His. She’d been his.
Robert Davis tapped his index finger in a precise, angry tattoo against the clipboard holding his flight planning charts. He still couldn’t believe it. Not only had she deprived him of his rightful prey, she’d gotten away.
They never got away. Unless he let them. He told himself he’d let them both slip through his fingers tonight, but he knew it was a lie, and the lie infuriated him.
Too bad he didn’t know where she lived. It would be a brash and impulsive move on his part to find her, but he would enjoy exacting some satisfaction for her interference. He discarded the idea as soon as it formed, though. Too risky. He prided himself on his discipline, swiftly decisive once he’d explored problems from all sides, but never hasty.
Distracted, he gave up on planning tomorrow’s flight and conjured the image of her leaping up from the booth at the bar a few hours ago. Her clothing was designed to conceal, but it wasn’t difficult to imagine the flesh beneath. Supple, toned, and slender in the right places. Lush in the others. A little taller than average, maybe five feet six or seven inches, and lean. But for all that promise, she lacked in spirit.
The sleeves of her T-shirt had quivered, telegraphing her distress. Ripples of her fear had lapped against his skin, sparking his stalking instinct in spite of her pathetic attempt to stand up to him, to speak her piece. He snorted. He liked a woman with some fight, not a mousy librarian type. Even so, his blood had thundered hot and eager from his heart into his fingertips and into his loins. The echo of it pulsed even now, a pale shadow of what might have been.
What should have been.
A sharp rap at the door jarred him from his thoughts. He frowned and hit the mute button on the remote bolted to the bedside table. The table, in turn, was bolted to the floor. He’d found the bolts amusing at first, but now everything about this cheap motel irritated him. He should have treated himself to the Galt House, or the Brown Hotel, places he’d receive the treatment he deserved. The ancient television flickered as naked bodies writhed across the silent screen, and he paid them little attention. Neither the low-budget porn nor his potent imagination replaced the reality that had been stolen from him.
He unfolded his six-foot-four-inch frame and stretched, in no rush to answer the door. No one in Louisville, Kentucky, knew him, except for the woman who’d ruined his evening. And the last thing she’d do was track him down. Nope. Pure pleasure flickered at the memory of her terror, but a surge of anger extinguished it. She’d derailed his hunt. His jaw tightened at the unfairness of it, and he swung the door open without stooping to look through the peephole.
He didn’t know what he’d expected, maybe a misdirected pizza delivery or a redneck at the wrong door, but the man in a suit and tie surprised him. He raised an eyebrow and said, “Can I help you?”
There was something familiar in his manner, and Robert straightened. “Yes.” Curiosity edged out the disgruntled frustration of a moment ago. “Why?”
“Step outside, please.”
Now he recognized the mannerism. Quiet authority that brooked no opposition. The guy was a cop. A frisson of alarm raised the hairs on his forearms. “I don’t think so.”
“Suit yourself.” The man slipped a badge out of his pocket with practiced ease and displayed it. Louisville Metro Police ran in fancy script around the top of the shield, Dutch Bennett, Detective in block letters across the center. To Serve and Protect completed the oval in script at the bottom.“We can do this the easy way or the hard way. Your choice.”
Only then did Robert notice the uniformed policeman standing in the shadows, positioned at an angle designed to optimize control of a suspect. Himself, apparently. A glance verified the standard tools of the trade: web belt loaded with a Taser, extra ammo for the Glock holstered at his hip, a baton easily accessible, metal handcuffs glinting in the dim light. He tightened his grip on the door, then shrugged and dropped his hand to his side. “What’s this about?”
“I have a warrant for your arrest.” Bennett leaned into Robert’s space, not a lot, not enough to be overt, but enough to raise his hackles, enough to interject a sense of come on, make my day.
Robert frowned and shot him a look that said, Back off, asshole.
But the asshole kept talking, his bland tone in stark contrast to a hum of tension beneath the words. “Two counts of felony sexual assault, elevated to Class A by threat of deadly force, criminal confinement resulting in bodily injury—”
He felt his mouth drop open in a stupid O of disbelief as the guy continued with a laundry list of charges. His mind churned into overdrive.
“Who?” he asked, interrupting the dry litany.
Bennett narrowed his eyes, rounded out his list with a couple of misdemeanors, then waited a beat. “What? No protestation of innocence?” He bared his teeth in what might pass for a smile, but didn’t come close to camouflaging the steel behind it or the quick intelligence in his face.
Too late, Robert realized his error. He’d done all those things, so hadn’t questioned the validity of the charges—just which bitch had the backbone to try to nail him for it. Which meant he’d made another error. Someone hadn’t been cowed into silence. No way could it have been what’s-her-name from the airport earlier this afternoon, and then the bar later. She was too timid by half.
“You have the right to remain silent.”
Well, hell, he knew that. He made a sound that might have been a laugh in other circumstances. Now it was a harsh, humorless waste of air, air that suddenly seemed in short supply. He was a lawyer, had studied and written papers and argued the finer points of the Miranda rights the cop was reciting. He’d trampled and exploited and exalted—whichever suited his purposes—those rights. He’d profited from his skillful parsing and finding holes in cases built by cops like this one. He was a defense attorney. One of the best back home in New Jersey.
The uniformed cop pulled handcuffs from his web belt, and Robert shot the man a quelling glare. The detective continued, “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”
Robert heard the quiet emphasis of the word will, saw a flash of triumph that went a step beyond satisfaction at a job well done or business as usual. Why? Confusion clouded his thinking, and the lone important—and missing—detail clamored for an answer.
“Lannis Parker.” The detective named a date from several years ago, then cocked his head to the side, gauging Robert’s reaction.
“I don’t know a Lannis Parker.” Robert made the statement with utter confidence in its truthfulness. He’d never heard of Lannis Parker.
“We’ll discuss this at the station.” The detective stowed his badge and motioned him forward, out into the muggy air of the exposed walkway.
Robert turned and dismissed the men with a flick of his wrist. Warrant and Miranda rights notwithstanding, it would take only a phone call or two to straighten this out. “I’ll meet you there.” He reached for the keys to his borrowed car, tossed casually hours before on the butt-ugly orange molded plastic chair.
“Freeze.” The command cracked through the air, tension shimmering behind it.
Too late, he realized he’d stepped out of their line of sight. Adrenaline flooded the backs of his arms, flowed into his palms, his fingertips, and readied him for a brawl. Not a good idea… He drew on the discipline of years of martial arts training and froze, then slanted a glance toward the doorway.
The detective had a gun trained on Robert’s torso, and the uniform had pulled his Taser. In that instant Robert discovered he didn’t like being on the business end of their weapons. These guys were serious, acting like he was dangerous, maybe even armed. His imitation of a marble statue didn’t seem to appease them; the weapons remained drawn and ready. Sweat dampened his brow and the palms of his hands. Restraint combined with the adrenaline rush, and translated into a faint trembling of his fingers.
“On the floor, hands behind your head.” Detective Bennett stepped back to allow the uniformed officer access. “Do not resist.”
Left without a choice, Robert clasped his hands at the back of his skull, sank to his knees, then awkwardly twisted to get an elbow to the floor for balance. The cops swarmed him before he got there, grabbing and yanking his arms behind his back, holding him down with a knee and their bodies, sliding the metal of the cuffs around his wrists, ratcheting them tight, then tighter.
Instinct overrode training.
He jerked, too late for his fists, but maybe not too late for his lethal kicks. He bucked the weight of the uniformed cop, dislodged him, and felt a fleeting moment of exultation. He lashed out with a foot, but met only air. Someone’s knee landed on his head, grinding his face into the rough carpet. Their shouts registered over the coarse rasp of his breath, but blood thundered in his ears and he couldn’t make out the words. The knee lifted away, then pain blossomed in his side.
It exploded through his body, making him arch and cry out, legs spasming in uncontrollable jerks, arms wrenching nearly out of their sockets, the metal bracelets biting into his skin. He heard his own voice as if it were someone else’s, pleading, begging. The words were incoherent, but the meaning clear.
Humiliation flooded him.
They hauled him upright, and Robert scrambled to find his footing—God, he hoped he hadn’t peed his pants. Spittle had collected at one side of his mouth and dripped down his chin. He could barely think, and all he could come up with was…he needed to look for chinks in procedure, mistakes he could capitalize on, anything he could use to throw the whole thing back into this guy’s face, and he couldn’t do that if he lost his focus.
Why did this somehow feel personal? More personal than a simple arrest should. The thought slipped into his mind, then faded. They had him halfway down the stairs before he found his voice again.
“The warrant…what…who?” he gasped.
“Your own words on tape,” Detective Bennett ground out.
And he knew.
Lannis Parker.It finally clicked into place. The chick from the airport. He hadn’t bothered to remember her name. Only her screams.
She’d set him up.
The conniving, backstabbing, lying, double-crossing bitch had come into the bar tonight, run off the woman he’d picked up, and engaged him in a conversation about their sexual encounter a few years ago. She called it rape. Robert called it a good time. Consensual, of course. A little rough, maybe, but hey, that was the way she’d wanted it. She’d said the conversation was between them, just the two of them. But it had been a setup. A wire. They must have wired her. His heart dropped to the soles of his Guccis, and his mind tripped into warp speed, trying to remember exactly what he’d said. Had he said anything incriminating?
“You have the right to an attorney; if you cannot afford one”—Bennett’s voice held heavy sarcasm, and Robert caught a faint sneer in his face, quickly smoothed over and replaced with bland professionalism—“one will be appointed for you.”
The detective had apparently done his homework, knew Robert owned his own plane, and assumed he could afford a lawyer. Worse, he knew what was on the tape.
Which was…? Just before she’d shoved out of the booth across from him and fled, Miss Lannis Parker had said something that hadn’t made sense then and made less sense now.
A second chance, she’d said. A fresh start for her, and for him. An opportunity to make better decisions, make amends, whatever all that meant. A chance to make peace with God. He gave a mental snort. He didn’t need God. He just needed a good defense attorney, and since he was one of the best, he didn’t need anybody. No matter what, though, it looked like his immediate future included a night in jail.
Some second chance.
©Leslie Lynch, 2011