Time to Run(4)

By: Marliss Melton


"No, thank you," she murmured, with a pretty blush.

He watched her scratch a word onto the list that she was making. The longer he looked at her, the more tightly she gripped her pencil.

"Ma'am?" he said, startling her head up. "Could you do me a favor?" he asked. He couldn't sit here any longer, feeling the tension in her. "Could you give this envelope to Commander Spenser when he comes out of the meeting?"

"Sure," she said, managing a wobbly smile.

"Thanks. Tell him, he can mail the document back to the return address after he signs it."

"Okay."

Coming out of his chair to extend her the envelope, Chase felt like he was jumping into one of the green-gray pools at the base of a Malaysian waterfall. Her eyes were exquisite. "Take care," he said, unsettled by their unexpected pull on him.

"You, too," she said, radiant again.

He stalked toward the exit, trying to get his mind on all the things he had to do before taking leave. But as he paused by the security checkpoint to collect his SIG and cell phone, he asked Petty Officer Hewitt, "So what's the deal with Captain Garret's wife?"

"Miss Sara?" Hewitt countered with a pitying shake of his head. "She sits in there all day sometimes, waitin' for him to leave work."

"Why?" Chase asked.

Hewitt shrugged. "Captain Garret don't let her out of his sight. Sweet lady, too. It's a shame he treats her so bad."

Chase turned away. He wished he hadn't learned that. "See less of you later, Hewitt."

"Not a chance, Chief." Hewitt chuckled.

As he pushed out of the building into the balmy September afternoon, Chase felt for the woman trapped inside. She must long to be freed to the wild outdoors. He shook his head, picturing her husband, a man whose arrogant demeanor betrayed an over inflated ego.

Men who dominated women belonged to the same category as the terrorists that Chase annihilated. Too bad he'd never get orders to take that fucker out.

Twenty-four hours later, Chase filled his duffel bag with what he'd need for three weeks' leave. He stood halfway between his dresser and his bed, emptying the drawers he'd just filled a few days ago.

Jesse, his black Labrador retriever, lay with his head on his paws, ears flattened, looking devastated.

Chase couldn't take it anymore. "You want to come with me, boy?" he relented. For the last twelve months, the dog had stayed with a friend. It wasn't fair to Jesse to leave him again.

Jesse's head popped up.

"Want to go to Oklahoma? It's a long drive."

The dog's mouth parted in what had to be a smile.

"Hell, you might like it so much you won't want to come back," Chase mused, picturing the woods and the stream where he grew up, paradise for a hunting dog. Jesse wagged his tail as if he could see the pictures in Chase's head.

Pictures that went from good to bad in the blink of an eye. He envisioned his mother on the front porch holding the squalling baby. "Linc, stop it!"

Linc had Chase by the scruff of his shirt. Ignoring his wife's pleading, he flung Chase as hard as he could into the door of the two-toned, 1976 Chevy Silverado. The impact was stunning. Chase felt the bone in his nose crack. Hot blood gushed out, running over his lips.

With a mutter of annoyance, he flicked the memory off. He couldn't believe Ol' Linc had gone and left him the ranch. It was probably mortgaged to the eaves, and this was his last bid, even from the grave, to torture his stepson.

If his real father hadn't originally bought it, Chase would let a Realtor sell it. He couldn't care less about the place.

But it was McCaffrey land, not Sawyer land. His daddy had bought it for his mama before he was born. "So, suck it up," he muttered to himself.

He was stuffing his socks in the bag when his cell phone rang. "Yes, sir," he said, having recognized the executive officer's extension.

"I know you're trying to leave, Chief, but did you ever get the lawyer to sign off on the paperwork for Dewey?" asked Lieutenant Renault, who was known to his friends as Jaguar.

He was referring to the document that Chase had left with Sara Garret. "It should be in the mail today or tomorrow, sir. I'll double-check that."

"Just give me a call back if there's going to be a problem."

"Roger, sir."

"Listen, drive safely, and take your time. Vinny's got your paperwork covered. Luther's got the range. If you need more time, just let me know."

"Will do. Thank you, sir."

"No problem, Chief."

Chase ended the call, then looked up a number in his dial-up menu. Commander Spenser's phone bumped him over to voice mail. If he left a message on a Friday afternoon, the lawyer might never get around to calling him back.