Murder by Association

part 7

by

Tonya S. Coley

For disclaimers: See Part 1

Chapter 15

Officers John Newman and Harry Artis were scanning Highway 70 looking for Johnnie's car.›

"Harry, do you see those skidmarks?"› John asked.

"Yeah."› He reduced the carŽs speed and looked for any signs of a possible accident.› "Oh shit!"› He exclaimed as he pulled the squad car on the shoulder of the road.›

Both officers quickly exited their vehicle and ran towards the mangled Chrysler that was upright against a large tree.›› Steam was rising from beneath the crushed hood.› They moved closer to check for survivors.› They took notice of the airbag that was deployed, and the tree branch that crashed through the windshield.›

"Damn, you don't think she was impa..."Harry started to ask.

John quickly interrupted him.› "Don't even say it, Harry."

"You call it in.› I'm going to go and check."› Harry said.

As John called the accident in, Harry moved closer to the car.› Harry gasped at what he saw and immediately lost his breakfast.

"What am I going to do if I lose her, Pizo?"› Johnnie desperately asked.› "This is all my fault.› I should have sent her back home."

Pizo looked at his pitiful partner.› "J, it's not your fault.› Alma stayed because she felt that was where she belonged; by your side."› He paused.› "Stop jumping to conclusions.› We don't know how seriously she's injured."

"She's dead.› I just know it.› It's all my fault."› Johnnie pathetically said.

"That's enough goddamn it."› Pizo yelled.› "Alma is not dead."› He grasped her shoulder; his voice became more compassionate.› "Don't go flaking out on me, J.› You gotta be strong.› You know that our guys can't touch her.› Fire and Rescue are only allowed to move her.› So just take a deep breath and relax.› We'll be there in 10 minutes."

A young female paramedic was attending to Harry, as the others were removing Alma from the wreckage.› After opening more smelling salts and waving it under the officer's nose, she was satisfied that he was recovering.

"So much blood..."› Harry whispered.

"That's how it is with scalp injuries, officer."› The paramedic assured him.

"I didn't know that."› The rookie officer said.

"I think you're going to be fine.› I'm going to help the others."› She softly said as she patted his shoulder.

Pizo had just pulled onto the shoulder of the road when Johnnie leaped from the car.› She saw the condition of her car and nearly stumbled.› She regained her balance and quickened her pace to the stretcher that Alma was lying on.

"Whoa."› The state trooper told her, placing a firm hand on her shoulders.

"Get your fucking hands off me, Smokey."› Johnnie yelled.› "That's my woman on that stretcher."

He looked at her with disgust in his eyes.› "I don't care if..."

Pizo interrupted his tirade.› "It's ok, Trooper.› We are police officers."› He held up his badge for the trooper's inspection.

Johnnie jerked herself from his grasp and continued over to Alma.› She fell on her knees next to the stretcher.› She noticed the bandage that was red with blood.› Johnnie touched AlmaŽs fingers.› "I'm sorry, baby."› She whispered as she began to cry.

"Detective, we need to get her to the hospital.› She's unconscious and appears to have a concussion.› We also need to get her checked for internal injuries."› A paramedic whispered in her ear.

"I'm coming with you."› She told him.

"That's fine."› He stood Johnnie up, and then he and the other paramedic took Alma to the waiting ambulance.›

Johnnie followed them with Pizo by her side.› "Call Rosa for me and let her know what happened."

"I just did."› He said.› "I told you that she was going to be ok."

Johnnie grasped his upper arm.› "Yeah, you did."› She jumped into the back of the ambulance after they got Alma secured.

Johnnie paced the emergency room waiting area, guilt and sorrow taking over her mind.› Pizo walked up to her and handed her a cup of coffee.

"Drink this, J, you need it."› Pizo softly said.

She gratefully took it and began to drink it when Rosa, Miguel and Guillermo rushed in.› Johnnie returned the cup to Pizo.

"What happened, Johnnie?"› Rosa asked as she fell into Johnnie's arms, sobbing.

Johnnie wrapped her long arms around her.› "She was forced off the road into a tree."› She said into RosaŽs hair as tears fell from her eyes.› "All I know is that she's unconscious and has a concussion.› They are checking her for other injuries.› The doctor should be out soon."

Guillermo's glare at Johnnie was full of hatred.› Pizo studied him, hoping that he wouldn't make an already bad situation worse.

Harry and John, the first officers on the scene of the accident, walked over to Johnnie.› She released Rosa from her embrace.

"Your car has been taken to police impound, detective."› John told her.

Guillermo's eyes flashed toward Johnnie.› "What was she doing with your car?"› He demanded as he walked over to her.› The two officers joined Pizo and silently hoped that the young man wouldnŽt cause a scene.

Johnnie turned to him with her head down; her guilt made her unable to look at him.› "I was taking her car to the dealership.› It was giving her trouble.› I didn't want her to drive it."› She quietly said.

"So instead you let her drive your car, knowing full well that there was someone after you."› He angrily shouted.› "Oh yeah, mami told me all about it.› Why didn't you just send her home, where she would be safe?"

"She wouldn't leave me."› She faintly said, guilt washing over her.

Guillermo animatedly chuckled.› "She said no?!› I thought you were the man of your house."

"That's enough, Gui."› Rosa hissed.› "We don't need this right now."

"You're right about that, mami."› He spat.› "Alma wouldn't even be in this mess if it wasn't for her."

Rosa walked over to him and raised her hand to slap him, as she heard Javier call out to her.› "Mami, what's going on?› What happened to Alma?"› He asked as he rushed to her side.

Rosa turned and embraced him.› She knew that he would take it harder than her other sons.› Alma and Javier were very close.› "Alma has been in an accident, mijo.› She was forced off the road and into a tree."

"It's all Johnnie's fault, too."› Guillermo angrily added.

Javier turned to Johnnie, then back to Guillermo.› "You're crazy.› She would never do anything to hurt Alma."

"It is my fault."› Johnnie softly said.

"What?› What are you talking about, Johnnie?"› Javier asked, tears coming from his already red and swollen eyes.

"She was driving my car."› She said.› She couldn't even look him in the eye.

Javier was in shock.› "The murderer of those women, the one who tried to kill you, tried again?"› He wearily asked.› His legs began to weaken, so he sat down.› "Why do you say it's your fault?› Did you know that the woman would try again?"

Johnnie sat beside him.› "No.› I was trying to take care of her.› Her car was messing up, so I told her to drive mine."

"Then it's not your fault, Johnnie."› He said.› Rosa walked over to them and stood behind Javier, thankful that he conveyed the family's feeling.› That is all but one member of the family.

"You're just going to let her off the hook?› It is her fault.› She made Alma be like this, and put her in a position to get hurt."› Guillermo screamed, a vein bulging in his forehead.

"Enough."› Miguel shouted.› "Stop blaming her, Gui.› She feels bad enough."

Guillermo walked over to Johnnie and stood in front of her.› "Stand up!"›

Johnnie stood.› She knew what he was going to do, even before he did it.› If it makes him feel better, then so be it.› She thought, as she braced herself.

"I hate you for what you did to our family.› You're a cancer that has invaded us, eating away at us."› He spat.› He swung at her, just catching her chin.› She staggered back.

"Guillermo!"› Rosa yelled.

Pizo and the other two officers were on him before he could swing at Johnnie again.› "That's it, asshole."› Pizo told him.› "You're under arrest for assaulting a police officer."

"Let him go."› Johnnie said, rubbing her chin.›

"What?"› Pizo asked, bewildered.

"You heard me."› She said.› "He had every right to hit me."

"No he didn't."› Rosa adamantly said.› "Take him, he should know better."

Johnnie touched Rosa on her shoulder.› "He's hurting, too.› I'm an easy target."

Rosa reached up to cup Johnnie's cheek.› "You are a good person, Johnnie.› No wonder my Alma loves you so much."

Pizo released Guillermo with a shove as the ER doctor came into the waiting area.› "Martinez family?› He asked.

"Yes?"› Rosa asked expectantly as she grasped Johnnie's hand.› Johnnie looked down at her and smiled at her gesture.

"Ms. Martinez has regained consciousness.› She needed twelve stitches to close the cut in her hairline.› Her suffered a separated shoulder and bruised ribs, all on her left side.› We couldn't give her a strong painkiller due the concussion, so we've given her 800mg of Motrin to take the edge off.› We will be keeping her here overnight for observation."›

"Thank God."› They all said in unison.

"When can we see her, doctor?"› Guillermo anxiously asked.

The doctor looked among them.› "Which one of you is Johnnie?"› He inquired.

"I am."› Johnnie acknowledged.

"It seems Ms. Martinez is in a hurry to speak to you.› She's been calling for you since she regained consciousness."› He said, smiling.

Guillermo began to speak, but Miguel's venomous glare made him think better of it.

Johnnie turned to Rosa and grasped her shoulders.› "Rosa, you go and see her first."›

"Are you kidding?"› Rosa chuckled; her tears are now tears of joy.› "I know how she is when she doesn't get her way when she's sick and so do you."

Johnnie smiled and shuddered at that thought.› "I won't be long."

Johnnie entered the ER and walked over to room 14.› Alma was sleeping.› She found a stool and sat it next to the bed.› She looked at Alma; a blood free bandage was wrapped around her head, and her left shoulder in a sling.› She reached for Alma's right hand and kissed it.› "Alma, I'm so sorry.› This is my fault.› I should have just called a tow truck for your car and driven you to work myself."› She said aloud, unaware that Alma heard her.

"Johnnie?"› Alma quietly asked.› She was still a little fuzzy due to the concussion.

"Yeah, baby?"› Johnnie whispered.

"Please don't make me get out of this bed and hurt you."› Alma said, her head slowly turning to look at the love of her life.

Johnnie chuckled.› "I see you're almost back to your old self."› She paused and kissed Alma's hand again.› "I am so sorry, baby.› It's my fault.› I should have been...."

"Shh."› Alma whispered groggily.› "It's not your fault, and I don't want to ever hear you say that again."

"I love you.› I was so scared."› Johnnie seriously said.› "I thought I was gonna lose you.› Te amare, en la vida y hasta en la muerte."

"I know, querida.› Me, too."› She groggily said.› "I'm so tired and my head hurts."

Johnnie leaned over and kissed Alma's cheek.› Alma had begun to doze off.› "Sleep well, baby."

"You know, your mom's voice is almost as low as yours."› Alma blurted.› "She says hi."

A stunned Johnnie could do nothing but look at her lover.› "What are you talking about, baby?"

"She also says, mind what your father told you."› Alma added just before she began to snore.

Johnnie shook it off.› "She's confused."› She touched Alma's cheek and walked out.› Rosa, Javier and Miguel rushed Johnnie as she stepped out to the waiting room.› Guillermo stood back, as Pizo glared at him.

"How is she?"› Javier anxiously asked.

"Alma is really confused, and looks a little worse for wear."› She said.› "You guys can go in, but she's not making much sense."

"Mami, you and Javier go in.› I'll go in with estupido over there."› He said, nodding his head in the direction of Guillermo.

"They'll be moving her to her room soon."› Johnnie said.› Sensing Rosa's nervousness, she placed her hand on Rosa's shoulder.› "The overnight thing is just a precaution.› She's gonna be just fine."

"Okay, Johnnie."› Rosa softly said.› She started towards the ER when Johnnie caught her by the elbow.

"We need to discuss how to get Alma to stay with you for a while."› Johnnie whispered into her ear.

Knowing full well the explosion that would be forthcoming when Alma found out, she nodded her head in silent agreement.

Pizo was ending his call on his cell phone.› He turned and saw a nearly vanquished Johnnie.› "I didn't think this day could get any worse, J."› Pizo said.

"What is it?"› Johnnie wearily asked.

"They found another body at the dunes."› He informed her.

Johnnie's world came crashing down around her.› She felt her legs go weak and she quickly made her way to a chair.› Nearly losing Alma, then finding out that the killer had struck again was a little too much.› She could have easily had two victims instead of just one.› She leaned her head back against the wall.

After regaining her composure, she told Pizo to give her a minute to tell Alma that she was leaving for a short time.› He knew that it was hard for Johnnie to leave Alma right now, but he understood the need for Johnnie to get the murderer behind bars.

Johnnie walked back into Alma's treatment cubicle.› She saw Rosa on the left side of Alma's bed, and Javier on the right holding her hand.

"She still sleeping?"› Johnnie quietly asked.

"Yes."› Rosa said.› Javier sat in silence looking at Alma.› "She woke up for a minute, saying something about tomahawk and being pushed.› Alma wasn't making any sense."

Johnnie walked over to Alma's bedside and stood next to Rosa.› She leaned over and softly spoke to Alma.› "Baby, I gotta go for a little bit.› I gotta take care of some things.› Our girl has been busy."› Johnnie said.› She looked at the ugly bruise that was beginning to peek from beneath the bandage and winced.›

"So close."› Alma murmured.

"What?"› Johnnie asked, totally confused.

"It's the bump on her head making her say things, Johnnie."› Rosa paused.› "I'll stay with her.› Go on, do what needs to be done.› I want you to catch this killer."

Johnnie nodded.› She leaned over to kiss Alma's cheek, and could see the pain on Javier's face.› He kissed Alma's hand as he wept.› Johnnie was aware of the close bond these two shared.› "You ok, Javier?"› Johnnie asked.

"Now that Alma will be ok, yes I'm fine."› He whispered.

Johnnie walked over to Pizo, and they began to walk toward the exit.› Guillermo saw them and rushed over to them.

"Running away with your tail between your legs, eh pata?"› Guillermo spat.› His bravado had grown from him hitting her earlier.›

Johnnie's anger quickly grew as she grabbed him by his collar and slammed him against the wall.› "I've had all I'm gonna take from you, little man."› She snarled as she tightened her grip on his shirt and lowered her face closer to his.› "You hit me earlier only because I allowed you to.› Do not think for one minute that you did it on your own."

Guillermo, with great effort, tried to break free of Johnnie's iron grip.› His struggle was in vain; Johnnie was too strong and absolutely furious.› Miguel and Pizo stood back and watched with satisfaction.› The short little shit deserved it.

Johnnie was taking great pleasure in watching him squirm.› The same pleasure he had when he was kicking her emotionally while she was down.› "Now, for your information, I have some business to take care of.› You can stay with Alma as long as you want to.› But know this, if you go in there spouting the garbage you were earlier, she won't be the only Martinez in a hospital bed.› Do you get me?"› She growled.

Angry because he had been thoroughly humiliated in front of everyone in the waiting area, he mutely nodded.›

"Good boy."› She told him, releasing her grip.› She lightly slapped him on his cheek.› She turned to Miguel.› "I'll be back as soon as I can."› She said.

Miguel nodded.› He had been filled in by Pizo, while Johnnie was terrorizing Guillermo.› "Go get her.› Make that bitch pay for what she's done."› He added.

She gave him a halfhearted smile as she and Pizo left.


Chapter 16

Johnnie sat at her desk, looking over the report of Alma's accident.› Her car was rammed from behind, which made Alma spin out and loose control.› The airbag had deployed properly and the seatbelt worked perfectly.› She read something that made her blood run cold.› The branch that crashed through the windshield could have gone through Alma's head if she had been a couple more inches to the right.› For some unexplained reason the branch had split, causing only minimal damage to Alma's head.

›Tears welled up in her eyes.› My baby could be dead right now.› She thought to herself.›› Rosa said Alma had said something about a tomahawk and being pushed.› Is it possible?› She continued to muse.› Johnnie began to smile as she wiped the few tears that escaped her full eyes.› Anything is possible.› Thanks, daddy.›› Remembering where she was, she looked around to see if anybody had been watching her.› None other than Pizo busted her.

Pizo felt empathy for Johnnie, she had been through a lot.› So, instead of teasing her, he walked over to her and placed a sympathetic hand on her shoulder.› "You ok, buddy?"

Relieved that he wasn't going to tease her, she smiled.› "Yeah.› Just thinking about what I could have lost, and thanking the powers that be that I didn't."

"I feel you on that one."› He said.› "Have you checked on Alma?"

"They've moved her to a private room.› Her family is with her now."› Johnnie said.› "I hope that prick Gui doesn't say or do anything to upset her."

"Why didn't you let me run the little bastard in?› Pizo asked, still a little upset because Johnnie wouldn't let him arrest Guillermo.› "He had it coming."

Johnnie studied her partner.› She wanted to let Pizo bust him, but she couldn't allow it to happen with Rosa standing right there.› She sighed heavily.› "It was just too much for Rosa to endure at one time.› I didn't want to do that to her."

"You pick the most inopportune times to be a softy, J."› He said smugly.

Johnnie's back stiffened at what Pizo had said.› "You tell anybody, your ass is grass."

Pizo put his hands up in mock surrender.› "Ooh, I'm so scared."

Johnnie laughed and flipped him the bird.

"Mami, what's wrong with Guillermo?"› Miguel asked as they waited in the hallway while the nurses got Alma settled in her bed.› "Why did he have to act like that?"

Rosa sighed as she looked down the hallway at Guillermo.› "I can't understand this hatred he has for Johnnie.› She and Alma have been together for a while now."› She shook her head.› "It was hard for us to get used to the idea of Alma being with a woman, especially for me.› But what's going on with Guillermo is stupid.› I don't think I could find a man to treat my Alma better than Johnnie does."

Miguel could only agree with her.› Thinking about how he has mistreated his girlfriend, the mother of his children, made him feel like a bastard.› "I should take lessons from Johnnie on how to treat a woman."›

Rosa smiled at her youngest child.› Placing her arm around him, she whispered words of comfort to him.› "It's not too late, mijo."› She paused.› "Do you love Anna?"

"I love her so much mami, it hurts.› My macho image gets in the way."› He said solemnly, hanging his head down in shame.

"Don't let your macho imagine make you lose the woman you love."› Rosa softly warned him.› She looked down the hallway at her other sons.› "I don't know if there's any hope for Gui, but I do pray that Javier finds someone to love.› He's so alone."

Miguel noticed the look in his mother's eyes.› "No, mami, don't interfere.› You know how Javier hates it when you start matchmaking."

"Callate."› She playfully said as she swatted his arm.

"That bitch should get her ass kicked."› Guillermo spat.› "First she gets Alma involved in all this, then she leaves her."

"Why don't you just be quiet, Gui."› Javier wearily said.› "I don't want to think about all that now.› My concern is for Alma."

"You could have fooled me."› Guillermo paused, and looked his brother in the eye.› "This was our chance to get that dyke away from Alma for good, and all you did was take her side just like mami did."

"Not now."› Javier warned.

"Alma needs to see that pata for what she is.› She's selfish.› She doesn't care for Alma.› If she did, then she would be here, instead of running around searching for someone she'll never find."› Guillermo countered.› "The rest of you can sit with your heads buried in the sand, but I'm going to tell Alma what's what.› This madness ends now."

Javier grabbed him by his upper arm.› "You will not say one word to upset Alma."› He growled.› "Do you hear me?› Not÷ One÷ Word."

Guillermo looked into his brother's eyes, seeing that Javier meant what he said.› He snatched his arm from him.› "Alright then.› I'll handle it another way.› Mark my words, mi hermano, that bitch won't be plaguing this family much longer.› Alma is going to see her for what she is."

"Whatever."› Javier said as he walked away to join his mother and Miguel.

Johnnie and Pizo went down to the impound area to look over Johnnie's car.› When she spotted it, a wave of anger washed over her.› She walked around the car clenching and unclenching her fists.› A low, nearly inaudible growl came from her throat.› The rear end had been smashed into, the windshield had a large hole in it and the front of the car was crushed.› The more she walked around the car, the angrier she became.› Pizo could only stand by and watch her.› He knew that it wouldn't be a good idea to interrupt her.› He could see the rage permeating from her body.›

Charlie, the officer that examined Johnnie's car, walked over to Pizo.› "I have the report ready for you guys, detective."› He quietly said as he watched Johnnie pace around the car.› "What is she doing?"› He asked.

Pizo sighed heavily.› "She's about to explode."› He paused, the looked at Charlie.› "Do me a favor and clear this area, ok?"

Seeing the anger on Johnnie's face, Charlie quickly handed the report to Pizo.› "Hey fellas, let's go get some coffee."› He and the other two officers left.

As they walked from the impound site they heard a deep, animalistic roar and a slew of expletives.› Charlie was thankful not to be in there with the furious Detective Green.

Javier held Alma's hand as she slept.› Rosa and Miguel sat in the chairs and talked about how they had thrown Guillermo out earlier for upsetting Alma.

Johnnie walked in with flowers, balloons and a stuffed teddy bear.› Upon seeing Alma's beautiful face, she felt at ease for the first time that day.

Miguel walked over to Johnnie and relieved her of the gifts.› Johnnie went over to the bed and kissed Alma on the cheek.› Alma opened her eyes and then smiled.›

"Hey, querida."› Alma whispered.

"Hey yourself.› How are you feeling, baby?"› Johnnie asked.

"I'd be feeling fine if I were at home in our bed."› Alma said.› "How are you?› You look tired, baby."

"Don't worry about me, I'm fine."› Johnnie leaned down for a chaste kiss.› She looked over to Javier.› "Has the doctor been in?"

"Yes.› He said that Alma could be released tomorrow."› He said as he smiled at her, then at Alma.

Johnnie gave silent thanks.› "See honey, you'll be out of here tomorrow."› She softly said.›

"Unfortunately, I won't be here.› I have a flight leaving tonight for Florida."› He announced.› "I should be back Friday.› You call me if you need me, Johnnie.› I'll leave my itinerary with mami."› He kissed Alma's cheek then walked over to his mother and Miguel and hugged them.

"I'll walk you out."› Johnnie said as she started to leave Alma's bedside.

Javier held up his hand to stop her.› "Here is where you want to be."› He grasped her shoulder.› "Take care of her."

"I will."› She said.

A little while later, Rosa said that it was time for them to leave so that Alma could rest. ›She and Miguel both kissed Alma, then Johnnie offered to walk them out.›

››››››››››› "There's no way in hell you guys are gonna get Alma to agree to this."› Miguel said.

"She has no other choice.› I won't have her at home by herself, especially when she can't defend herself."› Johnnie said.

"Alma will do as I say.› I'll just put my foot down."› Rosa adamantly said.

"Well, before you bring her over, call us so that I can leave.› I don't want to be there for the big showdown."› Miguel said to them both.

"I'm not afraid of her."› Johnnie said weakly.

Rosa began to shift from one foot to the other.› "Me either.› I'm her mami, not the other way around."

Miguel laughed at both of them.› "I would love to be there to see you brave soldiers, but I am afraid of her.› She gets real mean when she's pissed."› He looked at Johnnie and smirked.› "Come to think of it, you'd better get back to her."

"Yeah, you're right."› She said as she gave them both a quick hug goodbye.

Rosa quickly slapped the back of Miguel's head.

"Ow, mami.› What was that for?"› He asked as he rubbed the back of his head.

"For scaring that poor girl."› She said.

"I was talking about Alma, mami, or have you forgotten?"› He asked.

"Oh yeah, I did forget.› Sorry, mijo."› She said as she kissed his head.› "I owe you one."›

Alma had raised the head of her bed a little and the nausea had passed before Johnnie got back.

"I was beginning to wonder if you went home with them."› She said as Johnnie entered her room.

"Nope, I was just asking how you were today.› You were talking kind of weird when I left."› She said as she sat on the side of the bed.› "I know a couple of detectives came and talked to you earlier, I read the report.› Do you remember anything else?"

"No.› I told them all I could remember."› Alma said softly.› She rubbed her left arm, then let her fingers trail down her arm to her hand.› She gasped in horror.› "Johnnie, where is my ring?› Oh god it's gone!"

"Shh, baby.› I have it.› It's safe."› She told her as she held her.› "The paramedics took it off before the swelling got too bad.› If they hadn't, it would have had to been cut off."

Wiping the tears from her face, she breathed a sigh of relief.› "Good."› She paused.› "Where is it?"

Johnnie chuckled.› "It's at home with mine.› I put it back in the box when I went home to get you some clothes."

"Ok."› Alma said as she fiddled with the bedcovers.› "Johnnie?"

"Yeah, baby?"› She asked.

"Kiss me."› Alma whispered.

"Gladly."› Johnnie said as she leaned in for a kiss.› It was the beginning of a first class make out session.

Mike sat at his desk going over the receipts and counting his money.› The shop was closed and he was alone.› He heard the door open to his office, so he pulled out his .45 and placed it in his lap.› "Who's there?"› He asked.

"You should learn to lock your doors, Mike.› You never know who could walk in."› The woman softly said.

"Oh, it's you."› He said, putting his .45 back in the desk drawer.› "You got another job for me?"

"As a matter of fact, I do."› She told him.

"You liked my work on the one I did for you this morning, eh?"› He asked.› "What do you want done this time?"

"There's just one problem, Mike.› You see, you didn't do your job correctly."› She said, moving closer to him.

"Black Chrysler 300M.› I ran it off the road this morning.› Nobody got killed.› I say I did just what you asked."› Mike said, growing annoyed.

"Right car, wrong driver, fuckface."› She hissed.

"You didn't say anything about who drove it, lady."› He growled, growing angry.

The woman smiled coyly at him.› "Well that's neither here nor there.› You fucked up and I don't like fuck ups."› She flatly told him as she pulled her 9mm from behind her back.› "Your job is to die slowly and painfully."

Mike reached for his desk drawer.› The bullet entered his shoulder before he could get to the drawer.

Johnnie and Alma were riding in the 4-runner that the dealership had loaned them while Alma's car was in the shop.

"Honey, what do you think about getting one of these for us?"› Johnnie asked.

"Yeah, fine."› Alma answered absently.› "Uh, Johnnie?"

"Yeah, baby?"› She asked.

"Why are we heading for mami's house?"› Alma inquired.› "I thought we were going straight home."›

"Don't you want your mom to check you out?"› Johnnie asked.› I hope she buys this.› "Kiss your boo-boo to make it better, and all that."

"I'd rather have you kiss my boo-boos."› Alma purred.

"Oh, I'll kiss them and then some."› Johnnie winked.

Pulling into Rosa's driveway, Alma saw Miguel washing his truck.› She smiled at him as he ran over to their vehicle and opened the door for her.

"Hey Alma.› You ok?"› Miguel asked as he helped her out of the SUV.›

"I'm fine.› Where's mami?"› She asked as Johnnie came around the truck to stand at her side.› Johnnie placed her arm around Alma's waist.

"She's inside making breakfast."› He said, then turned to Johnnie.› "How did you convince her to go along with this, Johnnie?"

Johnnie stiffened.› Alma pulled away from her slightly to look at her.› "Go along with what?"

"Uh, Alma, I uh...."› Johnnie's mouth became as dry as the Sahara.

Alma pulled completely out of Johnnie's embrace.› "You're going to leave me here, aren't you?"

Miguel backed away from the quarrelling lovers.›

Johnnie could feel a tension headache coming.› She pinched the bridge of her nose in hopes of warding it off.› "Baby, listen, it would be..."

Alma hastily interrupted.› "Don't even try it."› She hissed.› "You've wanted this from the beginning.› Poor defenseless Alma, can't leave her alone for a minute."

It was Johnnie's turn to interrupt.› "That's not it, Alma."

Rosa stood at the door, and told them to come inside.› She could see the tension on Johnnie's face, and the anger on Alma's.› She wondered if they would be able to convince Alma that this would be for the best.

"I guess you're all in this together?"› Alma demanded as she entered her mother's house.

"Remember your tone, mija.› I'm your mother."› Rosa admonished.

Alma quickly remembered her place.› "Si, mami."›

Rosa sat on the sofa and patted the spot beside her.› Alma reluctantly sat down and angrily pouted.› Johnnie stood over by the door and leaned against it.› Miguel made a hasty retreat upstairs.

"You're not getting your way this time, Alma.› Not this time."› Johnnie shouted.

Alma turned away from her and looked at her mother.› She hoped that she would be her ally.› "Mami, Johnnie wants to leave me here until this mess is over."›

"It's not safe for you to be at home, Alma."› Johnnie harshly said.› "Why can't you see that?"

"I know how to protect myself."› Alma turned back to her and yelled.› "I know how to handle a gun."

Johnnie walked purposefully toward her.› "And just how in the hell are you gonna handle a gun now with your arm in a sling?"› She demanded.› She could feel her anger and frustration growing.› Rubbing her hands against her face, she tried to relax.› "Alma, I want you to listen to me."› She said in a calmer tone.

Alma looked up at Johnnie with tearful eyes.

"This is not open for negotiation.› You have to stay here.› I can not, no, I will not allow you to be put in a position where that nut can get at you again."› Johnnie kneeled in front of Alma and took her hand into her own.› "Please baby, don't fight me on this."

"Johnnie is right, mija."› Rosa added.› "Things are dangerous right now."› She paused.› "I'd like to make a suggestion, if that's alright?"

Alma turned to her mother, a look of pleading in her eyes.› The thought of being separated from Johnnie was tearing her apart.› She had no idea how long it would be before the killer would be caught.

"Johnnie, since Alma won't be returning to work until next week, why don't you drop her off here before you go to work and pick her up afterwards.› That way she won't be alone and you two won't have to separate."› Rosa suggested.› "Plus, that will give us time to plan for the wedding."› She added.

This brought smiles to both Johnnie's and Alma's faces.› They both nodded in agreement.

"Now that that's settled, I'm going to finish breakfast."› Rosa stood and turned to them.› "I'll call you when it's ready."› She walked into the kitchen.

Johnnie sat on the sofa beside Alma.› Alma snuggled closer to her.› I wonder if our baby will be as spoiled as Alma is.› Johnnie thought, looking toward the future.› Yeah, probably even more.› A smile formed as she mused.

Alma watched the smile creep on Johnnie's face.› "Just what are you smiling about?"

Johnnie kissed her on the forehead.› "The smile is about a spoiled little woman that I'm madly in love with."

Alma snorted.› "I'm not spoiled, I'm just lucky to have my way all the time."

"Not this time, baby.› You had to compromise."› Johnnie triumphantly told her.

"So did you, querida."› Alma whispered as she kissed Johnnie's neck.› "So did you."

Johnnie worked at her desk through lunch, trying to piece the case together to get some leads.› Gilliam and Westlake, two other detectives, had stopped Pizo, in order to share some information.› Johnnie looked over at them and saw the agitated expression on Pizo's face.› They all walked over to Johnnie.

"J, they found the car that ran Alma off the road."› Pizo said.

Johnnie immediately stood up.› "What?› Where is it?› Who was driving?› I'm gonna tear that fucker a new asshole."› She angrily yelled.

"Somebody beat you to it, Green."› Gilliam said.› "He was murdered last night."

"We found the car when we arrived at the scene."› Westlake added.› He opened and placed the file on Johnnie's desk and began to read from it.› "His name was Michael Grice, he ran the auto body and repair shop just off I-40 called ŽRev it Up'.› Guess he was in the process of counting his money, because there was a shitload of it on the desk.› So that means robbery is out."

"He also had a sideline.› He was a gun for hire."› Gilliam said.

Pizo didn't know how to break the last bit of information to Johnnie.› He knew she could possible snap.› "There's more J."›

She looked at him expectantly.› "Well, spill it."

"The report is back on the murder weapon."› Pizo paused.› "The gun that Grice was killed with was a 9mm.› It was the same gun that the killer used to shoot you."

"Fuck."› Johnnie roared, pounding her fist onto her desk.› The entire squad room was startled.

"She didn't want any loose ends."› Pizo quietly said.› He walked over to Johnnie and grasped her shoulders.› "It's only a matter of time, J.› She's gonna fuck up and when she does we'll get her."

To be continued in part 8

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