The first time Fraser saw Ray sitting in a café with a cup of already stone-cold coffee he wasn’t drinking in front of him, he thought it might have been a coincidence that Stella and the Alderman were eating at the restaurant on the opposite side of the street.
A day later, Fraser was feeling very confident that Ray hadn’t chosen the same bar by accident. For even though Ray looked very fitting in his light suit Fraser didn’t believe for a second that this was a location Ray would’ve chosen himself.
No, it was obvious that Ray was following his ex-wife and her new romantic interest. Even though the police, Huey and Dewey even, had taken over the case of the shooting and the Alderman had added two more bodyguards to his security service.
Stella was sitting at the counter on one of the tiny chairs with a golden cocktail at her elbow. She was laughing at something Orsini had said and Fraser had to admit that she was a radiant young woman.
Her poise and quiet self-assurance only heightened the beauty of her smooth features. Her skirt and blazer were impeccable and the highlights in her hair caught the light in an enticing luster.
He saw Ray gripping the neck of his beer bottle tighter. Quietly, Fraser approached his newfound friend.
“May I join you?” he asked gently.
Ray didn’t look surprised at Fraser’s appearance in the bar. Well, Ray was a detective. He had probably noticed Fraser’s entrance ages ago. Ray’s keen mind was way too observant – especially during a surveillance such as this – not to have noticed a face as familiar as his.
With a small sigh Ray looked up and raised the bottle to his lips. He took a quick pull from the beer and set the bottle back down on the table again; the condensation left a wet stain on the polished black glass of the table.
“What are you doing here, Fraser?”
That was a good question actually. Fraser supposed he had glimpsed something of himself in Ray, something that had led him to believe that Ray wouldn’t be able to let his colleagues from the 27th handle the situation. Fraser had known instinctively that Ray wouldn’t let it rest – no, not instinctively. It was pure logic, really. It was obvious that Ray still loved his ex-wife and his protective nature made it a probably assumption that he would want to ensure her safety above the call of duty… or despite his orders.
It had been a mere unconscious impulse on Fraser’s part. He had very good ears and even though it hadn’t been his intention to eavesdrop he couldn’t help overhearing the plan of the couple to go out for dinner to a certain little Italian restaurant after the incident of the shooting.
Without any conscious thought, Fraser had passed that restaurant a few hours later… only to find Ray in his car, parked at the corner, hardly visible from the window of the restaurant – not when you weren’t looking for him… not like Fraser was.
And from there it had developed into a pattern. Ray followed Stella Kowalski to keep her safe and Fraser followed Ray Kowalski to….
He didn’t know. To protect Ray in a way… from getting his heart even further broken, from watching his childhood sweetheart falling in love with someone else… maybe to shield Ray from the inevitable outburst of annoyance that would follow once Miss Kowalski found out that her ex-husband was following her around.
“I thought you might want some company,” Fraser said instead. A short, fierce smile flitted over Ray’s face.
“Thanks,” he murmured and kicked the chair out from underneath the table so that Fraser could sit down.
The patron at the next table, a lady in a fashionable dress with an unholy amount of both lipstick in a vivid scarlet and jewels on every part of her body that wasn’t covered in expensive white fabric, threw an annoyed glance at them.
Fraser apologized to the lady, but Ray only winked at him and hid his smirk behind his beer bottle. Fraser sat down and considered his friend for a moment.
“You look very fetching, Ray.”
Ray smiled crookedly at him.
“You didn’t turn out so bad yourself.”
Fraser was puzzled for a moment, looking down at himself, because he wasn’t even wearing his uniform. From the corner of his eye, he noticed Ray’s smile getting more prominent and he realized that being out of uniform was exactly what Ray meant.
“Ah, thank you. I’m glad you think so.”
Ray nodded generously, trying to rein his smile back in.
Fraser looked around and turned serious again.
“Are you expecting trouble?”
Ray’s mouth set into a tight line. “Yeah…” he lowered his voice and angled his head closer to Fraser’s. “Do you have any idea who he is?”
“Ah,” Fraser rubbed his eyebrow, flicking a glance at the Alderman. “A politician with good chances of winning the next election, if my memory serves me correctly.”
Ray nodded. “But that’s not all. He’s got this big real estate project going – it’s gonna be one of those big, artsy glass and steel buildings with lots of expensive condos and what-have-you. Thing is, it’s gonna put a lot of people out of their homes, it’s— it’s a cheap neighborhood, Fraser. People can’t afford the kind of apartments he has in mind.”
“And you think the opponents of this project are behind the shooting?”
Ray was quiet for a moment. He looked intently at the green glass of his beer bottle. Whatever was bothering him was bigger than a group of political activists.
“Don’t you think it’s awfully convenient? The shooting, I mean. Here we have Orsini who made a lot of enemies with his fancy project and suddenly, just a few weeks before the election, he turns out to be the victim of an assault? Attempted murder even? Who do you think people will believe did it?”
Fraser’s mind was firing on all cylinders trying to keep up with Ray’s mercurial jumps of reasoning. “The project’s opponents.”
Ray smiled grimly. “Naturally.” He trailed a path through the wet condensation beading on the cool glass of his drink. Suddenly, Ray’s gaze was fixed on Fraser. Unconsciously, Fraser swallowed around a suddenly dry throat.
“Isn’t it funny that it would turn the majority against the protesters? Why should they shoot him? It wouldn’t help them one bit.”
Fraser thought he saw the direction his friend’s thoughts were going.
“What are you saying Ray?”
“That Orsini is the only one who profits from this stunt.”
It wasn’t unheard of. The unspoken rule of advertising: There’s no such thing as bad publicity. Still… it was also very easy to see where Ray might have gotten that idea from. His antagonism towards the Alderman was palpable, and it probably wasn’t born out of political interest on Ray’s part – though it might have further fuelled Ray’s dislike.
It was, however, more probable to assume that Ray’s objection to Frank Orsini stemmed from Orsini’s involvement with Stella Kowalski. Rivalry, especially in matters of the heart, was an all too common motivator.
Ray did have a point, though. Orsini was indeed the only one who benefitted from this latest attack on his person.
Suddenly, there was a commotion at the counter. A woman screamed and a glass shattered on the floor with a high ping, showering the floor in a myriad of glass shards.
The moment the scream resounded around the room, Ray was out of his seat and moving. He was at Stella’s side in less than a heartbeat.
“Stell, is everything alright?”
Stella nodded, trying to catch her breath. She was a little pale, but she seemed to rein herself back in with supreme self-control.
“What happened?” Fraser asked.
“I saw,” Stella took a deep breath to compose herself. “In the mirror, I saw a man with a gun. But when I turned around he was gone.”
“Did you see him as well?” Fraser asked the Alderman.
Orsini shook his head slightly hesitantly. “I thought, but… no. I don’t believe I saw anything.”
Asking around didn’t bring any more information to light. Stella appeared to be the only one to see the armed man.
Stella was a remarkably controlled woman who either had nerves like steel or a will of ice. As soon as the immediate danger had passed, she fell back into her role as Assistant State’s Attorney – when Ray had told him of Stella’s profession Fraser hadn’t been able to repress the thought how much pain it must’ve caused his friend to continue a working relationship after their romantic relationship had fallen to shambles.
“Ray, not that I am ungrateful for your assistance – but what are you even doing here?” Stella asked and there was a sting to her voice.
“Uh, I was… just showing Fraser here around a little.”
Stella’s eyes narrowed and she pursed her lips. Apparently, despite all his undercover work, Ray wasn’t very good at fooling his ex-wife.
“Frank, could you see me home?”
“Of course—gentlemen, if we’re finished here?”
Ray nodded tersely. Fraser could see the tendon at the side of his throat jump.
Well, there was nothing else they could do. They turned to go when Fraser noticed something strange about the remains of Stella’s cocktail on the floor.
Carefully, Fraser lifted one of the bigger chunks of glass. He sniffed at the remaining liquid. Hm. He flicked his tongue out and tasted a drop.
Ray made a choking noise next to him. “Fraser, put that down. That is disgusting!”
Fraser stepped up to the counter to speak with the bartender.
“Excuse me, who made the golden cocktail the woman who just left ordered?”
“I really couldn’t say, sir. It wasn’t me, but that’s not too unusual. There are at least two people tending the bar at any given time and most of the waiters know how to mix a cocktail.”
No, Fraser thought. That wasn’t at all unusual. What was unusual, though, was that no one remembered mixing that cocktail.
“Why? What is it?” Ray asked impatiently.
Fraser cracked his neck. “Nothing, I was just making sure that we’ve covered all angles before we leave.”
Ray nodded slowly. “Okay, good. Come on, let’s get outta here.”
Back at the consulate, Fraser welcomed Dief and sat down at his desk. He pulled at the collar of his uniform before he finally opened his notebook. His neat handwriting was already filling page after page. There was something soothing about pouring your soul into writing. It felt taken care of, as if matters had reached a destination in some way. Yes, a way to distance yourself from your own thoughts. You could give them life, for the duration of the pages.
I have a confession to make.
Fraser’s pen was poised over the paper. I lied. At that time I believed it was for the best – I didn’t want to cause unnecessary torment. I’m not sure if it was wise, though. He would’ve deserved the truth. Being spared ultimately causes more pain than knowledge ever could. But how could I have told Ray that I think the target isn’t Alderman Orsini? I believe it’s Stella Kowalski. I still can’t be entirely sure, which was the reason I didn’t tell Ray. Consider I was wrong? The anguish I would’ve caused him would have been unforgivable.
And yet I think it’s true. I don’t think this is a PR campaign.
I am not sure if there really was a man with a gun in that bar tonight. But there was definitely something in Miss Kowalski’s drink. There were traces of a white powder, very faint, but they clung to the glass shards where it didn’t have time to dissolve yet. The fact that no one remembers making that cocktail is also highly suspicious. The remains were too little to say anything definite about the ingredient used, but I believe it was toxic and I am confident that Miss Kowalski wouldn’t have survived finishing that drink. Whatever she saw or imagined she saw, maybe caused by the drug in her drink, saved her life.
But if that’s true than she is still in danger. And it isn’t the Alderman who needs enforced protection. It is really for the best that she left with him tonight for I believe that she will be safe for as long as he and his security guards are there to keep an eye out.
There is a missing piece to this puzzle and one that will be hard to find without confiding in Ray or in Stella herself: who would have a reason for killing her? Or better yet, what possible reason could someone have? If I knew that, I’m sure it would be remarkably easy to find the culprit.
Do I tell Ray about my suspicions? Can I trust that he will look beyond his heartache and his hurt to stay objective in this? Would he even believe me, relieved as his heart feels at thinking that he can bring Orsini down and with that keep him away from Miss Kowalski? Oh Ray, I wish I knew if you are as fool-hearted when it comes to love as I am. You and I, we are the same in love, I fear. You would ruin your life over her… but this is a matter of saving her… what is the best solution? Can I trust you?
When Fraser opened the doors of the consulate the next morning, he found Ray standing right in front of him with his hand already lifted to knock.
“Uh, hi,” Ray greeted him surprised.
“Good morning, Ray.”
It was evident from Ray’s tense posture that he was extremely agitated.
“Fraser,” Ray said and then didn’t follow it with anything.
“Ray,” Fraser gestured Ray inside.
“Listen, we need to act about Orsini.”
Fraser frowned. “In what sense?”
“What do you mean ‘in what sense’? In the sense of bringing him up on charges, what do you think? And if I have to grill the snot out of him myself, we need to get him to confess that this is all a media hoax—”
“Stella spent the night there, okay?”
“No, trust me she did. When it comes to the dating habits of the Stella, I happen to be an expert. What if something goes wrong, huh? What if Stella gets hurt because of it? We need to get her out of there, I don’t care if I have to drag her out of his fancy house myself—”
“He isn’t behind the attacks.”
“He—what?” Ray looked at Fraser as if Fraser was one hole short of a Swiss cheese.
Fraser bit his lip. He had known that it wasn’t prudent not to share his thoughts with Ray before. He needed to trust Ray.
“I believe that Stella is the target.”
“What? No way—” Ray shook his head vehemently. But Fraser supposed that it was more a gesture of denial than an actual founded belief. “Why should anyone… who’d dare…”
“That’s what we have to find out.”
“No, Fraser, you gotta be wrong. He’s got to be our guy.”
“Why?” Fraser asked a little more sharply than he had intended. “Because you need him to be?”
Ray looked as if Fraser had hit him.
“Ray—I… believe me, I know how it feels to believe in something with every fibre of your being despite evidence that says otherwise,” Fraser sighed and rubbed his eyebrow before meeting Ray’s gaze head-on. “I wasn’t completely honest with you yesterday. There were traces of something in Stella’s drink and while I couldn’t be sure what had been used exactly, I can guarantee that she wouldn’t have survived finishing that drink. No one at the bar remembered mixing the drink or even that she ordered it.”
“Are you sure?” Ray’s hands closed to fists at his side.
“Yes,” Fraser said with complete conviction.
Before Ray could reply, the telephone rang.
“Canadian consulate, Constable Benton Fraser speaking…. oh dear. Is anyone hurt?” He could see Ray’s head whip around. “…I’m relieved to hear it…” Fraser looked at Ray and shook his head with a small smile. Ray relaxed infinitesimally. “…no, of course. We’ll be right over.”
“It seems that the Alderman received a letter bomb. It was addressed to Miss Kowalski and apparently hand-delivered by someone, that point is still a little unclear. However, since the vehement protest against his building project the Alderman has his mail screened for security reasons. I believe that’s what saved them.”
“Stella is alright?”
Fraser could see the tension drain from Ray.
“Okay, let’s get cracking.”
During the drive, Fraser wondered why the Alderman had called him and not Ray. At least Ray was an official representative of the police force, even if the Alderman hadn’t wanted to entrust Detectives Huey and Dewey with this newest development.
He watched Ray’s white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel and his tightly set mouth. It had probably been a wise decision not to call Ray. A conversation between the Alderman and Ray probably wouldn’t have been very fruitful.
Fraser worried a little that his partner’s passionate nature would exacerbate the situation at the scene of the crime. He needn’t have worried. Ray’s heartfelt approach turned him into a force of nature; a force to be reckoned with.
Fraser had seldom seen security guards of this stature and seriousness in such a state of intimidation. Oh, Ray was good.
He was a flurry of motion, and a few times Fraser worried that Ray was going too far, giving his emotions too free a rein, so that he was almost prepared to break up a fight, but Ray always knew the line, it was—yes, it seemed to be some kind of posture.
Taking Stella’s annoyance into account, she knew it as well. In contrast to Fraser, she didn’t seem to find much to admire in Ray’s carefully controlled emotions. Ray’s mind worked quick like a lightning bolt, but Fraser had the advantage of being more foresighted. So he came upon the conclusion before Ray had finished his line of questioning.
“Stella, it’s really important—”
“Don’t you think I know that, Ray?” Stella snapped at him. “I told you already that I didn’t have a case that fits the attacks. I thought this was about Frank’s housing project?” Stella asked bewildered and a little impatient.
Ray ground his teeth together at the familiarity with which Miss Kowalski used the Alderman’s first name.
“Ray—” Fraser interrupted. Really, he should’ve seen it sooner. Of course, it made perfect sense.
“Did you have an unsuccessful arrest lately in which the perpetrator was married? Maybe even a case of domestic violence?”
Ray’s eyes widened.
“You think it’s me. Ah, hell. You think she’s been targeted because of me? Dammit, if you think it, it’s probably true,” Ray ran his fingers through his hair, leaving it in yet more disarray.
“Ray please, just think back on your latest cases.”
“Yes, yes… hell… yeah! Shit, there was a guy. He beat a co-worker of his wife half to death in a jealous rage— it turned out they were just colleagues… but there was some screw-up with the paper work— not my mistake—and he walked. Or he got released after a ridiculously short time or something…”
“Miss Kowalski, could you describe the waiter who mixed your cocktail?” Fraser could see it all come together like a puzzle.
Stella arched one perfectly sculpted eyebrow.
“Really, I don’t see what—”
But Ray did.
“Please Stell, just answer his question.”
Stella sighed, but turned to Fraser anyway.
“Maybe about Ray’s height, dark hair cut short—”
“Was he dressed like the other waiters?” Fraser cut in.
“Y—actually, I don’t think so. He was standing behind the bar and he was wearing a suit… now that I think about it, the others had a white shirt on.”
“Ray, does the description fit your case?”
Ray nodded gloomily.
They went into the hallway to ask the security guard who accepted the letter for Miss Kowalski this morning. It matched the description of the suspect.
“What now?” Ray asked in a low voice. His body was thrumming with nervous energy and Fraser felt almost invigorated by it, as if Ray was a conductor for electricity, powering Fraser’s own body.
“Seeing that both attacks happened while you were close enough to witness it, I’d say it’s safe to assume that he wants to hurt you with it.”
A dark look flitted over Ray’s face, but Fraser wasn’t telling him anything that hadn’t occurred to Ray before.
“It would be best to arrange a meeting somewhere outside with Stella tonight to draw him out.”
“No way, Fraser. We are not using her as a decoy—over my dead body.”
The fierce flash in Ray’s eyes almost took Fraser’s breath away. He needed a second to clear his throat before he could reply.
“I was thinking of calling Huey and Dewey at the 27th to ask for their assistance; it is their case after all. They could bring a female officer as a double.”
Ray relaxed and he showed Fraser an apologetic smile. “Good idea.”
They talked it over with Stella and Frank Orsini. The Alderman agreed to meet them this evening, even though Stella didn’t like it.
Out of the front door, Ray turned back around and announced in a loud and clear voice: “So you’re going to the concert in the park tonight, right?”
“That’s none of your business, Ray. Thank you for your help, but Frank and I will be fine on our own.”
One had to hand it to Stella, either she meant what she said from the bottom of her heart or she was an excellent actor. Fraser pulled at his collar. Well…
Ray’s flinch made it obvious that he had noticed the very real message underneath the agreed arrangement as well.
When had it become so easy to read his new friend?
They went to the consulate so that Fraser could inform the detectives at the 27th. Constable Turnbull was on desk duty. Fraser tried to introduce Ray and to explain to Turnbull the plan for the evening, but it was hard enough talking to Turnbull when there wasn’t anything of importance at stake.
Fraser gave up on his efforts and Turnbull smiled happily and continued to refer to Ray as a Mr. Right with whom he had several conversations already.
Ray mimed loony tunes and Fraser raised his shoulders helplessly. Turnbull was a good man, but he wasn’t exactly… well. The less said the better.
In Fraser’s office it became clear to Fraser under what kind of stress Ray must’ve been. He was pacing along the length of Fraser’s limited office space and Diefenbaker followed him, tongue lolling enthusiastically about, until Ray whirled suddenly around to face Fraser.
“This is my fault, Fraser. If anything happens to her, it’ll be on my hands—I—”
“Ray, stop it,” Fraser interrupted in a calm voice.
Ray leaned back against Fraser’s desk with a tired sigh. “She divorced me, Fraser, it’s not fair that she should be in danger because of me—”
“Listen, you did your job. You did what you needed to do. You did everything in your power to protect her— this was out of your control! It’s – Not – Your – Fault, do you understand? You couldn’t have acted any differently, it was the right thing—”Fraser realized too late that he was talking himself into a state of agitation.
“It’s alright, Frase,” Ray said quietly.
Fraser realized that he had stepped closer and closer until he had pressed Ray almost back onto the desk. He felt his cheeks suffuse with heat. But he had meant every word he said, because—
“You’ve been there, huh?” Ray asked with a knowing look.
Fraser stared at Ray in utter surprise. This had been… as if a part of him had whispered into his ear, a voice from long ago. Was it— it was true, right?
“Fraser, you okay? You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.”
“I—I’m…” Fraser was looking at Ray wide-eyed. “I did what I had to do… I couldn’t have done it differently…” A crushing weight released its tight-fisted grip on Fraser’s conscience. It hadn’t been his fault that she had hated him. He had been true to his beliefs—she just hadn’t been able to forgive him for that. It was his love for her that blinded him from her game when she had returned to Chicago… he had loved her….
Fraser looked intently into Ray’s green-brown eyes. Ray, who was still lying almost flat on his back on Fraser’s desk; Ray, who was still trying to puzzle out what Fraser was blithering on about.
Fraser was so close, he could smell Ray. He inhaled deeply; it reminded Fraser of newsprint or fresh printing ink. Ray and his constant scribbling into his notebook and the fingers sprinkled with little flecks of blue ink.
Fraser’s heart beat faster all of a sudden. There were flashes of blue in Ray’s hazel eyes.
“I—I’m sorry!” Fraser snapped upright and he stepped back to let Ray up. Fraser’s face was burning with mortification, but Ray took it with remarkable calm.
“It’s alright, buddy. I don’t break that easily.” Ray smiled cheekily at him. “What was that all about?”
“I just realized that we all feel guilty for things out of our control when we are in love. Because I meant what I said, Ray. You did your job when you convicted that man and if you hadn’t done it, people would’ve been hurt. It’s not your fault that Stella is in danger now. We will protect her, Ray.”
Ray took a deep breath. “I know. I’m just…” Ray crossed his arms in front of his chest, looking small all of a sudden, “I just worry about her.”
Fraser nodded decisively.
They put the plan into motion. Stella and Orsini were to drive to a parking lot where Stella and the officer would exchange places. Orsini and the double would then proceed to the open air concert, where they would be followed by Ray, while Fraser and Detectives Huey and Dewey were monitoring the surroundings.
Stella would remain at the parking lot in the company of Orsini’s trusted security staff until the situation was under control.
Ray drove directly to the park to get into position while Fraser met the detectives at the parking lot to give them a more detailed explanation than the phone call had allowed for.
The exchange went smoothly and Fraser felt even more at ease once they reached the park and he saw Ray loitering around the entrance.
The couple began their walk towards the open air stage in the middle of the park area and Ray followed them at a discreet distance. A few times, someone came running towards them and Fraser had the unpleasant feeling of an accelerated heartbeat every time it happened.
It never came to anything, though. It were mostly joggers or youths, no one who took any particular notice of either the young woman or the man following her a little way off.
Why was Ray causing such a jolt to his heart? He was an officer of the law and as such Fraser shouldn’t be overly concerned about his being in danger. Ray was an accomplished police man; he could take care of himself.
After an hour of aimlessly walking around, Fraser and Huey conceded the possibility that nothing was going to happen. To say that he was puzzled by this would’ve been an understatement. Of course, it might’ve been that their suspect hadn’t witnessed their staged exchange or that the park was too public for him… Fraser frowned.
They all met in a small pathway a little off the main path that led outside of the park again. Huey and Dewey were grumbling about a wasted evening, but that couldn’t be helped. They took off, together with the female officer who had kindly assisted them in their charade.
“Dief,” Fraser called when Dief appeared to follow them, but the female officer had obviously won the wolf’s attention. “Suit yourself,” Fraser sighed.
Ray took Fraser and the Alderman back to the parking lot where Stella was waiting for them.
“I don’t get it,” Ray was shaking his head bemusedly. “It was a golden opportunity.”
Fraser had tried to come up with a possible explanation and had indeed thought of four possible reasons why their ruse hadn’t worked. But he had no proof for any of his theories.
Ray’s lean fingers were beating an irregular rhythm on the steering wheel as he voiced his thoughts.
“—what if he didn’t buy it? What if he knew that it was a fake?” Ray asked suddenly and Fraser saw a muscle in his throat twitch. The thought had occurred to Fraser as well.
Ray guided the car to a standstill in the parking lot. Fraser’s eyes flew immediately to Orsini’s black car. It was still parked where they had last seen it, but—Fraser’s eyebrows drew together. The silver car that was now parked a few feet next to it had been moved. He distinctly remembered that he had seen the car during the exchange a few hours earlier; parked somewhere to the far side, next to a concrete pillar.
They got out and Fraser’s blood ran cold as he realized that the occurrence of the silver car was no coincidence.
“Ray,” he cautioned, moving quickly around Ray’s car to get a better view. Ray immediately picked up that something was amiss.
He kept the Alderman shielded half behind him, as they approached the side of Orsini’s car.
One of Orsini’s bodyguards lay behind it; Fraser had glimpsed the heavy black boot protruding behind the right rear tire.
The man was dead. Someone had hit him with a blunt object.
“Shit!” Ray motioned for the Alderman to stay behind Ray’s car. Where was the second security guard? They had barely walked around the black car, when one of the doors on the silver one next to it was flung open.
Fraser saw Ray freeze and didn’t need more than that to know that Stella had emerged from the other car. Closely followed by their suspect with a gun in his hand.
Stella was shaking slightly, but she appeared otherwise unhurt.
“Stella—you asshole! Ray shouted at the man wielding the gun.
“I’m the asshole?” The voice of the man was quavering. “You turned my wife against me!” He shouted, near hysteria.
“Maybe she left you because you beat the shit out of another guy!” Ray shouted back.
“He was trying to take her from me! Now you can find out for yourself what it means to lose your wife.”
Ray gnashed his teeth. “She’s not my wife anymore. She’s my ex-wife. Which part of that don’t you get?”
Fraser inched closer to the silver car.
“A divorce is just a piece of paper. A gun shot is a definite statement.”
“Ray,” Stella was trying hard to keep it together, but her face was slowly crumbling. Fraser admired her courage. Ray and she must have made an astonishing couple.
“You’re not going to shoot an innocent woman, okay? It’s me you want. You got me, alright?” Ray drew his gun back to show that he was no threat to him. “You let her go, you can do whatever you want with me.”
The man laughed. “You thought I was so stupid. Did you honestly believe I would follow you around? So that you could lead me to the cops? No, I followed her. The only thing I had to do was wait.”
“DON’T COME ANY CLOSER!” he shouted at Fraser who raised his hands in surrender. “Or I’ll shoot her.”
“Let her go, it’s not her you want anyway,” Ray pressed out between clenched teeth.
“You’d die for her? I tell you what, you can both die together.”
He pushed Stella between her shoulder blades and she stumbled in Ray’s direction. Ray immediately pushed her behind him, so that she was covered by his body.
A split-second later, their assailant held a self-made bomb between his hands. “We can all go down together,” he laughed.
It didn’t take Fraser more than a second to survey the scene. Orsini was at least halfway shielded by Ray’s car, but Stella and Ray had no cover—the black car behind them prevented them from moving anywhere in that direction. And then there was himself. Too close to dive for cover. Too close to run away.
But maybe close enough to give them a minimum chance at survival.
His gaze met Ray’s.
The man raised his hand to push the button and Fraser made his move.
“NO!” Ray’s shout rang out over the almost deserted parking lot.