Death and relaxation, p.28
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       Death and Relaxation, p.28

           Devon Monk
 

  He locked his jaw on whatever he’d been about to say. Then he squared his shoulders and walked back to position himself in front of the cell door.

  Sorrow sat in my chest like dark coals, but anger was the flame that kept me warm. And it was also the only thing that was keeping me on my feet.

  “Myra?” I said as soon as she answered her phone, the room going a little dark and fuzzy at the edges. “I could use some help over here.”

  Chapter 28

  TURNED OUT both Myra and Jean rode to my rescue.

  Also turned out I couldn’t argue my way out of going to the hospital when my sisters double-teamed me and I was blackout dizzy from blood loss.

  I plucked at the thin blanket that covered me, ignoring the tubes taped down to my arm. It was past dinnertime and I was an odd mix of restless and exhausted. Jean lounged in the recliner chair thing on one side of my room, doing something on her phone.

  My sisters refused to let me out of their sight, even though that meant we’d had to call up to Tillamook and borrow a couple of their officers to help out with the rally. Which meant I owed the police chief up there a favor.

  Again.

  I shifted my feet and scooted up a bit, trying to get comfortable.

  “Need anything?” Jean asked distractedly.

  “No, I’m good.” I picked up the tablet Myra had given me after I’d begged her to leave me something to do. I pulled up the report I’d been writing.

  Margot had confessed to shooting me, which cleared Dan of some of his charges. I thought he might be able to get his remaining charges lowered if he listened to his lawyer’s advice.

  Margot had also confessed to bribing Walt to let her stow away on the boat and to hitting Heim on the back of the head. She said him falling overboard was an accident. I wasn’t sure the jury would see it that way. Once Margot started talking, she hadn’t stopped, droning through all her plans, all her hurt and anger, like she was in a trance.

  They found Walt working a ship down in Bandon. He was en route and should hit town in a couple hours to corroborate her story. Then their fate would be up to the judge.

  Myra was off finding Lila to let her know her sister was in holding. I was stuck in a hospital bed.

  Again.

  I sighed and closed the report. There was nothing more to add.

  “Are you sure you don’t need anything?” Jean asked again.

  “A new brain?”

  “You haven’t hardly used your old one yet.”

  I glanced over at her. Her fingers moved across her screen as she concentrated on a game.

  “It’s almost Sunday,” I said.

  “Yep.”

  “If I don’t find someone to give Heim’s power to by Monday night, things…will get interesting.”

  She chewed on the inside of her cheek then stabbed at the screen a few times.

  “Jean. Are you okay?”

  She finally looked over at me. “I can’t believe what he did.”

  “Dan?”

  “Ryder. I can’t believe he did that to you.” It was hard to see the betrayal in her eyes. She’d always thought Ryder and I were a match made in heaven. That he was some kind of quiet hero who would one day realize the love of his life had been in his life, forever. Real life didn’t work that way. Not even in Ordinary.

  “I couldn’t believe it either,” I said with a smile I didn’t feel. All I wanted to do was have a good cry, but all the tears in the world wouldn’t change a single word that he’d said.

  “Can we forget about Ryder right now?” I asked. “I really need to figure out who I should give this power to.”

  She took a drink out of her travel mug, which was probably full of Mountain Dew and Red Bull. “Have you narrowed it down at all?”

  “Not you and not Myra. That’s about it.”

  She made a face at me, then crossed her legs and leaned sideways in the chair. “The power calls to its own, right?”

  “I don’t know.”

  “You hear the power, right? Dad used to see them, but you hear them?”

  I nodded.

  “Does the sound of it ever change?”

  I thought about it. “It shifts. It gets louder sometimes.”

  Hurts more sometimes.

  “Does it get louder every time you’ve been around one person in particular?”

  I shrugged and wished I hadn’t. My shoulder ached. Everything ached. “I haven’t been paying attention to that.”

  “Wow, you really suck at this.” She smiled to soften her words.

  “It’s not like I haven’t had other things on my mind this week. Bullets, blood. Rhubarb.”

  “And don’t forget a fistfight in a bar with Cooper. Seriously, what were you thinking?”

  “That he was a jerk and annoying the crap out of me.”

  “Funny how you used to date that.”

  “He didn’t used to be that annoying.”

  She took another drink and made a so-so motion with her hand. “He did sort of roll into town out of the blue and mess up your life.”

  “Apparently men like to do that to me.”

  She was quiet for a minute. “Do you still love him?”

  “Cooper?”

  She just shook her head, her eyes holding mine.

  “Ryder?” I asked.

  Yes. I shoved that faint thought firmly away. “No. That’s done.”

  Liar, my heart whispered.

  “What about Cooper?”

  “Cooper is different. He’s…” Not Ryder. “Different.”

  “Okay,” she said after a long moment of silence. “So let’s narrow it down. Cooper came back right before Heim died. If the power calls to its own, maybe it was calling him.”

  “Lots of people come and go in town…” My voice faded as I remembered a conversation I’d had with Cooper. “Cooper said he thought he’d left something here. Left something in Ordinary even though he doesn’t like this town. He came back looking for it. I thought he meant me, us, what we had…”

  “But what if it was the power?” Jean sounded excited. “The power inside you, calling him.”

  Everything in me went cold and still. Even my brain. Even the song of power in my head.

  Yes.

  “Delaney?” Jean uncrossed her legs and pushed up out of the chair. “Are you hurting? Are you breathing?” She cupped my cheek, her dark blue eyes wide and worried. “Breathe.”

  “Cooper.” I exhaled.

  “Keep breathing,” she said.

  “What if it is Cooper? What if he is the mortal I’m looking for?”

  “I just asked you that.” She paused, studying my face. “Do you think he is?”

  “Check me out of the hospital. We’ll find Cooper and I’ll talk to him about it. See if he wants it. God power has to be accepted. You can’t force anyone to take up that kind of burden. Things go really wrong really fast if you try to.”

  “Has someone tried to force it on someone in the past?”

  “Didn’t you ever listen to anything Dad told us?”

  She crinkled her nose. “You were going to take over his job, and Myra’s serious enough about this stuff for all three of us. I figured if there was something I should know, you’d fill me in on it.”

  “Yes. Someone tried forcing a god power on a mortal who had refused it, and it went very, very bad, very, very fast.”

  “How bad?”

  “Bubonic plague bad. As in, it started the plague.”

  She sucked air in through her teeth. “Well, let’s not do that. So you need to talk to Cooper, right?”

  “First I need out of the hospital. Then I need to talk to Cooper.”

  “You’re staying here overnight.”

  I whined.

  “Delaney,” she said sternly. “You were shot. Then you got in a bar fight. Then you wrestled a suspect who ripped your stitches and added bruises to your bruises. You’re staying in the hospital until tomorrow morning. And it will only be Sunday. Plenty
of time to find Cooper and give him the god power.”

  “Unless it’s not his.”

  “It will be a good place to start, and you’ll still have two days left if it isn’t.”

  “Or maybe it is his and he’ll turn it down anyway.”

  “You really think Cooper Clark, a man with an ego the size of Jupiter, would turn down the chance to be a god?”

  “It’s not just a power. It’s a commitment. Heimdall was the god who was supposed to sound the alarm on Ragnarok. He is the ever-vigilant, eyes-on-the-horizon, doing-good-for-his-brethren kind of god. His power is about waiting patiently, and being there when someone needs him. Cooper’s more of a cut-and-run kind of guy.”

  She frowned. I wasn’t wrong.

  “If anyone could talk him into it, it would be you.”

  “I’m not so sure about that. I did hit him in the face.”

  “You should be ashamed of yourself. Not calling me first so I could watch.”

  I shook my head and smiled. “Did anyone tell Chris about Margot?”

  Her smile slipped and she glanced at the floor then back at me. “You don’t need to worry about that right now, Delaney.”

  “I’ll take that as a ‘no,’ then? You should tell him, or have Myra do it. He needs to know. Heim was his friend and he was dating Margot, or really, she was using him to get access to Heim. He’ll need someone to tell him it’s not his fault.”

  “We’ll make sure he knows.” She patted my arm. “Stop working, would you? Get some sleep.”

  I didn’t want to. But it had been a long day and I’d used up my reserves. “You don’t have to stay.”

  She chuckled. “We tried that once, remember? You’re a flight risk.” She arranged my blanket to cover my feet more evenly then patted my leg. “I’ll be over here if you need anything.”

  I lowered the bed and shifted around until I got comfortable.

  Jean picked up her phone and grinned at the screen before she tapped at it with her thumbs.

  I knew what had put that look on her face. “Say hi to Hogan for me.”

  She just snorted and curled up around her phone, her back toward me as if I were going to spy on her texts.

  I watched her for a minute, a wash of melancholy filling me. I loved seeing her happy and excited in the beginning stages of a relationship. But seeing her so happy and relaxed just made me wonder how it had all gone wrong with Ryder.

  The sex had been good.

  No, it had been great. Fun and easy. My fantasy of what it might be like to be with Ryder had been thoroughly exceeded.

  It was the after-sex part where things had fallen apart.

  Old Rossi had warned me he was trouble. Old Rossi had been right.

  I closed my watery eyes.

  I’d been hoping for more. For a chance to explore…him, explore us. Explore what we could be together.

  But that wasn’t in the cards. That wasn’t what he wanted. Ryder Bailey wasn’t the man I thought he was.

  The image of him busting into the station, armed and ready to throw down, was hot, yes. Undeniably hot. And the worry in his eyes when I’d been bleeding. The anger that had quickly looked like regret until he stowed it away. All that added up to…what?

  Confusion. Ryder Bailey confused me.

  Ryder Bailey didn’t want me.

  And I didn’t want him.

  Liar.

  I ignored my heart and let the painkillers take me gently into sleep.

  Chapter 29

  IT HAD taken until Sunday afternoon for me to be discharged from the hospital. I couldn’t prove that they were dragging their feet to make me pay for checking myself out early before. But after repeated reminders that I was injured, and should not be left on my own because I was likely to just re-injure myself, I got the hint.

  Myra strolled into the lobby just as I was finally holding my release papers and trying to decide who I was going to call for a ride.

  “Home?” she asked.

  “I want a shower and a change of clothes.”

  She was quiet as we walked out to the cruiser. After we were both inside her car, I asked, “What’s wrong?”

  She started the engine and maneuvered out into traffic. “We can’t find Cooper.”

  A chill ran through me as the power twisted. “What?”

  “Jean told me you thought Cooper would be the right fit for Heimdall’s power. So I went to find him. He’s gone.”

  “What do you mean, gone? How gone?”

  “We think he left town yesterday. The last person who saw him said he had his backpack over his shoulder and was walking north.”

  “Hell,” I breathed.

  “We’ll figure it out,” she said. “I put out an APB. If he’s hitching, we’ll find him once he hits a town.”

  I knew we’d find him. Eventually. But I only had two days left before this god power would no longer remain on hold. I had to find someone to give it to by tomorrow. After that, the power would tear Ordinary and all of its inhabitants apart.

  “Okay. I think we need a plan B.”

  “What do you have in mind?”

  “I need to be around as many people as possible. Maybe there’s someone else the power will respond to. But first I want clean clothes.”

  ~~~

  THE RALLY was busy even though it was early evening by the time Myra and I made it to the festival. The weather was mild and clear, and the strings of lights hung off wooden arches and booths created a canopy of glowing color, lending an irresistible magic to the place.

  Rides roared and hissed and burbled with music on the south end of the rally. We made our way slowly past those, in between the even-noisier carnival games where a few folks called out and waved to Myra and me.

  I’d taken the time to shower at home and changed into comfortable jeans, Converse, and a sweater. I’d wasted a few extra minutes in my bedroom, staring at the blankets still messy from the night with Ryder, his cologne lingering on my sheets. The little origami Spud still rested on his pillow. I should’ve just thrown it away.

  Instead, I’d picked up the tiny dog and tucked it into my purse.

  Memories of the night flowed through me. Honesty in the darkness, need and release and pleasure. We had both wanted that. Wanted each other. How had the daylight turned it into lies? “Good a place as any. Let’s rest.” Myra’s voice pulled me out of my reverie. We had wandered past the food stalls, which were centrally located along the main pathway. Picnic tables, chairs, and benches gathered in the area.

  “I’m not hurt that bad,” I grumbled.

  She gave me a look and pointed at the bench. “I’ll believe that when you aren’t the color of paste.”

  “Sparkly paste?” I eased down onto the bench, trying not to favor my side.

  She snorted. “Want something to eat?”

  I drummed my fingers on the table and grinned at her. “You always try to feed people to make them feel better.”

  “Please.” She rolled her eyes.

  “No, it’s kind of sweet. Mom used to do that.”

  Her eyes drifted over my shoulder. “I remember that.”

  Mom had been gone for fifteen years. Myra had been ten years old when she died. I’d been thirteen, and as the oldest, probably had the most memories of her. Still, as time went on, more and more details of her had faded and blurred.

  “You remind me of her sometimes,” I said gently.

  Myra finally shifted her gaze to me. “I miss her.” Her normally guarded eyes swam with emotion.

  I nodded, not knowing what to say to make it better. I settled on the truth. “Me too.”

  She swallowed, then pulled her composed, cool mask back on. I watched as her eyes reverted to their icy blue. It made me realize I hadn’t seen a lot of my sister—the sister behind the cool mask of her job and duty—lately. “She always made me think there was nothing I couldn’t tackle. She never gave up. On anything.”

  I nodded.

  “You remind me of her
sometimes too,” she said quietly.

  A crowd of teen boys barreled through the picnic area, arms over each other’s shoulders, pointing at the sky and chanting, “We’re number one!” then yelling the Barnacle cheer.

  Myra and I both gave them a quick look. All noise, no real trouble. They climbed over and on top of a picnic table and starting arguing about who was going to buy the corn dogs and chili fries.

  “Could be one of them,” Myra suggested.

  I chuckled. “I hope not. I’d hate to ruin their lives.”

  She finally sat next to me, her shoulder brushing mine. “Are you kidding? What teenager wouldn’t want to be a god?”

  “True. In that case, I hope not, because I’d hate to ruin our lives.”

  She grinned. “Amen, sister.”

  We sat there crowd-watching, me listening for any change in the power as hundreds of people strolled past. Other than a runaway puppy Myra helped catch, it was a pretty easy way to spend four hours.

  But by the end of it, I hadn’t felt an unusual attraction or volume change in the power. Just to make sure, we’d walked all the way north to the crafting and selling booths to check out the behind-the-counter venders, strolled through the main hall, and then loitered at the exit to parking. I’d been near every person in attendance.

  Nothing.

  ~~~

  MYRA TURNED off the engine of the cruiser in the drive below my house.

  “I still think you should come home with me instead.”

  It was midnight, and I had my elbow propped on the edge of the window, my fingers over my eyebrows, as if even the moonlight was too much.

  It wasn’t the moonlight. I was tired, aching, and the song in my head was grating at me so much that I thought bamboo spears under my fingernails would be more pleasant.

  “I really want my bed tonight. Yes, I promise to take my pills,” I said before she could remind me. “And yes, I’ll call before I come into the station tomorrow.” I opened the door and got out of the car without groaning too loudly.

 
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