Read All the Blue-Eyed Angels Online

Authors: Jen Blood

Tags: #Mystery, #Suspense, #Contemporary, #Thriller

All the Blue-Eyed Angels (6 page)

BOOK: All the Blue-Eyed Angels
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I blinked once or twice, just in case I was hallucinating. The stranger didn’t disappear. My hand flew to my hair, by now drying in all the wrong ways.

“You must be Erin,” he said. He nodded toward Einstein. “Sorry—he found his way to my room, and I didn’t have the heart to turn him out.”

He had one of those low, even voices designed for whispering sweet nothings, complete with a faint accent—possibly Cuban, maybe Mexican. Broad shoulders. Great eyes. I forced myself to focus.

“Your room?” I asked.

“Diggs didn’t tell you?” He didn’t look that surprised, all things considered. “I was supposed to be gone for a few days, but my plans changed at the last minute. I’m sure he just figured he’d have a week with you all to himself before I came back on the scene.”

“Yeah, I’m sure.” My brain was having an unusually hard time connecting the dots. “So… I’m sorry—you live here?”

“Just for the moment—Diggs is letting me crash in the other spare room while I take care of some family stuff.” He took a step closer. The light did nothing to diminish his good looks—if anything, he looked better. My decision to go braless seemed like an epic miscalculation.

“You let your hair grow out,” he noted. “It looks good—I always thought you’d look pretty with longer hair.”

Surreal wasn’t a strong enough word for the day I was having. I searched through the faces of old classmates I’d known in Littlehope, but somehow I couldn’t imagine any of the redneck hooligans I’d matriculated with magically turning into this.

“You don’t remember me,” he said. I shook my head, too surprised to bother with tact. “I’m Jack Juarez—I used to spend summers out here. Matt Perkins’ nephew?”

Matt Perkins: the local constable. Now I remembered him—an awkward, lanky boy a couple of years older than me, who used to cruise around town in Constable Perkins’ police car all summer long.

“Wow. You got… taller,” I said. And broader. And… gorgeous.

“Yeah, well—fifteen years will do that for a man, I guess. Anyway, I didn’t mean to disturb you—I was just going to make some dinner. Have you eaten?”

I told him I had not.

He magically produced a bottle of Merlot from his room, and took over the kitchen. Historically, I had always preferred substance over beauty, but six years married to a philandering genius old enough to be my father had me rethinking that philosophy. Suddenly, Littlehope looked a whole lot more promising.

 

While Jack cooked, I went to my room to reconsider my outfit. I tried on two skirts and three pairs of jeans before settling on slightly snug denim. Not that I
wanted
anything to happen, of course. Still, a girl likes to look her best. When I emerged, the house smelled of sautéing garlic and vegetables. Jack had set the lopsided dining room table with mismatched plates and two very full glasses of wine.

The wine worked its magic after an awkward start; before long we were recounting experiences I hadn’t even realized we had shared. We finished dinner and did the dishes together, and by the time we got around to the present I’d changed back into yoga pants and an old Wellesley sweatshirt. Jack was down to bare feet, jeans, and a T-shirt. We sat on the floor in front of Diggs’ fireplace with Einstein snoring between us. It was nearly midnight.

“So, enough about the good old days,” I said. “What do you do now? You said you live in D.C…?”

He nodded. He was stretched out on the floor, leaning back on his elbows. Shadows from the fire played across his features, light chasing dark.

“Yeah.” He looked a little self-conscious. “I work for the FBI.”

I couldn’t tell whether or not he was kidding. “As in Federal Bureau of…?”

“The one and only. I’m taking some personal time right now, but I’ll be going back once I have things figured out here.”I waited for him to elaborate. “My uncle’s not doing well—I came back to try and give him a hand.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Something about the way his eyes slid from mine suggested this might not be the whole truth. Interesting. “So… A Fed. You must have some great stories.”

I curled up next to Einstein, laying my chin on his body so I could get a better look at the man across from me. It occurred to me that I was drunk. And recently single. And Diggs could be home any second now.

“A few,” Jack said. “I’m mostly just a cop, though. A cop for the government—more red tape, better benefits.”

“What division are you in?”

“Homicide.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond to that. The reporter in me came up with two dozen questions and at least three stories to pitch to editors I knew in the business. One-on-one with a bottle of wine and a gorgeous homicide agent—wasn’t that how most Pulitzer prize-winning stories began?

Jack leaned his head back, checking the time on a wall clock behind us. “Diggs will be back soon—we should turn in. I’m sure you have a big day tomorrow.”

I nodded. Closed my eyes. Stories and pitches and Pulitzer speeches faded. An image of Michael flashed through my mind, and I wondered if my ex-husband was alone tonight. For the last two weeks before I left, though the divorce was final, we’d still lived together. Still slept together. I had still kissed him goodnight, and we’d made love for the last time less than twenty-four hours ago. My head spun, lying on the floor in Diggs’ half-finished home with a man I’d spoken no more than two sentences to before tonight.

When I opened my eyes, Jack was closer. He studied me intently.

“Are you all right?”

“Just tired,” I told him. “I’m gonna take Stein out one last time and hit the hay. See you in the morning?”

His eyes remained on mine. I didn’t know much about him so far, but he didn’t seem happy. Or maybe I was just projecting. For a second I thought he might kiss me, but the moment passed. He stood. Extended his hand and helped me to my feet, where I swayed with his hand still in mine.

“Thank you for the company,” he said.

Things went still for a moment. “My pleasure.”

He stepped back. “Sleep well, Erin. See you tomorrow.”

He went his way. I walked the dog.

 

Chapter Five

Once Einstein had been walked and we were curled up together in my new bed, sleep proved more elusive than I’d expected. I went over the events of the day ad nauseam. The interview with Noel Hammond had been less than rewarding. I don’t know what I’d been hoping for, but it was something along the lines of, ‘Sorry I held out on you all these years—Colonel Mustard did it in the chapel with a tiki torch and a bottle of lighter fluid. And, oh yeah, here’s why.’

Clearly, that wasn’t going to happen. The Payson house seemed like a bigger project than I could realistically handle, and the fact that I was now proud owner of an island and all its ghosts was not comforting. I got out of bed. Paced the floor. Got dressed again, snapped the leash to Einstein’s collar, and headed out.

It was one-thirty in the morning, and Diggs wasn’t home yet.

Once I was outside, there was no question where I was headed—the place that had been my refuge in Littlehope even as a teen: the
Trib
. My breath came in puffs of cold white air in the darkness. The unpaved road leading into Diggs’ place was at least half a mile long, with no neighbors along the way. He’d purchased the land cheap from an old neighbor of his father’s a couple of years before—driven into seclusion, I suspected, because his third marriage had gone sour and this was Diggs’ version of a new, monastic leaf.

Evergreens stood in black silhouette against a deep blue night sky, the moon and a thousand stars lighting my way into town. Coyotes howled in the distance. Einstein growled but stuck close. A steady chorus of frogs trilled froggily; a dog barked somewhere nearby. Einstein stopped moving and growled again.

“No fair freaking out the city girl, Stein,” I said.

He looked at me and thumped his tail. We resumed our trek.

Michael had never visited Littlehope. I always told him he would hate it, and he took me at my word. Raised in Brooklyn by a widowed mother with an overactive social conscience, Michael hummed the dueling banjos bit from “Deliverance” every time we headed to the Hamptons for the weekend. No, my ex-husband would not be a fan of Littlehope.

Behind me, Diggs’ motion-sensitive porch light had gone out some time ago. There was no sign of lights up ahead, either; I was starting to question the wisdom of a midnight stroll, even in the relative safety of Littlehope. The coyotes took up their call once more—one would begin, another would join in, a third would answer. Einstein stopped moving, his tail low, his body tensed. When he growled this time, it came from deep in his chest.

Something moved in the underbrush to our left. Einstein lunged, coming up short at the end of his leash.

“Okay, this is less fun now.” I dragged the dog along until he was forced to walk beside me, took the cell phone from my pocket, and hit the first number on speed dial.

“You should be sleeping,” Diggs said, without so much as a howdy do.

“Ditto. I’m not tired.” I kept my eyes straight ahead and upped our pace to just shy of a jog, though I’d be damned if I’d let Diggs know what a pansy I’d become since moving to the big city. “I thought I’d stop by the office and try to get some work done, since your house is a little crowded.”

There was a pause on the line. “Shit. I’m sorry about that—he was supposed to be out of town for a couple of weeks.”

“Don’t worry about it. We had dinner—it was kind of nice.”

“Was it, now?”

“Don’t start. I was wondering how your contacts are around here.”

A branch snapped about ten yards behind me. Einstein stopped again. Diggs was talking, but my heart was thumping too loudly to hear him; I had to ask him to repeat himself.

“Where are you?” he asked.

“On your road, I think—it’s hard to tell without a smoggy skyline to light the way. Einstein’s a little freaked out.”

“You’re walking?”

“You’re the one who said I should get back in shape.”

He called me a pain in the ass and said he would come pick me up. Out of obligation, I argued the point for ten seconds before I agreed that a late-night drive might not be such a bad idea. By the time I hung up, I felt better for having called, but much, much worse for the time I would have to wait until he arrived.

Another branch snapped, this one closer.

Einstein was on high alert now. All the night sounds had gone silent—no more frogs, no more crickets, no more coyotes. Nothing but Einstein’s growls and my hastened breathing. And then, so quiet it was almost undetectable, I heard it: the whisper of a body crouching low to the ground, pushing through dense brush.

The leash went taut as Einstein strained forward. My heart was pounding, blood rushing in my ears. Somehow in the midst of everything I got turned around; when the figure lurking in the shadows finally appeared, he came in from the right. For a split second I just stood there, stupidly, waiting for someone to come from the direction I’d been expecting.

I didn’t recognize him at first. Matt Perkins had been fifteen years younger when I’d seen him last, and since that time he had aged a lifetime. The former Littlehope constable had always been an athletic man—it was a surprisingly physical job, and he had taken the role seriously. Now, he was wiry and much thinner than I remembered him, his stride hindered by an obvious limp. Despite any physical infirmity, he came up on us fast and stood too close, his eyes searching mine in the darkness. Einstein growled furiously while I held tight to his leash.

“I dreamed you,” Perkins said to me. I shined my flashlight at him. He blinked in the glare. His hair was white and his pupils were too large, his face slack on one side as though he had suffered a stroke in recent years.

I took a step back. “Constable Perkins?”

“I dreamed you. I dream people, and they arrive. I dreamed you, and wished that I hadn’t. No one invited you back.”

He closed the distance and kept coming, ignoring Einstein, until we were standing close enough to touch.

“I need you to take a step back—you’re upsetting my dog.”

“Your dog will die like a dog,” he said. He laughed. There was a manic light in his eyes that scared the holy hell out of me, a tiny trail of spittle down the right side of his mouth. I stepped back again, pulling Einstein with me. Off in the distance, I could hear a car engine coming closer.

“I dreamed you. I dreamed them all—I watched the fires burn and I’ll watch you die with a bullet in your skull. Just like him.” The light went out in his eyes, suddenly. A single tear fell down his cheek.

“You shouldn’t have come,” he said again. “I’m sorry for that dream.”

He turned around and disappeared back into the woods just as Diggs topped the hill. I’d wrapped Einstein’s leash around my hand one too many times and it had cut off my circulation; I unwound the line to give Einstein more lead, but he didn’t seem anxious to take it. Diggs pulled up alongside us in his Jeep.

“Hop in.”

“Did you see him?”

He looked at me blankly.

“Matt Perkins—the constable. He was here.”

For a second, Diggs looked doubtful. When he realized it was unlikely I’d make up the story, he got serious.

“Get in, we’ll head back to the house. We’ll have to let Jack know he’s gone off the reservation again.”

“Again?”

Diggs nodded. He looked tired, and not all that interested in telling stories. “The last year or so he hasn’t been doing great. He’s been staying at a residential place that Edie Woolwich runs, but he likes midnight strolls.”

“He scared the shit out of me.”

This earned another nod. He drove slowly, both of us looking along the side of the road for any trace of the old man.

“Yeah. He does that.” He glanced at me, shifting gears—both literal and metaphoric. “Listen, I gave the State Fire Marshal a call today.”

“Yeah?”

“He said he’d talk to you if you want to swing by tomorrow morning. I told him a little about the story, and he said you can have access to whatever you want—check out the archives, talk to anyone who might have worked the case back in the day, whatever.”

BOOK: All the Blue-Eyed Angels
10.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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