Justice Delayed(5)

By: Patricia Bradley

“Call me as soon as your meeting is over,” Treece said, “and don’t let your overconfidence get you into trouble. Got it?”

“You’re not old enough to be giving me orders.”

“Somebody needs to,” Treece said dryly.

“I’m going in now.”

Andi climbed out of her car, gritting her teeth at the pain in her back. She reached into the car and grabbed a water bottle, then took out a small prescription bottle and shook a pill into her hand. After gulping the pill down, she scanned the cavernous building and shivered.

Underground tombs. That’s what these garages were. Using her phone, she snapped a photo of her parking spot with the Level 4 and Row 7 signs in the background. A few rows over, a woman her age rolled her luggage smartly toward the elevator, and since Andi did not want to be locked in that elevator alone, she hurried after her. At least the woman looked athletic enough to help her climb out in case the elevator stalled between floors. Of course, she could take the stairs.

Uh, no. She’d seen too many suspense movies. And it had only been a month ago that she’d reported on a mugging in the stairwell at the airport. No telling who or what she’d encounter in the two flights of stairs down to the walkover. Wails from a child caught her attention, and she looked to her right, where a young mother balanced a baby in one arm while another child tugged at her skirt as she tried to unlock her car door.

She shifted her gaze back to the woman approaching the elevator. If Andi hurried, she could catch her. The thump of keys hitting concrete pulled her back to the mother, and their eyes connected. Fatigue was etched in the mother’s face and the slump of her shoulders.

The elevator dinged open, and the woman with the suitcase called out, “Would you like me to hold the door?”

“Uh . . .” Get on the elevator. Her feet itched to go, and then she sighed. “No. Appreciate it, though.”

Andi turned to the mother. “I’ll get those keys and unlock the door for you.”

“Thank you so much,” the mother said, shifting the baby to the other arm and smoothing her toddler’s hair.

“No problem.” Andi smiled at the small girl, who wrapped her arms around her mother’s leg. Andi scooped the keys up and minutes later had the family on their way home.

When the elevator ride to the walkover was uneventful, she laughed at her fear. She could face a gang leader but let an enclosed box get to her. She really did need to work on that.

Inside the terminal, the checkin queues were practically empty. Evidently not many people were flying out of Memphis on a rainy Tuesday night. She found a seat where she could watch the doors and waited.

Thirty minutes later she checked her watch. Where was Lacey? She’d been adamant about meeting tonight and that her flight boarded at seven twenty. Andi called her for the second time and left a message, asking where she was.

Forty minutes later, she grabbed her bag and walked out of the airport and back to her car. Lacey was a no-show. It wasn’t like Andi had never been stood up, but she hadn’t expected it from Lacey. Not after the way she’d pressed her to come tonight.

The ringtone for Treece sounded again, and Andi answered. “I haven’t called because she never showed.”

“I bet you’re hungry, then. There’s pizza left. Then we can work on the outline for the cold case documentary.”

“Be home in fifteen.” The documentary on cold case murders and the one on runaways were their tickets to cinching anchor spots at the TV station or even to bigger markets, like Dallas or Atlanta. Then, maybe they’d attract the attention of one of the Big Three. They wouldn’t turn down a cable news network, either.

She glanced in her side mirror as she exited the airport. Halos circled the car lights coming alongside her, and in the foggy mist she saw she was in the wrong lane and almost missed the exit for I-240. She glanced sharply over her shoulder, and when the lane was empty, she shot over. Her breath caught as a dark SUV with tinted windows swept past her under the lights. It looked like the one she’d seen earlier. Was it following her? Or was her vivid imagination kicking in again? No. If she hadn’t abruptly changed lanes, she would have never known the car was behind her.