Carrots: A Shelby Nichols Adventure (6 page)

None of my clothes were the kind a lawyer would wear. Mostly jeans and t-shirts. I finally pulled out a pair of black cotton-cable leggings, and paired them with a red scoop neck tunic sweater that I accented with a black belt and black heels. Red is a power color, and with a touch of red lipstick, I felt confident and in control. 

It was just after eleven-thirty when I arrived at Chris’ office. Even though I was expecting Kate to be there, it wasn’t pleasant to see her working so closely with Chris. She put on a distracted air, like she was too involved to pay much attention to me, but inside she was pleased I’d found her standing so close to Chris. She looked beautiful in her gray tailored suit and white blouse. The skirt seemed a little short, easily showing off her long legs. She also wore a pair of glasses that added an extra allure to her features.

Nervous guilt flowed from Chris. He wasn’t happy that she was standing so close to him. It almost looked like I was right about her, and he didn’t seem to like that. “Hi, honey,” he said. “We’ll be a few more minutes, and then you and Kate can go to lunch.”

“That’s fine. I have to call Dimples, so take your time.”

I walked to the other end of the office, and punched in Dimples number on my cell phone. I didn’t want Kate to think I was bothered by her presence so I gave them plenty of room.

While I was on hold for Dimples, I glanced out of the third story window. Across the street, a man was casually leaning against a light pole. As he looked up at me, our eyes locked. He was tall and muscular, with tan skin, and wavy dark hair that was slicked back behind his ears. His face broke into a huge grin, before he quickly disappeared into the crowd. Had he just smiled at me?

“Hello…hello…is anyone there?” Dimples asked.

“Dimples! The strangest thing just happened. I saw a man jogging this morning, and now I think I just saw him again.”

“Shelby? Where are you?”

“I’m at Chris’ office. He was standing across the street, and saw me looking out the window.”

“Did you get a good look at him?”

“Yes…but it’s not the robber. I don’t know who this person is.”

“Then it’s probably nothing.”

“Yeah, I guess not.” I hated to let it go, but he was probably right. “What did you need to talk to me about?”

“It’s just a hunch, but I wanted you to know. Yesterday I spoke to Carl Roger’s doctors. They were really surprised that he died. Everything was looking so good, and then the next thing they know, he’s dead. Sometimes that happens, but I just can’t help wondering if someone helped him along. I mean, besides you, he was the only other person to see the robber’s face.”

“So…you think the robber did it?”

“I could be wrong, but it doesn’t hurt to check. We should get the autopsy results in a few days. Anyway, I just wanted to warn you to be extra careful, just in case.”

“You think he might come after me?”

“I don’t know. It’s a possibility that’s crossed my mind, but it’s not likely. I’m not trying to scare you. I just want you to be careful.”

“Okay. Thanks. Are there any other leads?”

“Yes. We’re checking out every lead we’ve got. It’s the same M.O. from the other bank robberies, so we’re comparing them, and getting a profile put together.”

I wished I could read his mind over the phone so I’d know what was really happening. “So you’ll call if anything turns up?”

“Yes. I’ll keep in touch. In the meantime, if you see anything suspicious, let me or Detective Williams know.”

I assured him I would, and we disconnected. I gazed out the window and shivered, knowing there was probably a killer out there looking for me. I knew the killer wasn’t the man I’d just seen, but it seemed strange that I’d seen this guy twice in one day. Wasn’t that something suspicious? This guy probably didn’t have anything to do with the robbery, or Dimples would have said something, right? So why was he watching me from the street?

“We’re finally done,” Chris announced. “And I’m supposed to be in court in fifteen minutes so I’ve got to run.” He gathered up his papers and gave me a quick kiss before walking out the door. “Talk to you later.”

“So, where do you want to go?” Kate asked. She smiled pleasantly, but was thinking I looked pretty good in red. It didn’t make her happy, but she didn’t let it bother her too much, especially since she knew she looked a lot better than I did.

I smiled back, trying not to show how much her thoughts angered me. The conceited little brat…she didn’t look that good. With great diplomacy on my part we finally decided on the Italian restaurant down the street.

It was within walking distance, so we made small talk until we got there. After we were seated, she ordered a small dinner salad with the dressing on the side. Not to be outdone, I ordered the same thing with low-fat dressing and a Diet Coke.

“Nice glasses,” I said.

“Thanks. I don’t really need them, but it helps my image.” She smiled. “It’s hard for most people to see that there’s more to me than my looks. The glasses help them realize I have a brain.”

“Oh.” She was making me sick, but I decided to agree with her. “I’m sure it’s difficult being a lawyer who looks like a super model.”

She smiled brightly. “You’re so right. That’s what I like so much about working with Chris. He sees beyond my looks, and actually gives me the respect a real colleague should have.” It was also what made him so attractive to her. He was the first man she had been attracted to who hadn’t been interested in her, and that made him a real challenge.

“What made you want to become a lawyer in the first place?” I asked, wanting to get her mind off my husband before I did something crazy, like grab her around the neck and choke the breath out of her.

“I wanted to help people.” What she was really thinking about, were the billable hours, and her Uncle Joey, who paid for her schooling in return for her expertise. Uncle Joey had a lot riding on her, and she didn’t want to let him down. He paid well, too, but that was something no one was supposed to know about.

I was dying to know what kind of business Uncle Joey was in.

“So, what do you do?” she asked. She was guessing that I hadn’t even finished college. It didn’t help that she was right.

“Chris and I have two kids, so I spend a lot of time seeing to their welfare. With school and sports and all their activities, it’s a full-time job. I’m also involved with the PTA and my church.”

“That’s great,” she said, thinking how boring it sounded. How could Chris be satisfied with a nobody? “It’s nice to see a stay-at-home mom, but don’t you ever wish you had your own career?”

“I am actually thinking of starting my own business,” I confessed.

“Oh? What?”

“A consulting agency.”

“What kind of consulting?” she asked.

“All kinds,” I said confidently. “I have a talent for finding out things, and I think I could use that to help people.”

Kate was trying hard not to laugh. Did I even know what I was talking about? A consulting business? With what credentials? It would be the only consulting business on record without any clients. Poor Chris, he really deserved better.

The little jerk! It was getting hard for me to keep my cool. She needed to be put in her place, and her constant thoughts of Chris were the last straw. “Take you, for instance,” I continued. “Right now you’re trying hard not to laugh at me. You think I’m a nobody, and you’re after my husband because he’s the first man who hasn’t been overcome by your charms and fallen at your feet.”

She was speechless. How had I figured that out? She covered it with a show of anger and indignation. “That’s slanderous and you’re completely wrong. You don’t know a thing about me.”

“You can think that if it makes you feel better, but I’m warning you. Stay away from my husband.”

“Or what?” She narrowed her eyes, calling my bluff.

“I’ll tell everyone about Uncle Joey.” She turned white, and I was afraid she was going to faint. We locked eyes for a moment before she dropped her gaze to her lap. I had won this round.

Kate stood and placed her napkin on the table. “I guess I’m not so hungry after all.” She threw some bills on the table, and then in a low, hard voice said, “This isn’t over.”

As she stalked out, I allowed myself a small smile. Then I sighed, wondering what I had just done. I wasn’t sure I wanted her for an enemy, I mean, who was Uncle Joey anyway? Maybe he was a hit man, and I’d just signed my death contract. My stomach churned. I didn’t have much of an appetite either, so I paid the bill, and started back to Chris’ office.

With dread, I realized that as much as I didn’t want to, I had to see Kate again. I really needed to get her thinking about Uncle Joey, so I’d know who he was, and if he was someone I needed to watch out for. I also needed to tell Chris about Dimple’s phone call, and the guy I’d seen twice today.

When I arrived at the office there was no sign of Kate, and to be honest, I was relieved. Chris hadn’t come back from court yet, and there was a client waiting in the outer office for him. The client looked to be in his early-forties, and was dressed in a suit. He was thinking about a surveillance camera, and worrying if it was convincing enough to convict the hoodlums who’d cased his shop. I nearly gasped aloud at the staggering amount of insurance money he was planning to get, but was saved from making a fool of myself when Chris walked in.

“You’re back fast,” he said. “How was lunch?”

“Fine. I can see you’re busy. I just wanted to tell you I was going home.”

He raised his eyebrows and thought,
That bad huh?

“I’ll tell you all about it tonight.” I quickly left before the client could wonder about our one-sided conversation. As I passed Kate’s office, I could hear her talking on the other side of the door. There were a lot of pauses, so I figured she had to be on the phone. I thought she may have said, “Uncle Joey,” but I wasn’t sure. The conversation ended, and I decided I’d better get out of there before she caught me listening.

I took the elevator to the parking garage and hesitated, trying to remember where I had parked the van. As I walked across the garage, I heard the familiar catch of an engine as it started. Bright headlights caught me in the face, blinding me. With squealing tires the car peeled out of the parking space, and came barreling straight for me.


Chapter 4

In the split second before the car hit me, I dove to the side, my mind registering that I knew that face. With dawning terror, I realized it was the bank robber, and he was out to kill me. I rolled across the ground and slid into a parked car. The killer’s car screeched around the bend, and I scrambled to get up before he came back to finish me off.

With shaking hands and jelly for legs, I ran back to the elevator, and pounded on the call button. “Come on! Come on!” The car was rounding the corner toward me, and still the door wasn’t opening.

Just as the car pulled up next to me, the elevator doors swished open. I dashed inside and punched the buttons while the robber pointed his gun at me. Before he could get a shot off, the doors slid shut, and I nearly collapsed. Taking huge gulps of air, I slumped against the wall, and tried to calm my pounding heart.

In no time at all, the doors slid open, and I nearly screamed, thinking I hadn’t gone anywhere. Luckily the elevator had moved up a floor, and I realized I had pushed the buttons for all the floors.

I nearly sobbed with relief, but tensed every time the doors opened, wondering if the robber would be waiting there with his gun drawn. When the doors finally slid open on the third floor, I bolted into Chris’ office. Luckily, he was alone. He took one look at me, and knew something terrible had happened.

I was so upset I could hardly speak. “He was there…in the parking lot…waiting for me…the robber…he tried to run over me, and then he pulled a gun. It was horrible!”

Chris held me for a moment. Then gently pushed me into a chair. “I’ll call Detective Harris,” he said. “He’ll know what to do.” He punched in the numbers, and I calmed down a little while they talked, then Dimples wanted to talk to me.

“Are you sure it was him?” he asked.

“Yes. Who else would want to see me dead?” A mental image of Kate popped into my mind, but I dismissed it. She wouldn’t try to kill me. At least not yet. If she was smart she’d wait and see if that maniac robber could do it for her.

“Okay, I’ll be right there. Stay where you are.”

As if I would go anywhere. “He’s coming here,” I told Chris, and finally started to calm down. I was telling Chris exactly what happened when Dimples burst in.

“What kind of car was he driving?” Dimples asked. “Did you see a license plate number?”

“Umm, no. I think it was black, and on the small side. It happened too fast to see a license plate.”

“What kind of car?” When I hesitated, he prompted, “Toyota? Honda? Ford?”

“I don’t know cars that well, but it could have been a Honda.” At this, Dimples was starting to get frustrated. His only lead, and all I could tell him was a black, on-the-small-side car?

“I’m pretty sure it was black, but it might have been dark green or blue,” I said. His anger escalated. “You have to remember that it’s dark in the parking garage.”

I hurried to put up my mental shields. I really didn’t want to hear all the swearing that was going on. At least Chris was trying to control his. I couldn’t say the same for Dimples. He called in an APB for a small black car, possibly a Honda, and possibly speeding away from the downtown area.

“All right.” Dimples turned to me, trying to be professional. “We have to believe that the killer knows who you are, and where to find you. We can handle this one of two ways. For your protection, we can take you to a safe house for a few days, or, we can put an undercover policeman in your neighborhood to watch the house, and hope the killer comes back and we catch him.”

“Using Shelby as bait?” Chris asked. “I don’t think so.”

“You have to remember that we have practically no leads. Usually by now, we’re flooded with calls. But with this case, it’s almost like anyone who knows anything is afraid to talk. And there’s something else you should know, we think that the other victim didn’t die of his wounds. It looks like he was suffocated.”

As the implications of that sank in, I made up my mind. “All right, I’m willing to be bait,” I said. “But you’re forgetting one thing. I’ve got two kids. What about their safety?”

“I think he only wants you, Shelby. You’re the only one who can identify him. I think he’ll lay low until the right opportunity comes along.”

“Like when I’m out jogging alone?”

“No,” Chris jumped in. “I will not let you use Shelby this way. Even if I have to take her out of the country, I’m not going to jeopardize her safety. You’re the one who needs to find the killer before anyone else gets hurt.”

My heart swelled, but Chris wasn’t thinking straight. I didn’t want this to drag out forever. I wanted to get on with my life, and finding the killer was the only way. Besides, I had a big advantage. I could read minds. I’d know when he was around. I could make it work.

“Wait Chris. I think Dimples is right. I want to end this, and I think drawing out the killer is the best way.”

Just then, Dimples got a phone call. While he was talking, Chris was thinking that I had truly lost my mind, and he wasn’t about to go along with any of it.

“They just pulled over a black Honda for speeding through a stop light,” Dimples announced. “The driver matches the description. I think it’s our man.” He left, assuring us he would call as soon as he knew anything.

“I hope that’s really him,” I said. “Wouldn’t that be great? Then we wouldn’t have to worry anymore.” Chris was still mad that I was willing to put my life in danger. How could I do that to him and the kids?

“You know, it’s not my fault that my life is in danger, but sitting around doing nothing wouldn’t solve that. It would just make me crazy. What if they never caught him? How long would I have to put my life on hold? That would be worse.”

Now Chris was mad that I’d heard his thoughts. “I thought you weren’t going to do that.”

I almost denied it, but that would just turn into a big argument. So now what was I supposed to do? “It’s silly to argue over this, especially if they’ve caught him. Let’s call a truce, and give Dimples some time to do his job. I’ll put my shields up so you don’t have to worry about what you’re thinking. All right?”

Chris took a deep breath and tried to curb his anger. “Fine,” he said, and walked over to sit behind his desk. He picked up some papers, and started going over them, still angry, but trying to get over it.

A few minutes passed, and he acted as if I weren’t there. I wasn’t about to let him get away with that. “It would help if you gave me something to do.”

He knew he was being a jerk, but it was hard when he was so mad. “I suppose you could key the notes from my interview with Mr. Hodges into my computer for me.”

“Was he the guy that was waiting for you earlier?”

“Yes.” Chris’ stomach growled. He’d missed lunch, and it was all my fault.

“Okay. Give me your laptop, and I’ll do it while you go get something to eat.” Uh-oh, I did it again.

I thought you said your shields were working?

I acted like I didn’t hear that. “Since you’re leaving, I’ll just sit at your desk.” He opened a file, and showed me the interview, then moved toward the door.

“Don’t go anywhere until I get back,” he ordered.

“Okay,” I said, trying to look agreeable.

After he left, I took a deep breath, and settled back into his nice, comfortable chair. I hated to admit that I was grateful he was gone, but I needed some time alone so I could re-group. My knee and arm hurt from my fall, and my pants were torn. I lifted the torn material away from my knee and saw blood. It didn’t look too bad, so I left it to clean later, and started sifting through his notes.

As I read through them, I realized something didn’t add up with Chris’ interviews. Mr. Hodges owned a jewelry store that had been broken into. The kids caught on the surveillance tape denied breaking in. They admitted to looking around his shop, but that’s all. The search for the jewelry in the kids’ homes and personal effects had been fruitless. Mr. Hodges identified them as the robbers, saying he had scared them off that night when he came back to check on something, and the surveillance camera backed him up.

I accessed the video on Chris’ computer and realized that the video only showed them entering his store before everything went black. What was really suspicious was that they hadn’t even tried to disguise their faces. None of the jewelry had been found in pawnshops or anywhere else for that matter. I tried to remember what Mr. Hodges had been thinking when I heard him earlier. He was worried that the video feed would be convincing. He was also excited about the huge amount of insurance money he would get.

Could this be a set-up? The only way I’d know for sure would be to listen to both Mr. Hodges and the kids, but I could do that. This was exciting. I could actually use my new ability for something useful. It would help Chris, and he would be grateful enough that maybe he wouldn’t mind so much that I could read his mind.

I finished up, and was feeling pretty smug when Chris returned. He listened to my explanations easily enough, but wasn’t very happy about my conclusions.

“I’ll have to think about it before I involve you. What you’ve given me is enough to go on for now, but it will be difficult since my client is Mr. Hodges. I’m working for him you know.”

“Oh, I see what you mean.”

“This is also Kate’s case. I’m just helping her with it.”

I didn’t like hearing that. “Yes, but if he’s the one who stole the jewels from his own store, he should be caught.”

“I agree, but we have to be careful how we handle this.” He was thinking about client-attorney privilege and all that.

“Right. Well, I still think I should listen to him. It couldn’t hurt.”

“Let me think about it.” He really didn’t want me involved, and it bothered me that maybe there was something going on that he didn’t want me to know about.

“Are you listening to my thoughts again?” he asked.

I mentally jerked away. “Uh…well, a little. Sorry.”

“A little?”

“I know, sorry.” I concentrated on putting up my mental shields when the phone rang.

Chris answered, and I could hear Dimples on the other end. He ended the call and turned to me. “They got him. He wants you to come down to the station to identify him.”

“Does he think it’s him?”

“He sounded pretty positive, but he didn’t say for sure. I’m going to walk you to the van, but I’ll probably stay here. I’d like to go with you, but I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, and I think you’ll be okay without me. If it’s not him, though, I want to know. I want to be included in where we go from here with the police.” He still wasn’t sold on the idea that I should act as bait.

“Sure, that’s okay. I just hope it’s him.” All the way to the car, I kept my shields up, but it was hard, especially since Chris didn’t say much, and I wanted to know what he was thinking. We talked about the kids for a minute, but when the elevator doors opened into the garage, I automatically moved behind Chris. Unreasonably nervous, I held onto his arm. He helped me into the van, then leaned over and kissed me.

“It’ll be okay,” he said, sensing my anxiety. “Call me as soon as you know anything.”

He watched me drive off, and the tension began to fade. So far, so good. No deranged killers aiming guns at me, or trying to run me over. I sighed. What the heck was I so worried about anyway? The killer was in custody, right?

As I turned onto the street, I began to relax. The police station was only a few blocks away, and soon this horrible chapter in my life would be over. I checked the rearview mirror, and did a double-take. There he was. The man I’d seen while jogging this morning, and again from the window of Chris’ office. My spine tingled, and I shivered with apprehension. Three times in one day? This couldn’t be a coincidence.

I was so intent on watching the man behind me, that I didn’t see the car zooming through traffic until it was coming at me. I yelped when the driver turned the wheel, and smashed into the front end of my car. The impact sent both our cars flying off the side of the road, and into the parking meters.

The grinding crunch, and shattering glass was still ringing in my ears when I glanced out of my broken window. I stared in confused horror when the killer, who was supposed to be in jail, jumped out of his car and aimed his gun in my direction. As he fired the first shot, I quickly ducked, and scrambled to get out of my seatbelt. I frantically pushed at the button until it unlocked, and I dove toward the passenger side door. With strength born of desperation, I manhandled it open and crawled out.

Gunfire erupted, and I fell to the pavement on my hands and knees, trying to keep low. I heard the crunch of glass, and knew he was coming around the van to finish me off. Terrified, I lurched to my feet, and took off running.

I dodged around the building for cover, and ran as fast as I could down a secluded driveway. I heard his footsteps pounding on the pavement right behind me and willed my legs to move faster, but he was gaining. When his arms closed around me, I screamed in terror.

We tumbled to the ground, and I twisted to get away, but he pinned me tightly with his body. He loomed over me, and his face was frozen in a mask of rage. As he brought the gun to my head, I knew it was all over. Suddenly, a loud crack boomed and he jerked. A rapid stream of blood gushed from his neck. The gun slipped from his weakened fingers. With a look of surprise, he toppled over.

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