Iced malice, p.17

Iced Malice, page 17

 

Iced Malice


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He would be back to use her again—that was the only thing Rachel felt sure of.

  48

  When Brynn went back to talk to Simington about Alice and feel him out about Alice’s relationship with Joel, there had been a second reason for Brynn’s visit—the dog.

  She hadn’t forgotten the dog that leaned against her leg looking for affection and she remembered Simington had told her that a customer had boarded the dog and never picked it up. He’d discovered later the man had died. Brynn wanted to get the dog for Kendall; Kendall needed someone to love right now, someone to love her back. Brynn had even stopped at her mother’s place before she left and asked for money to buy the dog.

  Brynn found out quickly that Simington seemed to be genuinely happy for his ex-wife that she’d finally found someone who cared for her and was getting on with her life, even if it was with someone she’d met in one of her grief-support groups.

  But when they finished talking about Alice, and Brynn told him she wanted to buy the dog, Simington had been reluctant to give her up. Shirley, a brindle and white Staffie whose ears hadn’t been clipped, was just as sweet as Brynn remembered. He finally said he wouldn’t take money for the dog, but if she was serious about giving Shirley a good home, she would have to sign some papers and agree to foster the animal until she was sure the new home was working out. Brynn asked for the papers and signed before he could change his mind. Fostering Shirley sounded like the perfect way to introduce dog ownership to Kendall.

  The trip from Simington’s kennel with Shirley in the car went smoothly. The dog enjoyed the ride and spent the time checking out passing cars. When they got to Brynn’s apartment, Shirley followed her around but didn’t seem stressed by her new surroundings, even ignoring Malkin, who hissed at her whenever she tried to get acquainted. Simington had assured Brynn that the dog liked cats, but he told her not to expect the cat to accept Shirley.

  Now, Malkin wouldn’t come out from under the bed.

  Eager to give Kendall the dog, Brynn kept watching the parking area from her window, waiting for Kendall’s car to pull into her parking space. She had her laptop on the table and every time she left it to look out the window, Shirley followed her for the round trip. Brynn was almost hoping Kendall wouldn’t want her, but then Brynn had Malkin to think about. Just as she thought of the cat, she saw Malkin’s spotted white nose peer around the corner of the bedroom door. Shirley trotted cautiously over to Malkin, stopping within a safe distance. Brynn waited for another cat hiss.

  Malkin lurked slowly toward the dog, which had stretched out in front of him, belly on the floor, wisely not rushing the feline. The cat circled Shirley, sometimes getting close enough for a sniff of dog scent. As if flaunting his superiority, when he finished his inspection Malkin crossed the room and leapt onto the upper ledge of his kitty condo.

  Brynn chuckled. Maybe they would be friends after all. She heard Kendall’s steps in the hallway and opened the door.

  “I have something for you,” she said to Kendall, holding the door open only a small crack.

  “That’s nice,” Kendall replied. “Give me about twenty minutes to take a shower, then come on over. I’ll put a pizza in the oven for us.”

  Exactly twenty minutes later, Brynn knocked on Kendall’s door with Shirley at her side, tail wagging, happy to visit a new place.

  “What’s this?” Kendall exclaimed when Brynn came in with Shirley, who, excited to meet a new friend, hurried over to her. Kendall leaned down to pet her and managed to dodge a kissing attempt. “He’s certainly friendly. Why do you have a dog?”

  “It’s a she. Her name is Shirley. I got her from Mr. Simington. I wanted to buy her for you, but he said he really didn’t want to give her up. One of his clients left her there to board while he went on a trip, but the man never came back to get her. Daniel—uh, Mr. Simington—found out her owner died. None of his relatives wanted to take her, so Daniel kept her.”

  Kendall listened while Brynn told her the rest of the story about the dog. Her first inclination had been to tell Brynn to take the dog back, but it was easy to see how happy she was to have found what she believed was the perfect gift for Kendall. She also had a few qualms about Brynn’s friendship with Simington.

  “So he said rather than sell her, he’d let me be a foster parent. That way, we could see how it worked out having her here. I can watch her while you’re at work, and Morrie already said he’d help too, and he hasn’t even met her yet,” she concluded, eagerly looking at Kendall for a reaction.

  “Brynn, it’s sweet of you to think of me like this, but I’ve never thought about having a dog.”

  Shirley, sensing whom she needed to convince, sat next to Kendall with her head resting on her knee. Kendall remembered how her mother had been about pets. She hadn’t even been able to have a turtle, much less a dog, for fear the animal might destroy Ruth Ann’s precious crystal collection.

  Kendall stroked the dog’s silky head. “You know, Brynn, this dog may be a Staffie, but they are in the Pit Bull family. A lot of people don’t trust that breed.”

  Brynn nodded, her eyes lowered. “Yeah, I know. But look at her, she’s so sweet.”

  Shirley, as if on cue, stretched her head up and licked Kendall’s cheek. “I guess we need to buy dog food,” Kendall said.

  Brynn’s face lit up. “I have some. I’ll go get it.”

  Kendall didn’t have the heart to tell Brynn that the last thing she needed right now was a dog to look after. She gazed down at Shirley, whose brown eyes were watching her every move. “I guess it’s going to be you and me, kid, whether we like it or not.”

  Shirley smiled.

  At midnight, Kendall got ready to leave the house to relieve Alverson. The weather had improved a bit the last few days, but in the evenings the temperature still dipped below zero, so she grabbed an old quilt and pulled on a down-filled jacket. She was about to walk out the door when she realized Shirley was following her.

  “It’s cold,” she told the dog. “And it’ll be a long night.” Shirley didn’t move. Kendall grabbed the leash and opened the door. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

  Ross pulled away as soon as Kendall arrived. She positioned the car where she could see the front and the side door of the Dalton house, although a large bush at the corner of the house shadowed the side door, making it harder to see him if Dalton tried to leave that way.

  Thirty minutes later, Kendall put Shirley on the leash and strolled past the house, thinking about the day the dog walker had opened the receptacle and seen Karla’s body. It was a damp, moonless night, and she imagined movement in every shadow. Shirley, apparently trained to the leash, trotted obediently at her side, taking in the sights and smells of the neighborhood. They turned around after passing a few houses and headed back to the car.

  An hour passed. Nearly nodding off, Kendall reached into the glove compartment for a chocolate-covered granola bar she knew was there. After pulling off the wrapper and raising it to her mouth, she saw that Shirley, who’d been softly snoring on the passenger seat, was awake and had her gaze riveted on the food, her tongue licking her lips in anticipation.

  “Looks like I have to share,” Kendall said, breaking off a small piece for the dog. Shirley snapped it up and swallowed it without chewing. Kendall poured herself another cup of coffee from her thermos and waited. All was quiet. The dog, contentedly curled up on the seat again, snored softly.

  Kendall wasn’t sure what had happened when the car suddenly filled with a putrid, skunk-like odor and then realized it had to be a dog fart. No more candy for the dog during a stakeout. She remembered she’d heard once that chocolate wasn’t good for dogs. Too late, but there wasn’t a lot of actual chocolate in a small piece.

  The dog released another shot of gas, bad enough that Kendall cracked a couple windows to let it out.

  Shirley raised her head and twitched her nose at the open window, taking in the night smells. A low growl rumbled from her throat. Kendall didn’t know
enough about dogs to be sure what the growl meant but feared that it signaled something moving in the darkness. She didn’t see anything.

  Then, from at least one street over, she heard the sound of a motorcycle starting up. Crap! Dalton had an old Harley in his garage. She pulled out and followed the sound, which seemed to be headed south, away from town. She radioed for all officers to be on the lookout for a man on a Harley moving in that direction. She had the license number of Dalton’s bike pulled from records and added the information to the notice.

  After an hour, Kendall had covered every road out of town, particularly those in the area of the Wagon Wheel. Finally giving up the chase, she drove back to Dalton’s, put Shirley on the leash again, and walked in the direction of the house. She took a roundabout way through a neighbor’s yard and peered into a window on the side of Dalton’s garage. The bike was parked just where it had been the day before when they had the search warrant. Damn, had she overreacted when she heard the cycle? Or had Dalton been out and come back already?

  Kendall tried the door on the side of the garage, surprised when it opened in her hand. She crept into the garage and put her hand on the body of the bike. It was warm—Dalton had been out. As she turned to sneak back outside, the leash stopped her. Shirley was growling again, raising the hairs on Kendall’s neck as her rumbles grew more intense. Was someone out there? But Shirley wasn’t facing the house; her gaze was riveted on the Harley.

  49

  “He’s our guy. Has to be, to sneak out like that on his bike,” Ross spouted the next morning.

  “I think so, too,” Kendall said. “But a sharp attorney would say he wanted to go for a ride without waking his wife. At least after all that excitement, I went home and managed to get some sleep.” They’d met at a coffee shop and Kendall paused for a sip of coffee. Ross was looking at her strangely. “What?” she asked.

  He sighed, looking down at the table. “Shari called me last night. They’ll be transporting Nash to Luther today.”

  Kendall felt like she’d been sucker punched. Shari hadn’t bothered to call her.

  “She asked me to tell you,” Ross said. “I think she feels bad because you can’t see him.”

  “Sure, she feels bad, all right.” Kendall let out a choppy laugh. “I’m beginning to think you’re right. She wants to move in and reconstruct the little family. She must think that since he almost died from this last undercover gig, he’ll give up police work—what she’s always wanted—and they can live happily ever after.”

  “Bitter much?” Ross accused. “Listen, I don’t blame you for feeling that way, but you’re forgetting that Nash quit police work once and it didn’t save their marriage, did it? I know Shari; she wouldn’t want to hurt you.”

  “Oh, but she will,” Kendall said.

  “Don’t go getting all down about the situation, Kenny. Nash could remember everything any time now, right? Maybe being back here will bring it all back.”

  Kendall tried to push aside her doubts that she and Nash would ever get back what they’d had. “I can only hope.”

  “So what’s all this about a dog?” Ross asked.

  Now there was a subject changer. Kendall ordered a croissant and proceeded to tell Ross about Shirley.

  Ross said, “Sounds like a good dog. She seemed to be onto Dalton.” His phone went off, and before he could pick up, Kendall’s vibrated in her pocket. When she answered she found out that their office manager, Delia Wells, hadn’t shown up for work and hadn’t answered her phone when someone from the office tried to call her. The woman had a perfect attendance record, so they contacted her mother, who immediately went to Wells’ apartment and found her lying on the living room floor, badly beaten.

  When Kendall and Ross arrived at the hospital, they found out that Delia’s injuries weren’t fatal. She had regained consciousness on the trip to the hospital and an orthopedic doctor was setting a broken arm. As soon as he left the room, Kendall and Ross went in to talk to her. Wells’ mother, a short woman with Hispanic coloring and a pretty face, shot them an anxious look when they asked her to leave.

  Kendall’s heart went out to Delia at the sight of her face, so much like her mother’s, but swathed in bandages. Her eyes, tiny slits in her swollen face, peered out from either side of a bulky, white nose brace.

  “I must look like crap,” she whispered. “Go ahead, tell me. My mother wouldn’t.”

  “Don’t worry about that,” Kendall said. “Just concentrate on getting better. The doctors will have you looking just like you always did; it’s only a matter of time.”

  “You have to get that bastard.” Her lips twitched. Talking had to be painful.

  “We will, Delia. Do you know who did this to you?”

  She sighed. “His name is Vernon, Vernon Cruz. I met him in a bar and gave him my phone number. I’m usually more careful, but he was so hot, you know?”

  “Sure, that happens sometimes,” she said, thinking of Rachel Geror.

  “We went out a few times and I kept it pretty casual since I didn’t really know that much about him. Then about a week ago, we had sex at my place after we came home from a movie. He told me he loved me and that waved red flags for me. It was just too soon. Weird, right?” Kendall nodded.

  “Then the next day, that girl came in at work. The one who does the computer stuff sometimes. You know, the one with the white hair?”

  Shit, Kendall thought. Brynn was involved in this? This was a complication she didn’t need. “I know who you mean,” she said.

  “Well, I asked her to run a check on him for me, and I told her I’d pay her. She didn’t want to at first, and she told me to have one of you guys do it, but I said I didn’t want anyone at work knowing my business. I kind of lied to her. I didn’t tell her about the sex part. I told her we were just casual.”

  She paused for a drink of water from a glass with a built-in straw. “She called me the next day, and I asked her to meet me. She told me about his record. It’s bad.” She looked at Kendall and Ross. “I asked her not to tell anyone, because I was going to break it off with him. She told me the day before that her report would be confidential, but I could tell she was having a problem with that, because she told me to tell you about it, let you handle it for me. I told her I could take care of it.” Tears leaked out onto her bandages. “I handled it, all right.”

  “Delia, don’t blame yourself. This is all on him. We’ll have officers locate him and as soon as they do, we’ll arrest him. Don’t worry, he’ll pay for what he did to you.” She motioned Delia’s mother back into the room.

  In the hall, Ross asked, “What do you think? Could he be a person of interest in the murders?”

  “Doubt it. This guy likes to feel flesh under his fists.”

  “You never know with these morons. Maybe he just didn’t have the knife handy.”

  “We’ll check if there’s any connection between him and Holmes or Dalton. And find out if he knew Geror. Stranger things have happened.” Kendall looked down the hall. “Do you think Nash is here yet?”

  “I haven’t heard anything. Want me to call Shari?”

  “No. She owes me a call.”

  Kendall stopped at the nurses’ station and flashed her badge to a nurse who looked like she’d just covered an all-nighter. Her hair was pulled back in an untidy ponytail, her makeup smudged, and her aqua-blue scrubs rumpled.

  “I’d like you to check something for me,” Kendall demanded in her most authoritative voice. “We need to know if you’ve admitted an Adam Nashlund.”

  The nurse gave her the stinkeye and muttered something about confidentiality, but moved to a computer terminal and asked, “Is that Nashlund with an “a” or a “u”?

  After Kendall told her, she clicked the keys. “He’s just been admitted. You’ll have to call later to get a room number.”

  Kendall thanked her, and they continued out to the parking lot.

  “I suppose you want me to get you the room number,” Ross said
.

  “How did you guess? All I need is a lab coat and I can at least get a look at him.”

  “Think that’s a good idea?”

  “Why wouldn’t it be? I’m the one he loves,” she reminded him and then wanted to bite her tongue for the childish comment.

  Wisely, he said nothing.

  “What’s the look for?”

  “What look? I’m not arguing with you.”

  “I suppose you’re rooting for him to go back to Shari.”

  Ross stopped walking. “Kenny, I told you I won’t take sides in this. I knew Nash and Shari long before you came into the picture, so, yeah, I wouldn’t mind seeing them get back together. I also know that Shari would have left him rather than let him do the kind of undercover work he’s into now. He was happy with you. But no one knows how he’s gonna feel when everything comes back to him.”

  Chastened, Kendall said, “Sorry. I’m . . . I’m just so damn frustrated.”

  50

  When Kendall and Ross reached the lobby of the hospital, Kendall spotted Brynn walking up from the parking lot.

  “You know, I think I’ll just walk back to the station from here,” Kendall said. “I need some air.”

  Ross studied her for minute. “Okay, I’ll see you later. Don’t do anything stupid.”

  Good. He hadn’t seen Brynn and thought she was thinking about going back in and trying to see Nash. Kendall caught up with Brynn as she was about to enter the huge, revolving door. “Hold on a minute.”

  “Uh, Kendall, hi,” she said.

  Why did she look guilty? Kendall steered her away from the doors. “Are you visiting someone?”

  Brynn hesitated. “I wasn’t supposed to tell you about it. But I guess it doesn’t matter now.”

  “What are you talking about?” Kendall asked, although she knew what was coming.

  “About Delia. Delia Wells.”

 
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