Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: 2
Title: Got a Secret . . . Can You Keep it? (Part Twenty-six)
“No way, you crazy bitch!” Janice plowed into Melinda, knocking her to the ground. The gun flew from Melinda's hand, sending a wild shot into the side of Paul's SUV. Janice straddled her aunt and pinned Melinda's arms in the damp grass. She bared her teeth, her eyes burning with determination. “You don't get off that easy! Not gonna happen!”
Melinda's lips pressed into a tight line, and she closed her eyes as if hoping it would all go away. This seemed to anger Janice further. With a hysterical scream, Janice let go of Melinda's arms, adjusting her position to trap them beneath her knees, and began pummeling Melinda with her fists. She beat her about the face and chest and pulled her hair, all the while screeching incoherently.
Paul rushed over and grabbed Janice by the arms. “Stop this!” He dragged her off Melinda, who continued to lie still with her eyes closed despite the blood pouring from her nose.
Janice fought him like an animal—kicking at his legs, biting at his hands, and cursing like a trucker.
Hoffstra rushed over and confiscated the gun, then stood over Melinda while barking rapid-fire into his cell phone.
Ed leaned against Melinda's car, shaking his head and muttering about what a cluster-fuck this whole show was. He'd missed his weekly poker game for this? When Hoffstra glared at him, he flipped him the bird and lit a cigarette. He refused to get involved any further in what he considered a bunch of nuts that deserved each other—and he was including Hoffstra in that assessment.
Paul lost his balance and sprawled on his backside with Janice still in his grip. Although her back rested against his chest, and her arms were useless to her, she managed to batter at his shins with her heels.
“Ow! Janice, for fuck's sake!”
“Let go of me, you two-timing slime-ball!” She kicked harder. “I'll claw your eyes out!”
“Now, there's something that would make this day worthwhile.” Ed laughed raucously and flicked ash to the ground.
Hoffstra slipped his phone into his trench and made it over to Ed in three long strides. “Shut. Your. Mouth.” He punctuated each softly spoken word by poking his index finger against Ed's flannel-covered chest.
Ed smirked. “Chill, Hoffstra.”
“Just stand here and look amused, but stay out of my way.” Hoffstra returned to Melinda's side. “Mrs. Jeffries?”
No response. The flow of blood had slowed, and Melinda's face was beginning to swell. Her eyes remained closed, her expression one of disinterest.
Paul managed to wind his legs around Janice's, rendering her immobile—with the exception of the increasingly colorful threats and obscenities that continued to spew from her lips.
The wail of sirens rose and fell in the distance, and Hoffstra huffed out a relieved breath.
“Hey! A little help over here?” Paul glared at Hoffstra.
Hoffstra remained at Melinda's side, shooting a baleful look Paul's way. “You seem to be good at juggling women—surely you can handle her until the police arrive.” He slipped a worked over pack of Pall Malls from his pocket and lit one.
Three police cruisers and an ambulance arrived a few minutes later. The paramedics hurried over to Melinda, who refused to respond to their questions.
“Heart rate is good. BP's a little high. Let's pack that nose and get her loaded up.”
“This girl over here needs to go to the hospital as well.” Hoffstra gestured to Janice, who was still tangled up with Paul on the ground.
“Looks like he might be the one that needs medical attention,” a police officer pointed out.
The paramedics laughed.
Hoffstra grimaced. “Listen, she might not look injured, but she's been missing for several weeks and needs to be checked out. She,” he pointed to Melinda, “kidnapped Ms. Strohm.”
The paramedics fell into a shocked silence for a moment before their training kicked in; then they were all business. After loading the stretcher with Melinda into the ambulance, one of the paramedics approached Janice.
“I'm not riding with her!” Janice's blue eyes filled with hatred.
Officer Bowen crouched on the grass and smiled at Janice. “I understand how you're feeling. How about I give you a lift to the hospital?”
Janice glanced around at everyone and reluctantly agreed. “I guess . . .”
“Now, Ms. Strohm, I need you to promise you're not going to attack this gentleman anymore when he lets you up, okay?”
Janice snorted. “Gentleman, my ass. Sure—I promise.”
“Thank you. Okay, sir, I need you to release Ms. Strohm to me.”
Ten minutes later, the ambulance and Officer Bowen's cruiser left for the hospital, followed by another police car. Ed hitched a ride with the remaining officers, much to Hoffstra's pleasure, leaving him alone with Paul Jeffries.
Hoffstra lit another cigarette, wishing he carried a flask with him as he pulled out his phone to call Janice's parents.
The mystery of Janice's disappearance was solved, and the girls had been found alive, which was bordering on miraculous considering the time lapse. On the evening news, this would come across as a victory, but Hoffstra knew it was only the beginning. Lives had been destroyed, blame would be placed, and actions would have long-reaching consequences.
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Sarah Aisling hails from the East Coast of the US and loves living by the ocean with her incredibly indulgent husband and precocious daughter. She’s currently editing her upcoming novel, The Weight of Roses. When Sarah isn’t being enslaved by her characters, she can be found with her nose in a book, obsessing over nail polish or anything leopard, biking, hiking, camping, and spending time with friends and family. Twitter: @SarahAisling Facebook