WARNING: PG-17 rating. Return to Tuesday Tales.
From Undivided by Kay Springsteen
Though it sat uneasy on him, Garrett agreed it made sense for him to stay out of sight when the police came. But on the off chance anyone came looking, he wasn’t going to be caught hiding. So he doused the light and sat with legs outstretched in an overstuffed chair next to the window. He watched Anna’s brother make short work of dispatching the local cops. It was done so efficiently, Garrett had to still the prick of apprehension in his gut while he wondered, not for the first time, who the hell Anna’s brother was.
After he was certain the local law enforcement had left, Garrett rose to stand in the window, studying the scene below. The once pristine snow was now marred by the footprints of the cops who had measured trajectories and taken pictures in their brief investigation.
The door behind him swung open soundlessly, spilling in light from the hallway. Garrett sensed more than heard the presence. He glanced over his shoulder, unsurprised to see Matt’s silhouette filling the doorway before he stepped into the room. Garrett turned back to the window and looked out on the now quiet street. He had no doubt Anna’s astute brother was about to call him on at least one of the many lies he’d told since his arrival in Annapolis.
But telling the truth could cost more than his own life. It could cost Anna hers.
“Anna’s in trouble.” He spoke quietly, without turning around, but he knew the other man was listening. “She won’t admit it, and I doubt you’ll get her to back down. She needs help. She’s been keeping things from your folks. Says she doesn’t want to worry them. But I think your mother knows more than Anna would like her to.”
Silence. So Matt wasn’t going to make it easy.
Garrett straightened his back. “It’s time for me to leave. It’s not safe for Anna if I stay. Not safe for any of you. I know you’ll look out for her.”
At the muffled sound of something fairly weighty landing on the mattress behind him, Garrett frowned. With careful movements, he stepped away from the window, turned around and bent to flick on the bedside lamp. In the center of the bed lay a Glock 27, lethal and black, and looking out of place on the floral print bedspread. He raised his eyes to meet Matt’s.
The tick-tick-tick of melting snow dripping from the roof into the gutter outside the window tore through the silence between them. Matt flipped a spare clip on the bed.
Garrett regarded the gun with suspicion, his nerves on edge. He directed his scrutiny back to Anna’s brother, who stood motionless, maintaining a guarded expression.
When Garrett spoke, his voice was as icy as the air outside. “You want me to touch that, you’re gonna want to tell me who the hell you are first.”
Matt’s eyes remained on Garrett as he withdrew a slim black leather case from his back pocket and dropped it, open, next to the other items on the bed. Garrett broke eye contact to note the gold shield facing the credentials that ID’d Matt as FBI Special Agent Matthew Jeffries.
“Son of a bitch,” he murmured, dismayed at how dead-on right he’d been about Anna’s brother, and cursing his weakness in not leaving when he’d have been able to do so easily. He looked at Matt again, appraising the situation, trying to determine if Fate had just delivered him to the enemy.
“I work in Violent Crimes,” Matt said, flicking his eyes over Garrett, openly assessing. “Specializing in gang takedowns. Now, you want to tell me what gang Anna’s crossed? And how exactly you fit into things?”
Garrett blew out a long breath through pursed lips, felt some of the tension leaving with the knowledge that he was getting one deadly secret out in the open. “Los Puñales. Locally, the LP5.”
Matt’s immediate and violent reaction consisted of a string of brutal curses and a fist thump to the doorjamb.
“Yeah.” Garrett pinched the bridge of his nose. “That was pretty much my first reaction.”
Matt retrieved his ID from the bed, keeping his eyes on Garrett. “What about you? I’m guessing you have something stashed close by that resembles one of these.” He flipped it closed and stashed it back in his pocket. “What’s your connection to this gang, Mr. Garrett? Or do you prefer Agent James?”
Garrett stared silently, schooling his features to show no emotion. Too late to leave, too soon for answers.
“It took me a while to connect the dots,” said Matt, closing the bedroom door and propping his length against it, a clear message that Garrett would have to go through him or jump out the second story window if he planned to leave. “I knew you were on the job, but your reactions tonight smelled of special ops. Then your willingness to avoid the police raised a flag.”
Garrett nodded, rubbing his eyes with one hand then dragging his hand through his hair. “How did you put it together and come up with the right answer?”
“I got in touch with my partner while I was waiting for the locals to do their thing, had her run your name in all variations. She sent me some information she found that’s being passed through informal channels.” Matt tilted his head to examine Garrett. “I sure as hell didn’t expect to come home for Christmas to find a dirty DEA agent sharing my sister’s home and working in my father’s church.”
“If you already have the answers, why are you asking the questions?”
“Because I don’t have the damned answers,” Matt exploded. “Just a lot of questions. Someone out there wants Baby Boy to come home. But they’re being quiet about it. The fact that they’re not making it a big deal makes it a big deal.”
“There are people who want this boy to come home,” Garrett admitted quietly, showing more calm than he’d have thought possible with the adrenaline pumping double-time through his veins. “Those same people also want him to get dead. The sooner the better.”
Matt was unfazed. “That would be one perception. Do you know who it is?”
“No. I need to leave,” Garrett said again, judging the distance to the door and his chances against the younger man. “This thing Anna’s into. It’s too low on the food chain for it to be about me. I need to get out of here, get away from Anna before it does get to be about me. The people who want me dead would consider her, you, your parents. . .” He shook his head. ” . . .just collateral damages.”
Matt’s eyes flickered. “You could do that,” he agreed. “You can leave. And I’ll help you.” Garrett’s head shot up in surprise. “Or,” Matt straightened. “You can stay here, lay as low as possible, help me, help Anna, and I’ll do what I can to help you sort out your DEA shit, find out who wants you dead.”
Garrett shook his head. “You’ve already raised a flag further up that food chain by having your partner run my name.”
Matt grinned. “That would be why I called my partner. She called in a favor. They track the ISP for the hit and they’re going to be a few states off. Ever hear of a little town called L.A.?”
Could it work? He was so damned tired of running and hiding. This might be his best shot. Hell, it might be his only shot. But first he had to know Matt’s motives. “Why?” he asked, that one word covering all of his doubts.
Matt didn’t even pretend to misunderstand and he didn’t attempt to lie. He shrugged. “I don’t have an answer to that question. It’s a judgment call. I get the feeling there’s a lot more going on than is showing on the surface. And Anna trusts you. She’s reckless but she has a good judge of character. And you care about her. If I didn’t see that, you’d already be gone.”
Suddenly Garrett found himself standing on legs that didn’t want to hold him up. He sat on the bed, absently rubbing his thigh which had begun to throb, more he suspected at this point, due to emotional tension than to physical stress. He wished people would stop telling him they thought he cared for Anna. He’d only known her a week, and she was definitely a distraction. But anything beyond friendship ended at the physical attraction between them. It had to end there.
Matt nodded toward Garrett’s leg. “Report states you were wounded on the job. Need a doctor?”
Garrett shook his head. “I’ve had someone look at it. But I suspect you already know that.”
Matt chuckled. “Monica’s okay, James. She knows how to keep a secret.”
Garrett met and held Matt’s gaze. “I don’t want any trouble for her. I don’t want people to start digging around and figure out she helped me.”
Now Matt snickered. “Unlikely. She’s a pediatrician.”
He couldn’t have heard that correctly. Garrett stared. “Say again?”
“She’s a pediatrician.” Matt grinned. “She’d be pretty low on the list of docs anyone would investigate as a way to find you.”
Garrett shook his head, still trying to get his head around the pediatrician part. “That—scary woman—works with little kids? What does she do? Eat them for breakfast?”
Matt held out his hand. “What do you say to some collaboration?”
Still Garrett hesitated, wanting desperately to trust someone, to not be in the middle of this nightmare alone. If not for Anna, he’d have been gone by now, still running. If he left now, he could never be truly sure she was safe. Finally, he nodded once and held out his hand, grasping Matt’s in a firm handshake.
“I need to talk to Anna alone,” Matt said. “She’s had a lot to absorb in the past few days.”
Garrett nodded. He understood very well the concept of damage control. “She didn’t know what you do, did she?”
Matt shrugged. “Guess that makes us both liars, James.”
“Too true,” murmured Garrett. He waited until Matt was almost out the door before adding, “Matt, there are some things I never told Anna. About that last mission. I’d rather leave that at ‘need to know’.”
Matt paused and leaned on one hand against the door frame, tapping his fingers. “That’s your story to tell,” he said, adopting Garrett’s attitude. “But I do need to know what Anna’s been hiding from our parents.”
Garrett nodded. “Yes you do,” he said pointedly.
And coming soon: Heartsent
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