realized he was squeezing her neck, because her eyes were beginning to bulge.
He quickly let go and she collapsed, breathing hard.
“Where the hell did you come from?” he barked.
She couldn’t answer until she had regained her breath. Then she sat on her haunches in the space between the bucket seats and the back of the van.
“I knew you weren’t going to hang around for the cops. And I knew your van. So I came out and climbed into the back and hid there before you left the bar.”
He looked at her warily. “Why?” he asked.
“Why did I know you weren’t waiting around for the cops? I saw your face when the sirens started up. I saw the arteries in your neck swell as they got closer and closer.”
“Why are you in the back of my van?”
“Because I like you. And I’m trying to figure you out.”
“You need to get out of here.”
“Why? Because I might get in trouble hanging out with you?”
He started to say something, but it wouldn’t come out.
She said, “Are you okay? You were really, really sick.” She paused, looking him over. “Do you have cancer or something?”
He didn’t answer. He was trying to process how all this was going to spin out.
He looked at her neck. It was bruised from his fingers.
Just finish the job. She can’t be here.
“Paul, are you okay?”
“I’m fine. It’s not cancer. Just some food poisoning.”
“Well, thank God for that. Food poisoning passes. Look, it’s late, we should find a place to stay.”
“You can’t stay—”
She cut him off. “Just for tonight. Then you can drop me.” She added, “I did save your life tonight. Isn’t that worth something?”
* * *
After he found another motel and paid in cash they went to the room. Rogers took off his jacket and Davis slipped off her shoes.
“Your arm’s still bleeding,” she said.
“It’s nothing,” he said distractedly as he sat down in a chair, his gaze flitting to the window.
“Listening for more sirens?” she asked as she perched on the bed, drawing her legs up under her.
He shot her a glance and then looked away.
“If it makes you feel better I have a rap sheet too,” said Davis.
“Before you found the pot of gold with your adoptive parents?” he said.
“Something like that. How about you?”
“I never found a pot of gold.”
“I mean the criminal part.”
“I’ll sleep on the floor.” He rose and took off his shoes.
Davis stood, unzipped her dress, and stepped out of it.
Rogers froze. “What’s going on?”
She didn’t look at him as she took off her bra and underwear. “Don’t get crazy. I can’t sleep with clothes on.” She smiled. “The guys usually don’t mind. And it’s not like you haven’t seen me naked.”
She went into the bathroom, washed her face, came back out, and crawled under the covers. Rogers watched her turn on her side and close her eyes.
“Good night, Paul.”
He hit the wall switch and the room became dark. He looked down at the floor and then walked over to the bed and lay down on top of the covers.
Davis turned to face him. “We’re two peas in a pod, right? Damaged goods trying to make our way?”
“Where’d you learn to shoot like that?”
She gripped his hand. “Things will look better in the morning,” she said. “They always do.”
“But what about the rest of the day?” he said dully.
“Well, that’s why I learned to shoot like that.”
She closed her eyes and fell asleep.
WHILE THE POLICE continued to process the crime scene, Puller took the opportunity to go upstairs and inside the room where Josh Quentin had been.
The police had questioned and then released Quentin and his group. They had hightailed it out of here so fast one of the ladies had run out of her high heels.
Puller looked around the space. Bottles of beer and whiskey and wineglasses littered the place. So they had been partying.
He went through the door into what was set up as a bedroom. The bed was unmade, the pillows on the floor.
So they had been doing more than drinking. Were the women with Quentin hookers? Was that what was going on up here? Was that why Quentin was so scared about the cops coming? Big executive for a defense contractor caught with his pants down in a sea of hookers? And why would Helen Myers, who seemed to Puller like a sensible and responsible business owner, take that sort of risk? This was not Vegas. Prostitution was not legal in Virginia.
He walked back down the stairs to find Myers watching him from the bar. He walked over to her.
“What were you doing?” she asked.
Her mascara had run from her crying. She seemed to catch what he was gazing at, turned to the bar mirror, saw the damage, and used a wet bar towel to rub off the mascara.
“I guess I look a mess,” she said.
“You’re alive. Count your blessings.”
She slowly put down the towel. “You’re right.”
“Who’s Josh Quentin?” asked Puller.
“I told you, he’s a customer.”
“He uses the upstairs room.”
“A private space.”
“What does he need a private space for?”
Her expression became guarded. “I wouldn’t know. That’s why they call it private.”
“There’s a bedroom up there. And it looks like some action took place there.”
Puller looked around at the cops and detectives working the bar area.
“These guys will eventually work their way up there. And they’re going to have the same sorts of questions.”
“Upstairs had nothing to do with what happened downstairs.”
“Doesn’t matter if something illegal was going on up there.”
“Nothing illegal was going on up there,” she retorted.
“How do you know? You just said you don’t know what goes on up there.”
“I meant that I know Josh, and he would engage in nothing illegal.”