Carrots: A Shelby Nichols Adventure (8 page)

Other than that, and a few bruises, I was just fine. They’d cleaned the cuts and scrapes on my knees, and even taken out the stitches in my head. I was appalled at the ease with which Uncle Joey had this organized. How many doctors did he know?

“Can you tell us what happened?” Dimples asked the million-dollar question.

As succinctly as I could, I explained the car accident, and how the robber tried to kill me by ramming my car and shooting at me. I stayed as close to the truth as I dared, telling them a man I barely glimpsed killed him and I fled, thinking the man was after me.

They seemed to accept that things were fuzzy after that. I kept to Uncle Joey’s story, and the hospital’s records backed me up, which I have to admit was freaking me out. They released me soon after my explanation, and I was eager to get out of there.

Chris was subdued on the way home. He was feeling guilty about what had happened to me. After the close call in the parking garage, he should have taken me to the police station himself. It was hard to believe that this was the third time I’d nearly been killed.

“Hey,” I said, wanting to find the bright side. “It’s not your fault. Look at it this way. At least that guy won’t be after me anymore.” My comment was met by silence and I cringed.

“I keep forgetting you can ‘hear’ me,” Chris said. He wasn’t happy about that either.

“Sorry,” I quickly apologized. “Whatever they gave me at the hospital makes it hard to concentrate. I’ll have to work on that.”

“No, it’s okay. You just rest. It’s been a hard day. We’ll be home in a minute.”

I wanted to reassure him that he would never have to come to the hospital to get me again, but now that I was involved with Uncle Joey, I couldn’t guarantee anything.

All at once, I wanted to tell Chris the truth about everything. It would feel so good to share this awful predicament with him. But I held back, knowing I couldn’t risk it. Chris would probably confront Kate, and it could only get worse from there. Maybe later, once I got something on Uncle Joey, Chris could help me.

We got home, and I stifled a cry of pain when I got out of the car. My whole left side was bruised from the car accident, and my knees and elbows were scraped from being tackled. When Chris offered me a pain pill, I gratefully accepted, and let the drug ease me into a restless sleep.


Chapter 5

The next morning, I stayed in bed until after ten. I would have lounged around longer, but my stomach was growling with hunger. After eating breakfast, and taking a quick shower, I was starting to feel almost normal. The sun was shining, and it was a beautiful spring day. Maybe things weren’t so bad after all.

The phone rang and I tensed. Then I realized Uncle Joey would only call on my cell phone, so there was nothing to worry about.

“How are you feeling?” It was Chris.

“Better,” I replied. “At least I slept well. I just didn’t want to get up.”

“It’s been a rough few days.”

That was an understatement. I hoped I never had to repeat days like that for the rest of my life.

“You remember the jeweler we talked about yesterday? Mr. Hodges?” Chris asked.

“Sure.” It seemed like years had passed since then.

“He’s coming by at three o’clock today, and I wondered if you wanted to come and sit in on our conference. It might help you get your mind off your troubles, plus I think it would be beneficial to know what he’s thinking. Might as well put your new abilities to work, you know?”

“Right,” I replied, although I wondered what made Chris change his mind. Yesterday he didn’t want me involved. “I can come, but you’re forgetting that I don’t have a car.”

“Yes you do. I got a ride to work and left mine in case you needed it.”

“Oh? Who picked you up?” His pause made me suspicious, and my heart lurched.

“It was Kate,” he admitted. “She doesn’t live too far from us, and since it’s practically on her way, she was glad to pick me up. You really should have seen her yesterday. When I told her you’d disappeared, her face went white as a sheet. This morning, when I called and told her what had happened, she was happy to help out.”

“I’ll bet.” I couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of my voice.

“Shelby, I don’t think you need to worry about her anymore. I think whatever you said yesterday made a big impression.”

Right, big enough that she’d called Uncle Joey on me and nearly got me killed. Of course, I couldn’t say that to Chris. “I don’t care. I don’t want you going anywhere with her.” My tone of voice must have warned him how mad I was, because he didn’t argue with me. “I’ll come in at three, but I’m going to leave your car with you, and get me a rental.”

“I don’t think our insurance covers that,” he objected.

“I’ll call them and work it out.”

“But I’m pretty sure they don’t cover it.” When I didn’t reply he continued. “Why are you being so stubborn about this? There’s nothing going on.”

“See you soon.” I hung up, not wanting to discuss how stubborn I was. If he only knew what was really happening, he’d understand.

I called our insurance company, and found out that Chris was right. If I wanted a rental, I’d have to pay for it myself. Which in my estimation was better than Chris riding with Kate any day.

As I looked through the yellow pages for rentals, my phone rang again. This time it was Dimples. “Can you come down to the station and make a statement? I promise it won’t take long.”

I really didn’t want to go, but since I was going downtown anyway, I might as well get it over with. “All right, but it will take me at least an hour to get ready.” He thanked me and hung up.

I resumed my search, and cringed when the phone rang again. At this rate, I’d never get out the door. I was tempted not to answer it, but the caller ID said it was from Thrasher Development Inc., and I’d never heard of them, so I answered.

“Hello Shelby.” My stomach dropped. It was Uncle Joey. “How are you today?” When I didn’t answer he continued. “I take it you’re surprised to hear from me.”

By then I’d gotten my breathing under control. “I thought you were supposed to call my cell phone.”

He chuckled. “Yes, well since I knew you were home alone, I didn’t think it mattered.” He let that sink in. “I have a question for you. Does this mind-thing work over the phone?”

“No,” I said quickly.

“So you have to be in the same room?”

“Pretty much. I’ve never really tested how far away I can be, but it’s harder the further away I am. And it doesn’t work through glass.”

“I see. Then you’ll just have to come to the meeting I’ve got set up for tomorrow morning. I’ll need you in my office at ten-thirty.”

“That’s going to be difficult,” I said, glad to have a reason to refuse him. “Yesterday my car got totaled by a murderous killer, and I don’t have any transportation until I get a new one.”

“Don’t worry about it,” he said after a second. “I’ll take care of it.”

“What do you mean by take care of it?” After yesterday, I didn’t particularly like the way he took care of things.

“I’ll have someone drop off a car for you until you get another one. Do you need it today?”

What was I supposed to say? If I agreed, I could tell Chris it was a rental, and I had figured out a way to get the insurance company to pay. That way, he wouldn’t need a ride from Kate, and it wouldn’t cost me anything. “Chris left me his, but I was going to take it back to him at his office this afternoon.”

“Then I’ll have a car waiting for you in his parking garage. Inside the car, I’ll leave instructions for your visit tomorrow. Anything else?”

“Yes.” I decided I’d better tell him what was on my mind before I lost my nerve, especially since he was being so accommodating. “When I help you out, I was wondering if I could be hiding somewhere in the room where no one can see me. Maybe I could talk into a mic, and you could wear an earpiece or something. That way I could tell you what they’re thinking while you’re talking to them.”

“Hmm…that’s a possibility, but depending on the circumstances, you might just have to come with me, and give me your impressions later.”

“But when it’s in your office, I could get situated ahead of time couldn’t I?”

“Let me think about it.”  He hung up before I could say another word.

I sighed, and tried to relax my shoulders. If I had to be involved with Uncle Joey, the fewer people who saw me the better, and if he wouldn’t let me hide, a disguise might be just what I needed. A wig and some glasses would probably do the trick. Besides, I’d always wanted to see how I’d look with a different hair color and style. As long as it wasn’t red.

As I drove to the police station, I wondered how Uncle Joey was going to accomplish the logistics of getting me a car. Of course, after pulling strings last night at the hospital, I had no doubt he could do it. My stomach churned, I was in way over my head. How was I ever going to get out of this? Even more important; how was I going to get out of this alive?

I got to the police station right after lunch. Dimples was glad to see me. He felt guilty after yesterday’s fiasco, and was glad I hadn’t been killed. If only he knew. He told me the killer’s name was Tony Palmatti, and he had a record a mile long.

“Did this guy have any ties to organized crime?” I asked.

My question took Dimples by surprise. “I haven’t really looked into his background. Why do you ask?”

Now it was my turn to squirm. “Oh, I don’t know. With his record, there might be some ties to other unsolved crimes. That would be good, wouldn’t it?” Dimples nodded and I plunged ahead. “Is organized crime very big here?”

“Let’s just say we know it’s here, but unfortunately, we’ve never been able to get to the man on top.”

“Do you know who he is?”

“Why are you so interested?” he asked.

“I was just wondering if all those things you see on TV shows are based on fact,” I said, hoping it sounded reasonable. “So do you know who the big boss is?”

“We have an idea.” The name that popped into his head was Joey “The Knife” Manetto.

My heart sank, but it was what I expected, only not “The Knife” part. I wondered what he did to earn that nickname. I shook my head. Better not to even go there. I put on a happy smile like nothing was wrong. “Good. Well, I guess I’d better get going.”

“Hey, thanks for coming down. Oh, by the way, you remember that guy you had a premonition about?” When I nodded he continued. “Well, you were right. He really did have a meth lab in his basement.”

“Oh, that’s great…I mean not that it’s great he had a meth lab, but that you caught him.”

“I know what you mean,” Dimples smiled. “It made me wonder if maybe you wouldn’t mind coming down here once in a while to help with some of these hard cases. You know, the ones without any leads? What do you think?”

“Sure,” I replied. Just watching those dimples zoom in and out was enough to keep me around, but on the practical side, I might as well help the good guys too.

Dimples was grateful, and said he’d give me a call when something came up. It gave me hope that when I had something on Uncle Joey, I could call on him, and he would help me no matter how crazy I sounded.

I left feeling happier than I had all morning, and I had plenty of time to do some shopping before the meeting with Chris and Mr. Hodges. I found a wig store, and after trying on several different styles and colors, decided to go with a chin-length wedge-cut wig that was almost black and had bangs. It covered the shape of my face, and the bangs made my eyes look bigger. I wore it to the jewelry shop so I could get some fake glasses that matched. It crossed my mind that Kate looked good in her glasses, but that didn’t have anything to do with why I wanted to wear glasses.

I loved the black frames I found, and looking in the mirror, felt a tiny bit wicked in my new disguise. It must be true what they say about wearing a mask. That it gives the wearer a sense of freedom. It might be fun if the reason for wearing it in the first place didn’t turn my stomach. Suddenly, my little shopping trip didn’t seem so fun anymore.

I stashed the wig and glasses in the trunk of the car before I left for the office. I got there a little early, and couldn’t help the shiver of fear when I pulled into the parking garage. Was it just yesterday that I nearly got killed? I looked around, wondering if Uncle Joey had left a car for me, and if so, where it was.

I got out of my car and made a beeline for the elevator. When the doors closed I sighed with relief, then jerked in alarm when they suddenly swished open again. Ramos was standing there, holding something in his hand. I froze for a moment, thinking it was a gun, and this time, he was going to kill me.

“Hey babe,” Ramos took in my white, frightened face. “Didn’t the boss tell you about the car?”

“Ye…s,” I managed to whisper.

“Okay,” he said slowly. “Here’s the key.” He stretched his hand toward me and I flinched.

“Th...thanks.” I reached toward him, and tried to smile away my nervous reaction. Ramos was feeling sorry for me, but he couldn’t really tell me not to worry. He was thinking that if he ever had to kill me, he would make it quick, and promised himself that I would never see it coming.

I suddenly wanted to puke. All over him. And he thought he was being considerate? Give me a break! “Which one is it?” I asked, trying not to sound upset.

“The black one, over there,” he pointed it out.

I nodded. “Okay, got it.” The smile I gave him didn’t reach my eyes. I quickly punched the button, and it amused me to see him jump out of the way when the elevator doors slid closed. It was a small consolation, but I’d take it where I could. I pocketed the keys and wondered if all of Uncle Joey’s cars were black. Probably.

I opened the door to Chris’ office and froze. Kate was standing real close to Chris, and her hands were on his chest. Her face was only a few inches from his, and hot anger rushed through my veins. What did she think she was doing?

“Excuse me?” I said.

Chris jerked back, his face tinged with guilt. Kate’s lips curved in satisfaction a moment before she turned her innocent gaze on me. “Hi Shelby,” she purred. “Chris lost a button, and I was trying to sew it on for him. He sure has a hard time standing still.”

It didn’t take mind reading powers to see where she was headed. “Oh? That’s nice of you to come to his rescue,” I gushed. “Here, let me finish.” I swiftly situated myself between her and Chris, keeping my back to her. The needle had fallen from her fingers when Chris jerked away. I nimbly picked it up, and continued sewing on the button.

Kate backed away. “I’ll go get my notes, and then we can go over a few things before Mr. Hodges gets here.” At least Kate knew when to retreat, although I could still feel satisfaction emanating from her.

I took a deep breath and counted to ten before I said anything to Chris I’d regret. Chris was silent, but he was thinking that I’d never understand or believe him, and saying something would only make him look guilty when he wasn’t.

“I’m not mad at you dear,” I began. “Kate knew exactly what she was doing. It’s part of her scheme to come between us. We’ll just have to make sure it doesn’t work.” Why did saying that annoy him? Then I realized I wasn’t blocking out his thoughts. Oops. I glanced at him, hoping he’d cut me some slack.

“Don’t look at me like that,” he muttered.

“Like what?”

“Like you’re afraid I’m mad or something.”

“But you are mad.”

Between Kate’s shenanigans and my mind-reading, he was mentally tearing his hair out. He had doubts that Kate had ‘accidentally’ pulled off his loose button, but he wasn’t about to tell me that. Unless, of course, I had just read his mind and knew anyway.

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