|Cody drove calmly, even as his hand held the steering wheel in a death grip. "I'm trying to believe you, Amber. Really I am. I just need a little time to sort out all of today's events so I can figure out what the hell is going on. Police work isn't like on T.V. where cases are solved miraculously in an hour's time. It's long boring hours sorting through people's lives and lies."
Amber exhaled, her breath shaky. "I know. I've lived on the other side of the law. It's just as long and boring when you're trying to prove you're innocent after you've been deemed guilty because of your association with someone." If she had the strength, she would burst out crying.
"When I entered your apartment and saw it ransacked, I was beside myself with fear. Yes, police officers can have fear. I thought the worse."
"You went back to my apartment? What for?"
He looked at her, his features barely visible with the minimal light from the dashboard. "Needed you to identify Derek's body."
Her stomached turned. "Oh God. Why? He has a brother."
"Couldn't get a hold of him. You, being the ex-wife, were the next best thing. Okay. We're here. This should be an ideal motel for the night," he said, entering the parking lot of the Greenbrook Motel on a street littered with small businesses that were mostly closed.
Cody parked in the small lot in front of the one-story wooden motel and kept the ignition running. He leaned back to look at Jenna who had awakened and sat quietly in the backseat. "Ladies, stay in the car until I get back out. I'll get us a room. It'll be better if no one sees you so they can't tip off anyone who probes about your whereabouts."
"My God, do you think they'll look for us out here in the middle of nowhere?" Amber asked.
"You can bet your next paycheck on it. There's civilization all around us and that means nosy people. Stay put. The car's running in case... " Cody looked back at them as he opened the car and stepped out. "Well, you know... just in case, I can't help you."
"But you promised to keep us safe," Jenna finally spoke after pure silence since she'd gotten into the car.
Cody leaned back in the car and stared at Amber then at the little girl. "You're absolutely right, sweetheart. I don't break promises. I promise you'll be safe. I'll be right out, okay?"
"Yes," Amber whispered.
"Just in case we have company show up, don't hesitate to take off, okay?" he directed to Amber who nodded.
Cody quickly walked into the motel office. Bugs converged on the lone light fixture above the front door. Amber watched as giant moths fluttered about in the quiet night air. Hurry up, Cody. She hated sitting in a car, alone with her daughter, in a place she didn't even know.
"Mommy, I'm still scared," Jenna whispered.
Amber motioned for her to climb in the front seat. "It's okay to be scared, honey. But we're going to be all right. Cody is going to help us."
"I like Cody. He's really nice. And he smells good."
Amber laughed at her little girl's observant behavior. "He does, huh?" A lot better than what Derek smelled like the other night. It was hard to believe after wishing him dead for so long that it had finally happened. Maybe once this mystery was solved, Amber could actually give Jenna a good life without fear. That would be so nice.
Amber studied the surrounding darkness but found nothing unusual. She reminded herself that Cody was just inside and he had a gun. He would defend them, if necessary.
Cody emerged from the office and Amber let out a sigh of relief.
"Jenna, are you going to drive?" he asked, sitting back in the car.
Jenna giggled. "No. I don't have a license like Mommy does."
"And why's that?" he asked while driving into a parking spot.
Jenna giggled louder. "Because I'm too little, silly."
Amber laughed. It was music to her ears to hear the little girl's laughter again.
Cody hustled them out of the car and walked them inside the rented room that had one queen bed, an armchair, and a black and white television. Cody checked the windows, locking them and drawing the curtains. He turned on the small air conditioner. The room was hot and humid, but at least there were no damn bugs or mosquitoes. Amber shivered at the memory of having to endure the bugs in the forest for so many hours.
"You and Jenna share the bed. I'll take in the chair," Cody said double-checking the locks on the door.
"I don't think I could sleep," Amber confessed, yawning in spite of herself. "Mommy, I'm hungry," Jenna said, yawning as well, her nap in the car obviously not enough sleep after what she'd been through.
Amber had no money. Her purse was at the house. How could she feed her daughter?
"There's a pizza place across the street," Cody said simply.
"But I don't have any money on me," Amber said softly, totally embarrassed by her predicament. Granted she didn't have a lot of money usually, but she always had been able to feed Jenna.
Cody looked at her, his eyes soft and friendly. "Consider dinner to be on the Boston Police tonight," he said and leaned down to Jenna pretending to be a confidant. "Does your mommy let you drink tonic?"
Jenna shook her head.
Cody smiled, the simple act warming his hard features instantly. "I'll tell you what, if you be a good girl and listen to Mommy while I'm gone, then I'll sneak some tonic back and cookies too. How's that sound?"
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