Fuck. “Belle!” Even though the most primitive part of him knew she wouldn’t answer, he called out her name.
When he didn’t get an answer he crept down the hallway until he made it to the kitchen.
Grabbing a knife so he’d have a weapon, he quickly raced through the house checking each room. An eerie silence had descended. It had the kind of emptiness that made him positive he was alone, but he had to check. Had to make sure she wasn’t…no, he couldn’t even think the word.
Belle was alive. She just had to be.
There was an impossible pressure on his chest, making it difficult to breathe but he pushed past it. Losing his shit right now would only hurt Belle and he’d be damned if that happened.
Hurrying back outside, he raced to the delivery truck. Standing on the running board of the big vehicle, he peered in the driver’s side window and his heart caught in his throat.
A man wearing a white undershirt and boxers had his hands secured behind his back, his feet also bound and a gag in his mouth. He was stretched out on the bench seat, his body half falling into the passenger side floorboards. Grant jerked the door open. The restrained man grunted and started wriggling around, which only made him fall completely onto the floorboards.
“I’m going to cut your bindings free. Don’t move.” When the guy stilled, Grant made quick work of the flex-cuffs on his wrists and ankles.
The man turned over and pushed up onto the passenger seat. While the Hispanic man with the dark hair was pulling the gag free, Grant didn’t bother with niceties. He needed to find out where Belle was. “What happened? Did you see where he took the woman?”
The driver rubbed his wrists as he shook his head. “Some guy hit me with a stun gun. I was still conscious even if I couldn’t move when he was stripping me and I thought he’d kill me, but…” The man shrugged jerkily, obviously shaken.
“Did he say anything else?”
“Just that if I didn’t struggle he wouldn’t kill me.” He snorted. “I couldn’t move anyway.”
“You got a phone?” When he nodded, Grant said, “Good. Call the cops. Tell them what happened and give them this address.”
“Okay. What are you doing, man?” he called after him, but Grant was already sprinting back to his house as fast as he could go, his limp barely slowing him down.
His determination to find Belle overrode everything else. As he grabbed his cell out of his pocket, it rang. When he saw Belle’s number on the caller ID, all the air sucked from his lungs. His fingers shook as he pressed the receive button. “Hello?”
“Your little neighbor is quite beautiful, isn’t she?” a male voice he didn’t recognize asked.
“Where the hell is she?” Asking was futile but he did anyway.
“Did you really think I would let you walk away? Let you quit playing our game?” There was raw anger in the man’s questions.
Fighting panic, Grant continued toward his house as he asked, “What are you talking about?”
The caller snarled a curse. “I’m talking about Abigail Moore, Ruth Bailey, Lisa Flores and Virginia Palmer.”
Grant’s entire body chilled, his palms turning clammy as he shut his front door behind him. Before he’d been in his accident he and Carlito had been hunting a serial rapist/killer in the greater Miami area. He sure as hell hadn’t forgotten the case but according to his former partner, there hadn’t been any new victims in the last six months. Thank God for that. They’d both wondered if the killer had moved on to a new hunting ground or had possibly been arrested for a different crime.
The killer hadn’t left DNA behind at any of the scenes so they hadn’t been able to cross-reference anything with either CODIS or IAFIS. Of course this could be a copycat or just a lunatic off the street. Though he doubted it. Belle hadn’t been worried about her family’s friend Paulos Balis, but Grant had assigned someone from Red Stone to watch the guy. Unless he’d slipped his watcher Grant could eliminate him as the man behind Belle’s kidnapping.
“What do you know about those women? Read about them in the newspaper?” Grant needed to know for sure who he was talking to. He hurried up the stairs while he kept the guy on the line.
“I remember how it felt to carve my initials into their shoulders. To slowly slice up their perfect bodies while they screamed in agony. I also look at their undergarments every day. I keep them tacked up in my…workshop.”
Grant forced himself to keep moving as he digested this monster’s words. A slow rage was building inside him like a volcano, but if he let it take over he’d be no good to Belle. Through his anger and helplessness, he reminded himself of that.
He and Carlito had always wondered what the two letters carved into the victim’s back left shoulder meant and they’d never found a similar MO in any law enforcement databases so there had been nothing to cross-reference. They’d also never mentioned that the killer took trophies from his victims but this guy knew.
And he had Belle.
Grant’s hand fisted around the SIG he’d pulled from his nightstand, wishing he could empty it into this guy’s chest right then. The thought of Belle at the mercy of such a monster caused a red haze to blind Grant for a moment. “What do you want from me?”
“You to invest time in our game again. We stop playing when I say we stop!” His heated words caused Grant to still.
He needed to keep his cool and to keep this guy talking. If he was on the phone, he wasn’t hurting Belle. “Okay, I’m listening and I’m ready to play again.”
“Good. After I’m finished with your neighbor, I’ll call you.” His voice was icy calm. Then he hung up.
“No!” Grant shouted but it was too late. Adrenaline pumped through him overtime as he called Harrison. He had limited clues and no idea where this guy took his victims. They’d always been dumped in public places before. Days after they’d been killed. Well, the last three had been dumped that way. The first victim had been killed years ago and no one had made the connection to the recent victims until Grant.
His brother answered on the second ring. “Yeah?” Harrison barked, sounding tired and agitated.
“Someone’s taken Belle. From that serial rapist case I worked before my accident. He’s smart and he just called me from her phone. I think he’s smart enough to take out her phone battery so I can’t track her but—”
“I’m on it. Stay on the line.” He heard Harrison cursing then having a conversation with someone.
Grant guessed his brother had called one of their computer specialists to track Belle using the extra tracking device he’d placed in her phone. He knew it was underhanded, but he hadn’t done it to spy on her. Hell, he couldn’t just track her from his own computer. This device was linked to a private, intra-office system at Red Stone. They rarely used these types of devices and only for special dignitaries when they were worried about kidnappings. Grant had put one in Belle’s phone for her protection and had planned to tell her once they’d found her stalker. Well, his stalker as it turned out. Now he could only hope the damn thing worked.
Moments later Harrison was back on the line. He rattled off coordinates which turned out to be a residential address only ten minutes from where Grant lived. He could hear sirens in the background and knew the cops were on the way to check out the scene of Belle’s kidnapping and that delivery driver’s assault. He needed to be gone before that happened because he wasn’t waiting for anyone to save Belle. Plus he couldn’t risk them trying to haul him down for questioning.
“Call Carlito and relay everything to him. Tell him to meet me there but no fucking sirens,” Grant ordered as he palmed his car keys. He wasn’t calling anyone else about this or wasting any more time talking. He could barely get the order out to his brother.
“Done. I’ll also call Porter. We’ll be there as soon as we can.”
Grant wanted to tell him and his brother to stay the hell away. He could handle this and he didn’t want more of his family involved with someone clearly insane, but he didn’t bother. His brother wouldn’t listen, just as Grant wouldn’t if placed in the same situation. After he entered the address into his GPS system he tore out of his driveway. When he passed a black and white with its lights and siren on, he didn’t even pause.
Saving Belle was the only thing that mattered. She’d just come into his life and there was no way in hell he could lose her. He loved her, even if he hadn’t been able to admit it to himself earlier. She was everything he’d never realized he needed in life and he would save her no matter what it took.
Belle tried to open her eyes but it felt like something was weighing them down. Drugs…she’d been drugged with something. She remembered opening her front door to a delivery guy. No, obviously not a delivery guy but she couldn’t dwell on that now. Dread settled on her chest, pushing at her until she wanted to curl into a ball and hide. But she couldn’t move. Whatever he’d injected her with was still working.
Struggling, she forced her eyes open. They only opened a sliver but she could see wood beams high above her. So she was indoors. As she moved her head to the left a dull pain spread through her skull. She didn’t react to drugs well so she imagined she’d have the headache from hell now that whatever she’d been injected with was wearing off.
Of course that was the least of her worries considering someone had taken her from her home. Blinking a few times, she managed to focus on what looked like a workbench. There was a long, wicked looking knife and some other metal tools she didn’t recognize splayed out. Above it were pictures of pretty, smiling women. There were four of them. All had dark hair but they looked like different ethnicities. One was Hispanic, another had Native American roots, one white and the last Belle wasn’t sure. She had beautiful café au lait colored skin and her dark brown hair was pulled up into a sleek chignon.