Walker arrived at the apartment right behind a cruiser carrying the two uniformed officers he’d dispatched. They were first to the door, and an elderly black man with white hair opened it. He was in his pajamas, wearing a plaid red housecoat overtop.
“She’s upstairs in my apartment, fifth floor. Door’s open,” the man said.
The two officers started up the stairs.
“Just so you know, I didn’t touch her.”
That had Pruett turning to look at the man, who appeared worried.
“Don’t know what’s going on, but when I opened my apartment door after hearing a scream, she was standing there as naked as the day she was born. I tossed her a towel and let her wait in my place. She told me the police were coming. Just wanted you to know I didn’t touch her. I came down here and waited for you.”
Naked, what the hell? Walker shook his head, sympathizing with the man. It must have been a shock to open his door to find a naked white woman young enough to be his daughter or granddaughter. Walker pointed up the stairs. “Up there?”
“That’s right, fifth floor. Apartment door’s open,” he said again as if Walker needed to be reminded. “If you don’t mind, I’ll wait on down here.” Boy, did the man look uncomfortable.
“Did you see anyone go in her place?”
The man shook his head. “No. She was rambling on about someone being inside and writing on the wall above her bed. She was pretty freaked out. I haven’t seen anyone, but I don’t pay much attention to who’s coming or going. The walls are thin. Heard her go out, but didn’t hear anything or anyone else.”
“I’ll send one of the officers down to take your statement,” Walker said. He really did feel bad, considering he’d already experienced Kate at her finest earlier this evening. “Don’t worry, I told her to get out of her place,” he told the man. “But why naked?” he added, more to himself, as he started up the stairs and looked back down at the elderly neighbor. Considering the time of night, Walker thought he was handling the situation really well.
He stopped at the open door and followed the officers inside. They were staring down at Kate, who had wrapped a light brown towel around herself. It didn’t hide much, but, sitting down, at least she was somewhat covered.
“Dare I ask what happened?” Walker said, gesturing to her state of undress.
She flushed. “I had a blanket around me when I called you, and somehow it got stuck in the door. When the door shut, I locked myself out. I can’t believe this is happening to me. First the worst date of my life—and I thought there was a possibility with that guy—and then some psycho chick drives through the restaurant, damn near kills me, and someone was in my place, wrote above my bed…”
“Anyone there?” He knew she was going to go on and on if he didn’t shut her up.
“I didn’t stick around to find out. That’s kind of why I’m in this position.” Now she just sounded nasty.
“You always walk around naked?” he said. Oh, why had he asked? Just picturing her walking around her apartment without a stitch of anything on was doing all kinds of things to him and making him uncomfortable. One of the officers smirked but didn’t say anything.
She gave him a scathing look, but all she said was “Are you going to go find out who did it and if they’re still here?”
He couldn’t help smiling at the firecracker sitting on the old leather sofa, but he was also pretty sure whoever had been in her apartment was long gone. “You got a key?” he said. He didn’t know what had made him ask, but the look she gave him made it all worth it. What was it about her that made him want to go a round or two? She was the kind of woman that burned with passion and fire. There were some he looked forward to sparring with, to getting a rise out of. He imagined the makeup sex would be worth the frustration he was sure that woman could put a man through.
“You really think I would be sitting here in this predicament if I had my key?” She was about to stand up, he could tell, but then thought better of it.
He chuckled under his breath and left one of the uniformed cops with her. The first thing he noticed when he stepped out of the apartment was her cell phone on the floor and a cream-colored blanket caught in the door. Walker took less than a minute to open it. He pulled his Glock from his holster and pushed the door open. The lights were on as he stepped in, one of the officers behind him. The first thing he noticed was the red dress, black bra, and underwear on the floor. Otherwise, her apartment was reasonably neat.
“You check the living room,” he said to the cop behind him. He opened one closet door and then the bathroom, flicking on the light, but he saw nothing. When he went into the bedroom, he saw the writing on the wall above the bed. Creepy, it was. He checked the bedroom closet, jam packed with clothes, before walking over to the bold lettering. Upon looking close, he was positive whoever wrote it had used the tube of red lipstick that was sitting on the edge of the nightstand. YOU CAN’T HAVE HIM BITCH.
“All clear out here,” one of the officers said, the one who’d driven Kate home earlier. “Whoever was here isn’t now. Holy shit, look at that. Someone doesn’t like her. Do you think it’s her pleasing personality?”
“You know what? That girl across the hall may be a pain in the ass, but she’s scared, and I’m pretty sure that’s her way of putting on a tough face.” Walker was convinced most of Kate’s snarky attitude was her way of protecting herself. Maybe she had been put in that position one too many times.
“Sorry,” the officer said.
Walker glanced his way and then moved past him and out of the room. “Seal it off. Let’s get crime scene techs down here to dust for prints and find out who did this.” He started out into the hallway before spying his jacket draped over the back of the sofa. He reached for it and then left the apartment, picking up the blanket on the floor.
The elderly man was just now coming up the stairs. “Everything okay?” he said. “Was someone bothering that girl?” He sounded concerned and far more understanding than Walker would have been, considering the circumstances.
“You sure you didn’t see or hear anything tonight?”
The man stopped on the stairs and stared over to her door, then his. “Like I said, walls are thin. Heard nothing except when she left. Can’t believe someone could get in there without me hearing.”
“Well, tell me about Kate. Any problems with her, anything unusual?”
The man was frowning. “Kate is quiet. Goes to work, comes home—sometimes plays that noisy rock stuff she listens to a little too loud, but she’s a good kid. I’ve been a teacher a lot of years and would like to say I’ve seen it all, but tonight…” He actually laughed. “I hadn’t.”
The situation was far from funny, but Walker couldn’t help himself from laughing along with the man. He was right. It had to have been a hell of a shock to open his door to a naked woman.
When Walker walked back into the neighbor’s small apartment, almost identical in setup to Kate’s, she appeared anxious as she searched him out.
“Well, anyone there?” she said.
He tossed her the blanket she’d dropped. “No, long gone.”
“Great, so now what? What about the psycho chick who drove into the restaurant, can you arrest her?”
Obviously that wasn’t what she wanted to hear, as she stood up so fast her towel slipped.
“Whoa!” one of the cops said as Walker caught a glimpse of her creamy white breast. It was even better than he’d pictured.
Walker took the blanket he was holding and wrapped it around her. “Here, before you lose what’s left of that towel and give someone a heart attack.”
“Well, I need to know why you can’t arrest her,” she snapped. “It’s plain as day to me that Ryder’s stalker did this. I mean, who else would do it? And how did she find out about me, anyway?”
“Well, that’s a hell of a good question, considering you met this guy for the first time tonight. How many dates have you been on as of late? Could be any one of them with a possessive, jealous girlfriend. Or is there someone else, a married guy?” he asked.
“There is no one else—and I don’t date married men!”
“Who did you last date? Let’s start there.”
She waved her hand and almost lost hold of the blanket.
“Just do us both a favor and keep your hands where they are,” Walker said, interrupting her before she could start.
“What about that suit who came around a few times?” the elderly neighbor said from the doorway. They both turned toward him. Even the uniformed officer standing off to the side looked his way.
“What suit?” Walker asked, looking back at Kate.
She rolled her eyes again, and he was wondering if that was her way of trying to piss people off. Normally, when a woman did that, he found it annoying, but Kate was giving him ideas that could have gotten him arrested—namely the idea of having his hands on her and having her under him, naked, begging and pleading to let her come as he rammed into her over and over. She was trouble with a capital T, but he couldn’t help but picture what his handprint on her creamy white backside would look like.
“Kate,” he growled when she didn’t answer.
“Todd Gray, a stockbroker. Thought he had possibility, but I discovered he had mother issues. I dumped him, haven’t seen him since. Can’t imagine a woman getting twisted up over the likes of him. He couldn’t make a decision if his life depended on it. Had to consult his mother on everything.” She shrugged. “Really, if a chick wants him, she can have him.”
“Well, let’s not rule him out.” Walker turned to one of the officers and asked him to look into the guy. When Kate rattled off his number, he had to give her another look.
She shrugged again. “I have a great memory, good with numbers. I see it once, I don’t forget.” She glanced down at herself. “Look, I’d like to get some clothes on.”
He looked down at her and her bare toes sticking out from under the blanket. “Well, for now your apartment is a crime scene. You can’t go in. Besides, whoever did this, it would be a safe bet they could be back. Do you have someone you can call to stay with for the night?”
“Looking like this?” she spat. Then she held out her hand. “Can I use your phone?”
He pulled out his cellphone and handed it to her. “Make it fast,” he said, and it earned him another of her frosty glares.
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