Home > Devoted in Death (In Death #41)(2)

Devoted in Death (In Death #41)(2)
J.D. Robb

She laughed, and shooed Darryl back when he tried to grab at her.

“You just wait, baby, you just wait. And stay out of sight now. A man comes along, he’s going to stop to help me out for sure.”

“He’s gonna want to do more than that. Holy Jesus, Ella-Loo, you’re sexy as black lace panties. I got a boner so big it’s killing me just looking at you.”

“That’s the idea. If a woman comes along, she might stop, might not. A couple of men will, a couple of women might. Mix it up, it’s back to maybe. But sooner or later, baby.”

She ran her finger over his mouth, gave him a grind, crotch to crotch, that made him moan before she nudged him away.

“More of that later, honey. It’s not full dark yet. People are more inclined to stop to help before it gets dark. Go on back in that brush there. I’ve got to look helpless, and I won’t when I’ve got myself a strong, handsome man beside me.”

She’d chosen the spot well – maybe too well as the sun dipped lower without a single vehicle passing going either way.

“I maybe could get it running again,” Darryl called out. “Enough to get to a motel or a town, just boost something there.”

“This is going to work, Darryl.” She had her mind set on it. “We just have to – I see a car coming. When he stops, give me some time to play it up. Then you come out, baby, and take care of it. You’ll take care of it, won’t you, Darryl?”

“You know I will.”

She stood beside the car, hands clasped together as if in prayer, big blue eyes wide with what she hoped came off as a little hope, a little fear.

She loved playacting.

And she felt her excitement rise as the car – and a fine one, too – slowed. The man lowered the window, angled across the seat. “Having some trouble?”

“Oh, yes, sir, I surely am.” Older, she noted, maybe right around fifty, so he’d be easy for Darryl to knock out, tie up, and drag off into the brush. “It just up and died on me. I tried getting hold of my brother – it’s his truck – but my ’link must be broken, or maybe I forgot to pay the service fee. I’m always forgetting something.”

“You didn’t forget to fuel up, did you?” he asked.

“Oh, no, sir. That is, my brother, Henry, had it topped right off. That’s Henry Beam (the name of her U.S. history teacher back in high school) from Fayetteville? Maybe you know him – it seems everybody knows Henry.”

“I’m afraid I don’t. I’m not from around here. Let me pull up in front of you, and I’ll take a look.”

“Thank you so much. I just didn’t know what I was going to do. It’s getting dark, too.”

He pulled up. His car was a shiny silver, and though she’d have liked red – just like her shoes – she wouldn’t complain. She fluttered around when he told her to unlock the hood, so he reached into the truck, released the latch himself.

He had a nice wrist unit, she noted, silver and shiny like the car. She wanted Darryl to have it.

“I don’t know much about trucks,” he began, “so if it’s not an easy fix, I can take you into Bentonville. You can use my ’link to get in touch with your brother.”

“That’s so nice of you. I was afraid somebody maybe not so nice would stop, and I didn’t know what to do.” She glanced toward the brush, kept up a chatter to mask the rustling Darryl made as he came out. “My ma’s going to be worrying soon if I’m not back, so if you’re going to Bentonville, that would be just fine. She’ll thank you herself for bringing me home.”

“I thought you said Fayetteville.”

“What? Oh, Henry,” she began.

Something must have shown in her eyes or he heard the quiet step of Darryl’s boot, as he reared back, turned just as Darryl raised the tire iron. It struck the man on the shoulder.

And he leaped at Darryl like a demon from hell.

It happened so fast – the flying fists, the animal grunts and snarls. Thinking only of Darryl, Ella-Loo snatched up the tire iron that had spun out of his hand, tried to get a solid grip.

She swung, striking the now raging Good Samaritan hard across the back, realized her mistake when it didn’t stop him. The next time, she aimed for the legs.

One of them buckled – she clearly heard a crack. Even hurt he managed to swing around, backhand her. Before she could steady herself, try for the other leg, Darryl went crazy.

“Put your hands on my woman, I’ll kill you!”

He pummelled, fists flying, eyes wild, teeth bared. She barely had time to scramble clear before the man, unbalanced on his bad leg, face bloody, fell back.

His head struck the front bumper of the truck, bounced off, then slapped against the pavement. Before she gave it a thought, she jumped in, smashed the tire iron across his face. Two hard blows.

He lay still now, eyes wide in his ruined face. Blood began to seep and pool under his head.

Ella-Loo’s breath puffed like a steam engine, whooshing out as her body quivered. “Is he… is he dead?”

“Shit, Ella-Loo, shit.” Staring down, Darryl pulled a bandanna out of his back pocket to mop at the sweat and blood on his face. “He looks dead to me.”

“We killed him.”

“Didn’t do it on purpose. Shit, Ella-Loo. He hit you right in the face. I can’t allow that. I can’t let anybody hurt my girl.”

“I didn’t want him to get up and hit you again, either. So I… You got to get him off the road. Get him back behind all that brush, Darryl, and quick before somebody else comes. And you take his wallet, his wrist unit. Take anything he’s got on him. Hurry.”

She found a rag in the truck, wiped down the tire iron, then tossed it into the backseat of their new car.

“Take his clothes, too, baby.”

“What?”

“Take everything. You never know, but hurry!”

She began hauling their things from the bed of the truck to the car. “Just put everything in the back, and we’ll sort through it later.”

Her heart hammered; her hands shook. But she moved fast and sure.

“We need to get everything of ours out of the truck, baby, and I guess we need to wipe the steering wheel and so on. Anything we think we’ve touched. I’ll do that.”

She did the best she could, then finished with Darryl’s help as they didn’t have much to transfer from truck to car. In ten minutes Darryl was behind the wheel with Ella-Loo beside him.

“Don’t go over the speed limit now. We’re just going to put some distance between us and that man and the truck.”

She held on, a mile, five, ten. At twenty-five, she broke.

“Pull off, pull off! See that road there? God Almighty, pull off, Darryl, go back in the trees there.”

“Are you gonna be sick, honey?”

“I can still smell his blood. It’s on you. It’s on me, too.”

“It’s all right, now. It’s gonna be all right, now.” He pulled off, bumped his way through some trees, stopped. “Honey.”

“Did you see his face? His eyes staring at us, but not seeing us? And the blood coming out of his mouth. Of his ears.”

She turned to him, her face lit like the sun, her eyes huge, full of wonder and want. “We killed somebody. Together.”

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