Thirty-One and a Half Regrets Page 44

No. No. No. I had to get out of here. Now.

After I’d been working on the window for several minutes, I heard a pounding on the door. “Pizza delivery,” a man shouted.

“I didn’t order a pizza,” Officer Sprout said.


My heart beating wildly, I hopped off the toilet and pushed up, grunting and straining until the window finally popped up, throwing me off balance. I fell on my butt, which was the least of my worries if the shouting outside the bathroom door was any indication.

Scrambling on top of the toilet, I pushed my upper body through the window, dismayed to see a five-foot drop in front of me. I’d learned a lot about climbing out windows over the last several months, but I didn’t have time to do it gracefully. The first gunshots echoed through the night as I dove head-first from the window, somersaulting to land on my butt in the grass. I climbed to my feet and looked around, considering my options. Behind the motel and to the left, there was a patch of woods; to the right was a storage unit surrounded by a tall chain link fence.

I headed for the woods.

I felt a little guilty for leaving Officer Sprout behind, but then I remembered my vision. I tried to keep quiet, but there was no disguising the crunch of leaves beneath my feet. Judging from the continuous sound of gunfire behind me, though, I was safe for now. Part of me was surprised no one was in the back looking for me, but they’d probably expected to catch us by surprise. Still, I wasn’t sure how much time I’d bought. Crocker wanted me alive, so they would soon figure out I wasn’t in the room and start searching the woods.

I ran about fifty feet, deep enough for the darkness to make it difficult to move around. Hopefully that same darkness would help conceal me. The gunshots stopped after about a minute and my heart lurched. How long until Crocker’s men came looking for me? Just as I was about to turn and go deeper, sirens started to wail in the distance. I closed my eyes, for once relieved to hear them. Tires squealed as cars sped from the parking lot. Some of the sirens continued down the road in pursuit, but I could see red lights bouncing off the trees now.

I started to get up but hesitated, unsure who to trust. Did I really want to be under the protection of the Henryetta Police Department?

Several minutes later a shadowed man appeared around the side of the motel, a flashlight beam jiggling on the ground in front of him.

“Rose!” Mason’s panicked voice called out.

I started to cry as I stood and ran toward him. “Mason,” I called out, almost knocking him over as I rushed into his arms.

He wrapped me in a tight embrace. “Thank God. I thought they took you.” I sobbed into his chest, but he tilted my head back to look at me. “Are you okay? Did you get hurt?”

“My butt’s a little sore from falling out the window, but other than a few scratches from the trees, I’m okay.” I wrapped my arms around his neck, clinging to him.

“You’re safe now.”

Was I? I wasn’t so sure.

“Mason, what are you doing here?” Jeff asked as he walked around the corner.

Mason’s head jerked up and his body stiffened. “Imagine my surprise when I found out that Rose was under the protection of the Henryetta Police Department and not the Fenton County Sheriff’s Office as I’d been told.”

Jeff shifted his gaze and kicked a stump on the ground. “Mason…”

“We’re friends. Which means you should have told me.”

“That fact that you’re here right now is exactly why I didn’t tell you. How did you even find out where she was?” He shook his head with a sigh. “You’re the judicial leg in this system, Mason. You have your own job to do and you need to leave Rose’s protection to the people who were trained to provide that type of help, the law enforcement officials!”

“Jeff, she was almost killed!”

“No. They wanted her alive.”

“And that’s supposed to make me feel better?” Mason shouted.

“Mason, you’re too personally involved to be objective.”

“You told me she’d be protected. She obviously wasn’t.”

“She was, Mason. Why do think my men got here so quickly? Those Henryetta bunglers may have official protection of her, but I knew they’d screw up. So while we were waiting to get her protection transferred to us, I had men stationed in the area, close enough to get here within a minute or two. The desk clerk alerted us as soon as he saw the first sign of trouble.”

Mason huffed in a breath and I rubbed his arm. I knew I had to help defuse this situation. “Mason, I’m fine. Really.”

“You’re fine after you dove out a window,” he said, but he seemed to be calming down. He looked up at his friend. “How did they find her?”

“How did you find her?”

I hoped Mason wouldn’t rat me out to Jeff. But he must have felt me tense beside him because he said, “From what I hear, the Henryetta safe house isn’t so safe. They use the same damn place every time. Once I knew they had her, it wasn’t hard to figure it out.”

“Exactly,” Jeff said. “All Crocker’s men had to do was find a previous occupant and they put two and two together. It’s a miracle that none of the Henryetta Police Department’s witnesses have been killed by now.” He grimaced. “After this fiasco, we shouldn’t have any trouble getting her officially transferred to our watch.”

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