Something Read Something Dead | Chapter 27 of 35

Author: Eva Gates | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1475 Views | Add a Review

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Chapter Twenty-Four

“Lucy!”

I coughed. My stomach heaved and I leaned forward and spat up a good portion of the water from Grace’s hot tub. I sucked air in as rapidly as I could. Strong arms were wrapped around me, holding me firm, keeping my head above the water. Cold clean air rushed into my heaving lungs.

I spat again.

“Say something, Lucy,” a voice said.

I coughed. “Something.”

“I’ve got you. Try to stand. Steady now, no hurry. There’s a girl.”

I planted my feet on the bottom of the tub and struggled to find purchase. The arms around my chest lifted me, helped me to rise. My butt hit the side of the hot tub and I fell backward onto the wet tile.

I looked into the night sky. Snowflakes fell to earth, landing on my cheeks and my lips. I coughed again, turned my head and brought up more water, and then I tried to sit.

“Stay still.”

“I’m okay.” I struggled to pull myself into a seating position. Yellow light poured from the back of the house, and steam rose from the hot tub as snow continued to fall all around us.

I heard running footsteps crossing the lawn, the creak of the boards on the step, and I flinched. Then I heard Stephanie’s voice. “Gone.”

“Nothing?” Grace said.

“They had a car. I didn’t get anything.” She crouched beside me and peered into my face. “How you doing, honey?”

“I’ve felt better.”

“Let’s get her inside and dressed,” Steph said. “I called 911.”

I was lifted to my feet. I looked at my friends. They were both in their bathing suits and bare feet. “What are you doing here?” I asked Steph.

“I finished at Mom’s and thought I’d swing by and see if you were still here.”

“Good thing you did,” Grace said.

They helped me into the house and settled me on the living room couch. Grace went back outside and got my clothes. When she came in, steam rose off them. “These are almost frozen. I’ll find you something to change into. Get that wet bathing suit off.”

She ran down the hallway, and Steph helped me out of my suit.

Grace brought a thick fleecy blanket. I accepted it gratefully, and the two women wrapped it securely around me. Shock was beginning to settle in and I was freezing.

Sirens sounded outside. “I’ll let our visitors in,” Steph said.

Butch Greenblatt was first through the door. He gave Steph an anxious look followed by a private nod, and then he took in the whole room. “Are you all right, Lucy?” He crouched on the floor in front of me, his eyes wide with concern. “Do you need to go to the hospital?”

I shook my head. “I’m okay.” I burst into a coughing fit.

When I finished, he said, “You don’t sound okay.”

“I swallowed a lot of hot water.”

“Lucy was outside,” Steph said. “In the hot tub. He took off through that patch of trees in the property behind.”

“Check the yard,” Butch said to the officer who’d come in behind him. He pushed himself to his feet. “Tell me what happened.”

Grace and Steph exchanged glances. “I scarcely know,” Grace said at last. “Lucy and I were in the hot tub. Josie was here earlier, but she left about twenty minutes, maybe half an hour, ago. I went into the house to get us glasses of water and the doorbell rang. It was Steph.”

Stephanie nodded. “I was late.”

“I showed Steph to my bedroom so she could change into her bathing suit,” Grace said. “Then we talked in the kitchen for a couple of minutes.”

“We heard splashing and thought Lucy was getting bored out there all by herself, so we went to join her.” Steph shook her head. “I still can’t believe what I saw. Something … someone … was couched over the tub, holding Lucy down. It was awful. Horrible.”

“Did you recognize this person?” Butch asked.

“No. We yelled, and he looked up and saw us, then he let go of Lucy and took off. He had a hood pulled over most of his face, so I couldn’t see hair or anything.”

“You think it was a man?” Butch said.

“Figure of speech,” Grace said. “I have no idea. It could have been a woman; I couldn’t tell.”

“Me neither,” Steph said. “But there was only one person. I’m sure of that.”

“I had trouble getting the door open,” Grace said. “It sticks sometimes and I was panicking and all thumbs. By the time it finally opened and we got outside, they were heading into the property behind.”

“I told Grace to see to Lucy and took off after them.” Steph looked down at herself. The tiny, trim figure in a bright-pink bikini, bare feet. She blushed. “I didn’t get far. Can I get my sweater?”

“Sure.” Butch appeared calm and in control of the situation, but I thought it a sign of how disturbed he was that he didn’t even turn his head to watch Steph and her pink bikini walk away. Her feet were blue with cold, a dead leaf stuck to one foot, and she limped, ever so slightly, while trying not to.

“Grace, is that what you saw?” Butch asked.

“Yes. Lucy was underwater, not moving, when I got to her.” She wrapped her arms around herself. Her bathing suit was a black-and-brown one-piece. “We got to her in time.”

“Why don’t you get a robe on?” Butch said. “I’ve called Detective Watson.”

“That’s not …” I said.

He lifted one hand. “Someone tried to kill you, Lucy. I think a detective’s required.”

“Butch is right.” Steph had changed quickly into a thick oatmeal sweater and jeans. Her feet were still bare, showing toes painted a sparkly gold. “This wasn’t someone playing a stupid prank. If we hadn’t heard you splashing and come out to check on you …” Her voice trailed off.

“The suspect ran off when you arrived,” Butch said. “Then what happened?”

“I chased him. Or her,” Steph said. “Into that patch of trees. I wasn’t wearing shoes, so I was too slow. When I emerged onto the street on the other side, all I saw was a car disappearing around the corner. Going fast. No lights.”

“I don’t suppose you got the plate?”

“Not even the model of car. A compact, dark color. That’s all I can say. As for the person, I saw a heavy winter coat, knee length, with a hood pulled over the head, and legs in dark clothing. That’s it. I’m sorry.”

He touched her shoulder briefly and stared into her eyes. “You shouldn’t have tried to chase them. You were unarmed. Not to mention undressed.”

“Instinct, I guess,” she said.

They exchanged soft smiles, and then Butch turned back to me. “Lucy?”

“I saw nothing and no one. One second I was enjoying the evening, and the next I was underwater struggling to breathe.”

Sam Watson walked into the room. His gaze swept over us. Grace with her hair hanging in long wet strands, wrapped in a blue terry cloth bathrobe, Steph dressed but in bare feet, me huddled on the couch, hair wet, eyes red, clinging to a security blanket.

Butch pulled his flashlight off his belt. “I’m going to check outside. If we’re lucky, they dropped their driver’s license or something.”

He left by the sliding door, and my gaze followed him. Lights bobbed across the lawn and among the trees. The back door of the house behind opened and a man called out, asking what was going on. An officer was on her hands and knees examining the edges of the hot tub.

“Lucy, want to tell me what happened?” Watson said. “I got the gist when Butch called me. You were attacked in the hot tub?”

I nodded.

“I’m sorry, sir, but …” a woman’s voice said from the front door.

“I’m the mayor. Let me in!” Connor burst into the room, his eyes wide, his hair mussed. He dropped to the floor in front of me and gathered my hands into his. “Lucy. Are you okay? What happened here?”

“Take a seat, Mr. Mayor,” Watson said. “We’re about to find out.”

“What are you doing here?” I said.

“The 911 operator called me because your name was mentioned in the call. There’s at least one advantage to being the mayor of this town.” Connor touched my cheek ever so lightly and stared into my eyes. Then he dropped onto the couch beside me, lifted my blanket-wrapped legs, and tucked them onto his lap. I was suddenly aware that I had no clothes on underneath the wrap. My body, shivering with cold and shock only moments before, almost burst into flames.

Steph, Grace, and I told the story once again. A deep line formed between Sam Watson’s eyebrows. When Steph said they’d seen someone holding me under, Connor let out a low growl.

Butch came back inside. “Boot tracks in the snow, both coming and going between this house and the street behind.” He glanced at Steph, and a slight smile lifted the edges of his mouth. “And a set of bare footprints, about a size six. For once we won’t have trouble distinguishing the tracks of the suspect from his or her pursuers.”

“Anything interesting about the prints?” Watson asked.

“Size average, I’d say. Could be a man or a woman. Nothing else I could see, but it’s dark out there. I’ll talk to the immediate neighbors now, and we can search better in the morning.”

“Do we need a dog?”

“No point. The prints ended at a set of tire tracks. He got into a car and drove away.”

“Lucy,” Watson asked, “were you able to tell if this person was wearing gloves?”

I thought. All I could remember was hot water and fear. “I don’t know, sorry.”

“It’s cold out tonight, so they likely were, but we’ll try to get prints lifted from the edge of the tub anyway.”

“Lucy needs to get herself on home,” Steph said. “She needs a hot drink and then into bed.”

“I’ll take her.” Connor rubbed my legs through the blanket.

“Lucy,” Watson said, “do you have anything to add tonight? If not, I’ll come around in the morning to talk to you further.”

“I saw nothing. I heard nothing. Do you think this has something to do with the killing of Mirabelle?”

“That’s entirely possible. You’ve been asking questions, as is your habit. Perhaps I should have done more to stop you.”

“Like that would help,” Grace muttered.

“I have been asking questions,” I said. “But I’ve not been getting any meaningful answers. If someone tried to kill me because they think I know who killed Mirabelle, they’ve wasted their time.”

“Did anything about this person seem familiar, Lucy?” Grace asked.

I shook my head. “It might have been a big black bear for all I know.” I chuckled. “Except they didn’t have claws. I would have noticed if there had been claws.” I laughed again. The idea of a bear tiptoeing stealthy through the thin line of trees with the intention of drowning me in a hot tub seemed dreadfully funny.

Grace handed Connor a glass of water, and he held it to my lips. “Take a drink. Sam, we’re leaving.”

“That’s a good idea,” Watson said. “Ms. Stanton, you can be going as well. Ms. Sullivan, I’m afraid we’ll be in your way for a while longer. We’ll be back again tomorrow, soon as it’s daylight, to search further.”

“Take all the time you need,” Grace said. “Lucy, let’s get you something to wear on the way home.”

Connor helped me to my feet, and Grace and Steph each took one of my arms while I clung to the blanket.

“My car,” I said.

“Come back for it tomorrow,” Grace said.

“My clothes,” I said.

“You can get them tomorrow.” Connor tucked the blanket around me. “Do you have pajamas she can borrow, Grace? I’ll jack the heat in the car up high. She’ll need shoes, too.”

Grace and Steph walked me into a bedroom. They pulled the blanket away, and Grace helped me into a loose-fitting fleece top and comfortable bottoms. Steph knelt in front of me and slipped a pair of sandals on my feet. I felt rather like a queen with people to help me dress.

When I was ready, Sam Watson held the front door open, and Connor held me close as he led me outside. “I’m okay,” I said. “I can walk.”

“I want to help. Oh, Grace, Lucy’ll need her bag. Her keys should be in there.”

Grace handed it to him.

He half-carried me down the steps. His car was parked in the driveway, behind mine. Steph’s was on the street, surrounded by police cars, marked and unmarked. Snow continued to fall, softly and gently, illuminated by flashing blue and red lights. Neighbors stood on their porches or at their windows, watching. Connor held the door for me and guided me inside.

“Home, James,” I said when he’d started the engine.

“Yes, madam,” he replied.

“I’m so dreadfully tired all of a sudden, but I’ll never get to sleep …”

Connor gently shook me awake. “We’re here. Let’s get you inside and upstairs.”

*   *   *

When I next awoke, sunlight was pressing hard against the back of the heavy drapes covering my single window. Something heavy lay on my chest; someone breathed into my face. Panic flooded into me and I screamed. I scrambled to push off the weight. My eyes flew open to see Charles’s blue ones staring into mine. I collapsed in relief. “Good morning.”

He jumped off the bed and headed into the kitchen.

I looked around the room. A red blanket was thrown over a chair. Where did that come from?

And then it came flooding back. My head dropped into my pillows, and I stared at the ceiling. Grace’s house. The hot tub. Sparkling wine and snacks and fun times with good friends. An attempt on my life. Police flashlights moving through the snowy trees.

“Hello?” I called. “Anyone here?”

All was quiet. A water glass sat on the night table, next to my phone and my book, a slip of paper tucked under it. I pulled the paper out and read.

YOU’RE SLEEPING WELL. I’M GOING HOME AND LEAVING CHARLES TO WATCH OVER YOU. CALL IF YOU NEED ANYTHING. It was signed with a crudely drawn heart.

I leaned back with a smile. Then I picked up the phone to check the time.

Ten o’clock!

On a working day.

I leapt out of bed and headed straight for the shower. Halfway there I realized I was in a pair of unfamiliar pajamas. Oh, right. Grace’s.

I peeled them off and studied myself in the mirror. I could see no sign of last night’s trauma. I touched the top of my head and felt sore, soft skin where I’d been held down. I turned to check out my upper back and neck. A small mark was cut into the skin high on my right shoulder. I remembered the hand on my head, pushing me further and further into the water. Another hand on my shoulder, adding more pressure and some stability.

The cut was oddly shaped. I strained to see it properly, but the angle was wrong. I dug in the cupboard for an old makeup mirror and used it to create a reflection I could see.

The cut wasn’t deep, and if there’d been any blood, it had been washed away last night by the hot water.

The outline of a triangle was embedded in my skin.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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