Home > To Die For (Blair Mallory #1)(5)

To Die For (Blair Mallory #1)(5)
Author: Linda Howard

Also, fighting like that will break at least two fingernails. It's a given.

So I felt around in my bag until I located my keys. The key ring had a thingamabob in the middle that kept the keys from sliding completely around, so they were always in order. The door key was the first one to the left of the middle thingie. I isolated it, then, staying low, duck-walked backward to the door. The motion looks really awful but is a great exercise for the thighs and butt.

No one jumped out at me. There wasn't any sound at all except for the distant noise of occasional traffic over on Parker, and that was somehow spookier than if she had leaped, shrieking, over the roof of my car at me. Not that I thought Nicole could jump that far, unless her gymnastic skills were way, way better than she had let on, and I knew better than that because she was the type to show off. She couldn't even do a split, and if she'd tried to do a backflip, the weight of her boobs would have dumped her on her face.

God, I wished she'd tried a backflip at least once.

My hands were shaking only a little-okay, more than a little-but I managed to unlock the door on the first try. I practically shot through the opening, and really, I wish I had given myself another inch or two of clearance because I bruised my right arm on the doorjamb. But then I was inside, and I slammed the door and turned the dead bolt, then crawled away in case she shot through the door.

I always leave a couple of low-wattage lights burning at night, but they're both in front. The light switch for the back hallway was just inside the door, of course, and no way was I going so close to the door. Because I couldn't see where I was going, I continued to crawl along the hallway, feeling my way past the female employees' bathroom-the men's room was on the other side of the hallway-then the break room, and finally reached the third door, which was my office.

I felt like a base runner sliding into home. Safe!

Now that there were walls and a locked door between me and the psycho-bitch, I stood up and turned on the overhead lights, then picked up the phone and angrily jabbed 911. If she thought I wouldn't have her arrested for this, she had seriously underestimated how thoroughly pissed I was.

Chapter Two

A black-and-white pulled, lights flashing, to a stop in the front parking lot exactly four minutes and twenty-seven seconds later. I know because I timed them. When I tell a 911 operator that someone is shooting at me, I expect fast service from the police department my taxes help support, and I had decided that anything under five minutes was reasonable. There's a little bit of diva in me that I try to keep bitch-slapped into submission, because it's true that people are more cooperative if you aren't snapping their heads off (go figure), and I make it a point to be as nice to people as I can-my ex-husband excluded-but all bets are off when I fear for my life.

Not that I was hysterical or anything. I didn't charge out the front door and throw myself into the arms of the boys in blue-I wanted to, but they emerged from their patrol car with their hands on their pistol butts, and I suspected they'd shoot at me, too, if I ran at them. I'd had enough of that for one night, so though I turned on the lights and unlocked the front door, I stayed just inside the door, where they could see me but I was protected from any lurking psycho-bitch. Also, the drizzle had turned into rain and I didn't want to get wet.

I was calm. I wasn't jumping up and down and shrieking. Granted, the adrenaline and stress had caught up with me and I was shaking from head to toe, and I really wanted to call Mom, but I toughed it out and didn't even cry.

"We have a report of shots being fired at this location, ma'am," one of the cops said as I stepped back and let them enter. His alert gaze was studying every detail of the empty reception area, probably searching for people with weapons. He looked to be in his late twenties, with a buzz cut and a thick neck that told me he worked out. He wasn't one of my clients, though, because I knew them all. Maybe I could show him around the facilities while he was here, after they had arrested Nicole's ass and hauled her off to the psych ward. Hey, never miss an opportunity to expand your client base, right?

"Just one shot," I said. I held out my hand. "I'm Blair Mallory, and I own Great Bods."

I don't think many people properly introduce themselves to cops, because both of them looked taken aback. The other cop looked even younger, a baby cop, but he recovered first and actually shook my hand. "Ma'am," he said politely, then took a little notebook out of his pocket and wrote down my name. "I'm Officer Barstow, and this is Officer Spangler."

"Thank you for coming," I said, giving them my best smile. Yes, I was still shaking, but good manners are good manners.

They were subtly less wary, since I was obviously not armed. I was wearing a midriff-baring pink halter-top and black yoga pants, so I didn't even have any pockets where I might hide anything. Office Spangler removed his hand from his pistol. "What's going on?" he asked.

"This afternoon I had some trouble with a client, Nicole Goodwin"-her name was dutifully noted in Officer Barstow's little notebook-"when I refused to renew her membership based on numerous complaints filed by other members. She became violent, knocked things off the desk, called me names, things like that-"

"Did she strike you?" Spangler asked.

"No, but she was waiting for me tonight when I locked up. Her car was in the parking lot in back, where the employees park. It was still there when I called nine-one-one, though she's probably gone by now. I could see her and someone else, I think a man, by her car. I heard a shot and dropped to the ground behind my car, then someone-I think the man-drove off, but Nicole stayed, or at least her car did. I stayed low, got back inside the building, and called nine-one-one."

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