Chapter 5: Running on Empty
Gail is awake when we get back. She’s been keeping Ryan, Sawyer, Prescott and the cops supplied with coffee. Ryan has a friend on the Force, so he’s gone with the forensic team to Hyde’s apartment. No report has come in yet. The wait is making everyone tense.
I have a job to do, but all I want is to hold my woman in my arms.
“I’m fine,” she says softly, for the millionth time, trying to reassure me. “I went straight to the saferoom. I’m okay. Ana’s okay.”
But it was close. The bastard got into Grey’s home. It’s like the Williams woman all over again. I feel sick. All the work, all the protocols I’ve put in place, the best security that money can buy, and a fucker with a good story manages to get through it all.
My mind is still racing, What if, what if, what if? All my training, everything I know, and it still can’t keep her safe. Gail. My everything. It can’t keep her safe. I can’t keep her safe.
I want to get her away from here – away from Grey. I can’t blame him, but I do. I really fucking do. Pain follows him, and I’m tired of being around it.
I wrap Gail into my arms tightly, sinking my face into her hair.
Don’t leave me, Gail. Never leave me.
Hyde was armed. If Gail had got in his way… the bile rises in my throat.
“Hey,” she says, quietly. “Whatever you’re thinking, it didn’t happen. We’re all fine. Ryan stopped him…”
“He shouldn’t have had to, Gail. All this security… it wasn’t enough. It’s never going to be enough.”
I feel her hand on my back, stroking me, soothing me.
We hear the boss’s footsteps at the same time and she pulls away from me.
“You have a job to do, Jason,” she reminds me, her voice even and calm.
Grey hesitates in the doorway and I’m sure the look I’ve given him is blacker than even his dark heart.
“I’m glad to see you are well, Mrs. Jones,” he says, his voice subdued.
“I’m fine, thank you, Mr. Grey. How is Mrs. Grey?”
“Sleeping,” he replies, the pain behind his words clear.
His voice is strained and his eyes are burning, with fear, with anger, with a deep, intense rage.
I nod at Gail and a small smile catches around the edges of her mouth. She tries again, then knots her fingers together as she walks away.
Grey clears his throat.
As I stare at him, it’s clear he’s lost for words. And I have nothing to say to him either.
Your fault. I fucked up, too.
Your fault. My fault.
“I’m glad to see Mrs. Jones is… well.”
“She will be.”
I’m not sure why I’m throwing him this bone, absolving him. Ten seconds ago I wanted to beat the proverbial shit out of him. I want to take it all out on someone. But I know he’s not the right target. He looks as scared and lost as I feel, although I’m trying to keep it under control.
Grey nods, slowly. He sinks into a chair and his head drops into his hands.
I know what he’s thinking, because I’m thinking it, too: How do I keep her safe? So precious. How do I protect her? Can I protect her? It’s never going to stop.
My brain is reeling from the clusterfuck of swirling thoughts. It’s hard to catch any one of them and focus. I really want to hit something – do something to release the violence pulsing inside.
I dig my nails into the palm of my hands and the small bite of pain brings a brief moment of clarity. And it gives me an idea. The King of Pain should like this one.
“Sir, Ryan will be reporting from the forensic team at Hyde’s house in about 90 minutes. May I suggest we go and kick the shit out of the equipment in the gym?”
His head snaps up, and a look of grim determination replaces the hopeless fury.
I change into my sweats and together we ride the elevator to the basement and spend a pleasurable 20 minutes beating the crap out of the punchbag until our arms are too heavy to move, then running on the treadmill for 30 minutes. We’d both prefer running outside, but until we know the status on whether or not Hyde has an accomplice, the great outdoors is off limits. How the hell did that sick psycho end up ruling our lives?
When my lungs feel like they’re bursting and I’m starting to get black spots before my eyes, I power down to a loping jog. Grey is still burning, but his rage has lost some of his heat and he looks focused and in control again. Before he met Ana, he would have summoned one of his Subs – then beat the breath out of her. And he still thinks that the Lincoln woman gave him a method for coping? Laughable, if it weren’t so fucked up.
It’s an illusion, of course, because if the last 24 hours has taught me anything, it’s that life is a game of chance. Last night the dice rolled against Hyde. But it could have been Grey that lost. Or me.
“Twenty minutes until Ryan reports, sir.”
Grey looks over at me and nods.
Gail is in our kitchen when I head for the shower. She looks pale and tired, but some of the tightness around her eyes has eased. Cooking is therapeutic for her. Pretty ironic considering she’s marrying a guy who could make a fine meal from TV dinners and whose former best friend was the microwave. But the military has a saying, any fool can be uncomfortable.
“I’ve made you scrambled eggs and bacon, so don’t take too long in the shower.”
Instead, I pull her into my arms, not caring that I smell like a goat, and kiss her hard, demanding.
Eventually, she pulls away, breathless.
“What was that for, Jason?”
“Because you’re here, Mrs. Jones. And because I can.”
She smiles her understanding and shoos me into the shower. I wish she’d join me, but not when we’re on the clock.
Fed, watered, and feeling calmer, it’s fifteen minutes later when I head for Grey’s study. I can hear him on the phone and remember that he had an early call scheduled with Ros.
Ana is just leaving his office, her face sad and a little hurt. I heard Grey dismiss her and I know why. Hell, Ana knows why, too, but it hurts her.
Grey is still holding himself in: he’s afraid he’ll explode, and he doesn’t want Ana to be the target of his rage.
“Morning, Taylor,” she says, her voice softened by sadness.
“Good morning, Mrs. Grey,” I reply, trying to express through those few words that I don’t blame her for what happened, for Gail being in danger.
She tries to smile.
“How was the flight?” and I hear the words behind her question: I’m sorry. Is he okay?
“Long, Mrs. Grey.” He’s worried. He’ll be fine.
She nodded. I caused this.
“May I ask how you are?” I’m sorry you were afraid. I’m sorry I failed you.
“I’m good.” I’m scared.
I nodded. I know.
“If you’ll excuse me.” It’ll be okay. I promise.
Her eyes follow me into the office, and I hate myself for closing the door as she watches.
Grey finishes his call with Ros. I can see the stress on his face.
“The partial thumbprint that the forensics team from Donauwörth found – it matches Hyde’s. Ninety-eight percent probability. And there’s something else: Hyde was born in Detroit.”
I can’t make a connection. Detroit? Grey doesn’t have offices there.
“I was born in Detroit. Welch says it probably means nothing, but if there’s a connection, I want to know.”
I’m still processing this information as Ryan’s call comes in on my cell.
“You’re on speakerphone, Ryan.”
“Hyde isn’t talking. Smug bastard just sits there smiling. The on-call psych wants to evaluate him which is delaying everything. His apartment is still being checked but we’ve been able to pull some encrypted files off the laptop we found in the van. It’s not good: it’s footage of him fucking various women. Pretty unpleasant. We’re still trying to identify them, but at least two of them were his PAs at SIP. The police think he was using them for blackmail purposes. It was consensual – just. But the assaults were… rough.”
Grey looks like he’s going to be sick, and he paces to the window, staring out at the crawling streets 30 floors below.
“Have they charged him yet?”
“Yes: attempted kidnapping – first degree with a firearm. It carries a one year mandatory sentence but…”
“But what?” snarls Grey.
“But there’s a possibility he’ll get bail.”
“What the fuck?”
“Because he knew Mrs. Grey and they had… a history.”
“I want that possibility closed down,” Grey enunciates carefully. Then his temper snaps. “I don’t care how the fuck you do it. Just do it.”
Ryan’s disembodied voice isn’t as reassuring as either of us would like.
“Report back in one hour, Ryan.”
I know he will, but I say it anyway. It makes me feel like I have a fucking purpose.
“Yes, sir. Over and out.”
The call ends abruptly, and the room descends into a tense silence. Then Grey throws me an unreadable look and strides out.
I head back to my office. The security protocols need some more fucking revisions. I’m not even sure where to start anymore.
Prescott and Sawyer are waiting for me while Reynolds is keeping the media at bay outside. Of course the vultures have descended: police at reclusive billionaire’s penthouse suite; beautiful young wife alone with a madman. What’s not to like?
Oh, I’m so going to get some fucking clarity, so help me.
“Last night was a complete clusterfuck,” I announce unnecessarily. “Who wants to tell me why?”
“Mrs. Grey…” Prescott begins.
“You’re telling me the client is at fault?” I ask, my voice dangerously quiet.
“If she hadn’t insisted…”
“And it wasn’t in the faint realms, even in the distant district, of a possibility that you could deter her?” Think carefully about your answer, Prescott, because I really don’t like swearing – especially at women.
“If she’d understood the implications – the level of threat – Mrs. Grey may have behaved differently,” says Sawyer, his tone calm.
He’s right, of course. But that doesn’t excuse it.
I move on to point number 2 in the security handbook of ‘how not to get made redundant because you’ve let the fucking client get killed’.
“And Hyde managed to get into the penthouse how exactly?”
“He was buzzed in by a new tenant.”
I will be having serious words with the asshat media fucker who’s just moved in – him being the complete dickless wonder who let a kidnapper into the building. Hippy haired hack.
“Then Hyde used the service elevator to access the building. He ran an algorithm used by the FBI to by-pass the penthouse key-code. Ryan’s contacts are looking into how he got that. Hyde is… was… clever.”
“Pay our new tenant a visit,” I say, grinding my teeth. “Point out the fine print of the covenant he signed when he rented his apartment, and that he’ll be out on his Gucci fucking ass if he does something so mind-fuckingly dumb again. Get both elevator codes rewritten and password protected. Get Welch to…”
I’m interrupted when I hear Grey calling me. Fuck, how can I concentrate when the Milky Bar Kid keeps interfering? But like a good little pet, I respond to my master’s call.
“Tell Prescott that Mrs. Grey is going to work. Can you drive them, please?”
Jeez, I bet that was a short and interesting conversation between two of the most stubborn, hard-headed people I’ve ever met. Who’d have thought little Miss Steele would have Grey’s balls in a clamp so soon into their marriage.
“Certainly.” It’s not like I’m going to tell Grey, ‘Hell, no!’ although sometimes it’s really tempting. You know, like when you go to the same coffee shop every morning and order the same drink the same way. Some days you just want to say, ‘Double vodka and red bull’ just to see the look on their faces.
And while I’m not entirely happy about Ana leaving the penthouse before we know whether or not Hyde has an accomplice, at least Ana will be out of the building while security is tightened – yet again. I want this whole apartment – the whole fucking building – more waterproof than a duck’s ass.
“Prescott! You’re up. You’re on escort with Mrs. Grey. Try not to lose her.”
“Sir,” she says, without rising to my fucking hilarious witticism.
After we dodge the media waiting for her at SIP, I head back to Escala.
I’m glad to see that Sawyer has already got to work on replacing the elevator codes, but the gloom doesn’t exactly lift when Detective Clark, the lead investigator, arrives shortly after.
He wants to interview the boss.
This is going to be interesting.
Despite Clark’s irritation, I wait at the back of the room, listening to the entire interview. I’m not going to leave a ticking time bomb of insanity alone with an officer of the law, even if he is armed.
Clark: Can you tell me about your relationship with Jack Hyde.
Grey: I don’t have a relationship with him.
Clark: Have you ever met him.
Clark: What was the occasion?
Grey: The first time, Mrs. Grey – when she was Miss Steele – was having drinks with her colleagues after work. I joined her for less than five minutes. I met Hyde then.
Clark: What did he say?
Grey: It’s what he didn’t say.
Grey: He wanted her. That much was obvious. I let him know she was taken. End of story.
Clark: Did you threaten him.
Grey: No, not then.
Grey: Mrs. Grey told me he’d tried to assault her at her place of work ten days later. I fired him on the spot and warned him not to come near her again.
Clark: What words did you use?
Grey: I don’t remember.
Clark: Your wife – your girlfriend was assaulted and you don’t remember what you said to her assailant?
Clark: Mr. Taylor was there, I believe.
Clark: Perhaps he remembers what you said.
Grey: You’d have to ask him.
Clark: Mr. Taylor?
Me: Mr. Grey told Hyde to stay away from Ana – and that he was fired.
Clark: [sighs] And you didn’t see Hyde again after that? [pause] Mr. Grey?
Grey: We have reason to believe that Hyde followed my wife and I from my parents’ house the day after our return from honeymoon. But we can’t prove it. We can, however, prove that he was trespassing at Grey House the day before an arson attempt.
Clark: Arson? None of this has been reported!
Grey: My security team has been handling it.
Clark: Apparently not.
Me: [I really don’t like this guy. Ugly fucking suit.]
Grey: Fuck you! My wife is the most important thing in the world to me. Do you think I give a shit about anything other than that?
Clark: I’d like to see the dossier your team has prepared.
Grey: Taylor will see to that.
Clark: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Grey: The partial thumb print…
Grey: My helicopter was sabotaged. A partial of a thumb print was found on the swashplate. I had it confirmed an hour ago that it matches Hyde with a probability of 98%.
Clark: And the only connection you have with this man is that he was Mrs. Grey’s boss – for less than a month?
Clark: And the note in the van? That implies otherwise.
Grey: I don’t know what any of that means.
Clark: Anything else? Anything at all that you want to tell me, Mr. Grey, because I don’t need to tell you how serious this could have been.
Grey: [pause] No, you don’t have to tell me. And no, there’s nothing I can add.
Clark: I’ll need to interview Mrs. Grey.
Clark: [impatiently] Because, Mr. Grey, she was at the scene. And she was the target. I can schedule an appointment at her office and…
Grey: No. Here.
Clark: That’s not necessary.
Grey: It’s very fucking necessary.
Clark: Thank you for your time, Mr. Grey. I’ll see myself out.
Grey: Tell that bastard Hyde that if he ever comes near my wife again, I’ll fucking kill him.
Grey instructs me to collect Ana and Prescott and then says I’ve got the evening off. Gail, too. I’m grateful for the alone time, but it makes me nervous for Ana. Grey’s fuse is very short, and Ana has a nasty habit of tossing around lit matches. But hey, it’s their marriage.
Prescott is off duty now, and I tell Ryan and Reynolds to stay out of the staff quarters on pain of excommunication. I don’t care if they’re hungry, thirsty, or geographically challenged. They stay. The. Fuck. Out.
My thoughts return reluctantly to Ana. If I had to make a guess, I’d say that Grey is planning to teach Ana a lesson in personal safety. I doubt it’s in the Human Resources approved manual. It’s none of my business, but I’m worried nevertheless.
“She’ll be fine,” says Gail, for the ninth or tenth time. Mr. Grey has learned his lesson. He won’t do anything foolish again.”
“You think? Because I spent a very long fucking time with him on an airplane yesterday and he was a hair’s breadth from going very fucking postal. When it comes to Ana, the man isn’t rational.”
“Love isn’t rational, Jason. Goodness, we’ve both learned that. But he does love her and right now he’s just scared. They’ll work it out.”
I wish I had Gail’s faith in the miracle that is human nature, because in my experience while you’re waiting for smiles, shit happens – the first time when you’re not watching, and the second time when you turn around to see where the stink is coming from.
“What can I do to distract you?” says Gail.
“Oh, Mrs. Jones, that is a very leading question.”
Ryan and Prescott are still in the staff living room which really makes me pissed in a fuck-the-hell-off-before-I-piss-in-your-shoes sort of way. They don’t say anything as I march inside, they just pick up their coffee cups and plates of sandwiches and head for the CCTV room.
Yeah, and don’t come back till dawn.
And then I take Gail and won’t let her go.
She’s emotional and over-tired, and even in sleep she clings to me. And I want to sleep, I really do. I crave darkness. I need to turn off my brain, but I can’t. My thoughts are indistinct and hazy, and it’s impossible to pick out one and chase it down, analyze it, dispose of it. My heart starts to race when I think of what might have been, what could have been. I don’t want to go back to a life without Gail. And then I hear the soft sounds of the piano echoing through the main room, and I know exactly how Grey feels. That’s a scary, fucking thought.
Why does love have to hurt so bad?
I ease myself out of Gail’s arms, afraid that my restlessness will wake her. I pull on a pair of sweatpants and head for the office. Odd how my place of work can be so calming. Shit, I really need to get another job or Dr. Flynn will be making time for a new patient. Although it may already be too late.
I try to ignore the music-to-slit-your-wrists-by and check my emails, then re-read Ryan’s report. When the music halts mid-note, I count down in my head…
One. We have lift-off.
“I want to take Mrs. Grey to Aspen tomorrow morning. Have the jet ready. I’m going to contact my brother and sister to see if they’re available. And the Kavanaghs.”
His face twists with a sneer as he spits out the last three syllables. Grey and Kamikaze Kate Kavanagh going head to head in an enclosed space – that should be interesting.
Yeah, just what I need: more interest in my life. Give me a fucking break.
Will Taylor make it through a weekend in Aspen with the poster child for mental health? Will Kate be hitching home? Will Ana finally say what she means?
Tune in for more Shades of Taylor, coming to a screen near you soon.
And just to say, if you’ve got a soft spot for a bit of romantic comedy, my new book ‘Dazzled’ will be out September 13th! Details posted on facebook/janeharveyberrick soon.