“Ms. Miller… are you in some kind of trouble?”
She snorted. “Do I really seem like the type of woman to get into trouble?”
“You seem like the type of woman who is trouble. Like anybody who crosses you might have a problem on their hands.”
“Well…” she smirked. “Glad to know that I’m putting off the correct impression.”
I chuckled, then pushed my hands into my pockets as I studied her face, trying to figure out… anything. “You definitely are. Which is why you have to understand my curiosity about… pretty much everything, as it relates to you.”
“I understand it just fine, Detective Bradley. I simply don’t care.”
“That’s not very nice.”
“Neither am I,” she said, meeting my eyes. “So it seems like I’m really good at expressing myself, doesn’t it?”
She moved like was going to step around me, so I immediately shifted, getting in front of her again. Alarming her wasn’t my intention, but her shift in demeanor was instant.
“I promise you,” she started, radiating an eerie calm. “You don’t want to be between me and a door I’m trying to get out of.”
I raised my hands. “I’m not trying to keep you here against your will – got no reason to. I do wish you’d take a moment to tell me what the hell is going on though. You might not be in trouble, but somebody is. Somebody you care about.”
Briefly, she closed her eyes, then shook her head. “I’m not having this conversation with you.”
“Because I’m a cop?”
“Because I don’t know you,” she snapped. “Because I don’t trust you. Because I can’t trust you, not really. Not with that thing around your neck.”
I glanced down, realizing immediately that she was referring to my badge hanging from its chain. “So it is because I’m a cop.”
“It definitely doesn’t help.” She let out a huff. “I’ve been a lot of places, seen a lot of things, experienced many cultures, and you want to know what one thing was always true? A trustworthy cop was always the exception – not the rule.”
I scoffed. “Yeah, because I’m sure you were a model citizen, never had a reason for a bad run-in with the law?” I chuckled, shaking my head. “You know, you have a lot of nerve saying some shit like this to me like I didn’t risk my fucking badge for you and Kingston Whitfield years ago. Or had you forgotten?”
“Not in the slightest,” she snarled right back. “But this is a perfect example of why I doubt your loyalty. There was no crime, that was good riddance to bad rubbish just like what I did at that warehouse that night.”
My eyes narrowed. “The warehouse you claim not to know anything about?” I asked, prompting her to let out a derisive burst of laughter.
“There it is,” she admitted, throwing up her hands. “Boom, you got me. Yet another thing to keep me up at night, wondering every day if it will be the one that I get arrested because Cree Bradley is tired of being a boy scout, he’s ready for a promotion, so he needs a break on a big case.”
“I would never do that.”
“I don’t know what you would do. I’ll give you this – you seem like one of the few good ones. You seem like your sense of right and wrong is still intact. But I don’t know. I have no assurance of who you are, how far you’ll go, or where your true loyalty lies – with your badge, or with your heart.”
“I rarely have occasion to separate the two,” I replied, feeling inexplicably defensive.
Her lips curved up, just slightly. “Rarely…,” she repeated, softly. “Meaning, sometimes… you do. Sometimes you have to choose.” She stepped in, running her tongue over her lips as her gaze swept over my face. “I have no interest in being on the losing end of your choices, Detective. Now, if you could step aside…”
Since I was at a loss for words anyway, I didn’t bother trying to give a rebuttal – I stepped aside, as she’d asked. She didn’t say anything else, just moved past me out the door, leaving me with nothing except the lingering scent of rose petals and utter confusion about what the hell had just happened.