Shelter in place, p.44
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       Shelter in Place, p.44
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           Nora Roberts

  “Not really. I know how that feels. She just nicked me. Thanks to my woman and my fucking moron of a dog, she just nicked me. Keep breathing, Patricia. I want to think of you doing a whole bunch of consecutive lifetimes in a cell. Keep breathing.”

  “Reed.”

  He glanced up at Simone and CiCi, both pale, their eyes too dark, both shaking.

  “I need you to go on up, get on dry clothes. When you can, you’re both going to give statements to Matty and Leon. Separately. I’ll be there as soon as I can. There’s nothing to worry about now.”

  He wanted to grab them both, hold them both, but not with his hands covered in blood.

  “She shot you. She—”

  “You’re going to make me say it. It’s just a flesh wound. I’m okay. CiCi needs to get warm and dry. Take Barney, would you? He’s a little shaken up, too.”

  “The ambulance is here.” Cecil rushed down. “They’re heading down now.”

  “Good. Cecil, I want you to unclip my holster, take my weapon until we have all the statements. Matty’s in charge until this is cleared.”

  “No, sir, Chief.”

  “Cecil, that’s how it’s done.”

  “I won’t do it. You can fire me, but I won’t do it.”

  “He’ll have to fire me, too,” Matty put in. “And the rest of us, because none of us are doing that.”

  “Ah, well.” Reed straightened, stepping back as the paramedics took over.

  CHAPTER THIRTY

  Though Matty corroborated Simone’s eyewitness account, as she’d been ten steps behind Reed, he gave his statement to Leon.

  “I’m going to ask you to take my weapon.”

  “Nope.”

  “Deputy Wendall, I’m going to ask you to take the weapon I fired, so we keep the chain of evidence clean. I’m not asking you to take over, just to take the weapon, bag it, seal it, label it. I’ve got a backup in an ankle holster, and have had since Memorial Day.”

  Leon considered, rubbed his chin. “Okay then. You get that arm fixed up, Chief.”

  Reed gave his statement to the feds while one of the island doctors stitched him up right in CiCi’s kitchen.

  Shutting down the ferry brought Mi back, so the three women sat together, refusing to budge while the crime scene work went on around them.

  Jacoby came in, sat across from him. “Tranquility Island, huh?”

  Reed had to smile. “Usually. What’s the word on Hobart’s condition?”

  “They airlifted her to Portland. Your clinic’s not equipped for wounds that severe. She’s in surgery. I asked your former partner to work with us on that side of the water. She’d like to hear from you when you have a chance, and wanted me to tell you she’ll contact your family, let them know you’re okay.”

  “You’re okay, for a fed. My deputy Leon Wendall has my weapon—sealed and labeled. Three shots fired from it. Do you want me to run it through for you?”

  “No, I’ve got it. We’re working on the rental cottage, and the car. If she makes it to trial, we’ve got everything we need. Unless she’s got another stash, it looks like she was running low on IDs. Only a couple left at that cottage. It’s clear her control’s deteriorated since you shot her. The first time. We’ll talk again, but I want to say…” She rose, held out a hand. “It’s been a pleasure working with you, Chief.”

  “A pleasure for me, too, Special Agent.”

  * * *

  Since Matty wouldn’t take over, Reed coordinated his deputies, talked to the mayor when she raced up in a frilly pink tank and a pair of pajama bottoms with starfish all over them. He dealt with the publisher of the Tranquility Bulletin.

  He’d need to make an official statement, and do more dealing with the reporters flooding in from the mainland, but that would wait.

  Since Essie had reassured his family, he’d follow up with all of them just a little later.

  Leaving the rest for now, Reed walked over to sit on the coffee table across from Simone, CiCi, Mi. “How’re you doing?”

  He put a hand on CiCi’s knee first.

  “I’ll be better when I can have a couple tokes, but I’m waiting on that until the cops clear out so I don’t embarrass the chief of police.”

  “I appreciate it. I’m sorry I wasn’t faster. Sorry I didn’t find her before she—”

  “Shut up. Shut up. Shut up.” Simone gripped his face, pressed her lips to his and poured every piece of her heart into the kiss. “You did exactly what you promised. So did I. So shut up.”

  “I’m going to get you a whiskey,” CiCi decided.

  “It’s going to have to be coffee for a while yet. Chief on duty.”

  “I’ll get it. You sit.” Mi rubbed CiCi’s arm, got up, then leaned over to put her arms around Reed’s neck. Just held on. “They’re my family,” she told him. “Now so are you.” She straightened to go into the kitchen.

  “These girls are treating me like an old lady,” CiCi complained. “I don’t like it, so don’t you add to that. When are these cops going to get out of my house—present company excepted.”

  “It won’t take much longer.” He looked back at the broken glass door. “We’ll board that up for you.”

  She nodded. “Mi wants to call her family. The news is going to get out about this, and while she didn’t tell them she was coming, they’ll worry about me and Simone. So will Tulip and Ward and Natalie.”

  “You can call your families.”

  “Then I’m going to get a whiskey and do just that.” CiCi rose. “Stop hogging the man for a minute.” She leaned into Reed. “You’re the answer to all my prayers to all the gods and goddesses. You clear these cops out as soon as you can—I need to white sage my house. And you take Simone home.”

  “We’re staying here tonight,” Reed told her.

  “Because I’m an old lady?”

  Deliberately, he brushed Simone aside, whispered in CiCi’s ear. “You’re the love of my life, but I have to settle for her.” When she laughed, Reed kissed her temple. “And because Simone’s not moving in until the twenty-third, and you’re coming to dinner.”

  “I’ll accept that. Mi, pour me a whiskey, and yourself whatever you’re having. Then we’ll go upstairs and make these calls. Mine will result in hysterics on the other end, so make that a double. We’ll talk in the morning,” she told Simone, then smiled at Reed. “Over cranberry pancakes and Bloody Marys.”

  “She could still change her mind,” Reed considered, taking the coffee Mi brought him.

  “Can we just go outside for a minute?” Simone asked.

  “Sure. I’m still the chief of police. Don’t let this spoil this house for you, the beach, any of it.”

  “It won’t,” Simone told him as they stepped out on the patio, as she took a deep, clear breath. “It can’t.”

  Lights still shined on the beach below, cops still did their work. She didn’t care. He was here.

  “When they leave, can we take a walk on the beach?” She leaned her head on his uninjured shoulder. “Our version of a couple of tokes and some white sage.”

  “Let’s do that.”

  “You need to call your family.”

  “Essie talked to them, so they know I’m okay.”

  “You need to call them. They need to hear your voice. Do it now. I’ll wait.”

  “You call yours, I’ll call mine.”

  “CiCi’s already talking to Mom and Dad.”

  “Call your sister.”

  “You’re right.” Simone drew a breath. “You’re right.”

  As she spoke to her sister, she heard Reed glossing over some of the details on his end while he soothed the still anxious Barney with long, easy strokes.

  She didn’t blame him for the glossing over as she did exactly the same. The hard truths could wait a little longer.

  She put her phone away, watched the water, waited for Reed.

  “They’re coming out tomorrow,” he told Simone. “I couldn’t talk them out of it.”


  “Good, because Natalie’s coming out with Harry, and I’m going to bet my parents will, too.”

  “I guess we’ll have to heat up the grill.”

  She kissed his bandaged shoulder. “And tomorrow, you can tell me everything. I caught bits and pieces, but you can tell me everything. Not tonight, tomorrow. Except I guess it’s already tomorrow, but in the morning, after those pancakes.”

  “That’s a deal. You saved me. She might’ve gotten the drop on me again.”

  “I don’t think so. I watched it all, and I don’t think so. But we can say we saved each other. And he helped,” she added, looking at Barney.

  “Caviar Milk-Bones for life.”

  “With champagne chew-bone chasers.”

  “It’s the high life for Barney. Sorry.” Reed pulled out his phone. “Jacoby? Yeah.” He blew out a breath. “Yeah, thanks for letting me know.”

  He stared at the phone a moment, then put it away.

  “She didn’t make it. Hobart. They called it at twelve-thirty-eight.”

  “July twenty-second,” Simone added. “Thirteen years to the day.” She gripped his hands. “CiCi would say it’s karma, or it’s the hand of fate, and she wouldn’t be wrong. It’s a door closed, Reed, for both of us. And for all the people she meant to hurt just because they lived.”

  “She heard the sirens, had to, but she didn’t even try to run. So, yeah, it’s a door closed.”

  He turned her hands over, kissed them. She’d scraped them up a little on the rocks.

  “We’re going to take a walk on the beach,” he told her, “and start the next part of our lives. And since I’ve already talked you into step one—the moving in together—I’m going to start talking you into step two. Especially since the door’s closed, and I’m wounded.”

  “What, exactly, is step two?”

  “We need to talk about a few things. You never answered the fancy wedding question. Me, I’m more in favor of simple, but I’m flexible.”

  “Not nearly as much as you pretend. Step one hasn’t even happened yet.”

  “Today’s the day. Plus, ouch, I’m wounded. They’re clearing out. Let’s take that walk on the beach.”

  She went down with him, down the steps she and the most important woman in her life had run down only hours before.

  Now the moon spread light over the water, spilled it silver onto the rocks that had given her and a woman they both loved shelter.

  She didn’t look at the sand where blood had spilled. Time and wind and rain would wash it away. She would cast the lost in bronze, and they would stay. She would walk with him into tomorrow, and he would stay.

  They’d tend a house together, and a good, sweet dog, and remember every day as a precious gift.

  She turned to him. “I’m not saying I’m ready for or can be talked into step two—even though you’re wounded.”

  “Blood. Needles. Stitches.”

  She touched her lips to his shoulder again. “I’m just willing to say, at this time, I like simple.”

  He smiled, kissed her fingers, then walked the beach with her with the dog trotting at his heels.

  — One Year Later —

  In the park where a nineteen-year-old Reed Quartermaine asked Officer Essie McVee how to become a cop, hundreds gathered. Survivors and loved ones of those lost each held a single white rose with a sprig of rosemary.

  The mayor of Rockpoint gave a short speech under a sky blue with summer while white gulls winged over the water. Among the gathered, children fidgeted, a baby fussed.

  Simone took her place, looked out at the faces, the tears already shed. She looked at Reed, standing with his family and hers.

  “Ah, thank you, Ms. Mayor, and thank you to my father, Ward Knox, and my grandmother, the amazing CiCi Lennon, for making it possible to place this art in Rockpoint Park. Thank you to my mother, Tulip Knox, for helping to arrange this … gathering today to unveil it.”

  She’d tried to prepare a speech, to write one out and practice, but everything she’d attempted came off stiff and stilted and, well, prepared.

  So she did what CiCi advised. She said what came to her mind from her heart.

  “I was there,” she began, “on July twenty-second, fourteen years ago tonight. I lost a friend, a beautiful girl,” she continued, looking toward the Olsen family. “A friend I still miss, every day, as so many here lost someone they loved and miss every day.

  “For a long time I tried to forget what had happened. Some of you may understand what I mean when I say I tried to pretend it was over, and didn’t affect my life. I thought I needed to do just that to survive it. But I was wrong, and everyone here, everyone knows that while we have to go on, we can never, should never, forget.

  “You know their faces, the son or daughter, the mother or father, the brother or sister, husband, wife. You know them. I came to know them, and hope by knowing them, by honoring them, no one will ever forget. I hope you’ll think of this, not as a memorial, but a remembrance. I’d like to dedicate this work not only to those we loved and lost, but to all of us. They are, as we are, all connected but not just by tragedy. By love.”

  She reached out for Reed’s hand, waited for Essie and Mi to take their place on the other side of the drape.

  “Okay.” She took a long breath. “Okay.”

  Together, they lifted the drape.

  She’d cast the bronze in a graceful curve. More than a hundred faces formed it, all connected by twining roses and rosemary. All softly washed in a patina of quiet blues and greens. On the curve of the base, she’d listed all the names, every name in bas-relief.

  Simone gripped Reed’s hand as she heard weeping, and couldn’t bring herself to look away from the faces she’d cast to the faces of the weeping.

  Then she heard CiCi’s voice, the amazing CiCi, begin to sing “The Long and Winding Road.”

  Others joined in, hesitantly at first, then more fully if they knew the words.

  Now she looked, and saw hands clasped as Reed clasped hers. She saw people embracing. She saw tears, she saw comfort.

  When her own tears came, she turned into Reed and found her comfort there.

  And when the song ended, people came forward. Some reached down to touch a hand to a face. Some came to her to take her hand or to embrace her.

  Reed brought a woman to her. “Simone, this is Leah Patterson. Angie’s mom.”

  “I need you to know.” Leah gripped both Simone’s hands. “I need you to really understand what this means to me. People will know she was here. She lived. Thank you more than I can say.”

  Then Leah walked over, laid a white rose on the grass at the base as others had.

  Tulip waited until the crowd thinned before she went to Simone. “I’m very proud of you.”

  “We’re very proud of you,” Ward said and kissed her cheek, smiled. “You’d have made a terrible lawyer.”

  “Boy, wouldn’t I.”

  “I got two good ones in the family.” He glanced back at Harry and Natalie as Natalie ran a hand down the mound of her belly. “And maybe a next-generation one in the works.”

  “Ward.” Tulip patted his arm, narrowed her eyes at Simone. “What color is that hair?”

  “Magnificent Maroon with Golden Goddess highlights.”

  “I’ll never understand it, or you.” She drew Simone into a hug. “I love you anyway.”

  “Ditto.”

  “Reed.” When Tulip offered a cheek, Reed bent down to kiss it. “I don’t suppose you can talk my daughter into the two of you, and my mother, joining us at the club for dinner tonight.”

  “We appreciate that, but we have to get back. I’m on duty tonight.”

  “Well.” She straightened his tie to her satisfaction, brushed at his lapels. “I hope we see you both soon.”

  Reed shook hands with Ward, watched them move off.

  “You took the day and evening off,” Simone reminded him.

  “Grill duty. Let’s say goodbye to Essie and her ga
ng, scoop up Mi and CiCi, and go home. I’ve got to ditch this tie.”

  “You go ahead. I’ll be there in a minute. I want to talk to Nat first.”

  He made his way to Essie, and the baby in the stroller.

  “Hey there, Ariel.”

  She gurgled, grinned, waved a pudgy fist, then went back to gnawing on a teething ring.

  “Where are the men and dogs?” Reed asked her.

  “Over on the swings. Or Dylan is while Hank deals with him and the dogs.”

  “He sure won Barney over. I appreciate him riding herd while we did all that.” He looked down toward the bench where they’d once sat together. “Sometimes it seems like a lifetime ago, sometimes like yesterday.”

  “I wouldn’t change a single thing from the moment we sat down on that bench.”

  “Me, either. Well, maybe getting shot, except one thing leads to another. Did you get to see Ms. Leticia?”

  “I did.”

  “It was good of her to come.” He looked back at the gentle curve of bronze. “It was good.”

  “It’s beautiful, and wrenching and important. I look at it and I want to hug my kids so tight, and Hank, and everybody I love.”

  “Bring it in,” Reed offered. “Get the gang, come for the rest of the weekend. I’m grilling tonight. Don’t say no. Go pack some stuff and catch a ferry.”

  “Do you have a clue how much stuff’s involved in packing up a baby and a kid?”

  “Not yet. One of these days. Come on, Essie, let’s cap this day off with some happy, kick some sand over what happened on the island a year ago.”

  She blew out a breath. “You’re on.”

  “Great. I’ll go get my dog, tell Hank.”

  Simone waved Natalie off, hooked arms with CiCi. “Did you plan the Beatles?”

  “No. It just came to me. It seemed the right song, and it seemed we needed a song. My treasure.” She sighed, tipped her head to Simone’s as they looked back at the bronze with the flowers spread at its base.

  “I put Tish in the center. I needed to. She was mine. They all became mine, but she was mine first, and always.”

  “And that’s how it should be. I see our Reed heading this way with Barney. I’ll get Mi. It’s time to go home, let him smoke up the grill, put some music on. I want to dance in the sand.”

 
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admin 22 September 2018 10:55
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new Nora Roberts book
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