Bethany never imagined becoming the target of a hired killer. Her intent had been to clear her roommate of murder and get her out of jail. After a tip from a neighbor about a ski-masked man leaving the apartment and tossing something in a dumpster, she retrieves a pair of bloody gloves from the dumpster and places them in her brief case for safe keeping. On the way to take them to the police station, she is attacked and injected with a fast-acting sedative. In a desperate attempt to protect the evidence, she thrusts the briefcase at the man in front of her and begs him to take care it.
Bethany glanced behind her, heart skittering, as she hastened along the street. Though she hoped to blend in with tourists in southern Staten Island, she couldn’t escape the feeling she’d been followed. She’d told no one except the detective about the evidence in her briefcase. Since it could prove the innocence of her friend, she was eager to turn it in. Fortunately, in two more blocks she would arrive at the station. She could hand it over and stop worrying.
Someone brushed against her and she tightened her hold on the satchel. Pedestrians here were working people with a sprinkling of petty thieves. The last thing she needed was to have an opportunist steal what was valuable only as evidence and discard it in a dumpster where it would never be found and justice would never be done.
She entered the crosswalk with the throng. Half-way across the street she felt a sharp jab beneath her right rib. She grimaced as she stumbled forward, bumping into the broad back of the man striding ahead of her. He turned to study her with striking blue eyes.
Someone touched her hand and whispered, “Let go and I’ll let you live.”
She jerked her hand away as her vision began to blur. The man she had jostled turned with a frown. “Are you all right?”
She held on to the satchel. As his face became hazy, she thrust it towards him. “Take care of this please. It’s important.”
He took it from her grasp as she toppled forward. She heard a buzz of voices as strong arms lifted her, and then, oblivion.
Luke carried the limp woman across the street and cradled her in his lap while he called 911. A crowd gathered while he checked her quickened pulse. What could have happened to her? His thoughts were interrupted as a man leaned towards him.
“She’s prone to fainting spells. I can hold onto the attaché case. I’m her brother.”
Luke evaluated the man and made a quick decision. “She told me to keep it safe. It’s fine with me, for now.”
The man didn’t insist, yet continued to stand by, expressing none of the concern Luke would expect of a brother while Luke focused on the woman, making sure she continued to breathe.
The steady shrieking of an ambulance preceded its arrival at the curb. Luke moved back to allow the attendants to administer to the fallen woman. They took her vitals and loaded her onto a stretcher.
“Where will you take her?” Luke asked. Not only did he need to know where to deliver the satchel, he was curious about why it was important enough to protect.
“I’m a friend. Can I come along?”
The man nodded. “You can ride up front with the driver.”
Luke held onto the briefcase as he strode to the passenger door. What possessed him to care about what happened to this stranger? He should send the attaché with her and forget the whole thing.
He glanced into the crowd and saw the man who claimed to be her brother watching from the outskirts of the bystanders. If he had it to bet, Luke guessed the guy knew what was inside that case and had a reason for wanting it. Perhaps he had injured or drugged the victim to steal it. The possibilities ran through his mind as he climbed aboard. He thought about going after the suspect. Yet, he doubted he would catch him, given the distance between them. If he didn’t stay with the victim, it would be harder to locate her and return her property. He shut the door and buckled his seat belt. Whatever the outcome, he was along for the ride.
The driver was a stocky, middle-aged man with thinning hair who asked Luke, “You her husband?”
“No. She fell into my arms. I was complemented until I realized she was unconscious.”
The man nodded. “Sounds like my experience with women.”
Luke’s curiosity about what was in the case burned as they drove to the hospital. When they arrived, he waited for the paramedics to lift the woman from the ambulance and wheel her into the emergency room.
“How’s she doing?” Luke asked the small blond attendant who was pushing the cart,”
Once inside, he was asked her name. “I don’t know. We just met. You’ll have to get identification from her purse. Please let me know when she’s able to have a visitor.”
The rigid, vinyl chair in the waiting area poked against his shoulder blades. He resigned himself to the discomfort and the television comedy that spewed raucous laughter. His thoughts were on the woman who’d passed out in his arms.
He turned the briefcase over in his lap. If she protected something illegal, he refused to be any part of it. He studied the lock, and knew it would be no problem. He fished in his pocket and withdrew the knife set he’d carried all through his stint in the military. With a few quick twists, he had it open. He peered inside the bag to see two bloody gloves staring back. If she didn’t have a good explanation, he was going straight to the police.
Bethany awoke in a narrow bed. She squinted at the bright ceiling light, and struggled to remember why she was hooked to an IV. What had happened? She moved to sit up and her head throbbed. Then, it all came back. He had wanted the gloves. Had he gotten them?
She fumbled for the buzzer as a nurse entered the room. “I had an attaché case. Where is it?”
The young woman knitted her brow. “Don’t be upset. Your things are bagged beside your bed.”
“I need to see them.”
The nurse moved swiftly to her side. “Don’t try and get up. I’ll hand it to you.”
Bethany knew from the weight of the bag it didn’t contain the attaché case. She fought rising panic. “My briefcase is missing. Where is it?”
“I don’t know. There’s a gentleman in the waiting room who wants to see you. Perhaps he has it.”
A native of Houston, TX, Karen spent her early years enjoying life along the Gulf Coast. After high school, she attended Texas A&M as well as the University of Houston where she obtained a B.S. in early childhood education. She has written numerous articles and stories, books for children and novels for adults. She particularly enjoys writing contemporary and historical romance.
She now lives in the Southwest with her family and assorted pets.