The Lady in Blue Ch. 09byWine_Maker©
Chapter Nine: Lisa takes charge
Lisa's point of view
Surprisingly, to me, the politician refused to leave until Ted was looked after. He pulled off his jacket and firmly took charge. "I was a combat medic in the army years ago. I haven't forgotten everything. Hmmmm." He moved Ted's hair and examined his head. Then, he wiped his hands on his shirt and opened Ted's eyes one at a time, giving each eye a quick look.
"Good news, it doesn't look bad. It looks like the bullet glanced off and didn't penetrate."
I hadn't realized I was holding my breath until it sobbed out of me. The tears that had been threatening to take over were unleashed. Both Hawk and Mary held me, softly speaking words that didn't really register. I could see Sue crying uncontrollably while Stan held her just a few feet away.
"He might have a concussion. His pupils don't look quite the same size," Ramon continued, "but if so, I don't think it's too bad. I'm a little concerned because he passed out, but all things considered, Lisa, I think he'll be fine."
It took a few minutes for me to get my composure back. I sat there on the ground holding Ted's hand while Hawk and Mary comforted me and Ramon held a handkerchief on the wound. Ted woke up a few minutes later. Sue came over and we kept him talking to keep him awake. He seemed dazed but lucid.
The next few hours were chaotic, at best. Sue and I stayed at Ted's side as the Sheriff's deputies and paramedics swarmed the scene. When they took him to the hospital, I made a very hard choice and told him I would be there as soon as I could. Sue went with him, and Stan would have if he could've escaped.
When I caught up with Hawk, she was hip deep with the other police, questioning people that were still lingering. She was seated at a small table with a man and woman, writing as the woman spoke. "So, you saw a white man about five nine or ten run into the parking lot with what looked like a gun. Dark hair, slim build, but you never saw his face. He tore out of here in some kind of black SUV. That about sum it up, Jo? Earl?" At their nods, Hawk stood up and shook hands. "Thank you both. I hope the rest of your vacation is less dramatic."
After they left, I stepped up and Hawk smiled at me. "The Bellers have a possible lead for us. They seem to have been the only ones in the crowd to see the shooter at all. It was a man but they didn't really get enough of a look to help with an ID. It could be Price or Kotov, if that was even him I saw."
"I'm finished pussy-footing around," I growled. "We need to get this settled before one of us gets killed." Hawk nodded.
"Then, it's a damned good thing I'm here to get it all figgered out for you," a deep baritone voice said from behind me. I turned and found a tall, broad, white man in his late forties. He was dressed in western clothing and had a badge hanging from his shirt pocket. His upper lip was dominated by a huge, bristling walrus-like mustache in the same salt and pepper black as his balding head. "Digger Jamison, Texas Rangers. Who's Hawkins?"
Hawk looked pretty steamed already just at seeing him. "I'm Hawkins. This is related to an investigation I'm running. What can I do for you?"
Digger grinned but there was no humor to it. "You can thank me for takin' over this case. Since a politico was a possible target in this shooting, the Rangers are taking charge of this investigation and the one in Houston, too. You're now my contact with HPD, Hawkins. Don't you worry none, I'll make sure you look good, not that you don't already." He winked at Hawk.
"This is bullshit," Hawk snarled. "De la Cruz wasn't the target. Stansbury or Davis were."
Digger scowled at Hawk. "Let's not fight, now, y'hear? I've looked over your case file and my experience tells me that the two are connected," he said with a superior tone.
"Of course they're connected. I just told you that, you..." Hawk started hotly.
"I think," I said interrupting Hawk smoothly, "that we can agree that they are connected. Lisa Davis, Galveston County District Attorney's office." I held out a hand and Digger took it.
"Ma'am," Digger drawled. "Don't you worry your pretty little head about all this. I'll get right down to the bottom of what's goin' on and get the varmint behind bars in two shakes of a lamb's tail."
My mouth dropped open. Digger's statement was so outrageous, I didn't know what to say. I thought this kind of misogynistic behavior was a thing of the past. After all, women could be more than secretaries now. Hawk was silent and a glance showed her agape and speechless as well.
Digger filled the void himself. "There, I knew that would set both of you fillies at ease. It's already purdy obvious that feller, Price, is likely the killer."
"Oh, puh-leeze!" Hawk said, finally catching her voice. "I cannot believe I am hearing this! I'm going to call my Captain and get this fixed, Lisa." She stalked off without a word more to Digger, but I could hardly blame her. It's not every day you meet someone that pushes so many buttons all at once. She was on her cell phone before she was five feet away.
Digger shook his head. "That happens all the durned time, missy. She'll come around when she gets to know me. So, tell me what happened the night your friend blew up." He pulled out a well-chewed stub of a pencil and a cheap flip notebook.
I considered, really considered, losing it like Hawk but barely held myself in check. "Calvin. His name was Calvin and he didn't blow up. My car was bombed. Calvin was driving it when my car blew up." I started going over the details again and he quickly started asking questions about Ted. What I knew about him and who or what I had seen around. Who he knew. About Price. It didn't take more than a minute for me to figure out he had already focused in on Price targeting Ted, and that he was looking for information shaped to fit his preconceptions rather than keeping an open mind.
"Look, Ranger Jamison..." I started.
"Just call me Digger, ma'am," he interrupted. "And I'll call you Lisa. There. All comfortable like." He patted my hand.
I was saved from tearing his head off by Hawk exploding behind me. "Goddammit, Captain! That's not right! This is my investigation and he doesn't know squat about it or Houston. I tell you, the man is a bloomin' idiot!"
I grimaced at that. Even given the short time that I had known her, I already knew that tact wasn't very high on Hawk's list of merits when she was angry. I couldn't tell what her conversational partner was saying but it was loud enough to buzz in the air, even over here. Amazingly, Digger didn't seem upset at being called an idiot.
"I think she might not know me well enough, jest yet. Give 'er time and she'll be seein' me in a better light. She's jest upset that I outrank her," Digger said in a sotto voice.
Amazing. Simply amazing. What was with this guy?
"No, Captain, I'm not too close to this case. I just know I can do a better job than some..." More angry buzzing from the phone. "Captain, that's not fair! Let me finish the damned case!" She rolled her eyes at the next set of buzzing and then she paled. Her mouth opened and shut a few times without words coming out. "You can't! You won't!" I saw her eyes light up, even more furious. "Fine. If you want it that way, you're the boss." She hung up before any reply was possible.
Hawk stalked back up to us, her jaw working as I stared at her. "The bastard shit-canned me. I'm on indefinite leave of absence until this case is settled by this..." She seemed at a loss for words.
I took her into my arms and held her. "Oh, Hawk. We'll fight this!" She hugged me back, but I could tell her heart really wasn't into it.
"Don't you let that fret you none, Miss Hawkins. Like I was tellin' Miss Davis, here, I already have a good ideer of who the killer is. I have ten bucks that says I have him in the hoosegow by Wednesday. Then you're back on the roster," Digger said with an over-confidant tone.
Hawk stiffened and shrugged out of my arms before getting right in Digger's face. "Did you ask the Captain to yank me, caveman? You don't think women can do this job?" Her finger started poking him on the chest. "I can do anything you can better for marbles, money or fun every day of the week. Your good ole boy drawl doesn't fool me for one goddamned second. You wanted this!"
Digger threw up his hands and stepped back as she kept stepping into his personal space. "Whoa, purdy thing! I was just bein' friendly-like! I know you can do any ole thing you set your purdy little head to! I didn't tell yore Captain anythin' like that!"
That just pissed her off more. "You ever hear of sexual harassment, genius? Women aren't just barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen anymore! You couldn't find your ass with both hands, even with the help of air cover, backup - code three, and directions in English!"
I grabbed her by the shoulders. "Hawk! This isn't helping anything at all!" She resisted at first, but relented when I didn't stop pulling. "Digger, this is a bad time. I'll see that she gives a statement to the deputies and so will I."
If anything, he seemed more amused than upset. "That shore does sound like a winner of an ideer. I ken git your numbers from them and call if I have any questions."
His amusement didn't help me calm Hawk down. He hadn't taken long to find all of her buttons and lean on them hard. She finally turned around and stalked ahead of me. I ran to catch up and guided her into the house and onto the couch in the living room.
"Sit," I ordered. "I need you thinking and not pissed off. This is not helping Ted, or either of us."
She sat, fuming. "Dammit, Lisa, you just don't know what it's like! I don't just have a glass ceiling, I have homophobia to fight every day of my life, too. Captain Kruger was a great man and it was really bad for me when he was promoted and replaced. He never cared about my personal life or my gender. I made Detective Sergeant under him and then Lieutenant. Now I have had Captain Jordan, a Bible-thumping, homophobic good ole boy, in charge of homicide for three months, and he was just waiting for this. He wants me gone and, mark my words, he will find a way to make this permanent."
I slid my arms around her and she broke down, burying her head in my shoulder. Underneath her rock-hard exterior, she had an emotional side. She was just afraid to let it out. Afraid to let someone else see her pain.
When she had cried herself out, I gave her some tissues. The box was being used so hard this week, I thought I'd better see about getting some more. While she wiped her eyes, I leaned forward and put my hands on her leg.
"Here's what we are going to do. We are going to get out of here and drive to Galveston. We're going to get into Calvin's files and find out who might have wanted him dead. I think someone killed Calvin because that was who they were after. They must have stalked him and maybe I was just a bonus or something. I don't know why they are after us but there must be some loose ends or they would have faded out of sight. We're going to hit all the suspects until one of them cracks. What we are not going to do is let the good ole boy network sink this investigation."
My eyes flared with a release of anger that I hadn't realized had been building in me for days. "Someone killed my best friend and now has almost killed my boyfriend. I am not going to sit back anymore and let Digger, your boss or anyone else dick with me. I am going to find the bastard and take him down. Are you with me?"
Hawk grinned like a shark and wiped away the last of her tears. "Fuck it, if I get busted, I hated working for that prick anyway. I put myself through college working for a private investigator and had a license before I ever became a cop." Then she sobered up. "But what about you, Hon? If they find out we are giving them the finger like this, you might get canned, too."
I pursed my lips and nodded. "I might be asked to resign but I don't think they would push hard enough to disbar me. I can always get work as a lawyer or even open my own practice. But cheer up! They might never figure it out. Let's cross those bridges if we come to them."
Hawk tossed her tissues into the trash and stood up. "We need to go leave a statement with the deputies like you promised. Then dick-cheese won't have any reason to be haunting us for a while. We need Colombo of the boondocks like I need dick."
I smiled and raised an eyebrow. "I did see you cop a feel earlier."
Hawk flushed and rolled her eyes. "That was more of a rhetorical statement. Let's not get bogged down in my sexual identity crisis. Let's get a handle on this first."
I nodded. "Let's do it. Now, where do we get a car?"
"We boost Ted's," she said as we headed back for the door, "if we can't get some keys from Stan. Stan. That's an odd name, don't you think? Stan - no, Stanley Stansbury. Did his mother hate him? Did they call him Stan-Stan when he was a kid? Jeeze, poor bugger."
I suppressed my amusement. "Do all cops have to joke when the situation sucks?"
"Yes," she said without breaking stride. "It's part of the union rules. Speaking of which, I should file a complaint with my Association Rep. I doubt it will do any good but it's better than just letting him get away with it."
"Let me know if you decide to sue him," I said. "I know some great attack lawyers," I replied as we were almost to the deputies.
"God, I hate lawyers," she muttered and then glanced at me. "With certain exceptions."
I shook my head. "You just want my body."
Hawk snorted. "No shit, Sherlock! Where'd you get your first clue?"
It took half an hour to give our statements. Actually, it took Hawk half an hour. I was done in fifteen minutes. When I was done, I looked around for Stan and I found him cleaning up some of the trash and setting chairs into some kind of order.
"Stan, any word on Ted?"
He set a chair down and slumped into it. "I talked with Sue and the doctor is sewing up the cut in his scalp now. X-rays show no fractures, thank God, and they think he even got away without a concussion. They'll probably turn him loose today sometime." He swallowed heavily. "Lisa, he was almost killed. What is going on? Who's doing this and who's really the target? I heard that Hawk was off the case. Who'll find the bad guy now?"
I pulled a chair next to him and held his hand. "I don't know, but I promise you that I'll be all over this until I do know who did this and can take them down." I smiled a little. "Ted told me almost the exact same thing when Calvin died. Stan, he'll be safe in the hospital for now, under guard. Hopefully, Hawk and I will have some answers before he gets out. Speaking of which, I need to borrow a car. Can I take Ted's?"
Stan nodded, fishing in his pants. "I got the keys from the paramedics. Here." He handed them over. "Hawk is still working the case?" he asked belatedly.
"Yes, but keep that close to your vest. We don't want to telegraph that to anyone. Let them think we've slunk off like good little girls," I said.
Stan nodded. "No worries. I can do that. I've seen that new guy watching you and Hawk. You think he'll follow you?"
I frowned. That seemed... What? Out of character? Too intelligent? Both and more? "He sounds like a good ole boy to me. What makes you think he would want to follow us?"
Stan shrugged. "I just think he's interested in the two of you and is taking pains to not seem that way. I'm a people-watcher, and what I see doesn't add up, really. Don't mistake backwoodsy for stupid. When you two went into the house he made a circle around it and then watched the front door. He's definitely interested in you two, alright."
"Well," I admitted, "I suppose he might try to follow us then. You have a plan?"
He smiled the Stan smile. "I'll come up with something. You need a distraction, and I'm sure I can provide something worthwhile. Go wait for Hawk and make a break for it when you see my signal."
I gave him a quick hug and stood up. "Thank you, Stan, and thank you for not blaming me for this. I know how easy it would be for you to hate me."
Stan shook his head. "You are the best thing that has come into my brother's life for a decade, or more. You don't know how badly Sue and I were starting to feel about his chances at any happiness. You, Lisa, are an angel from Heaven, and I don't blame this on you. I blame the person behind it. Ted told me the night he first saw you that you were interesting. He just never realized it was in the old Chinese curse sense, too. You know, may you live in interesting times."
I impulsively hugged him again. "Thank you for that. Except the Chinese thing. I never expected to live in interesting times either." I gave him a peck on the cheek and headed back to the pavilion.
Digger was watching me as I walked back. His expression was clearer this time, more open and with a smile of good cheer that I was starting to become suspicious of. I smiled sweetly and waved back before turning my attention to Hawk. She was just finishing giving her statement.
She smiled without humor as she walked up to me. "That doofus has been watching me. He really doesn't have a clue. How the hell did he ever make the cut to be a state trooper, much less a Ranger?" She shook her head. "It really does prove that it's who you know, or in his case, maybe it's who you blow." We both snickered at that thought.
"Maybe. Stan thinks there's more than meets the eye." I moved us to a table near the driveway and Ted's car. "He gave me Ted's keys and is going to make some kind of distraction while we skate so Digger doesn't follow us."
Hawk looked skeptical. "Him? Follow us? Humph, he doesn't have the brains to pour piss out of a boot with the instructions printed on the bottom."
I shrugged. "Take it as you will. I think we should just accept the distraction and when it comes we..."
A loud crash from the smaller metal building next to the adobe building housing all the barrels of wine startled both of us. Then, the wall closest to us bowed and ripped apart as half a dozen barrels thundered through them. It was far enough from the pavilion that there was no danger to us but it drew everyone to see what was happening. Even Digger was on his feet and running towards the building.
"That's our cue. Let's roll," I said.
We ran to the car and threw ourselves inside it. I tossed my purse in between us on the seat. With a subdued roar, it started. We turned in the drive and zoomed out onto the county road. A clean getaway.
The drive to Galveston was quiet, and when I parked outside the office, I saw a police car parked out front and got worried. "Shit. Now there's a guard. What do we do?"
Hawk motioned forward. "Drive around the block and into the alley. I saw some fire escapes last time. I bet not everyone in your office is diligent about locking the windows. They never are. The guard will have locked the outside doors and be gone down to the lobby. Legal question, counselor. Are we breaking the law here or bending it?"
I chuckled grimly. "Not that my opinion makes a lot of difference, I bet, but probably bending it. I have authority to be in the building and even in the files in Calvin's office. By law, you can't break and enter where you have authority to be. So, entering the building may get us misdemeanor property damage, if we have to break something. Calvin's office is an active crime scene, so there is the possibility of tampering with evidence, but that's weak. Real weak, since they will have already been through it. My call is we could beat it, but we'd still be smoked turkey if we get caught, so let's be real quiet."
Hawk exited Ted's car and pulled down the metal ladder with a clatter and started climbing. I locked up and climbed behind her. She stopped on the second floor and waited for me. "Let's check the windows. If not these, I bet one a little further out from the fire escape might be unlocked." She checked the windows, but they were all locked. With a sly smile, she put one leg over the rail. "Hold my arm. Don't let me go."