Page 7

 Catherine Coulter

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Ruth said, “Dix has already assigned a deputy to stand guard outside her room. If the perp does think he killed her and finds out she’s alive, he might try again.”
Griffin said, “Let’s hope not, but thank you. If the person in the bathtub was dead, the killer took the body out of Delsey’s apartment for a good reason. And what could the reason be? Someone could have seen him, no matter that it was well after midnight. He was taking a huge risk, carrying the body into her apartment, then carrying it out after Delsey screamed. Either Delsey’s attacker walked out, was helped out, or his killer really didn’t want us to know who he was, which would be the case no matter what else was involved. If it was a burglary, what were they after? I’ve thought about that but can’t think of anything particularly valuable. Her guitar is, I suppose, but not her piano, so that adds to the questions. What did they want? What did they hope to find?”
Griffin looked back at Delsey. “I guess I should tell you we have a name for my sister in the family—Trouble Magnet—that’s with capital letters, her official title. She drives our parents nuts.” Griffin told her about Delsey’s first newspaper route, when she delivered papers to a bank robber.
Ruth stared at him. “That’s pretty funny, but only since it turned out well. Does Delsey have anything to do with why you became an FBI agent?”
“Not really, but some of our instincts are the same. I have several more stories about Delsey that’ll make your hair rise on your neck. If there’s a wrong place and a wrong time, and the wrong guys, Delsey will find them or they’ll find her. Maybe it’s all mistaken identity. I wouldn’t be surprised, given her history.”
“I believe our patient moved a bit.”
Delsey heard voices, one of them familiar, and the voice seemed to be talking about her. She slowly opened her eyes to see her brother not three feet from her nose. “Griffin?”
Her voice was a skinny thread of sound that scared him to his feet. “Yep, I’m here. How are you feeling, Dels?”
“Don’t ask me that yet; I’m not sure. My brain seems to be floating up there somewhere near the ceiling. Maybe it’s better if I let it hover up there for a while.”
He patted her cheek. “Hovering is good. Gotta tell you, Dels, you look a little pathetic with the big white bandage around your head.”
“So you’re more beautiful than me right now?”
“Maybe, but you’ve got the win on drama points with that big honker bandage. Very impressive.”
“I heard you talking. You didn’t sound happy. Why?”
“Something happened to you,” he said. “Again.”
Delsey pulled her hand away from his and slowly raised it to touch her head. “What? Was I in an accident?”
“No, not an accident. You don’t remember?”
She frowned, then shook her head and gasped. “I don’t think I should move again. My head, Griffin—my head feels like it’ll explode if I do. That would be an awful sight, even for you, Mr. Macho FBI Agent.”
Griffin was on his feet. “I’m going to go find a nurse, get some meds for you, all right?”
“Yeah, that’d be good. Oh, no.”
She lurched up, and Ruth managed to get a bedpan to her mouth in time. She fell back against the pillow, shut her eyes. “I’m sorry. I had too much to drink last night.”
“Not a problem.” Ruth wiped Delsey’s mouth with a wet towelette. Not a good time for questions. She said, “Close your eyes and make your breathing light and shallow, that’s right, just relax.” She began stroking the back of Delsey’s hand as she said slowly, her voice as calm as a shallow summer river, “I’m Agent Ruth Noble. No, don’t try to talk. Keep everything easy, Delsey, just listen, don’t think. I’m married to the local sheriff, Dix Noble. He’s a lovely man, all tall and dark and tough as a muscle truck. He actually saved my life last year. It turned into a real gnarly mess here in Maestro as I’m sure you’ve heard, but we got it all straightened out. I have two stepsons now, Rob and Rafer, seventeen and fifteen. Both of them look like their father, and that means they’re going to be heartbreakers. Well, Rob already is. I’m going to be working in Washington with your brother, at the Hoover Building.
“There, that’s better, isn’t it? I don’t want you to worry about anything. Keep still until your insides settle.”
“Could I have a sip of water?”
Ruth set a plastic straw on her tongue. “Not too much, now; that’s right.”