“Is he breathing?”
“I can’t tell.”
“I’ll radio it in. Just keep going. I’ll route you to the SO.”
“Direct you. I’m not going anywhere if that’s what you’re worried about. Hang on, let me radio in,” he said as I drove past a gas station. The fuel lamp was now continuing to glow, no longer fading off.
“Turn right on seventh. The office is two blocks down on the south side.”
“Left side?” I flipped on my blinker seeing I just passed sixth and was coming up on another intersection. I spotted the small road sign pointing towards the “sheriff.”
“Correct,” his voice was soothing. Young, too, was my guess.
“I see it,” I said a few beats later just as a pair of headlights turned onto the street ahead of me. The vehicle passed under a streetlight. It was the ambulance.
“Good, I’ll let you go now.”
“Okay,” the pit of my stomach fell. “Thank you.”
“You did good, Lisa. I’m proud of you.”
The paramedics loaded Jeff onto the back of the ambulance, still unconscious, and drove away, lights flashing then a few moments later as I stood in the sheriff’s department lot, I heard the sirens.
“Lisa?” I turned towards the voice. A deputy strode across the lot from the building towards me. I squinted against the light flaring out from behind him. He didn’t sound like the pilot I’d been talking to, but then again, the connection could have altered his voice. I thought it was a CHP helicopter, but I could have been wrong about that. As he drew closer, I felt a bit discouraged. I pictured him to be taller, more slender, a bit more muscular and a lot younger. Instead, the man that approached me had to have been close to retirement age with most of his hair gone, a pudgy belly and couldn’t have been much taller than my mother, a measly five-seven. Another emerged from the building a second or two later and followed him out towards me.
“Deputy Thompson. I was the officer who stopped the van. Are you okay?”
“That’s a loaded question. I don’t even know how to answer that. I guess I should ask if he’ll be okay, Jeff Danvers, I mean.” I tried to get a better look at the deputy coming up behind him, hoping, I guess, that it was the pilot. I couldn’t see him very well without making it pretty obvious to the one I was talking to, so gave up and smiled politely.
“I couldn’t say,” he shrugged, his elbows flapping away from his sides as he held his utility belt in a way that seemed to be pretty standard for cops. I nodded. That was a reasonable response. No sense in telling me what I wanted to hear if he didn’t really know.
“Let’s get you inside where it’s warmer,” he held a hand out, gesturing towards the building behind him. I nodded. “This is Deputy Johansen, he’ll show you in.”
“Thanks,” I moved towards the deputy, my knees wobbling.
Someone had brought me a sandwich and a soda before I was left in an interview room for what seemed to be several hours. Of course after all that had transpired it made sense my internal time clock—which never has been very good—was pretty much shot, making seconds feel like several minutes and such. I was too exhausted to pace, to tired to try to sleep with my head down on the table. I just sat there and zoned out.
“Lisa?” The door opened and before the person strode in, I heard my name. I could tell by the tan uniform it was a CHP officer. One of the pilots? I nodded, blinking out of my trance. “Nice to finally meet the young heroine.”
His grin was wide and warm, infectious too as I felt my cheeks pull taught into a smile. He was tall, filling the doorway, with short brown hair, mesmerizing blue-grey eyes and a body that would have made the seven-day-a-week gym geeks melt.
“I’m Grant Evers. We spoke earlier,” he extended his hand which I shook. “You did great out there.”
“Thanks,” I smiled shyly. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“Good teamwork. You know, we’re hiring…”
“I bet you say that to all the girls you talk through a chase.”
“Yes, given you’re the only one.”
“A marked one, you mean. Even though that’s over with, there’s still a very real threat…” I sat back down before my legs gave out. He pulled out a chair from beneath the table and joined me. “I’m not aware of everything. Maybe you can fill me in.”
“We want this resolved, don’t we?” His eyes looked into mine intently. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat.
“Of course.” Gee, did I sound like a complete idiot or what? “It’s just that I’m worried…”
“No need. Jeff Danvers is being treated for a concussion and his wife and daughter…”
“No!” I stood up quickly. My head spun. I folded back down into the chair. “It’s not safe. He’s still in danger and it could be his wife, Delilah or his step-daughter, Lindsey, that’s posing a threat.”
Officer Evers frowned, eyeing me curiously.
“I’ll explain, but first we’ve got to keep them away from Jeff,” I tried to get up, but Officer Evers flattened his hand over mine. I stared into his face and saw the questions in his eyes. My heart sank. Were we going there again?
“You think I’m a part of this, right? Is that what you think? Or maybe the two of us…” My body violently shook. “He’s old enough to be my dad!”
Officer Evers laughed suddenly. What the hell were they piping into that room? My head tilted and he slowly stopped laughing, then stood up.
“Stay put. I’ll go make a couple of calls and secure the situation, then you tell me everything. Deal?”
“What kind of deal is that? I’m stuck in this room left to contemplate either my navel or if y’all should consider a new color scheme. Sounds like I got the short end of the stick again.”
A smile played over his lips as one brow fell and the other shifted like a footnote marker, high and to the side.
“Okay, come with me,” he wheeled about and headed to the door.
Yeah, right. With one stale sandwich of which I yanked a few paper-thin slices of meat and a half slice of cheese from and ate while tossing the rest and a diet soda, the only place I was going was face down on the linoleum. Real smart, Miss Knowles.
“Coming?” He called from the door.
“As soon as I can redirect the protein molecules away from basic life support functions to get my feet moving, I’m right there with ya.”
A prolonged moment of stupid engulfed him until he finally shook it free. “Ah, the adrenalin thump. Now do you see why cops eat doughnuts?”
“Silly man,” I sat back down. “Go on ahead. I’ll, um, wait here.”
“Be right back,” he bolted from the room.
Okay, so I was a bit smitten, but that could be a big problem if I didn’t figure out a way to get my head reattached and quickly. I erred on the side of caution the first go around with the police which, had I obtained an upstanding lawyer, wouldn’t have been such a bad deal. I was right in refusing to answer questions without an attorney—good or bad. My gut told me that cop would have found a way to twist what I could have said and use it against me. I didn’t get that sense from Grant Evers, but that could have been because I was blocking those senses by being caught up in the rush of pheromones. Not a good combination at a moment like that.
That still didn’t resolve what I needed to do, though. So what should I tell him when he did come back? I want an attorney? Doubtful that’d work. I pretty much agreed to tell him what I knew and alluded to giving him the info in exchange for keeping Delilah and Lindsey away from Jeff. It would have been so much easier if I would have simply passed out.
“You hungry?” He asked as he strode back into the room. I’d been in the process of inspecting my nails and trying to fight my compulsive habit of biting them.
“Yes, why?” I peered out from beneath my bangs.
“Ever been in a helicopter?” He hadn’t answered my question. De ja vous.
“Want to?” He stood there, thumbs tucked into his pants’ waist, fingers crossed over the fly in his pants with his eyes twinkling.
“Want to eat? Hell yeah!”
“Well, I can’t fly you to Paris, so I hope you’ll settle for a ten minute flight up to Sacramento and a decent dinner at an Italian place that does to-go meals.”
“Just to eat.” My brow plunged skeptically. “And in exchange?”
“Exchange?” It was as if I said there was a pop quiz. “No exchange. But you might be interested in knowing that Jeff Danvers is en route to UC Davis Medical Center and being in Sacramento puts you just that much closer to drop by and visit, check to see how he’s doing. But maybe you had better things to do, I never did ask you if you had other plans, did I?”
A witty response was certainly due for, but I suddenly realized I’d forgotten about Alexandria. “There may be a bit of a problem,” I hesitated. He tilted his head.
“Darn it. A pretty girl like you must have had other plans. How silly of me…”
“No, no, that’s not it. My roommate, Alexandria. Lillian had her move in temporarily too.”
“Alexandria Winehouse?” He asked. I nodded. How’d he know? “She’s fine.”
“Okay, now I’m confused. How do you know about Alex and how do you know she’s okay?”
“Let’s get out to the chopper. I’ll explain on the way,” he said quickly. “Really, Lisa, it’s okay. We do have to hurry, though. You are coming, aren’t you?”
If sitting in a car with the windows rolled up is loud when a helicopter flies over, sitting in one is even more loud; deafening loud. Before we even left the building, Grant handed me a set of earphones to put on with a microphone boom protruding.
“Can you hear me?” He asked.
“Can you feel me?” A little voice sang out. Oh wait, that’s “heal me” in that song.
I nodded and said so. He laughed. “You have to press the button on the earpiece, wait a second, then talk for me to hear you. Don’t release the button until you’re done talking, again, waiting a second before you do.”
“Like this?” I followed his instructions.
“Perfect. Now it’s important to crouch down so you don’t get sucked into the blades. Just hold my hand. I’ll squeeze it when you need to hunker down.” I nodded and grinned as he grabbed my hand and turned away from me. I knew he didn’t have to hold my hand, he could have just as easily told me to do what he did, after all, I followed his instructions just fine when he was clear up in the air over me. But I wasn’t about to tell him that. His warm hand wrapped around mine as we made our way out to the waiting bird.
Once we got to it, he climbed in, then turned around and held his hand out for me. He waved me into a seat in the belly of the helicopter and reached a round me, pulling on the straps at either side and fastened me in before taking his own seat next to me. There was woman in the front who turned and watched us get settled, then turned forward and gave the thumbs up to someone else beside her. I assumed it was the pilot. Funny, I thought there were only two people—Grant and the pilot. I never realized there had been a third.
“That’s Janet, the pilot’s wife,” Grant’s voice filled the headset. “She was the dispatcher you talked to.”
“Oh! Can they hear us?” I asked after queuing the mic, then released it.
“Yes,” Janet’s voice came through. She turned and gave me a slight wave. “Only Marc, my husband and the pilot, can’t unless he switches over.”
“Oh. Well, thank you. For talking us through that. Marc too. I guess I owe everyone in a big way.”
“We made a pretty good team out there, didn’t we?” She said. I nodded, felling a bit melancholy or maybe it was just the sensation of the helicopter lifting up off the tarmac. “Oops, I’m needed!”
Janet turned away while I peered out the window. The town’s lights became tiny, then swept away as we darted north.
“So, Alexandria,” Grant said. I nodded, my eyes still glued to the window. “How long have you known her?”
My neck burned. I turned my head sharply and fixed my eyes on his. I began to speak. He tapped his ear, reminding me to push the button.
“She’s in on this?” I blurted. His mouth twisted and he gave a slight nod. Damnit! Why hadn’t I figured that out before then? My head throbbed. I pinched the bridge of my nose in hopes of staving off yet another round of pain, suddenly feeling nauseous.
“You okay?” His hand clasped my knee. I hadn’t realized it had been vibrating furiously until his touch quieted it. I nodded meekly. “Just take some slow, deep breaths.”
“This is all insane,” I muttered. Again, I hadn’t said it into a keyed mic. He tapped my ear that time. I simply shook my head and looked away.