Thirty-One and a Half Regrets Page 43

How many people knew about this room? So much for secrecy. “Please! I’m begging you!”

“I don’t know…”

I ran around the desk and grabbed the phone.

“You can’t do that!” he shouted.

Ignoring him, I dialed Mason’s cell phone. Thankfully, he answered on the second ring.

“Mason Deveraux.” It was his no-nonsense voice.

I picked up the phone and moved to the other side of the counter as the older man made a grab for it. “Mason, I need your help.”

“Rose?” he sounded panicked. “Where are you?”

“I’m at the safe house, but it’s anything but safe. I think everyone knows where this place is.”

“Everyone but me,” he grumbled bitterly. “Jeff refuses to tell me. Where are you?”

I looked out the window at the motel sign. “I’m at the Pine Motel in Pickle Junction. Did do you know the police department has a room they regularly use for all their witness protection cases?”

“You’re shitting me.”

“I wish I was.”

He sounded breathless. “I’m comin’ to get you. Do you feel safe right now?”

I looked at the owner, who had resumed watching the news, apparently no longer interested in getting the phone back. “For the moment.”

“I wish you had your cell phone on you. Goddamn it. I knew I shouldn’t have let you go alone.”

“Just hurry, Mason. Please.” I realized I was putting him in danger, both physically and professionally, but I couldn’t stop myself from begging.

“I should be there in thirty minutes. Call me if something happens.”

“That might be difficult given the fact that room six is the police department’s room and they purposely have a broken phone.”

“Then how are you calling me?”

“I’m in the motel office.”

“You have got to be—” He broke off into a slew of obscenities then paused, trying to calm himself. “See if you can get into another room.”

“The officer’s going to come find me any minute now. He was in the bathroom when I left the room.”

As if on cue, Officer Sprout appeared in the doorway. “Ms. Gardner,” he growled.

“Mason, I’ve gotta go.”

“Wait!” he shouted. “What’s going on?”

“Officer Sprout found me.”

“Officer Sprout? The guy who’s been rejected from every police academy in Arkansas? The guy who the HPD hired anyway?”

That explained so much. “Yeah, that’s him.”

“I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”

I hung up the phone and turned to face the officer.

I was done. “I’m not goin’ back in there with you.”

Officer Sprout’s eyes bugged out. “You can’t just leave.”

“Watch me.” I started for the door, but that was when an image appeared on the television screen. Daniel Crocker.

I froze in my tracks.

“Crocker was believed to have been in an abandoned warehouse here in Shreveport, but after a lengthy standoff, police discovered the suspect was actually a homeless man with a gun. Arkansas State Police now believe Crocker is still in the southern Arkansas area. He is considered armed and deadly. Use extreme caution if you spot him.”

“Ah…” the older desk clerk groaned, plopping his feet on the desk. “He ain’t so bad. Everyone knows he was framed.”

I gasped in shock, delaying long enough for the officer to grab my arm and drag me back into the room. I tried to pull out of his grasp, but he was deceptively strong. When we were almost inside, I had a vision. I was in the motel room, hiding behind the bed as gunshots zinged over my head.

“Come on out!” a man shouted. “We’ve got no beef with you. We only want Rose.”

“Okay!” I shouted. “Stop shooting! You can have her!”

I looked next to me and my own shocked face appeared in the shadows.

My vision faded and I said, “You’re going to turn me over to save yourself.”

He scowled. “What are you talking about? I’m not doin’ any such thing. I only want to get you back inside before I get in trouble.”

He pushed me inside and locked the door. Two things hit me: one, Officer Sprout was going to turn me over without a second thought. And two, Crocker’s men were going to find us; it was just a matter of when.

I couldn’t wait for Mason to show up. I had to get away now.

I grabbed my lower abdomen. “I have to go to the bathroom.”

Officer Sprout made a weird face, like he wasn’t sure what to do with that piece of information.

“I just thought you might want to know that I’ll be in there for a while.”

He shrugged and sat down in his chair.

I stepped into the bathroom and immediately figured out how I’d bought so much time in the office. Officer Sprout must have paid a visit to Buffalo Bill’s Hot Wings. Gagging, I batted my hand in front of my face and found the exhaust fan switch. I needed the noise anyway.

I spun around to inspect the feature that had inspired me to lock myself into the reeking room: the frosted glass window over the toilet.

Climbing on top of the toilet lid, I grabbed the bottom handle and lifted. Nothing happened. I reached on top of the casing to make sure the window was unlocked, then gave it another jerk. Nothing.

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