Without another thought, Evil Murtaugh squeezed.
Wait. I wasn’t finished.
But the world slowed and the bullet came to a rest in front of me.
“Didn’t we discuss your timing issues earlier?”
I glanced to my right as Reyes looked on, his robe undulating around him in glorious waves as if he were an ocean unto himself. Then I turned back to the expression of rage lining Evil Murtaugh’s face, to the raindrops hanging in midair, to the bullet as it trailed through the atmosphere toward me, splashing playfully through a drop. I could For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница almost see the concussion of air as it propelled forward. It hovered mere inches from my heart. If time slipped, if it skipped a microsecond into the future, the bullet would hit home.
“How is this possible?” I asked Reyes.
I saw him shrug in my periphery. “That’s what happens when someone shoots at point-blank range,” he explained, his deep voice soothing despite my predicament.
“No, this. Everything just stops. Or, well, slows down a lot.”
“It’s the world we live in, Dutch.” He looked down at me, his robed head tilted as if in curiosity For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница. “Well? Do you want me to take care of him for you?”
I did. I really did. But that one nagging issue still hung between us like a loose string on a sweater. I wanted to pull at it, but I knew if I did, I’d risk unraveling everything. For some reason that ranked right up there with Chihuahuas and weapons of mass destruction, I just couldn’t let it go. “Are you going to tell me where you are?”
“You’re going to bring that up now?”
“Then I can take care of this myself.”
The For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница moment I said it, the moment the words slipped from my mouth, I realized there might be more to the rumors of my lack of mental stability than I’d allowed myself to believe. Wasn’t the fact that I needed his help the reason I summoned him in the first place?
“Sure about that?”
It was official. I was psychotic.
With that growl thing he did that sent shivers down my spine, he turned from me in anger. “You are the most stubborn—”
“Me?” I asked, incredulous. “I’m stubborn?”
Oh, yeah. Just lock For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница me up and throw away the key.
He was in front of me at once. “As a mule.”
“Because I don’t want you to commit suicide? That makes me stubborn?”
He leaned down, his face inches from mine, even though I couldn’t actually see it. “Abso-freaking-lutely.”
He totally stole that. I set my jaw. “I don’t need your help.”
“Fine. But you might want to just…” He put a finger on my shoulder and eased me to the left out of the bullet’s path. “Next time, duck.”
The feeling each time the world rushed back For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница was comparable to a speeding freight train crashing into me. The force sucked the air out of my lungs, and the sound reverberated against my chest, echoing in my bones as the bullet picked up where it left off and flew harmlessly past. I stumbled to the side and had just enough time to look back at Evil Murtaugh as he blinked in surprise and aimed again.
If I had been paying attention, if the roar of the thunder and rain had not been so deafening, I might have heard the car speeding up the alley. And so For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница might’ve Evil Murtaugh. As it stood, we were both a tad surprised when a black SUV came barreling toward us. The driver slammed on the brakes and skidded into a spin that swept Evil Murtaugh up like a tornado and threw him against the candy-making factory while leaving me untouched.
I stood a long moment, blinking against the rain pelting my face as the SUV screeched to a halt and Ulrich of the Three Stooges jumped out of the backseat. He strode to Evil Murtaugh as the passenger’s-side glass rolled down. Mr. Smith sat grinning For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница at me.
“I swear, Juicy, you get into more trouble than my great-aunt May, and she’s senile,” he said.
I looked over at Ulrich. He checked Evil Murtaugh’s pulse, then belted him one, I was guessing for good measure. Angel fell to his knees in relief and then collapsed onto the ground in a dramatic rendition of Death of a Salesman.
“How did you find us?” I asked Smith.
“We’ve been looking for this guy for quite a while. You were the most logical person to follow.”
“Are you cops?” I asked.
Then what For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница the heck? I heard sirens in the distance and knew they would leave soon. I looked over at Mr. Chao, aka Stuntman Dave. “Are you sure you should be driving with your injuries?”
Ulrich belted Evil again. “Now he’s just being obtuse,” Smith said.
“I’m out of here.” Angel sat up and saluted me before he disappeared. I liked the saluting thing. That might have to become standard operating procedure at the office.
“Charley, are you okay?” Cookie asked from the shadows. I doubted she saluted me.
“Super-duper, stay there.” I still had For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница no idea who these men were. They could want Mimi just as dead as Evil Murtaugh did.
Mr. Chao climbed out of the driver’s side and came around. I headed him off, blocked the opening between the Dumpster and cinder block fence. If he wanted Mimi Jacobs, he was going to have to get through me. Which should take him about five-sevenths of a second. Give or take.
He leaned to the side and looked over my shoulder. Satisfied, he looked back at me, his hair already dripping wet. When he raised a hand to my face, I flinched For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница, but only ’cause I thought he was going to break my neck or something. Stuff like that tended to happen to me. Instead, he ran his fingers over my brows, pushing my dripping wet bangs out of my eyes. Then he bowed slightly and headed back to the driver’s side.
“She’s alive,” he told Smith, and I realized he was talking about Mimi.
“I don’t suppose you’re going to tell me who you work for?” I asked him.
“You might say we work for the big guy.”
He fought a grin. “Come down a For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница step, as in commander in chief.”
“Then this does have something to do with the seat in the Senate.”
“Damn, they don’t mess around. Wait, so, Kyle Kirsch did this after all?”
He squinted his eyes and shrugged. “Look farther north.”
“Oh, come on. That’s all you’re giving me?”
“We did just save your life,” he said, brows raised.
I snorted. “Please, I totally had that.”
Smith chuckled and shook his head. “I have to say, this was the most interesting assignment I’ve ever been on.” He leveled a regret-filled For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница gaze on me. “I’ll miss you. And your boxer shorts.” He looked past me into the shadows. “Get that woman to the police. She has quite a story to tell.”
After one more solid pounding, Ulrich strode past me with a nod and climbed in the backseat. I had a sneaking suspicion I would never see them again. As they drove off, Cookie and Mimi tackled me from behind, and I was soon ensconced in the most suffocating group hug I’d ever been ensconced in.
* * * Blue and red lights undulated over the buildings as a plethora of For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница police and emergency vehicles cordoned off the alley. Two EMTs loaded a handcuffed Evil Murtaugh into the back of an ambulance while another EMT was seeing to a concussed Hulk. He moaned a lot. I knew how he felt. I stepped over to watch them load Evil just as two men in crisp suits walked up to me. There seemed to be a lot of crisp suits around lately. Dillard’s must have had a sale.
“Ms. Davidson?” one of them asked.
I nodded. Now that all the excitement was over, my back was stinging. Evil Murtaugh had ruined a For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница perfectly good jacket and left a bit of a fissure across my spine. I squirmed in my jacket, trying to ease the discomfort.
“I’m Agent Foster with the FBI.” He held up his ID. “And this is Special Agent Powers.”
“Yeah, right,” I said with a snort. “I’ve heard that before.”
Agent Foster’s expression didn’t change. “So we were told. That’s why we’d like to talk to you before we question this man.”
I looked into the ambulance at Evil. “Sucks when the real deal shows up.”
“I can’t leave you alone for a For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница minute,” Uncle Bob said as he strode toward me.
“I think I’m probably off to the station,” I told the agents.
“We’ll meet you there.”
“Are you injured? How’s your head?” Uncle Bob asked. He was such a softy.
“Better than yours. Have you considered electroshock therapy?”
He blew out a long breath. “You’re still mad at me.”
* * * As it turned out, Evil Murtaugh and Evil Riggs were related. Cousins or something. Big surprise. They both hailed from Minnesota and had been in and out of trouble their whole lives. But For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница nothing like murder. At least, not that we knew of.
The station was like a melting potty of old and new cases by the time we arrived. Morning was burning its way across the horizon as Cookie sat with Mimi in an interview room for support while Mimi gave her statement. They’d both been wrapped in blankets and given hot chocolate. All things considered, they looked pretty comfy. Mimi’s parents had shown up and were in there with her as well. Her father couldn’t let go of her and kept her in his embrace, which For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница made it difficult for her to drink her cocoa, but I doubted she minded. One was never too old to revel in the embrace of your dad. From what I could tell, a lot of old baggage was being unpacked, dirty underwear and all.
Uncle Bob was working on getting Warren’s charges dropped, and he’d called in Kyle Kirsch, who was due any moment.
“I don’t think they were paid enough,” Ubie said as he walked up, a pile of papers in his hands. I was pouring creamer into a cup of coffee while trying to keep a For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница blanket around my shoulders, mostly to hide the slice across my back. I didn’t think I could stand another round of superglue. “The Cox cousins’ bank accounts show cash deposits of fifty thousand each.”
“So, who are the Cox cousins again?”
He sighed. It was funny. “The men who kidnapped you? One of them just tried to kill you in a dark alley? Art and William Cox? Any of this ringing a bell?”
“Of course. I just wanted to make you say Cox again. And as determined as they were,” I said, taking a sip, “they were probably For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница promised a lot more once the job was done.”
“I’m sure. But we can’t trace the deposits. And the dead gunman from the motel was a jailhouse chum of theirs. We’re still looking into his financial records, too.”
I looked over as Kyle Kirsch hurried into the station, two bodyguards on his trail. I recognized him from his campaign posters. He stopped to ask the desk sergeant a question, and Mimi came barreling out of the interview room toward him. She ran into his arms.
“Are you okay?” she asked, and he gaped at For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница her.
“Me? Are you okay? What happened?” he asked, hugging her to him again.
“This man came after me and Cookie and her boss, Charley, saved my life.”
I cringed. It was nice of her to leave out the part where we were the reason she almost got killed in the first place.
Uncle Bob strolled up to him and offered a hand. “Congressman,” he said.
“Are you Detective Davidson?” he asked, shaking his hand.
“Yes, sir. Thank you for coming in. Can I get you anything before we start?”
Kyle had agreed to give a statement, insisting he had For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница nothing to hide. He hugged Mimi again, a sad smile on his face. “I guess this is it,” he said to her.
“We had to do this sometime.”
“That we did.”
I wondered if they would be arrested for not coming forth earlier. I hoped not. They were victims in all of this as well.
“This is Charley Davidson,” Mimi said when she saw me hovering.
Kyle took my hand. “I owe you everything.”
“Warren!” Mimi ran into her husband’s arms as he practically stumbled into the station, looking as harried as usual.
I spoke to Kyle under my For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница breath. “I hate to have to tell you this, but I thought you were the one behind these murders for quite some time.”
He smiled sadly in understanding. “I don’t blame you, but I promise,” he said to Uncle Bob, “I had nothing to do with them. I’m not exactly innocent, but I’m not guilty of murder.” He took out his cell phone. “I know we have an interview, but would you mind if I called my mother? I couldn’t get a hold of my dad. I think he went fishing, and he never For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница carries his cell. I just want to let them know where I am and what’s going on before they see it on the news.”
“Not at all,” Ubie said.
“Thank you.” He spoke over his shoulder as he walked away. “She’s visiting my grandmother in Minnesota.”
Uncle Bob and I both froze. I stepped up and placed a hand on Kyle’s, lowering the phone from his ear.
He frowned and closed it. “Is something wrong?”
“Kyle … Congressman—”
“Kyle is fine, Ms. Davidson.”
“The murder suspects were hired henchmen from Minnesota. Did you tell your mother or grandmother For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница what was going on? What happened in Ruiz? Or even that Tommy Zapata wanted to step forward and confess what he did?”
Kyle blinked in surprise, contemplated what I’d said, then turned from me, his face a mask of astonishment.
“Kyle, everyone who was in that room with Hana Insinga is dead except for you and Mimi. And trust me, Mimi was not going to see another day if those men had anything to say about it.” I touched him gently on the shoulder. “That leaves you.”
He covered his eyes with a hand and breathed For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница deeply.
“Your mother didn’t happen to borrow a hundred thousand dollars from you recently, did she?”
“No,” he said, facing me with a resigned expression. “My mother comes from money. She would never have had to borrow any from me.”
That explained the ritzy house in Taos that she lived in with a retired sheriff.
“Do you think she’s capable of—?”
“My mother is more than capable, I promise you.” A bitterness suddenly edged his voice, cold and unforgiving. “I told her everything that happened that night twenty years ago. She made me swear not to tell For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница my father. She said I would be arrested, that people would say I was just as much to blame as anyone. The minute school let out for the summer, she sent me to my grandmother’s.”
“She knew all along?” Uncle Bob asked.
He nodded. “When I told her I was going to step forward with Tommy Zapata, she went ballistic. She said nothing mattered more than the Senate. And eventually, the presidency.” He laughed, a harsh, acidic sound. “It would never have worked, anyway. They would have found out about my past, my lifestyle. People like me don’t get to For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница be president, but she insisted that I try, beginning with a seat in the Senate.” He leveled a hard gaze on me. “That woman is nuts.”
“Maybe we should get that statement now,” Uncle Bob said.
He led him to a separate interview room while I hung back. My head was still pounding out a symphony, but it had moved from Beethoven’s Fifth to Gershwin’s “Summertime.” I did feel better about one thing. My stepmother may be nuts, but she wasn’t a murderer. Not that I knew of, anyway.
I took two ibuprofen and sat For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница on one of the chairs in the waiting room. My lids grew heavier than I would have liked, but I wanted to wait on Cookie and see what Uncle Bob came up with. I was pretty sure we just solved a murder mystery. Still, my lids didn’t care. The world blurred, dipped, spun a little, did the Hokey Pokey and turned itself around. Then my dad came in. I figured he’d heard what happened and came to check on me.
“Hey, Dad.” I pried my body out of the chair and gave him a groggy hug. I hadn For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница’t seen him since the night of the attack, which made me a very bad daughter.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, holding me tight.
“Um, what are you doing here?”
“I still have to give my statement on the attack.”
“Why are you wrapped in a blanket? What’s going on?”
“Dad, I’m fine. Just the usual. PI stuff and all that.”
“Charley,” he said, exasperated, “you need to find another job.”
I scoffed as Denise and Gemma walked in. I was surprised to see the old ball and chain with him as well For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница as my sister.
“What are you doing here?” Denise asked. “I thought she wasn’t coming.” She glanced at Dad questioningly.
He gritted his teeth. Sucks when the old hag spills the beans. Gemma raised a cordial hand in greeting, then yawned. She looked as exhausted as I felt.
“And why wasn’t I coming?” I asked Dad.
He shook his head. “We’re just going over some things. I didn’t think you’d want to be here,” he said, stumbling over his tongue. This was interesting. “You have to give a statement from your For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница perspective later. I didn’t want to take up your time or influence your testimony.”
“Well, I guess we’re in luck,” I said, a humongous smile brightening my face, “I’m already here. I’d love to join in the fun.”
Dad worked his jaw as Uncle Bob joined us. “The congressman is writing everything down,” Ubie said to me. “I think he’s going to be a while. We can go over those tapes now.”
“Tapes?” I asked, all innocence and virtue.
“Yes, the tapes of Caruso when he was calling your dad. Leland started recording them. But I For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница have to admit, bro,” he said to Dad, “I’m not sure Denise and Gemma will want to hear these.”
“Certainly, we do,” Denise said, strolling past them toward the conference room. My Dad was so whipped, it was embarrassing.
“This is awesome,” I said, following her with a new bounce in my step, “killing twenty-seven birds with one stone. Who knew a visit to PD would be so darned productive?”
“She’s still a little miffed,” Ubie explained to Dad.
Apparently, this was a community event. We, meaning the family and a couple other detectives, sat around For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница the conference table while cops of every size and shape, mostly nice and really nice, lined the walls. Even Taft showed up. It was interesting, but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why everyone was so fascinated with these tapes, especially Denise and Gemma.
“Who should I kill first, Davidson?” the speaker on the recording, Mark Caruso, asked. For the most part, he had good vocal projection, decent pronunciation. He just needed to tweak his tone to better reflect his mood. “Whose death will bring you to your knees?” That was a great opening For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница. He’d really thought out these little speeches of his. “Whose death will send you spiraling down a pit so deep and dark, you’ll never be able to claw out of it?” I felt his question was more rhetorical than inquisitive.
Everyone in the room took turns slashing furtive glances in Dad’s direction, wanting to see what pent-up emotions Caruso could stir in him. This situation nailed why reality TV was such a hit. The human appetite to witness tragedy, to observe the subtle difference between pain and anguish, to see each emotion twist the features of For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница a normally smiling face, was irresistible. It wasn’t their fault. A certain amount of morbidity was innate in each of us, part of our biological makeup, our DNA.
“Your wife, Denise?” Caruso said as though asking permission.
My stepmother gasped softly and tossed a hand over her mouth at the mention of her name. Dutifully, tears sprang to her eyes. But I had mad skill at reading people, and I could tell she was getting off on the sympathetic gazes sliding her way. Even more than that, however, I could feel the relief that swallowed her as she For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница glanced toward me, because Caruso had come after me, not her. I supposed I couldn’t blame her for that, really, but I could have done without her fix for attention at my expense.
Caruso waited for a reaction. “No,” he said, his voice resigned. “No, you need to lose a daughter, just like I did. How about Gemma? The pretty one?”
Though Gemma had hardly moved an inch the entire time, she stilled. Her face paled, and her breathing stopped for what seemed like a full minute before she looked up at Dad. Denise wrapped an arm into his For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница and leaned into him to offer support in her superficial way, but he neither looked up at Gemma nor acknowledged his wife’s ministrations. He was lost inside himself, a shell where my father had once been. Oddly enough, he was sweating nine millimeters. Why now? It was said and done. The guy was back behind bars.
And still, he did not answer the man.
Then everyone waited, knowing what was coming next. Who was coming next.
“Or how about that pistol of yours?” Caruso asked, his gravelly voice enjoying the moment. “What’s her name? Oh, yes … Charlotte For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница.”
He said my name slowly, as though he relished every sound, every consonant as it rolled off his tongue. I felt each gaze present snap in my direction, but I lowered my eyes and kept them down. I could especially feel Uncle Bob’s, for some reason. He had always had such a soft spot for me. One that I took advantage of every chance I got.
But then Dad spoke, his voice crystal clear in the recording, each note strained, each syllable forced. He hadn’t said a word when Caruso mentioned Denise or Gemma, but when my For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница name came up, he broke.
“Please,” he said, his voice hoarse with the emotion he held at bay, “not Charley. Please, not Charley.”
My heart stopped. The air in the room thickened until I thought I would suffocate on it. The truth of what was happening washed over me in waves of such shock, I sat utterly stupefied for a solid minute before glancing up. Now, everyone had cast gazes of sympathy toward my father. They saw a man in anguish. I saw a man, a veteran cop and detective, who had made a decision.
My For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница father lowered his head and, from underneath his lashes, cast furtive, sorrowful glances at me. To say I was taken aback by his plea would be the understatement of the century. The whisper of emotion he fought tooth and nail to control was not the pain of fear, but the pain of guilt. His eyes locked on to mine, a silent apology dripping from each lash, and the agitation that overcame me pushed me out of my chair like a bully on a playground.
I stumbled to my feet, the blanket and the rest of the recording forgotten, and scanned the faces For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница around me. Denise was appalled that her husband was begging for my life when he hadn’t begged for hers. Her shallow sense of reality simply didn’t run deep enough to grasp the truth. It must’ve been nice to see the world so one-dimensionally.
But Uncle Bob knew. He sat with mouth agape, staring at Dad like he’d lost his mind. And Gemma knew. Gemma. The one person on planet Earth I didn’t want or need sympathy from.
Thankfully, any tears that might have surfaced from the knowledge that my father had For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница practically painted a target on my forehead stayed behind a wall of bewilderment. My lungs were still paralyzed, as if the air had been knocked out of me. They started to burn, and I had to force myself to breathe as I stared in utter disbelief.
My father, a twenty-year veteran of the Albuquerque Police Department, was way too smart to do something so incredibly stupid. And my Uncle Bob knew it. I could see the shock and anger mingling behind his brown eyes. He was just as stunned as I was.
The look on my father’s For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница face was reprehensible. The clueless look on my stepmother’s as her gaze darted back and forth between the two of us was almost comical. But there were three other people in the room who’d figured it out. Uncle Bob I could understand, but I couldn’t believe that even Taft had figured it out. He had planted a surprised look on me that bordered on apologetic.
But the look of incredulity on Gemma’s face was more than I could bear. She stared hard at our father, her face a picture of stupefaction. Her Ph.D For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница. in psychology was paying off. She knew that our father had chosen her over me. Had chosen our stepmother over me.
My feet carried me back until I felt a door handle nudge my hip. I reached behind me and turned the knob just as my father stood up.
“Charley, wait,” he said as I rushed out the door. The hall opened up to a sea of desks with phones ringing and keyboards clicking. I hurried through them.
“Charley, please stop,” I heard my dad call behind me.
And let him see the drooling mess I’d become? Absolutely not.
But For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница he was faster than I’d given him credit for. He caught my arm in his long slender hand and pulled me around to face him. It was then that I realized my tears had broken free. He was blurry, and I slammed my lids shut and wiped my face with the back of my free hand.
“Not now.” I jerked out of his grasp and started toward the exit again.
“Charley,” he called out again and caught me just as I was heading out the door. He pulled me back inside, and in my attempt For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница to get free, I jerked my arm out of his grip. He grabbed me again and I jerked again, over and over until my palm whipped across his face so hard, the sound echoed throughout the precinct. A silence fell over the room, and every eye was suddenly focused on us.
He touched his cheek where I slapped him. “I deserve that, but let me explain.”
We stood in the hall as a prickly kind of betrayal and humiliation kept me from hearing anything he had to say. I shut down. His words bounced back as though I had an invisible For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница force field protecting me, and after delivering the best glare I could conjure, I turned and tried to walk away again, mostly because I saw Gemma and Denise coming. The thought of dealing with their indifference made me physically ill. I swallowed hard, fighting the bile in the back of my throat.
Dad didn’t grab me this time. He just braced an arm on the wall, blocking my path. He bent down to me, whispered in my ear. “If I have to handcuff you and carry you kicking and screaming back to that room, I will.”
I glowered at For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница him as Denise hastened up to us in a huff. “Did she just hit you?” she asked, appalled.
More than any other time in my life, I wanted to belt her as well. Where was Ulrich when I needed him?
“What are you going to do about it?” she asked my dad. My dad. She glanced around the room, embarrassed that the other officers had seen my tantrum. “Leland—”
“Shut up,” he said, his voice so quiet, so menacing, it left her speechless. For once.
She raised a hand to cover her throat self-consciously. By law, any For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница police officer who saw me hit him was duty bound to arrest me. None stepped forward.
Dad towered over me, his frame thin but rock solid, and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if he wanted to wrestle me back, he could. But he would be grabbing a cat by its tail. He would have a fight on his hands, one he would not soon forget.
“Fine,” I said, my voice just as soft as his, “cuff me, because I am not going back into that room so that everyone can feel sorry for me because my For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница father sent a madman to kill his own daughter.”
He sighed, his shoulders crumpling. “That’s not what I did.”
“Isn’t it?” Gemma asked, her voice hard as she stepped forward. “Dad, that’s exactly what you did.”
“No, I mean—”
“She’s so special. She’s so unique,” Gemma said, her words stealing my breath. “She’s so much more than even you know. And you sent him to her?”
“Gemma,” Denise said, and I could feel the betrayal wafting off her, “what are you talking about? He begged that man not to hurt For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница Charley.”
Gemma seemed to be struggling for patience. She closed her blue eyes a long moment, then turned to her. “Mom, did you not hear him?”
“I heard every word.” Denise’s voice was suddenly edged with bitterness.
“Mom,” Gemma said, placing her hands on Denise’s shoulders, “open your eyes.” She said it softly, not wanting to hurt the hag’s feelings.
I had no such qualms. “That’s impossible.”
Denise’s jaw clenched in anger. “See?” she asked Dad, pointing at me just in case he didn’t get it.
I was still floored by Gemma’s reaction For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница. Quite frankly, I didn’t think she gave a crap.
Uncle Bob had been standing back, but he stepped forward now. “Maybe we can take this to my office.”
“I’m leaving,” I said, so exhausted, I thought I was going to be sick. I started out the door again.
“I knew he would lose,” Dad said quietly after me.
I stopped and turned around. Waited.
“I knew he would end up like the others.”
What others? How many did he know about?
He stepped closer to me, leveled a beseeching gaze on me. “Sweetheart, think about it. If For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница he had gone after Gemma or Denise before we found him, they would be dead right now.”
He was right. But that didn’t make what he did hurt less. A twisting pain like I’d never felt in my life burrowed a hole in my chest, blocked off my passageway until I was gasping for air. And then it happened again. The fucking waterworks. God, could I be any more lame?
Dad put a hand on my face. “I knew you would be okay. You always are, my beautiful girl. You have, I don’t know, a For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница power or something. A force that follows you. You’re the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.”
“But, Dad,” Gemma said in admonishment, “you should have told her. You should have prepared her.” Gemma was crying now, too. I couldn’t believe it. I had entered the Twilight Zone. No more science fiction marathons for me. Gemma stepped to my side and hugged me. Like, really hugged. And damned if I didn’t hug back.
The bitterness and frustration from years of being the fuckup, the odd girl out, the ugly duckling surfaced and I could not, with my most concentrated For the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys, Danny, Jerrdan, and Casey. 16 страница effort, stop the sobs from racking my body. Dad joined in, whispering airy apologies as we embraced.
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