Matt was waiting in the lobby when Jill emerged from the interview room. She had been one of thirty witnesses, so the department called her in to give an account of what she saw. Her eyes were red and puffy. It had been a long day for both of them. The image of the bloody palm chip in Ken’s hand haunted his memory. “I’m sorry, Matt.” The chief’s not yet spoken words rang in his head, playing over the words on the board, “I’m sorry, Dales.” Her life was in danger; he didn’t know when or how, but he was sure of it.
If he protected her, could he stop it from happening? What if his attentions made her a target? How could he save her if his protection led the killer to her in the first place? A sharp spike of pain shot through his head.It was impossible. How could he know?
If she were going to be one of the killer’s victims, then at least he would know where the killer would strike. Did he just consider using her for bait? The thought pained him. He hardly knew Jill, but being with her was comforting. Even though she was a stranger, every nuance of her voice and movement of her body felt familiar to him. Whatever the consequences, he would protect her, and to do that, he would have to stay close to her.
“Are you here to walk me home again?” She walked up to him as if he were the only one in the room.
“Least I could do since our lunch ended so tragically.” He said.
“Yeah, not much of a date was it?”
“Was it?” He looked at her with hopeful eyes.
“A date.” He said.
“Well, I did my best.” A slight, but fatigued smile crossed her face. “Couldn’t you tell?”
“Most dates don’t usually end up in an interview room?”
“Seems to be happening to me more and more.” She mused.
“Dates usually end in a kiss, not a police report.”
“This does seem to be getting to be a trend for me.” She said. “But the night’s not over yet.” She held out her arm. He took it, and they walked out. They walked down the path until they reached the park then Jill started to head for the path she’d taken the night before. Walking the same route every night could make them easy to attack, they should be tougher to predict, He didn’t want to make her an easy target, but how could he explain without letting her know about the killer.
“Can we walk on the main walk tonight?”
“If you like,” she said nervously. “Makes the walk longer, though.”
“We can take the nearest train if you like?”
“No, I’m fine. A long walk will help me depressurize. It’s been, well, the last few days will stick with me for a while.”
“I’m sorry,” he said. “No one should have to go through what you have.”
“Hey,” she brushed his cheek. “It’s not like you’re responsible. I’m the one who took you out to lunch. Seems to me, you just keep helping.”
“Still,” her touch sent his senses into overload. His body tingled. “Let’s get you home before the night gets any more eventful.”
“I’m not sure I can take anymore today.” She seemed tired.
As she spoke, a memory popped into Matt’s mind. He’d done this before or dreamed it. Something was about to happen, something illegal, something that he would have to stop. “Then you are not going to like this very much. We need to get out of sight now.”
“Why in the world?” She protested as he pulled her into a shadowed area, off the path. “There are easier ways to get a girl into the bushes. You might try a compliment.”
“I love the way you can move quickly and quietly; it’s very attractive.”
“You are so very strange.”
“Crouch down.” Matt kneeled, pulling gently on her arm to follow him.
“What’s going on?’
“Something is about to happen. Please quietly.”
“What?” she sounded upset. “What’s going to happen?”
“Not exactly sure.” He crouched lower. Jill followed his example.
“You’re pulling my leg, aren’t you?” she whispered.
“Quiet, they’re almost here.” Matt pointed toward a couple of young men coming across the park out of a poorly lit area.
“What about them?”
“Pay attention.” Matt saw the familiar scene unfold before him. An older man stepped out from between two buildings and met with the other two. There was some hushed conversation, and a mobile palm reader appeared in the older man’s hand. The other two ran their hands across the device. “A drug deal.”
The older man confirmed his suspicion when he looked at the reader display and then reached into his pocket to produce two small vials.
“Fantasia?” Jill asked.
“I’d bet on it.” Matt waved his palm over his radio.
“Detective Matthew Dales confirmed.” The radio responded.
“Crime in progress. Tracer locate code six five. Send patrol.”
“Confirmed. Units dispatched.”
“Now what?” Jill asked.
“Now, I make an arrest. And you wait here.” Matt stood up. “I’ll be back.”
Matt walked out of the shadows. He had closed to within ten meters before the small group took notice of him. One of the younger men, the one dressed in expensive clothing, yelped when he saw him the security markings. Matt would have been amused by the reaction, except that he saw nothing at all funny about Fantasia. In his mind, everyone who traded in it was no better than killers were themselves. The older man secreted the palm reader with a smooth, practiced motion.
“What can we do for you?” The older man said.
“Security,” Matt called out. “Stay where you are!”
The finely dressed man’s face filled with panic, he started to breathe heavily. Matt thought for a moment that he was going to be ill.
“Hands on top of your heads.” Matt continued with caution. The older man and the poorly dressed young man put their hands on their heads. The well-dressed young man took the opportunity to panic and ran. Not that it would matter. The cities tracking system logged all identity chips in the area the moment he called in. “Really? Your friend is not that smart.” He activated his radio again. “We have a runner.”
“We have him.” The familiar voice of Marcus Taylor, a patrol officer, responded. Two uniformed officers converged on the runner. From a distance, Matt could make out the familiar crack of a tangler discharge. Matt could see the man fall, encased in fibrous glue that solidified quickly encasing the young offender to be safely apprehended. “That’ll damage that nice suit. Anyone else?”
“No,” the young man said. The other man remained silent.
The two patrol officers approached carrying the other man still encased in his artificial cocoon. Matt could hear him blubbering. He called Jill over and gave his report. An inspection of the younger men yielded not only several vials of fantasia but also syringes to inject the drug. That was enough to arrest the lot. Matt and Jill had to promise to give official depositions in the morning before they were allowed to go.
“How did you know?” Jill asked as he walked her the rest of the way home.
“What do you mean?”
“You knew that was going to happen.” She stopped and looked into his eyes. “Don’t lie to me. Don’t ever lie to me.”
“Call it a hunch.” He said.
“You mean like women’s intuition. My mom tried that on me too. She used to guess things too.”
“I’m not psychic. I don’t believe in psychics.”
“What do you think these hunches are?”
“Barely noticed stimuli processed by my subconscious and sent to my waking mind as a strong feeling. I saw shadows moving from one direction oddly as if they were trying to stay unnoticed, as well as hearing the footsteps from the darkness coming the other way. My mind tells me something illegal is about to happen. Everyone does it. I’m just a little better at listening because of my training.”
“Is that what you honestly think?” she looked directly into his eyes.
“What else could it be?”
“Woman’s intuition.” She laughed.
“I’m sorry.” Matt changed the subject. “This day has been beyond messed up.”
“Well, since I met you, I can say my life hasn’t been boring.”
“Nowadays, I’ll take boring.” Matt looked toward her apartment building. “We’re almost there.”
“Thanks for walking me home.” Jill walked toward her building with Matt watching from the walkway. She turned walked back to him and kissed him. “See you in the morning. Pick me up for our deposition.”
“Yes,” Matt told her. “If you like. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.”
“Who knows Detective; maybe it might be more eventful.” She smiled mischievously, planted a firm kiss on his lips, and sauntered into her building.