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|Thirteen(Women of the Otherworld #13) by Kelley Armstrong|
“What did these guys look like?” I asked.
The officers exchanged a look. The woman cleared her throat.
“We have preliminary descriptions, but we’re hoping you can add to those. It will certainly help your situation if you can.”
In other words, the only “description” they had was the one Jeremy heard—two guys covered in mortar dust. Whatever they had on me was bullshit. Yes, I’d been inside that building, but I’d gone in through the roof, meaning no one had seen me enter. I’d exited through the sewer. I had a feeling their “witnesses” were members of SLAM.
“If anyone saw me near this building, there’s an explanation. But I’ll come downtown if that helps.” I turned to Jaime. “You go on, do your interview—”
“Absolutely not,” she said. “This young woman is my publicist, and you can’t treat her like a terrorist. I came here to check out venues for a possible charity appearance. That’s right—charity. New Orleans has been through hell, and if you want tourists coming back, you can’t arrest them on the street …”
She continued her diva rant as Medina started leading me toward the cruiser.
“It’s okay,” I said to Jaime, trying to shut her up. “You stay here. Let Adam know I’ve been delayed. He’ll have to postpone the interview. I won’t be long and—”
“Take your hands off her!” Jaime yelled at the cop.
“She’s not touching me,” I said. “Listen, Jaime—”
She aimed a kick at Medina’s shins. It didn’t come close. Intentionally so—the one thing Jaime can do is kick with the precision of a stiletto-clad kung-fu artist.
The younger officer—Holland—grabbed her. “Cut that out,” he said. “Or you’ll be going to the station with her.”
Jaime wrenched free. “Don’t you dare lay your hands on me!” She feigned another kick, and lost her balance, stumbling. “You tripped me!”
“Get her in the car, too,” Medina said.
As Holland muscled her toward the car, Jaime put up little resistance. Once in the backseat, she slid over, making room for me.
“What the hell?” I whispered as Medina shut the door.
“You’re my backup and I’m yours,” she said. “If they take one, they take both.”
While I appreciated the support, I’d rather she made sure Jeremy and Adam got Bryce to a doctor. Before I could protest, the officers climbed into the front seat, and we pulled away. Jaime handed me her cell and whispered, “Call Paige.”
I didn’t. I called Lucas. After he’d answered, I leaned into the gap between the front seats.
“I’m calling Jaime’s manager to cancel the interview. That’s okay, right?”
Medina looked ready to say no, but her partner nodded. “Just keep it short.”
Lucas was waiting patiently, having realized from my comment to Medina that something was up. “Hey,” I said to him. “Can you call Adam at the Daily and postpone that interview and photo shoot. Jaime and I … we kinda got ourselves arrested. Adam’s waiting for us with the photographer. Bryce something-or-other.”
“Dare I ask what’s going on?”
“Mmm, better not. Seems someone thought they saw me near an explosion, which is total bullshit. I’ve been baby-sitting—” I cast a quick glance at Jaime, who faked a scowl. “Um, keeping Jaime company. Anyway, it’s a big misunderstanding that I’m sure will amuse everyone at the office later. I’m hoping this will be cleared up soon, but tell Adam to wait no more than thirty minutes. I know he has important things to do.”
“All right.” Lucas paused, then asked, “Are you both okay?”
“We’re fine. We didn’t embarrass ourselves too badly, so no emergency intervention required.”
Another silence on his end.
“Really,” I said.
Medina twisted to look back at me. “A short call.”
“Gotta go,” I said.
“All right. Let me know if you need legal help.”
“I’m sure we won’t. It’s just questioning.”
Medina signaled for me to cut it off. I said good-bye and handed the phone back to Jaime.
As we drove out of the city, I realized these were state cops. I suppose I should have noticed sooner. It seemed odd for an outside department to be involved in a big-city case, but maybe even years after Katrina, New Orleans was still in a state of bureaucratic upheaval.
We pulled into a small station on a regional road surrounded by forest and swamp. Medina got out of the car as Holland made a note in his book. She opened my door. As I started to climb out, Holland opened Jaime’s door, then stopped dead.
“What’s that?” he said.
I turned to see some kind of black powder smeared on my seat.
“Damn it,” I muttered. “Did I sit in that?”
I went to wipe off my butt, but Medina grabbed my hands and yanked me into position so fast I barely had time to snap, “Hey!” before I stood spread eagled against the cruiser.
Jaime yelped, genuine now, and tried to get out, but Holland pushed her back in and slammed the door.
“Is that what it looks like?” he asked as Medina patted me down. “Something from the bomb?”
“Could be,” she said.
It wasn’t. Whatever ripped that building apart wasn’t some low-grade blasting powder. But showing any familiarity with what had caused the explosion—or bombs in general—seemed unwise.
Medina patted my back pockets.
“Only thing in there is my wallet,” I said. “But go ahead and check.”
She pulled out the wallet. Then she reached into the other back pocket, stopped, and waved Holland over.
“What?” I said.
I tried to twist and look, but she slammed me against the car again. I craned to see, being careful not to move anything but my head. She was holding a folded piece of paper and a crushed cardboard tube sprinkled with black powder.
She shoved me against the car again, then unfolded the paper. Holland leaned over to read it. He swore. His gaze lifted to mine, lip curled in disgust. “So you knew nothing about the bombing? Then why is the address in your pocket?”
“What? No. That wasn’t in my pocket. Not the paper or that powder. Look at my wallet. Notice anything odd? It’s soaked. Like my pocket. That paper and tube are dry, meaning it couldn’t have been in there.”
“Okay, so how did you get wet?” Holland asked.
“I … it’s kind of embarrassing, okay? I fell in a puddle. Landed on my ass.”
“Yes, that is embarrassing,” Medina said. “But not as embarrassing as the truth.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your wallet was in your back pocket. It probably fell into the toilet. I lost a cell phone that way once.”
“No, my jeans are soaked—”
“Then I guess that bathroom accident was even more embarrassing. Or maybe you put these things in your pocket after you got them wet.”
“I’ve been sitting on them, in wet jeans—they’d at least be damp!”
Medina gave me another shove, hard enough that my chin hit the car. My teeth caught my tongue and I tasted blood.
Holland took over, holding me still as Medina tugged my ID from my damp wallet.
“Savannah Levine,” she said. “You’re under arrest for …”
Medina arrested Jaime, too, despite the fact that they had no evidence to suggest she was involved. That’s when I really knew this wasn’t kosher, especially when Holland seemed surprised by Medina’s decision. He didn’t argue. She was the senior partner. But when we got inside and someone yelled that there was trouble with a guy in the holding cell, Holland volunteered to help and got out of there fast.
Medina called over a second officer, a guy barely old enough to be shaving. He took charge of Jaime, who hadn’t said a word since we left the car. When I glanced at her now, she was blinking hard, eyes unfocused.
“Jaime?” I said.
She managed a weak smile. “I’m okay.”
She didn’t look okay. The officer had led her halfway down the hall when I heard a clatter and turned to see her doubled over, emptying her stomach onto the linoleum tiles.
“Oh, God,” she said. “I can’t believe I did that.” Her voice came out thick, words slurred.
“Partying a little early today, were you?” Medina said.
“Wh-what?” Jaime struggled to look up at her, eyes refusing to focus.
I tried to get to Jaime, but Medina yanked me back. “Your friend is fine. She just needs to lay off the booze.” She called to the young officer, “She’s one of those Hollywood types. Probably spent the night on Bourbon Street.”
“What?” I said. “No, we—”
“Should I send the mug shot to the tabloids?” the young officer asked with a grin.
“No, that’s exactly what these people want. There’s no such thing as bad publicity. I’ll handle the processing. Just stick her in the drunk tank.”
“Is that the charge then? Public drunkenness? For both of them?”
Medina nodded. I opened my mouth, but her look made me shut it.
She pushed me into the next open doorway and shut the door behind us as the other officer led Jaime to the cells.
“What the hell is going on?” I said, spinning on Medina. “First you question me about a bombing. Then you arrest me for it. Now you’ve switched to public drunkenness?”
“Would you rather the bomb charge?”
“There is no bomb charge. You—”
“There still might be.”
She cuffed me to a chair, then sat across from me and took out her cell phone. After a minute, I realized the beeps I heard weren’t from texting or e-mailing—she was playing a game.
I yanked on the chair. “You aren’t processing me.”
“Do you want me to?”
Part of me wanted to insist she charge me, just to see if she would, so I could confirm what I suspected was happening. But the rest of me said that was a very stupid idea.
So I seethed and writhed inside while she played her game.
“I want to make a phone call,” I finally said.
“That wasn’t my official call. You’re holding me, so I’m entitled to—”
“You’re entitled to a call if I charge you.”
I closed my eyes and concentrated. Find the core of stillness, then focus all my energy on casting—“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Medina said.
“Whatever you’re doing.”
I leaned forward. “And what would that be?” I met her gaze.
“Oh, wait … You know, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do.”
Just as I suspected. “Who are you working for? The moronic liberation movement that bombed their own building?”
Her head jerked up. “Are you accusing me of being a terrorist, Ms. Levine?”
“Is that what you think they are? Good, then we’re on the same page. Either way, holding me is a very bad idea. I’d suggest you reconsider and let me cut you a deal with the Cortezes.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Are you trying to bribe me?”
“If that’s what it takes.”
She leaped up and slammed me and my chair against the wall. As she shoved, she grabbed my shoulder, fingers digging in as she leaned down to my face.
“I don’t know who the hell these Cortezes are, but I can promise you that I’m not afraid of any gang. They can’t buy me and they can’t threaten me. Neither can you. I was giving you a break, Ms. Levine. Holding you on a lesser charge until I could consult with my superiors on the evidence we found in your back pocket. But if you want that charge—”
“No. I don’t. I—I made a mistake.”
“A very big mistake.” She shoved me again, the chair clattering against the wall. “And it’s not going to help your case. Since you don’t seem to like it here, let’s see if you prefer being in the drunk tank with your friend.”
I found Jaime curled up, shivering and pale, in a corner of the holding cell. I tried to rouse her, but she wouldn’t open her eyes. When I said I was going to call a guard, she managed to murmur, “No. Don’t … cause more trouble. Just give … minute. Food … poisoning.”
I glanced around. The cell looked like … well, a cell. About eight by eight feet. A typical spot in a small station for holding people awaiting charges or the onset of sobriety. From the looks of it, more cells were needed. This one now had five occupants. Like Jaime, two were lying on the floor. Drunk, I guessed. At least they were quiet.
There was one bed, currently occupied by a chick with the kind of tattoos that scream “I got this once when I was really drunk.” Except that, judging by the quantity, it was more than once. A lot more, which might suggest it was complete lack of taste rather than serial-drunken stupidity. Her blond hair was frizzled at the ends, as if she’d overused her straightening iron. She wore cutoffs with several rolls of pitted cellulite hanging out below. Her upper half hung too, tank top screaming for a bra.
In short, she was not the sort of person I was in the mood to deal with nicely. Still I tried.
“Hey,” I said. “My friend’s really sick. Do you think she could take the bunk?”