Chapter Five ~
Jackson pulled up in front of Justy's house and Jude jumped out before he came to a complete stop. He ran up the sidewalk, cold fear enveloping his heart. The front door was ajar, and he knew something bad had happened.
Jackson came up behind him while Amy sat in the car with the doors locked and a gun in her hand. He put a reassuring hand on Jude's shoulder. "Okay pal, let's go in together."
Jude shoved the door open, already suspecting what he would find. Justy lay on the long oriental carpet in the hallway, in a pool of blood. He fell to his knees beside the body and pulled her hands into his. They were still warm, and he unconsciously rubbed them between his own.
Amy rushed over and put a hand on his shoulder, and this time there was no look of disapproval from Jackson, even though he'd left her in the car with a gun and the explicit instructions not to get out. He put a hand on Jude's other shoulder. "I am so sorry, mate. I don't know what else to say."
A movement caught their attention. A snake slithered out from under Justy's body and stared at them intently. Its forked tongue moved in and out as if detecting its next meal. Suddenly, Justy began to move her head from side to side.
"Jackson, she's moving! She isn't dead, man!" Jude started to move closer. The snake caught the movement and lunged toward him. With lightning-quick reflexes he grabbed the snake and pulled it up and away from Justy. He got to a standing position while the snake shook its tail angrily. He didn't know what to do. He knew it was a rattler by the beads on its tail and the sound it was making. He wondered if it had bitten her. "Someone call an ambulance and find out where the blood's coming from."
Jackson walked over and grabbed just under the head of the snake with one of Amy's mittens and pulled it from Jude's death-like grasp. "You don't want to kill the snake. It isn't its fault." He went to find a bedroom and came back a couple seconds later with the snake safely tied inside a yellow pillowcase.
"It isn't coming from her and I can’t find any wounds." Amy said as she gently maneuvered Justy back to the floor after her inspection.
"Does Justy have any animals?" Jackson asked.
"She said she had a cat she could cuddle with when I asked her if there was somebody I could call, why?" Jude asked, not catching on.
"Maybe the killer wanted to scare us. Maybe the blood’s from her cat."
"That's possible, I guess. She isn't awake enough to ask." Amy said. "Do you want me to look around and see if I can find it?"
"No, just stay with us." Jude crouched down and began to inspect Justy himself. After looking all over her face and arms, he finally found what he was looking for. "Here it is."
"What?" Jackson asked. The sound of sirens could finally be heard in the distance. He’d called for backup when he'd seen the front door open and they were finally arriving.
"Needle marks, man. He drugged her." Jude scowled, resisting the urge to vent his anger with words. This guy was a monster, and he needed to be stopped.
"That's better than the alternative, don't you think?" Jackson asked with a tight smile.
"Yes, I just hate that he’s toying with us like this, and he used her to do it. He killed her parents Jackson, and he could’ve killed her." He began to rub Justy's hands again when he noticed she was awake and staring up at him. One huge gray eye was raised in disbelief.
"What's going on? Jude, what are you doing here?" She tried to rise, but was stopped by one of Jude's beefy paws. She was left in a partial sitting position, and when she looked around and saw she was sitting in a pool of blood, she lost it and screamed bloody murder.
"Calm down, it's over. He's gone." Jude patted her back awkwardly.
"Who's gone? You're not making any sense. Why are you here? And why am I lying in a pool of blood?" One of her hands came up and moved through her tangled chestnut hair, leaving a bloody streak in its wake.
"We were coming to get you to stay at our place." Amy began slowly, giving her time to take in the information.
"Amy said we should call you so you'd have time to get ready." Jackson added.
"Only when I called you, it wasn't you that answered, but the killer." Jude’s heart raced painfully at the memory. "He said he told me he was gonna get you, and then hung up. When we got here your front door was open so we came in, and you were lying in a pool of blood." Jude finished.
"What do you mean? He told you he was gonna get me? When were you gonna share this with me?"
"That's why we were coming to pick you up." He felt like a little boy caught stealing a cookie from the cookie jar.
"Jude, did you see the security detail you had posted outside her house?" Jackson asked as he peered out the window.
"I didn't, but I wasn't looking for them, either. I was too worried about Justy." He turned back and gave her a loving look.
"They're not out there. There's no sign of their car, either. Call it in, I'm gonna take a closer look." He rushed out the door.
Jude called it in. Dispatch reported they’d checked in about an hour ago.
Jackson ran around the outside of the house, but they were nowhere in sight. He crossed the quiet residential street, but saw nothing. He was getting ready to go back inside when he heard a noise coming from the recycle bins sitting at the edge of the road. He walked over and lifted one of the lids. There was an officer stuffed in the bottom with gray tape across his mouth. His wrists and ankles were bound, and he was only wearing a t-shirt and boxers. Jackson reached in and gave one quick yank on the tape, and the man yelped. "Officer Branston?"
"No, I'm Overstreet. Branston's in the next can." He rubbed his mouth with one hand. "I can't believe we let some punk kid do this to us."
"It was a kid?" Jackson asked incredulously.
"It was. You can look on the dash cam. He walked right up to us. That's why we didn't think anything of it. He was just a teenager."
"It would be kind of hard to look at the cam because your car's gone." Jack walked to the next can and ripped the tape off the second officer and turned back to Overstreet.
"Man, we are in so much trouble." Officer Branston whined childishly. "We'll be lucky if we don't lose our jobs over this."
"Calm down." Jackson said. "You're lucky he didn't kill you. He killed two elderly people early this morning...Well, yesterday morning now, it's after midnight." He glanced at his watch.
"You're kidding me, right?" The whiny cop asked. "You mean he could’ve killed us?"
"Are you talking about Justy's parents?" Officer Overstreet asked.
"Yes, do you know her?" Jack asked.
"I do. We dated for a few months. I went to school with her."
Jackson immediately began looking at the officer in a new light. Of course any person who went to school with Justy and Jude would be a person of interest. He pulled out a small green notepad and clicked his pen open. "Can you tell me anything about the family I may not know?"
“I was serious about her, but she was in love with some idiot that didn’t know she existed.”
Jackson wrote something on his notepad, said, “Thank you,” and walked back to the house.
"What did you find out?" Jude asked. He'd watched Jackson help the two men out of the recycle bins and had seen them talking but they were too far away for him to read lips.
"They said some punk kid walked right up to their car. One of them told me all I had to do was look on his dash cam, but the car’s gone. They didn't know much else. I'm guessing the killer probably drugged them with whatever he used on Justy. How is she, by the way?" Jack asked as Amy walked out the front door.
"They're going to take her to the hospital to get checked out just to be sure, but they think she'll be fine. They think he used that date-rape drug that goes through the system really fast. If he did, it'll probably be untraceable except for the needle mark." Jude pushed a hand through his blond hair and sighed in frustration.
"We'll get him. He's already making mistakes. I think he was here to kill her, but your call interrupted him before he got the chance. The fact he answered the phone tells me he's eager to thumb his nose at you. He's not worried about being caught. He'll make a mistake, and when he does, we'll be right there to catch him." Jackson said.
"I'm just glad he did answer the phone." Jude said. “Otherwise, she might be dead.” Jude walked back inside.
"I am too, my friend. I am too." Jack said as he followed him in the door. "Where did Amy go?" He'd seen her come out the front door, but hadn't seen where she went.
"I don't know. I saw her come out the front door, but to tell the truth I've been so pre-occupied I didn't pay attention to what she was doing." Jude answered apologetically.
"I'm right here." Amy said as she came in the door behind them. "I guess it's a good thing I'm not that snake, or you'd have been bitten." She said with a small grin. "Under the circumstances, I guess I'll forgive you. I walked outside because I couldn't get any service on my phone in the house and I wanted to check on the kids and tell Chester and Matilda what was going on."
"Good thinking.” Jackson said.
"They need to know where we are, especially since they're the ones watching the kids. Let's go back to the house and make sure Justy has a suite ready. I went in and packed her a bag. We're bringing her cat with us, too." She said with a hopeful inflection in her voice. She'd caught the feline skulking around out back and enticed it back inside with a piece of cheese.
"Why are we bringing a cat with us?" Jackson’s voice rose with each word until he had everyone in the room staring at him.
"We're afraid the killer will kill the cat?" Amy asked sheepishly.
Justy looked up at him from the gurney with a cajoling look, and then smiled weakly.
“Jude, help me out here, mate.” The paramedics wheeled Justy out and into the waiting ambulance while the others went to the car.
"I actually like cats. They're cuddly little beasts. I know I told you I had a cat, Jackson..." Jude said with a snicker as he slid in the back seat.
"I don't think you did, mate. I'm sure we never could've been friends if I'd known..." He teased.
Jude reached up and playfully punched him in the arm. They had escaped another bad situation together, and he was thankful. He threw a prayer of thanks up to God. A niggling feeling of guilt poked his conscious for a moment, but he forced it away. He would tell him, just not yet. He didn't want his friend mad at him before he could sort it out in his own mind.
"I heard one of the CSU techies say it wasn't human blood on the rug. Do they know what it came from?" Jude heard Amy ask when he came back to the present. She was scooting into the passenger seat of the car.
"You know, I 'm pretty sure I told you to stay in the car when we got here." Jackson said to Amy as he pulled out in the road.
"I did, for a second." She pouted cutely. "I wanted to help. Did you really expect me to stay put?"
Jackson said, "No, not really."
Jude laughed from the back seat. They would send a car for Justy in the morning. The paramedics had assured him they’d given her a sedative and she wouldn’t wake until morning.
He was going to call and make sure she got to the hospital. He remembered an incident with Amy not too long ago where she'd never made it because she'd been kidnapped. He sighed deeply and laid his head on the cool metal door frame, and was out before they hit the first stoplight.