Carrots: A Shelby Nichols Adventure (2 page)

He left, and Chris and I were alone. I threw my arms around him, and sudden tears ran down my cheeks. I didn’t want to let go of his solid comfort. It took a minute to get under control, and when we finally pulled apart, I could see the worry lines around his eyes. He swallowed. “I didn’t know what to think when they called and said you’d been shot. At least they told me you only had a minor injury, or I don’t know what I would have done. I’m still not clear on what happened.”

“I was at the grocery store getting carrots when a man came in and robbed the bank. I saw him shoot this guy, and then he shot at me. I guess I didn’t duck in time.”

He hugged me again. “Thank God you’re all right.”

The doctor returned with last minute instructions and the prescription. I was hoping for another happy shot, and I did get a shot, but this one was for tetanus and hurt like crazy.

As we gathered up my things to leave, the detective with the dimples arrived. When I saw him before, the only thing I’d noticed were his huge dimples, but now I was struck by how good-humored and clean-cut he seemed. Definitely not something you’d expect from a cop. He was built like a linebacker though, so his size was intimidating. Maybe that was why he could afford to be nice. He introduced the other detective with him, and explained that they were both assigned to my case. The other cop’s name was Detective Williams, and he began to question me. I told them everything that happened, except for the smashed potato chips.

“Do you think you would recognize the bank robber if you saw him again?” This was from Dimples.

“Yes, I’m pretty sure I would.”

“What did you say?” Detective Williams asked. His brows were drawn down over his eyes like something I said didn’t make any sense. I scanned the other faces around me, and realized that everyone was looking at me like I’d lost my mind.

“Dimples just asked me a question, and I answered it. You did, didn’t you?”

“Dimples?” Detective Williams grinned, then cleared his throat like he was trying not to laugh.

“Oh, sorry. I couldn’t remember his name, and you have to admit, he’s got really big dimples. It’s not something you could miss, especially when they spin around like…” I stopped before I made a bigger fool of myself.

Everyone focused on Dimples, and his face turned a bright shade of red. “I’m Detective Harris.” He was talking to me slowly, like there was something wrong with me. “I’ve been assigned to your case with Detective Williams.” He stuck his hand out, and I took it automatically.

“Shelby Nichols. Nice to meet you.” I said just as slowly. The detective smiled and his dimples got huge again. I choked back a chuckle, and couldn’t understand why just looking at him made me a little crazy.

“I was going to ask you if you thought you would recognize him again.” Dimples a.k.a. Harris said.

“You did ask me that.” At his confused expression I cringed. “Didn’t you?”

“No. I was going to, but I hadn’t yet.”

Detective Williams was growing impatient. “It doesn’t matter. I think we understand that she thinks she could identify him.” He turned to me. “You’re our only lead at the moment since the video feed at the bank only got the back of his head after the mask came off.”
It would be great if she could come down to the station and give us a complete description though. Maybe we could even get an artist’s rendering done.

My breath caught. What was going on? I knew he didn’t say the words, but I heard him as if he had. Next, he confirmed it by saying aloud those exact words. The room started to tilt and I felt the blood drain from my head. Chris steadied me when I swayed.

“I think I’d like to go home now.”

“Can this wait until tomorrow?” Chris asked. “I think my wife has had enough for one day.”

The detectives exchanged glances. “Sure,” Dimples said. “We have the general description. Here’s my card. I’ll call you in the morning and maybe we can set up a time with an artist to get a more complete picture.” I watched his face to make sure I heard everything he said. It all came out right. Still, I nodded just to be on the safe side.

I sighed with relief when they left. Chris did too. As he directed me to the car he was worried, and more than a little scared. Just an inch or two to the left and I’d be dead. He’d lose me and what would he do with the kids? Who would make sure they did their homework, and get them to all their practices and games? He couldn’t do all that, along with the demands of his job. He’d have to hire a housekeeper or something, and that could cost a lot of money.

What? Where had that come from? I got into the car and tried to stop those depressing thoughts, only to get an instant headache. In pain, I leaned back into the seat and groaned.

“Honey, are you all right?” Chris asked.

“No. Something’s drastically wrong with my head.”

He chuckled. “Well, yeah. I’m sure those stitches hurt. Come on. Let’s get you home.”

My brain had to be misfiring or something, and my imagination was running wild. Somehow, I was imagining what I thought other people were thinking. That had to be it. The trauma of getting shot in the head was causing this wild reaction. If I got some good rest, this weirdness was sure to go away.

As soon as we got home, Chris wanted me to go right to bed, but I wanted to see the kids first. Thank goodness he’d called them earlier and explained what had happened.

When we pulled into the driveway, every window in the house blazed with light. Our house was old, but I had fallen in love with it after Chris and I were married. I loved the big front porch and the blossoming cherry trees in the front yard. We’d probably spent more money fixing it up than a new house would have cost, but I knew it was worth all the trouble the moment I walked in and felt safe and warm.

The kids bounded into the living room as soon as they heard us come in. Josh wanted to hear all the gory details. At fourteen going on twenty, it hardly seemed to faze him that I’d nearly been killed. He thought the blood on my shirt and the stitches in my head looked cool. But I could tell it really troubled him, and handling it this way made it easier.

Twelve-year-old Savannah was quiet and subdued. Normally she could talk my ear off, but not tonight. She held me a little tighter than normal, and didn’t let go until I reassured her that everything was going to be all right. Her thoughts were jumbled, racing from one idea to the next before the first was completed. I tried to block the noise from my mind and winced. She was so loud. “Can you talk more softly please?”

“Mom, I haven’t said anything.”

Oh no. She was right. “I’m going to lie down. I think I really need some sleep. Will you guys be okay?”

“Sure, honey. We’ll be fine.” Chris’ brows were drawn together in concern, and Josh and Savannah eyed me with unease. Although none of them said anything, I could practically hear them thinking that I looked terrible. My shoulder-length blond hair was poking up on one side of my head, and I had mascara under my eyes. The blood on my shirt and in my hair, along with my pale face, made me look like a vampire. Or maybe it was vampire food. That seemed to be coming from Josh.

I pasted a big smile on my face and practically ran to my bedroom. As I shut the door behind me, the barrage of thoughts ceased. Holy crap! What was going on? I was breathing pretty hard, and it took a minute to calm down. I jerked slightly when Chris came to the door, and said he was leaving to get my prescription and something to eat. I told him thanks, and relaxed when his footsteps retreated down the hall. The prescription was what I needed. That and some sleep, and I would be fine. This craziness would go away.

In the bathroom, I avoided looking in the mirror while I turned on the hot water and wet down a washcloth. When I finally got the courage to look up, a pale wild-eyed version of me looked back. My blue eyes seemed startled, and there wasn’t any color in my lips. Kind of like vampire food. My neck and white shirt were covered in blood, adding to the effect. Good grief! No wonder they’d looked at me strange.

I spent the next few minutes washing my face and neck, and felt a little better once I was clean. This time when I glanced in the mirror, I looked more like myself. Although my eyes still had that haunted look. It was probably because the scene when the gunman shot me kept playing over and over in my head. It was like a re-run that I couldn’t get to stop.

I turned out the bathroom light, and with a calming breath, changed into my pajamas. Sleep was what I needed, and I would be fine in the morning. I crawled into bed and tried to relax, but couldn’t do it. I kept seeing the gun pointed at my face, and hearing the crack as it went off. Finally, Chris came in with some water and a pain pill.

“How are you doing?” He sat beside me, his brows drawn together in concern. He thought I looked terrible. “Come here.” He pulled me into his arms and gently rubbed my back. “You’re safe now.” He kissed my forehead, then took my face in his hands and lowered his mouth to mine. The kiss was soft and gentle, and like a broken dam, tears flowed from my eyes. I clung to him and deepened the kiss, needing his warmth and strength.

Breathless, he pulled away. “You really had me worried and I…just don’t ever do that to me again. All right?”

“Okay. Sure.” I eagerly promised, needing him more than I needed air. The dark images hanging over me were forgotten. “Now get back here and finish what you started.”

With a wolfish grin, he took me in his arms.

***

The next morning I woke to the sound of the phone ringing. Chris was gone, and for a moment I panicked, wondering if the kids had made it to school. The clock read eight-thirty, and I quickly picked up the phone. My voice cracked, and I had to clear my throat before I could say hello.

“Mrs. Nichols? Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you. This is Detective Harris. Detective Williams and I would like to know if you could come down to the station and help us with an artist’s rendering of the suspect.”

They didn’t waste any time. “I don’t know. I just woke up.”

“I understand if you’re not feeling well. Would it help if we came to your house? We can be there in about forty-five minutes.”

“All right…I guess.” He thanked me and hung up.

I laid back down, then sat up with a jolt. Forty-five minutes? I should have made them give me at least an hour. What was I thinking? I showered and carefully washed my hair around the stitches since the doctor told me not to get them wet. My head was tender and painful, but I managed to blot my hair dry. At least my dark blond hair was long enough to cover up the stitches, but it took a while to fix it right.

My face was another matter, but I didn’t really have time to put on any makeup. At least I’d lost that wild-eyed look. I compromised and applied some lipstick and hoped I didn’t look too bad.

As I buttoned up my shirt, the doorbell rang. I hurried to the door, and there was Detective Williams and Dimples, along with a woman I figured was the artist. I invited them in, and the detectives smiled pleasantly. Dimples was surprised at how well I cleaned up. He liked the way my hair covered the stitches, and thought I looked good without makeup. He had no idea my eyes were so blue. I was about to thank him when I realized he hadn’t said a word.

I took a step back, and sudden black spots clouded my vision. Williams grabbed my arm, and both of the detectives hurried me to the couch. As I took in big gulps of air, Dimples gently shoved my head between my legs.

“This should help,” he said. “You must have stood up too fast or something.”

The darkness slowly faded, and the world seemed to right itself. Now was not the time to panic. I managed to sit up, and put a reassuring smile on my face. “Sorry about that. I’m okay now. I guess I’m still a little woozy from yesterday.”

“That’s understandable,” Dimples said, anxiously studying my face. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yes,” I assured him. He smiled encouragingly, and his whirling dimples instantly caught my attention.

“This is Julie. She’s going to do a description for us on her laptop.”

It was hard to tear my gaze away from his cheeks. The way his dimples flashed in and out seemed to have a hypnotic effect on me. With an effort I broke the spell, then turned my attention to Julie and gave her a quick nod.

She was a professional, and got right down to business. I concentrated on the questions she asked, and it helped shut out thoughts I didn’t want to hear. It also kept me from freaking out.

Every once in a while I could hear Williams suck in a breath, and mild annoyance came through. He was not a patient man. Dimples, on the other hand, was very encouraging. He was basically positive, and that helped a lot. Still, I was having a hard time blocking out some of the random thoughts they were sending.

With all of that going on, it was a surprise to see the artist’s finished product. It was basically right, even though I couldn’t exactly remember the details. His eyes looked kind of crazy, like something out of a nightmare. Those she got perfect.

Both of the detectives thanked me profusely, and I felt a little guilty at how quickly I ushered them out the door, but darn it, I was barely holding it together. As soon as they left, I shut the door and slumped onto the couch. What was going on? It wasn’t possible to read people’s minds. That was insane! How could a simple head wound cause this to happen? Could I hear everyone’s thoughts, or just those connected with the robbery?

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