Abby Ch. 21

byD.C. Roi©

Passion In James County XI: Abby

Chapter twenty-one

Greg was awake most of the night, thinking of Abby, who was asleep in one of the upstairs bedrooms in his house. As much as he wanted to go upstairs, he knew that wasn't the thing to do. Around seven in the morning, the phone rang. He picked it up. "Greg Atkinson," he said.

"Greg, this is Stan Bixby," a gruff voice said. "Me and my partner will be heading out in your direction today. The boss assigned us to help you and the arson task force with that craziness you got going out there in the boonies."

"You sure you really want to come way out here in the forest, Big Guy?" Greg asked, chuckling. Stan Bixby, a veteran deputy, was a huge man who made no bones about hating the country, exercise, lawyers, and a whole lot of other things. Bixby always said the less he had to move, the more he liked it.

His partner, Alexis Loomis, was a petite, pretty redhead who worked out regularly at a health club, ran in marathons, was an expert in several martial arts, and also did modern dance. The two of them, though totally opposite in personality, were one of the best investigative teams the sheriff's department had.

"Hey, Big Guy, Did you check out any of those people I called about?" Greg asked.

"Yeah," Bixby replied, "Two of them we can account for. The third guy, Coughlin, we haven't been able to contact."

"Really?" Greg said.

"Yeah, why?" Stan said, "You figure he's the perp?"

"I got some new information last night, and based on that, he's the best suspect we have," Greg said. "His wife isn't home, either?"

"Lexi and me been to the house a couple of times, patrol guys, too," Bixby said. "Nobody answers the phone or knocking on the door. Lexi checked with the neighbors, they say they ain't seen anyone for at least a couple of days. You think we oughta get a warrant, search the house?"

"You think you have enough for a search warrant?" Greg asked.

"Nah, not with the goddamn tight-ass judges we got," Stan replied.

"Why don't you see if you can get an ID of Coughlin's car, put out a BOL for it?" Greg suggested.

"Hey, kid, who's the goddamn investigator here?" Stan grumbled. "You think I need some snot-nosed wet behind the ears kid who lives in the fuckin' sticks tellin' me how to run an investigation?"

"Sorry, Big Guy," Greg laughed, "I was just thinking out loud."

"Yeah, OK, kid," Stan said. "Look, soon as Lexi gets here, she and I are gonna head out for your friggin' wilderness outpost."

"See you when you get here," Greg said, "I'll set up a tent in the back yard for the two of you."

"Get fucked, kid," Stan grumbled good-naturedly.

"'Bye, Stan," Greg said, and put down the phone. He got out of bed, took a shower, and slipped into a pair of sweat-pants and a sweatshirt, then he went out to the kitchen and began making breakfast.

Shortly after he started breakfast, Abby appeared from the stairway which led to the upstairs bedrooms. She had on a fluffy pink robe and pajamas that looked like silk. Even though she was without makeup, and her hair was a bit disheveled, Greg thought she looked gorgeous.

"Good morning," she said. "I could have made breakfast, you know."

"I'm sure you could have," Greg said, "but I figured I might as well get started since I was up and all."

Abby poured herself a cup of coffee, then sat down at the kitchen table. "Did I hear the phone earlier?" she asked.

"Yes," Greg said, putting the quiche he was working on in the oven to bake. "Headquarters is sending a detective team out here to give me a hand with this case."

"Oh," Abby said, sipping her coffee. "Then you feel it's that serious, huh?"

"I'd say so," Greg said, sitting down at the table with her. "Your tires have been slashed and your garage has been burned down." He drank some of his coffee. "There's nobody home at that Coughlin guy's house, " he continued.

"What?" Abby said. "Ellen, his wife, she isn't home, either?"

"The detectives have been there two days in a row, but nobody answers the door or the phone," Greg said. "And the neighbors said they haven't seen anyone around for a couple of days at least."

"Oh, God!" Abby said, her eyes filling. "I...I can't believe it could be Bill doing this to me."

"We'll see," Greg said.

The phone rang and Greg got up to answer it. It was headquarters. "A State Patrol unit has a drunk stopped out on 105, about three miles west of the intersection with Benson Lake Road," the dispatcher told Greg. "The guy's giving Sergeant Brewer a lot of trouble and the closest car they have is on the other side of the district. Can you get out there and help him?"

"Tell them I'll be there in about five minutes or less," Greg said. He put the phone down and started for his bedroom. "I've got to go out and back up a trooper who's having problems with an arrest," he told Abby. "I shouldn't be gone too long. Why don't you stay here? Keep the doors locked and don't let in anyone you don't know. If the detectives get here before I get back, ask them to see ID. It will be a big, grumpy guy and a red-headed woman."

He went into his bedroom and put on his ballistic vest. Then he slipped into a tan jumpsuit that had Sheriff's Deputy lettered on the back in reflective letters, fastened his pistol belt around his waist, and slipped on a pair of combat boots with zippers up the side. He grabbed a dark brown baseball cap with "Deputy Sheriff" in gold letters on the front, and headed back out to the kitchen.

"When the buzzer goes off, the quiche I put in the oven is done," he told Abby. Then he was out the door, running toward his garage. He got in his patrol vehicle, backed out of the garage, flipped the switch to activate the blue light bar on the vehicle's roof, and started down the road. He picked up his radio microphone and advised the dispatcher he was enroute.

Abby stood at the back window of Greg's house and watched the police vehicle back out of the garage, then start down the road, emergency lights flashing. She sighed, then turned, waked to the back door, and locked it. Just then the buzzer went off. It startled her and she jumped.

"A quiche," she mused as she took that item out of the stove. "I guess Greg never read that book about real men not eating quiche." She realized she felt quite alone now that Greg had left.

While the quiche cooled, she took a quick shower, then she went upstairs and got dressed in a loose white Shaker knit sweater and jeans she'd brought from her house the night before. Then she went back downstairs to the kitchen to have something to eat.

Greg flipped on the siren as soon as he hit the highway, and before long he arrived at the location where the trooper was on the ground, struggling with the drunk.

Greg braked to a stop, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, and joined the fray. Before long, he and the trooper, Sergeant Arnie Brewer, had the guy handcuffed and in the back of the trooper's vehicle.

"Damn!" Arnie panted. "It's bad enough the asshole's got to be drunk this early in the morning. Did he have to fight, too?"

"Alcohol can turn an ordinary asshole into a nearly perfect asshole, can't it?" Greg observed.

"Jesus, I guess!" Arnie exclaimed. "You want to follow me in to the jail? In case this dipshit decides to give me more grief."

"No problem," Greg said.

Sergeant Brewer called for a wrecker to come and take the drunk's car away. Once that was done, they headed for the lockup located in Dixonville, the county seat of Lincoln County.

As Greg followed the state patrol cruiser, his thoughts drifted to Abby, the problems she was having, and the danger she might be in. The Coughlin guy had raped her twice, although it would be a tough rape case to prove in court. He wasn't home, and apparently hadn't been during the time the things had been happening to Abby. Coughlin had to be the perpetrator.

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