Dead End Job: A Louisa Hallstrom Novel(21)

By: Ingrid Reinke

“Thank you,” Detective Wang said curtly. “We have requested the surveillance tapes from the restaurant, but your alibi checked out with the bartender. He said he remembers you because your date was very upset after you disappeared,” she added snidely. Seriously, you have to make a dig on my bad date etiquette? I was going to make a snarky comment back to her, but it wasn’t worth it: I could’ve cared less what this lady thought about me, as long as I got out of that damned room.

“What about the night watchman?” I asked, curious.

“My team reached out to building security this morning as part of their investigation. The security guard who you saw last night left this morning on a camping vacation in Idaho. We’ve tried to reach him, but unfortunately he seems to be out of cell phone range.”

“How convenient for me,” I responded sarcastically, before I could stop myself.

“Indeed,” she snipped. “Don’t worry, our team will interview him when he returns from vacation. Regardless, at this point I would like you to take my card and call me if you can think of any more details about your evening that might help with this investigation. Also, please do not leave town, as we might have you back in for further questioning.”

Although I was elated at the prospect that this whole process was coming to a close (at least for the day), Detective Wang seemed to feel the opposite. I smiled at her dumbly, and she responded with a cold glare. I was betting that she was put out that I wasn’t a viable suspect and she wouldn’t be able to wrap up the investigation with a confession right away.

“This way, please.” She opened the door to the interrogation room and we walked out, heading the opposite direction down the hallway and back into the lobby where I had entered the building earlier that morning.

After she walked away I realized that I didn’t have my car; it was still in the parking garage a half-mile away. I stood in the middle of the lobby, resigned to my mission, when I spotted Rocky walking up to me from the hallway to the left.

“Hi Louisa,” he said. “Detective Schreck told me that they’re done with you for today, so I’m going to give you a ride home now.” He didn’t wait for me to respond. He just smiled and put a big hand lightly on my back.

“You can just drop me at my car, it’s in the garage at the hotel over by the office,” I said. Even though I would’ve loved to spend more time with him, I didn’t want this guy to go to any more trouble for me. “I can probably just drive myself home.”

“No way, Jose,” he said, his hand still lightly resting on my shoulder. “I’m going to take you home myself. You are party to a murder and this department has instructed me to keep tabs on you. We don’t want you trying to leave the country, now.”

“Really?” I asked. “I thought that I wasn’t a person of interest anymore, or suspect person, or bad guy, or whatever you call it. I mean, Detective Wang said that I could go home and I signed that statement, right?” I had been happy to see him, but now was starting to lose it. “Do I need a lawyer or something? I don’t know any defense lawyers. I guess I could just find someone on Yelp, but I don’t really have any money to pay for it right now because I’m not getting paid until the 30.” I was nervously rambling. My heart was pounding. I started walking faster, away from him.

“No, no, no! I’m just kidding around with you, Louisa,” he said, catching up to me and stopping me by putting both hands squarely on my shoulders. He turned me to face him and looked me in the eye. I didn’t breathe. “All kidding aside, I’m driving you home because you seemed pretty shaken up this morning, and I want you to be safe. It’s just a precaution, don’t worry about it.”

“Oh, OK, thanks,” I said in a whisper. I felt hot tears forming in my eyes and looked down at the ground, embarrassed. Feeling dumb around this guy was getting to be a habit for me. I stepped away from him, blinked a few times and tried to recover. “I did have a pretty bad morning, and you’re being really nice. In fact, you can hold my purse again if you want.” I held my bag out to him in a lame attempt at humor.

To my surprise, Rocky turned to me and smiled. Then he laughed a deep booming laugh that seemed to echo through the hallway. It was really a great laugh. It was infectious, and I started to giggle as well, not because what I’d said was really that funny, but because I was so relieved.

“I think you can do it yourself this time, my dear. Don’t push it,” he said playfully and winked. We were both smiling when we got off of the elevator in the garage. He again opened the door for me on the passenger side of his cruiser, which was parked in the same spot we had left it. I like to think that he had been waiting for me at the station, knowing that I was not guilty and would need a ride home, not a ride to the city jail. It was a nice thought.