The hotel room was spacious and had a king-size bed in it. It was on a high enough level that I could safely look out the window without anybody recognizing me from below unless they were standing in the street with some serious binoculars.
The room was stocked with books, DVDs, word puzzles and other things to keep a person busy. I figured this was one of the rooms that were used to hide witnesses regularly. Hopefully not so regularly that Lisa knew about it, though.
Mariska sat in one of the two chairs by the small round table in front of the room’s large window after calling and instructing someone to get a small critter cage and rat food as well as my thyroid medication.
“Ok, so here’s the scoop,” she said.
I sat on the edge of the bed while Burke explored the vast expanse of the bed for what tidbits of goodies I knew he wasn’t going to find on it. I gazed into Mariska’s dark friendly eyes.
“You won’t have access to the Internet. Just a basic cell phone in which to call out in case of an emergency. Someone will call or come over to check on you a few times throughout the day. You must never ever answer the door without looking through the peephole first and seeing either a police officer dressed in uniform or a plainclothes detective showing you their identification. You must then ask for the code word.”
My head jerked up with that one.
“What is it, sweetie?”
“I don’t know. Code word. Hmm… some strange red-haired girl visited the condo one time calling Lisa by the name of Esmeralda. When I asked Lisa why the girl had called her that, she said it was her codename or something like that.”
Mariska kind of gave this grim sort of smile and a slight nod but didn’t say anything more about it. Instead she said, “Well, the code word in this case is going to be exquisite. Can you remember that?”
I nodded. “Exquisite.”
“Room service will not be available, and housekeepers will only be allowed in with an officer present.”
“Someone will show up between eight and nine with your breakfast, noon and one with your lunch, and about five with your dinner. There will always be some snacks in the room for you, too.”
“How long will I be here?”
“Until after the trial.”
“What trial? Lisa never mentioned anything about a trial.”
“She hasn’t officially been served yet. She should be served within the next few days. For now, since you know her better than I do, do you think she’ll believe the note you left and assume you’re missing? Or do you think she’ll think that you ran away?”
I thought about it a moment and then said, “I think she’ll think I ran. Especially if I’m right about her suspecting that I never lost my memory.” That was another thing. “What about doctors? I still need medical care.”
“Many of you in the witness protection program do, and we have our own team of doctors available, so no worries there.”
I wasn’t sure if this made me feel any better. “But she’s a cop. If she suspects that someone’s hiding me out, can’t she trace me through whatever doctor I see or figure out where I am?”
Mariska shook her head. “That’d be pretty unlikely. We make it a point not to transport our witnesses more than necessary, and we take every precaution to make sure we’re not being tailed. You’ll be in good hands. The people you’ll be dealing with have had a lot of experience in making sure they’re not being followed. Also, we’re very careful whom we share our information with. Lisa can’t simply look up the location of witnesses.”
“Anything is better than being stuck with her, but will I literally be stuck in this room until the trial is over? That could take months, couldn’t it?”
“It could, yes, and it probably will. Don’t worry, though. You won’t die of cabin fever. Someone can take you to the fitness room as well as out for some fresh air once a day. It may get lonely and it may get boring, but the place has a beautiful garden and we’ll make sure you get plenty of exercise and don’t go stir crazy.”
There was a knock on the door and Mariska rose and strode over to it. She peered through the peephole and then opened the door. “Hello, Jay.”
A younger guy came into view and he held up a box containing a small cage. “Is this what you wanted?”
“Not me,” said Mariska with a smile, “but I’m sure the lady’s rat would appreciate it.”
I set up the cage and the supplies while Mariska left to get us some lunch. She returned with tuna sandwiches and Caesar salads. She watched with surprise an interest as I shared some of my meal with Burke. “They like people food,” I told her.
After we ate and made some small talk, she briefed me in on the rules again. “What’s the code word?”
“What do you do before you ask for the code word?”
“I make sure they’re in uniform or show me a badge.”
“What do you do with the phone?” She nodded toward the small, cheap cell phone that sat on the dresser.
“I never call anybody but you guys if I need something or have a problem.”
“You got it,” she said with a nod and a quick smile. “For now, I’m sorry you have to sleep in your street clothes, but I’ve got your size written down and I promise that someone, if not myself, will bring you some new clothes tomorrow.”
“Oh, and let me write this down.”
I watched as the tall dark detective scribbled a few numbers down on a piece of paper.
“If you ever do need to call the front desk for anything or if you’re ever instructed to call any other number than the one we’ve programmed into the phone for you, be sure you dial these numbers first. That way it can’t be traced.”
I thanked her and then she was gone, leaving me to try to get my head wrapped around all that had transpired in less than two hours.
The phone I had placed on the dresser rang about an hour later, startling me out of my many thoughts. I got up from my chair and walked over to it. The display said it was the police department.
Could it be Lisa?
I accepted the call. “Hello?”
“Hi, Shaylin. This is Jay. Remember me from earlier?”
I recognized his voice instantly. “Yes,” I said breathing a sigh of relief. “When I saw the police department on the display I was almost afraid that Lisa got a hold of the number.”
“Oh, we’ll make sure that doesn’t happen.”
“Is she going to be arrested?”
“I don’t know the particulars right now, ma’am. I do know she’s been served for the trafficking case, though.”
“I hope she’s been suspended until the outcome.”
“No, I’m afraid not.”
“That’s too bad.” And then I thought of why he could be calling. “Is everything ok otherwise?”
“As far as I know. That’s why I’m calling; to make sure everything is ok with you and see if you needed anything.”
“No, I’m fine. Just a little bored and anxious.” I was depressed, too.
“I don’t blame you. Just try to relax and someone will bring you dinner later on. Good food always brightens the spirit.”
I wasn’t sure I had much of an appetite, but I thanked him just the same.
I hung up still feeling jumpy and depressed. The only thing that put a smile on my face was knowing that Lisa had to be shitting bricks over the subpoena, and had to have returned home by now to find me gone. I basked in delight at the thought of how furious I knew she had to be. If there was anyone that didn’t like being controlled or defeated, it was Lisa. Lisa had lost this time. I was gone forever no matter what she did. A part of me was sad that it had to end this way, but I was also very angry as well. Damn her for rescuing me just to turn out to be the monster from hell! Now what was I left with? No place to live and no means of support.
I looked down at the disposable cell phone I was holding. It was all I could do to keep from calling Lisa and laughing my ass off at her.