“There’s no need to thank me, Hank, really. I didn’t have anything to do with her recovery. I just happened to be there.”
Hank laughed and clapped a hand on his shoulder. “Ever the skeptic, eh? I guess that’s good in your … work.” Hank moved his eyes toward Wayne without turning his head. JD smiled.
“It can be helpful, yes. It’s not as useful for getting along with your friends, I’m afraid.”
Hank laughed. “Well, it’s good to have multiple viewpoints when you’re doing something like this.” He turned back to Wayne. “Anything?”
“Nothin’ I can see. It looks awright t’me, sir. You want me t’check the other ones, above an’ below? Only take a second.”
“Yes, let’s do that. Something was wrong. The guests told us these lights were out. I found them on, but JD here says there were out.”
“Not just these, either,” JD said to both of them. “The neighboring lights, above and below this landing, were out too, then came back on when the door out of the stairwell banged closed. The ones in the hallway just outside were also out, and came back on about the same time.”
“Weird. Awright, I’ll check ’em, boss.” Wayne thudded down the creaking ladder.
“Thanks, Wayne.” Hank turned to JD as Wayne hefted the ladder under a meaty arm and jangled and clunked up the stairs behind Hank.
“How goes the investigation?” His voice was almost a whisper.
“Well, fine … I think. Our cameras are transmitting, but just barely. I think they’ll be fine. I’m doing a sweep for EMF now.”
“Electromagnetic fields. This meter will read them. I’m just looking for areas of potential problems where they might spike.”
Hank nodded once. “Sounds like you’re well on your way.”
“I’m doing what I can. I shouldn’t keep you, you’re busy.”
“Actually, I’m on my way back to Phoebe. She’s been resting in our room since … it happened. She’s naturally upset, not to mention her throat’s pretty sore.”
“I’m so sorry, please tell her we hope she’ll be okay.”
“Oh, she will, JD. That’s Phoebe. She’s indefatigable. She’s still planning on the celebration tonight. I … we hope you’re still coming. Today hasn’t turned you off your plans to attend, has it?”
JD shook his head. “No, I … I’m just … I’m still pretty uncomfortable being there. It’s such a personal thing.”
“JD, if you hadn’t been around this morning, there’d be nothing to celebrate. I’d love to buy you a drink, even if you feel you didn’t do much. Please come.”
JD smiled. “I will. Thank you.”
“LOOK OUT!” a voice boomed from above.
Hank turned but JD saw it first. The packed leather toolbelt sailed into the gap between the flights of stairs, banged loudly off the hand rail and hurled under the weight of the tools and the heavy drill still on the loop.
Right at Hank’s head.
JD shoved Hank to his left savagely and covered his face with his arms. The belt exploded on the landing in a shrapnel rain of pliers, wrenches, probes and hammers. The plastic drill casing shattered and flew in every direction. The concrete beneath the impact chipped and pinged against the walls in the stairwell.
As the noise echoed down the staircase, a tiny divot of paler dust remained exactly where Hank stood less than two seconds before.
“Boss!” Wayne’s face appeared over the railing above. “BOSS!”
“I’m all right, Wayne,” Hank called, hefting himself off the wall and dusting his pants. “I’m okay. Are you? JD?”
JD nodded. “Uh … yes. I’m fine. Surprisingly.”
“Yeah, I’m awright too, boss. Nothin’ happened t’me.”
“What happened then?”
“Christ, I dunno! My toolbelt just — just busted loose an’ fell!”
JD and Hank looked at each other.
“Your drill’s a goner,” Hank said. “You’d better go get a new belt before you keep going with this. Holy cow.”
“Are you sure you’re all right, Hank? You’re not cut or anything? There was a lot of debris flying around.”
Hank inspected himself again. “No, I’m okay. That was … that was weird. I never saw it coming. You … you saved me, too, JD.”
JD looked at the scattered remains of the toolbelt spread over the landing. A few things toppled down the stairs to their left, and a couple of smaller items landed on the stairs to their right, leading up to the next landing. Most of the items were on the landing in front of them. Hank would have took the full impact if JD hadn’t pushed him aside.
Below them somewhere, a door slammed shut. JD and Hank both looked over the railing, but the stairwell was clear.
JD wondered if both Hank and Phoebe almost becoming victims on the same day was only coincidence.