TRIGGER HAPPY TWENTY-THREE: A STEPHANIE PLUM-INSPIRED NOVEL
Ranger was the first to arrive. He came to the door and knocked, calling out to me that he was coming in. He entered the apartment on a crouch, gun drawn, and came through to the kitchen. He looked down at me, and the blood that was dribbling down my lower arms. "Are you okay, Babe?" he asked.
"Yes." I started to shake in reaction.
"Do you need an EMT?"
"No. They are just scrapes."
"Is there any glass still in those scrapes? Are there any other places on your body that are scraped besides your arms?" he asked.
"It doesn't feel like it. My shirt should have protected my belly from any glass entering. My jeans protected my legs. It is only my arms that got scraped", I replied, taking a deep breath to calm myself.
"Okay. I will look at them later." He took my hand and duck-walked me back to the front door and out into the hall. As we got into the hall, Morelli came running down to see us.
"I have uniforms scouting the area to see if we can find anybody that looks suspicious. I suspect, however, that the shooter is long gone. He looked down at me, noticing the blood trickling down my arms. "Do you need an EMT?"
"No", I replied.
"Okay. Can you tell me exactly what happened?" He reached into his pocket and took out some Rolaids, popping them in his mouth as he listened to me.
I told him about going grocery shopping and coming in with my arms full. About putting my groceries and purse on the counter in the kitchen. And about locking the door and closing the curtains like I had promised.
"Did you see anything out of the ordinary as you entered the building? Did you see anything out the window as you were closing the curtains?" asked Morelli.
"No, nothing. It was dark", I replied.
"And you were lit up from behind like a little beacon when you closed those curtains. Damn, I wish you would come stay at my place", Morelli said.
"I'm not going to bring this on you or your family. I will be fine to stay here."
"You aren't fine to stay here!" said both Morelli and Ranger angrily at the same time.
"Sure I am. He has already shot at me. What more can he do to me?"
"He could kill you the next time, Babe", Ranger said. Morelli just looked at me dumbfounded and shook his head.
Dillon got out of the elevator and came over to see us. "I heard you were shot at", he said. "Is there glass all over?"
"Yes", I replied.
"Bummer. I will get insurance in tomorrow to look at it, and will fix it as soon as I can."
"You don't even have a window now. Even though the days are warm it is still getting quite cold at night. You will freeze. That's another reason not to stay here", Morelli pointed out.
"There will be a board over it, won't there?" I questioned Dillon.
"Nope. Not until the insurance company can look at it tomorrow. We have to preserve the crime scene as much as possible for them", he replied.
"Do you have any better idea who is doing this?" Morelli asked.
"Well, out of the three active skips I was chasing when the phone calls started, two I have captured and there is only one outstanding. I have three or so more skips I haven't started to work on, and I think Connie mentioned there were some more files for me to pick up tomorrow. Those are the current files. I haven't gone over the list of people I have caught in the past, who may have been released from jail recently. Really, it could be anyone."
"Who is the skip that is still outstanding?" Morelli asked.
"Pete Brodie." I turned to Ranger. "He's an airline pilot with an anger management problem", I explained.
"Really? You got Paulo Rosolli?" Ranger asked.
"Yup. Got him this evening. He is probably being bonded out again as we speak."
"Congratulations. I know he was hard to find, Babe", said Ranger.
Morelli looked at my Right-to-Apprehend papers for Brodie and copied down his contact information. "Now, what will you do tonight?"
I said that I was staying at the apartment at the same time as Ranger said that I was going to his place. We looked at each other and said "no way" at the same time. Morelli looked at us and shook his head.
"I can't believe I'm saying this, but I would feel better having you at Ranger's apartment than I would having you stay here. At least there I know you will still be alive tomorrow morning."
The uniforms reported in to Morelli that they couldn't find anybody that looked suspicious. However, they were able to find some shell casings on the ground. They showed the evidence bag to Morelli.
"I recognize those casings. They are from a long-range sniper rifle", Ranger said. "I've used one of those before. They are deadly accurate over long distances. You were lucky that you bent over to pick up that magazine or we would be here with the medical examiner right now. Come to my place, Babe. You don't have anything to prove by staying here and it isn't safe."
Now that we were reasonably sure the sniper had escaped, we walked back into my apartment. Morelli and Ranger walked over to look at the broken glass, and inspected the walls to find the bullets. I walked into the kitchen and started to put my groceries away, all the while thinking about what Ranger and Morelli had said. I still wasn't convinced it was unsafe to stay in my apartment. Now that the shock had worn off, I was wondering whether we were blowing this all a little out of proportion. After all, it was just a harasser and vandal who had gotten mad and shot at me. It was probably an once-in-a-lifetime thing for the guy. I probably wasn't in any real danger.
I couldn't even call him a stalker in my mind. Morelli and Ranger were calling him a stalker, but that seemed much too serious a name for what this guy was doing. He was just harassing me through phone calls and painting rude words. In my mind, I was already discounting the shots he took at me. My mind simply couldn't cope with the idea that I was in any danger.
I caught the blinking light on my answering machine, indicating that I had messages, out of the corner of my eye. Turning to the machine, I pressed play and listened to my messages. There was a message from a chimney sweep. Go figure. There was the sound of a boat horn, and the offer of reduced cruise packages. And there was a message from my harasser. Morelli and Ranger came over to listen to the recording with me. "Steph-an-nie. I warned you what would happen if you came after me. You must die now. That is my new mission. I will not stop until I am successful. This is your warning", and the caller hung up.
A shiver ran down my spine. "Okay, you win. I'll stay with you until this guy is caught", I said to Ranger. I went to the bedroom and grabbed a bag of clothes, and to the bathroom to grab some toiletries. I packed a small container of food for Rex and tucked it into my bag.
Ranger didn't say anything. No "okay", no "I told you so", no "good". He just took my car keys from me, picked up Rex's cage, and started for the hall. "I'll meet you in a couple of minutes in the lobby and I will walk you to your car. Then I'll follow you to my place", he said as he walked out the door.
I turned to Morelli. "I'm sorry", I said. "This is getting away from me. I was thinking I was safe, that you were just making a mountain out of a molehill for nothing. But that message on the answering machine makes it sound so much more sinister. It makes it sound like I am in danger. And mixed with the guy taking pot shots…"
"You don't have to convince me, Cupcake. My instinct all along has been that this guy is trouble. Go with Ranger. I'll finish up doing my cop thing here and I'll lock up after everyone leaves. I'll look into Brodie tonight, before I go home. I want whomever this is behind bars as quickly as possible. I don't take kindly to people shooting at my girlfriend." He smiled. "Make sure you sleep on the couch tonight. Just because I agreed that Ranger's is the safest place for you right now doesn't mean I have to like it." He moved into the bathroom, pulling me with him. He gave me a long, deep kiss, pulling the base of my spine in towards him until there was no space between us. My nipples started to tingle and I think I might have moaned. He eased away from me. "Think of me tonight, Cupcake", he whispered. He gave me a quick kiss and gently pushed me towards the door.