Friday, February 18, 2011

Death on the Aisle {Chapter Ten}

Chapter Ten

            I swung my car into the parking lot by the docks and searched for a place to park.
Leatrice clapped her hands together in the back seat. “Look at all these police cars. And two ambulances.” She looked practically giddy.
            I craned my neck around to look her in the eyes. “I only allowed you to come with us because you promised to stay in the parking lot.”
            “That and she refused to get out of the car when we tried to leave Georgetown,” Kate muttered next to me.
            “Don’t worry about me,” Leatrice said. “This is clearly where the action is. Look at all the cops.”
            I turned back around and surveyed the scene in the front of us.  Two ambulances were parked unevenly near the entrance to the long dock leading to the ship and at least half a dozen police cruisers with lights still flashing were pulled in around it.  This didn’t look good.  I edged my car into what seemed to be the last open space and turned off the engine.
            “Just stay out of trouble,” I said.  I didn’t know if I should be telling that to Leatrice or Kate as I watched my assistant adjust her cleavage before stepping out of the car. To be fair, there were a lot of cute men in uniform and Kate had a weakness for both.
            “Ten-four,” Leatrice said and bounded out of the car behind Kate.
            I made a mental groan as I watched Kate teeter over to an officer in her wedge heels with Leatrice trailing behind her in a sailor suit.  I wondered how long it would take them to notice if I just drove off.  Probably hours. Before I could be tempted any further, a rap on my car window made me jump.
            “Could you step out of the car, ma’am?” The deep voice was muffled through the glass but it sounded official. I looked over and noticed that the voice wasn’t wearing a uniform but had a badge clipped to the waistband of his jeans.
            I opened the car door and stepped out. “I’m actually with the boat . . .” I began, and then stopped in mid-sentence.
            “I figured as much.“ Detective Mike Reese stood with his hands on his waist, and I couldn’t tell if he looked annoyed or amused.
            Detective Reese and I had what you might call a history together.  A history that included me stumbling across more than a few dead bodies and him trying to solve the cases and keep me out of trouble.  I’d always gone a little weak in the knees over Reese’s dark hair and green eyes, not to mention how good he looked in a pair of jeans but we’d never actually done more than flirt harmlessly.  My stomach did a little flip when I saw him standing in front of me in a pale green button-down rolled up to the elbows and jeans that, as always, fit just right.
            “What are you doing here?” I asked, holding my hair back as the wind off the water blew it into my face.
            “It’s good to see you, too, Annabelle.” He gave me a lopsided grin.  “I am a detective, you know.  The better question is, why are you and your sidekicks here?”
            “Leatrice is not my sidekick,” I said, although watching Kate sit on the hood of a police cruiser with her long legs crossed chatting with a group of officers, I wasn’t sure if I should claim her, either. I couldn’t see where Leatrice had gone, which was not a good thing. “We’re supposed to have a wedding on this boat on Saturday. And since when is the Harbor your jurisdiction?”
            “I heard on the scanner that a wedding planner made the call to police, and I assumed that it was you.”
            Not a bad assumption considering our past encounters.  I remembered the last time I saw Reese and how quickly he’d left when Ian had shown up. I felt a flare of irritation. “I’m surprised you didn’t run the other way if you thought I was involved.”
            He took a step closer and raised an eyebrow. “You want me to leave?” His green eyes locked with mine, and he reached out to brush a strand of hair that had blown across my face. I put a hand on the car door so my knees wouldn’t buckle.
            “Far be it for me to tell you what to do.” I gave a shrug and broke his gaze.  “It’s not my place to meddle in police business.”
            Reese laughed. “Since when have you not meddled in police business?”
            “Well, this time I’m not.” I said. “It wasn’t me who made the call to the police. Leatrice heard about it on her scanner, and that’s why we came down.”
            “So you don’t know what’s going on?” he asked.
            I felt the flutter in my stomach again but this time it was nervousness about the wedding. “Was there another accident?”
            Leatrice rushed up to me, wringing her hands. Reese’s eyes widened as he looked at Leatrice’s outfit and unsuccessfully stifled a grin.
             She tugged on my sleeve. “Annabelle, you have to come with me.”
            “I’m in the middle of talking to Detective Reese,” I said. “You remember the detective, don’t you?”  I knew she did. Leatrice never forgot an eligible bachelor, and she’d once harbored dreams of me dating Reese.  Of course, at some point she’d also wanted me to date the UPS man, her grandson and our building’s leasing agent, who wasn’t even remotely straight.
Leatrice smiled and batted her eyes. “So nice of you to drop by, Detective.” Leatrice began chatting as if we were all at a cocktail party that just happened to be in a grungy parking lot with the scent of the nearby fish market wafting through.
“The detective was just telling me what’s going on,” I interrupted, turning my attention back to Reese. “It looks like someone really got hurt this time.”
Leatrice gave a tiny yelp. “Oh, that’s right. I need to tell you about Richard.” “What?” I asked. “Is he here, too? Does everyone have a police scanner?”
Leatrice jerked her head in the direction of the boat.
“He’s onboard?” I groaned. “What is he doing on the boat?”
“That’s what I’m trying to tell you,” Leatrice said. “Richard is involved.”
“What do you mean ‘involved’? With the accident on the ship?” I threw my hands into the air. “I told him not to go anywhere near Jeremy Johns unless I was around to play referee and now look what happens.”
“Actually,” Reese said. “It wasn’t just an accident this time. We’re dealing with a fatality.”
The butterflies in my stomach turned into a knot and my knees finally gave way.