Grace shivered. It was as if someone had opened a window and let in the chill winter air. “Never mind that, they’re all dead. Now we have to deal with your wound.”
“Yes, and yours. Just not in a hospital.”
Grace blinked. “If not in a hospital, then where?”
He glanced out the window, jaw muscles jumping. “Here.”
The car took a sudden turn into a garage entrance, plunging full speed down a ramp, braking inches from a concrete wall. Grace would have fallen to the floor if the man hadn’t braced her. The car was still rocking when the passenger doors were wrenched open and Grace was lifted out by two men.
Armed men surrounded the car and she found herself in the middle of a little phalanx, together with the dark-haired man. The armed men moved fast, as a unit. In an instant they were in an elevator. It was large enough to accommodate the team, and rose quickly. Grace looked up above the door to see what floor they were going to, but there was nothing. No indication of what floors they passed. She glanced to the side, to the big shiny brass panel with the CLOSE DOORS button. It was the only button on the panel. They were in an elevator that only stopped at one floor. At the top of a building, apparently, because they rose at an ear-popping pace.
The men stood at attention, surrounding them with their bodies, weapons drawn.
One of the men, tall and very fit, with a white streak in his black hair, turned to the man with her. “Glad you’re safe, Drake.” He glanced down at the shoulder wound, unflinching, as if he’d seen many of them. “Dr. Kane’s on his way, just like you asked.”
Drake. The man’s name was Drake. She had no idea if that was his first name or his last name.
She had no clue who he was, or where she was. All she knew was that she had been caught in the middle of what looked like an assassination attempt in which her best friend had violently lost his life. She was now in an elevator in the middle of a group of hard-looking armed men and had no idea what plans they had for her.
All of a sudden, it occurred to Grace that she was a witness. A witness to four murders. Five, counting Harold. Actually, six, assuming this Drake had killed the sniper. And they were definitely not headed toward the nearest police station so she could testify to what she’d seen.
She looked around, her heart starting to pound. Every man there was taller than her, way bigger than her, immensely tougher. They looked strong and dangerous, none more than their boss, the man they called Drake.
He hadn’t threatened her in any way, it was true. Indeed, the threat of harm to her had been used against him.
But she was in an enclosed space with him and this small army of men, who looked perfectly capable of violence, and she knew for a fact that Drake was capable of terrifying, swift and terrible violence.
If he meant her harm in any way, she was as good as dead. Nothing she could do could stop him or even slow him down. She didn’t even know where she was, and no one else knew where she was.
For an instant, Grace regretted her quiet life. She had a few friends, but they didn’t meet up that often. Everyone was busy, no one more than she was. She essentially worked around the clock, eating and sleeping at odd hours. She could be missing for several weeks, even a month, before anyone really took notice.
The person she saw the most was dead, his head shattered by a sniper’s bullet.
She’d had lunch with one of her best friends, Alice Restrepo, the day before yesterday. They only saw each other about once a month. How long would it take Alice to report her missing to the police? When Grace didn’t answer the phone, Alice would just assume she was consumed by a painting. The bell of worry would ring eventually, but by that time, Grace could be long dead. Could be at the bottom of the Hudson River or in a concrete piling in New Jersey. Could be raped, tortured to death, her mangled body buried where no one would ever find her.
She shivered, looking down at her feet, wishing she were invisible. Though no one was paying particular attention to her, she had no illusions that she could make a run for it. A private elevator spoke of lots of money buying lots of privacy.
With a ping, they arrived at wherever it was they were going. The elevator doors opened with the quietest of whooshes. In front of them, across a very large hall, was a door worthy of the gate of a fortress. Twelve feet high at least, made of shiny steel.
The men around her filed out, fanning out into a security perimeter, but Grace stood still, eyes fixed on the ground, trying to control her trembling. Drake stood beside her, unmoving.
“Boss…” one of the men said. The men were obviously quivering with eagerness to get him behind that huge steel door.
“Go now, I’m fine,” Drake said quietly. They didn’t look happy, but they did it. They were used to obeying this man.
Drake pushed a button and the doors of the elevator closed again.
Grace stepped back and looked him full in the face. He winced a little at what he saw on hers.
“You’re frightened.” The deep voice was soft. He lifted a large, blood-stained hand to her cheek. His touch was soft, though she could feel the calluses on his fingertips. “I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry about everything. More than I have words for. You’ve become involved in…a business dispute through no fault of your own. You’ve lost a friend and you’re hurt. I cannot tell you how much I regret this. But it’s done. And now you need to be kept safe from my enemies and you need medical care. All of this exists and is waiting for you behind that door you saw.”
She stared at him numbly. Though his touch had been fleeting, she still felt the warmth along her cheek.
For all she knew, this was a serial killer just waiting to entice her into his fortress. Certainly he had dealings with criminals. It was entirely possible he was a criminal himself. But the regret in his voice sounded sincere. And he wasn’t pushing her out of the elevator and into whatever was behind that door. Something in his stance told her that he would be willing to stay here forever, dripping blood on the floor, until she left the elevator of her own free will.
He swayed slightly, then brought himself back upright. The muscles in his jaw worked. There was a soft plop and when Grace looked down, another drop of bright red blood joined the small puddle on the floor.
Oh my God. He was badly wounded, he’d lost a lot of blood. He was barely standing, his forehead was beaded with sweat. And yet here he was, standing with her until she took a decision, patiently waiting for her.