Vradin, Chapter Twenty

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Fergusson noticed the monitor. “You have the street under surveillance?”

“My neighbors’ and I, yes, we do.” Tank made a few gestures on the surface of the monitor, changing the camera to continue showing the sedan.

“All of your neighbors are in on this?” Fergusson asked with some skepticism.

Tank shrugged. “We bought the neighborhood because it was a decently defensible area.”

The sedan pulled up to the curb outside Brawn’s house. Tank felt his lips twitch in amusement. While Tank’s was the largest house on the block, Brawn’s was built to his size. The detectives looked almost like children as they rang the bell.

Fergusson asked, “So you’re just going to spy on them while they go talk to your neighbor?”

“If you want to call it that. I’d prefer to see what they do when they realize Brawn’s not at home.”

“Wait, that’s Carl Brawnley’s house? What the hell does he do for a living?”

“He’s one of my supervisors, though he prefers when we’re busy enough that he has to act as foreman on a crew. Loves to build, our Carl does.”

“What the hell else is he doing to afford a house like that?”

Tank gave the officer a wry look. “My family owns a construction firm, which I run and for which Carl works. The houses we live in are part of the company’s advertising. To top that off, the man is hell on wheels at his job. The family’s always lived by the idea that you hire the best to do the best work and don’t short change them.”

Fergusson gave him a look that Tank couldn’t quite decipher, and they both paid attention to the monitor.

When there was no answer to their knocking, the pair on the monitor made a cursory inspection of the public face of the house, and then the taller of the two consulted a note pad he pulled from his suit’s breast pocket. The two walked out of the pick up range of that camera in the direction of Tank’s home so he made a few gestures on the surface of the monitor which switched to the camera covering his front porch and zoomed out to show his neighbors’ lots to either side of his. After a moment, the detectives showed up from the direction of Brawnley’s home. When they started up his walkway, Tank nodded and headed to the door.

Fergusson stayed behind, still in the hallway, but looking into Tank’s study. Tank opened the front door as the detectives stepped up on to his porch. They both tensed, and the taller man looked visibly startled. The shorter man, who was closer to Tank’s height, kept his cool, but focused on Tank’s shoulders. Smart man to pay attention to Tank’s motion rather than his face at that moment.

“Good day, gentlemen,” Tank said.

The shorter man recovered first and a false smile crossed his lips. “Good day. We’re looking to talk with a Tank Griswald. Would that be you, sir?”

“And you gentlemen are …?” Tank prompted instead of answering.

“I’m Detective Abrigo and this is Detective Lewis. May we come in?” the shorter man said, taking a step forward.

Tank lifted an eyebrow and remained in the doorway. In answer to their first question, he said, “While Tank is not my given name, it is one I answer to. I’ll warn you that I’ve been awake since near six yesterday morning, so my patience with poor manners is a little thin, but as I assume you’re here about the same fucker that caused me missed sleep last night, I’ll try to give you extra leeway.”

“May we come in?” Detective Abrigo asked, again, making a small conciliatory shrug of his shoulders and taking back that step.

Tank considered it for a breath, then nodded. “The kitchen is this way. There should be enough coffee to start with left in the pot.”

Tank stepped out of the entrance and opened the door wider, granting the detectives entrance. They caught sight of Fergusson while Tank was closing the door behind them.

“Sergeant, what are you doing here?” Abrigo asked, a hint of anger in his voice.

Tank kept silent while Fergusson answered. “Zoe’s here. Like I mentioned on the way out of the station house, I wanted to see how she was doing before I hit the sack. I found out that she decided not to stay home last night when I got to her apartment this morning and she wasn’t answering the door.”

The lead detective gave Fergusson a hard look, which the man returned with equanimity.

Zoe walked into the tension, looking wan, pale, and decidedly under dressed in a stretchy short, very short pale blue skirt and a loose nearly sheer peasant blouse in a floral print. Her bare feet made soft patting sounds on the hardwood floor, but there were bells wrapped around her ankle. The sound drew Tank’s gaze. Her toe nails were painted in a two tone swirl of blue and purple, dotted with more rhinestones. Her hair was brushed out, but left loose and long, a dark mane that he wanted very much to tangle his fingers in while he filled her with himself and marked her as his woman.

Tank had to close his eyes to keep from revealing the glow of his wolf. Before Fergusson could say anything, Tank said, “Zoe, you look chilled. There’s a long robe in the guest bath, behind the door. Why don’t you put that on while I get the heat turned up.”

Fergusson’s jaw was twitching noticeably, but he managed to swallow back whatever he wanted to say before he set his cousin’s back up. Zoe bit her lip, but slipped back the way she had come.

As soon as Zoe was safely out of earshot, Tank stepped up to Fergusson, not caring about the two detectives witnessing, and said, “You will not shame her in my home, nor in my presence, even if she decides to prance naked down the middle of the street. Youth and innocence need no help in withering away from us.”

Fergusson lifted his chin, opening his mouth, but Tank continued. “Yes, I saw you bite back the words, but she saw it, too. If what she wears is good enough for your girlfriend, then it damn well better be good enough for any woman walking down the street.”

“Jody isn’t my girlfriend,” Fergusson said. Interesting that he chose that to respond to, and with such venom.

“Not anymore, she isn’t, but whose fault is that?” Tank rejoined.

Fergusson looked ready to slug Tank, but managed to walk away, stiff backed. He nodded his farewells to the detectives. Tank guessed by the narrowed eyed look that Abrigo gave the sergeant on the way out that there would be some explaining to do for Zoe’s cousin.

And when the same narrowed eyed look came back to focus on him, he figured the detective would start his questions with the man at hand.