“Honey? Are you okay?”
He turned his head to look at his wife perched on the chair beside his bed. “You mean besides the bullet hole in my shoulder?”
Oh goody. We’re in petulant patient mode. “Yes, besides that.”
“I’m fine. When can I get out of here?”
“The doctor said tomorrow or the next day.”
“That long?” He sighed. “I’ve got things to do.”
“What’s so urgent that you can’t take the time necessary to heal?”
Dark eyes met light. “Convince my wife that she doesn’t have to run out and defend our family all by herself. People tend to get hurt that way.”
“Are you blaming me for you getting shot?” She stared at him and fought to keep her voice calm.
“You do realize if you’d stayed home and let Mike’s team handle it, this never would have happened don’t you?” The pain didn’t leave any room for leniency.
Guilt made her defensive. “No one forced you to come after me. You could have stayed out and let Mike come get me.”
Richie snorted. “Right. And let you get shot instead? That would have been really manly of me.”
“It might not have come to that.”
“Sure. She wanted you out of the way and you showed up at her door, providing her with the perfect opportunity, but she wouldn’t have shot you.” Sarcasm dripped from each word.
“Fine, it’s all my fault! I was stupid and impulsive and I got you shot!” She shot to her feet and stalked to the window to gaze unseeing at the grass and palm trees that lined this side of the hospital. She grimaced. “I....I just couldn’t let it go. I had to make sure she was out of our lives once and for all. I couldn’t just sit back and hope someone else took care of her. But I never meant for you to get hurt. I’m sorry.”
Richie rubbed the hand of his good arm over his face and sighed. “I know. And I understand how you felt. If I’m being totally honest, that’s part of the reason I went in after you. I had to see it for myself too.”
A knock at the door interrupted them and they turned to see a nurse enter the room.
“There’s a couple police officers outside who would like to talk to you if you’re feeling up to it.”
Richie exchanged a look with his wife, then nodded. “Might as well get it over with.”
Tori returned to her chair beside the bed just as two officers came in. One was older and slightly heavy set, the other younger and slim. Luckily, they were familiar. They’d both been on the case when they were looking for Zachary, so they didn’t have to rehash the whole story.
“Mr and Mrs. Sambora, it’s nice to see you again. I just wish it was under better circumstances.” The first officer greeted them. “How are you feeling?”
“Sore, but I’ll be alright thanks.” Richie responded.
“Can you tell us what happened today?” The second officer flipped open his note pad and waited, pen poised.
Tori began the story. “Well, as you know ever since Jasmine escaped we’ve had investigators looking for her.” The officers nodded. “This morning Rob – my bodyguard – got a call with a tip on an address where she might be staying.” She paused. “I took our dog and snuck out of the house to go check it out.”
“Why’d you take the dog?”
“Back up....and because she was whining and would have ruined my escape if I hadn’t taken her with me.”
“And what happened when you got to the address?” The officer ignored the comments that made it sound like her home was a prison.
“I tried to talk to her. Reason with her. But she was too far gone for that. She’s convinced Richie’s in love with her.”
“And when did you arrive?” The officer directed his question to Richie.
“Right about when she revealed how delusional she was.”
“And what did you do?”
“I tried to talk to her...make her understand that I wasn’t in love with her and had no intention of spending the rest of my life with anyone other than my wife.”
“How did she respond to that?”
“She pulled out a gun and aimed it at Tori. Said she was going to remove the obstacle standing between her and I ‘fulfilling our destiny’.” He reached out for Tori’s hand and gave it a squeeze.
“Then what happened?”
“The dog jumped at her just as she pulled the trigger. She bit down on Jasmine’s arm.” He frowned. “Probably knocked her aim off, and saved my life.” He turned to Tori. “Is Taffy okay?”
Tori nodded. “Yeah. She’s fine. Rob took her home.”
“What happened after she fired the shot?”
Tori took up the tale again. “We both hit the floor. I was trying to see where Richie was hurt and how bad. I heard the dog barking and when I looked up she was gone.”
“You didn’t see where she went?”
“No. I was focused on Richie.”
“Okay. I think we’ve got it. If you think of anything else, or if you hear from her or see her again, please let us know.” Starting for the door, the older officer paused and looked back, his gaze locking with Richie’s. “Did I ever tell you that my parents were from New Jersey?”
Richie shook his head. “No you didn’t.”
The officer just nodded. “They did.” He tapped his hat into his hand. “Well, you heal up and don’t forget to call us if you hear anything.”
“We will. Thank you officers.” Tori made sure they were gone before turning to her husband. “Do you think they bought it?”
“Do you think they’ll keep digging?”
Richie considered the knowing expression in the older officer’s eyes. “Nope. I think that unless she shows up again, they’ll stick the file in the back of a drawer and forget about it.”
“So what really happened?” Karin asked. “Oh wait, let me get David to pick up the other phone. DAVID!”
“Hey Bela, how’s everyone doing?”
“Hi Shirley, we’re okay. Richie should be released from the hospital tomorrow.”
“And the whackjob?”
“Oh, I don’t think she’ll be bothering us anymore.”
“Don’t tease Tori. What happened after she shot Richie?” Karin wanted to know. “The real story now, not the one you fluffed the cops off with.”
“How do you know that wasn’t the truth?”
“Because you’re too calm about her getting away. If she really did, you’d be swearing a blue streak and vowing to track her to the ends of the earth.”
Tori chuckled, but couldn’t argue the point. “Okay, fair enough. So, after the gun went off, Richie and I both dropped to the floor. I felt him jerk when the bullet hit.” She had to pause to push away the horrid memory of that moment when Richie stepped in front of her and took a bullet meant for her. He risked his life to protect her and she would never forgive herself for putting him in that situation.
She swallowed and continued. “Then these two big white guys came busting through the door. One looked at me and asked if I was Mrs. Sambora and said ‘your brother sent us’. I guess that was to reassure me they weren’t there to hurt me....and to get me to call off the dog.” Tori smiled down at Taffy lying beside her with her head in her lap and fondled one soft ear.
“Were they from Jersey?” David asked although he suspected the answer.
“They didn’t introduce themselves, but judging by their accents, I’d say that was a safe bet.” Her tone was as dry as the desert.
“So they took her?” Karin was trying not to be shocked. It was a story you only saw in gangster movies or TV shows and her husband and her best friend where acting like it was a normal event.
“Not exactly. They took the gun away from her and she was still ranting about how Richie’s was hers and she never meant to hurt him.” She paused. “And then these two Asian men walked in. They spoke to her in Japanese. Her eyes bugged, her face went white and she started screaming hysterically. One of the men leaned over and murmured in her ear and she shut right up. She looked scared to death. They took her out and one of the white guys promised to call an ambulance.” She blew out a breath. “And that’s the last we saw of any of them.”
“So where did the Japanese guys come from?” Karin wondered.
“I don’t know. Any ideas Shirley?”
David hesitated, but she was family. “Did Richie or Jon ever mention that they love us in Japan?”
Tori heard the unspoken message. “That’s what I thought.”
“So...what happens now? What do you think they did with her?” Karin asked.
“I don’t know what they did with her and I’m sure I don’t want to know.” Tori would be lying if she said she hadn’t spent some time speculating on that question, but she’d come to the conclusion that she’d probably sleep better at night if she didn’t know. “As for what happens now....life finally gets back to normal and I can once again focus on what really matters.....my family.”