“Rory?” Captain Jackson raised an eyebrow when he saw her walk past his cramped office.
“Hi. Is Kyle around?” She poked her head in without fully coming inside. After coming to ask him about Owen, Rory had kept their contact to a minimum. He had been Owen’s mentor, and a constant reminder of her own heartbreak. And for some reason, she knew he had never told her the real truth about Owen. Like he knew more than he had said to her two years ago.
“He’s out on a case. Is everything okay?”
Rory pulled the strap of her school bag hanging on her shoulder.
“Yeah, sort of. I was just giving a statement, thought I’d say hi to Kyle.”
“Statement?” Was this why his detective had asked to see him as soon as he came back from the street?
Alarmed, he gestured her to come inside, and noted the brief hesitation in her body before she complied and sat on the chair opposite his desk.
“Are you okay?”
“I am now. I was sort of attacked yesterday.”
“Some guy cornered me in an alley with a knife. Fortunately, nothing happened.”
The Captain cursed under his breath and stood up. He went to his filing cabinet and pulled out a very thick folder. He looked inside and pulled out a single sheet of paper.
“Is this the man who attacked you?”
Rory took the page and gasped. Her caramel eyes widened at the soulless and mean eyes staring back at her. Her hand started to shake, so she gave the sketch back to the Captain.
“That’s him. How did you know? I haven’t even seen the sketch artist.”
He put the drawing back inside the folder and folded his hands on his cluttered desk.
“Did he say anything to you?”
“Anything. Did he know your name, did he follow you home?”
Rory blinked fast trying to grasp the Captain’s words.
“Why would he know me? He just grabbed me out of nowhere. I have no idea who he is. What aren’t you telling me, Captain?”
He ignored her question and demanded in return.
“Tell me exactly what happened. What he said to you.”
Rory felt the blood drain from her face. The fact this man was freaking out worse than Kyle, made her shift in her seat and wish she’d rejected his invitation to come inside.
“Rory? Please, it’s really important.” Captain Jackson urged her to answer.
“All he……he said was that I’d do. And then……this other man, his partner said that I was too……too plain, that I would kill myself. I didn’t understand what that meant.”
Even though Rory had mentioned the second man to the other cop, she’d omitted her crazy idea of thinking it had been Owen.
“Listen to me. This man is a suspect in a series of murders and abductions of many women. So far, he has eluded us and we haven’t turned enough solid evidence to haul his ass and lock him for good. This case has gone nationwide and we all are on alert.”
She thought she was going to faint then and there.
Murder? Kidnapping? Nationwide?
“I’n going to have a car drive by your house every hour or so. Though I’d prefer to bring you into protective custody, while we catch him. We’ve been hot on his trail for a while. We’re close enough, and I doubt he’ll just walk away from you. Damn it, Rory, he never leaves a woman behind. Once he decides to take her, he does. That second man……..he may have saved your life.”
She swallowed through a throat that felt thick with dread.
“You’re the first one to come out of if unharmed. So far, we’ve got witnesses but nothing conclusive. We compiled this sketch from the only other woman who got a look at him.”
When her eyes went back to the folder with the sketch, he sighed.
“He runs a prostitution ring. This woman managed to escape, but given her condition when we found her, we couldn’t rely on her description.”
“Oh my God. Is she okay?”
When Jackson failed to answer, whatever self-control Rory had been holding on to shattered and she started to shiver.
“You need to let us protect you. I doubt he’ll let you be.”
Fighting hard not to have a nervous breakdown inside the police station, Rory gripped her hands on the edge of the chair and willed whatever strength she could conjure, to keep her together.
“No. I’m not going to just give up my life.”
“Rory, we can take care of you. We can…”
“No!” She said with more force. “The last time I trusted a cop I ended up in a very bad place. No, Kyle will look out for me. I’m not hiding. I doubt that man even remembers me by now. Like his partner said, I’m too plain. You better put all of your efforts into catching him. Now, I have to go.”
She stood up and stormed out of his office, head lowered, shoulders hunched, eager to get away from this suffocating place.
How many times had she come by, to bring Owen lunch? Or share some gossip with Kyle and the other detectives. Now, those who knew her stared at her with that same look of pity they’d all had for her days after her failed walk down the aisle.
Captain Jackson picked up his phone, still staring at the seat Rory had just vacated and dialed a number he had memorized two years ago. A number his superiors had instructed was only in a matter of life and death. Well, this was that moment.
“You know better than to call me.”
“You need to move fast, boy.”
Captain Jackson understood the meaning behind that admission and nodded, as if he could be seen.
“You have to stay put. You can’t compromise everything.”
The man on the line knew exactly what the Captain was asking with those words.
He snorted and said, with steal in his words.
“I have compromised my life for this shit, for you.”
“It was your choice, son.”
“I’m not your son. I’m just doing my job. A job you promised wouldn’t catch up on to those around me. Now, it’s all a damned mess.”
Captain Jackson knew better than to remind him it had been his idea to volunteer for the job. However, neither had known that this deal wouldn’t be over soon, but would prolong itself.
“We’ll watch over her.”
The line went dead.
Rory couldn’t have been happier that it was Friday, and that she had two days to put this week’s horrible event behind her, and concentrate on making sure everything was set for her best friend’s big day.
However, today, she’d simply be content with taking a long scented bath, while reading her latest romance novel, and then making some mac and cheese, sit in front of the T.V with some oldie on TMC, then go to bed. Far from exciting but it was what she needed right now. Not that she had ever done anything remotely exciting since two years ago.
Terry kept urging her to get out there, to date again. Sadly, Rory knew she didn’t trust her heart not to fall for the wrong guy, not when the first time she’d been certain she would be happy.
After a long day at school, teaching class, attending two meetings with parents, then attending her mandatory first aid course after classes were over, she was more than eager to get home and tackle that bath right away. Unfortunately, the moment she opened the door to her apartment, she knew something was wrong. Quickly, and without alerting anyone, she walked to the kitchen and opened the drawer where she kept the gun Kyle had given her. With shaking hands, she suppressed the urge to scream, as she was certain now someone was behind her.
Finding some new sense of bravery, she whirled, the small gun in her hand and removed the lock. This time, her hands were steady, though her heart was pounding hysterically.
“Leave or I’ll call the cops.”
From behind the curtain drapes in the living room, a figure emerged and her entire body shook with fear, then shock, then disbelief, as no other than Owen Reynolds came from under the shadows. He stood palms up, and a sickened look as he saw the gun first, then that look turned hollow as it collided with her wide eyes, staring back at him.