Shelter in place, p.35
Shelter in Place, p.35Nora Roberts
“You think the cop deserves a segment,” Patricia said slowly.
“Absolutely. That moment when you realized you hadn’t finished him, and that he’d shot you—I want to talk about that a bit more. And about what you thought, felt, while rushing back to get money, weapons, IDs—and still taking the opportunity to kill your grandparents before you ran.”
“I didn’t run. I regrouped.”
“Mmm.” She scooped up more hummus. “We’ll touch on your time in Canada, but that’s not a highlight. It’s more of a bridge, so regrouping’s a good term. But the turning point came when you realized you’d failed to kill Quartermaine, and that he managed to wound you—and then you have the serendipity of the cop who killed your brother helping to save the man you tried to kill.”
“It’s great TV, just great TV. I want to focus more on that turning point next, how the mistake with Quartermaine changed your direction, forced you to regroup. Thanks,” she added when Patricia handed her another cup of Diet Coke.
“You see that as a mistake. With that fucking cop?”
Seriously hungry, and far too caught up, Seleena forgot a good interviewer let the subject do the talking. A good interviewer observed changes in tone and body language.
“A miscalculation anyway, and again a turning point we want to punch. Up to that point, you weren’t even on the radar, right?”
She drank some diet soda, went back to the crackers.
“It’s just what you said before—you let JJ take the blame.”
“Credit. You were the sister of a teenage killer, the devoted granddaughter, living a quiet life. And the next minute you’re a fugitive who’d tried to kill a cop in cold blood because he’d survived the DownEast. Who did kill her elderly grandparents in cold blood before she ran to hide—and regroup—in Canada.
“You’d killed before, Pat, but that near miss with Quartermaine changed everything.”
“He got lucky.”
Seleena nodded. “He did, he got really lucky. Recognizing you just an instant before it would have been too late, then wounding you, not to mention the irony of having his police partner already heading to that house—the same woman cop who was, ironically again, just outside the theater. She killed JJ, helped save Quartermaine. Great TV.”
“You think so?”
“Believe me, I know so. Okay, I’ve got the next segment organized.”
“Your segments, your ratings, your claim to fucking fame.”
“It’s my story. Mine.”
“And it’s going to blow the roof off. I think we should freshen up the makeup a little before we roll again.” She shook out her shoulders, then crossed her legs.
“You don’t need it,” Patricia said, “because that’s a fucking wrap.”
Seleena glanced over, managed one choked sound before Patricia shot her, and shot her, and shot her again. Ironically, in Patricia’s mind, with Seleena’s own pink Glock.
She expelled air, and anger. Felt better. “And don’t call me ‘Pat.’”
She made herself a plate of crackers and hummus, ate while Seleena’s body bled out on the cabin floor. She’d take the camera, she decided, leave the tripod and the lights. Too much to take back on her flight south.
Since she’d already stopped to change the plates, and she’d taken some time to beat some dings into it, she considered Seleena’s car a safe ride for the distance she had to drive.
Time to grab some cash and another couple IDs out of the bank in New Hampshire, she calculated. Then she’d leave the car at the airport, catch a flight. She’d pick up a rental in Louisville.
They’d find the body in a few days, she imagined. She’d booked the cabin for a week, and had four days left. By then, she’d be … somewhere else.
She laughed a little as she washed down crackers with Diet Coke, and smiled over at Seleena’s body. “Now who made the mistake?”
* * *
After shift, Reed walked home with the dog. He picked up some supplies, and drove his personal car to CiCi’s. He’d have to tell them—Simone and CiCi—about the card, the threat, and lay out precautions he needed them to take.
When he arrived, he considered the house. All that glass, all that damn glass. So beautiful, and so vulnerable. Still, breaking in doors and windows wasn’t Hobart’s usual style.
She liked subterfuge. Breaking windows? That just wasn’t elegant.
He heard music—some of the windows were open to the spring air—recognized the steady, sexy beat of “After Midnight.” He walked the dog inside, and saw CiCi—tight cropped jeans, black T-shirt, long wild hair flowing while she danced.
She had some moves, he thought as she shoulder swayed and hip bumped her way around the room to Clapton’s genius guitar and seductive voice.
He didn’t notice Barney plopping down to watch beside him, and thumping his tail.
CiCi made a pivot, spotted him. Still moving, and now with a slow smile, she crooked a finger at Reed. “Let’s dance, Delicious.”
He stepped to her, put an arm around her waist and swept her into an impressive dip.
“Look at you!”
“Guys who dance get more girls,” he told her, sweeping her back up and into a slow spin.
“You’ve been holding out.”
“You never asked me to dance before.”
Simone came down the stairs to see her grandmother and the police chief dancing—smoothly—while the dog sat watching them with apparent fascination.
They ended the dance with his arms around CiCi’s waist, and hers linked around his neck. And grinning at each other.
“So that’s how it is.”
“Simone, you are my greatest treasure.” With a happy sigh, CiCi rested her head on Reed’s shoulder a moment. “But now that I know this man can move sexy to Clapton, I may have to steal him from you.”
“I’m yours,” Reed told her, and kissed the top of her head.
He caught the scent of her shampoo, a whiff of turpentine, and a faint, fading drift of weed.
It all said CiCi.
She gave him a squeeze, then turned to study the dog. “And here’s the four-legged cutie. You’re right, Simone, he has a sweet face, and eyes full of heart.”
She didn’t crouch, just held out a hand. “Come on and say hello, little darling.”
“It takes him awhile to…”
Reed trailed off as Barney stood, and walked straight to CiCi.
He couldn’t say Barney had gotten used to people by spending the day around them. Though he’d warmed up to Cecil, he’d cringed away from every human being they’d come to on the walk home.
And here, with only a hand held out, he’d gone to CiCi, wagging his tail as she bent down to pet him.
“Maybe you are a witch.”
“Of course I am, and I have an innate affinity for animals, especially canines as I was a she-wolf in an early life. Plus this sweetie and I recognize each other, don’t we, my handsome boy? We’ve danced, too, in yet another life.”
It wouldn’t have surprised Reed a bit.
“Acceptable,” Simone decreed, then picked up the remote to turn the music down a few notches. “Since we’ve all finished work for the day, I’m ready for some wine. Any takers?”
“Twist my arm,” said CiCi.
“Maybe we could sit outside with that. It’s warm enough. I’ve got some things to talk over with both of you.”
“You get the wine, Simone,” CiCi told her. “Let’s see how Barney likes the view from the patio.”
Deliberately, she led Reed and the dog out. “This is about Patricia Hobart.”
“Is that grapevine or psychic?”
“I’m going to say I felt a disturbance this morning.”
“In the Force?”
“I know what I
“No, but thanks. I’d like to talk to both of you.”
“I believe strongly in the threefold rule. What you send out into the universe, good or bad, comes back at you threefold. But I’d risk whatever came at me to send out something that would drop that bitch like a stone down a bottomless well for trying to hurt you or my baby.”
“I won’t let her hurt Simone, or you.”
CiCi framed his face with her hands. “Add yourself to that.”
“I’ve … danced with her before. I know her moves.”
“And they’re at it again.” With an exaggerated eye roll, Simone brought out a bottle of wine and three glasses. After setting the wine and glasses on the table, she pulled a long, fat chew stick out of her back pocket. “Now everyone has a treat.”
She poured the wine as Barney settled down with his treat. “God, I had a really good day, and now it’s a gorgeous evening.”
“I’m sorry to have to put a hitch in that.”
Simone glanced at Reed. “Seriously serious then.”
“Let’s sit down.” He’d tried out several approaches in his head, hadn’t settled on any. So in the end, he went with straight ahead.
“I got a card in the morning mail. From Patricia Hobart.”
As she sat beside CiCi, Simone reached for her grandmother’s hand.
“What kind of card?”
“The kind that cost her three-ninety-nine, plus applicable tax and postage.” He described the card, then relayed the message.
“She’s threatening you. Has she ever done that sort of thing before?”
“No, not to me, and I confirmed with the FBI today, there’s no evidence she contacted or threatened anyone else. She’s pissed off she missed with me, and I shot her. I cost her the big house and a lot of money. Being pissed, she had to take another shot—metaphorically. And that break in pattern tells me she’s going to make more mistakes. That’s the good part.”
“There’s a ‘good part’ to getting a death threat?” Simone demanded.
“More than one. It tells me I shook her enough to get inside that twisted brain of hers. It tells me that fresh off killing Emily Devlon, she thought of me, sent the card. It had a lock of hair inside it. It’s going to be Emily Devlon’s hair.”
“Jesus, she’s a horrible, sick, vicious creature,” CiCi said. “Karma will make her its bitch, but until then…”
“The justice system will make her its bitch first,” Reed told her. “She mailed the card from Florida, and the FBI will track exactly where.”
“But she won’t be there,” Simone pointed out.
“No, but it tells us where she was. It tells us when she was there. Where is that in relation to the Devlons? They work on triangulating that and they’ll find where she lived while she stalked Emily. They’ll talk to people who talked to her, who saw her. Every piece of information counts. On top of it, she warned me. She did it to scare me, but she missed again. Warned, I take steps.”
“I bring in the FBI for one of those steps.”
“The dickhead?” Simone reminded him.
“He’s no longer SAC—Special Agent in Charge. The new SAC is Special Agent Tonya Jacoby.”
“A woman.” CiCi gave a satisfied nod. “Now we’re getting somewhere.”
“After meeting her today, I can agree. She’s also not a dickhead. At this point, and very likely due to Hobart’s misstep, we’ll be sharing information. I’ll know more, and they’ll—including Xavier, who takes orders from her—listen more.”
“It takes a woman.” CiCi raised her glass.
“A lot of times it does. I’ve briefed my deputies and Donna. We’ve got Hobart’s photo front and center on the bullpen board. And we’re going to distribute her photo. I talked to the mayor about that, and about bringing on a couple of the summer deputies early. She’s good with it.”
“We’re an island,” Simone said. “She needs the ferry, a charter, or a private boat to get on or off. It’s harder to run.”
“You’re exactly right.”
“She could wait until you’re in Portland for something.”
“How would she know?” he countered, as much in truth as to soothe Simone. “I don’t do the social media thing, and that’s her main source. It’ll be here, and that’s an advantage for us.”
“You’re right.” Nodding, Simone sipped her wine. “You’re exactly right, too, but—”
“There are a lot of buts, and we’ll get to them. Another advantage for us is she’s trying to take on a cop, again. And a forewarned police force. I’ve studied her, and I’m going to bet I’ve studied her closer and longer than she’s studied me. Or you, Simone.”
Now CiCi reached for Simone’s hand. “We have to face that, don’t we? The fact that by coming here, she could try a two for one.”
“She has to get here first, and stay here long enough to observe routines and make a plan. That’s to our advantage, too—even in the summer, which is when she’ll come. Summer’s smarter. We’re crowded, lots of people, a lot going on, busy shops and restaurants. We’ll start watching for her now, but she’ll wait for summer. This year, maybe next. Now, to the buts.”
He leaned forward. “She’s smart and she’s cagey and she’s patient—though I think the patience is ripping under the anger and the crazy. She knows how to look like someone she’s not, and to act like someone she’s not. She knows how to go unnoticed, how to blend, and how to bullshit. On the other side of that? The two of you know faces. You’re going to study hers until you know every inch of it. I believe you’ll recognize her if you see her, no matter how she looks. You’ll know.”
“She won’t get by us.” CiCi gave Simone’s hand a squeeze. “Will she, baby?”
“Here’s a list of rules,” Reed began.
“I hate rules. Too many stem from the patriarchal system designed to oppress the female.”
Reed aimed a long look at CiCi. “I’d like to see the patriarch or system that could oppress either one of you.”
CiCi smiled into her wine. “Many have tried and had their balls bruised in the attempt.”
“At the risk of my balls, these aren’t suggestions or guidelines. These are rules, like them or not. If you see her, you don’t approach or confront. You contact me or the nearest officer. If you see a strange car, bike, hiker going by the house more than once, you contact me. If you start getting hang ups or wrong numbers, you contact me. We’re going to do regular patrols.”
“What about your place?” Simone asked him.
“I’m a cop. It’s already patrolled. But if you’re there and I’m not, you lock up, and you don’t answer the door. Someone comes around, you contact me. If you’re driving into the village, or anywhere, and you see somebody broken down on the side of the road, you keep going.”
“And contact you,” CiCi figured.
“You get the idea. You take no chances. Those are simple precautions. I need you to vary your routines. Not that you have hard and fast ones anyway. But don’t shop on the same day of the week or the same time of day. Don’t take walks the same time and day. Whether or not you expect a delivery, if a truck pulls up, they leave the delivery outside. You don’t open the door, you don’t go out. Anything, anyone gives you an off feeling, you contact me. And no social media about plans.”
He sat back again. “You could put in an alarm system.”
“That,” CiCi said decisively, “isn’t going to happen.”
“I figured that, but you need to lock up, whether you’re here or out. Do that for me, okay?”
“Good. I’m not going to insinuate the two of you can’t take care of yourselves. Especially since I don’t want my balls bruised, and I’m hoping for dinner. But I’m going to say I love both of you, and I’m going to look out for you. That’s it.”
“Don’t think we’re not going to look after you for the same reason.” CiCi rose, topped off her wine. “I’m going to start doing that now by making you a hot meal.”
“Don’t cook,” he said quickly. “I’ll go get takeout.”
“Cooking’s going to rebalance my chi.” She leaned over, kissed Reed. “You’re a lot smarter than she is, and so’s my girl. I’m damn well a lot cagier.”
Simone waited until CiCi went inside. “I didn’t bring it up, all this is enough, but if Hobart comes here, she’ll go back to Portland. My sister, my mother.”
“I’ve talked to Essie, and I talked to Jacoby. They’ll have eyes on your family.”
She got up, wandered over to look out at the water. The dog, finished with the treat, now lay stretched over Reed’s feet. “I should’ve known you’d think of them.”
“I talked to Boston PD, so they’re on alert. You’ll want to talk to Mi about it. I also talked to a friend of mine who I think she has on her list. He’s in New York now. I’m sorry to bring all this here.”
“You didn’t. She did. She started it all. It was her plan, and as horrible as it was, it didn’t work out the way she wanted. Neither will this. It’s funny. I love the island, always have. But I didn’t realize how much I do, how much it’s mine, until I realized she might come here and try to hurt someone who matters so much to me. Hurt someone else who matters so much. Who could try to stain this place the way she did the mall, and Portland? I never felt completely safe in Portland after that night.”
She turned back. “I went to New York as soon as I could. I went to Italy, I went wherever I could that wasn’t there. Most of the time, though, I came here. I sheltered in place, but I kept looking for somewhere or something else. I’m not sure I knew, until you, that it was more than that for me, more than sheltering in place. It was my place, my home. Nothing she can do will change that.”
She came back, slid over the arm of the chair into his lap. “There’s more than one kind of shelter. You’re another for me. I’m going to be the same for you.”
Shelter in Place by Nora Roberts / Romance & Love / History & Fiction / Thrillers & Crime / Mystery & Detective have rating 3.7 out of 5 / Based on33 votes