Home > Meant to Be Immortal (Argeneau #32)(10)

Meant to Be Immortal (Argeneau #32)(10)
Author: Lynsay Sands

A moment passed where she could hear the captain breathing heavily, and then he cleared his throat and said, “Unfortunately, my wife sent Michael—Officer Simpson—home.”

“Uh-huh,” CJ said in her most disinterested voice. She’d already known that from what Mac had said.

“Audrey sees my men as family members,” he explained, sounding uncomfortable. “Like adopted sons. She fusses over them,” he admitted unhappily, and then growled, “Problem is, they don’t want to upset her and listen to her like she’s their gosh-darned mother.”

“Uh-huh,” CJ repeated.

“I tried to call Simpson the minute Audrey told me what she’d done, but I can’t reach him on his cell phone,” he said grimly. “So now we’re in a pickle.”

“We’re in a pickle?” she queried gently, and heard the long sigh that traveled down the phone line.

“Ms. Cummings, I appreciate your help out at the fire tonight, I really do,” he said solemnly. “And I really hate to trouble you for more help, but I’m still at the hospital with Jefferson, and my men are all presently on calls.” He paused, and cleared his throat in what she suspected was the hope that she’d jump into the silence with an offer to help so he didn’t have to actually ask for it, but she kept her mouth shut and simply waited. The man had not proven overly helpful up until now when it came to her interviewing Jefferson. He’d found every excuse in the book to put her off until tonight, and then she’d arrived to find the interview delayed again. She felt she had to help whether she liked it or not, but she expected his cooperation in return. So, she waited.

Finally, he sighed and said, “I’d really appreciate it if you could see your way clear to helping out just a little bit more. Nothing big,” he hastened to add. “But I know you must have a room out at Mrs. Vesper’s, and I was thinking maybe you could just drive Mr. Argonauts out there, stay with him while he rents a room, and then see him safely into it and keep an eye on him for a bit. I promise the very first man who returns to the station will head straight there to take over from you to guard him.”

CJ didn’t bother to correct his mispronunciation of Mac’s name; she simply waited patiently, allowing the silence to draw out. She was rewarded for her patience.

“And, of course, in return, I’ll make sure Jefferson is available tomorrow afternoon at whatever time you want for that interview you need,” Captain Dupree said finally with resignation. “I’ll escort him to the bed-and-breakfast, or wherever you want, so you can talk to him.”

CJ smiled, but kept her tone mellow as she said, “One of the interview rooms here will do just fine, or even your meeting room. He starts his next shift at 4 p.m. tomorrow, so let’s set the interview time for 3 p.m.”

“Fine,” Captain Dupree grunted resentfully. “So, will you look after this Mr. Argonauts for a bit? If you aren’t comfortable taking him to the bed-and-breakfast, you could always wait there at the station with him. I just thought—”

“I’ll take Mr. Argeneau to Mrs. Vesper’s,” CJ interrupted at once, emphasizing his correct name. “As you said, he’ll probably end up there anyway.”

“Argeneau. Right. Good,” Captain Dupree muttered. “Thank you. I appreciate your help.”

“No problem, Captain,” CJ said magnanimously, and then since she felt he would feel he owed her, she asked, “Why are you and Jefferson at the hospital? Was he hurt? Are you?”

There was a moment of silence, and then Captain Dupree said, “Oh, here’s the doctor. I have to go.”

The words were followed by the dial tone, telling her he’d hung up.

Four

CJ set the receiver down with a shake of the head. She was good at her job, and the captain’s reluctance to answer her questions just made her more determined to find out what had happened tonight. She wouldn’t bother except that it involved Jefferson and he was who she was here to investigate. The captain’s avoiding her questions just made her suspicious and annoyed. But she’d find out what had happened. Eventually. It was hard to keep secrets in a small town.

Sliding off the corner of the desk, she walked out of the office to find Mrs. Dupree had freed Mac and was trying to urge him into a desk chair again.

“Time to go,” CJ announced, bringing a halt to Mrs. Dupree’s nattering.

“Go?” the woman echoed with dismay. “Go where?”

Even as she did, Mac was sprinting to CJ’s side, asking cheerfully, “Where are we off to now?”

CJ hesitated, but then ignored his question in favor of asking Mrs. Dupree, “Is there a spare coat and hat here to disguise Mr. Argeneau for the walk to my car? Just in case the arsonist is out there watching for him to leave,” she added when the captain’s wife continued to simply glare at her.

The last comment worked. Mrs. Dupree’s eyes widened, the glare dropping away at once, and she whirled and rushed into the captain’s office.

“Surely a disguise isn’t necessary,” Mac muttered as they watched the lady bustle out of sight.

“Better safe than sorry,” CJ said simply, and was relieved to see the captain’s wife return quickly. She was carrying an officer’s dress coat and cap—probably the captain’s, was CJ’s guess, but she didn’t ask and simply waited for Mac to don them both. Once he’d finished, they both looked him over. He looked ridiculous, of course. The jacket was tight across the shoulders, but far too large at the waist, and his checkered, flannel pajama bottoms just did not go well with the fancy dress jacket and cap.

“Just let me get the pants,” Mrs. Dupree said suddenly as she rushed away again.

Mac shifted his shoulders in the jacket and made a dissatisfied face, but neither of them spoke as they waited for Mrs. Dupree. She returned a moment later, carrying the outfit’s matching dress pants still on a hanger.

“They’ll be a bit large for you, but at least they’ll fit over your pajama bottoms,” Mrs. Dupree said as she reached Mac’s side and tugged the pants off the hanger. “You might have to hold them up though.”

Mac sighed, but accepted the pants and pulled them on over his own clothes.

“Do you have twist ties?” CJ asked Mrs. Dupree as she watched Mac clutch the pants in hand to keep them from falling down once they were up.

The captain’s wife nodded and hustled off again, this time disappearing through the door that led to the hallway to the kitchenette and cells. When she returned, she had several large green twist ties, probably from a package of garbage bags.

CJ murmured, “Thank you,” took one, and moved to Mac’s side to quickly slide the tie through three belt loops of the dress pants, then twisted it closed and stepped back to survey her handiwork. When Mac released them and the pants were still loose and nearly fell, she accepted another twist tie from the lady and walked around to Mac’s other side to gather two more loops with it. This time when she stepped back and he released his hold on the pants, they stayed in place.

“I look ridiculous,” Mac said, scowling down at the bunched-up pants.

“The coat will cover it,” CJ assured him, before adding, “And it’s dark out. It’ll be fine.”

Mac grunted, but let the coat drop to cover the top of the pants, and then surveyed himself briefly, before nodding and holding one arm out to her in a courtly gesture. “Shall we?”

CJ stared blankly at the offered arm, but didn’t take it. Instead, she snorted and swung on her heel to lead the way out of the bullpen.

Mac followed silently until they were crossing the front reception room, and then he said, “Catherine Jane.”

“Oh, good Lord! Don’t start that again,” she snapped with irritation.

“It seems to me I should get to know the woman who is going to guard my body,” he responded lightly.

“Not necessary,” she assured him as she pushed the front door of the station open and paused to glance around, looking for cars in the parking lot, or anyone who might be watching. She didn’t see anyone, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t someone there.

“Keep your head down so no one can see your face,” she instructed as she started forward again, allowing him out of the building.

“You must really hate your names,” Mac commented as he followed her to the car.

CJ looked over her shoulder to be sure he had his head down, but didn’t acknowledge his words. She merely took his elbow to hurry him along to the car. She hit the button on her key fob to unlock it as they approached, and then opened the front passenger door, scanned the empty parking lot as she waited for him to get in, and then closed it for him once he was seated before hurrying around to the driver’s side.

“Well, this is strange,” Mac commented as she slid behind the wheel and pulled her own door closed.

“What is?” she asked absently, her eyes dancing around the parking lot as she buckled up and started the engine.

“You seeing me into the car,” he explained. “I am usually the one who does that when with a lady.”

“I’m not a lady. I’m your bodyguard,” CJ reminded him grimly as she shifted gears and backed out of the parking spot. “Do up your seat belt and keep your head down.”

He did as instructed, and then remained silent as she steered them out of the parking lot and onto the road. Much to her surprise, he stayed silent even after that as she divided her attention between driving and watching the rearview mirror for anyone who might be following them. This late at night, or early in the morning as the case may be, there weren’t a lot of people out driving around, and no one seemed to be following them. Still, CJ drove twice around the block where the bed-and-breakfast was to make sure they didn’t have a tail before pulling into the driveway and steering her car around to the small parking area behind the old Victorian house.

“I feel bad about having to wake up Millie at this hour to rent a room,” Mac murmured as they got out and headed for the back door of the house.

   
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