Rushing Silence: Chapter 21

“No,” Zeb said, “you can’t be here!”

“Hello to you, too, señor,” Espinal replied dryly.

“Detective, you need to arrest this man,” Zoe said.

“Wait- what?” Addison asked in confusion.

“He knows the killers!”

“Killer,” Zoe corrected. “Seve is the only one who killed anyone.”

Zeb ignored her protest and continued, “At the very least he knows Andres, if not Seve, too. And I heard him tell one of them, quote: Don’t worry, I’ll make sure they’re taken care of, end quote,” Zeb said.

“That is not exactly what happened,” Espinal said. “I’m afraid there has been a mistake, Mister Martin.”

Addison put a hand on her gun, the other held out toward Espinal. “Somebody better tell me what’s going on.”

“He’s in on all of this,” Zeb insisted. “We ran from him at the truck stop. We told you-”

“Actually, we sorta skipped that part, Zeb,” Zoe said. “But my brother is right.”

Addison gestured for them to be quiet. “Inspector?”

Espinal looked at each of them in turn, then sighed. “Yes, I do know one of them. His name is Andres Delfino. And he is my stepson.”

Of all the things that could have come out of his mouth just then, that was the absolute last thing Zeb would have ever expected. “What?”

“What?” Zoe and Addison both echoed.

“To be more accurate,” Espinal continued, “he was my stepson. His mother and I are divorced.” He walked over and sat at the table across from Zeb, leaving Addison standing by the door. “I did call Andres when we were at the truck stop, that much is true. But,” he said, looking at Zeb, “what I told him was not that I’d make sure the two of you were taken care of, but that I’d make sure the two of them were taken care of.”

“How is that any better?” Zeb demanded.

“Andres told me that Milian’s death was an accident. I was trying to convince him to come forward, to turn on Seve. I promised to make sure they both got a fair trial.” Here he looked at Zoe. “You are also correct, to a degree. I do know who Seve is; the entire Madrid Police service does. His name is Seve Feria. He’s a low-life criminal, mostly involved in fixing bets, various types of fraud and blackmail schemes. Andres once told me Seve had been sniffing around a few of the clubs he referees for.”

Addison, seemingly placated by his story, took her hand off her gun and came over to sit on the edge of the table, listening.

Zoe mulled this over a moment before answering. “Okay,” she finally said. “Then why did you lie to me at the truck stop?”

He turned the corners of his mouth down. “I didn’t lie. I do not know Seve myself. But I recognized the name and his picture in the paper. He’s been arrested a few times, but always something happens and he goes free with only a slap on the wrist. I have never been one of the officers who arrested him; we’ve never met.”

Zoe didn’t look completely appeased by his answer, Zeb thought, but she accepted it in silence. “Why didn’t you tell me any of this?” Zeb asked him.

“I was going to, once we had Zoe safely away from Seve’s reach. But, someone decided to leave me stranded at that truck stop instead,” he said with a wounded expression.

“I suppose we should apologize for that,” Zeb said. But then, a thought occurred to him. “Hang on, how did you find us after we ditched you?”

“Ah, that,” Espinal replied. “I’m afraid I had my suspicions that you might pull something like what you did, so I looked at Zoe’s car registration to get her address. Just in case.” He gave her an apologetic smile.

“The cigarettes,” Zeb guessed. Espinal nodded. “Do you even smoke?”

Espinal shook his head. “A small deception, I’m afraid. One that proved necessary.” He then frowned. “That was quite the pricey taxi ride you two sent me on. And the driver was not too keen on following you here.”

Addison turned up one hand. “Okay, so now we know the Inspector is one of the good guys, where do we go to find the bad guys?” She raised her eyebrows at Espinal questioningly.

“Ah, that I cannot answer. Andres did not tell me where they were. He is… unconvinced that he would be safe if he agrees to cooperate with us to turn against Seve.”

Zoe nodded. “He as much as said Seve would kill him the moment he stopped being useful,” she said. She then reached across the table and took Espinal’s hand in hers. “I believe Andres is as much a victim as we are. We have to help him.” She looked up at Detective Addison. “Please.”

Espinal patted her hand. “It is as much up to him as it to us.” Zoe squeezed his hand and then released it, apparently satisfied with her new ally.

Addison nodded. “And then there is the matter of the charges for the crimes perpetrated here in the States.”

“He is aware that he will have to answer to Madrid’s justice system for his hand in the cover up, and that I will make sure he gets a fair trial. However, I believe I can convince my boy to give us Feria if he knows he will not be charged for anything that happened here in the US.”

Addison shrugged. “It is up to these two whether they press charges against him or not.”

“No, we will not be pressing charges,” Zoe answered readily.

Zeb thought it over. Technically Andres did kidnap Zoe. But he also treated her with a shred of decency, even kindness. He supposed it wasn’t really his fault that Zoe had a run-in with coyotes and Seve after he let her go… “Okay, no charges,” he said.

Zoe gave him a grateful smile. “So what do we do now?” she asked.

Addison and Espinal exchanged a look. “Now, I try to arrange a meet with Andres. If he can tell us where Seve Feria is-”

“My people and I will pick him up,” Addison finished.

“For now, though,” Espinal said, reaching over and squeezing Zeb’s and Zoe’s hand, “we should get the two of you somewhere safe until this all blows over. Detective?”

She nodded. “I agree. I suggest someplace outside of the heart of the city, but not too far away. I’ll have a plain clothed officer keep watch when you get settled in.” She stood up. “I have a list of safe houses and secure locations. We’ll coordinate something, just give me a few minutes.”

“I’m going with them, at least at first,” Espinal said, standing up and facing her.

“As long as you don’t compromise their location,” Addison warned. “Sit tight,” she said, leaving the room. Zeb figured it was her favorite phrase. Espinal sat back down and the three settled in to wait. Again.

“There had better not be any more surprise guests with her when she comes back in,” Zeb grumbled.

Next to him, Zoe began to snicker, then she lapsed into a fit of giggles. Espinal regarded them with a slightly bewildered smile that made Zeb chuckle a little as well.

It was good to hear his sister laugh again. It was good to feel safe. And he thanked God that they were closer than ever to ending this thing.

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