  “Delaney…” She reined her voice in to keep the anger down. She was really frustrated. “You need to turn around and drive back to my place and park yourself on my couch. Now.”

  “Wow. You sounded a little like Dad right then. So I talked to Dan and Pearl. Turns out Dan blew up his own rhubarb patch.”

  “Okay. Why do I care about this?”

  “He says he didn’t have any bullets in his gun.”

  “Yeah, I heard him yelling that all day yesterday.”

  “I believe him.”

  Myra paused and the crowd noise around her grew louder. Children laughing and squealing, people talking, and in the background, a voice I recognized as Thor crooning out a rock-n-roll ballad. He had a good voice.

  “You believe Dan Perkin—who was standing right in front of you and pulled the trigger—didn’t shoot you,” she said. “Have you lost your mind?”

  “Did you find the bullet casings?”

  “Yes.”

  “Did you check to make sure they were the correct bullets for Dan’s gun?”

  “We’re processing the evidence.”

  I waited.

  “Not yet,” she said. “You were shot, Delaney. In surgery. Jean and I stayed with you after we locked up Dan. Then you ran away to a bar. That morning I’d had to run dawn crowd control for the regatta blessing. We haven’t had time to do anything else, and as far as I care, Dan can sit and stew.”

  “How was the blessing?” I asked, realizing Myra probably hadn’t gotten any sleep in the last twenty-four hours.

  “Poseidon almost drowned himself.”

  Of course he did.

  “So, pretty much like normal?” I couldn’t keep the smile out of my voice.

  “It’s not funny, Del.”

  “It’s kind of funny.”

  “All right.” She huffed out a breath. “Let’s say Dan is innocent. Then who the hell shot you? That wound was not made by an imaginary bullet.”

  “I think there was someone else out there.”

  “I hate that idea.”

  “Me too.”

  “Do you have a lead on who might want you shot and Dan in jail?”

  “Not really. But Dan said he talked to Walt, the night before Heim washed up.”

  “Not following you on this.”

  “Heim’s drowning.”

  “Yes?”

  “Dan makes a great fall guy. No one likes him. No one would miss him if he were locked away for murder. No one would argue that he was capable of being angry enough to pull a trigger on a judge over a rhubarb contest.”

  “No one would have to argue that because he did pull the trigger.”

  “Yeah,” I said. “I know. But if he’s telling the truth and there were no bullets in his gun, then he should be up on aggravated menacing charges of pointing a gun at a police officer instead of attempted murder.”

  She sighed.

  “How does Walt fit in with all this?”

  “Dan saw him drinking at Chris’s bar the night before Heim died. He was bragging about making money. Earlier that night, Walt had been sitting with Margot Lapointe.”

  “So?”

  “Margot and Lila recently moved into a rental in Dan’s neighborhood.”

  “Hold on.” The phone was muffled as she pulled it away. I heard her sharp whistle, then: “Down from there. Don’t lick the jellyfish!”

  I grinned and wandered over to start a pot of coffee.

  “Okay,” she said a couple seconds later. “Walt was talking to Margot. No crime in that. How does that link her or Dan to Heim’s death?”

  “I don’t know yet. But outside my house I found something.”

  “You went back to your house? Alone?”

  “To get my car. Pearl dropped me off.”

  “Why did I think you’d actually listen to her and stay put?”

  “I have no idea. You know how I hate being sick on the couch.”

  “Since when?”

  “So I was looking through the bushes.”

  “Delaney.”

  “I found a feather.”

  “That’s important because?”

  “Lila and Margot have feathers in their hair.”

  “Birds shed feathers all the time.”

  “Not purple feathers.”

  “You think Lila and Margot were in your driveway, with a gun, at the same time as Dan, waiting for him to pretend-shoot you, so they could for real shoot you and frame him for the crime? That’s a complicated and unlikely plan.”

  “But not impossible.”

  “Almost impossible. Which you’d realize if you weren’t high on Percocet.”

  “I’m not high. Just…floaty.”

  “One feather doesn’t implicate Lila or Margot.”

  “I know. We need to talk to Walt. See if he let anyone get on that boat with Heim.”

  “We will handle that tomorrow,” she said firmly. “Not today. And by we, I mean Jean and me. You are going to go home and sleep before that wound gets infected.”

  “Sleeping won’t stop an infection.”

  “Delaney. This is me, telling you that if you don’t drop this murder case for at least one day, I am personally going to drive over there and tie you down to a cot.”

  “Sounds kinky.”

  “Well, if you want kinky, I can send Ryder your way. Jean told me about you two.”

  What did Jean know? That we were dating? Well, that wasn’t even remotely true now.

  “Hey,” I said, avoiding that conversation. “Have you seen him?” There was maybe a little too much worry in my voice.

  “Ryder?” She paused. “Earlier today. Why?”

  “No reason.”

  Because he broke up with me in the hospital. Because no matter how sad I feel, I’m starting to feel something else: angry.

  “What happened with Ryder?” she asked. “Did he hurt you?”

  “No. We…he…uh…we’re done.”

  “Done?”

  “We tried a date. It didn’t go well. He ended it.”

  I could hear her quiet breathing and the sound of the festival filtering through her phone.

  “When did he end it?”

  I did not need an angry sister going after my boyfriend.

  “Just, if you see him, let him know we need to talk, okay? Now: how’s the rally going?” I asked in boss mode, ready to change the
subject.

  “Good. Busy. Weather’s cooperating. Go home, okay, Delaney? Jean’s still worried about you.”

  “Roger that. Eat a deep-fried rhubarb dog for me.”

  She snorted and cut off the call. I hung up and rubbed at the headache starting behind my eyes. The power was singing along, spreading out in my head like it was testing the boundaries of my control. It was looking for a way out.

  I would love to give it one.

  A sound at the back of the office stilled me.

  I hadn’t locked the front door. Someone was in the building with me. Someone who had gotten past me while I was questioning Dan.

  I quietly opened my drawer, looking for my spare gun there. Nothing. I hadn’t been wearing my gun since I’d been shot, didn’t even know where it was.

  Shit.

  I moved quietly down the hall to the door to the cells, wondering if Dan had anyone in his life who would be trying to break him out. I peered through the small window in the door.

  Dan was lying on his cot, his back to the door. He didn’t look like he was waiting for someone.

  If it wasn’t to spring Dan, why would someone break into a police station?

  I turned and stopped.

  Margot Lapointe stepped out of the records room at the far end of the hall looking as startled as I felt. Her blonde hair was loose around her shoulders, the curve of lavender-feathered hair extensions drifting near her jaw. “Chief.” Her eyes darted side to side, checking the shadows for movement. “I was looking for the bathroom. What are you doing here?”

  “Well, I work here.” I smiled. “Bathrooms are this way.” I motioned toward the office behind us.

  She turned and walked out into the office area. But before I could reach my desk, she turned again.

  She had a gun pointed at me.

  “Easy.” Training and painkillers rushed to keep me calm. “You don’t have to do this, Margot. We can talk.”

  “He had to take his revolver,” she muttered, eyes never straying from my face. “After I went through all the trouble of knowing which guns he owns. Which guns he keeps handy. He used the damn revolver.”

  I could tackle her, probably get shot again in the process. If she landed a decent blow to my ribs, I’d black out.

  No cell phone.

  Landline too far away.

  No one coming to work today.

  “I watched him for weeks!” she said, her face twisted in disgust. “He loved his new Glock. Couldn’t wait to try it out. But then he uses that piece of crap Colt on you.”

  I glanced at the gun in her hand. Glock.

  And suddenly it made sense, even though it was almost impossible.

  “You were in the bushes,” I said. “You fired the gun at the same time Dan did. It was your bullet that hit me.”

  “The bullet they took from the scene doesn’t match his gun,” she said. “But I’ve got that covered now.” She patted her free hand over her pocket.

  “Margot, we can work this out.”

  “Oh, this works out perfectly. You’re here alone. Just. Perfect.”

  A shadow briefly crossed the window in the door behind her. It was probably a tourist looking for directions and leaving, since the Closed sign was posted.

  Good. I didn’t need any more people getting hurt.

  “What about Dan?” I asked. “Is he in on this with you? You and Lila?”

  “That idiot? The only thing he’s good for is to blame everything on. And Lila has nothing to do with this!” Her hand shook, her knuckles going white.

  I wondered if I could pull on the power inside me and use it to stop her.

  But the power was nothing but useless noise in my head. I was not the mortal allowed to wield it.

  “He broke my sister’s heart!” she yelled. “He ruined her life, ruined her business. She gave up everything for him, and he took and he took. Took her life away. She’s never been the same. He took her away from me. He deserved to die. He deserved it!”

  “Heim?” I said, wishing the threat of a gun in my face would clear the drugs out of my brain. I was thinking too slowly. Still a step behind her. “Lila didn’t kill Heim.”

  “No,” Margot said, shaking her head with little jerks. “She didn’t have to. I love her. I love her,” she snarled. “Nobody hurts her again.” She raised the gun.

  My head suddenly cleared. Nothing like a bucket of fear to get the brain working.

  “If you shoot me, they’ll know you did it. My sisters are police officers. They won’t stop until they find you.”

  “They won’t even look for me,” she sneered. “They’ll think you let Dan Perkin out of his cell and he shot you before he committed suicide.”

  This was it. No more time for talking.

  The front door swung open with a bang.

  I lunged for her.

  Margot pivoted, gun swinging with her, leveled at the man who strode into the room.

  Ryder Bailey.

  No, no, no! He will not be shot before I get a chance to be mad at him for dumping me.

  “Down!” I yelled. I jammed a shoulder into Margot’s back. We crashed to the floor. I landed hard on my bad side and yelled. I grappled with her, scrabbling for the gun.

  She twisted under me, threw an elbow at my ribs. I didn’t have room to break away, didn’t want that gun in her control, and took the hit. It felt like half my body was on fire. Silver lights bashed and broke in front of my eyes. I slammed her hand down and the gun skittered away.

  “Do not move!” I growled and yanked her arm back. I used my weight and leverage and straddled her as a bloom of fresh blood poured down my side.

  It had all happened in a second.

  “Freeze!” Ryder barked. “Now!” The slide and clack of a gun was louder than the roaring in my ears, louder than my own heavy breathing, louder than Margot’s swearing.

  I stilled instinctively, and so did Margot.

  “Delaney? Are you hurt?” Ryder asked.

  Other than that knife you buried in my heart?

  “Get the handcuffs in the desk drawer next to you.” I shoved up onto my knees and dragged Margot’s arm behind her until she hissed. I rested one knee in the middle of her back.

  “You have the right to remain silent, Margot,” I said between hard breaths. My entire left side felt like a beast was sinking teeth into me, chewing and chewing. Hot blood trickled down and soaked the waistband of my pants. My vision was still star-studded.

  Power, which had been of zero use to me, rolled and screamed through my headache.

  The combination of new pain, old power, and Ryder’s voice—“Are you hurt?”—made me want to barf.

  I swallowed until I got my nausea under control and patted Margot down one-handed, making sure she didn’t have any other weapons on her.

  She struggled a second, and I was more than happy to lean a little harder on her. “Just settle down and let me finish. Then you can call your lawyer.”

  I glanced up as Ryder gave me the handcuffs.

  He had a Sig Sauer in his other hand, held down and to his side like he was comfortable holding a firearm. I frowned up at him, at his calm confidence in a situation any normal person would consider highly charged and should maybe be nervous about.

  He was as cool as a trained veteran.

  “Thanks for the assist.” I clamped the handcuffs over her wrists.

  “Was she alone?”

  I looked up at him again. His head was raised, eyes narrowed as he searched the shadows of the office.

  That question, his stance, were not meshing with his architect civilian vibe. Most people in town carried a gun. But there was something more than just “hunter” in his stance.

  “I think so,” I said. “I’ll put her in lockup and we’ll make sure.”

  I pushed up to my feet, keeping my arm pressed against my side and doing my best not to wince or whimper, my other hand on Margot’s wrist so I could haul her up.

  I didn’t know if it was fro
m the lack of a weapon or the cold cuffs around her wrist, but all the fight seemed to have drained out of her.

  “Where was I?” I asked conversationally as I frog-marched her down the hall to the cells. “Oh, right. You have the right to remain silent.”

  Margot hung her head and walked quietly. Ryder followed behind, and stood in the door as I got Margot settled in the other cell next to Dan, whose shouting just added to the hammering in my skull.

  I ignored Dan and walked over to Ryder, favoring my side with a slight limp. I stopped right in front of him. “You ass.”

  He frowned. “Excuse me?”

  I walked past him and he stepped into the hall with me, letting the door close and lock behind him.

  “Myra sent you over, right? That’s the only reason you’re here, right? Because you made it pretty clear you didn’t want to be anywhere near me.”

  He winced and dropped his gaze to the floor. “I saw your Jeep in the parking lot. Thought maybe I should see how you were…after I…”

  “Dumped me in the hospital while I was still bleeding from a bullet?” I supplied.

  His jaw locked and I saw the lightning flash of anger in his eyes before he got it under control. He gave me a hard smile. “Would it have been any better if I went on pretending I wanted to date you?”

  Oh, that was low. All the sweet words from our one night together, all the gentle caresses, the pleasure, the need, the laughter, the feeling of pure rightness of being with him, thinking of him as mine, swirled away down the drain of the hole he’d just punched in my heart.

  He watched me, eyes growing wary.

  In the next heartbeat my heart galvanized. And then there was nothing in me but iron-hot anger.

  “You had your chance, Ryder Bailey,” I whispered, low and fierce. “Old Rossi was right. And I will never forget what you really are.”

  He jerked slightly, as if something I’d said shocked him. Then there were too many things in his shifting eyes to decipher. “Good,” he whispered.

  I lifted a hand to rub at the pain behind my eye. My fingers trembled. They were covered with blood.

  “You’re bleeding.” Ryder reached for my hand, something that looked like real worry crossing his face.

  No. You don’t get to care for me when it’s convenient for you.

  I turned and stalked over to my desk before he could touch me. “Just do your job, reserve officer.” I picked up the phone and blinked until I could see the numbers. If there were tears in my eyes, they were angry tears. I dialed. “Stand in the hall in front of the door to the cells and make sure no one gets in or out.”

 
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