From the Ashes
by Julie Coulter Bellon
All Rights Reserved
Colby Black rolled over in bed to look at the clock. Who would be ringing my doorbell at 7 a.m.? He ran a hand over his face and pushed the covers back. He knew he wasn’t due at the police station for another hour. If there was a situation someone would have called him, they wouldn’t be at his house. He quickly pulled on a t-shirt and sweats before he padded to the front door. Glancing out the little window to the side of the door he could see a well-dressed woman on his front porch. With a cameraman at the ready. What was going on?
He opened the door, but not all the way. “Can I help you?”
“Are you Detective Colby Black?” She took a step toward him, and Colby tightened his grip on the door handle.
“And you are?” he asked, without answering her question.
“I’m Laura Northam from Channel 2 news. Do you have any comment about Sophia Naziri? I’m told you were part of the mission to Bulgaria that got her out of a murder charge in Senator DeMarco’s case?”
Colby tensed at her words. How would any news agencies have this story? And how did they find out where he lived? He forced his face to look impassive. “I’m sorry. I’m not sure what you mean.”
She didn’t have time to answer as two more news vans pulled up in front of his house. In Colby’s limited experience with the press, things like this got out of control really fast. “No comment,” he said quickly, before shutting the door.
He walked back to his bedroom and got his smart phone. Quickly scrolling through his news tabs, he found several articles with Sophia’s name in them detailing her participation in the Bulgaria mission to bring down Viktor Dragonov. They definitely had one thing wrong, though. Bulgaria hadn’t been something that got Sophia out of a murder charge. It had always been about bringing Philip DeMarco’s killer to justice and she’d paid a high personal price to do it. He ran a hand through his hair. Sophia didn’t need this. She was already going through so much trying to put her life back together.
His phone buzzed and fellow detective Claire Michaels’s face flashed across the screen. He pushed the accept button, hoping they didn’t have a hostage case. He wanted to talk to Sophia before he went in to work and see if she’d heard any of this yet. “Hey, Claire.”
“Have you seen the news this morning?” she asked, without even a hello.
Colby’s jaw clenched. “I got it up close and personal with a reporter at my door.”
“It’s not looking good for Sophia. Whoever is leaking information is making her look as bad as possible. Have you talked to her yet?”
“I was just about to call her.” He sat down on the edge of his bed. “Stories like this can take on a life of their own. Sophia is having such a hard time recovering as it is.”
“Is she doing any better?” Claire asked, concern in her voice.
“Some. It’s going to take time.” On his last visit to see her, she’d nearly jumped out of her skin anytime a door slammed too hard and she’d been trying a little too hard to put on a happy face for him. He knew she was suffering emotional fallout from witnessing Philip’s murder, then being held hostage herself. She’d nearly been killed trying to escape and was still trying to process everything. It was difficult for Colby to have to watch her go through this and not be able to do anything to help her.
“She’ll get through it. Tell her I’m thinking about her and if she ever wants to talk, I’m here.” Claire paused. “Are you coming in to work or are you going to take a personal day to deal with this?”
“I need to come in. I took so much time off for the Bulgaria mission, I don’t want to risk the captain making my vacation permanent, you know?” He pushed off the bed. “See you in a few.”
He hung up from Claire and immediately dialed Sophia’s number, but it went straight to voicemail. Without leaving a message, he grabbed some clothes and headed for the shower. The doorbell rang again, but there was no way he was going to answer it. It rang twice more, accentuating the fact that this day could only get worse from here. With a grimace he shut the bathroom door and turned on the water to drown out the sound. So many things were running through his head, but his first concern was Sophia. Was she okay? Had anyone been bothering her? How was she handling it?
Colby finished his shower in record time and got dressed in his favorite blue button down shirt and comfortable dress pants. Grabbing his shoulder holster and gun, he slipped that on and then threw his tie around his neck, but didn’t tie it up yet. Heading downstairs he took a glass out of the cupboard and poured himself some cold milk from the fridge. Getting out of his driveway would be a problem, he mused, unless he took his motorcycle to get through the crowd. With that decision made, he tied his tie, then took his jacket off the chair and put it on. He was ready for this.
He opened the door to the garage and took a deep breath. Usually a ride on his bike would relax him, but this one was going to be anything but that. Hopefully he could get away with minimal fuss. He grabbed his bike and braced himself for the barrage of people as he pressed the garage button. Jamming on his helmet, he backed out quickly and shut the garage door. Within seconds, people surrounded him, just as he’d expected.
“What really happened in Bulgaria?” “How many men were killed?” “What kind of deal did Sophia Naziri get?” “Was she an accessory to murder?”
He turned at that last one. “You don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.” He backed up a little more. “Get out of my way.”
The reporter shoved the microphone closer to Colby. “Why don’t you tell the story and set me straight?”
“No comment.” Colby started the bike and turned toward the road that would take him into the city. “That’s all you’ll get from me.” And with that, he weaved in between the last of the crowd near his lawn and sidewalk and sped away.
When he got into work it wasn’t any better. Another crowd had gathered in the parking lot and around the entrance of the police station. With a groan, Colby parked his bike. This was worse than he thought. Maybe they wouldn’t recognize him. Thinking this might be the last bit of privacy he’d get before work, he grabbed his phone to call Sophia again, but a determined looking man with a microphone had spotted him and was headed his way.
Colby put his phone back in his pocket before he took off his helmet. After making sure his bike was secure, he wasted no time heading toward the station entrance.
“Sir, are you Colby Black?” the reporter asked, running to catch up to him.
Colby didn’t answer, but kept walking. The reporter followed him, trying to match his stride to Colby’s. “I’d like to interview you about what happened in Bulgaria. How high does this cover-up go?” He dogged his steps, but Colby was faster, so he was able to stay ahead.
“I have no comment,” he said as he turned his head toward the reporter. The people loitering near the entrance now converged upon them and he was getting swallowed up in the mass of people.
“Don’t you think the American people deserve to know how the government is offering assignments on dangerous missions in exchange for dropping possible accessory to murder charges?” the first reporter shouted over the larger man that had elbowed his way in front of him.
Colby opened the door, a retort on the tip of his tongue about exactly what Sophia had done for her country, but when he turned back to address them all, he knew it wouldn’t make a difference. They were after a specific quote to support this ridiculous rumor of a story and he wouldn’t give them anything to twist to their own agenda. “No comment.”
The crowd surged toward him, like a wave about to crash the shore, but Colby ducked inside and walked behind the security doors. He rolled his neck. Maybe he’d have to stay at the precinct tonight. It was crazy out there.
He walked to his desk, but didn’t even have time to take his jacket off before Captain Reed called him into his office. “Colby, can I see you a minute, please?”
Colby nodded and joined his boss in his office. The captain held out his desk phone. “It’s for you.”
“Sir?” He took the receiver. “Hello?”
“Colby, it’s Skip Michaels. I’m sure you know by now about the leak on the Bulgaria task force mission. I’ve been called in to consult on this case since I was part of it. I don’t know who the leak is yet, but I want you to know that mission was classified and we’re going to find out who’s giving out the information.” He paused and Colby could hear some papers rustling in the background. “Here’s what we need you to do. Keep your head down and don’t give any statements about what happened on that mission. If we can pinpoint exactly what information the press has been given, maybe we can figure out who’s giving it out.”
“Okay. As long as you keep me apprised on the search for the leak. I want to know who this is as well.” He took a breath. “Have you heard from Sophia? I can’t get hold of her.”
“I just talked to her. She’s pretty much pinned down in her house with the press staking out her place. She said she was going to call you with an idea on what to do until this dies down.”
Colby’s shoulders tensed at hearing she was pinned down. He was all ears if she had an idea on how to get out of this mess. “Thanks, sir. I hope to hear from her soon then.”
“You’ve got a good woman there.” Skip’s voice was gentle for a second before it turned gruff again. “I’ll let you know when I’ve got something.”
Colby said goodbye and hung up. He was more anxious to talk to Sophia now and get her out of there somehow. Fast.
“Is there anything I can do, Colby?” the captain asked. He folded his arms and leaned one hip against his desk. It looked casual, but Colby knew that was his no-nonsense stance. He also knew the Captain would do anything for him if he asked.
“I don’t think so. Skip says they’re searching for the leak and I’m supposed to hold tight. Sophia has some sort of an idea on how to wait out this thing.” Even as he spoke his cell phone rang. He looked down and saw with some relief that it was Sophia. “May I take this, sir? It’s Sophia,” he said to the captain.
Captain Reed nodded and Colby accepted the call. “Hey, are you okay?”
“I’m fine, just stuck in my house.” She sounded stressed and upset. Anger at whoever was leaking the information ratcheted up a notch in Colby’s gut. “Did Skip talk to you?”
“Yeah, he said you had an idea for riding this out.” He pressed the phone closer to his ear like it would draw him closer to her. It had only been two days since he’d seen her, but he missed her. It was good to hear her voice.
“Carina DeMarco is going to spread Philip’s ashes up at his family cabin near Candlewood Lake. She invited us up to be part of that since we’re nearly family.” Sophia’s voice caught and Colby knew she was thinking of the senator. His public funeral had happened right before they’d all returned from Bulgaria and she’d had to miss it.
“So you’re going to go up there then?” He squelched a sigh. There’s no way he’d be able to see her anytime soon if she was up in some cabin. But at least she’ll be safe and away from the reporters.
“She said I could invite you, too. From the little I could gather this morning, the press is hounding you just as badly. You can come hide out with us until the next news cycle and the press forgets they ever heard of me.”
A cabin. With Sophia. Now that made everything look a lot better. “That sounds great.”
She must have heard the enthusiasm in his voice because she laughed. “Don’t get too excited. Remember my dad will be there with us, as well as Carina and her son John.”
Colby looked over at the captain. “I’ll have to clear taking more time off.”
The captain waved his hand. “Done. There’s no way you can work until this is taken care of.”
“Looks like it’s all set. Where should I meet you?”
“I’ll text you the directions.”
Colby gripped the phone, a light seeming to appear over the black-cloud way this day had started. “I’ll see you later then.”
“See you soon.”
He disconnected the call, suddenly anxious to get home, pack a few things, and get out of there. Who wouldn’t with Sophia waiting at the end of the trip?
Putting his phone in his pocket, he glanced up at his captain. “Thank you, sir.”
“Keep in touch with me, Colby. I can only give you a few days at the most, so hopefully this will all go away by then.” He clapped Colby on the shoulder.
Colby nodded. “Let’s hope.” He opened the door. “Do you want to break it to Bart or should I?”
“I’ll leave that to you.” The captain grimaced. “We’ll be nearly doubling his caseload.”
“I’ll owe him, that’s for sure.” He paused at the door. “The sooner Skip finds this leak, the better. Then we can all get our lives back.”
“Exactly. Let’s get this taken care of so we can get you back on the job sooner, rather than later.”
“Thanks again, Captain.” With that, he walked out the door. He spied Bart heading toward his desk and erased the smile he’d had on his face at the thought of spending a weekend with Sophia at a cabin. Bart was as close to him as a brother would be and Colby knew he would cover for him, double caseload or not. Hopefully, though, he wouldn’t have to leave Bart hanging for long and Colby could figure out a way to make it up to him. His plan was that by the time the weekend was over, the leak would be found, Sophia could work on her recovery, and Colby’s life would be back to normal.
And he’d do everything in his power to make that come true.