A fresh Set of Eyes
ANA KNEW THAT NONE OF THIS had much to do with why she couldn’t stop thinking about Rick. This wasn’t about last night’s adventure in the woods, or his offer to help, or even the mishap in the bathroom. She smiled at the thought of his expression when he opened the bathroom door.
The real reason she couldn’t stop thinking about him was the sheer force of his personality. It took a lot of guts to sneak into her crime scene. He was bold and impetuous, yet at the same time surprisingly modest and self-effacing. And she had never in her life met a man so . . . intriguing.
He is one of a kind.
Of course, she already knew that. She knew it the first time she read one of his books.
So maybe I'm simply star-struck.
Ana tried to stop Edith from pouring her a glass of orange juice. “Come on, Edith, you don’t have to wait on me. Sit down and eat.”
“As long as you’re paying room and board, hotshot, I’ll be serving breakfast and pouring the orange juice.”
“What am I, the Queen of Sheba? Sit down.”
“I’ll sit when I’m good and ready. I’ve still got another guest to feed.” She looked toward the stairs. “Although, the way he looked last night, you must have kicked his butt, out there in the woods.”
A little sheepish grin spread across Ana's face. “No, no. He got into the mud and the pine needles, all by himself.”
“You should be ashamed of yourself, Ana. Treating him like that in his condition.”
“You really didn’t notice him hobblin’ around like a duck with a busted wing?”
“You’ve got to be kidding.” Ana stared, waiting for the rest of the story.
“Well, he’s got a broken shoulder.” Edith rubbed her own shoulder and grimaced.
Ana cocked her head to one side. “How do you know that?”
“Don’t forget, I used to work in a hospital, you know. It was so bad when he got here, that he couldn’t even carry his own suitcase. Besides, he told me.”
Ana felt a stab of sympathy. Her admiration of him, for following her team through woods, jumped a few notches.
“How did it happen?”
“Well . . . he didn’t tell me exactly, but I’ll bet it was line-of-duty. Takin’ down one of them street gangs, or something.”
“Or maybe an accident,” Ana suggested.
“Maybe he’ll tell us,” Edith mumbled.
“Maybe.” Ana grinned. “If we ask him.”
* * *
“SORRY I’M LATE,” I said to Edith, as I came down the stairs. “I know you told me that you didn’t like stragglers.” I took a seat across from Ana. She didn’t seem the least embarrassed, even gave me a slight smile.
Things are looking up. Maybe, now’s the time to make my pitch for staying.
“You’re fine, Mr. Butterworth, we just started a little early is all. I’ll have your food right out,” Edith said over her shoulder, as she headed toward the kitchen.
When she was gone, Ana and I sat quietly listening to Edith clanging around in the kitchen. Ana stared at her breakfast but didn’t say a word.
I still couldn’t find a way to ask for a reprieve. “I started packing. Should be out of your hair in an hour or two.”
Ana put her fork down.
“Look,” she said. “I want to apologize for last night. I overreacted.”
I shook my head. “No, you were right. I had no business being at that crime scene.”
“Let’s forget about that, okay? I have a proposition for you.”
“Proposition?” My eyebrows flew up.
“I want to take you up on your offer to help. You can ride along with me, observe and comment, put me on the right track when you think I’ve been derailed. All I ask is that you don’t write about it until the case is closed.”
“Sounds fair enough to me.”
She sat quietly for a moment. I could tell she was watching the relief on my face and that she knew I’d been hoping she’d change her mind.
But there was something troubling her, too, something unrelated to the case.
Keep your mouth shut, Rick. Now, if you just have sense enough to quit while you’re ahead.
“I really do need someone to take a new look at the case,” she said.
“I’ll see what I can see,” I muttered.
“Seriously, I really could use a fresh pair of eyes.” A mischievous grin spread over her face before she went on, “And your eyes are working just fine.”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“Well, it didn’t take you long to get an eyeful this morning.”