Elaine’s heart skipped a beat. What was Nick doing contacting Jose? She snatched her phone out of her purse and tried to look distracted as Jose walked up to the table. He smiled down at her and raised his dark eyebrows.
Elaine faked a smile. “Yea let’s go.”
The drive home was quiet with Jose casting her questioning sideways glances. Elaine tried not to notice and just stared out the window.
When they finally arrived inside her apartment Jose placed a hand on her arm.
“Hey you’ve been kind of quiet. Are you that upset about the plan? I really think it’s the best thing to do.”
Elaine shook her head, her curls swaying. “No it’s a fine plan, I’m just anxious that’s all. I want to get things going.” She smiled to reassure him. Jose smiled back.
“Great. Trust me this will work. I’m going to start making some calls.” Jose pulled out his phone and unlocked the screen. Immediately his face fell and his demeanor changed. He glanced up at Elaine. “Hey I received a message from the station. I have to call them back. Why don’t I take this outside so you can make your call to the insurance company?”
Elaine nodded in consent and made her way to the kitchen. As soon as Jose left, she ran to the door and peeked out the peep hole. He wasn’t there. She ran to the window to see if he left the building. A minute later he stepped out into the cold night and began to dial. Elaine unlocked the window and tugged it open. She could barely make out Jose’s voice carried up to her by the wind.
“Yea…I know I know…No I don’t think that will work. She’s too smart for that…Yes I know where you stand…Ok…that might work but I have a better idea what if instead I told her…”
Jose’s words were cut off by the loud muffler of a car racing down the street. She could see him cover his ear to hear better and nod his head. What was he saying? She needed to know. She saw Jose hang up the phone and she quickly pulled the window closed and bolted to the kitchen. She began brewing some tea and pulled out her phone to call the insurance company. Jose walked in as she was giving her information and she was welcome for the distraction. She didn’t want to look him in the face at the moment. He sat on her couch and she brought him a steamy mug then quickly ducked back into the kitchen.
After she hung up with the insurance company she walked out into the living room to confront Jose.
He raised his eyebrows. “So, what happened?”
Elaine was thrown off then realized he meant her conversation with the insurance company. “Oh…umm…they said it will most likely be a total loss unfortunately. They will get an assessment of the car and if it is then they will send me a check for the value and I will have to buy another one.”
Jose nodded his head solemnly. “Sorry to hear, I know that’s a headache right now that you don’t want to deal with but maybe its better this way. Nick had info on your car, now he doesn’t. You will be a little safer.” Elaine nodded her head distracted. What was she going to say to him? She was so thrown off by how he could be so nice and conversational with her when he was plotting to hand her over to Nick. A wave of exhaustion hit her.
Elaine yawned. “Yea but all this excitement has me beat. I’m ready for bed.” She rose from the couch and made her way to the bedroom. “Night.” She called.
“Oh Elaine wait.” Elaine turned to Jose, refusing to meet his gaze. “That was an inside source. I have an idea who the mole might be.”
Yea you. Elaine thought.
“With you getting a new car this will be perfect. I’m going to leak information about your whereabouts. I will say you were driving your car to a remote place to get away for a bit. I will take you to a safe place in case they check here at the apartment first. Then I will take a partner over and see who shows up at the location you’re supposed to be at. Whoever it is, we will take into custody for questioning and start getting answers.” Jose smiled broadly clearly not suspecting that Elaine watched him with suspicious eyes.
She pasted a smile on her face. “Sounds like a plan. Let me know when and I’ll be ready.”
“First thing tomorrow morning, I already have the safe place ready for you. Get some rest this will all be over by tomorrow.” Jose nodded his head to her and walked out the door. Elaine followed behind and bolted it close. She watched out the window as Jose got into his car and let the engine run idly as he waited for morning.
Well he would wait in vain because Elaine wouldn’t be here in the morning. She was leaving tonight. Elaine made her way to her bedroom and grabbed a backpack and began stuffing clothes inside. She needed to get away and fast.
To Be Continued…
The warm liquid soothed Elaine’s jittery nerves as she sat in a corner booth of a local diner. Jose sat across the table from her, enjoying a steamy bite of his apple pie. He smiled noting Elaine’s calmer demeanor.
“Good?” his dark eyebrows rose questioningly.
Elaine smiled and nodded her head. An older waitress with a short blonde bob, kind smile and a smoker’s cough dropped off Elaine’s apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and Jose’s hot chocolate.
“Sorry for the wait kids.” Her voice sounded gravelly in the quiet diner. “Enjoy.” She waddled away to the kitchen leaving Elaine and Jose alone.
Elaine grabbed a fork, suddenly hungry. “So, what great info did Mack tell you?” She took a large bite, enjoying the hot and cold sweetness colliding in her mouth.
Jose sipped on his hot chocolate before answering. “Mack said that Nick has been laying low since everything happened, which we both know, but that he has come out from hiding a few times to get some things together.”
“What things?” Elaine leaned forward, her mug held tightly between her hands.
“Identification documents for one. He also has been gathering the documentation for his ships at that loading dock you were taken to. He has been visiting there often, preparing a lot of shipments and trades.”
“It sounds like he is getting ready to leave the country.” Jose nodded.
“Mack heard rumors that they are planning to be gone for a while.”
Elaine finished off her apple pie pushing her plate aside. “We need to act fast. We need to find out where he is and stop him.”
Jose paused and looked at Elaine. “I know where he is.”
Elaine sat up straighter. “You do?”
Jose shook his head. “Elaine we can’t just go barging in there. We need to plan and think this through before we make a move.”
Elaine crossed her arms. “I told you I don’t want to just sit around and wait.”
“Elaine something is happening right now. The whole city is being set up in this chess game where you are the main queen to take down. Mack said he has people everywhere and he means that. We think that there is someone in our police force that is working for Nick. We have to watch our backs at every turn. We need to make a plan.”
Elaine sighed. “Then what is your plan?”
Jose sat back thinking. Finally he answered. “First of all you need to wait. You have to follow direction otherwise this won’t work.” Elaine scrunched up her face in irritation. Jose gave her a pointed look of his own. “Second, we need to plant a lie to make it seem like you will be accessible then see who shows up. If someone does than we will know there is a mole. From there we can trace who that person is which will help us when we plan to get Nick in his hideout.”
Jose threw his hands up. “Elaine that’s the best we can do for now. If we tell the wrong person our information that will expose you and Nick will be able to get to you. Just trust me ok?” He glanced at his phone then stood. “I’m going to the bathroom then we can go back to your place so you can call the insurance company about your car.” He walked to the back of the diner and disappeared around the corner.
Elaine fumed. She appreciated Jose’s help but he was too cautious. She needed to get the ball rolling on this she needed to find Nick. She shook her head in frustration when a gleam of light caught her eye. She looked across the table to find Jose’s phone there. She looked around for him then snatched it. The auto lock hadn’t come on yet!
She started flipping through texts and folders, glancing up every now and then to see if she could hear his footsteps. Jose’s phone was pretty empty; he didn’t even have pictures of himself in it, just random food shots and outside views. Then Elaine found an unnamed folder in his music files. She opened it to find several memo notes, the most recent one taken today not long ago. She opened it to find notes on the conversation between Mack and Jose. She glanced up again and quickly speed read through most of the information she already knew. Then at the end she found what she was looking for. Quickly pulling out her phone she typed in the address at the bottom of the memo.
As she finished up and closed down the folders she heard the bathroom door opening. She quickly set the phone down when it pinged that a text message came through. She glanced down and gasped at the name she saw. Nick Palatnokiv’s names popped up with the message “Jose we need to talk about Elaine. I need your help.”
To Be Continued…
Jose’s black sedan rolled to a slow stop in a vacant parking lot underneath an overpass. He shut off the engine as he squinted out the foggy window to his left searching for someone.
“Ok Elaine. I need you to stay low. Don’t get out of the car for any reason do you understand?” Elaine nodded her eyes wide with curiosity. A few silent minutes later a blue small pick up truck cautiously pulled into the parking lot across the street. Jose threw his badge into the consol and shoved his cell phone in his pocket. “That’s him. I’ll be right back.” He slipped out of the car and strode across the street.
A tall lanky man nervously exited the blue truck and craned his neck around, glaring at Jose’s silent car. Elaine ducked down despite the car’s tinted windows. She peeked up to see Jose put his hand out to the man to shake. They began to talk, heads bent low and without Elaine being able to hear anything she easily became bored. She blew on her hands as the car cooled to the surrounding winter temperature. She glanced at her cell phone noting they had spoken for approximately 15 minutes. When she looked up again she saw that the windows were fogging up and she couldn’t see as well through them. She let out a snort of frustration as she tried to inch closer to get a better view.
If I can just get a good swipe I could see better, she thought to herself. Carefully she leaned over and using the sleeve of her wool jacket she wiped away the fog to get a better view. That was when the tall lanky man looked in her direction and noticed the gesture. She held her breath as he began to point at the car and yell animatedly. Jose looked back and put out his hands trying to calm the man down. The man reached into this back pocket and pulled out a gun pointing it at Jose.
Elaine gasped as Jose put his hands up, using slow gestures to keep the man calm. Elaine glanced down and noticed Jose had left his gun in the front seat. She grabbed it and jumped out of the car aiming it at the man.
“Drop your gun!” she called. She inched around the car steadily moving closer to the men.
“Look lady, I will not hesitate to shoot your friend here so I suggest you put your gun down.” The man snarled at her.
“Mack, look, she’s with me. She’s not a cop; she just came along for the ride.”
“She looks like a cop to me.” He stared at Jose. “I told you man, you bring anyone else along the deal was over and you’re dead.”
“Trust me Mack. She’s not going to rat you out, I promise.”
“I trusted you….”Mack glanced at Elaine then paused, recognition dawning on his face. “It’s you. You’re the one he’s after.” Mack made a noise that sounded like the mix between a laugh and snarl.
He stared at Jose. “You’re helping her? Oh this is real good man.” He shook his head and backed slowly away still steadily holding the gun to Jose’s head. “Lady, you want a piece of advice? Run. Get as far away from here as possible. I don’t know how much that will help you because Nick, he’s got people everywhere.” He looked back at Jose. “And I mean everywhere.” He smiled wickedly at the both of them as he opened the truck door and climbed in, never dropping the gun.
“He’s got this whole city in the palm of his hand.” Mack’s laughter was drowned out by the roar of his engine. He sped off into the night, tires squealing in his wake. Elaine dropped her arms; they felt like lead after tensely holding them up at Mack for so long. Jose was immediately at her side, his hands on her shoulders rubbing her arms.
“You ok?” he asked.
She looked up at him, her cheeks red with embarrassment. “Sorry I gave you away. I shouldn’t have tried to wipe the fog off the windows. I didn’t think he would see me.”
Jose sighed. “Yea you did make me lose my lead.” His smile broadened. “But not before he gave me some great information. Come on we can discuss it over some hot chocolate.”
Elaine shook her head. “Unless he told you where Nick is secretly hiding out and how we can get in to him there, I doubt his lead could help.”
Jose stopped, his smile broadening more until his dimple winked at her. “It was something like that.” Elaine’s mouth dropped in surprise. “Come on I know the perfect spot that has the best hot chocolate and apple pie. We’ve got to devise a plan if we’re going to catch Nick.”
To Be Continued…
Elaine was trapped. She stood in a building that was foggy and dark with stacks of boxes everywhere. She tried to make her way out but it seemed like a thin screen obscured her vision making it difficult for her to see. She tried to feel around but her arms felt like dead weight. A strange ringing sounded in the distance becoming louder and louder until she had to cover her hears and spots danced in front of her eyes overwhelming her vision.
Elaine snapped awake, the dream slipping away but the ringing in her ears didn’t. She slowly lifted her face off the steering wheel and lifted a heavy hand to touch the large bump on her forehead. She felt a wet spot and found she had a small gash below her hairline. She jumped as her car door flew open and Jose kneeled at her side, his gun held firmly in his hand.
“Elaine are you ok? Can you hear me?” he waved a hand in front of her face. She nodded slowly. “Come on, we have to get you to the hospital.” Jose snaked an arm around Elaine, unbuckling her and wrapping around her waist as he helped hoist her out of the car. Elaine glanced at the damaged car and chuckled to herself. Just one more totaled thing in her life, she thought ironically.
Jose helped her into the front seat of his car. He jumped in the driver’s side, rapidly talking to his dispatch on the radio as he drove. Elaine heard sirens surround her as she closed her heavy eyelids willing the pain to go away.
A few hours and stitches later, Elaine stumbled into her apartment with Jose’s help. She curled up on the couch feeling the pain medication given to her at the hospital start make its way into her system. She tried to ask Jose questions at the hospital but he was mostly chattering angrily on his phone, throwing worried looks at Elaine.
“What happened?” She asked groggily as Jose laid a blanket over her and sat at her feet on the couch. He seemed to weigh in his mind what he was going to say. “I want the truth.” She said pointedly giving her best no nonsense face.
Jose sighed. “Well your stunt at the warehouse didn’t go unnoticed. Someone recognized you and tried to hurt you. They would have succeeded but I scared them off.” Jose put a hand up as he saw Elaine’s mouth open. “No we didn’t catch the vehicle and it didn’t have a license plate. We have men on the scene at the warehouse trying to ask questions but Nick is unavailable. We don’t know where he is and we can’t get on the premises without a warrant. We won’t be granted one most likely because this was a hit and run with no known suspects. Elaine I can’t stress enough to you that you can’t go back there. I am being questioned as to why you were there and I couldn’t give them a straight answer.”
Elaine was furious. “This was an attempt on my life. My car is ruined, my office is ruined. How much more is it going to take for something to be done?”
Jose covered his face with his hand. “We are doing the best we can but we are bound within the law. We can’t just go barging into places without going through the proper channels.”
“But Nick isn’t playing by the law. He isn’t going through the proper channels to get to me.”
Before Jose could answer her, his cell chirped from his side. He put a finger up and grabbed the phone walking to the kitchen to answer. Elaine heard him talk in low excited tones. She craned her neck to hear the conversation when she saw him snap the phone close and turn to her with a hopeful expression.
“Elaine, I might have a lead but I need to go now otherwise we could lose it.”
Elaine quickly pushed herself up. “You know I’m going with you. You can’t stop me.”
Jose looked ready to argue with her when he thought otherwise. “Fine.” He conceded. “But we do this my way. You have to stay hidden, otherwise this could mess up the only possible lead we have. Deal?” He held out his hand.
“Deal.” Elaine wrapped her hand in his strong warm grip, a tingling sensation creeping up her arm. She snatched her arm away and began shoving it into her wool jacket. “Let’s go.”
To Be Continued…