Read (LB1) Shakespeare's Champion Online

Authors: Charlaine Harris

(LB1) Shakespeare's Champion (19 page)

BOOK: (LB1) Shakespeare's Champion
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He shot me a look that said the question had been as futile as I’d feared. “I’ll get back to my place,” Jack said. He began trying to push himself up from the floor with his uninjured arm.

“Oh, sure.” I was scared of treating the wound, so my voice came out harsh.

“Obviously, this is too much of a risk for you,” he said, in an I’m-trying-to-be-patient voice.

Quelling my impulse to haul him to his feet, twist his good arm behind his back, and propel him into the nearest wall, I inhaled a calming breath. I let it out evenly, with control.

“You don’t get to tell me what risks I’m prepared to assume,” I said.

“I can go back to Little Rock, but you live here.”

“I appreciate your pointing that out to me. Give me your hand.” I was going through my own set of shakes. Stepping outside in my nightgown had chilled me to the bone in all kinds of ways.

Jack reached out with his good hand, and I planted my feet, gripped the hand firmly, and pulled up. His face twisted as he rose to his feet. Standing, he was taller than me, his physical presence dominating. I decided I preferred him on the floor. No. I felt more comfortable with him on the floor.

“You’re freezing!” he said, and stretched out his good arm as if he would gather me to him. My white bathrobe fell off him and crumpled in a dirty heap. The remains of his shirt hung in rags around his shoulders.

“We’re going into the bathroom to work on your wound,” I told him, trying to sound confident. “Can you walk?”

He could, and was sitting on the toilet seat in a few seconds. I got out all my first-aid equipment. I had some sterile water, and some bandages containing powdered antibiotic, and a tube of antibiotic ointment. I had a lot of gauze and some tape. The Lily Bard MASH unit for wounded detectives.

The sterile water was even in a squirt bottle.

I worked the rest of the shirt off Jack, tried not to be distracted by his resulting bareness, and draped him with my oldest towels. I swept his half-dry hair over onto his sound shoulder. I assumed nurses and doctors learned how to detach themselves from touching people so intimately; I had not. This felt very personal to me.

“I’m going to clean the wound,” I said.

“Yeah.”

I lifted the plastic squeeze bottle. “So, did you recognize the men after you?” I asked. I squirted sterile water onto the bloody furrow. Jack turned whiter, and dark stubble stood out sharply on his lean cheeks. “Answer me, Jack Leeds,” I said sharply.

“Not all of them.” His voice more of a gasp.

“Of course there was Darcy.” I squirted again, this time from the back. I thought of tiny fragments of shirt, or microscopic bits of the vest, that might be embedded in this tear in Jack’s flesh. I felt dreadfully responsible.

“Uh-huh.” His eyes closed. I kept going with the lavage.

“Who was another one, Jack?”

“The kid, the one with the pimples, works on the loading dock at the lumber and home supply place.”

I patted the area dry with the cleanest whitest washcloth I had. I examined it. It looked clean, but how did I know? I wasn’t used to cleaning on a microscopic scale. I squirted.

“And the guy with the big belly, the one who looks like a good heart-attack risk, I’ve seen him.”

“That was Cleve Ragland, works down at the mattress factory,” I murmured. “Cleve’s been arrested for drunken driving at least twice, got a kid in jail for attempted rape.”

Squirt, wipe.

“The other guy,” Jack gasped, “isn’t he a cop?”

“Uh-huh, Tom David Meicklejohn—in plain clothes. He kept to the back like it was possible for me to mistake him,” I said, hoping the plowed track of the wound was clean enough. At least Jack’s eyes were open again, though he wasn’t looking at my face.

“And then there was Jim, works in the gun department, works out with Darcy. Another coworker.” I patted again.

It looked dry. It looked clean. I leaned even closer to inspect it, and nodded in satisfaction. I hoped I hadn’t hurt Jack too much. He had a very strange expression on his face.

“Lean forward,” I told him. I spread the antiseptic ointment on the wound. I put an antiseptic pad on the shoulder, with a strip of surgical tape to hold it in place.

“Lean back.” I padded the wound with sterile gauze in case he bled again, and unrolled surgical tape to secure the gauze. Jack’s face relaxed while I did this, and I felt proud of myself. I turned and began to search the bathroom cabinet for a pain reliever. While my back was to him, Jack’s finger traced the curve of my hip.

I stood still, not believing it.

“Are you crazy?” I said. “You just got shot!”

“Lily, all that got me through that bandaging was your breast wobbling about three inches from my face.”

I couldn’t think of anything to say.

“Did I hear you step out in front of them in your nightgown?” he asked.

I nodded.

“No wonder they were all quiet. Not a one will be able to sleep tonight.”

“You’d left a handprint on one of the posts.”

“You did a damn fine job of distracting.”

“I hated doing that. Don’t talk like it was easy.”

“I hope I know better.”

“We need to get your wet clothes off so you can come get in bed.”

“I thought you’d never say it.”

I noticed that he wasn’t any longer mentioning going home. And he’d never suggested we call the police, though in view of Tom David’s presence, that had probably been wise. I shook out a pill, handed him a glass of water. He swallowed it and leaned back, his eyes closed.

I pulled off Jack’s boots and socks, wiping off his wet cold feet with a hot washcloth and drying them vigorously with a towel. But I left him to remove his own jeans. I went outside one more time, to clean the bloody handprint from the post. That had been niggling at me.

It was still raining. Any other traces Jack had left would surely be obliterated.

I’d turned down the bed, and by the time I came in the room, Jack had managed to climb in and cover up. On my side. His chest was bare and it occurred to me he was most likely bare all the way down.

I’d given him one of the pain pills Carrie had left me a few months before when my ribs had been bruised. It had knocked Jack Leeds clean out, as I’d expected.

I yanked the blue nightgown off and stuffed it in the trash can. I pulled a pink one out of my dresser drawer. It was almost as pretty; I buy good nightgowns. I put the bloodstained bathrobe into my washer and set it to wash on cold; as an after-thought, I threw in Jack’s damp jeans, socks, and underwear, which he’d left in a heap on the bathroom floor. Hot water would have been better for his stuff, but I couldn’t stay awake for two loads. While the clothes churned through the shortest cycle, I straightened up the bathroom and set out a toothbrush, still in its wrapper. I rechecked all the locks. Then I put the washed clothes in the dryer.

When all the lights were out, I slid into bed on the wrong side. The night was silent except for the friendly sound of the tumbling dryer and the detective breathing heavily beside me, and I slept.

I OPENED MY
eyes about five-thirty, later than I usually get up. To see my clock, I had to raise myself to peer over the dark mound that was Jack. I thought I’d heard him go into the bathroom, heard the water running, but he seemed to be asleep again. I could barely discern the outline of his features. The bedclothes had fallen down, and I could see his exposed shoulder because of the white of the bandage. I covered him back up, very carefully, not wanting to wake him. His loose hair had fallen over his face. Gently, as delicately as I could manage, I brushed it back.

The rain was drumming on the roof again, loud enough to penetrate the comforting drone of the central heating. I made my own trip to the bathroom, rinsed out my mouth. I snuggled back down into bed, turned away from my sleeping companion. I sank into a half-doze, random thoughts floating through my head.

It was Friday. Not a good day to start back to Body Time, considering my interrupted night. Nor a good day to resume karate. But I had to work today…Deedra, the peculiar Mookie Preston, the Winthrops, another afternoon appointment…I waited expectantly, but I couldn’t summon the surge of purpose I needed to feel at the onset of the working day.

What I felt instead was a surge of hormones. Jack Leeds had woken me the night before, beating on my door. Now he was waking me in an altogether different way. Jack was stroking my back and hips. I sighed, hardly knowing if it was one of exasperation or sheer desire. But I certainly didn’t feel apathetic any longer.

I knew he could tell I was awake. When I didn’t speak, he scooted closer, fitting his body to mine. His hand circled around, cupped a breast, resumed the rhythmical stroking. I had to bite my lip to keep silent.

“What happened to ‘after this job is over’?” I asked finally, and my voice was more like a gasp.

“Waking up in a warm bed with a beautiful woman on a rainy day in winter”—and while he was speaking his hand never stopped—“has overcome my business instincts.” His voice was breathy and low. His mouth began to deliver little sucking kisses to my neck, and I shivered. He began to ease up the pink nightgown. It was now or never. What did I want? My body was about to take over from my brain.

I turned toward him, putting up a hand to press against his chest and hold him at a little distance—I think—but at that moment his fingers slid between my legs and instead I wrapped my arm around his neck and pulled him close for a kiss. It was so dark and private in my room, like a quiet cave. After a while, his mouth descended to cover my nipple through the nightgown. I reached down to touch him. He was swollen and ready. It was his turn to do a little moaning.

“Do you have…?” he asked.

I reached across him to grope in the night-table drawer for protection.

Jack began to whisper to me, telling me about what we were going to do and how it was going to feel. His hands never stopped.

“Now,” I said.

“Wait a little.”

I waited as long as I could. I was shaking. “Now.”

And then he was in me. I arched against him, found his rhythm. My pleasure was instant, and I cried out his name.

“Again,” he said in my ear, and kept on going. I tried to keep pace, once again matched him. I began urging him on, gripping him with my inner muscles, digging my nails into his hips. At last he made an incoherent sound and climaxed, and I did, too.

He collapsed on top of me and I put both my arms around him for the first time. I ran my hands over his back and bottom, feeling skin and muscles, planes and curves. He nuzzled my neck gently for a minute, withdrew from me, and rolled onto his back. The white gauze was spotted with red.

“Your shoulder!” I raised up on an elbow to look. My bedroom was getting a little lighter; the dark and secret cave had opened to the world.

“I don’t care,” he said, shaking his head from side to side on the pillow. “Someone could come in here and shoot me again, and right this moment I wouldn’t care. I tried to stay away from you, tried not to think about you…if they hadn’t been so close, I wouldn’t have come here, but I can’t be sorry. Jesus God, Lily, that was absolutely—wonderful. No other woman…God, that was sensational.”

I was shattered myself. Even more than by the physical sensations Jack had given me, I was a little frightened by the urge I had to touch him, hold him, bathe myself in him. In self-defense, I thought of all the women he’d had.

“Who are you thinking about?” He opened his eyes and stared at me. “Oh, Karen.” I was frightened that he knew so much about me that he would read my face that way. His own eyes lost their glow, flattened, when he said the name Karen.

Jack Leeds had become a household reference right about the time Lily Bard had, in the same state, Tennessee; and in the same city, Memphis. While my name became linked with that of the crime committed against me (“Lily Bard, victim of a brutal rape and mutilation”), Jack’s was always followed by the trailer, “alleged lover of Karen Kingsland.”

Karen Kingsland, from her newspaper photos a sweetfaced brunette, had been sleeping with Jack for four months when catastrophe wiped out three lives. She was twenty-six years old, earning her master’s degree in education from the University of Memphis. She was also the wife of another cop.

One Thursday morning, Walter Kingsland, Karen’s husband, got an anonymous letter at work. A uniformed officer for ten years, he was about to go on patrol. Opening the letter, laughing about receiving it, in front of many of his friends, Walter read that Karen and Jack were having sex, and having it often. The letter, which Walter dropped to the floor as he left, was quite detailed. A friend of Jack’s called Jack instantly, but he was not as quick as Walter. No one called Karen.

Walter drove home like a maniac, arriving just as Karen was leaving for class. He barricaded himself and his wife in the bedroom of their east Memphis home. Jack came in through the front door moments later, hoping to end the situation quickly and privately somehow. He had not been thinking well. He stood at the door of the bedroom and listened to Walter plead with his wife to say Jack had raped her, or that it was all a malicious lie on the part of some enemy.

By that time, the modest Kingsland home was surrounded by cops. The phone rang and rang, and finally Jack picked it up in the living room and described the situation to his coworkers and superiors. There was not going to be any private or amicable solution, and it would be fortunate if all three involved made it through alive. Jack wanted to offer himself as hostage in exchange for Karen. His superiors, on the advice of the hostage negotiation team, turned him down. Then Jack revealed to them what Walter did not know yet, what Karen had only told Jack the day before: Karen Kingsland was pregnant.

At that point, it would have been hard to find anyone in the Memphis Police Department who wasn’t, at the very least, disgusted with Jack Leeds.

From the living room, Jack could hear Karen scream in pain.

He yelled through the door that Walter should exchange his wife for Jack, since torturing a woman was nothing a real man would do.

BOOK: (LB1) Shakespeare's Champion
2.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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