She stirs some more, her eyes barely open, a faint flicker of recognition. Then, she props herself up on her elbows, as her chestnut hair falls in thick tresses behind her on the pillow.
“Go where?” she asks, fully awakened now by the newfound knowledge.
“Can’t tell you,” I shake my head, as I pull the blanket off of her. “It’s Fynn’s place. Well, not technically. He doesn’t live there. But, he’s used it for years. It’s abandoned, and perfect for what we need.” I realize I’m babbling, but that’s me on edge. Fynn’s fidgety. I yack like a bored old grandma with her nose in everybody’s business.
“Oh…” she nods, rubbing her eyes. “Well, lemme just get ready and - “
“No time,” I shake my head, already up from the bed and grabbing the few items of clothes she’s brought with her from the shelves. “Where’s your bag?”
She points at a little backpack in the corner, and I shove all her stuff in there. I grab her toothbrush and toothpaste from the bathroom and two towels.
“You ready to go?” I ask her.
Her eyes are sparkling in the darkness. I can’t tell if she’s trying to suppress the tears. I squeeze her shoulder.
“Hey…” I tell her. “I know it looks bad, but you have no proof that your dad took that shot.”
She lifts her diamond eyes to me, and I see hope in them, hope unlike any other I’ve seen in all my years on the force.
“But, Fynn said - “
“I thought I told you to take into account that Fynn’s an asshole sometimes,” I remind her, and the joke works. She bursts into laughter, and two large glistening tears roll down her cheeks. “He thinks he’s got the Universe by the balls or something, and I love that guy to death, but sometimes, he’s got his head so deep up his ass that he has no idea what he’s saying.”
She chuckles again.
“So, let’s focus on us first, and getting out of this house safe and sound. Then, once all this is over, I promise you that we’ll find out what happened to Hugo. Let’s not jump to conclusions before we got all the facts straight. Alright?”
She takes us both by surprise when she jumps at me and wraps her arms around my neck. For a moment, I don’t know what to do, and just stand there stupidly, with her hanging from my neck, all elongated and swan-like. But then, instinct takes over, and I envelop her into a warm hug. She fits into my arms so perfectly, like she was made to be there.
She looks up at me, her cheeks still red and her eyes a little swollen, but she’s still the most beautiful girl I’ve ever laid my eyes on. No matter how many times I repeat to myself that this is a case we’re working on, a very delicate one at that, I can’t pretend like there isn’t chemistry between us.
It’s hard not to lower my head just a few inches towards her and press my lips against hers. I can’t. I want to, with all my heart, but I know I can’t. I keep staring at her, so sweet, so vulnerable, so willing. Her lips part slightly, and her warm breath spills onto me. I dig my fingers deeper into her flesh. I press her closer to me. I can feel her heart beat against mine, beating in unison.
Finally, I let go of her. I know I can’t do this. I’m not allowed. I’m the older one here, and should know better.
“Everything’s going to be fine,” I resort to the usual phrase that is said under these circumstances, and it provides some distance from the overly intimate moment we just shared.
She nods. I feel sorry that the magic is broken, but it’s better that way.
“Come on, I got your stuff here,” I pat the backpack in my arms. “We need to get going now.”
“Let’s go,” she says, still weak, but willing to obey.
We walk out of the house, and I grab a few other things on the way. Outside, Fynn is standing by the car, cigarette in his mouth. When he sees us, he inhales deeply, then drops the rest of it to the ground and stomps on it angrily. I don’t have to be near him to know that all the hairs on his body are pricked up. He is trying to pick up a sense of a possible intruder, but he isn’t agitated. He is focused, calm.
“You ready?” he asks quickly. I can barely hear him.
A few leaves ruffle in the bushes close to us. All three pairs of eyes focus on it.
“Just a hedgehog,” Fynn assures us.
Maddie is scared stiff. I help her to the car. She gets in the back. I throw the backpack into the trunk, then sit shotgun. I’ll let Fynn drive this time, and maybe even catch some shuteye. Seems like nothing’s going according to plan. These scenarios are already nerve-wracking enough, even when it all does go according to plan. But, this… I dare not think what awaits us by the end.
We drive for what seems to be a small eternity, and I keep dozing on and off in the car. My anxiety and fear are keeping me awake, but the softly fluctuant ride on the occasional bumpy road lulls me to sleep. I think of my mother’s loving smile. I remember my father’s strong arms and how they always made me feel so safe. Now, I wonder if there is any place in the world which I could call that. I doubt it.
And yet, one glance forward is enough for me to calm down, at least a little. I see Fynn’s eyes in the rear view mirror. I see the determination in them. I see a promise. I can’t see Anderson. All I get are the random pops of his curls that appear from behind his seat. I don’t see it, but I know he turns around from time to time, to check up on me. My eyes are closed, but it’s one of those looks you can feel, even when enshrouded in darkness.