Tempted by Trouble

Tempted by Trouble by Eric Jerome Dickey Read Free Book Online

Book: Tempted by Trouble by Eric Jerome Dickey Read Free Book Online
Authors: Eric Jerome Dickey
accelerated. She opened her mouth to scream, but I jerked her hard, forced her to look at me. I shook my head in a way that told her there would be no screaming.
    She was a small woman, manageable even with my injuries. I gripped her and made her sit still. I held the blade in my hand, held it like I was Jack the Ripper. More police cars and emergency vehicles zoomed by us in a blur. Her eyes went to the police cars, then gradually came back to the switchblade, her horrified expression telling me that she was adding things up, and the pandemonium revealed I had concerns more monumental than a totaled car and a ticket for tailgating. My desperation danced with her fear, and our lips trembled. A man wearing a Don Draper suit had become the bogeyman in her world. Face bruised, nose bloodied, distressed, I clenched my teeth and grimaced. She still had her insurance card clenched inside her other hand. I took that from her too.
    I read her name. “Abbey Rose Brandstätter-Hess.”
    She regarded the six-inch blade, shivered, and whispered, “Please . . . don’t kill me.”
    A fear worse than death trembled in her voice.
    My face burned. My hands throbbed. I swallowed pain and told the woman to be still.
    I said, “Close your eyes.”

    My hostage closed her eyes with fear and defiance, more of the former than the latter.
    She was tense, body tight, waiting to feel the Mexican switchblade dig into her body.
    I held my inner panic at bay and evaluated the situation. She had keen features and a head of thick hair colored springtime blond and auburn. She wore a business suit. And for a moment I thought she might have been an undercover cop, but a cop never would have allowed things to get this far.
    Her SUV was filled with dozens of books. One of the books was turned over on its face and I saw a picture on the back. It was a picture of the terrified woman, only she was dressed in faded jeans and a white blouse, her face in makeup, and her smile was wide and joyous. In the photo she was sitting on a yacht, clear blue waters and an island behind her, smiling like she owned the world.
    I kicked the book out of the way, then I looked at her. She wasn’t breathing. She had frozen, hadn’t moved or inhaled since I told her to be still.
    I said, “Take a deep breath.”
    She did.
    I did the same as blood dripped down to my shirt.
    I said, “Now take another one.”
    She did.
    “Now I want you to open your eyes and drive.”
    She hesitated, then her eyes eased open.
    She pulled her lips in and nodded, too terrified to utter a sound.
    I told her to move from blocking traffic, make a U-turn, then turn and cut up Hillcrest, a street that ran toward the million-dollar homes. I told her to drive up that two-lane street and stick to the right side of the speed limit.
    She trembled and asked, “Where are you taking me?”
    I pointed toward Hillcrest, motioned for her to be quiet and drive. I needed her to move me through the hills, then come out facing Kenneth Hahn Park and drive down the hill headed toward La Brea. I looked back to make sure the SUV wasn’t being followed.
    She turned on Hillcrest and rode past apartments, pounds of litter, and the smell of fried bacon mixing with the stench of marijuana, those aromas mingling with the funk of government-assisted living. She slowed down as she passed Hillcrest Drive Elementary School. When she slowed I tensed because I thought she was scheming to bail out. But her seat belt was on and both hands were on the steering wheel. A chubby kid was crossing the street eating a corn dog. She had slowed to let the obese kid run jiggling across the street. I looked behind us again. I didn’t see LAPD or the sheriff coming this way.
    My frightened chauffeur hit a speed bump and everything in the SUV bounced. The back end rattled. She was going too fast. I touched her shoulder. She cringed, jerked like she had been stabbed.
    My touch was gentle. And with a slight turn of her body my

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