Three to Ride

By: Lexi Blake, Sophie Oak

Prologue


Dallas, TX



The rain beat endlessly against the windowpane as Elizabeth Courtney stared out the hospital window. There was gray as far as the eye could see. Gray sky. Gray buildings. Gray streets. She knew the sheets on her hospital bed were white, but somehow all she could see was gray.

How long had it been since the damn sun had shone?

“So you claim the perpetrator is a man you had one date with?”

The cop’s voice brought her out of her thoughts, reminded her that there was worse to come. So much worse.

“I’ve filed reports,” she explained. “At least ten.”

He frowned, looking down at his tablet. “I could only find three.”

The fact that they’d sent an officer and not a detective let her know how seriously they were taking her. “I’ve filed ten complaints. I guess your office decided they weren’t worth taking seriously.”

The officer’s jaw tightened, his face flushing slightly. “I assure you, we take all of this seriously, ma’am. But your townhouse was old and we find that faulty wiring is often to blame for fires. We can’t go and arrest some man you don’t like without evidence.”

Some man she didn’t like. Yes, they were serious about this. “Tommy Lane did this. It wasn’t faulty wiring. It wasn’t an accident. He did this to punish me, and you’ll let him get away with it because he’s a cop.”

Now a hard look came into the officer’s eyes. “I assure you that if we find cause, we will make an arrest. And in the meantime, I’ll try to find the files. They’re likely stuffed in a box somewhere. If you’ve filed against him ten times, I’m sure we can do something. We should be able to provide you with some kind of protection.”

“For how long?” she asked, knowing the answer wouldn’t be to her liking.

The male officer shifted from foot to foot and scratched at the hair under his black cap. “For as long as you need it.”

“I doubt that.” It would be for as long as they had the budget for it, if that.

Tommy had friends on the force. Lots of them. Just because he’d turned out to be a complete psycho freak didn’t mean they would desert him. Cops tended to stick together. She’d already gotten a phone call from Tommy’s old partner threatening her if she didn’t drop the case against him. Of course, at the time, her case had been stalking. She could now add arson and attempted murder to the list. God, how could one date have gone so wrong?

“He won’t stop coming after me.” She wasn’t sure who she was talking to now. It wasn’t like the officer was truly listening. “I offended him and he won’t stop until he’s satisfied I’ve paid.”

“And all of this was because you wouldn’t accept a second date with him?” The cop seemed genuinely stumped. “Because most men would move on.”

“Lucky me. He’s not most men.” Tommy didn’t give up. He kept coming no matter what she did.

“Look, ma’am, I’m not trying to be a jerk. But it’s difficult for me to see a fellow officer doing something like this. We have psych evaluations.”

“And those aren’t always right,” she shot back. She’d heard this before, too.

The young officer sighed as though unsure how to proceed. “Like I said, we’re here to protect you if you need it.”

But he would be the one to decide if she needed it, and he’d spent the last hour and a half asking her questions like “had she been depressed lately” and “did she have a therapist.”

They would decide she was a hysterical female and she would be left alone with no protection. She had no money, no home, no family. She would be forced to stay in some cheap motel, and that was where they would find her body.

The rest of her life played out like a bad noir.

“She’ll be in the hospital for at least another forty-eight hours,” the doctor said to the police officer as he strode into the room.

Pure gratitude flooded her system. The doctor’s intervention gave her a moment to quell the panic threatening to overtake her. Though his words gave her pause. Not an hour before, Dr. Smith had told her she could leave tonight. He looked so serious that she kept her mouth closed.