I will not give up; not today bolt, victory will be mine. The irritation with Greg’s voice should have made me stop, but I almost have it.
“Tiffany, Detective wants to have a word with you.”
I growled back, my body pressed against the grill, feet planted, pulsing my energy. “Come on, you son of a… Grrr…” I leaned into it, Snap! It gave way; smashing my knuckles against the engine block.
“Ah! ERRRR…. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!” Jumping back, walking in a circle, shaking the pain to even out instant throbbing of my fingers.
I glanced over the damage. Nothing serious, no broken skin. Then shifted my gaze at the stranger standing next to Greg.
Both their eyes surveying my injured hand, as my eyes darted down again, there’s a slight swelling now. I wiggled them just in case. Dang, that hurt.
The cop stepped closer as I straighten, grabbing a rag hanging over the radiator, wiping my hands to carefully avoid my fresh injury. I needed ice so they don’t swell more. I am meeting Andy later on at the gun range, this is my trigger finger. I would get an ear full if I couldn’t shoot today because of carelessness.
Inspecting the section closer to where my knuckles hit. Cop man empathized. “I know the pain. No blood. That’s a good sign.” Glancing up again, he wore a cheap navy-blue suit coat. Apparently, no woman in his life. Clean shaven, black hair, and the drugstore cologne stank from here. I nodded acknowledging, “Detective is it?”
“Dias. Detective Dias, Miss Chanler.” His eyes focused on my grease stained hands, returning my nod with politeness. Greg grabbed my hand, not caring about dirt. “Ouch! Careful.” I resisted, growling at him.
He inspected my injury. “I’ll get the ice, kid. You owe me a bolt.” Peering into my eyes with “the look.” He will give me privacy for as long as it took him to walk to the ice machine and back. I signal a slight nod of understanding. He released my hand, turning in the direction of the ice machine, waddling away.
“Miss Chanler, I’ll cut right to the reason for my visit; do you know a guy named Lee Reardon?”
I stood yet a little taller, wasn’t expecting to hear this name. Yes, I know that maggot, screamed the voice inside my head, moving my eyes, glancing toward Greg, seeing him fill a plastic bag of ice. He’s watching me right back. Greg didn’t go for visitors in his garage. Especially cops.
My attention back on the man who wanted to learn something on Reardon. “Why are you asking?”
“A case landed on my desk about him.”
Good, I hope one of the girls is suing him. Molesting bastard.
“What’s this have to do with me?”
“Nothing I hope, Miss Chanler. We seized back files, and it shows you saw him.” Detective Diaz pulled a small notepad from his pocket, flipping it open. “Six months ago? Is that right?”
“Yes, that’s about right. Needed to get cleared to come back to work and his agency conducted the questionnaire.”
“Cleared? For what?”
I knew he also knew why. “Are we going to play this game detective? I figure you are not walking in here blind.”
He surveyed the shop. “Organ donor transportation service. Never in my life could I have guessed how much trouble you guys be.”
“Glad we over achieve your expectations. Just remember, we’re the good guys. We deliver second chances, don’t mock us.” My fingers were throbbing and his cologne giving me a headache. It’s time to get rid of him. “Apparently when we are part of a crime scene, the company covers its ass to make sure our mental health is passable.”
“I read about that robbery. State took over the investigation, though. They sealed it pretty quickly. Never learned the outcome?”
“They got away.”
He cracked a smile. “I can see why you need clearing. Insurance companies rule the world.”
“You understand clearance right… being a cop?”
“So, you’re working in the garage now? They take you off transport?”
“I’m on lite duty temporarily. That last hold up got a bullet through my leg. I’ll be back driving in a week. Meantime, I do this for fun.”
His eyes scanning down, then up. I’m not sure he realized how obvious that was. Greg’s back, handing me the ice bag. “Fun? You work in this garage for fun? Are you single, Miss Chanler? Because there’s a dozen fella’s I can think of, who label you the perfect woman.”
He looked over his notes, raising an eyebrow. “I’m not surprised, all the good ones are taken.”
Greg didn’t like him anymore. “Mister, I don’t care who you are. Tiffany is working, you are taking up enough of her time. Finish, because it’s time for you to leave.”
He closed his notepad. “Almost done. Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend.”
“No offense taken.” I replied.
“Anything unusual happen with your appointment that day?”
I didn’t want to get into it. Especially in front of Greg. I wasn’t sure where he’s going with this. If they seized his files, then I am only one small fish in the big sea of shit for him. “The guys a dirt bag. I noticed it the moment I saw him. He reeked of sleaze. Tried to pass himself off as a legit psychologist. I called him out on it. He didn’t appreciate that.”
Detective Diaz flipped his notepad open again; jotted something.
“Is that it?”
“Okay, thank you for your time, Miss Chanler. If I have more questions, is there another way I can reach you?”
“Here is fine. But I am usually inside recording reports.”
He glanced around. “Will do” flipping his notepad closed, tucking it back in his pocket, observing the place.
Greg pointed, “That way.”
Detective Dias nodded again, walking away.
“What’s that about?” Greg, not in the least worried with privacy.
I lifted the ice bag off my knuckles, the swelling already going away.
“He just asked about that guy who cleared me from that first accident a while back.”
“Hmmm, okay, wrap this up and call it a day. Legs holding steady. You’ll be back driving soon.”
“Let’s hope so. I hate logging reports.” Only thing is the damn running test. I still needed to shave off a few minutes, then they’d have to put me back in my ambulance. The rumor is Donovan wanted to keep me on desk duty. That was not going to happen.
The last two months I have played nice with them. Times up. My lite duty restrictions about to be lifted. If it wasn’t for Greg and this garage, I’d be going out of my mind.
Greg closed the hood of the ambulance. “Have you met the new recruits?”
“Not yet, Chris knows two of them. One she couldn’t stand on the force. We seem to attract ex-troopers. Why is that?”
Greg frowned. “Already trained. Donovan can put them right to work. Experienced, working part time. Win-win for the company. One guy is a former prison guard. Not good with people I hear.”
“Great. Well, I guess it’s better than hiring candidates like Taylor. She was an epic fail.”
“Her lawsuit is the reason he looked into stronger players.”
“I told him not to hire her. She failed the training. That alone should have raised red flags that she wasn’t qualified. Guess he’s going in a better direction. From a business perspective, he’s right. Everything you just listed is an asset.”
“They are a bunch of cowboys. Watch yourself.”
“I hear Michael is working with one.”
“Hmmm. Yes, The Polack. That’s the bad egg.”
“Excuse me? The Polack?”
“That’s what he calls himself.”
“What is he gangster?”
Greg chuckled. “You could be right.” He leaned on the hood reaching to inspect my hand again, “Thanks for your help kid.”
“If it wasn’t for you, letting me hang out in here, I’d be miserable.”
“You keep my overhead low. My numbers look good because the work you do.”
“At least someone likes me hanging out. I’m sure I will ruffle feathers when I’m back driving.”
“Yah, be ready for that.”
I cleaned up and headed to Andy’s place, needing to change and check in on kitten before I met him at the range. I pulled around the corner. There was a white Ford sedan with government plates parked in my spot. I pulled in next to it. No one in the car, so I texted Andy. My phone lit up immediately. He’s calling.
“Tiffany, go! Get out of there! Right now. Drive to your condo. Right now!!! Move, move, move!”
My heart jumped, racing, making me light-headed. “What? Why?”
The alarm in his voice shook my core, causing goose-bumps across my arms; shivers tingled my back. He never sounded alarmed.
“Who is here, Andy!”
“Tiffany damn it! For once in your life, listen to me! Get out of there NOW!”
He’s yelling at me in a voice I never experienced.
I threw my car in reverse, squealing tires and all, while I spun my Lexus around to make a fast getaway. No one emerged from around the building in my rear-view mirror. Were they inside? Was this car just parked here, and no one here?
I was moving and gaining distance away from the warehouse. He’s swearing on the other end of the phone. “Andy! Who’s car? Who is this?”
“Get to the condo. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“Is kitten safe?”
“Yes! Get to the condo, stay put!”
He hung up as I white knuckled my way back to my place. Who was here? Why were they here?
We haven’t been at my place in a month. I didn’t dare stop at the mini mart I was passing. He told me to go straight home and wait. My condo seamed so small compared to Andy’s warehouse. I opened the back doors for fresh air, fidgeting to do anything.
Time crept by. My mind making up horrible scenarios. Was that a hitman? Was Andy in danger. Who does he have contact with in the government? He’s active in the military for seventeen years. He still is. Could be its someone who wants his freelance services. Someone dangerous?
I needed to keep busy. He was not returning any text. I went through my clothing, pulling out my uniforms. Between takeout and Andy’s cooking, everything’s fitting tight. I tried on my uniform. It too was uncomfortable. Ugh, I have to crash diet or order a size larger. This bullet wound to my leg interfered with everything in my life. My workout regimen, my eating habits, my job. This slow process getting back to where I should be, is torture. Even grappling still restricted to lite duty, but progressing.
I squatted, attempting to stretch the material. Damn it. I was going to have to lose ten pounds in two weeks, moping in the mirror to see a start of a muffin top, and now on top of everything else, someone invades my home life with Andy. Leaving me with the only option I can do is stay here and wait.
Chills ran through my spine, my ears muffled sound like I was under water. What if it’s a woman? What if it’s an old girlfriend! Ugh! I grabbed my phone texting him: Who the fuck is keeping me from coming home!! Now I absolutely needed to lose weight! I stripped out of my uniform and slipped on the heaviest cotton workout clothes I found, then started jump roping. Sweat pouring down my back and legs, drenched me at twenty minutes in.
That bitch was going to pay. From the sound in his voice, she’s presumably a psycho. Game on. I can take her, that I am positive of more or less. I needed to show Andy that I can take care of myself no matter who showed up from his history. I needed to shower and put on something sexy. Andy needed reminding that I am the only woman. That no one is going to come between us.
Everything in the fridge spoiled. It took ten minutes to clean out, scrubbing the shelves off and washing out the drawers. Not enough time lapsed. I kept looking at my phone. I didn’t dare leave, in case Andy arrived. He still wasn’t returning my text, and I felt nauseated.
Soup. Good, I found a can of chicken noodle soup. I should have been at the range with him right now, but instead I am stuck here heating soup. Visions of him shooting whoever is messing up our plans right now filled my thoughts with mild satisfaction. I glanced down at the camisole I’m wearing and now it seemed ridiculous, making me change into a comfortable t-shirt instead.
My shopping channel network separated six hundred dollars from me. Andy won’t be happy about that. But this was his fault for making me a prisoner in my condo while he deals with whoever the hell is at the warehouse. Waiting to finish my next transaction, I heard the door open.
I hung up, jumping off the couch, anxiety rattling my every nerve. Andy’s finally here. Kitten meowed in her crate as he closed the door behind him, setting the crate on the floor and letting her out. She looked around and ran to my bedroom. She loved hiding out under the bed since she didn’t get to do that at the warehouse. Andy’s bed sat right on the floor. No frame.
I was in front of him now, impatient for news, looking at his expression. “Well?”
He took hold of my arms. “Thank you for following orders.”
“Who was it?”
“I need you to hang here a few days.”
“It will bother me as well being away from you.”
“Where are you going to be?”
“Just realize this arrangement is temporary. Few days, tops.”
“Andy! Who is it?” I backed away out from his hold. This person is still here and staying.
He looked conflicted. I’ve never seen this expression on him. He looked guilty. He’s down right guilty! It has to be a fucking woman, and she’s staying in my house. I am the one not allowed over.
“You’d better tell me who or I’m driving there right now!”
He sighed, struggling with the words.
“Andy!” I stomped my foot, clenching my fists. This was unfair, and my patience is wearing thin. He looked everywhere around the room and not at me. I’m not letting him get away with this. “So, help me God!”
He cleared his throat. “It’s my mother.”
My heart plummeted into my foot, simultaneously feeling my throat tighten. So much so my hand automatically massaged it. I needed to sit, starting to get weak. “What? What did you just say?”
“My mother is here. She’s staying a few days and then she will go.”
That’s who it is? His mother? I fled his place and now in lock down in my condo because his mother’s here?
Not weak, now numb. My body felt as if it were vibrating. I stared down at my hand to check if I was shaking. No, just feel very strange.
“I don’t get it?” He didn’t want me to meet his mother?
Numbness now starting to tingle. Blood rushed through my veins with searing heat. I was breaking out in a hot sweat. I could sense my face burning. “Get the fuck out of here.”
“Tiffany, wait. My mother is…. She’s different. I don’t want you to meet her just yet. Not right now. This isn’t a social visit.”
My heart pounded against my chest. “So… What is this?”
“She is here because I fucked up. I need to straighten some stuff out.”
“I don’t get to see you because your mother is in town?”
He stepped into me; I stepped back. He was not getting away with this. This is crap.
“I need a few days then we will be back on track.”
The idea hit me as I really felt weaker. I touched the end table somewhat unsteadily. “Are you ashamed of me?”
He didn’t care about me needing space between us as he grabbed my arms, holding me in place. “No! Never let that thought in your head, even for a second. There’s something I have to work out with her alone. You will meet her. Just not right now.”
I felt like I could summon fire in my breath. I will not kiss him no matter what he says. Andy didn’t care about that either as he pressed his lips against mine, extinguishing my burning heart, forcing me to respond to kiss him back. When he released his hold, he leaned in, searched my eyes. “Only a few days, babe. It’s just as hard on me.”
I didn’t answer as he let go and told me he’ll text me soon. He turned, leaving swiftly, not allowing me to protest anymore and shutting my condo door behind him.
I despised his mother already!