As the elevator doors closed, the floodgates of a pending headache began to open. I was awestruck at how Detective Barnes managed to always be underfoot. Left me to wonder if he had me on camera too.
I pressed the button to my mother’s floor. I had to talk to her, get her thoughts on things.
“Well, here comes Prissy now,” Ms. Lovie and Ms. Randi announced in unison, like they’d been expecting me.
“Is my mom still around?” I asked, biting my tongue to keep from saying what I was really thinking. Besides, not only would getting into a verbal match with them be useless, I had more important things to concern myself with.
“She’ll be back in a second,” Ms. Randi said. “Why don’t you sit and talk to us until she gets here?”
“No, thanks. Could you please tell her I’m in the waiting room?” I didn’t wait for a response, just walked straight over to the waiting room. Not like they could help me anyway.
I did know who could. Yanni. But before I could dial her number, something told me I needed to touch base with Eric. I slid into a chair near the television and dialed his number.
“Hello, Starlet,” the voice on the other end said. “Y’ little boyfriend is busy right now, he’s gon’ have to call you back . . . that is, if he can still talk.”
The cynical laugh that crept out of my earpiece was frightening. He ended the call and, still, I couldn’t bring myself to close my phone. I swallowed to fight back the bile rising in my throat, and it was a good thing I was sitting down because my legs were shaking uncontrollably.
If something happened to Eric, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. All kinds of “what if” scenarios were running through my head. Could someone else have discovered Sabrina’s setup and thought we had the answers?
At that moment, getting to the Inn was uppermost in my mind but, first, a call to Yanni was in order.
My hands shook so badly, I couldn’t dial the phone. Thank goodness for voice activation. Yanni answered on the first ring.
“Starlet, where are you?” she shrieked.
“I’m at the hospital. I was here talking to Sabrina when Eric called and said he needed to go back to our hotel. Where are you?”
I wiped at my eyes, but the tears were coming too fast for it to do any good. What if the man on the phone had killed Eric?
“You stay at the hospital and wait for me,” Yanni ordered.
I began to cry harder. “Yanni, I’m not staying here. Something’s happened to Eric, and I need to find out what.”
“You stay your ass at that hospital where it’s safe. Your mother’s there and so are the police,” she said through clenched teeth. “Stop being a hardhead and listen to me!”
“Listen to you? Listen to you?” By now, my whole body was trembling. I jumped up and began to pace the floor. Yanni’s authoritative voice brought something else back to me. “What side business do you have? Sabrina was gearing up to tell me about it when Detective Barnes busted into the room.”
I heard her sigh heavily on the other end of the line. I knew Yanni well enough to know that meant she was hiding something, and she was going to come clean.
“We’ll talk about that later.” Her voice had softened. “Right now, I just want to make sure that you’re safe. Would you please stay there?”
I exhaled and rolled my eyes. Sweet-talking wasn’t going to get her anywhere. “Yanni, get to confessing.”
“Look, I don’t have time for this—do as I say or shit will get crazy.”
Even through the tears, my temper was coming back with full gusto. “You know what, Yanni? Fuck you, and stop treating me like I’m that scared kid from high school. My honey’s in danger.” I took a breath and continued, “And you know what? I’m on my way to the Inn right now. You got anything else to say, you meet me there.”
I slammed the phone shut. If I was going to get to the hotel, I needed a car. I began to hunt down my mother in earnest.
I didn’t have to go too far. As I stepped out of the waiting room, I bumped right into her.
“Baby, why are you crying?” She searched my face and handed me a Kleenex from her pocket. “Did everything work out all right?”
“Don’t worry about the tears, I’ll be okay. Eric’s at the room, and I need to get back there. May I borrow your car?”
She grabbed me by the arm and snatched me back into the waiting room.
“Puddin’, I don’t know what in the hell is going on but, please, be safe. I swear, I’d drop dead if something happened to you.”
If I couldn’t see the fear in her eyes, I could feel it in the tight grip she had on my arm. I didn’t know what would happen to me once I left the grounds, but I had to get back to Eric. I couldn’t tell her that I was willing to die for my baby, but that’s how I felt.
I looked into her eyes and smiled as best I could. “Mama, I promise it’s going to be all right. I’ll have your car back before your shift ends.”
“Starlet Marie, you just bring yourself and that man back here in one piece. You hear me?”
She enveloped me in a death hug. “I love you so much, baby,” she whispered in my ear. “Be safe.”
“I will, Mama. I love you, too,” I choked out.
She released me, and I ran down the hall toward the elevator. Once I made it outside, I moved so fast across the parking lot that, at first, I didn’t notice a tall, broad-chested man heading straight at me. I was just about to sidestep him, thinking he hadn’t seen me, when he grabbed my arm and pulled me toward the side of the building.
“Starlet, Yanni sent me for you,” he said.
Who did this fool think he was? Was I supposed to believe that Yanni had sent someone here this quickly? He had to be with the man who answered Eric’s phone. Well, I wasn’t going out that easily.
I thought back to my Tae-Bo lessons. He was too close to pull off a roundhouse kick, so I jabbed him in the chest a couple of times. It seemed to have no effect. As a matter of fact, he just laughed at my efforts.
“Damn, Yanni said you weren’t afraid to fight a man, but I didn’t expect this.”
He lifted me off the ground and tossed me over his shoulder. With his free hand he swung open the door to an SUV parked nearby and placed me into the backseat.
I looked out the window, hoping someone had seen what happened, but that side of the parking lot seemed almost deserted. I tried the lock and couldn’t get the door to open. I then began kicking the window. Everytime my feet hit the glass, they bounced back at me.
What kind of vehicle was this?
My breathing had become raspy and, I realized, I was on the verge of a panic attack. I glanced at the big brute in the rearview, and found him watching me with a smug grin on his face.
God, I thought, I can’t die like this.