Bethany never imagined becoming the target of a hired killer. Her intent had been to clear her roommate of murder and get her out of jail. After a tip from a neighbor about a ski-masked man leaving the apartment and tossing something in a dumpster, she retrieves a pair of bloody gloves and places them in her briefcase for safekeeping. On the way to take them to the police station, she is attacked and injected with a fast-acting sedative. In a desperate attempt to protect the evidence, she thrusts the briefcase at the man in front of her as she tumbles into him, and begs him to keep it safe. When Luke follows his instincts to help her, he is pulled into the intrigue of lies and danger.
Luke carried the limp woman across the street and cradled her in his lap while he called 911. A crowd gathered while he checked her quickened pulse. What could have happened to her? His thoughts were interrupted as a man leaned towards him.
“She’s prone to fainting spells. I can hold onto the attaché case. I’m her brother.”
Luke evaluated the man and made a quick decision. “She told me to keep it safe. It’s fine with me, for now.”
The man didn’t insist, yet continued to stand by, expressing none of the concern Luke would expect of a brother while Luke focused on the woman, making sure she continued to breathe.
The steady shrieking of an ambulance preceded its arrival at the curb. Luke moved back to allow the attendants to administer to the fallen woman. They took her vitals and loaded her onto a stretcher.
“Where will you take her?” Luke asked. Not only did he need to know where to deliver the satchel, but he was also curious about why it was important enough to protect.
“I’m a friend. Can I come along?”
The man nodded. “You can ride upfront with the driver.”
Luke held onto the briefcase as he strode to the passenger door. What possessed him to care about what happened to this stranger? He should send the attaché with her and forget the whole thing.
He glanced into the crowd and saw the man who claimed to be her brother watching from the outskirts of the bystanders. If he had it to bet, Luke guessed the guy knew what was inside that case and had a reason for wanting it. Perhaps he had injured or drugged the victim to steal it. The possibilities ran through his mind as he climbed aboard. He thought about going after the suspect. Yet, he doubted he would catch him, given the distance between them. If he didn’t stay with the victim, it would be harder to locate her and return her property. He shut the door and buckled his seat belt. Whatever the outcome, he was along for the ride.
The driver was a stocky, middle-aged man with thinning hair who asked Luke, “You her husband?”
“No. She fell into my arms. I was complemented until I realized she was unconscious.” The man nodded. “Sounds like my experience with women.”
Luke’s curiosity about what was in the case burned as they drove to the hospital. When they arrived, he waited for the paramedics to lift the woman from the ambulance and wheel her into the emergency room.
“How’s she doing?” Luke asked the small blond attendant who was pushing the cart,” “She’s stable.”
Once inside, he was asked her name. “I don’t know. We just met. You’ll have to get identification from her purse. Please let me know when she’s able to have a visitor.”
The rigid, vinyl chair in the waiting area poked against his shoulder blades. He resigned himself to the discomfort and the television comedy that spewed raucous laughter. His thoughts were on the woman who’d passed out in his arms.
He turned the briefcase over in his lap. If she protected something illegal, he refused to be any part of it. He studied the lock and knew it would be no problem. He fished in his pocket and withdrew the knife set he’d carried all through his stint in the military. With a few quick twists, he had it open. He peered inside the bag to see two bloody gloves staring back. If she didn’t have a good explanation, he was going straight to the police.
Bethany awoke in a narrow bed. She squinted at the bright ceiling light and struggled to remember why she was hooked to an IV. What had happened? She moved to sit up and her head throbbed. Then, it all came back. He had wanted the gloves. Had he gotten them?
She fumbled for the buzzer as a nurse entered the room. “I had an attaché case. Where is
The young woman knitted her brow. “Don’t be upset. Your things are bagged beside your
“I need to see them.”
The nurse moved swiftly to her side. “Don’t try and get up. I’ll hand it to you.”
Bethany knew from the weight of the bag it didn’t contain the attaché case. She fought rising panic. “My briefcase is missing. Where is it?”
“I don’t know. There’s a gentleman in the waiting room who wants to see you. Perhaps he has it.”
The woman’s calm manner as she adjusted the fluid bottle agitated Bethany. “What happened to me?”
“You were injected with a powerful sedative. Do you know how?”
Bethany shook her head as she tried to remember. “I felt a jab in my side. Then, I got dizzy. I assume I passed out.”
“How awful. People do dreadful things to each other these days. “
“I’d like to see the man in the waiting room. Since I don’t know him, could you stay in the room?”
“Sure, as long as it doesn’t take too long. I have a busy shift.”
A few moments later, she opened the door and admitted a tall, dark-haired man. The cotton T-shirt stretched over his shoulders didn’t hide his powerful build. He nodded to Bethany, and then scanned his surroundings before moving closer to the bed. “I’m Luke Parker. I caught you when you fell. You asked me to hold on to this”
He held up the attaché case.
She breathed a sigh of relief. He wasn’t the man who’d whispered in her ear. “Thanks so much. It has important papers and I didn’t want to lose it.”
She noticed his narrowed gaze. “It has more than papers. I looked inside.” Bethany stared at him and felt her mouth go dry. “It was locked.”
“I’m very mechanical.”
She didn’t blame him for being suspicious. “I can explain.” “I hope so.”
She glanced up at the nurse, trying to appear confident. “You can go. I’ll be fine with Mr.
The sweet-faced woman nodded. “Buzz if you need anything.”
Bethany nodded. When she was alone with Luke, she said, “I was attacked with an injection. Did you see the man walking beside me?”
“I’d guess he was one who claimed to be your brother. He asked for your satchel.”
Anger flashed in her blue eyes. “I don’t have a brother. This guy might have killed my roommate’s boyfriend, Jordan. I’m glad you didn’t give it to him.”
“A brother would have been more worried about you than about what you were carrying. I’d know him if I saw him again. Unfortunately, we’d have no proof he was the one who drugged you.”
Bethany shivered at the memory. “He did it, all right. He stuck me with the needle and I passed out. I’m sorry I involved you, but I was desperate. ”
“How did he know you had the gloves?”
“A neighbor tipped me off this morning that she saw someone in a ski mask toss something into the dumpster on the night of the murder. He must have been watching this morning when I took them out and put them in my briefcase.”
“Who was murdered?”
“My roommate’s boyfriend was killed with a knife.” “Whose blood is on the gloves?”
“I’m pretty sure it was Jordan’s” Luke frowned. “The boyfriend?”
“Yes. My roommate was arrested because her fingerprints are on the knife that killed him. But if the murderer used gloves, he wouldn’t leave prints. He used a knife that already had her prints.”
She paused, out of breath from the exertion of explaining. Collecting herself, she said, “I was on the way to meet Detective Reese in the homicide division. I had an appointment to talk to him. I have to get the evidence there, but now, I’m scared. I’m not safe until I’m rid of them.”
Luke thought over her story. If it was true, the man who’d followed her was likely the killer. He might tail her until she could put the gloves in the hands of the police detective. Then they’d know that if Bethany’s roommate was smart enough to use gloves she would have wiped the knife. At least it would cast reasonable doubt on how the knife already had her prints.
Perhaps she’d cut an apple and left the knife on the counter
“I’ll go with you to the station. When will you be dismissed?”Luke asked.
She glanced at the clock, appalled to see it had been three hours since she’d set off for the police station. “I’m sorry to take up so much of your time. You’re probably missing work.”
Luke shrugged. “I let my boss know I’ll be late.”
“What do you do?” He was rugged and clean-cut. She’d thought he might own his own business and spend his free time at the gym pumping iron. She wasn’t prepared for his answer.
“I’m a short-order cook. I flip burgers, and chop onions and potatoes.”
After a moment of silence, Bethany said, “I’d be glad to pay you for the time you’re missing to help me.”
He shook his head. “No need. I’m not hurting for money.”
This surprised her since she doubted he made much. Still, she didn’t argue. Her rent was high and her banker’s salary left little to spare. Perhaps she could treat him to lunch. It was the least she could do to compensate him for escorting her to the station.
In truth, she wanted to learn more about him. He appeared smart and educated. He carried himself with confidence. He likely had an interesting past. Whatever it was, she would feel safer having him with her on the way to the station.
A doctor breezed into the room. “Your vitals are looking better. You’re good to go, though I will warn you, another shot of this could kill you.”
Bethany bristled. “I didn’t do this to myself. I’ve never been a drug user.” He cocked his head. “Why would someone else inject you?”
“Attempted robbery. I’m going to the police when I get out of here.”
She wasn’t sure he believed her. It didn’t matter. She had bigger worries than convincing the doctor she’d been attacked. She had to get those gloves to the detective and get Julie out of jail. And she had to do it without getting killed.