Stolen-Excerpt*

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When Jenna Brandt finds herself in the cross hairs of an abduction taking place, she does the one thing she can think of. She stops the bastard, by stealing his vehicle and his victim, creating a whole new set of consequences for everyone involved.

Broward County, Florida:

The plan for tonight was to meet up at Betty’s and then Uber to the restaurant and the clubs.  Driving at night is never fun, especially when the streetlights aren’t working, Jenna thinks to herself as she drives to Deerfield from Plantation.  The straight shot up 95 wasn’t the problem.  The problem didn’t start until she noticed a little blue Honda tailgating her shortly after she got off the expressway. There is almost no traffic on Hillsboro Blvd this time of night, and there is no reason for someone to be right on her bumper.

“Ser-iously?  There’s no one else on the fucking road!  It’s not like you HAVE to stay behind me!” Jenna yells out the open sunroof as she looks in her rearview mirror before changing to the middle lane from the right.

The blue Honda driver does the same.  He’s following her.  Okay, don’t panic, she thinks to herself nervously.  Did he hear me? The fear from her carjacking last year is front and center in her mind.  Jenna begins to shake. She lets out a deep breath and then another

Shuddering violently, Jenna shook the memory out of her head as she felt her car bumped again.  Checking the rear view mirror every couple of minutes, she realized he wasn’t going to let up.  Tears welled up in her eyes as she frantically tried to keep her calm.  Okay, she thought, I’m okay.  She took a deep breath and then another. 

The blue Honda driver falls back slightly and revvs up the engine.  He taps her back bumper, not hard but enough of a jolt to scare her.  She lets out a shriek and then changes to the far left lane, shredding over the left lane entirely, cutting off another driver, who promptly honks at her.  She ignores him and then makes an illegal u-turn on a yellow light, heading back East on Hillsboro.  She doesn’t remember where the police station is.

He moves in behind her just as she cuts the U and creeps up behind her again as she tries desperately to evade him.   He bumps her again.

Jenna reaches over into her purse and pulls out her cell phone, but then drops it on the floor as he bumps her again.  There are only a few other cars on the road at this hour, and they drive past.  Honking the horn did no good either.  Jenna laid on the horn and nothing happened.  A look into the mirror showed her pursuer laughing, his mouth wide open. 

Pulling another U-turn at 12th Ave, nearly right in front of the North Satellite Courthouse of Broward County, Jenna turned back west on Hillsboro, picking up speed now that it’s apparent there are no cops around tonight. “If I were speeding, there would be a cop out here to pull me over”, she thinks with some irritation.

She moves over to the right lane again, as its empty, and he does the same.  Jenna runs the light as it’s still yellow when she passes the line. The Honda runs a full red and is right behind her again. Jenna feels her back bumper hit again.

 “How is anyone not seeing this?” she screams out loud. There are a few other cars on the road but they do nothing. She turns right on Powerline and then shreds across three lanes of traffic until she is in the designated left turn lane, hauling a sharp U turn, where her tires scream.  The car itself is half up on the curb now, where she swings the wheel to the left to balance out.

Jenna hooks a right back onto Hillsboro Blvd, playing cat and mouse with her pursuer, who is still smiling.  After a quick succession of right turns, she thinks she has lost him.  A glance down at her odometer shows her median speed at just under 58 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour zone. 

In Broward County, Reckless driving can bring you a night in jail and a free pair of stone washed powder blue scrubs.  Making a right into a residential community, she finally risks a look into the rear view mirror.  There is no sign of the blue Honda, and she breathes a sigh of relief, and laughs.  “Totally channeling Jason Statham right now”.

She knows this neighborhood well.  Her best friend moved here a few weeks ago.  In between helping with moving and then coming back over with odds and ends , Jenna has already been to Betty’s new digs several times.  She could probably get there blindfolded, but that would be a night that there would be a lot of cops on the road.  Betty’s house is up here on the right, next to the only two story house on the block, near the end of the street, in the cul de sac.

Now in Betty’s driveway, Jenna sent a quick text, “Hey, I’m in your driveway”. Betty’s car sat to the right of hers.  Oh good, she’s home, Jenna thought as she waited for a reply.  No answer. A few quick texts later brought no better results, and her phone turned off; dead.  “That’s just fricking fabulous!” she hissed.  Jenna stalked up to the front door and knocked a few times.  No answer.   

Suddenly remembering the hot tub in the back yard, Jenna walked around back, unlatching the fence and letting herself in.  From her viewpoint on the side of the house, the steam rising over the warm, swirling water was all she could see.  Where’s Betty

She is about to walk back around to the front and leave, when she heard raised voices up ahead, off to the right.  Two men, arguing.  Her curious nature has seen her in trouble plenty of times, but that didn’t stop her from going around the back of someone else’s house and around the side to get a better look. 

At this point, they’re just a hundred or so yards away, but she can hear their voices raised in anger.  “Mind your own damned business!” one man snarls angrily to the other.

“There is something wrong with you!  What you did to that girl is inexcusable!” Now she stopped to listen to the conversation.  It was Jake and another man.  Jenna strained to hear.  Jake was mid-rant, when the other man interrupted him with a shout of his own.

“Again, Jake, mind your own fucking business, or I will help you!” Jenna strained to hear from her vantage point behind the fence.  She quietly let herself out of the backyard on the side of the house, with plenty of shrubs for cover, and closed the latch with a slightly audible click. 

“You chased her all over the neighborhood, stalking her and now she won’t leave her house!  I told you to stay away from her! I told you that she was too young for you!”

“I was just trying to talk to her, Jake.  How does any guy try to talk to a woman he likes?” Michael momentarily softened his tone.  He stood back from Jake, acting suddenly like Jake was the one who was being unreasonable.

“Michael, she is seventeen years old!  She’s not even old enough to vote yet!  You’re old enough to be her father, and I had to spend at least two hours calming her down and trying to convince her parents not to press charges against you.”  Michael smiled, baring his teeth the same way a shark might.

“Jake, you had plenty of chances to be on my side.  Now you need to mind your own damned business!” Michael snarled at him menacingly.  Michael had at least four inches on the 5’ 10” Jake, although their builds were similar.

“Michael, I am warning you!  Stay away from her or else!”  Jake took a few steps closer. 

“Fuck you, asshole!” Michael yelled.

 “That’s it, Michael! I’m done.  Leave her alone.  Period.”  Jenna watched in horror as Jake turned his back on Michael.  That was all the opportunity the other man needed to launch an attack.  Oh No, Jenna thought, watching. 

The sound of a clenched fist hitting something solid made her jump

Jenna crouched down behind the tall bushes on the other side of the yard.  Easily six feet tall, the bushes closer to the house next door offered excellent cover.  She is barely fifteen feet away from them now.  If one of them fell into the bushes, she would be exposed. I can’t stay out of trouble for five minutes, she thought peering through the dense shrubbery.

Michael took something out of his pocket and hit Jake on the back of the head with it, once.  Twice.  He goes down like a stack of dimes.  Oh shit! She thinks.

Jenna starts to formulate some sort of plan. My cell is dead, can’t call the cops and even if I did, they wouldn’t get here fast enough.    

Jenna let out a noise and then quickly covered her mouth.  Absolutely silent, the attacker starts to approach the bushes.  If she looked, she could see him through the dense shrubs, but then he would be able to see her too.  She is crouched down low, praying he goes the other way.  

Jake is on the ground groans, and Michael kicks him in the ribs,”Fucking asshole, what did you think you were doing?” Another kick to the ribs. “So fucking stupid, Jake.  You think I can’t get you?  You think I can’t END you? Fucker!” uttering obscenities under his breath.

Michael grunted with the strain of hauling Jake to his feet, half walking and half dragging him over to the van parked in the driveway.  A vehicle door slid open.  Jenna dared a peek through the hedges and watched Michael struggle his unconscious victim into the back and close the door. The keys are lying on the ground, in the grass next to the driveway.  Michael then turned back around and went into the house. Okay, I can do this.  Slowly, Jenna parts the bushes to get a better look.  She peered quickly around the bush, ready to run, and saw the front door of the house close. 

Jenna made the only decision that makes sense to her.  A to C with no time to go to B. She hazarded the mad dash to the van, grabbing the keys from the grass beside the driveway as she runs. She started the van, but Michael comes running out of the house, heading right towards her.  She shrieks and kicks at him. 

He struggled with her, trying to grab her, but his grip on her is not good.  Jenna screamed and twisted away, like she learned in Tae Kwon Do. Jenna launches a low side kick to his kneecap.  It lands squarely, causing the man to howl in rage. 

His face is red, spittle is flying from his mouth, which is open, revealing rows of shiny, yellowed incisors. He grabbed at her purse, growling and hissing like a rabid dog.  Jenna pulled out her keys and punched him in the face, using his hesitation to close and lock the door. 

The van pulled out of the driveway in a jerky fashion, as though she is not used to driving such a large vehicle. Michael stood up and staggered a few feet, yelling and shaking his fists, chasing the van on foot. He’s yelling obscenities again.   She left him behind with heart pounding wildly. Shaking now, she saw a cell phone on the passenger seat.  Jenna dialed 911.

“911, what’s your emergency?” A pleasant sounding middle aged woman asks her.

“I just stole a car.  I mean, I need to know where the nearest hospital is. Right now.”

“Ma’am, what is your location?” The operator asked.

“I’m on Powerline headed towards Sample Rd.  There’s a hospital on Sample right?  Imperial something.” Jenna said half to herself and half to the dispatcher.

“What is your name, Ma’am?”

“Where is the hospital?” Come on lady, where is the hospital?

“Ma’am what’s the emergency?” A little irritation in the voice now.

“Uhhh! I told you, I stole a car, it has an unconscious man in it, look it’s a long story, just have the police  meet me at the hospital and I’ll explain everything, okay?” Jenna pleaded with the woman to just cut the shit and give her directions, for crying out loud.

“Ma’am, you still haven’t identified yourself.” Seriously?! That’s the least of our problems right now, lady!

“Seriously?  It’s Jenna, okay? My name is Jenna.”  She replied, quickly losing patience now and rolling her eyes every time she heard the woman’s voice.

 “Jenna, what’s your last name?” My last name is give me fucking directions or I will shove your head up your ass and you’re welcome to try to find it with a barium enema.  How’s that, Toots?  These were her less than charitable thoughts towards the annoyingly stubborn dispatch operator.

“Where is the hospital?” Jenna’s iciest voice, which to others operated as a warning to heel, meant nothing to this willfully ignorant woman.

“Ma’am, what is the actual emergency?” Jenna screamed in rage, the sound filling the car with her aggravation.

“Never mind! I give up!  There is an unconscious man in the back of this van who has just been hit on the head, and kicked in the ribs and who knows what else, but it’s SO much more important that you get your newsflash than it is to give me directions right now, yes?”

Jenna’s eyes burned, her nostrils flared, she could feel the heat of anger spread through-out her body, warming her. It really wasn’t the 911 operator’s fault that she was freaking out but she certainly wasn’t helping.

 “Which one, Jenna?” The emergency dispatch operator had resigned herself to not getting practical answers to her questions, and so gave the young woman directions to the nearest hospital.

“Okay, there it is on the right, thank you.  Imperial Crown Medical Center.  When the police get here, I’ll explain everything then”.

“Ma’am, we need to know what’s going on. Anything you could tell us will help.” The 911 operator still held out hope that she could get some information from her crazy female caller.

“Okay, I saw a guy getting hit on the head by another guy and where this happened was 7832 NE 25th St, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.” This was the address she saw on the mailbox.  She hoped the address is right, she only glanced at it on her way to the van, and everything happened really quickly at that point.

“What does the attacker look like?” The woman asked. 

“Huh.  I don’t know, over six feet, big guy, dark brown hair. Big guy. Wearing, blue jeans and a dark green shirt.”

“Thank you Jenna, we will detail a unit to meet you at the hospital shortly.”

“Wait, this guy lives in the neighborhood.” Silence on the other end.

“I’m sorry, did you say the man lives in the neighborhood?”

“Yes, I heard that during their fight.  I don’t know where, but somewhere around here.” Jenna added breathlessly.

Meanwhile, Jenna looked back to see if her friend is okay.  He is still unconscious. Jenna pulled into the hospital parking lot, driving slowly up to the U shaped driveway in front of the emergency room.  She leaps out of the van and waves her arms frantically while jumping up and down to get their attention.  Two men in scrubs come outside. “He's unconscious. I called it in already." 

One of them goes back in for a stretcher and one stays outside to ask questions.  The other one comes back out, and they load Jake onto it, and then wheel him away.    

The orderlies take him away, as Jenna watches the arrival of the squad cars. The adrenaline comes down a little and then spikes as the realization sets in.  The police have just arrived.  Deerfield Beach Police Department.  Two cars and a crime scene truck. 

Taking a succession of deep breaths to steady her nerves, Jenna watched two officers exit their squad cars and walk towards her. Two men, both in plainclothes.  She closes her eyes and wills herself to stay strong. She lets out the breath she’d been holding in.  

The first plainclothes officer walks through the doors of the Emergency Room and disappears inside.  The second walks up to her and gives her a steady look.

"Are you Jenna?" The nametag on his shirt says D. Sawran. His badge shows the rank of Sergeant.  Detective Sergeant.  Nodding, Jenna opens her mouth to speak but nothing comes out. 

She blinks several times, finally getting out, “Yes, I’m Jenna.  I made the call.”  She feels sick, light-headed, like she is going to pass out, soon. 

__________________________________________________________________

 

"Can you tell me what happened?" His voice is soft.  He tilts his head to the side and looks at her, really looks at her.  Meeting his gaze, it was a struggle to keep tears at bay. She tried to speak through the lump in her throat. The enormity of what she had done now wreaked havoc with her senses.  Her tongue was frozen in her mouth.  Her large brown eyes wide and unblinking as she tried to speak.

 "Do you want to sit down?"  He motioned to the benches in front of the hospital   She’s still shaking a little.  It wasn’t from fear this time.  Not that kind of fear anyway. A few treacherous tears make their way down her cheeks as she looked away, and used the back of her hand to clear her face.

Jenna sat down on one of the benches in the courtyard just to the east of the parking lot, and crossed her ankles, before sliding her long swoopy bangs out of her face.  “It’s a long story” she said, looking up at Sawran, who did not respond.  He nodded and then sat down on another bench, waiting for her to continue.

“Tonight’s been so crazy, I don’t even know where to start.” Her voice sounds scratchy.

“Well, start with what you were doing in Deerfield Beach.  Do you live here?”

She shook her head.  “No, I was supposed to meet up with my friend tonight.”

“I drove to Betty’s house because we had plans.” Sawran waited patiently and prodded her with another question.  “Okay. Then what?” 

“Well, I parked in her driveway and then grabbed my phone and called and texted her but she didn’t answer, and then I got out of my car and went around back to see if she was back there.”

“Was she?”

“No.  I was just about to leave when I heard the fight.  Between the two guys.” Ah, now it’s starting to come together, Sawran thought. 

“Okay, go on.”  He had been about to say something, but decided to wait until Jenna had finished her narrative.

 “Well, I was in my friend’s backyard when I heard their voices, they were arguing and swearing at each other.  At least one of them was swearing.”

 “What did they say?”

“Michael yelled at Jake to mind his own damned business and then Jake accused Michael of doing something bad to a girl, and then Michael started swearing, and then the fight really started.”

 “Where were you when the fight really started?” Sawran asked, completely engrossed now in her tale.  He had a lot of questions at this point.  A lot of questions.

 “Well, I was nearby.”  Jenna replied. 

“Where nearby?” Sawran’s gaze was disconcertingly direct and Jenna decided at this moment to gaze down at the mosaic concrete tiles outside the hospital.  Blue and White diamond shaped tiles opposite corresponding tiles of dark amber, surrounded by the matte gray finish of the concrete.  The contrast between the bright colors of the tiles and the cement was stunning.

“I had walked across the back of someone’s house to get closer, Betty’s neighbor, and then around to the front of their house.”

“How were you not noticed at this point?”

“The neighbors weren’t home and they were too busy fighting to notice me.”

“Okay, go on.”

“Well, by the time I got around to the front of the house, they were punching each other and growling.  Michael hit Jake on the head with something, and he went down and then Michael kicked him in the ribs.  It was when Michael got Jake into his vehicle that I realized I had to get involved.” That’s one way of putting it, Sawran thought. He had to admit, he was impressed.

“What made you think you could do what you did without getting caught?” He asked.

“I saw Michael go inside Jake’s house and that was when I made a run for it and grabbed the keys from the lawn next to the sidewalk, I saw them fall in the fight, and get into the van.  And I did get caught, Detective.”  His eyes widened in surprise as she described the scuffle over her purse. His eyes flew to the torn strap and the broken clasp on the front.

“How do you know these men?”

And this is where the story goes downhill very, very quickly, Jenna thought, taking a deep breath.

“Well” She started and then looked at Sawran.   He chuckled as she sized him up. He found it genuinely amusing that she was debating how much to tell him at this point. He gave her his best cop eyed stare, which was hard because he was truly amazed by her tale.  He believed her for the most part, but there were some pieces missing.  Getting them from her would be like pulling teeth from a giraffe.

 “Which one?” Sawran asked, just to speed things up.

 “The unconscious one.  Jake.  He goes to my gym. We’re sort of friends.” 

“Ah.  Let me ask you a question Jenna. Did it ever occur to you at any point to call the police?  You could have run to a neighbor’s house, pounded on doors.  But instead you decided to steal the van.  I find that a curious choice.”

“I called 911 on the way to the hospital” Sawran refrained from mentioning that he had been in the station when her call came in, and that he had heard it.  All of it.  He had dispatched a team to go to the address she mentioned and was out the door before the 911 operator ended the call.

She looked up at him, her tear-streaked face showing the strain.

“Well, that’s quite a story, Jenna. I’m still trying to figure out how you were able to run to the van so quickly after the other guy went into the house.  Where were you, hiding in the bushes?” Her face reddened.  She didn’t tell him where she had been hiding.

“I don’t know.  My cell phone was dead, and anyway, they would have heard me.”

“How were you able to call us from the road?” Sawran’s voice has disbelief and humor both.

“I used someone else’s cell, the one that was laying on the seat.” She reached into her purse and handed it him.

Sawran watches her place it in the palm of his hand.  Her hands are warm.  Their fingers touch for a split second, but she feels something.  Jenna looks down at the ground, and then up at him, waiting for him to say something.

"Whose phone is this?" he asked looking down at it.  It was a Samsung Galaxy 4G LTE with a bubble gum pink case with studs on it.  The phone of a young woman or a teenage girl. 

Jenna shrugged. "I don't know.  It was on the seat and it was working so I used it."

_____________________________________________________________

The woman’s conversation with the plainclothes detective did not go unnoticed. At the back of the parking lot, about fifty feet to the side of the benches, a man sat in his car, a phone to his ear.

“Yeah, she’s here.” Marlon hated these phone calls. He also hated the woman for spraying him with mace.  It had taken nearly an hour for him to flush his eyes out enough to be able to open them and see again.  He would not soon forget that.  It didn’t matter to him that she was defending herself. 

“What is she doing?” Fear as well as anger in Michael’s voice.

“Talking to a guy in a suit. Probably a cop.” Blasé attitude.  He hadn’t yet told Michael about his earlier run in.  He doesn’t need to know about that, Marlon decided.

 “That bitch! Where’s my van?” Michael was furious, and every other word was a swear word.  Anger and fear, what a heady brew.  What would they find when, not if, they searched the vehicle?  The things I do for fun are not for public consumption, especially by police. 

“CSI’s got it.  Sorry Michael.” The man held the phone away from his ear while a string of loud invective pierced his eardrums.  “What do you want me to do?” Calm deflecting the other man’s fury.  It had worked for the last twenty some odd years. It would work now.

Michael thought for a minute and responded. “Go into the hospital, act like you’re there to see a patient.  Try to get some scrubs or something.” Marlon laughed.

 “This is all your fault, just so you understand!” Michael screamed into the phone.  Marlon held the phone away from his ear and shrugged.

“Hey, you’re the one who lost the keys, and then failed to grab her when she took off.”  The loud swearing continued.  Marlon rolled his eyes as he held the phone away from his ear.  He could think of so many things he would rather be doing than this. 

His favorite girl over at Hideaway was working tonight.  Soon, my sweet decadent little stripper, soon, he told himself to be patient.  First things first.

“You should have run her off the road and grabbed her when she got out.  How hard is it to catch one namby pamby little gym rat?” Marlon rolled his eyes.  “How was I going to do that, Michael.  I tried to grab her in the parking lot and she maced me full in the face, twice, and kicked me in the nutsac!  You wanna chase after this crazy bitch?  Be my guest!” Marlon snarled back.

“Oh, did she mace you? Poor baby!  Do you want to go home and suck your thumb or do you want to do your fucking job, asshole?” Michael taunted.

“Fine, go play Dr. Marlon and then what?” Marlon changed his tone to a high sing-songy version, “shall I go turn off his IV line and whistle the tune from the hospital scene in Kill Bill?” Marlon was about to laugh when he heard Michael’s response.

“Yes, that will work.  Call me when you are done.” The call ended. 

Marlon smiled, and hit end.  Then he drove around to the other side of the hospital and exited his car, walking quickly for the side entrance.  The blue Honda sat in a parking spot wedged between an SUV and a large pick-up truck.  He wasn’t worried.

__________________________________________________________________

The doors whooshed open, and the lights nearly blinded him after the darkness from outside, but he made his way down the hall and into the supply closet, where he locked the door.  This would be fun.

Detective Sawran asked Jenna most of the same questions the 911 operator asked her.  What does the attacker look like? This question jogs something in her brain, but it doesn’t quite catch.  She hesitates before answering.  “I don’t really know Michael.  I only met him twice.” Three times now, actually, her brain corrected.

“Okay.  Go check on your friend.” Sawran said abruptly.  Jenna stared at him as he took out his phone, dialed and spoke into it for several minutes, barking out orders.  This gave Jenna the opportunity to look him over. He was roughly 5'11" to her 5'4" and a half.  More strawberry than blonde, Sawran’s hair was a soft red, with remarkably clear blue eyes.  Long eyelashes. Is his hair as soft as it looks? She wondered

Jenna’s mind is on overload. I hope that Jake is okay and that he didn’t get hit too hard, she thought.  She also hoped that she won’t get arrested for stealing a car, although she doesn’t think she will.  If he was going to arrest me, he would have done it already, she rationalizes.

"You should search the van. It's good that you brought the crime scene truck." Jenna says, as soon as Sawran gets off the phone, feeling her cheeks color. Now his ginger colored eyebrows dance up into his hairline. Sawran chuckled and looked up to meet the gaze of Sergeant Mandel, who has just come back out into the parking lot after checking on the medical status of their victim.

“Well he was going to kidnap the guy, so obviously he’s dangerous.  I told you what they said to each other.  Jake knows something about Michael, and then Michael hit him on the head to shut him up.” Jenna babbled, looking from one to the other detective. 

She felt the need to prove there was a solid reason to make the decision to steal the van. Sawran and the other plainclothes detective regarded her with something between amusement and respect.

"So, you should search it.  You don't need a warrant for that right?" Jenna asked, realizing that she keeps sticking her foot in her mouth.   Sawran is staring at her with something Jenna can't name.  Are they going to arrest me? She wonders. Here I am on a 911 tape admitting that I stole a car, with an unconscious person in the back.  I must be out of my mind!

Sawran said, in a somewhat gruff voice," Go check on your friend.  Then we'll talk some more”.  Standing up shakily, Jenna looks at Sawran’s hand.  He stood up and extended his hand.

Reaching across the three feet of space between them, Jenna shook his hand, and then turned around and walked through the doors as they whooshed open.  Again feeling something as their hands touched, Jenna walked up to the registration desk, and asked for Jake Franklin.

They look at her blankly.  Jenna quietly reminds them that she brought him in.  Then, Sergeant Sawran walks in. She looks up at him.  He jiggles his fingers in the air. 

"Oh you need the keys!  Here!"  She tosses him the keys to the van, which he catches one handed. She feels his gaze on the back of her neck. 

The man at the registration desk told her to stand on the blue dot, and stare straight ahead.  He took her picture. The flash caused her to blink, bringing a smile to Sawran, who for some reason still stood there, leaning against the desk.. The registration guy pushed a few buttons and moved his mouse around as she heard her hospital ID tag being printed. 

Jenna smilingly accepted the ID sticker from the registration guy, whose name is Vern. "Thank you Vern" She said walking away.  Vern waved back and then went back to watching television on his tablet.

There is little action tonight.  The hospital seemed deserted. Apparently, this was the first Friday night that there were no shootings, stabbings, or drunk people driving into trees, Jenna took the elevator to the second floor, where they have moved Jake. 

Just as she moves to get out of the elevator, all hell breaks loose at the Nurses station.  Jenna quickly exits the elevator and then barely gets out of the way as several policemen run full speed down the hall, guns drawn.  There is a lot of yelling and running around.  A man in scrubs runs out of one of the rooms and then down the hall to the door marked stairs, opens the door and then is gone.  Jenna is watching him do this and their eyes meet before he disappears into the stairwell. Where have I seen him before?

The police then run back the other way, some of them going down the stairs and some of them going the other way down the hall.  They are looking for someone. 

Jenna stops one of the officers and points out that a man in scrubs just ran down into the stairwell a minute ago.  The officer looks at her and grunts a thank you before speaking into his shoulder unit and then heading into the stairwell himself.

Jenna walks up to the nurse’s station.  “Excuse me, ma’am.”  A very nice looking nurse who looks to be on the early side of 50, looks up from her computer.

“Hi, I’m looking for a patient named Jake Franklin.  Could you tell me what room he’s in please?” She smiles at me, and then stands up, “He’s the one who came in unconscious with a bad bump right?”

Jenna nods and smiles back, “Yes, ma’am”.

Her name tag reads Cindy.  Walking ahead of Jenna by several strides, Cindy leads the way down the hall towards where the police were heading earlier. She stops at room 211B.  “Here you are, miss. He’s still out, but should wake up soon.”

Approaching the bed, Jenna saw his head swathed in bandages.  Now is when she felt the cold hand of doubt. .  His  eyes were closed. Eyes that smolder and make her heart beat faster. Finely chiseled symmetrical features quite pleasing to the eye.   Now that he is here in the hospital and out of danger for the moment, she takes a moment to stare at him.   Her stare is full of speculation, mostly how he is going to react when he wakes up. What questions might he ask her?

Jenna drops into a chair by the window as she considers what to say. She speaks softly, feeling safe in the sense that Jake’s slumbering state would mean he can’t really hear or comprehend her words.

“This is not going to make sense to you.  It doesn’t make sense to me.  Really.  I went to my friend’s house tonight to find her not at home.  I heard you and that other guy fighting.  I was close by.  I didn’t know what else to do so I  stole his vehicle, after I watched him put you in it.  You’re safe now."

Her voice was soft.  Her heart thundered in her chest as she delivered this speech.  She watched his eyelids as she spoke. 

His eyes remained closed for several more moments.  Jenna leaned her head up against the wall and closed her eyes.  Jake waited for more.  He waited for her to say something else, but after a few minutes, he heard the sound of her breathing, and realized she had fallen asleep in the chair. 

He opened his eyes to find himself in a hospital bed.  He saw her, by the window, with her head against the wall of his room.  His eyes adjusted to the dark of the room, and took a good long look at his rescuer.  Wavy brown hair down past her shoulders, cardigan sweater over a white v-necked t shirt, blue jeans. 

He remembered the fight.  Michael.  The steel toed boots wreaking havoc on his ribcage.  The rapid taps to the head with something.  Why?  Because I am the fucking asshat who turned my back on him knowing he was dangerous!

What he had a real hard time working out was not that Jenna would have the guts to pull off the rescue of the century.  Somehow, he accepted that she had the spunk.  The issue was HOW she had been close enough to their fight that she was able to do pull it off and how long had she been there?  Jake was pretty sure he knew the why as well, considering she had been looking at him like a fat, juicy steak for a while now.  Maybe she even loved him, but he had never asked, and she had never said.  Just the look in her eyes, that look of need.  She didn’t even really flirt with him, just those eyes on him, her lips parted. 

Jake did not respond to the looks because up until recently, he had not been free to do so.  A long distance relationship with a woman in Tampa had been rendered a no go a few weeks before, and he had allowed himself some time to process the break up.  Also, Jenna wasn’t his type.  Usually anyway.  Now though, she had saved his life.That changed things.  

He had a feeling she wouldn’t like that much.  Especially after that little speech.  He decided not to mention the speech.  Better that she thinks I was asleep and didn’t hear it.

Jenna awoke suddenly, banging her head on the wall, and her eyes flew to Jake, still asleep in bed. Watching his chest rise and fall with his breathing, she is unprepared when he suddenly opened his eyes and narrowed his vision on her.  She inhaled sharply but recovered. “How are you feeling?” she asks softly.

His hand lifted up to his head to feel the bandages there around the back and then up to the top of his head.  Wordlessly, she watched him check himself out, to assess his injuries.  She knows he was hit on the head and then kicked a few times as well.  His ribs have to hurt like hell right now.  

He made a face and let out a little hiss.  Barely audible.  She only caught it because she saw his lips move.  "How did I get here?"  Jenna opened her mouth to speak but nothing comes out.  A few seconds pass and then she answered, measuring her words carefully.

"Look, it’s a long story.  You got hit on the head."  She would have been perfectly happy to leave it at that, but knew better.

 “Hit on the head?” He asked, staring into her eyes disconcertingly.

“He kicked you too, a few times, in the ribs.  Do your ribs hurt?” Jenna asked.

He puts his hand to his ribcage and then let out a louder hiss. “Now they do. Damn! What the hell happened?” He knows the answer to this though.  Michael had his work boots on.  Steel toed. 

The main question right now in Jake’s mind is how does she know all thisHow? Jake stared at her hard, waiting for answers.

“So, how did I get here?” His gaze was more accusatory than grateful.

“Um. I drove you here.”

"That's not the whole story." He looks her right in the eyes as he says it and she smiles, and agrees with him. 

"No, that's not the whole story."  She waits. Jenna looks around the room, at Jake and then back at the floor. He’s waiting for an explanation, she thinks, and I don’t have one. Not one that makes sense anyway.

"Well?  Are you going to tell me the rest?"

Her eyes burning, and her face turning red, Jenna turned to leave, but bumped into Sawran and another officer on their way to Jake’s room. They stared at each other in surprise. Five seconds passed.

“Where are you going?” Sawran asked softly, surprised that she was leaving already.

“I need a minute, some fresh air or something.” She tried to get past him, but he side stepped to get in her way.

“Well, come back in for a few minutes so we can make sense of what happened tonight, and then you can go get your fresh air, alright?” He said, unwilling to let her go at the moment.  At the moment, he wanted her front and center, where he could keep an eye on her. Jenna stood tight-lipped and aggravated on the threshold.  She did not want to go back into the room right then.  It didn’t matter.  Sawran turned around and lead the way back into the room. 

The iron knot of discomfort she had felt since getting behind the wheel of the van was still there. The anxiety could be kept at bay, but she had to have some degree of isolation to get herself back under control. She licked her wounds in private.  She was not even the one wounded tonight, but what happened tonight was getting to her, and she was starting to feel hysterical.

No one spoke for a few seconds. Jenna heard Jake calling out from his room.  Detective Sawran motioned the other officer in and then Jenna, who took up her original position by the window. 

After considering a possible getaway, Jenna saw her purse on the table so she would have had to go back in anyway. 

Sawran sat in the chair opposite the bed on the other side of the room and the officer he introduced as Sergeant Mandel sat by the window. 

Jenna looked out the window, tuning them all out.  I should be listening, she thought to herself.    Jenna stared out the window for several moments, in silence and then her whole face recoiled. Sawran noticed and so did Jake. Both men turned their heads to see her face pale “What? What’s wrong?” Sawran asked

“The blue Honda, the little car that was following me the other day, it’s downstairs right now.” Jenna whispered.  She sat back down; rocking back and forth in her chair. 

Sawran swiftly crossed the room to look out the window.  His gaze swept the parking lot, searching the nearby cars for the one she is talking about.  Right below them in the parking lot is a blue car, but he can’t tell if it’s a Honda or Toyota, not from above anyway.

 “Jenna, it might not be the same car. How can you tell from this viewpoint?”

She stood up and answered in an icy tone of voice, pointing furiously out the window. “He followed me, for nearly half an hour!  He bumped my car, at least three times, and scared the ever loving Shit out of me, okay? I broke probably about fifteen traffic laws just trying to get away from him.  How do I know it’s the same car?”

Sawran nodded, not reacting to her little tantrum. “Yes, Jenna how DO you know it’s the same car? How can you be sure?” She glared at him with fire in her eyes.  How dare he question me?

“He’s got a little red disc hanging from his rear view mirror.  He’s got something black under his visor. Driver side. I don’t know what it is, just an envelope sized flat thing that is black.  I could see it in my rear view mirror.  The guy is white, probably my age, and drives like a colossal asshat! Okay, you want to go down and see if I’m right?!”

Jenna picked up her purse, slung it over her shoulder and made like she was going to leave the room.  That was what she had been wanting to do for quite a while now.  This was her chance.

“Jenna, hang on.  Let Mandel go.  Go check on that vehicle, plate number, all that.”

Mandel nodded, and then asked, “Do you want me back up here after or do you want me to see about the warrant for the van?”

“Warrant for the van, then check back with me.” Mandel took one last look at Jenna and then went down the hall to the elevators.  Jenna stood there at the windows, watching the vehicle for a long time.  Jake and Sawran had gone back to their conversation but she stood there, watching the car until she could see Mandel cross the parking lot from the main entrance.

The headlights turned on, and the car backed up, as she watched Mandel try to get the vehicle to stop, it nearly backed over him.  The officer had to throw himself to the side violently in order to avoid being hit.  He could not get a tag number, it was going too fast.  Jenna related this to Sawran as she saw it happen. 

Mandel came back upstairs and looked at Jenna, then at Sawran.  “Well? What happened?” Jenna asked in a tight squeaky voice. It sounded cartoonish to her.

“He does have a red disc hanging from his rearview mirror.  I saw that much before he tried to back over me with his car.  I did not get a chance to see the other thing she was talking about.”

“Okay, call Judge Lancaster. Rumor has it he keeps blank search warrants in his glove compartment.  Here’s his cell number.” Sarwan got it off his contacts and then read it off to Mandel.  “Wherever he is, go get the warrant for the van, and then call me back.” Mandel left the room after a mock salute to Sawran.

Jenna realizes she has zoned out again. The men’s voices were soft.  Not whispering, but sufficiently low in volume that she might have to strain to hear them. The beginnings of a headache started, right between her eyes.  I’m going to go insane.

Jenna sighed and rubbed her temples with her fingertips, hoping the tension would go away.  The danger is over, why do I still feel like this?  Too much happening in too short a space of time, she thinks.

"And that's how I met your friend Jenna" she hears from Sawran.  She can feel both men’s eyes on her and realizes her moment of silence and reflection is over.

"What?" she asks, defensively.  She is stalling, trying to slow time down.  She knows what conversation is coming, and she does NOT want to have that conversation right now, and not right in front of a police officer who is affecting her in a way that is both confusing and pleasurable.

Confusing because she was already attracted to Jake, and pleasurable, because when she touched Sawran’s hand earlier, she felt as though she had been struck by lightning.    

"I'm sorry, I was trying to calm down so I tuned you guys out." Jenna said quietly

"Why?" Jake asked.  Jenna didn't immediately answer so he went on speaking. "Why did you" He was thinking of what exactly he wanted to ask but settled for, "risk so much?"

"I saw you guys fighting in the driveway.” This admission came out really fast, like ripping a band aid off a hairy arm.

“How?  There was no one out there but Michael and I.” Jake says incredulously.

“I was… nearby.” Hiding in the bushes watching you fight, from mere feet away.

 “Nearby, where exactly?” Sawran asked.  Jenna turned to look at him, innocently.  He wasn’t buying it.

 “What, were you hiding in the bushes or something?” Jenna’s eyes nearly bugged out of her head as Jake asked her this question.

“No, she must have been in the tree.  Did you look up?” Sawran asked Jake, smirking.

“No, I didn’t Detective Sawran, I was too busy getting my ass kicked by the village psycho.” The two of them started laughing.  Men!

“I saw him hit you on the head! I saw him kick you. I saw him put you in the van.  I saw him close the door.  I watched him walk into the house, closing the door.  I had maybe two or three seconds to make some sort of decision how to save you and then do it, before he came back out. Alright? Are you happy now?”  That was the truth.    

 “Why?” there was that aggravatingly direct question again.  Jenna furiously thought to herself, What more does he want from me? I saved his life for crying out loud, what does he want, a minute by minute replay? Sorry, this is Rescue, not Football.

“I made the only decision that there was zero chance of you dying.” Jenna glared into his eyes and said, in a sharp voice, "Jake, I stole the van, with you in it and I drove it here."  His face widened in shock and surprise.  “And now here we are".  She stood there now, at the foot of the bed, glaring down at him, her nostrils flaring, and her eyes on fire.

 I answered the obvious questions, she thought.  It never occurred to her that he would ask that, or how she would feel when he did.

Jenna abruptly got up from the table and decided now was an excellent time to visit the ladies room.  She could hear them talking with the door closed.  The tears that had been held at bay for the last couple of hours spilled over now in hot sheets gliding down her cheeks. 

She sat down on the floor and cried silently, her shoulders shaking, her head on her arms, for what she went through and for what all this could mean.  She cried herself out, and then heard a knock on the door.

“Hey, Jenna, are you okay?” It had to be Detective Sawran, because Jake was still in bed.

“I’m fine, I’ll be out in a few minutes okay?” she said, her voice still trembling.

“Okay.” The voices in the room resumed.  They had gone back to their conversation.  Jenna stood up, straightened up her sweater, and splashed some cold water on her face.  She regarded herself in the mirror. 

It was obvious she’d been crying but there was no help for it.  You can’t go through traumatic events without feeling something.  Jenna took a few deep breaths, patted her face dry, and then walked back into the room.  Both men turned to look at her. Then they looked at each other.

Jenna walked back to her seat by the window. “What time is it?” she asked.

“Nine forty five.” Sawran answered looking at his watch. “Why?”

“I’m hungry.  I was just going to go downstairs to the cafeteria and grab something.  I’ll be back”.  Jenna had her ripped purse strung over her shoulder, and was about to walk out of the room when Cindy walked in pushing a cart with a computer, and other medical equipment, moving it up close to the bed.

“Mind if I join you?” Sawran asked. “Looks like he’s going to be busy for the next while.”

Jenna shrugged, and then said, “Okay.” She smiled at Sawran, but it looked to him like a sad smile.  He knew she’d been crying in the bathroom.  He could hear her, so could Jake.  Neither had mentioned it, being gentlemen, but they knew. 

Waiting by the bank of elevators, Detective Sawran was at a loss what to say to her.  He started out this case thinking that Jenna was crazy.  He thought that she had hit the man on the head and had stolen the van to get attention.  People have done things like that before.  It’s called Munchausen by Proxy, a mental disorder where people hurt other people and then create a dramatic story where they are the saviors. 

But after talking to Jake, and spending time with Jenna himself, Sawran didn’t believe that anymore.  Jenna was a woman who was out of her depth, and he couldn’t even imagine how she had summoned the courage to do what she did.  Also there was that feeling of electricity he got when she touched his hand. 

It had been a little over two years since his divorce.  Stacey had left him to move to Boston, where a prestigious law firm wanted her for their litigation department. 

He remembered the night she had tearfully told him that she was going with or without him.  It was so sudden, it left him shell-shocked.  He couldn’t answer.  She had locked herself in their bedroom.  The next day, she was gone, and all her things.  Divorce papers arrived in the mail a month later. 

He signed them and sent them back.  He hadn’t heard from her since.  Sawran had kept to himself since then.  A heady fling with his badge. His job was his mistress.

Detective Mandel called to say he had the warrant from Judge Lancaster, and was downstairs with the forensic investigators in the van.  Sawran asked him if he wanted anything from the hospital cafeteria.  Coffee and a cheeseburger.  Sawran ended the call and slid his phone back into his pocket. He gazed at Jenna, as they wait for the elevator.

“You know, Jenna, I get why you’re anxious, considering what you’ve been through tonight, but I don’t get why you’re so defensive.  You saved a man’s life tonight at definite risk of your own and you’re acting like you’re being attacked.” 

She turned to him, eyes wide, and about to say something when he spoke again.  “Add to that the fact that you really don’t know this guy very well.”

“I never said I did.  It’s not like we talk daily or host pool parties on the weekend.  He goes to my gym, I told you that.  I’ve seen him around.  We’ve spoken a couple of times.  Obviously he knows who I am.  So he can’t have been hit on the head that hard.” Dissembling.

“The way you looked at him though, it feels like there is more to the story than what you’re telling me.” Not an accusation, exactly.  Skating up to the edges of one.

He was right, and that only served to put her in a worse mood.  My anger is my armor, she thinks as they exit the elevator and go in search of someplace to eat.

__________________________________________________________________

Michael:

Michael had now made it to the hospital himself.  After the woman stole his van, Michael ran across the street and down three houses to his house.  Jake was one of his neighbors.  There was a time when he had first moved in that he thought the muscle bound therapist and he could actually be friends. 

But he was fooling himself.  The only kind of friends Michael had were sociopathic criminals like himself, and Marlon.  The third person in their group Michael hadn’t seen in years and wasn’t entirely sure if Jeff was still alive.  The way he used to drink, the chances were good that Jeff probably got himself killed either in a bar fight or a DUI.

Michael had run into his one story ranch house, grabbed a few essentials, and left in his mustang. He was now driving around the hospital, circling the parking lot.  He needed to know what was going on with his vehicle. 

When he got to the front of the emergency room entrance, he nearly screamed.  There were Crime Scene techs all over his vehicle, and the parking lot was three deep in cops.  That fucking bitch!

Send a boy to do a man’s duty, Michael thought to himself. Marlon was supposed to grab her and bring her to him.  To his lair. Marlon had just about outlived his usefulness, Michael decided as he got out of the car, and walked towards the side entrance. 

The loud whoosh of the double glass doors welcomed him to the sterile and cold interior to the hospital.  Michael strolled quickly to the bank of elevators and stood just off to the side when the elevator doors opened and he saw the face of the woman who had stolen his van.  He resisted the urge to smile.  He looked up at the ceiling and then down at his watch in annoyance, as he pushed aside and pressed the button for two.

Once alone in the elevator, he pushed the stop button and burst out laughing.  He got a good solid look at her face.  The driver license he carried in his pocket didn’t do her justice, he decided.  She was a knock out in person.  Unfortunately, she would have to go.  Feisty, he liked.  Feisty and nosy was a deal breaker.

Back when Michael had almost considered Jake a friend, the two had gone to the gym together a few times.  It had been very awkward for Michael, but it gave him the opportunity to peruse a whole new menu of choices.  Before tonight, he didn’t even have her name.  Now he had a whole lot more than that.  It would have to wait though.  He had bigger fish to fry just now.

The elevator doors opened to the second floor and Michael walked past the deserted Nurse’s station to the sign on the wall showing which patient was in which room.  211B, thank you, he thought to himself it was fortuitous that he had seen Jenna and the detective coming out of the elevator on the ground floor.  That meant they were leaving, while he had just arrived, and would probably have plenty of time to do what was needed. Michael found himself whistling as he walked into Jake’s room, and closed the door.

“Hello Jake.” The menacing voice from the foot of the bed was enough.

“What are you doing here, Michael?” Jakes asked. It was disconcerting to see the man twice in one night, especially after what happened in his driveway.

“I came to finish what I started.  It’s unfortunate that your little friend had to get involved.  Is there any particular reason she felt the need to steal my van?”

“She didn’t want anything to happen to me.” That seemed as good an answer as any.

“Isn’t that sweet?  Perhaps I’ll just grab both of you and you can die together.  Would that make you happy Jake?  Maybe I’ll even let you watch.”  Michael had a large knife in his hand, serrated on the underside with a small hook under the tip.  The blade gleamed under the harsh yellow lighting of the hospital room.

Jake launched himself at the other man and used a wrestling hold to wrench the knife out of Michael’s hand.  Michael snarled and fought back, burying his teeth in Jake’s bare shoulder and tearing out a chunk of his flesh as Jake howled and pummeled Michael in the nose with his fist.  The two were on the floor tussling when Sawran ran in, gun raised. 

Sawran’s cell phone went off suddenly.  He glanced down at it and then sprints through the door out into the hall.  Jenna rose to follow him but he waved her outside. 

Sawran takes the stairs two at a time and launched himself through the stairwell door on the second level.  Running down the hall, he throws open the door to 211B, just in time to see a man grappling with Jake on the floor.  Sawran pulls his service weapon, and tells him to stop where he is. Sawran knew who this had to be given the description Jenna had given him earlier.

“Get up off the floor and put your hands in the air.” Michael stood up and smiled, blood dripping from his nose and his mouth.  His teeth were stained with it. Michael stood with his hands in the air, waving them comically back and forth, like this was a game to him.  Perhaps it was.  Sawran angrily told him to put his hands on his head and his feet shoulder width apart.  Michael backed up a few feet, his hands still in the air.

Sawran put his gun away and pulled out his taser. His thumb flicked the button so it would be functional.  Michal backed up again and whirled around in a tight circle, his left leg kicking out and splintering the window, and part of the frame.  He was out the window before Sawran could stun him.

He called down to the units downstairs, to close off all exits and entrances to the hospital and the parking lot.  Sawran helped Jake up, and supported him while he limped back into the bed. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.  Why didn’t you push the little button to summon help when he came in here?” Sawran asked angrily.  There had to be a reason Jake wouldn’t ask for help.  This was the second attempt tonight by the same guy.

“Why is he trying so hard to get you, Jake?” Sawran sat down in the chair by the bed, waiting for an answer. What did you do?

The bullshit answer he had heard earlier about trouble with the neighbors, was just not going to cut it this time.

“I’m not afraid of that asshole!” Jake responded with some heat of his own.

 “No?  Then you’re a fool.  So, I ask you again, why is he trying to kill you?  You can answer my questions now or we can take this downtown when you get out of the hospital, if you live that long that is.” Sawran gave him cop eyes, a deadly serious stare that actually worked on most people he interrogated.  He knew it worked.  He practiced in the bathroom most mornings while brushing his teeth.

 “I don’t really want to answer that.” Jake finally says sheepishly.

“Oh?  Why’s that?  Are you in trouble Jake?”

“No and Yes.”

“That was maddeningly unhelpful.  Would you care to explain?” Sawran asks.

“Michael tried to kidnap a girl in our neighborhood last week.”

“Tell me.” Sawran turned on his little recorder.  He would transcribe his notes later, as he did nearly every night, but it was easier than writing things down as people said them.

Jake described the scene with Angelica Burns, and how they had ended up hiding from Michael in Jake’s garage, with Michael hissing at them and threatening them through the window, drawing his finger across his throat and face and pointing at both of them.

Sawran nodded and turned the recorder off.  Mandel had the Burns case.  Sawran remembered hearing about that.  The girl still didn’t want to go outside.  She hadn’t been to school in a week.  Angelica had called Michael some very unladylike names, but she didn’t know his last name, nor his exact address.

Sawran called down to Mandel and briefly explained that their guy was the same guy who tried to abduct the Burns girl last week.  “Do you know his last name?” Sawran asked Jake.

“Yeah, it’s Callan.” He spelled it out for Sawran.

“He’s your neighbor, right? What did he say his name was when he moved into your neighborhood?”

 “I don’t remember.  The other name he used starts with a C too, just don’t remember what it was.  If it comes to me, I’ll let you know.”

Sawran sent Mandel to go get another search warrant for Mike Callan’s house, which was located across the street from Jake and down a few houses.  Probably, he would not be there but at least they could see what he was up to.

Meanwhile, the van has been moved off to the side of the u shaped driveway to allow ambulances the right of way. The Crime Scene Investigation unit is all over that van, and the parking lot resembles a law enforcement convention. 

Cop-Con, she names it in her head and giggles.  She still feels a little hysteria. Jenna watches all of this as though it were on the news, and she were lounging in pajamas on the couch instead of sitting on a bench outside the hospital and the root cause of their presence here.

The men in Crime Scene jackets and white latex gloves pull things out of the van and put them in plastic zip loc bags.  There are frequent flashes of light as they take endless photos of the inside and the outside. 

Jenna allows her mind to go racing back along corridors of darkness as she imagines what might have happened to Jake had she not happened to be Jenna on the spot..  It’s never a good sign when someone hits you over the head and stuffs you in the back of their vehicle, and intends to drive away with your unconscious body in the back.  Towards what exactly? Someplace out of the way, quiet, private, with lots of empty land.  That could have been me, Jenna shivers looking down at her torn purse strap.  She had repaired it with some scotch tape within her purse, but it wouldn’t hold forever.. 

This is the state of mind she is in as she senses rather than sees Sawran sitting on the bench. She hands him a cigarette and her lighter.  She bought it in Key West.  It has a sexy female pirate wench on it.  He lights the cigarette and hands the lighter back.  He inhales sharply.  What a fricking night, he thinks as he allows himself a glance at her.

“What happened up there?” she asks.

“That guy’s got a real hard on for your friend.” Sawran replied. 

“He was here?” Jenna asked.  She felt a cold hand glide up her spine, giving her the chills. Sawran nodded and exhaled again. 

“What is it between you too?” Sawran turns and asks her. 

“I don’t know.  I really don’t.  We’re friends, sort of.  He goes to my gym.  We work out together sometimes.” I told you that already, Jenna thought, frustrated.  Why do I have to answer the same questions over and over again?

“Uh huh, do you generally risk your life for someone you barely know? Come on Jenna.” Cut the shit and give me real answers for once, he thinks.

“Fine, I had a crush on him.  A big one.” She laughs a little, not like it was funny, more that she was embarrassed actually saying it out loud and wanted to cover up her discomfort.

“Had? Considering what you just did, I would say it’s still there.”

 Jenna sighs and looks away.  This was getting too personal and too uncomfortable. She focuses on the diminished action in the parking lot.  Some of the squad cars were leaving.  The crime scene truck was still there.  Several moments of silence pass by.

“I don’t want to have this conversation with him.”

“Why not?”

 “I can’t explain it.  Look, I just don’t know what to say.  Don’t I need to go do my fingerprints or something so you can compare them to the other ones in the vehicle?” Radical change of subject, he thought, but stood up and led her back into the well-lit hospital corridor.

Two other people were waiting for the elevator.  Both women wore police uniforms.  Sawran introduced them as they got in the elevator cabin.  Julie was the Department sketch artist and Ida was the fingerprint expert.  Ida wore gloves, but Julie’s hands were uncovered. Her nails were polished with a clear varnish and well-maintained. 

All four of them passed the nurses station and crowded into Jake’s room which already had a few other police officers in it.  Two to guard the room against another attempt by Michael, and two were gathering physical evidence from the scene of this, the second attack of the evening.

Ida was first.  She took out her digital fingerprint machine, which was about the size of a mini Ipad, and got it ready. “Relax your fingers, let me help you.” She said as she took first Jake’s right hand and made sure all five digits were relaxed and full fingerprints showed on her screen.  Then, she took his left hand and did the same.  The whole process took less than five minutes. 

It was Julie’s turn.  She sat by Jake’s bed, and had him describe his assailant, as Ida turned to Jenna.  Sawran shook his head. “I’m taking her back to the station with me shortly.  I’ll take care of her fingerprints myself.  Thank you, Ida.” She smiled at him.

“Just as well, I have to get up early tomorrow and babysit my granddaughter. At least I’ll get a little extra sleep tonight”.  Ida left as Jake was giving Julie a physical description of Michael Callan. Julie turned her pad around for him to see it.

“No, his nose is narrower, and his brow ridge is more prominent.” Julie turned I back around and made the changes to the appearance and then showed it to him again.

“How about now?” Jake took a good look at it, at the eyes and knew she got it right this time.

Julie stood up and took her leave as well. “I’m going to give this to the media.  Channel 7 is down there and so is Channel 10.  They can run this and see if we can’t get someone to turn him in.”  Sawran thanked her and then she too was gone.

Sawran stood up and motioned for Jenna to follow him.  “I’ll be back tomorrow to check on you.” He told Jake.  They shook hands, and he walked out into the hallway. His gaze turned to Jenna, who was standing a few feet shy of the bed.

“Thank you. For doing what you did.” Jake said, smiling.

 “You’re welcome.  I’m glad you’re okay.” She responded warmly.  Then, she looked at Sawran and blushed, the heat rising up her neck and spreading through her face.

“Me too.” The conversation between them was stilted and awkward.  They looked at each other and there was some heat in that gaze too, on both sides.  Jenna leaned down and kissed him on the cheek, and then walked out into the hallway.

________________________________________________________________

 Trouble

A short while later, in his unmarked car, Jenna felt the butterflies start up again in her belly.  Sawran’s car was warm, and now that she was sitting this close to him, his cologne wafted freely in the warm air and drifted past her nose.  It was a purely masculine, musky kind of scent. 

 “Why haven’t you arrested me yet?” Jenna asked.  Sawran looked at her and burst out laughing.  They were sitting at a red light.  His eyes burned into hers and she had the insane urge right then to grab him by the hair and pull his head down to hers, but she didn’t.  Instead she blushed and looked out the window.

Sawran did not miss the look in her eyes.  He was having a hard time concentrating with her around.  She’s a witness, leave her alone.

"Let's back this up a little, shall we?  I was listening in on your 911 call when it came in.  I was in the station and so was Sgt Mandel.  We were standing behind the glass listening to the whole conversation”.  Oh.  It didn’t occur to her that police officers might actually be in the station when calls come in and be actually standing there listening to them. 

“We ran your plate through a few of the guys who were out and found your car right where you said it would be.  Then, we checked the house you mentioned”. 

“There were tire tracks in the driveway matching the tires on this van.  The house was empty."  She had figured that.  There was no way he would actually go back to his house after trying to kill someone twice in one night.  But where else would he go? 

"We figure that he came out and saw the van driving away without him and then saw your car parked a little down the street and figured out who had his vehicle. “ Jenna was thinking back, she remembered parking in Betty’s driveway, not on the street.

“Relax, I meant the person who owns that car. He probably does not know who you are, and he probably would not have the resources to find out." Sawran patted her on the shoulder, trying to be reassuring.

“Also, we got a search warrant for his house, but Mandel is going to take care of that with the Crime Scene Unit.”  Meaning that Sawran would be going back to the station with her.

"He probably has another place somewhere close.  He left knowing the police would be arriving.  We left the station less than five minutes after you called.  We got here three to five minutes after that.  He was already gone.  So, I recommend you not go home alone tonight.  You know, just in case." Jenna remembers that her cell phone is dead.

“Can I use your phone, Detective?”

 “If you call me either Sawran or Dave.” He said, holding his phone just out of her reach.

“Thank you Sawran.” She grabs it and dials her friend, who does answer the phone this time. 

“Where are you? I’ve been trying to call you for an hour!” Betty demanded.

“It’s a long story, I’ll explain later.” Sawran snickered, thinking there’s a lot of that going around tonight.

Then, whose phone are you using to call me from?” Jenna rolled her eyes.

Detective Sawran let me use his phone.”

 “Intriguing,” Betty laughed and let Jenna give her the short version.

Jenna explained briefly where she was, and asked Betty to pick her up at the Deerfield Beach Police Department in an hour.

“Why an hour?” Betty asked.

“Because I have to do fingerprints and stuff and he has to take my statement.” Sawran’s eyebrows raised at that.  He had been taking her statement all night, pretty much. 

“Okay, I’m obviously still up. Josh and I had a fight, a doozy, so I’m up and mad enough to be awake.”

“I’m sorry you had a fight.  I can have Sawran drive me home.” I’ll bet, Betty was thinking

“Nah, I could use the company.  Are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

“I’ll explain when we get back to your house.” Jenna says.

“Fine.  An hour it is.” Jenna clicked end and handed the phone back to a smirking Detective.  He had pulled in to a Dunkin Donuts drive thru. 

“Are you hungry? I noticed you didn’t eat much at the hospital.”

“Ooh, can I have a jelly donut and a medium hazelnut latte with whip cream?” Jenna turns to him and bats her eyes, prettily.  Sawran laughs and calls out her order and his.  He feels light.  The heavy cloak of darkness that covered him for the last two years has sloughed off like old skin.

After they pull out of the restaurant with the bag of food and two steaming cups of coffee, Sawran turns in his seat and asks her, “Why did you tell your friend I had to take your statement?” he asked, amusement in his tone.

Jenna looks at him all innocent eyes, and said, “Oh, I thought you wanted to talk to me some more.”

 “Oh, I do. Definitely” and then turns his attention back to the road.  They pull into the station five minutes later, and she follows him in through the double glass doors.  Conversations stop and eyes follow them as they enter yet another elevator, and the doors close.

_______________________________________________________________

 Closer

 “So, you didn’t get him and you didn’t get her.  What have you done tonight that is of any use to me? You failed!” Michael asked angrily. Marlon rolled his eyes and snorted.  He was used to this, both the moodiness and the verbal lashing.

“No, I didn’t.  How exactly was I supposed to kill him and then grab her and abduct her in front of a group of cops?  I would love to hear any ideas you have that would actually work.” Marlon sparked a doobie and drew the smoke in, holding his breath for a few seconds before blowing it out.  Michael glared at him.

 “This is some good shit.  It’s an Endica strain, grown in Northern California.  It’s called Green Monster. Want some?” Marlon asked, eyes sparkling with mirth. I should have stuck with dealing pot, he was thinking. My life was simpler then.  Got laid more often too.

“No.  I don’t.  I want Jake’s head on a plate and his naked, dishonored corpse hung on the castle ramparts at dawn! Is that too much to ask?” Marlon nodded.  He really didn’t care either way if either of them got away, but Michael wouldn’t shut up. Marlon took another hit of Green Monster and thought, the pot helps.

They were at Michael’s lair.  A dark dingy detached garage set well off the road and behind a small frame house, thirty miles and gone from the debacle in North Broward.  Marlon sat on the dirty cement floor, on an old rug, his legs stretched out in front of him, leaning on his elbows. Michael sat backwards in a chair, his long legs sticking out on each side.  They were considering their next move.  Taking inventory, Michael called it.

“Yes, actually.  How exactly do you expect me to find her?  I saw her making goo goo eyes at the cop.  They’re probably holed up somewhere together.” Michael slammed his fist down on the table, making Marlon jump.

“Find her with this, you fucking idiot!” Michael took the little plastic id card out of his pocket and flung it at his pathetic excuse for a relative.  Marlon caught it mid air, and looked at it.  He laughed.

“Oh no shit! How’d you get her license?” Marlon laughed, pissing Michael off even more. 

“Find her! Now!” Michael’s nostrils flared as the little vein on the side of his neck began to throb.  Marlon rolled his eyes again and then left the room.

Marlon regretted his involvement in his cousin’s unsavory life.  Sincerely.  It had been going on a long time.  Both of them in trouble most of the time.  Since their expulsion from high school. 

It was that girl in the locker room that started it all.  She ruined him, and now look at him.  Marlon hoped that he would die soon so that Michael would have to do his own dirty work.

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