Authors: Barbara Dunlop
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance
Pacing the small
cell, Jade found herself alternating between anger and frustration, with an occasional flash of outright fear. She’d made her one phone call to Jillian. Her sister had promised to do everything she could, including finding a lawyer.
After the conversation, Jade told herself that whatever the evidence against her, it would have to eventually be disproved. She’d racked her brain, but she couldn’t come up with any way that even a high school computer science student could have concluded she’d been after credit card information. She hadn’t gone anywhere near anything sensitive or any information at all.
She sat down and rubbed her arms against the chilly air, gazing around at the drab gray walls, the chipped concrete floor, and the dank hallway through the dark metal bars. The thin mattress was hard beneath her butt, the blanket rough. The air smelled like sweat and urine, and the occasional bang and shout could be heard from the men’s cells at the far end of the hall.
She was starting to worry that she might have to spend the night in this place.
Footsteps sounded along the hallway, coming closer and closer. Her thoughts returned to Logan. Part of her hoped he’d come back, even though she realized he wasn’t going to lift a finger to help her.
To her surprise, two men in suits appeared outside the cell. They looked vaguely familiar. It took her a moment to realize they were the men Logan had pointed out in the Twin Peaks lounge last night. Could they be undercover cops? Despite their rather outdated clothes, both looked to be in good physical shape.
“Ms. Korrigan?” the taller of the two opened. He was lean, balding, with keen brown eyes that watched her closely.
“Yes,” she answered cautiously, staying put near the back of the cell.
“I’m John Castle, and this is Ewan Smith.”
She wasn’t sure how to respond to that. Should the names mean something to her?
“We’ve exchanged a number of e-mails,” said John.
“We have? You mean today? I didn’t get them.” She gestured around her. “Because, well, I’ve been a little tied up.”
The man named Ewan stepped forward. “Oh, you got them all right.”
He was a few inches shorter, stockier, with a neat moustache and a full head of hair. His gaze was also dark and penetrating, intelligent and watchful.
“What did they say?” she asked.
Ewan gave a little smirk. “They offered you employment.”
As the statement penetrated, Jade went completely still. Her brain struggled to wrap itself around the facts. They were WNT? WNT had followed her to Mirror Falls? Were they lunatics?
“She remembers,” said John.
Ewan smiled. “Let’s talk about your options.”
“What the hell?” she hissed, coming to her feet, her confusion level going off the charts. “What are you doing here?” And then another thought crossed her mind. “Does Virgil know? Did Virgil send you?”
“We sent us,” said John, making a show of straightening the sleeves of his jacket. “We thought it was time for a face-to-face talk.”
“I don’t want a job,” she stated firmly, crossing her arms over her chest.
Evan looked at John. “It’s fun when they play hard to get.”
anything. Thank you, and thank your bosses for the offer, but I’m happy with my current employment situation at Seaboard.”
“What about your current freedom situation?” asked John, looking meaningfully around the holding cells. “Are you happy with that?”
A cold feeling crept into Jade’s stomach. Something was going on here, something she didn’t understand.
“It’s temporary,” she told them.
“Perhaps,” said Ewan.
“I didn’t do anything, so they have no evidence.” She’d admitted to hacking into the Twin Peaks’ server, but the worst that would get her was a fine. Possibly probation, certainly no jail time, and she’d fight like hell to keep from having a criminal record.
“Perhaps,” said John.
“Perhaps what?” she snapped.
His eyes narrowed. “Perhaps there’s more evidence than you realize.”
“There can’t be more—” She stilled again, blinking at their cocksure postures, the satisfied confidence in their expressions.
Ewan spoke. “Is that a light bulb I see going on above her head?”
“I believe it’s a light bulb,” said John.
“What the hell?” she repeated, looking from one to the other. “
What the hell
“We’d truly like you to join the team,” said John.
“You planted evidence against me? WNT
me? Who are you people?”
“The best of the best,” said Ewan. “And you should be honored to be invited in.”
“I’m not honored. I’m ticked off. You have absolutely no right to mess with my life. And I’m going to scream this from the rooftops.”
He shrugged. “Good luck with that.”
?” she asked again.
They were highly skilled, that much was clear. They were tenacious, and they didn’t seem to mind breaking the rules.
“Government?” she asked.
“You won’t find us listed.”
“Tech black ops?” She’d heard rumors, but she hadn’t ever truly believed them.
John spoke up again. “We can have you out of here in thirty seconds. We can make this all go away. Or we can make it much, much worse.”
“You think I’d even
working for you after this?”
Ewan looked at John again. “She needs time to think about it.”
“I’m not going to think about it,” she warned.
“She needs time to think about it,” John agreed.
They both turned away.
After a couple of steps, Ewan turned back, bracing his hand on one of the cell bars to glare at her. “We set this up in fifteen minutes. Never mind breaking a sweat, we didn’t even put down our martinis. We want you, Jade. So you’re ours. Say yes now, or say yes later. But you will say yes.” He glanced around her cell. “If you don’t, this place will start to look like a five-star hotel.”
Then they did walk away.
She stepped shakily back, breathing deeply, lowering herself onto the hard mattress. For a moment, all she could wonder was what could be worse than this place? Would they have her declared a terrorist and sent to Guantanamo Bay? Would they use extraordinary rendition, packing her off to a black site in some Third World dictatorship?
Could they do that?
Who the hell were they?
She was desperate for a computer to do research, or even her cell phone to call Virgil. It was definitely time to come clean with Seaboard. They were the only people who had the remotest hope of helping her.
More footsteps sounded in the hallway, and she tensed.
But Sheriff Edwards appeared, a deep frown on his face. She was reminded that Logan’s relatives were also the sheriff’s relatives. He was obviously taking her supposed crime personally.
She tried not to be frightened, but things seemed to be moving very quickly out of control. And there didn’t appear to be a single person on her side.
“The judge will see you now,” he told her, producing an almost comically large key ring and unlocking her cell with a clatter and a clang.
Even though it was likely temporary, she couldn’t stop the rush of relief at stepping out of the cell. She wasn’t normally claustrophobic, but that place kept feeling smaller and smaller.
He snapped a set of handcuffs on her wrists, securing her hands behind her back. She wanted to protest that handcuffs were unnecessary, but she was afraid to argue with him. She walked meekly alongside him, through several doorways, traversing a busy office area, down a set of stairs, through a parking garage, up another set of stairs, and finally into the courtroom.
She was seated in a prisoner’s box at one side of the crowded room. There was an air of unreality to the situation, almost like being on a movie set. The judge was reading some paperwork. The sheriff stood by, hand resting on his firearm, looking like he expected her to bolt at any second. He was clearly ready to shoot if she did. There were a bunch of people in the gallery, most chatting amongst themselves. People she assumed were the courtroom staff and lawyers worked at various tables in the front of the room.
Finally, the judge looked at her. “Ms. Korrigan, I can set bail immediately at twenty-five thousand dollars, or you can wait until Tuesday for the public defender.”
Jade felt a first glimmer of hope. “Bail, please.” She didn’t have twenty-five thousand dollars, but she had a hope of raising that amount in the not-too-distant future.
“Bail has been arranged,” said a woman sitting at a small desk in a corner of the court.
Jade glanced around in confusion. Again, she wanted to ask a question, but she didn’t want to say the wrong thing.
“Then the prisoner is free to go,” said the judge, bringing down his gavel.
The sheriff unlocked her handcuffs.
“You’ll need to remain in the state,” the judge said to Jade.
“Trial will be set for…” The judge looked to the woman in the corner.
“October fifteenth,” said the woman.
And then everyone’s attention seemed to move on.
Jade could see the pathway out, through a small swinging door, past the visitor gallery, and out of the courtroom. But it took her a moment to work up the courage to move.
The sheriff spoke. “You can pick up your belongings in the station next door. Talk to the intake deputy.”
“Thank you.” The moment the words were out of her mouth, she realized they were comical. She was thanking the man who’d arrested her and held her in jail.
Sheriff Edwards gave her a curious look.
Then she girded her courage and swallowed her pride. “Could you possibly take me back the way we came in?”
He seemed surprised by the question. “No.”
“There are people outside I don’t want to see.”
“That does not surprise me.”
She gritted her teeth. “Please. I won’t be any trouble.”
He seemed to hesitate. Then he muttered something under his breath. It sounded like he said the words “Logan” and “right,” but that was all she could make out.
“This way,” he told her, pointing to the door behind them.
She was relieved to make it all the way back to the hotel without seeing either Ewan or John. But that was where her luck ran out. The Twin Peaks had kicked her out of her room, and a hostile, stone-faced desk clerk handed over her suitcase and a credit card receipt for the room charges.
Dejected and defeated, and still worried about running into Ewan and John, Jade took a back door out to the park, dragging her wheeled suitcase down a gravel pathway. She sat on a bench along the lakeshore and gave thanks that her cell phone had half its battery power left. But when she tried to book a flight back to Denver, she was told the next available seat was three days in the future.
The hotels in town all claimed to be full, and she couldn’t get through to Virgil. With the sun setting, her options were diminishing by the minute. She couldn’t stay out on the street all night, and she had to stay away from Ewan and John.
After discarding every other option, she made a painful choice. There was only one other way to get from Mirror Falls to Denver.
ogan entered the
small office building above the float-plane dock and stopped dead in his tracks. He shot his dispatcher an incredulous look, raising his palms to silently question the situation.
“I couldn’t get her to leave,” said Danica, shutting off the light behind the reception counter.
The front door clicked shut behind him.
Jade looked up from the molded plastic chair, blinking as if she was just coming back to reality.
“I’m sorry to bother you,” she said.
me?” He took the few paces that put him directly in front of her.
“I need your help.”
He didn’t know whether to shout out the word no or laugh in her face. It was outrageous enough for her to even show her face here, never mind ask for his help.
“I’m outta here,” said Danica, grabbing her coat from one of the wall hooks.
“Good night,” Logan told her without looking.
The front door opened and closed again.
“I need to get to Denver,” said Jade.
Her gaze touched his, then slipped to one side, then moved to the floor.
“How’d you get out of jail?”
“Bail. Apparently, my sister Jillian called my grandmother.”
“You’re allowed to leave town?” He didn’t know why he was asking. He didn’t care. There was no reason in the world for him to be curious about anything except her eventual jail sentence and making sure the credit card information she’d stolen didn’t make it onto the black market.
“I have to leave town. I can’t leave the state.” Her glance went to the small, burgundy suitcase parked beside her feet. “They kicked me out of the hotel.”
“The other hotels are all full. I tried to book a flight to Denver, but—”
The office door burst open, bouncing against the wall stop.
Jade’s complexion paled as looked up.
His sister, Amy, rushed into the room. “Logan, what’s going—Jade, are you all right?” Amy’s momentum took her swiftly forward. She halted herself and slid into the seat next to Jade.
“She tried to rip off the Twin Peaks,” said Logan.
“So I heard.” Amy was talking directly to Jade. “What happened?”
“Why are you asking her?” Logan demanded. “She’s only going to lie to you.”
“Shut up, Logan. What happened?”
“It’s complicated,” said Jade.
Logan threw up his hands in disgust.
“Try me,” said Amy.
“What are you doing?” Logan asked his sister.
“I was framed,” said Jade.
? Is that your new story? This afternoon, you were wholly innocent.”
“I am wholly innocent. Well, mostly innocent. I admitted that I piggybacked on the hotel’s Internet connection.”
Amy shot Logan a sharp look. “Have you never heard of innocent until proven guilty?”
He couldn’t figure out what was wrong with his sister. “Not when you know what happened.”