Nikki pulled out of her driveway, and immediately put on the brakes. Two police cars were parked in the street, the gate to her neighbor’s house was opened and an ambulance was just pulling out. She got out of the car and approached the nearest officer.
“Excuse me? Has something happened?”
Holly sat on the sofa in the living room, her hands clasped tightly in front of her. She was staring intently at an untouched glass of some undetermined alcoholic beverage that one of the officers had poured out for her.
“Mam?” One of the policemen cleared his throat.
She jerked, and looked up at him. “What?”
“I asked if you had a license for the gun?”
“Oh. No. I mean, I’m sure it does have one, but it’s not mine. It’s Alan’s. I’ve already tried calling him. But he’s not answering. He’s probably asleep. It’s late in New York isn’t it?” She knew she was rambling. “Maybe the license is in the safe?”
“We’ve already looked.”
“Oh.” She ran a shaking hand over her hair. “I…I don’t know then where it would be.”
“Alright. When do you expect Mr. Ryder back?”
“The day after tomorrow.”
“We’ll get it from him then. We will have to take the gun with us though. It’s procedure.”
“Alright…he will get it back though? I mean its Alan’s gun and I’d hate for him-…” She shook her head. She knew she was focusing on the unimportant things, but she couldn’t seem to get her brain to focus properly.
“Yes, Mam,” said the police kindly. “This is just standard procedure after a shooting. The gun will be returned to Mr. Ryder as soon as it’s been officially ruled self-defense. You don’t have to worry. There are obvious signs of the break-in, the office door was also smashed open, and assuming what you say is true about the letters and the previous break-ins committed by this man, you are more than covered by Penal Code 198.5, and have no reason to fear any legal repercussions in this matter.”
Holly nodded numbly.
A policeman entered the room and whispered something to the officer. The officer turned to Holly.
“The neighbor is outside. She wants to know if she can help you?”
“Neighbor?” Holly blinked at him.
“Yes. Nikki Steele,” said the officer who’d just entered.
A vague memory floated in the back of Holly’s mind. “Oh. Yes. I met her once.” She looked a little helplessly at the two officers, not sure what more there was to say.
“It would probably be best,” suggested the second officer, “If you stayed somewhere else tonight.”
Holly opened her mouth to say she could go back to her own apartment, but she suddenly realized she was exhausted. She doubted she’d be able to keep her eyes open at the wheel. Besides the thought of facing Amy and explaining everything…, no.
She could call Evelyn, undoubtedly the woman would come pick her up, but then too there’d have to be explanations. Nikki was a virtual stranger and would probably ask a few questions, but she’d probably learned a few of the facts already and Holly didn’t particular want to talk much anyways, so a stranger might be best. Right now all she wanted to do was fall into a bed, any bed, and sleep and forget this whole evening. “Where’s is she?”
“Am I done here?” she asked officer.
“Yes. Thank you. We have your number. If we need anything else we’ll call tomorrow.”
“Thank you.” She rose to her feet unsteadily and walked into the hall. She barely had the presence of mind to pick up her purse off the side table, before quickly getting out of the house.
The night air felt good and brought some relief to her jumbled brain. There was a cool wind and it whipped strands of her hair across her eyes. She was slowly beginning to sense her shock, but not quite enough to break out of it yet.
She took a deep shaking breath, closing her eyes, trying to focus.
She started and turned. There was a tall blonde woman standing beside her.
“Miss Steele?” asked Holly. She realized her voice shook a little and she paused to allow it to steady. “I remember meeting you at the restaurant.”
“Call me Nikki. I’m so sorry about what happened. Is there anything I can do to help you? Would you like to stay at my place tonight? I can’t imagine you’d like to stay here and it’s quite late.”
“I actually would like that very much. If it’s not any trouble.”
“Of course not. Are you ready to go now? Or do the police still need you?”
“No, I’m done.”
“Good.” Nikki led the way outside the walls. Holly noticed the security guard being questioned by the police and looking miserable. Nikki saw where she was looking and tsk’ed. “There’s someone who should probably reevaluate his chosen profession.”
“It wasn’t his fault,” argued Holly.
Nikki didn’t respond but continued walking towards her own house. She unlocked the door and held it open for Holly and then steered her towards the living room. “I know you probably want to get right to bed, but first what you really need is a good strong drink.” She poured out a glass of whiskey and handed it to Holly who looked at it doubtfully. “Trust me. I’m the expert in dealing with crises through alcohol. It’ll help.”
Holly took a sip. There was a pause, and then she took a second, longer one. And then suddenly she was sniffing and rubbing a palm vigorously to rub away tears.
“It’s alright,” said Nikki, sitting down opposite her. “You’ll feel better once you let it out.”
“I had to do it,” said Holly, trying to keep her voice level. “There weren’t any other options.”
“I’m sure there weren’t.” There was a long pause and then Nikki asked hesitantly. “What about the intruder? Will he…make it?”
Holly shrugged helplessly. “They think so. But I still keep replaying the whole thing over my head wondering if there was any other way-”
“He broke into the house. You had every reason to be scared and to do what you did.”
Holly nodded weakly. She focused more on Nikki, taking her in her more fully. She was dressed in a sequin halter top and black pants. Her hair was done up and her makeup fresh. Clearly she’d been intending to go out. “I’m sorry I ruined your evening,” she said, nodding towards Nikki’s clothes.
“Don’t think about it. It’s probably better I didn’t go out anyways. Now come on. Finish that glass, I’ll pour you another one and you can take it up to bed with you.”