Read Her Stolen Past Online

Authors: Lynette Eason

Tags: #dpgroup.org, #Fluffer Nutter

Her Stolen Past (8 page)

BOOK: Her Stolen Past
3.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Frustration filled Sonya. “Like something was on her mind and troubling her.” She sighed. “I wish I knew.”

“And I wish I could help you, honey, but I can’t recall anything. She never said a word to me about anything that was troubling her. Other than leaving you, of course. She hated to leave you.”

Sonya’s throat closed and she fought the tears that wanted to flow.

Mrs. Talbot motioned toward the table. “Call your young man in here and let’s eat.”

Sonya nodded and took a deep breath. She wouldn’t cry. She didn’t have time for tears. If she could stay focused on the goal of finding out about the baby bag and Heather Bradley, she would be all right.

Throughout lunch, Sonya asked question after question and finally realized she wasn’t going to get any more information from Mrs. Talbot. Although she had to admit watching Brandon gently field the woman’s flirtatious comments was quite amusing.

He even thrilled Mrs. Talbot by flirting back a bit. Lighthearted and innocent, the woman giggled like a schoolgirl. Sonya thought it was charming and sweet and said a lot about Brandon’s true personality. She found herself drawn even more to the man.

When Mrs. Talbot wasn’t flirting, she enjoyed reminiscing and telling stories about Sonya’s mother, but repeated that she had no idea about Heather Bradley or what her friend might have been so agitated about in the last few weeks of her life.

Brandon and Sonya left with promises to visit again soon. Sonya climbed into Brandon’s car and shut the door.

He slipped in beside her. “She’s quite a character, isn’t she?”

“That’s putting it mildly, but I love her.”

“I can see why. I wonder if my siblings and I would have turned out different if we’d had someone like her in our lives.”

His personal comment made her pause. “What do you mean?”

He flushed. “Nothing. It’s not important.”

She huffed. “Is it just me? Or do you shut everyone out?”

He stiffened. “I don’t shut everyone out.”

“Okay.”

He drove for the next few minutes in silence. “I don’t.”

“Okay.”

He tapped the wheel with his hands and hummed an eighties tune she recognized, but couldn’t name. He stopped humming. “Do I?”

“Yes.”

“Oh.” Another long pause. “I’m sorry.”

She shrugged. “I think it’s just become a habit with you.”

He didn’t answer and she looked at him, ready to repeat the statement, but the look on his face stopped her. He was staring into the mirror, eyes narrowed, jaw tight. “What is it?” she asked.

“We’ve got company and I don’t think it’s the good kind.”

TEN

B
randon sped up.

“Who is it? Can you see?”

“No, but he’s been on us since we turned out of your subdivision.”

“You think he saw us leave Mrs. Talbot’s?”

“I’m not sure. I don’t think so. I think he was waiting at the entrance.”

She turned to look out the back. “It’s a brown sedan. Very nondescript.”

The car continued to close in. Brandon sped up. The sedan backed off.

“Wish I could see the license plate.”

Brandon pulled his phone from the cup holder and called in the description of the vehicle. The car stayed with them as he came to a red light. “I’m going to stop and see what he does. Duck down.”

“But—”

“Just do it,” he snapped.

Sonya flinched and unclipped her seat belt. She slid down half on the seat, halfway on the floorboard, her brown eyes never leaving his face. He swallowed. He’d been too sharp. In a soft tone he said, “There’s a police cruiser just thirty seconds away. He’ll be here before I stop at the light.”

He hoped.

Brandon pressed the brake and slowed. The sedan stayed on his tail.

Closer. And the vehicle came to a smooth stop just behind his bumper.

Blue lights flashed almost immediately behind the sedan. The driver opened the door and shoved his hands upward.

And Brandon realized who it was. “You can get back up, Sonya. Sorry I snapped at you.”

“Who is it?” she asked as she maneuvered back into the seat.

“Spike.”

“Spike? What’s he doing?”

Brandon threw open his door. “That’s what I’m going to find out.”

He walked back to the young man, who looked a lot more stressed than the last time he’d seen him just a couple of days ago at the restaurant. The officers from the cruiser had stepped out and approached Spike, hands on their weapons. Brandon waved them off. “Sorry, guys. False alarm.”

The officer relaxed. “You sure?” Brandon thought he recognized the man who spoke. Jason Newman, a rookie, but one with promise.

“I’m sure. I’ve got this.”

The officers climbed back into their vehicle and left. Brandon turned to Spike, who still had his hands in the air. “Get out of the car, man. What in the world are you doing?”

Spike stood, eyes lowered. “Looking for you.”

“You couldn’t use a cell phone like usual?”

He shook his head. “I couldn’t pay the bill.”

“Ah. Okay, then, a friend’s phone?”

Another negative.

“Tell me why you’re looking for me.”

“My mama’s sick and I can’t afford her medicine.”

Brandon got it now.

“Get in the car and follow me to the drugstore.”

Spike’s head jerked up and his gaze met Brandon’s. “I ain’t takin’ no charity, dude. My mama would have a fit.”

Brandon understood the pride behind the token protest. “You don’t have to tell her how you paid for it.”

Spike’s eyes drifted over Brandon’s left shoulder. “You’re with her again.”

“Yes.”

He nodded. “Never mind.”

“I trust her.”

Spike paused. “For real or you playin’ me?”

“For real.”

“All right, then.”

“You lead. I’ll follow.”

Brandon climbed back in the car and waited for the light to turn green. Their small drama in the street had backed up traffic, although once the other officers left, the cars had started to go around them.

Spike passed him and Brandon fell in behind him.

“What’s going on?” Sonya asked.

“I’m doing a favor for a friend.” He explained about Spike’s mother. “She’s got sickle cell and can’t afford her medicine. I once told Spike, if he ever found himself in a situation where he needed help, to ask me. He doesn’t have any money for the medicine.”

“So you gave it to him?”

“No, I’m following him to the pharmacy to buy it for him.”

“He’s a recovering addict?”

“Yeah. He’s been clean for about a year. The medicine’s expensive. If I put that much money in his hands, he might be tempted to spend it elsewhere. I won’t do that and he knows it.” He felt Sonya’s eyes on him and it made him a tad uncomfortable. “What?”

“You’re a good man, aren’t you?”

Now Brandon just felt embarrassed. “I don’t know about good, but helping a kid when he needs it seems to be the right thing to do.”

“Whatever you do for the least of these,” she murmured.

He caught the words and gave her a smile.

Thirty minutes later, Spike had the medicine, three burgers, a large fries and a chocolate shake. He also had a full tank of gas and two bags of groceries, thanks to Brandon’s generosity. It wasn’t the first time satisfaction filled him after helping someone like Spike. Not from a sense of pride, but from knowing Spike would have a good night and his mother would have her meds.

Brandon hadn’t had anyone do that for him when he’d been Spike’s age, and he’d vowed if he ever found a way to help kids who couldn’t help themselves, he’d do it.

His phone rang. “Hello?”

“Where are you, man?” It was Hector.

“On Calhoun. Why?”

“Can you come down to the station? We’ve got some video from one of your lady’s neighbors. He called us and said he thought he got a picture of the guy who was sneaking around Sonya’s house. Even has him at the trunk of your car. It’s grainy and fuzzy and the guy has on a hat, so it’s probably a long shot, but...”

His lady? What was it with everyone throwing him and Sonya together? First Mrs. Talbot with her “your young man” stuff, now Hector? But he was surprised to find he really didn’t mind that much. He’d set Hector straight later. Maybe. “We’ll be there in a few minutes.” He hung up.

“What is it?” Sonya asked.

“Do you mind coming down to the police station? Hector got a picture from one of your neighbors’ security cameras.” He paused. “Who would have that kind of security?”

“Mr. Lehman,” she answered without hesitation. “He’s a retired police officer and his house is wired to the nth degree. He lives directly across the street from me. He has cameras pointed toward the street, which would cover my house. He also has them aimed up and down the street.” She slapped her head. “I can’t believe I didn’t think to ask him about it.”

“He called and volunteered it.”

“Well, good. Maybe we’ll finally see who it is.”

“Hector said it isn’t a very good picture.”

“Well, it won’t hurt to look.”

Ten minutes later, they walked into the police station. Brandon waved back at those who acknowledged him, but led Sonya straight to his and Hector’s desks. The station was a big open room. Desks and phones took up most of the space.

Hector looked up. When his eyes landed on Sonya, his brows lifted and he gave Brandon a thumbs-up. Brandon ground his molars and gave his partner a look that should have sent him scurrying. Instead, Hector grinned. Brandon noticed Sonya’s lack of attention and sent up a silent prayer of thanks that she’d missed the communication between him and Hector. Her head swiveled on her neck and he realized she’d never been in a police station before. “It can be a little overwhelming. Just stick with me.”

“Right.”

She settled in the chair next to his desk. Brandon introduced her to Hector, who held her hand a few seconds too long, in his opinion. Hector loved women and women loved Hector. Brandon scowled when Sonya smiled prettily. But it wasn’t flirty. He breathed deep and tried to resist the sudden flashes of memory. His ex-fiancée telling him she was seeing someone else. Then after they’d split, running into her with her new man at a restaurant and trying to pretend he was all right.

It had hurt.

But looking at Sonya now, he realized it didn’t hurt as bad as it had a year ago.

“Bran?”

Hector’s voice cut through the memories and he saw they were staring at him. “Oh, right. Sorry. I was thinking about something.”

Hector made a humming noise in his throat and let his gaze bounce between Sonya and him. Then he said nothing more, just grabbed a photo from his desk and handed it to Sonya. “Anything look familiar?”

She squinted at the photo, tilted her head and sighed. “No.”

“Didn’t think you’d get much from it.”

She pointed. “Look, there’s a smudge—or something—on his right shoulder. Where his shirt slipped down a bit, you can see it. Is that a tattoo?”

Brandon leaned in. “Possibly.” He looked at Hector. “Can we get that area enlarged?”

“We can, but it may blur it right out.”

“Let’s try.”

“All right. It’ll take a little while to get it back.”

Brandon nodded. “I’ll put a call in to the lab and request a rush.” Hector laughed and Brandon shrugged. “Hey, it can’t hurt.”

“Brandon?”

He turned to see Mary Ann Delaney, one of the station’s secretaries, waving at him. “Yes?”

“You have a visitor.”

“A visitor?” He frowned. “Who?”

“Your mother.”

Sonya saw him freeze. Saw him go totally still for a full five seconds as a woman with red hair headed toward him. She had a trim figure and green eyes that sparkled.

“That’s your mother?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“Wow, she’s beautiful. She looks more like your sister than your mother.”

His eyes shuttered and his lips thinned. “That’s what happens when your mother’s only sixteen years older than you are. She’s in her mid-forties.” His even, flat tone gave nothing—and everything—away.

“Oh.” She cleared her throat. “Could you tell me where the nearest ladies’ room is?”

He shot her a grateful look. “We passed it on our way in. There on the left.” He pointed and she slipped inside before mother and son greeted each other.

Sonya decided to take advantage of the time and wound up retouching what little makeup she wore, and then she brushed her hair and washed her hands.

In the midst of drying her hands, the door opened and two female officers stepped inside. “Can you believe it?”

“She has some nerve showing up here.”

“I heard she and her husband are still married, but they abandoned the children when they were younger. Now she’s wanting to cozy up and make nice.”

The two women talked as though Sonya were invisible.

“I don’t see Brandon putting up with that for long. The last time she showed up, he was real quick to show her the door.”

Sonya’s ears perked up at Brandon’s name.

“I don’t know, Olivia.” The woman paused to check her makeup in the mirror. Sonya was starting to feel like a fifth wheel. “Brandon’s his own person. He’s not going to let his mommy run his life, but it looks like she might be wearing him down.”

“I didn’t say she was trying to run his life. It just seems to me she’s pushing for something that’s not going to happen. I don’t think she’s wearing him down at all.” The woman stepped into one of the vacant stalls, still talking.

Okay, that was it. Sonya couldn’t stand here and listen to them spout their gossip any longer.

Olivia patted her nose. “I think she’s just after him because he’s a success. He’s slightly famous around here and she wants a piece of the status.”

“What status?” Sonya blurted.

The officer paused in her reapplication of lip gloss and stared at Sonya as though seeing her for the first time. Sonya thought police officers were supposed to be observant. Honestly.

The officer said, “Excuse me?”

“Brandon is a friend and I don’t think he’d appreciate your speculation on his family relationships. No offense, but it’s not really your business unless he makes it so.” She held up a hand to forestall the woman’s words. “And your conversation wasn’t my business, either. Sorry for butting in.”

But she really wasn’t.

She opened the door and stepped out without another word, heart beating so fast she was afraid it might leap out of her chest. She’d never done anything like that before in her life.

A small smile slipped across her lips. But she had to admit, it had felt good. And right.

The next words she heard wiped the smile off her lips.

“I said no, Mom. Now drop it.”

Brandon’s cold tone was enough to send shivers up her spine.

“But, son—”

“I’ve got work to do. Let me walk you out.”

Sonya bit her lip as she watched Brandon take his mother’s elbow and direct her toward the exit. Hector blew out a sigh. “One day he’s going to have to forgive them.”

“Who?” she asked.

“His parents.” He snapped his lips closed then said, “But you didn’t hear that from me.”

“Seems like I’m hearing a lot of stuff today,” she murmured.

“You’re what?”

She glanced at him. “Nothing.”

Brandon came back into the building and headed for his desk. Tension radiated from him and Sonya hated it for him. “Goodness, he has some real issues with his family, doesn’t he?”

Hector shot her a sharp look. “If you grew up with his parents, you would, too.”

“I wasn’t being critical,” she apologized.

He shrugged. “I was being defensive.” He looked at his partner, who’d stopped to speak to another officer. “And he doesn’t need my defense. He can handle it himself.”

“He doesn’t talk about his family much.”

“No, he doesn’t. It’s a topic he avoids, and if you value your hide, you’ll stay away from it, too.”

Sonya simply watched the man she was starting to care way too much for. She wanted to know what his childhood had been like. She wanted to know how he’d risen up and become a respected citizen, a decorated cop. But that was for him to tell her. She might be curious, but she wouldn’t listen to gossip. She wanted the facts from him.

He finally broke away and came back to his desk.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

He pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head. “I’m fine. Personal stuff that shouldn’t happen in the office. She knows I don’t appreciate her showing up like that.”

Sonya frowned. “Then why would she do it?”

“No worries, my friend,” Hector said before Brandon had to answer. He waved the photo and changed the subject. “So we’ve got a suspect who has a mark on his shoulder.”

“Right.”

“Fuzzy enough not to be able to make it out, but we’ll give the guys who like to play with photos a chance to clear it up a bit.”

BOOK: Her Stolen Past
3.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Two Time by Chris Knopf
Crisis Management by Viola Grace
Loving Jessie by Dallas Schulze
The Secret in the Old Lace by Carolyn G. Keene
Final Disposition by Ken Goddard
The Whatnot by Stefan Bachmann
What's Really Hood!: A Collection of Tales From the Streets by Wahida Clark, Bonta, Victor Martin, Shawn Trump, Lashonda Teague
Taken by the Sheikh by Pearson, Kris