Okay, this section ends Chapter 1. This is the last I’ll share for awhile — hopefully things will settle down and I’ll be inspired by new blog topics. If there’s anything you’ve been wishing I’d blog about, feel free to ask in comments.
Elias heard her shouting at him as she ran down the stairs, but he didn’t stop. He threw open the door to the rear living quarters, grabbed the invader, and slammed him face first against the wall with a satisfying crunch.
The kid didn’t put up a fight. Man, Elias reminded himself. Not a kid, no matter how scrawny and slender he was, not at twenty five years of age.
Vicki screamed, a high, shrill wail like nothing he’d ever heard from her. “Jesse!”
Her terrified voice pierced through Elias’s rage. As a kid huddled in a narrow bed with his younger brothers and sisters while his drunk father beat the shit out of his mother, he’d sworn to never make a woman scream like that. He slapped cuffs on the man and forced himself to ease off. He had to be the cop in this, not the enraged, jealous, overprotective—and almost always absent—lover.
The junkie stayed against the wall, legs automatically spread. He knew the drill all too well.
“You don’t smell like a bum, so I guess you’ve already taken advantage of your hostess’s hot water. Do you have anything stashed in these nice clean pockets?”
Damn it, he even sounded like a kid, his voice breathless and shaking with fear. Elias twisted his lips into a furious snarl. Fear of being caught. Fear of being thrown in jail instead of enjoying a nice cushy night under Vicki’s roof, stealing everything not locked down while she slept.
She stepped between them, her face white and her mouth tight with strain. “I gave him those pants. How dare you come in here and throw him around like this? He’s hurt! Look at him, Elias, he’s bleeding!”
Crying, she cradled the jerk’s face in her hands and wiped the blood from his split lip with a tissue snatched from the bedside table. “Jesse, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know he’d come over like this. I didn’t know he’d hurt you.”
“It’s okay. He’s protecting you. I’ve had much worse done to me.”
The nicer he acted—pretended to be!—the worse Elias felt, which pissed him off even more. He grabbed the ratty duffel bag lying at the foot of the bed and dumped it out, using an ink pen to separate items so he didn’t get poked by a dirty needle. “Any weapons? Drugs? Paraphernalia?”
“No, sir. Just my straight-edge razor. I have used it as protection a few times, but no knives or guns. I haven’t touched drugs in five years. I’ll take a drug test right this minute if you order it.”
Elias flipped open a small wooden case, but all it contained was tiny whittled down pencils and precious little nubs of chalk, so used up that a normal person—with money—would have thrown them out and replaced them long ago. Feeling more and more like a heel, he methodically emptied the pockets of everything. Wadded up small bills littered the bed. A five in each denim pocket, a twenty in the threadbare shirt, several more bills tucked into the rolled socks, but certainly no nice wad of cash that a dealer would carry. Spreading the bills out across the meager belongings would make it more difficult to steal his precious savings.
“I have a hundred dollar bill in each boot hidden beneath the insole.” Jesse leaned against the wall as though the entire building would crumble around them without his weight propping it up. The pants sagged low on his slim hips, and he didn’t have on a shirt. Bones moved beneath his skin in sharp, painful relief. The kid was half starved and malnourished. In despair, he hung his head, his streaked golden-brown hair falling down to hide his face. “Took me a year to save that much because the punks on the street keep stealing it. They know I don’t have a weapon.”
Elias knew the answer, but he wanted to see how many lies the kid might weave. “How do you know Vicki?”
“She used to come to the park where I hang out. When she quit coming, I asked one of her friends what had happened. I missed her, and I just wanted to make sure she was okay. She was always nice to me, but I never thought she’d help me like this.”
“Get these cuffs off him.” Vicki said in a deceptively pleasant voice that sent shards of ice skittering down his spine. This was the defense attorney, not a woman who’d called him to check out a friend. “He’s answered your questions satisfactorily and you have nothing to charge him with. He’s not trespassing and he’s not a danger to me or himself.”
When he hesitated, she narrowed those glittering dark eyes on him and lowered her chin, preparing for the charge. “I might not work for Leeman any longer, but I’ll have him crawling in every orifice you’ve got unless you release Jesse immediately.”