American Heroes Series - 03 - Purgatory (6 page)

BOOK: American Heroes Series - 03 - Purgatory
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“Will you stay and eat with us?”
she began peering into the bags. “It looks like you have enough food here for
an army.”

“Sure,” he said. “If you’re sure
there’s enough.”

Elliot went to her knees beside
the coffee table and began pulling out Styrofoam containers.

“There’s plenty,” she assured
him, inhaling deeply. “It smells fantastic.”

Nash started to reply but the
sound of thunder suddenly stopped him. Something was thumping across the
ceiling over their heads, moving for the stairs and making a lot of noise on
the creaky old planks. They could hear Alec making his way towards the smell of
the food.

“Oh, my God,” the young man ended
up in the doorway from the entry hall, taking a deep sniff of the air. “I
smelled that all the way upstairs. That’s the best thing I’ve ever smelled in
my life.”

Nash grinned as Elliot held out a
container to her son that was loaded with barbecued ribs. “Thank the Sheriff,”
she told him. “He brought the feast.”

Alec grabbed the container and
snatched a rib, taking a big, juicy bite.  He looked like a man who had just
fallen in love.

“Thanks, dude,” he said to Nash,
mouth full. “You’re the best. This is awesome.”

“That’s Sheriff Dude to you,”
Elliot lifted her eyebrows at her son.  “At least pretend you have some

Alec grinned at Nash. “Sorry,” he
said, taking another bite. “I call everyone ‘dude’. Even my mother.”

Nash chuckled. “No problem,” he
said. “I only make people I don’t like call me Sheriff. You can call me
whatever you want.”

“I’ll call you My Best Friend for
bringing this,” Alec said as he slurped up the barbeque sauce. “Where’d you get

Nash threw a thumb in the general
southerly directly. “There’s a barbeque place out on the highway. They even
have barbeque alligator.”

Alec stopped mid-chew. “This
isn’t alligator, is it?”

Elliot started laughing as Nash
shook his head. “No, it’s beef,” he assured him. “But the alligator isn’t half

Alec sat down on the floor next
to the table, realizing there were beans and coleslaw and cornbread. As he
inspected the dishes, Elliot turned to Nash.

“I’m sorry, but my plates are
still packed,” she said. “Do you mind eating out of the containers?”

Nash shook his head, looking
around for a chair that wasn’t piled with boxes. Alec, in the midst of his
eating frenzy, saw what the man was doing and immediately went to remove some
clutter from an armchair.

“Here,” he told him, a rib in his
left hand as he pulled the chair towards Nash with his right. “Have a seat.”

Nash grinned at him, noticing the
kid hadn’t missed a beat with his eating. He took the chair gratefully and
pulled it up to the coffee table where Elliot was sorting out the food.  He
smiled and took the Styrofoam container she offered him.

“Thanks,” he said, settling down
with napkins. “I haven’t eaten since breakfast. “

Elliot bit into a delicious piece
of chicken. “Are your days always so busy?”

Nash took a big bite of a rib,
nodding. “Mostly,” he said. “It’s a big parish and I spend about fifty percent
of my time in the field.”

“How many deputies do you have?”

 “I have one hundred and seventy
two sworn officers to cover two hundred and ninety two square miles of land and
eleven square miles of river,” he told her. “It’s a big job, especially since
we have river jurisdiction also.”

“Don’t most of the towns have
their own police departments?”

He nodded, wiping the sauce off
his lips. “Some do,” he said. “But we cover the small towns that don’t, plus
unincorporated areas, and handle all emergency management for the parish. We
also work directly with Homeland Security for the State of Louisiana.”

Elliot listened with interest,
taking another bite of chicken. “So how did you come into this line of work?”

Nash reached for one of the sodas
he had brought. “My dad and granddad were police officers for the City of New
Orleans,” he said. “Granddad was the chief back in the 1940’s and my dad was a
captain until he retired about ten years ago. It was always something I knew I
would do.  I ran for parish Sheriff twelve years ago and won by a landslide. I
was one of the youngest sheriffs in the history of Ascension Parish.”

“Wow,” Elliot exclaimed softly.
“That’s quite an accomplishment.”

He shrugged modestly. “I enjoy my
job,” his gaze lingered on her as he chewed. “Speaking of accomplishments, I
hear you’re a writer.”

Elliot grinned, wiping off her
mouth. “That’s the rumor.”

“What do you write?”

She stuck her fork into the
coleslaw. “Bodice-ripping romance novels, mostly.  Sex, men with swords,
damsels in distress, that kind of thing.”

She said it so dramatically that
he laughed softly. “How did you get into that line of work?”

She took another bite of
coleslaw. “I was always a writer,” she told him. “I worked on the school
newspaper and in college my major was English Literature.  After Penelope was
born and I was home with the baby, I just started writing full time to mainly
stave off the boredom and ended up selling a series of books to a major
publishing house. It was really all by luck. Now I write about three novels a
year and sell hundreds of thousands of copies.  Sometimes I still can’t believe
how fortunate I am to be doing what I love.”

Nash was smiling warmly at her,
listening to her story. “It’s great to be doing something you’re passionate

“I think so.”

“So you think you’ll find
inspiration for your books down here in the bayou?”

Her gaze lingered on him a
moment, eyes glittering. As she looked at the man, it occurred to her that he
would make a great hero in one of her novels. He was damn sexy in every way.

“Maybe,” she said ambivalently.

It was another one of those
awkwardly warm moments and after a few seconds of silence, they both started
chuckling again. Alec, oblivious to the transition from polite conversation to
gentle flirting between his mother and the sheriff, closed up his Styrofoam
container of stripped rib bones and set them on the table.

“I’m going to get a trash bag,”
he stood up, wiping his hands off on his jeans. “Did you see which box they
were in?”

Elliot shook her head. “No,” she
replied. “I packed them in with the kitchen cleaning products. It’s written on
the outside of the box. It should be in there somewhere.”

Alec trudged off into the dark
house, his big feet echoing against the worn wooden flooring. Nash and Elliot
sat in comfortable silence for a few moments as Elliot continued on with her
coleslaw. Nash was watching every move she made, from the graceful sweep of her
hands to the way her lashes fanned out against her cheeks. She was an
entrancing creature to watch.

“He seems like a nice kid,” he
said softly.

She nodded. “He is,” she replied,
finishing with the coleslaw. “Since his dad’s death, he’s stuck to me like
glue. For the first three months after Rob died, Alec and his friends would
sleep at the house just to make sure I was okay. For months I had four boys
living at my house, sleeping in my living room, eating my food, attempting to
wash dishes or mop floors. Honestly, I don’t know what I would have done
without them. It was like living in a frat house sometimes but I really thanked
God for them. They kept my mind off what had happened and kept it focused on
other things. They were such good kids.”

Nash smiled faintly. “Would it be
too much to ask what happened to your husband?”

She looked at him, his handsome
features and gentle eyes, and shook her head.

“No,” she said softly. “Of all
people, you would probably understand the most.  Rob was a sheriff captain
assigned to the SWAT team. He absolutely loved it. I absolutely hated it. He
had been in command of a Los Angeles County sheriff’s SWAT division and even
trained SWAT recruits at the Sheriff’s academy.  One day, we’re at a barbeque
at a friend’s house and the SWAT team got a call out. He left the barbeque and
I never saw him alive again because when the SWAT team deployed at the
location, a ricochet bullet took him out as he got out of the van. He never saw
it coming.”

Nash was no longer smiling by the
time she finished. He shook his head and hissed sadly. “Wow,” he exclaimed
softly. “That’s really rough. I’m so sorry to hear that.”

Elliot thought on that very dark
day, feeling saddened by the memories that were struggling to heal. They
weren’t as bad as they used to be, but the sorrow was still there.

“Thanks,” she murmured. “When
Penelope got accepted to Tulane, I jumped at the chance to move here. I wanted
to get away from the memories and start fresh. Not that all of the memories in
California were bad, but I really needed a change of scenery.  Everywhere I
turned I was reminded of my husband and it was just too much to take. I needed
to get out of there. Does that make any sense?”

He nodded sympathetically. “Of
course it does.  I’ve lost a few friends over the years. Never a spouse, but
friends.  I get it.”

She cocked her head at him,
curiously, the focus shifting. “Are you married, Nash?”

He shook his head. “No,” he
replied. “My ex-wife and I divorced six years ago. She lives in Baton Rouge, as
do my two boys.”

Elliot nodded in understanding.
“I’m sorry to hear that. How old are your boys?”

“Twenty two and eighteen,” he
replied.  “My oldest is in grad school and my youngest will enter his first
year of college in the fall.”

“Are either of them going in to
law enforcement like the three generations of Aury men before them?”

His grin returned. “Maybe Shane,”
he replied. “He’s my youngest. He wants to go through the academy when he
graduates, but my oldest, Beck, is in law school and wants to be a prosecutor.”

Elliot grinned because he was; he
seemed to warm up when speaking of his sons. “They sound like ambitious young
men,” she said. “Congratulations.”

His grin broadened and they
entered into yet another of those warm and awkward moments until a shout from
the rear of the house brought them both to their feet. 

Elliot bolted before Nash could
stop her and they raced to the rear of the house, into the kitchen, where Alec
was wielding a lamp base like a weapon and unlocking the back door. He yanked
the door open, peering into the blackness beyond, and held the lamp up like a
club as Nash reached him.

“Hold on,” Nash grabbed the lamp.
“What happened?”

Alec was tense with adrenalin. “I
saw a face in the window looking at me from the outside,” he said. “There’s
somebody out here.”

Nash was much cooler than Alec
was.  He pulled the lamp out of the young man’s hands and set it aside.

“Stay with your mother,” he told
him. “I’ll go outside and have a look around.”

Alec opened his mouth to protest
but Elliot pulled him back, away from the door.  Nash pulled his standard
police-issue Maglight out of the holster on the left side of his Sam Browne
belt and turned on the brilliant beam, shining it out into the overgrown
bramble beyond. He stepped outside, taking a good long look.

“Close the door behind me and
lock it,” he told the pair. “I’ll be back.”

Alec closed the door and threw
the old bolt. Then he went the windows and began to follow Nash as the man
wandered around the exterior of the house.

“What did the face look like?”
Elliot wanted to know.

Alec was peering from one of the
kitchen windows, peeling back the old newspaper to watch Nash. 

“I don’t really know,” he
shrugged. “Just a pair of eyes and a face, like an old man’s face. It was
really fast and then it was gone.”

Elliot thought on that a moment
before heading into the central entry hall where three big pillar candles
burned on the staircase. They gave off a surprising amount of light and she
collected one, carrying it with her into the ballroom. Alec was already there,
peeling back layers of newspaper from other windows so he could watch Nash
prowl about.  

Together, Elliot and Alec watched
Nash as he made his way through the vast back gardens, his flashlight the only
source of light in an otherwise very dark night. They also noticed a peppering
of fireflies, something Alec had never seen before. He watched the glowing
speckles float through the darkness, lighting up the bayou with their eerie

“Look at the fireflies,” he
commented. “Those are pretty cool.”

Elliot watched Nash’s silhouette
against the darkness. “Yes, they are,” she said, though she didn’t sound like
she meant it.  She was more concerned with Nash and the prowler. “We’re going
to have to get some dogs to patrol this house. It’s such a large piece of land.
I really didn’t think about security, but after what Nash told us today and
after what you saw tonight, it looks like we’re going to have to protect our

BOOK: American Heroes Series - 03 - Purgatory
13.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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