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Chapter 53

Tims fist shot out like a bullet and slammed into DeBurras jaw, throwing DeBurras whole head back, his body following. He landed on the ground with a thud that sounded almost as loud as that explosion, even with the cacophony of noise around us.

But unlike Robby Murphy, DeBurra had a lot more pent-up anger against Tim-and he was bigger. He squatted on the balls of his feet and pushed off, crashing against Tims knees, which buckled, and Tim was now on the ground.

They rolled over each other, pummeling with both arms. Tims jacket ripped right up the middle of his back. They were both covered in debris and soot from the explosion. I couldnt tell that Tims hair was red anymore. It was like watching a movie, but there were no cameras.

Uh-oh. Spoke too soon. The TV crews had arrived, and one of the reporters-yes, Leigh Holmes, my brothers one-night stand-came jogging over with her camera guy.

Tim was straddling DeBurra now, but DeBurra had one other trick up his sleeve. He raised both arms and grabbed Tims neck.

I looked to Jeff for help. Do something, I hissed. Theyre going to kill each other.

Their guns were still secure in their holsters, but I wasnt sure for how long-or whether one of them would just go off because it hit the ground at the wrong angle.

Jeff held up his hands and shook his head. Not getting in between that.

I didnt really blame him, but someone had to stop them from beating the crap out of each other. They were rolling around again, arms and fists flying. I flagged down a couple of uniforms, who jogged over, their expressions grim, but I could tell they didnt want to get involved, either.

Domestic disputes are the worst.

Because this wasnt about me or Chez Tango. This was about Shawna. This was unfinished business.

One of the uniforms decided it was enough, and he tried to get between them.

He fell back after getting slugged. I have no idea whether Tim or DeBurra hit him.

I looked again at Jeff, pleading with him.

He sighed. The things I do for you, Kavanaugh.

Jeff went over to the two men and managed somehow to wedge himself between them.

I turned around, didnt want to watch. I had a feeling Jeff would suffer the same fate as the uniform. But somehow he managed to get them to stand, a few feet apart, and while they glared at each other with fists clenched, both wearing red bruises that would turn to black and blue, they kept their anger at bay while Jeff shouted that this wasnt the time.

No kidding.

They were a mess; both their noses were bleeding, but they didnt seem to notice. I didnt want to see the damage. I started to turn away but then sensed someone watching me.

It was DeBurra. Not good. I knew he was going to try to rope me into another hours-long interrogation. Been there, done that. I wasnt in the mood.

One of the firefighters tapped him on the shoulder.

With just a quick glance at Tim, Jeff, me, and Leigh Holmes and her camera guy, who was still shooting, the firefighter told DeBurra, Theres no one in that building. No one at all.

I looked over at Chez Tango and saw that while my brother and DeBurra were beating the crap out of each other, the firefighters had done their job and it seemed the fire was out.

DeBurras face scrunched up with anger. What do you mean? he asked.

We didnt find anyone. No bodies, and no survivors, either.

Despite the rising irritation with Charlotte and the games she was playing, I breathed a sigh of relief. However, it certainly seemed as if DeBurra wasnt happy that no one was in the building. He was such a jerk. He glared at me and Tim and stormed off toward the fire captain in charge at the scene.

I took Jeffs shirt out of his hands and handed it to Tim. Your nose, I said, and Tim touched the cloth to his face, grimacing with pain.

I think you need the ambulance, I said.

He shook his head. The paramedics, however, agreed with me. Now that there were no bodies to attend to in the building, they seemed to need something to do. They fussed over Tim and escorted him to the ambulance, scoffing at my scratches when Tim tried to tell them that I was hurt.

DeBurra was several yards away, but I could tell he was still keeping an eye on me, even when one of the paramedics approached him as well.

I think its time to blow this Popsicle stand, Jeff Coleman said in a low voice.

I turned to him. Why does he hate me so much?

You do know how to get under someones skin, Kavanaugh. He said it matter-of-factly, with a touch of a smile at the corner of his mouth.

I wasnt quite sure how to respond; nothing clever was coming to mind, and while I was waiting for inspiration, Jeff just walked away toward my car. It couldnt have been something I said.

He leaned in through the window that was still open and came out waving my cell phone. Its for you. I hadnt even heard Springsteen. Come to think of it, everything was sounding a little like it was in a tunnel. Probably because of the explosion.

I took the phone and said, Hello?

Brett, I cant get anywhere near there. There are police cars and ambulances and fire trucks everywhere. It was Bixby.

Where are you?

About a block down.

DeBurra had managed to get away from the paramedic and was coming toward me. I felt panic rise in my chest when I saw his expression-dark, cold, definitely out for blood, mine this time rather than Tims.

Jeff saw it, too, and cocked his head at my phone. Where is he?

Just down the street.

Get going.

I leaned into my car and grabbed my bag, shaking the glass off it. As I did, the queen-of-hearts brooch winked at me from the center console. I took it out and stuck it in my pocket again. I must have been moving too slowly for him, because Jeff gave me a nudge and repeated, Get going.

DeBurra was getting closer.

Kavanaugh, Jeff hissed, I dont know what you did, but you pissed him off, and hes not going to let you out after a few hours this time.

Jeff was right. I started walking backward, watching DeBurra. Jeff got between us. When I reached the sidewalk, I turned and sprinted. A black Audi sat idling by the side of the road, and as I approached, the headlights flashed twice. Bixby.

I opened the door and barely got seated when he spun the car around so we were going in the opposite direction. Im happy to see you, I said, letting myself breathe again and tossing my bag on the floor before latching my seat belt. You might want to step on it.

Bixby heard the edge in my voice.

He glanced at my arm.

What happened?

I told him about the explosion, the fight between my brother and DeBurra. Im glad you came along when you did, or Id be looking at another all-nighter, I said, keeping my eye on the sideview mirror for any sign of DeBurra. Where are we going?

My place.

Somehow this wasnt the atmosphere in which Id hoped to end up at Bixbys place. That fantasy included dinner, a nice bottle of wine, maybe some music. Not me all cut up and running from the cops-again. But going to his place was smart. No one would know to look for me there, and I could make some calls, try to see if anyone had seen or heard from Charlotte. I didnt know where else to start, so that seemed like a plan.

I leaned back in my seat and closed my eyes, trying to sort out everything that had happened. Music filtered in through the tunnels in my ears, something jazzy with a lot of piano and saxophone. I dont know a lot of jazz, and I dont normally listen to it-Im more of a rock n roll kind of girl-but there were times, like this, that it was soothing. Almost like a massage. Well, not exactly. I let my thoughts wander even further, wondering whether I could get a spa appointment tomorrow. I so needed one. Bitsy could rearrange my schedule.

Penny for your thoughts, Bixby said, his voice interrupting my plans.

I didnt really want to tell him I was thinking about a massage-he might get the wrong idea-and I didnt want to get into all the stuff about Charlotte with him right now, so I asked, Hows the ink? indicating his new Celtic knot.

He grinned. Its fine, but its starting to itch.

Did you take off the plastic? Use some antibiotic gel?

I did.

Good. You wont regret it.

I know that. He glanced in the rearview mirror. Do you know anyone who drives a gold Pontiac?

I twisted around in my seat and looked out the back window. Jeff Coleman was following us. He was a couple cars behind, but I couldnt miss that car anywhere. His front windshield was still intact, thanks to the fact that while I was parked facing Chez Tango, hed pulled in beside my Mustang facing the other way. It was his back window that was shattered, instead.

I settled back into my seat. Dont worry about him. Hes a friend.

A friend? Bixbys eyebrows rose with the question.

Just a friend, I said. Hes looking out for me.

Bixby turned right.

Into the entrance of the Windsor Palms condominiums.

Now it was my turn to tense up. Your place? I asked Bixby, a sick feeling growing in my stomach.

He nodded. Been here a little over a year.

Did you know Wesley Lambert?

His eyelids fluttered; then he smiled. Bought the place because of him.

Chapter 52 | Pretty In Ink | Chapter 54