Eric found Joy almost an hour later, chatting cheerfully with a few of her friends. He scowled darkly as he realized one of them was Charlie Cameron.
“Cameron. What a pleasant surprise. Fashionably late tonight, aren’t you?”
Joy looked up and frowned slightly as Eric took her elbow, her pretty mouth tightening at the corners. Charlie’s eyes narrowed. “Bellows. And here I thought this was supposed to be a nice party. I’m afraid my parents had a previous engagement and requested that I join them. I was only able to leave twenty minutes ago. Needless to say, I came as soon as I could.”
“Well, I suppose—” Eric began, but Joy pushed between them and stopped the argument abruptly, one hand one each boy’s chest. Her blue eyes were embarrassed and angry.
“Boys, stop. This is no place to have a fight. If you must quarrel, go outside.”
Both paused and looked repentantly down at an irritated Joy.
“Sorry,” they said simultaneously.
“That’s better,” Joy sniffed. She swept grandly off and resumed her conversation with her best friend Amy Johnson, leaving the two boys glowering at each other.
An hour later, Eric heaved a silent sigh of relief and said, “Well, it looks like the party’s ending. Shall I get your coat for you, Joy?”
Joy looked hesitant. She had not forgotten Eric’s earlier unkind words, but it was apparent he had.
“Yes, I suppose,” she said slowly.
After he left, Joy pulled her cell phone out of her small black handbag and called Maxwell. After she said goodbye and hung up, Charlie said coolly, “Can’t bear riding with him in the same car, can you?”
Joy rolled her eyes. “What is wrong with you two tonight? You’re acting like jealous five-year-olds.”
Charlie took a step forward, and looked into her blue eyes. “Eric’s no good, Joy,” he said urgently. “He’s just a balloon full of hot air.”
Joy giggled as an image of a very round Eric sailing upwards toward the ionosphere came to her mind.
“Oh, Charlie,” she said helplessly.
He shook his head, slightly exasperated. “He’s bad news, Joy. I wish you would stay away from him.”
Her lips still turned up in a smile, Joy just said, “He is a little pompous, but I think he means well.”
Charlie frowned darkly, his Caribbean eyes dimming to a smoldering blue. “If that’s what you think, you’re not as smart as I thought you were.”
He immediately regretted his words when Joy’s smile slipped from her mouth and she became visibly angry. “Honestly, what’s wrong with you, Charlie? You’re acting like a child.” Her eyes snapped sparks of blue fire as she frowned and glared at Charlie.
Just then she saw Eric approaching hurriedly with her coat and said frigidly, “Excuse me, Charlie. It’s time for me to go.”
Then she was gone.
Charlie sighed dejectedly. “Women!” he muttered. “They think they know everything.” But he looked just a little mortified as he turned slowly away and returned to the party as it drew to a close.
“I can hardly believe it, but I really think that Lieutenant Ross is on my side, Maxwell!” she said excitedly.
Down in the dark depths of her rocky hideout, Joy eagerly told Maxwell of her conversation with Lieutenant Angela Ross. He smiled with satisfaction, his brown eyes warm. “I always knew that one of them would be.”
Joy flipped her cape exuberantly and fastened the clip around her neck. “I’m going to find out for sure.”
“How, Miss Joy? Surely you’re not going to march right into SCPD Headquarters and ask her!” he said incredulously, his white-gloved propped on his hips.
Joy grinned mysteriously. “Not quite, but close.”
He sighed and admitted defeat. “Please be cautious, Miss Joy.”
Joy was on her gleaming black and blue motorbike, racing along the edge of the deserted highway, when Maxwell’s voice echoed through her radio.
“Miss Joy, you have a call. Master Charles would like to speak with Miss Joy Gallenger.”
“Charlie?” Joy frowned somewhat as she remembered their quarrel only a few hours before.
“Should I tell him you are unavailable, Miss Joy?”
She sighed. “No, I’ll talk to him, Maxwell. Put him on.”’She heard a faint click and then Charlie’s tentative voice.
“Hi, Charlie. What’s up?”
His remorseful voice said quietly, “I just wanted to apologize for this evening.”
Joy shrugged, but her voice lightened. “It’s okay, Charlie. You and Eric have never liked each other, have you?”
He laughed, his voice brightening in relief. “I guess not. I always thought he was a snob, even when we were kids.”
“Truce. You can like him if you want to.”
“Oh, thank you very much, kind sir,” Joy retorted sarcastically, but she was smiling.
All of a sudden, she froze as the wail of a siren reached her sensitive ears. Oh boy.
“Well, I’d better go, Charlie,” she said calmly. “I’ll talk to you later, okay?”
“Right, Joy. See you later.”
Joy switched off the link and steeled herself for another police chase.
“Devonfield! What in heaven’s name are you doing?! Ouch!”
It was Angela Ross who spoke so angrily, as she braced herself for another turn.
Being in a car with Detective Hale Devonfield was one thing. Being in a car with Devonfield with him behind the wheel was another. And to have Devonfield chase a vigilante down busy streets at night was something not to even be considered.
Unfortunately, Angela didn’t need to consider it. She was experiencing it first hand, and she firmly vowed never to let Devonfield drive again.
Devonfield took another crazy turn, the car wheels shrieking in protest. “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m trying to catch that vigilante!”
“Well, don’t kill us trying!” she yelped.
He snickered, his hands gripping the steering wheel tightly. “What’s the matter? Scared?”
She scowled. “Buddy, you are asking for a black eye. Look out!”
Devonfield glanced up sharply, saw the crossing pedestrian, yanked the steering wheel heavily, and almost ran them off the road. The car jerked to a stop.
Angela leaned her head back and heaved a sigh, her green eyes trained on the deepening night sky. “She’s gone. Looks like she got the best of you again.”
The detective glared at her and turned his gaze back to the road, pulling off the curb and jamming down on the gas.
Angela shook her head. “Why is it so hard to get her?”
Hale laughed harshly. “She’s good. I hate to admit it, but she’s fast and sly. We’ve had her totally surrounded and she’s slipped out of our fingers. For her, getting away from us is like taking candy from a baby.”
“She must be good, to stay loose after two years.”
He glowered at the thought of Miss Justice laughing at him, and his fist tightened on the wheel. “Think you could do better?”
“Well, then. I’ll ask the commissioner to put you in charge of the vigilante department.”
Angela smiled secretly and said nothing, her eyes thoughtfully studying the setting sun.