“It wasn’t assigned to John,” Alec explained.
“So the locals are handling it?” Jack asked. “You’re not going to take over?”
“I wanted to, but John told me that Steinbeck’s a good detective and I should butt out and let him do his job.”
“If you want the case, you should take it,” Jack said.
“No, I’m too close to it,” he said. “Sophie’s a good friend. If Steinbeck doesn’t keep me informed, then I might cause some trouble.”
Such arrogance. Had Sophie’s incision not been throbbing, she might have laughed. Were all men as arrogant and cocky as these two? If Steinbeck doesn’t keep me informed, I’ll cause trouble? Oh, brother. Power. Is that what it was about? FBI trumps police? Alec sounded egotistical, but at least he meant well.
While Alec and Jack continued to discuss territorial issues, she grabbed her sack of supplies. She’d left the hospital with an antibiotic, extra bandages, and pain medication. It was definitely time to take a pill.
Alec turned to Sophie. “Tell me about Steinbeck. What did you think of him?” Alec wanted to know.
“He seemed to know what he was doing. He was thorough. He certainly asked a lot of questions.”
“There wasn’t much to tell, was there?” Jack asked before disappearing into the kitchen. Sophie heard him rummaging through the cabinets.
“What’s he looking for?” she asked Alec.
“Food. We’re starving.”
“There are some carrots in the fridge,” she called out.
She heard Jack laugh. He came back into the living room with bags of potato chips and pretzels, two bottled waters, and a Diet Coke. He tossed the pretzels and one of the bottles to Alec.
“You couldn’t have seen the shooter,” he said as he sat down next to her on the sofa. “He was too far away.” He kicked off his shoes and put his feet up next to hers on the ottoman.
“Comfy?” Sophie asked.
“I’m getting there.”
The man obviously didn’t understand sarcasm.
“You’re right,” she said. “I didn’t see the shooter. I had to tell Steinbeck about the threats, and he asked me to give him names of people who would want to kill me.”
“Bet that’s a long list,” Jack commented nonchalantly as he ripped open the bag of chips.
“Not funny,” she retorted. “I told the detective that everyone loves me, that I’m kind and sweet, and no one would ever want to harm me.” Except maybe Trainee Louanne, she thought, and the emergency room doctor. She’d made him shake in his boots. And, oh yes, the creepy guy who hit on her on the El, the one who wouldn’t take no for an answer. There was also the woman at that boutique….
“All right, maybe there is a long list,” she admitted. “I told the detective that when Kelly’s closed and it came to light that the pension was gone, there were a lot of very angry employees. Can you blame them? They were counting on that money for their retirement. My father happened to be a big shareholder in one of the companies in the hedge fund where the money was invested. As soon as the fund went belly up, the finger-pointing started. I’m sure you saw the press conference where the lying CEO came right out and said my father took the money before the stock crashed.”
“The CEO didn’t come right out and say it, Sophie. He was smart enough not to get charged with slander,” Alec said.
“He implied it, and that’s just as damaging,” she countered. “Don’t you think a few people believed him? And those same people might want to get even. Everyone wants a scapegoat. No one wants to be responsible for anything bad that happens. When Congress screws up, they find one or two scapegoats to feed to the public even though they were responsible. My father, in this instance, is the scapegoat just because he’s had some questionable dealings in the past.”
“Then those vengeful people should go after your father, not you,” Jack said.
“Leave my father out of this.”
Jack noticed she was having trouble getting the bottle open and took it from her. “Can’t leave your father out,” he said. “He’s smack in the middle of it.”
“I’m not going to discuss my father with you or anyone else.”
Jack let it go for the moment. She wasn’t in any shape to argue right now. She looked pale and her hands shook when he gave her the opened bottle. She would have spilled the pills all over the sofa if he hadn’t taken the bottle from her again.
“Listen, since you haven’t spoken to Detective Steinbeck,” Sophie said, “I probably should tell you something…” She didn’t get any further. This was going to be difficult to explain and she thought maybe she should let Steinbeck tell them instead.
Alec and Jack both waited for her to continue.
“How many?” Jack asked, holding up the pill bottle. “And who do you need to tell? Alec or me?”
She held out her palm, surprised to see how she trembled. “One, please, and I guess I’ll have to tell both of you since you’re sitting right here. I don’t want to be rude.”
“That ship sailed a long time ago.” Jack looked at the label on the medication. “These aren’t very strong. Sure you don’t want to take two?”
“One pill is enough to swallow.” She smiled. “Get it? You’re the other pill.”
“Did they X-ray your head at the hospital?” Jack countered.
The doorbell rang and Alec jumped up to answer it. “It’s about time,” he said.
“Is the security detail already here?” Sophie asked.
“No, Gil isn’t coming until nine. Hopefully, Regan and Cordie are here with groceries and carry-out. I’m starving.”
Jack got up to help. Cordie handed him a bag of groceries and Regan handed her husband the barbecue.
Sophie called from the sofa, “Did you get my batteries?”
“Triple A, like you asked,” Regan replied as she stocked the refrigerator. “I’ll put them here on the counter.”
Sophie wasn’t hungry, but Cordie coaxed her into drinking some of the hot soup she’d stopped to get at the Chinese restaurant down the street. The tasty soup picked her up.
Sophie’s friends hovered over her. Cordie put the back of her hand on Sophie’s forehead to make sure she wasn’t feverish, and Regan shoved pillows behind Sophie’s back and wrapped a blanket around her shoulders.
“It was minor surgery,” Sophie protested. “Minor,” she repeated. “Stitches come out in a week, and then I’m back to normal. I could even get back to the weights.”
“When have you ever done weights?” Cordie asked.
“I’m just saying I could.”
“Isn’t there anything we can do for you?” Regan asked.
Sophie looked around the room. The drapes were closed for the first time in probably a year, and it reminded her of how the glass had been shattered by the bullet.
Alec followed her gaze. He and Jack had finished eating and were sprawled in easy chairs flanking her fireplace. “Gil took care of the window for you. He had people here early this morning.”
“I just may have to marry that man,” Sophie said. “He’s so efficient.”
“What else can I do?” Regan asked.
“You could put the groceries away and then go home. You’re making me nuts hovering. I’m fine.”
Cordie followed Sophie into her bedroom and would have gone into the bathroom with her if Sophie hadn’t quickly shut the door. She changed the bandage and was surprised that the incision didn’t look all that bad. After washing her hands and face, she grabbed a tube of moisturizing cream and opened the door. She burst into laughter. Cordie had made the bed and fluffed the pillows.
“Do you want to get into bed now?”
“Good God. No, I don’t want to get into bed. I had minor surgery,” she repeated. “It’s not even seven o’clock, and I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Cordie followed her back to the sofa. “I have to call Mr. Bitterman,” Sophie said. “Where’s the cordless phone? I know he must be worried.”
“I already talked to him,” Alec said. “He called me on my cell phone when he heard you’d been shot, and I assured him you were fine.”
She nodded. “Cordie, did you e-mail everyone to let them know I’m okay?”
“Who did you notify?” Alec asked. He sounded mildly curious.
“Family and friends,” Cordie said.
“What about her father? Did you notify him?”
Regan gave her husband “the look,” which he completely ignored.
“We’d really like to talk to him,” Jack said. “You know, take him out for a beer…”
“He’s a hard man to pin down,” Alec added.
“He moves around a lot,” Sophie said. “My father is a busy man. At the moment, he’s out of the country.”
Cordie and Regan knew how uncomfortable Sophie was talking about her father, and they quickly changed the subject.
“One of my kids tried to blow up my lab,” Cordie said.
“Cordie teaches chemistry at one of the high schools,” Sophie explained to Jack. “Didn’t one of your kids blow up the lab last year?”
“Sort of,” she answered.
Jack smiled. “How does someone sort of blow up a lab?”
Cordie looked at Regan and tilted her head toward Sophie, a hint that it was her turn to keep the conversation away from Bobby Rose.
“I’m never going to forget that noise,” Regan blurted.
“What noise?” Sophie asked. She remembered she hadn’t taken her antibiotic and was now tackling the childproof bottle.
“Over the phone, I heard a booming sound and glass shattering and then a crash.”
Sophie didn’t have the patience for the bottle, and without thinking what she was doing, she tossed the bottle to Jack. He’d opened one bottle; he could open another.
“I thought you were dead, Sophie,” Regan said and immediately became teary-eyed. “I really did. I called nine-one-one on one house phone and called Alec on another. But I kept the cell phone line open, hoping you’d answer me. Did you hear me shouting to you?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“How’d you manage three phones at once?” Cordie asked.
“I don’t know how I did it, but I did. Alec and Jack were in a meeting, and usually the secretary won’t interrupt, but I didn’t have to do much explaining. I think I freaked her out, shouting about you getting shot.”
Alec reached for Regan and pulled her into his lap. “We made it to the hospital before you did, Sophie,” he said.
Regan dabbed her eyes. “I’m going to go home and have a good cry.”
Alec patted her arm. “Why don’t you go ahead and cry now? You’ll never make it all the way back to the hotel dry-eyed.”
Sophie laughed. Regan could cry at the drop of a hat. It was really kind of impressive. When the three of them were in elementary school, Cordie and Sophie would see who could make Regan cry first. Sophie always told a sad story she’d made up, and Cordie always sang a sad song. Now that she thought about it, what they did wasn’t very nice. Fun, but still not nice. This was an odd time for these memories to surface. Maybe the pain pills had something to do with it.
“I’m sorry I made you cry when we were little,” Sophie said, suddenly feeling guilty.
“When did you make her cry?” Alec asked.
“All the time,” Cordie admitted.
“Until I caught on.” Regan shrugged. She went into the foyer to get her sweater and purse. She turned around to Cordie and said, “I’ll drive you home if you’re ready to leave.”
“If Sophie doesn’t need me…”
“Please go,” Sophie said. “I’m begging you, and take these two with you.”
It took five more minutes before her friends made it to the door. Regan turned back one last time and asked, “I was wondering. Who was on the cell phone when you got shot? Whoever it was must have been freaked out, too.”
“Oh, yeah, about that…we’ll talk tomorrow.”
Alec and Jack hadn’t picked up on her evasive answer. They seemed rooted to their chairs.
Once Regan and Cordie were gone, she turned to the men. “You should go home, too,” she suggested.
“We’re going to wait until Gil gets here,” Alec said.
“Both of you have to wait with me?”
“I’m Jack’s ride home, so yeah, we both have to wait.”
“Who was on the cell phone?” Jack asked. Now he was curious.
“I already explained it all to Detective Steinbeck.”
“Explained what? Who was it?” Alec asked.
Up to now, she had avoided telling them, but she guessed this moment was inevitable. There was no getting out of it.
“The man who shot me.”
JOURNAL ENTRY 290
Something dreadful has befallen the pack. Allie, one of the females, died yesterday. We noticed she had been unusually quiet the last couple of days, but we didn’t pay close attention.
Eric took me aside to assure me he had nothing to do with Allie’s death. I believe him, but I’ll be relieved when I find no unusual hormone in Allie’s blood.
Two more wolves are showing symptoms. We’re guessing the cause is a virus, but we’ve been unable to identify it. We all feel so helpless and pray the others remain healthy.
“BUT YOU WOULD HAVE LOOKED,” SOPHIE PROTESTED.
“Are you nuts?” said Alec. “No, I would not have looked. Would you have looked out that window, Jack?”
“Of course not.”
Sophie glanced from one to the other. “Oh, come on. If someone called you, and that someone’s voice sounded familiar, and he told you that he didn’t want to ruin the surprise…”
The two men appeared so incredulous that she stopped trying to justify her actions.
“You’re pretty much reacting the same way Detective Steinbeck reacted,” she said.
“Did you ask him if he would have looked out the window?” Jack wanted to know.
“As a matter of fact, I did.”