Sunday, April 7, 2013 | By: Jenny

In Pursuit Chapter 2

Chapter 2
Marie POV
“What time is it?” Mary asked from her position on the couch beside me. Her head was on my shoulder, where she’d been resting it for the last twenty minutes, eyes closed.
Looking at the clock, I groaned. “Way too fucking early in the morning.” When she poked my arm, I said, “Just after nine.”
It wasn’t that nine a.m., even on a Saturday, was that early – I was used to being at work at seven thirty, after all – but we’d been up all night, talking with Angela and Ben, as well as two detectives from the Organized Crime division.
“I want to go home,” she sighed, raising a hand to rub her face.
Angela must have heard Mary’s comment because she breezed into the room and said, “Just a little bit longer, and then if you both are determined to go home and not to a hotel, I’ll take you myself, all right?”
I nodded wearily. “What now?” I asked as Mary sat up.

Ben walked in, waving a folder. “That can wait,” he told his wife before turning to us. “The D.A. said he’ll speak with you tomorrow about what you saw and what you can expect over the next few...well, at least weeks, in terms of the trial preparation. Caius and Felix will be arrested within the hour, so we need to get you guys out of here and to the hotel.”
“Now?” Mary squeaked, squeezing my hand tightly.
Shaking my head, I told him, “We’re going home, not a hotel.”
“Marie, Mary...” Ben grimaced. “I strongly suggest going to a hotel. Your names aren’t out there yet, but they will be, as much as we can try to prevent it, and when they are, I’m worried about your safety.”
“Then we’ll worry about that when and if we get to that point,” I said firmly. “Mary wants to go home, as do I.”
Ben and Angela looked at one another, holding a silent conversation, before they turned back to us and he nodded. “All right, then. Let’s get you home.”
After sneaking us out the back door of the station, Angela and Ben loaded us into an older, nondescript, brown, four-door Chevy, stating that it was one of the station’s undercover vehicles. Ben slid behind the wheel and slowly drove the car out of the underground garage and into the busy city street.
The drive to our apartment was quiet. All of us had been awake all night, and I knew everyone was stressed and tired. I wanted to ask what would happen once the men were arrested, but I didn’t want to upset Mary any more than she was already – and frankly, I was scared out of my wits enough. I was being strong for my sister, but my head was pounding, I’d nearly chewed clean through my lower lip already, and I felt more than sick to my stomach. Any more information could wait until I’d taken a shower and gotten some sleep.
As Ben parked in front of our building, Angela slid a placard on the dashboard to signal that it was a police vehicle, and then the four of us got out and walked quickly inside. Mary and I lived on the third floor, and there was no elevator, so we moved up the stairs in a line, with Ben in the lead and Angela trailing behind me in the back.
“Keys,” he said once we were to our door. “Let me sweep the apartment first, just to be safe.”
Mary handed him her keys, pointing out the two that would unlock the deadbolts and lock on the handle.
Within a minute, Ben was back, handing Mary the keys. “Everything looks secure. Keep the doors and windows locked, okay?”
We nodded, and I looked around, suddenly feeling nervous about being there alone with my sister.
Angela patted my arm and smiled softly. “You have my card still, right?” When I told her I did, she said, “Remember, my numbers are on the front, and Ben’s are on the back. Call us at any time for any reason. We only live about ten blocks from here, so we can run it if we have to.”
“’Kay,” I huffed, gathering Mary into my arms when she started shaking. “We’ll be fine, right, Mare?”
Mary nodded, steeling her backbone and looking more like her normal self as she tried to be strong. “Yup,” she chirped, although it was decidedly less...chirpy than normal. “Thanks.”
Angela and Ben smiled. “We’ll call you tomorrow to check up on you, and then we’ll see you Monday morning at nine,” she told us, ushering her husband out into the hall.
“Lock the doors!” he called once more as I closed it behind them. His muffled voice sounded like he said, “Good girl,” as I clicked the locks one by one.
Looking at Mary, I sighed. “Well... I want a shower and some tea before we get some sleep. How about you?” At her nod, I said, “You get the shower first while I make the tea, okay?”
“Thanks, sis,” she murmured, barely disguising a yawn as she turned around to head to the bathroom, pulling her shoes off as she went.
I rolled my shoulders, trying to work out the knots, as I made my way to the small kitchen, more than ready for something that would warm the cold knot of my insides.
A noise from somewhere in the apartment woke me, and I sat up, my heart trying to beat its way out of my chest. Looking at the clock in the darkness, I saw that it was nearly two in the morning. Mary and I had slept until mid-afternoon on Saturday, then spent the rest of the day curled up on the couch, watching mindless movies and sipping cocoa and tea. We had gone to bed again a few hours before, although she was still in my bed, as neither of us felt comfortable enough on our own yet.
The noise sounded again, just a short scratching followed by metal rattling, but it was enough that I could tell it was the screen on the window by the fire escape in the dining area beside the kitchen.
“Fuck!” I hissed, the sound barely audible in the quiet bedroom.
Mary stirred beside me, and I quickly leaned down and put a hand over her mouth.
“Don’t say anything. Someone’s trying to break in. Call Angela,” I breathed before silently climbing over her as she nodded and reached for the bedside table.
On sock-covered feet, I made my way to the closet, thankful I never remembered to close the sliding door, which had a tendency to make noise as I pulled it open. I could hear Mary’s whispered conversation as I reached up to the box on the top shelf of the closet. Grabbing our father’s old nine millimeter, I used the moonlight coming in from the window to check that it was loaded, and then I released the safety, slowly making my way to the side of the bed.
“Get in the closet,” I told my sister, although it was so quiet, I’m not sure she heard me.
When she didn’t move, I pulled on her T-shirt until she was on her feet and then gently pushed her toward the closet. She must have understood because she silently slipped behind the other side of the door, perfectly concealed in the darkness.
Still hearing movement in the kitchen area, I slid out into the hall, gun up and gripped in both hands, ready in case I needed to fire – something I hadn’t done in years, but I was suddenly more than thankful that our father had taught us to do shortly before he was killed.
As I got to the end of the hall, I knew I was in shadow still, but I was barely able to see around the corner where a man had just finished climbing through the window. The lights from the street and the one we’d left on over the stove showed something in his hand, and although I wasn’t positive, I wasn’t taking any chances, either.
Extending my arms, I aimed as best and as quickly as I could and pulled the trigger.
“You bitch!” the man growled, raising his gun in my general direction.
Before he could get off a shot, I pulled the trigger again and again, letting off two more rounds. He cried out as he threw himself back through the open window and onto the fire escape. I heard him scrambling and then the fire escape screeched and groaned as he ran down the steps.
Shaking, I slid down to the floor, the wall at my back, until I was sitting, my knees drawn up and gun extended, moving from the open window to the front door in case the man came back and tried to come through the door.
“Get back into the closet!” I hissed, not looking away from the window.
Mary didn’t listen, choosing instead to sink down to the floor with me. “I have Angela on the phone,” she explained quietly, holding out the phone so I would see it. “She and Ben are on their way.”
I nodded, barely taking my eyes from the open window long enough to glance at her before moving back again, still fearful the man would come back.
We sat in silence, with the occasional murmur into the phone by Mary, for nearly ten minutes, until she finally held the phone up to my ear.
Marie?” Angela’s voice was gentle as she spoke.
Ben and I are here, okay? We’re right outside your door. I need you to put down the gun so we can come in. We can’t come in to help you until you do that for me, sweetie.
I gripped the gun tighter, careful not to put my finger on the trigger. “It’s just the two of you?”
Yes, just the two of us. There are some officers and detectives outside, but right now, it’s just us up here with you.
With a gasping sob, I fumbled the safety on and set the gun down on the floor in front of me.
Mary spoke softly into the phone in the background and then wrapped her arm around me and pulled me to her.
The front door opened and Ben and Angela walked in. Ben immediately went to the kitchen, while Angela came to us. She picked up the gun, checked the safety, and then slid it into her waistband in the back of her jeans.
Holding out her hand, she said gently, “Come on, ladies. Let’s go to the living room and go over what happened, okay?”
I took her hand, allowing her to help pull me to my feet as Mary stood up with me. We went over to the couch as Angela clicked on the light beside it, bathing the room in a warm glow.
Once we were seated and Angela had taken a seat on the coffee table across from us, she pulled out a notepad and pen, turning to a new page. “All right, Marie. Start from the beginning, okay? Don’t leave anything out, even if it seems insignificant.”
Nodding, I said, “We went to sleep again around eleven—”
“Both of you in your room?” she interrupted.
“Yeah. I... Neither of us wanted to sleep alone.”
She smiled gently. “Understandable. Okay, sorry; keep going.”
“A noise woke me up at two o’clock.”
I continued speaking, telling everything from the noises I’d heard, to getting our father’s old gun, to pushing Mary to the closet, to shooting once and then two more times when the man raised his gun at me.
“I... I think I hit him. He made a noise that sounded like it hurt just before he went back through the window.”
Ben walked in then. “You did. There’s blood on the fire escape, leading down to the street. Not a lot, but enough that he’s definitely hurting. We’ve put out word to the hospitals in the area, but I doubt we’ll hear anything. If it was Volturi’s man, he’ll go somewhere underground to get stitched up.”
The two of them looked at one another and then at us.
“Marie, Mary, it’s time you moved to a hotel. You aren’t safe here right now.” Ben’s voice was gentle, cajoling, but serious.
Mary squeezed my hand. “Do we have time to pack some things?” I asked.
“Yeah, sure, sweetheart. Plan for a week or so, but only a couple of bags, okay? We need to be able to move quickly,” Angela explained.
I nodded and then we quietly walked down the hall and split to go to our separate bedrooms.
I grabbed a few jeans, T-shirts, socks, underwear, and another bra, as well as something to sleep in, stuffing it all into a duffel bag I pulled from the closet. Mary walked in, now wearing jeans and a T-shirt, with a stack of clothes, adding them to the bag.
“I’ll get the bathroom stuff while you change,” she told me quietly, closing the bedroom door behind her.
I pulled out a change of clothes from the closet and dresser, trading my plaid pajama pants and ratty T-shirt for a pair of jeans and a top, slipping my feet into my sneakers and tying them before opening the bedroom door.
Mary came back in with a big makeup bag as well as shampoo, conditioner, hair brushes, toothbrushes, a handful of tampons, and a few other needed accessories, like my hair ties. She stuffed everything into the bag as I grabbed both our tablets to add with the rest of our things.
“Thanks,” I murmured, hoisting it to my shoulder. “Guess we should go, huh?”
She nodded. “Yeah. Where do you think they’ll take us?”
I shrugged, smiling slightly. “No idea, but I hope it has cable.”
With a quiet laugh, she led us down the hall to the living room, where Ben and Angela were waiting.
The hotel Ben and Angela had brought us to was somewhere between a mid-level family joint and pay-by-the-hour hooker hangout. It wasn’t quite the Roach Motel, but it wasn’t even as nice as a Days Inn. It had cable, hot water, and a bed...and most importantly, no one knew where we were. We could live without creature comforts if it meant we were safe.
“I’ll be outside,” Ben said once we’d settled in. “Ang will stay right here, just to be safe, okay?”
They had tried to get connecting rooms, but that wasn’t something this place offered, so instead, they’d gotten two double beds, knowing Mary and I could share.
We nodded and watched them talking softly before he left the room and Angela locked the door behind him, moving to the curtained window to make sure the coverings were closed.
After agreeing that we all needed some sleep – it was only five in the morning, and we didn’t have to meet the D.A. until nine – we each took turns in the bathroom. Mary and I changed into sleep clothes, while Angela came back out still dressed. We didn’t question it, knowing she would want to be ready in case of a problem.
Once we were all settled, Angela turned off the light, and I closed my eyes, hoping I’d be able to sleep.
Thirty minutes later, I knew it was a lost cause. My mind was racing, and I couldn’t settle down. I knew my sister was facing the same problems because she kept tossing and turning, and every few minutes, she’d let out a frustrated sigh.
“Can’t sleep?” Angela’s quiet voice suddenly asked.
I laughed, although it sounded frustrated even to my ears. “No.”
“Me, either,” Mary answered from beside me.
Angela flicked on the light, and the three of us sat up, squinting against the sudden brightness.
When her phone rang, Angela grabbed it and put it to her ear. “Yeah?”
Mary grabbed my hand, but we relaxed when Angela continued speaking.
“No, everything’s fine. None of us could fall asleep.” She smiled, rolling her eyes. “No, we’re fine. I’ll let you know.”
Once she hung up, she chuckled. “Ben, just checking in since he saw the light go on.”
For a few minutes, we were all quiet. I thought about Ben, who was sitting out in an uncomfortable car, knowing he hadn’t had much, if any, sleep all night. Angela may have been inside, but I knew she wasn’t much more comfortable – the beds in this place weren’t exactly soft. That made me think of something I’d been meaning to ask Angela.
“Why are you doing this?”
She hummed a noise in question and, after a moment, asked, “What do you mean?”
“You and Ben. Why are you staying with us, out there and in here?” I clarified. “I mean, the detectives from Organized Crime are running the investigation and stuff now. It isn’t your case anymore, right?” She didn’t say anything, and I hurried to reassure her. “I didn’t mean that we don’t appreciate it. We’re happy you’re both here. We’re comfortable with you. Right, Mare?”
Mary nodded. “Yeah, definitely.”
I shrugged. “But surely you’d rather be at home, comfortably asleep in your own bed with your husband, than stuck here with us.”
Angela stared at the blank off-white wall across from her for a moment, drawing her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms around them. Finally, she spoke without looking at us. “We had a child. A little boy.” Her voice hitched when she said, “Daniel. He was two years old. Last year, he and Karen, his babysitter, were taking a walk, going down to the park, when they got in the middle of a drug deal gone bad. Shots were fired, and both he and Karen were killed. Our poor baby never had a chance to grow up, to go to school or ride a bike.”
I felt tears prick my eyelids and then begin flowing down my cheeks, making my eyes sting.
“We could never prove it, certainly not well enough to do anything to him, but we believe – no, we know – that the men involved belonged to the Volturi family. We haven’t been able to do anything about it, and OCCB hasn’t had enough to arrest Caius and the other key players. Now?” Angela’s face hardened. “The bastard is going down, thanks to the two of you and your courage to testify, so Ben and I will do whatever we have to do to keep you safe.”
“I...I’m so sorry,” I told her, grief etched in my voice.
Mary sniffled, wiping her eyes. “Me, too.”
Angela was quiet for a moment before she nodded and said, “So yes, we’ll protect you with our lives if we have to...for you, for Eleazar Denali, and for Daniel.”
Not knowing what else to say, and suddenly feeling even more drained than I’d felt before, I slid back down into the bed and closed my eyes, my tears soaking the pillow under my head as I fell into sleep.
Sunday afternoon, Ben spirited us out of the District Attorney’s office and into the car, ready to drive us back to the hotel. We’d spent nearly six hours total talking with the OCCB detectives – which we’d found out stood for Organized Crime Control Bureau – and the D.A. Both of us felt like we’d been put through the wringer. Apparently, it could take months to bring Caius Volturi and Felix Guardiano to trial. We would be under police protection throughout that time, in hiding and unable to work or go out. After the trial, it was up to us what we wanted. Thomas Banner, the District Attorney, had told us that although it wasn’t required, Mary and I would be safest going into witness protection – or the Witness Security Program, as it was now called. At first, we’d really balked at the idea, and we still weren’t sure that’s what we wanted. For now, we were safe with Angela and Ben.
“We’ll head back to the hotel now. Angela will meet us there in a little bit. She needed to run home and grab some more clothes. If you guys need anything, she can pick it up before coming to the hotel, okay?” Ben asked, looking at us in the rear view mirror quickly before turning his attention back to the road in front of him. “I don’t want to stay out any longer than necessary.”
“That’s fine,” Mary and I both agreed, nodding as we looked out the car windows.
I wasn’t paying a lot of attention, but when Ben cursed, my head shot up.
“What?” I asked, looking around before looking up at him. “What’s going on?”
“I think we picked up a tail. I have seen the same car a few times now. Hold on,” he ordered before making a sudden right turn.
Mary grabbed my hand, and we each held onto the door handles as Ben raced down a side street, putting as much distance as he could between us and whoever he believed was following us.
Not two minutes later, he cursed again, taking a sudden left this time, crossing over two lanes of traffic and nearly taking out a taxi.
“Every time I think we’ve lost him, I see the damn car again,” he growled under his breath just loud enough for us to hear.
I wanted to look behind me to see if I could spot the car he was seeing, but my fear held me in place.
Suddenly, Ben tapped the Bluetooth headset at his ear. “Ang, you need to meet us with the other car. I think someone put a tracker on this one.”
I didn’t hear her response, but Ben rattled off a street name and told Angela to meet there in twenty minutes, giving her a description of the black four-door sedan he’d seen following us.
“We’re going to evade this guy as best we can and then meet up with Angela so you can switch cars. I’ll stay with this one while Angela takes you back to the hotel in the new one, and once I know this car’s clean, I’ll meet back up with you, okay?” He tried to look reassuring, but I was getting so scared, his smile didn’t help at all.
“Okay,” Mary squeaked, nodding.
“Why not call for backup?” I asked, worried that they were going to try to do it by themselves.
“With a case this big, until we know for certain who we can and can’t trust, I’d prefer to keep it just the two of us unless it becomes something we can’t handle,” Ben said as he whipped the car to the right.
Twenty minutes later, after more quick turns, a few times of hiding in parking garages, and more scary moments in traffic than I’d ever like to revisit, he turned down a street and pointed ahead.
“That’s Angela’s car. I’ll pull up beside it, and you ladies jump out and get into her car as fast as you can. She’ll take off so you’re out of the area in case the guy catches up. Understand?”
This time, we both nodded, and when Ben pulled up, Mary and I were a tangle of arms and legs as we moved from one car to the other.
Angela didn’t bother with pleasantries, just a short, “Buckle up and hold on,” before peeling off down the street.
Several tense minutes passed, with Angela keeping her eyes glued to the mirrors, but finally, she blew out a breath and tapped a button on her phone. “We’re good. You?”
She had obviously put it on speaker, because Ben’s tinny voice said, “I found one tracker someone had put in the rear wheel well. I called Jenkins, and he’s meeting me in front of the station. He’ll take it to the lab to process it so I don’t have to leave the car unattended.”
“Okay,” Angela said, smiling back at us. “Meet you at the hotel.” She hung up and tossed the phone to the seat beside her.
We were all quiet as we finished the few-minute drive. When Angela pulled up to the stoplight just across the street from the hotel, she cursed, making my heart jump to my throat.
Picking up her phone, she hit a button and put it to her ear. “They found the, we’re across the street. They haven’t seen...yes, I know. We’ll get friendly and wait for you to meet us. Call Shell. See if her cousin’s house is still empty and if she’ll let us stay, I know. We’ll be fine...Okay, let me know. See you in a bit.”
She once again hung up the phone and tossed it beside her, looking back at us. “You guys hanging in there?”
We nodded, and I said, “What are we doing now?”
Angela smiled slightly before looking forward again. “We’re going to a motel – the Friendly Motor Inn. It’s...well, let’s just say if you are looking to pay by the hour, that’s the place you want to go. No one will think to look for us there, and only Ben knows the reference I made to it, so even if someone happened to be listening in on the conversation, they won’t have picked up on it.
“Ben will meet some friends – some trusted friends – at the other hotel to try to pick up the guys waiting there for us and to grab your things. He’ll do a sweep to make sure no one got in and planted any bugs or trackers anywhere, and then he’ll meet us at the new place.”
“And Shell?” Mary asked. “What house?”
“Our friend Shelly Cope. We met her through our neighbors when we first moved to town, and we’ve been friends ever since. Her cousin’s family is overseas with the military, so no one is living there at the moment. If he finds out that isn’t available for some reason, we’ll work around it.” Glancing back at us, she promised, “We’ll keep you safe. I swear it.”
Edward POV
Saturday afternoon turned into a sunny day, which wasn’t helping the hangover I was still slightly sporting...or maybe I just needed sleep. Tugging my baseball cap on and slipping on my sunglasses, I drove with Jasper through the streets of Seattle as we made our way toward our office. I parked my car in the garage, and both of us got out at the same time my phone rang. Caller ID showed it was my dad, and I sighed, ignoring the call. I’d planned on calling home once I dropped Jasper back off at his house.
“Think he’ll do it?” Jasper asked cryptically, but I knew what he meant.
“Who knows?” I shrugged as we made our way into the building toward the elevators.
I punched the button for the right floor, leaning back against the wall of the elevator and hooking my thumbs into the front pocket of my jeans. I wasn’t sure if Al would do it, but I was pretty sure he’d at least listen.
A soft ding echoed in the small space before the doors slid open to reveal the receptionist desk. Jessica glanced up from her computer, the handset of the phone braced between her ear and shoulder. She gave Jasper and me a flirty smile and an appraising glance from beneath her eyelashes.
Giving her a half-grin, I took off my sunglasses and hooked them into the front of my shirt. “He in?”
She smiled, nodding, and jerked a thumb toward the main glass doors, but then held up one finger for us to wait. She finished her phone call and hung up.
“Yeah, he’s in. Not in the best of moods, but still...” she told us, propping her arms up on her desk so her tits looked fuller. “Aren’t you boys on an off day or two?”
“Boys,” Jasper scoffed, rolling his eyes.
She laughed. “You know what I mean!”
Jessica Stanley was hot. There was no getting around that. She knew it, and every man on the force knew it. And Jess used that shit without shame to get what she wanted, which was plenty. She had long, light brown hair with blond highlights that gave her a look like she’d always just stepped out of the sun. She had a carefree attitude when it came to flirting with the guys she liked and a killer body that she dressed to show off.
“Yeah, we’re off,” I told her, leaning on the top of her desk. “I just need to speak with him.”
“Well, heads up,” she warned, raising a sexy-as-hell eyebrow at me. “He’ll ask you for your report on Hendricks, so if you’re here...”
“Fuck me,” Jasper muttered, smacking my shoulder with the back of his hand. “I’ll get it. You go talk to him.”
Laughing, I nodded, turning back to Jess. “Thanks, Jess.”
I patted the top of her desk, but before I could walk into the bullpen, she stopped me with a hand gripping my wrist.
“Hey, Edward,” she whispered, giving Jasper’s retreating back a quick glance and then looked back up to me. “The girls from accounting and I are heading out tonight...drinking, dancing... Wanna come?”
I chuckled at her innuendo but shook my head. “Can’t, Jess. I got a lot of shit to catch up on. Hendricks being one of them.”
She pouted, bottom lip jutting out and all. “Sorry to hear that. Next time?”
“We’ll see,” I hedged, shooting her a wink before walking into the main room.
I walked to the two desks where Jasper and I sat, rolling my eyes at his chuckle.
“You gonna put that poor girl outta her misery, or what?” he asked, shaking his head as he turned on his computer. “She’s got it bad, Cullen.”
“Uhh, no,” I stated firmly. “Not a chance in fucking hell.”
He chuckled, looking up at me to elaborate.
“First, if I even touch her, I still gotta look at her every damn day after that. Fuck it up, and she’ll make my life a living hell,” I told him, smiling when he laughed. “And second, she’s like engaged or some shit to that senator’s son...Tyler, Taylor...what-the-fuck-ever. No thanks. She’s trouble, Jazz. Keep that in mind the next time she bats those eyelashes at you. You know the phrase ‘don’t shit where you eat’?” I asked him, but he only cracked up that much more. “Well, you shouldn’t fuck where you work, either.”
He grinned, focusing on the computer. “Eye candy only. Got it. I’ll type this. Go see Al.”
I snorted, leaving him to our report. Al’s office door was open, but he was on the phone when I poked my head in, tapping on the door frame with a single knuckle. His eyes shot up to mine and he smiled, gesturing for me to close the door and have a seat.
“No, Jane,” he sighed, rolling his eyes and shaking his head as he spoke slowly and deliberately to his second ex-wife like she was a child. “If you want Katie in private school, we’ll talk about it, but I’m not just mailing you a blank check. That’ll never happen. Send me the info, and I’ll call the school.”
I grinned when his head fell back with a groan. I could hear her screaming over the line, but it suddenly ended. He dropped the phone back into its cradle and stared at me. He was the same age as my dad, but he looked older simply due to all the shit he’d seen in his professional and personal life. He was a little shorter than I was, thicker in the middle, and his hair and goatee were a dark brown, spattered with the gray that had started creeping in when I was about sixteen.
“I’m glad to know that my parents are a better marital influence on me than you are,” I teased him, laughing when he flipped me off. “My young, impressionable mind can’t take it.”
“Shut the fuck up, Eddie,” he snorted, glancing over me and then the clock. “You’re not supposed to be here. Why are you in my grill? And please, please tell me you went out, got completely wasted, and met some beautiful girl, so that I can live vicariously through your youth and good looks.”
“Why...all of the above, Uncle Al,” I sang, shrugging a shoulder. “Jealous?”
“Tremendously so,” he said with a smirk. “Now...why are you here? Shouldn’t you be at Rose’s?”
“I was. She sends her love,” I told him. “She’s driving Emmett crazy with her hormone mood swings.”
He grinned, his mood changing from teasing to warm. He adored my sister and was almost as excited as the rest of us for the niece or nephew that was heading our way. Uncle Al was easy to talk to – not that he wasn’t a strict lieutenant, because he was. He was a no-nonsense CO, a play-by-the-rules kinda guy, but he was fair and pretty laid back.
“Spill it, son,” he stated, leaning up on his elbows and pressing his palms together.
“You remember Ben Cheney from Forks High? Went to school with Rose and me?” I asked him, figuring the best way to talk to him was the direct approach.
“Oh, yeah, short kid. Asian?” he asked, tilting his head at me. When I nodded, he continued. “Is he still with that pretty little brunette that’s about six inches taller?”
I chuckled. “Yeah...they’re Detectives Cheney and Cheney now. NYPD.”
“What about him?”
“He called me last night. Worried about some case he’s dealing with. He said he couldn’t trust anyone his way and wanted to know if I could take two witnesses into protection,” I explained, my brow furrowing.
“Witness to what?”
“Mob hit. Caius Volturi.”
The silence was deafening as he studied my face. His brows knitted together, his gray eyes darkened, and his habit of cracking his knuckles resounded through the room. It was his tell that he was thinking.
“Has he been authorized for WitSec?” he asked.
“Not yet. He said he was supposed to talk to the D.A. soon, though. Ben said he was going to push for protective custody,” I said, sitting forward. “Know anyone in New York?”
His eyebrows shot up as he nodded slowly. “Yeah, I do. But I hate to step on toes, Edward.”
“I know,” I agreed, “but he sounded worried. And with Volturi, he’s right... Trusting anyone in that city could be dangerous.”
Al turned to the computer, typing quickly. “Hmm,” was all he said for a few minutes as his eyes swept the screen and his fingers continued to pound the keys. “An accountant found shot in his office, but no report on witnesses yet. That’s good. If that leaks out, shit will get serious.” He glanced around his computer screen. “You want this case?”
I shrugged. “Ben and Ang are good people, and I’ve been friends with them a long time. I’d hate to see them get hurt. Volturi doesn’t play around. If he even suspects someone knows something, he’ll put the word out onto the street. No one – not even New York’s finest – will be safe, because I’d be willing to be that he’s got some of his own men wearing blue.”
“True,” Uncle Al scoffed, looking back at the screen. “Got a few of those paid-for cops here in Seattle. Just can’t prove it.”
I nodded, glancing down at my phone that had remained silent.
“He supposed to call you back?” Al asked.
“Yeah. When he knows something or he feels he can’t deal with it, but nothing yet.”
My uncle closed the laptop and gazed over at me. “I’ll call and feel out New York, but I’m going to ask you...are you sure you want a WitSec case? Do you know what it entails?”
I nodded. “Yeah, I know. It’s considered a long-term detail...however long it takes for the trial to start.”
“Well, not only that, but you’ll be required to not only keep them outta sight, but escort them to court once the trial actually begins. And then, once they testify, you’ll be their handlers when it comes to settling them into their new identities. It will take you away from home for a bit,” he explained, and I nodded that I knew that, too, but he was quiet for a second. He sniffed once, glancing through his window out over the bullpen and then back to me. “You’ll want Whitlock, I assume?”
“I trust him to have my back at all costs,” I stated firmly.
His sigh was deep and weary, but he got up to start pacing. He gazed out his window over the Seattle skyline, shaking his head slowly. His expression was fierce when he turned back to face me.
“Edward...” He sighed again. “I’ll only fight for this for you on a few conditions.”
I frowned, looking up at him. Gone was my CO, and it his place was the man I’d known my whole life. “What conditions?”
“One,” he said, holding up a single finger. “You’ll sober up as of right this minute because I can’t have you taking possession of a WitSec detail smelling like a fucking brewery.” When I opened my mouth to argue, he held up a hand. “Look, I know it’s your off time, and I get blowing off steam, but Edward, it’s time to slow this shit down. Going out with the guys is one thing, but I want you at your very fucking sharpest if I do this. I can’t have you at anything other than your best. Got me, son?”
I nodded, feeling a little admonished, but I understood where he was coming from. “And?” I asked.
“And two...” His expression softened a little. “You’ll go see your parents. Carlisle called up here looking for you.” He stopped me from interrupting again. “And I do mean see them. Go to the house, eat your mom’s cooking, do laundry like a good mooching son should. Because I’m telling you now, Ed, this is dangerous shit. If we get this detail – which is something I can’t promise – then your ducks better be in a row...all lined up and pretty.”
I huffed a slight laugh but said, “Okay. And?” I knew he wasn’t finished.
“And...pack. You and Whitlock. Be at the ready.” He raised an eyebrow at me. “I want to know the second your friend calls you. Caius Volturi won’t stay in the dark for long, and if he catches wind that someone saw him off this accountant, the NYPD will have a war on their hands. Now...get outta my grill. I need to make a call.”
I grinned as I stood up and shook his hand. “Yes, sir.”
He tugged me into a rough hug. “Go see your parents. You haven’t talked to them since before the Hendricks case.”
“Okay, okay. I’ll go see them tomorrow for Sunday lunch.”
“Mom! I can do my own clothes,” I sighed exasperatedly, gripping my hair.
“Nonsense,” she scoffed, pushing and shoving me out to the back deck. “It’s not every day that you let me spoil you. Now...go smoke before you pull your hair out at the roots.”
Grinning, I kissed her cheek. “I’ll remember you said that when you’re giving me shit about smoking at a later date.”
My mother simply hummed in agreement and turned back toward the garage. I pulled out my pack of cigarettes and lit one, letting the acrid smoke calm my nerves and settle my mind, not to mention it was perfect after the big-ass meal she’d just fed me. The night was cool and calm.
I’d dropped Jasper off at his apartment after we’d left the Marshals’ office. I’d told him to be prepared, to pack just in case we had to go. He’d been shocked that Al had agreed, but took it all in stride. I’d gone back to my place to pack a preliminary bag, gather my laundry up, and finally catch up on some sleep. I’d slept in, only to wake up to a text from Al stating that Volturi had been arrested and brought in for questioning.
It felt good to be home, though this wasn’t the house I’d grown up in. My parents had moved out of Forks and into Seattle once I’d returned from Georgia and had been placed with Uncle Al. It proved an even better move for them once Rose and Emmett announced that they were expecting. With my dad’s medical career and my mother’s part-time interior design company, they’d bought a beautiful house in one of the nicer neighborhoods of Seattle.
The sliding glass doors opened, and I spun to see my dad step out with two glasses of brandy in his hand, smiling up at me.
“Want one?” he offered.
“Nah, but thanks,” I told him, flicking the ashes off the end of my cigarette over the deck.
“It’s good to see you, son,” he sighed as he took a seat at the table. He gestured for me to sit with him, and I grabbed the ashtray that my mother kept around and set it down at the table in front of me.
“Yeah, I know. I’ve been busy, Dad,” I groaned, taking a long drag and exhaling the smoke through my nose. “The bike’s been giving me shit, and then we had that escaped fugitive...”
He smiled, holding up his hand. “No need to explain. Just...check in occasionally.” I chuckled, but he frowned, asking, “What’s wrong with the bike?”
“I don’t know.” I shrugged. “She was misfiring, so I started to tune her up. I just haven’t had a chance to get her back up and running.”
“Want some help?” he offered.
I grinned, knowing that despite his clean doctor’s hands, he loved to tinker on my old bike. “Yeah, but not—”
My phone bleeped an alert, and I tugged it out of my pocket, reading a message from Uncle Al at the same time my mother joined us at the table.
The shit hit the fan, Ed. Word leaked out that there were witnesses. Your friend better call me soon.
“Shit,” I hissed, shaking my head and answering him back that I’d gotten his message.
“Edward?” my mom called, placing her hand on mine. “Everything all right?”
I frowned because they needed to know that there was a possibility that I’d have to take this WitSec detail, but I couldn’t tell them anything about the whos, whats, or whens.
Lighting another cigarette, I blew out a large huff. “Ben called from New York... Jasper and I... We may have to take a case. If we do, then you need to know that I’ll be gone for a while.”
“How long?” Mom asked, her eyes filling with worry.
I grimaced, shaking my head. “There’s no way of knowing. Weeks? Months?”
Dad’s eyes narrowed. “Witness protection,” he guessed, and I nodded, my eyes following him as he stood up abruptly. “Can you tell us anything?”
“No, not really. Only that it’s witnesses in a homicide,” I murmured. “We’ll have to keep them outta sight until the trial.”
Dad sighed, looking to me. “Sounds dangerous.”
“It’s what I do,” I urged, smashing out my cigarette in the ashtray. “It’s what I’m trained to do. It’s my job. I know you don’t get it—”
“That’s not what he’s saying, sweetheart,” Mom said, stepping in like always. “We’ll just worry. That’s all.”
The shrill ring of my phone made us all jump, but I snatched it up, snapping, “Cullen.”
“Edward,” Ben sighed wearily. “I can’t keep these girls in this city. Nowhere is safe. Tell me you pulled some strings.”
“Yeah, I did. I’ll get with my CO. We’ll be in touch ASAP,” I explained, walking into the house and gathering up my keys and my laundry basket. He thanked me, and I turned around and called Al.
“We’re a go for New York,” I stated.
“Meet me at the office after you grab Whitlock,” he ordered.
“Sir.” I ended the call, only to turn to see my parents watching. “I’m sorry...”
“Don’t be,” my mother said, rushing to hug me. She kissed my cheek, whispering, “You be so careful, Edward.”
I nodded, kissed her back, and turned to my dad, who tugged me into a hug. “I’ll be okay.”
“You’d better be,” he whispered, patting my back. “You got a bike to finish.”
Smiling, I nodded. “And you promised you’d help.”
He nodded and ruffled my hair like he had when I was a kid. “Go, son. Be safe.”
Before I hit the door, I turned back to see my dad’s arm wrapped around Mom’s shoulder, holding her close.
“Do me a favor?” They nodded, and I continued, “Tell Rose and Emmett for me? I’ll be thinking of them and the baby.”
Dad scoffed. “Not on your life, Edward. That one’s all yours. Your sister is likely to bite my head off if I call to tell her you’re gone and didn’t say goodbye yourself.”
Laughing, I nodded. “Yeah, I figured. All right, I’ll call ’em from the road.”
“Call when you can,” Mom pleaded, worry filling her voice and her eyes.
I nodded and left before she could beg me not to go.
Once I was in the car and on the road, I called Jasper.
“Yo!” he answered.
“Be ready to go in fifteen.”


Evelyne-raconte said...

YEAHHH ! Very good chapter, as always. And next time, THE MEETING, I presume, I can't wait. Thank you for this great chapter. Take care of you.

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