“Good Lord!” Drew watched Suzie run from the kitchen with a butcher’s knife in her hand. “What are you doing?”
“Stop him! He’s getting away,” Suzie shouted over her shoulder.
Drew had no idea who she was talking about, but raced across the kitchen to the long, central hall in her wake. She was acting like someone demented.
Suzie whipped open the front door, then stopped. She looked so dejected backlit by sunshine and the spring-green of the trees with her shoulders hunched forward and the knife dangled in her hand. It was enough to give him the willies.
“Who got away?” He asked cautiously. As far as he could see, there was no one but her.
Suzie turned around slowly. “He said his name was Joe Smith, but I think he was lying.”
Drew moved toward the front porch. Suzie grabbed his arm, stopping him.
“It’s too late. He just drove past in a gray Jeep.” Though he wasn’t moving, Suzie still clung to his arm. She sounded calm, but she didn’t look it.
The hairs on the back of Drew’s neck lifted. The only man he knew who drove a gray Jeep was the one who shot Vin. It couldn’t be the same man. There was no connection between him and Suzie. Suzie was all warm bread coming fresh from the oven, polished-apple smiles, and picnic baskets. Suzie was hearth and home. The man who drove Vin off the road then shot him was a sick, twisted murderer. They didn’t orbit the same spheres.
Still… “What did he look like?”
“About this tall,” Suzie lifted a hand several inches above her own head. “And thin. He had bright red hair.”
That matched what Drew had seen of the perp. Drew didn’t know what the man was doing here, only that no good could come of it.
“You let him into the house when there was no one here to protect you?!” The words popped out before he had time to assume a professional demeanor. Suzie had a way of making him say things he would normally keep to himself.
Miranda came up behind him and placed a hand on his shoulder. He shrugged out from under it. Suzie already thought he was interested in Miranda when he wasn’t. No need to add to her confusion.
“It seems to me like Suzie can take care of herself.” Miranda gestured toward the enormous knife still dangling from Suzie’s fingers.
Suzie put the knife down on the side table as if having just discovered a snake in her hand. She put her hands up to her face. They were shaking violently.
“I was so scared. First he lied about where he was living, and he kept trying to get me to talk about you, Drew, and wanted me to show him the house.” She reached for him half blindly. “He’s coming after you, Drew. It’s you he wants.” She shook from her ponytail to her running shoes.
Drew didn’t think twice. He pulled her into his arms. He stroked up and down her back in long, soothing motions. It killed him to see her so upset.
He was only vaguely aware of Miranda crossing behind him to close the front door. She stood there, with her hand on the edge of it for long minutes. Drew lifted his head from Suzie’s shoulder.
“What is it?”
“Your car.” Miranda turned around. “Suzie, did this Mr. Smith character say anything about Drew’s car?”
“Yes.” She leaned back against his arms, but didn’t break free. “That’s why I let him in. He said he ran into Drew’s car, and wanted to exchange insurance information.”
Drew let her go and stepped back abruptly. He saw it all now. One of the Smash Master’s minions must have gotten suspicious of the sting operation he and Vin were running. So one day he attacks the taxi driver in the red beret. He saw Drew coming to Vin’s rescue in his blue Subaru Legacy. He sees the Legacy parked out front, and starts knocking on doors, looking for whomever it belongs to…
Drew had made a fatal mistake by leaving the malfunctioning car at the curb. He might as well have planted a flag on the side of the house that said, “This is where your enemy lives.” Worse, he’d given the killer an excuse to come inside and terrorize Suzie.
From beginning to end this entire debacle was his fault. First hiring Vin as a decoy, then moving in here. The car out front was a footnote in Drew’s litany of errors. He might not be able to correct some of those errors, but he could reduce them. For instance, as long as he lived here, he would bring his enemies to Suzie’s door.
Drew went upstairs to pack.