Rules of Protection (Tangled in Texas) (Volume 1)(9)

By: Alison Bliss

“I, um…”

The cab driver realized the situation as well. “It’s okay. This ride’s on me.”

I thanked him, exited the cab, and walked numbly through the police station’s sliding glass doors. A heavy-set dispatcher with short brown hair sat behind a bulletproof partition.

She glanced up at me. “Can I help you?”

Though I heard her, I couldn’t bring myself to answer. Thinking of what I needed to tell her made my breath tighten, as if Jake’s arm still pressed against my throat. My heart pounded in my chest, and my blood pulsed rapidly through my body, registering in my ears.

The dispatcher eyed me strangely. “Ma’am…? Is there something I can do for you?”

Shaking from head to toe, I finally managed to say, “He’s d-d-dead.”

At once, the entire scene rushed back to me. The room got darker as my eyes rolled up into the back of my head, and the last thing I heard was the sound of me hitting the floor.

When I woke up, I was sprawled on a gurney, and my head hurt. The paramedic at my side pulled a blood pressure cuff off my arm and pointed a penlight at my pupils to check their dilation. I did as he asked, following his finger with my eyes. Four uniformed deputies in the room watched silently while the he assessed my condition.

The medic glanced back at the officers. “She’s okay, just fainted and bumped her head. She’ll have a bit of a headache, but it’s nothing a little aspirin won’t cure.”

“Miss, we need to ask you a few questions,” one policeman said. “Could you come with us, please?”

I stood slowly, my head hurting from the movement. The cop led me through the double doors and down a hallway until he angled into a small room marked “Interrogation Unit.” A small table, three uncomfortable-looking chairs, and a large mirror that consumed most of the far wall adorned the room. After I sat, I spied the small black camera mounted above the door. The red, blinking light flashed to a steady green. It wasn’t hard to figure out they were taping me.

The man who sat across from me was probably close to retirement age. He had a full head of gray hair and a neatly trimmed mustache to match. “I’m Officer Stevens,” he said, flipping open a small notepad. “And this is my partner, Officer Danforth.”

Danforth was in his late thirties with dark hair cropped short. He offered to get me some coffee, but I declined. My hands trembled enough without the extra jolt of caffeine.

“Miss, our dispatcher said you told her a man is dead,” Stevens said bluntly.

“Y-yes. He’s…dead. I saw it. I watched him die.”

“Did you kill him?”

“What? No, I watched him…oh God!” I covered my face with my hands.

“It’s okay, Miss. We’re here to help you,” Danforth said. “Can you start from the beginning and tell us what happened?”

Stevens jotted down notes as I spoke. I told them everything I could remember until I had passed out in the lobby. They both looked at me as if I were loony.

Stevens shifted his gaze to the younger officer and, as if given a silent command, Danforth excused himself, disappearing from the room. I hoped they were sending a unit over to The Jungle Room to check out my story. I imagined it was difficult to believe anyone would be dumb enough to murder someone in a packed nightclub.

Officer Stevens asked me to repeat the entire story and forced me to go slower through the details this time around. When I got to the part about Sergio looking nervous, I completely broke down. Tears rolled steadily down my cheeks. My voice was barely a whisper. I knew how he had felt because I felt the same way when Jake had grabbed me. It’s the fear of the unknown, as much as it’s the fear that you know exactly what might happen.

Sergio was a creep, but he didn’t deserve to die. Hell, what do I know? Maybe he did. He obviously had associations with some very bad men. No matter what, though, I didn’t deserve to have his death forever stamped into my memory.

My face heated as I swayed a little in my chair. I wanted to pass out again, but having another meltdown would only prolong the inevitable. I gained some composure before continuing and tried to keep my voice from cracking while I calmly described the rest of the events that led me to the police station.

Afterward, Stevens led me to another room to search their database. Two long and tedious hours went by before I fingered the three men from the club. The officers were ecstatic, though I had no idea why. Only person I couldn’t find in the system was Jake.

They let me take a break and issued another offer of coffee. I accepted, knowing it might be a while before they asked again. A female officer escorted me to the bathroom, then deposited me back into the interrogation room, along with a cup of strongly brewed glop. I couldn’t bring myself to try it, but the potent smell kept me awake.

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