Floored(4)

By: Melanie Harlow



“Since your manners are evidently lacking in the wake of this unfortunate event, I’ll take the lead here. Nice to see you again.” Charlie held out his hand, and I took it without thinking. He didn’t really shake it; he just sort of closed his fingers around my palm and held it. I looked at our hands—mine was much smaller and paler. He squeezed it gently. “You’re shaking.”

I pulled my hand away, crossed my arms. “It’s been a rough night. Did you find anything?”

“Your purse was on the sidewalk out front. No wallet inside. We think this is one of the guys who’ve been hitting unlocked houses and cars for the last few weeks.”

“He didn’t take my entire purse? What about my keys?” My voice shook. God, what if he’d gotten away with keys to my house? To my car? To my studio?

“Relax. Your keys are on the counter, and your car is still in the garage. He’s probably on foot or on a bike with a backpack, so he doesn’t take more than he has to. Mostly just electronics.”

“Jesus.” I closed my eyes. “Is this the guy I heard about on the news? The cat burglar?” It sounded so absurd to me. So unreal. Before tonight I’d actually giggled at the stories, picturing a skinny guy dressed in black with pointy black ears on his head and whiskers drawn on his face with a magic marker. But now he scared me. “How does he keep doing this?”

“He’s small and quick. He likes houses close together, or townhouses like these, and we think he parks somewhere farther away. It’s possible he jumps on a bus too.”

“If you know so much about him, why can’t you catch him?” I snapped, pulling my robe tighter around me.

“Easy, Red. Why don’t you come downstairs and answer a few questions that might help us out?”

At the second mention of his old nickname for me—not so much for my strawberry blond hair as for the color my face turned when he’d tease me—my scalp prickled. “Fine,” I said through clenched teeth. “Just give me a minute.”

Charlie nodded and turned for the stairs, and I put the phone back on the charger before turning out my bedroom light and following. On a whim, I decided to duck into the bathroom and take a quick peek at my hair. I hadn’t even combed through it after my shower.

And then I saw it—the Box.

Oh no. Oh my God.

My Secret Box of Sexy was right there on the vanity, on display for anyone to see! My fuzzy pink hand cuffs and Pure Romance lube and a little black Lelo box containing my SIRI massager…each item brought another heavy layer of humiliation, like those lead aprons you have to wear when you get an x-ray. It wouldn’t take a detective to deduce what my Friday night plans had been, considering the burning candles, the glass of wine, and the contents of the Box. I’d left my Naughty Rabbit on the tub floor—what if he’d looked in there?

And my hair was wet. Dear God.

Distraught, I shoved the box into the cabinet under the sink and tossed my vibrator in there, too. Then I stared at myself in the mirror and tried not to cry, my lips pressed together and my hands gripping the edge of the vanity. If Crayola made a crayon the color of my face right now, they’d call it Mortification Red.

I felt so dumb. This whole thing was my fault. And now I had to go downstairs and admit that to the police. To Charlie Dwyer, reformed bully turned law enforcement officer. If he even was reformed—maybe now he was just a bully in a uniform. On the wall to my left was a small window, and I honestly considered trying to escape through it.

But instead, I dragged a comb through my hair, chugged a few swallows of wine, blew out the candles, and shuffled down the stairs. I nearly told myself things couldn’t get any worse, but then thought better of it. Why tempt fate?

When I walked into the kitchen, I saw Charlie standing with his back to me. Another officer, wearing plain clothes and gloves, was messing around with the back door handle. My purse was on the floor near his feet. I rushed for it, but the man held up a hand.

“It’s better if you don’t touch it. If it’s OK with you, I’d like to take it to the lab and test it for prints. If I can’t do it without ruining the leather, I won’t.”

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