Authors: Jerry B. Jenkins
Tags: #FICTION / Christian / General, #FICTION / Religious
Monday, February 8, 11:10 p.m.
As Francisco pulled up in front of his apartment building, Boone stopped midsentence and stared at the front of the complex. The glass front door was ajar and the foyer light off.
“What?” Sosa said.
Boone held up a hand. “Stay right here. If I'm not back in five minutes, call 911.”
Boone opened the door and drew his Beretta as he slid out of the car.
“Shouldn't you call for backup or something? You're in no shape toâ”
Boone kicked the door shut and stayed in the shadows as he moved toward the front door, peering at his place, second on the right upstairs. He crept up the stairs, knowing where to step to stay on the carpet and avoid the creaks.
When he reached the landing, he looked down the hall, wondering how he would manage the Beretta and his key. Boone switched the 9mm to his left hand, in the sling, and realized he had neither the strength nor the fortitude to stand the pain. If he had to use his key, he would just have to tuck the gun back into his shoulder holster.
Two steps down the hall showed him his door had been forced open. Who could have done that without bothering the neighbors? Boone tiptoed to it, saw that it could have been quietly pried and not kicked in, and listened for any movement. He gently pushed the door with the barrel of his gun. It opened onto a ransacked scene.
This was either a simple breaking and entering burglaryâunlikelyâor someone looking for him. Had he been there, sleeping and out of reach of the Beretta, he'd be a dead man.
Nothing appeared stolen. Expensive electronics still in place. No, this was what Boone had feared. The question now was whether it was more than one guyâand were they gone? He crouched before the bedroom door, light-headed, then kicked it open, weapon ready.
Cold air assaulted him from the window. Clearly, the intruder had not left the way he had come. The fire escape had been activated, the mobile ladder extended. Sosa would have to help him put that back.
Boone closed everything and locked the damaged door, then made his way back down. Sosa left the car as soon as Boone came into view. “You all right?”
Boone nodded and beckoned him to follow him around the building, into the alley, and up to the fire escape. “It's weighted and counterbalanced, so just grab the bottom rung and swing it up with a little oomph.”
The ladder clanging back into place caused lights to come on in a couple of other units. An elderly man opened his third-floor window and called out, “Who goes there?” That hit Boone as quaint, but he quickly informed the man who he was and that everything was under control.
But was it? If he reported this, Jack would insist on reinstituting his twenty-four-hour-a-day cover. And if he didn't report it, could he stay here? He didn't like being a sitting duck. But who was behind this? The DiLoKi? The Outfit? Those trying to frame Haeley? Or Haeley herself?
Regardless, Boone knew he had to move, if only temporarily.
“How much time have you got, Pastor?”
Sosa looked at his watch. “Till midnight. What do you need?”
“I need to grab some essentials, have you run me to Haeley's and then back to her mother's car. I could do this myself, but I don't know who's watching.”
Sosa helped him haul clothes and toiletries from his apartment and pile them into the back of the car. Boone told the pastor where Mrs. Lamonica's car was parked and had him circle that block twice to be sure no suspicious vehicles were about. They quickly moved the stuff from Sosa's car to the other, then returned to Sosa's car and headed toward Haeley's.
On the way Boone called and woke her.
“If I fall asleep talking to you,” she said, “we'll be even.”
“I was afraid of that,” he said. “What were we talking about?”
“Nothing that made sense. You went loopy on me. IÂ thought about calling you back or even running over there to be sure you were all right, but I knew you needed your rest. You okay now?”
“I am, but I'm on my way to see you. Is that all right?”
“Oh, Boone! I was in bed. Hair up, no makeup, the whole bit. I don't think we're ready for you seeing me like this just yet, do you?”
“What if I bring a pastor along?”
“Sosa's still with you? Are you seriously on your way?”
“Twenty minutes out.”
“Give me twenty-five.”
As they sat in the car in front of Haeley's place, waiting until the twenty-five minutes had passed, Boone dialed Jack Keller's cell. It immediately went to voice mail. He hated to call the landline, knowing Jack and Margaret had to be down for the night, but he didn't have a choice.
Jack answered, voice thick. “This had better be good. Got another plate you want me to run?”
“I really am sorry, Jack. I need a place to stay.”
Suddenly Keller sounded wide awake, as if he had sat up and cleared his head. “Sure, come on over. What's up?”
“No, no, not with you. Still room at the safe house?”
“Yeah. You want me to run you out there?”
“I just need you to clear it and let them know I'm coming.”
“So what happened, Boones?”
“Nothing. I just think you're right that I'd be safer there.”
“Still there, Jack?”
“Oh, I'm still here, but since I was born yesterday, I don't know how to talk yet. What do you take me for, Boones? I'm supposed to think, what, that you just woke up realizing I make more sense than you do? What happened? Somebody take a shot at you, threaten you, what?”
“Don't make this multiple choice, Boones. Just tell me.”
“Someone broke into my apartment.”
“They went out down the fire escape. Glad I wasn't there.”
“How soon can you be, you know? I don't want to say where over the phone.”
“Hopefully within an hour. I appreciate this, Jack.”
“Hey, what time do you plan to get up tomorrow morning? How about I come see you at about ten thirty?”
“If I'm not up by then, fire me.”
“You're doing enough to get yourself fired without my help.”
Boone looked at his watch as he got off the phone and apologized to Francisco.
“I don't have to go inside,” the pastor said. “It's lateâ”
“I'm sure she'd love to see you again,” Boone said. “And she's gone to some trouble.”
“I'll wait here until you call me up.”
Boone kept an eye on the second-floor window, and when he saw Haeley wave, he left the car. On the way up he rehearsed what he wanted to tell herâsimply that he was going to be away for a while but that he would still be on the case.
He found Haeley in her doorway smiling. Her hair was in rollers, but she had clearly made herself up a bit. And for some reason, Boone was overcome. He was glad she spoke first, because he felt struck dumb.
“You look awful,” she said, chuckling. “Long day?”
“Longest I can remember,” he managed, and all he wanted was to hold her. He put his arm around her waist as she led him into the apartment and to the couch, a finger to her lips.
“Mom and Max are asleep,” she whispered.
“I'd rather kiss you than talk anyway,” he said.
“You would, huh?”
“Well, aren't we polite? If the right is mine to give, you have it.”
“Hey, that's a line from
How Green Was My Valley
“Yes! Boone! We love the same movie!”
Boone leaned forward awkwardly. She helped him remove his parka; then, avoiding the Beretta, she cupped his face in her hands and they fell into a long kiss.
When they separated, Boone said, “Sure glad Francisco offered to wait in the car.”
“I should invite him in.”
“What's going on, Boone?”
“I love you, that's all.”
“I know. I love you too. And you're working yourself to death.”
“I promise to sleep tonight until I wake up. No alarm clock. No schedule tomorrow. At least not till midmorning.”
“That makes me feel better. And I want to know what you turned up today. But curious as I am, you need to get home to bed. Really, you look out on your feet. You're not even going to remember kissing me.”
Boone snorted. “If I forget this, dump me quick. Anyway, I wanted to tell you that I need your mother's car for another few days.”
“Mom loves your car. She's hoping you'll offer a permanent trade.”
Boone agonized over whether to tell her where he was sleeping that night and why. He opted for transparency and regretted it as soon as he saw her look.
“I don't want this to be so real, Boone. What is going on that your life should be in danger?”
“Surely that's not news. I mean, look at me.”
“But they're still after you? Why?”
“Haeley, you work at the CPD. You know how big this thing was. A lot of really dangerous people are not happy with what we accomplished.”
“I want you off the case, off my case. Let Jack or someone else run with it.”
“Jack's too close to Pete. Anyway, I don't want off your case. Why would I?”
Haeley sighed and shook her head. “Truth is, I want you off the job.”
“Off the force?”
“Yes! Take the disability! There's a lot of other things you can do.”
“Teach. You know your job better than anybody your age. Young people could learn a lot from you, and you're still young enough to relate to them.”
Boone stood and turned his back to her, fearing he would say something he regretted.
“Talk to me, Boone.”
He turned to face her. “All right, listen. I'm going to say this once, and I don't want to have to say it again. I'm a cop. It's all I've ever wanted to be and all I ever want to be. My plan is to rehab myself to where I can be fully functioning again, and I don't plan to ever look back. Clear?”
Haeley looked stricken. “Are you angry with me?”
“I just want to be understood. I'll be angry with you only if you continue to fight me on this. We've declared ourselves. We love each other. I hope we have a future together. If we do, IÂ don't want you to ever say you didn't know what you were getting into. We're both going to have to deal with my life being on the line every day. If you can't handle that, IÂ need to know now.”
“I'm not trying to be mean, Haeley. Just honest.”
“I got it.”
“And can you deal with it?”
“Truthfully? I don't know.”
He sat again. “Not what I wanted to hear.”
“I can be as honest as you, Boone, and I owe that to you.”
He nodded. Waiting.
“You've got to understand, love,” she said. “You were nearly shot dead, and then, how many nights later, you could easily have been shot again.”
“Two words, Hael: Chicago cop.”
“You wouldn't want me to be other than what I was meant to be, would you?”
“I love you, Boone. I want you safe.”
“I love you. But my life is not safe.”
“At least it will be tonight,” she said.
“That's a promise. And I have to get going. Francisco is going way above and beyond.”
“Let me say hi to him.”
Boone texted him to meet them in the foyer. When they got to the bottom of the stairs, Francisco was coming in. “Haeley, it's been too long.”
She embraced him. “Take care of this guy, will you?”
“I think he can take care of himself,” Sosa said.
“That's what I'm banking on.”
“I'll be right out,” Boone said, and as soon as Francisco said good-bye, Boone kissed Haeley again. “Work it through,” he added.
Boone left feeling cheap. His love and his lingering suspicion were at war.
Tuesday, February 9, 1:00 a.m.
“Can you ever forgive me, Pastor?” Boone said. “You said you were good till midnight.”
“I can sleep later,” Sosa said. “Chalk it up to extenuating circumstances.”
He turned onto the street where Boone had left Mrs. Lamonica's car. “Oh, no,” Boone said.
The windows were shattered, his stuff gone.
“Haeley's mother likes my car. Looks like it's going to be hers.”
“Now what?” Sosa said.
“I've got to call it in. I hope the techies can determine whether it's just a random smash and grab or if it was the same people who were at my place.”
“If it was them and they saw you storing stuff in there, wouldn't they just stake it out and then follow you? I mean, they want to do more than scare you, don't they? Don't they want you?”
“Very good. You could be a cop. You're leaning toward a random break-in.”
“Hoping, I guess.”