“You moved out very quickly, actually. Ended your tenancy rather abruptly and only took what you and your friend could fit into your cars, leaving the rest of your things behind. Your bosses helped you move those possessions a few days later.”
“Not many people leave in such a rush,” said Officer Bartley, his gaze probing. “They tend to give their landlord notice and relocate in a much more organized manner, not leave their things behind.”
I gave him a blank look. “Do they?”
Bartley’s mouth thinned. “Care to explain why you left in such a hurry?”
“What’s this about?” I repeated. “The landlord was fine with it. He hopes to sell the building to land developers.”
“Yes, we’re aware of that,” Joshua said, voice hard. “Answer the question, Miss Lyons. Why did you leave in such a hurry?”
I sighed and feigned embarrassment. “I lost a bet.”
Bartley’s brows lowered. “Excuse me?”
“My boyfriend, Blake Mercier—I believe you know him, Officer Buchanan—asked me to move in with him. I agreed, but I wanted some time to get things in order. He didn’t want to wait, so he proposed a bet. It was of a … private nature, so I won’t go into details.” The sexual implication was right there in my tone. “In any case, if I lost the bet, I had to move in immediately.” It was the best lie I could come up with on the spot.
“And you lost the bet?” asked Bartley.
“Obviously. That was why I left my furniture behind—I simply didn’t need it. Blake has furniture. A few days later, I moved the rest of my stuff into a storage facility.” I looked from one male to the other. “Now, why don’t you tell me why such a thing would attract the attention of the police?”
Joshua lifted his chin. “The apartment was trashed last night.”
The hairs on the back of my neck lifted. “But … my things are gone. It’s empty.”
“It still had kitchen and bathroom amenities,” said Joshua. “Both rooms were defaced with what seemed to be a blunt instrument of some kind, probably a bat. The kitchen cabinets were wrecked, the countertop took a beating, appliances were flung around, and the dishware you left behind was thrown at the walls. Additionally, the shower rail and curtain were yanked down, the tub and sink were pounded on, the toilet seat was broken, and the mirrors were smashed. To add to all that, the Venetian blinds and curtains were torn down and every bulb in the apartment was shattered.”
My mouth went slack. Fuck. Utterly shocked, I fumbled to quickly recover. My belly was in knots, and it was a true struggle to veil how rattled I was. “Do you have any suspects?”
Joshua’s eyes tightened around the edges. “No. Your old neighbors heard the racket, figured it was vandals, and called 911. The place was empty when we arrived, and the fire door was wide open. Vandalism isn’t rare in that neighborhood, but I find it curious that your old apartment is trashed shortly after you moved out in such a hurry.”
“I wouldn’t say ‘shortly after.’ I left two weeks ago.” But I was worried that there was a connection. Still, I was hardly likely to share that with good ole Joshua. “It could be that teenagers heard it was empty and decided to have some fun. They’ll do it to any empty or abandoned space they can find.”
Joshua squinted. “There’s something you’re not telling me, Miss Lyons. That hinders my investigation. It’s called ‘Obstruction of Justice.’”
I snorted. “You’d just love an excuse to haul me down to the station. It’s why you insist on constantly pulling me over when I’m driving, even though I’ve done nothing wrong. You’re not suspicious, Joshua, you’re just pouncing on the opportunity to cause me trouble. What you fail to realize is that you and your family have been doing it so long that I’ve developed a sort of immunity to it. Honestly, it would be weird if you weren’t pulling this kind of shit.” I slowly rose, dignified. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to work.”
Joshua stood upright. “We’re not done here.”
“Oh, but you are,” said a new voice. It was male. Rumbly. Pissed.
Glancing over my shoulder, I gave Blake a weak smile as he crossed to the bench. I guessed someone had called him. Or Sarah had called Bastien—yep, they’d ironed things out—who’d then called Blake.
Sidling up to me, Blake stroked a hand over my hair. “Bugging my woman again, Joshua? I warned you.”
Swallowing hard, Joshua jutted out his chin. “This is an official police matter.”
“He doesn’t believe me,” I said to Blake. “Or, at least, he says he doesn’t.”
Blake frowned. “About what?”
“That I moved in with you because I lost that dumb bet. Although I have to say I did enjoy losing it,” I added in a lower voice.
Picking up on my insinuation, Blake grinned. “So did I.” His grin faded as he cut his gaze back to Joshua. “I don’t see how her moving in with me is a police matter.”
Joshua settled his hands on his belt. “Her previous apartment was trashed last night. The damage was extensive.” He listed it very matter-of-factly. “I can’t help wondering if she moved out so quickly because she was having trouble, and if that trouble is responsible for the damage to the apartment.”
To Blake’s credit, he didn’t betray any emotion—not even the surprise he had to feel on hearing about the vandalism. “You really think I’d permit someone to chase my woman out of her own apartment?”
“No, I don’t think you would,” said Joshua. “Which means that if she’s having trouble, you’ll do what you have to do to take care of it—even break the law. That’s what concerns me.”
“We can protect you, Miss Lyons,” Bartley cut in. “But only if we have all the facts.”
“I can’t tell you who the vandal is because I simply don’t know,” I said.
Bartley stared at me expectantly and let the silence stretch out. Then, face lined with impatience, he offered me a card. “If you think of anything, call.”
I took the card with a noncommittal sound, eager to see the back of the assholes. Once they were out of earshot, Blake turned me to face him and drew me close.
Scrutinizing my face, he asked, “You all right?”
“Yeah.” I splayed my hands on his chest. “You got here fast.”
“Luckily, I wasn’t far away. Dodger called me as soon as he saw the squad car pull up in the lot.”
“He wasn’t sure if Joshua was here to fuck with you or report something that could be related to Smith, but he didn’t want you dealing with it alone. He was with a customer and there was no Cade to watch over CCC or Dodger would have been at your side.”
Dodger was the best. “Thanks for coming. I think Joshua would have tried using it as an excuse to take me to the station for questioning. He obviously wasn’t willing to pull that crap while you were there.” At Blake’s lazy smile, I asked, “What?”
“You like to shovel your own shit, but you thanked me for coming. How can I not smile hearing that you trust me to help you with it?” He kissed me, sipping from my mouth. “Do you think Smith trashed your old apartment?”