Phillip Gray grabbed his hat off the dresser and adjusted it in the mirror. Soon things would be back to normal. After he took care of that meddling bitch he was gone. Maybe he’d head out west instead of Miami.
As he walked out of the bedroom, he ran his hand along the bureau and kicked up a layer of dust an inch thick. He quietly shut the door behind him, descended the stairs and checked the blinds on all the windows in each of the three rooms.
Everything was secure. Just as he’d left it.
Still, it didn’t hurt to double check. Everything had to be perfect tonight. His soft-soled shoes were silent as he walked across the tiled kitchen floor. For a moment, he listened at the door leading to the garage-turned-game room. Silence.
Good. Maybe she was done throwing a fit.
He opened the door. She still sat blindfolded in the chair where he’d left her. Her hands were tied behind her back and her ankles were secured to each chair leg. Her head lolled to the side, but she was aware of him. He could feel it.
Finally her head snapped up. “Who’s there?”
Her voice came out shaky, and with a trace of something else. Raw fear.
“Eager, aren’t we?” he murmured.
“What do you want from me? Where am I?”
Now there was nothing but pure panic in her shrill words.
Smiling to himself, he shut the door leaving her alone and terrified. He drank in her fear, let it course through him. Soon she’d be begging for her life. Soon she’d be promising her soul away if he’d just make the pain stop. This one wasn’t getting drugs.
The girl was still shouting questions, but her voice was muffled through the door. The owners had turned their garage into a playroom for their little brats, adding extra insulation.
Not that it mattered. The nearest neighbor was half a mile away and the owners only came here during the summer. No one would hear her— their— screams.
Jack leaned back in his chair and shut his eyes. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept.
Andrew was still in the hospital—and driving the nurses crazy. He’d finally gotten a hold of Sasha Sorrentino. She admitted that her old professor had been creepy but she hadn’t thought he’d be capable of hurting her like that. After showing Phillip’s DMV photo to Andrew, however, they knew he was the guy. They just couldn’t find him.
Sighing, he opened his eyes and stood. He felt like he should stay but he needed a few hours of sleep. He’d been making calls all day, trying to hunt down people who knew Phillip.
Unfortunately the list was short. He’d left half a dozen messages with the guy’s step-brother—a beat cop in North Carolina—and still hadn’t heard anything back.
After Gray had lost his job he’d basically fallen off the radar. He’d broken the lease at his condo and just disappeared. Every now and then he’d take money out of his bank account but after the last big withdrawal a month ago, there hadn’t been any movement.
As Jack shrugged into his jacket, his phone rang. When he saw the Raleigh area code, his heart rate quickened. “Jack here.”
“This is Ben Romano. I got a message that you wanted to talk to me about Phillip?”
Jack clutched his phone tighter against his ear.
Christ, let this be the break they were waiting for.
“Yeah. He’s a person of interest on a case I’m working right now and—”
The other man snorted. “He’s probably the main fucking suspect.”
Jack was silent for a moment. He’d wanted to tread lightly. If he attacked Phillip or accused him of something, he ran the risk of alienating his best lead. “I didn’t say that.”
“You didn’t have to. I haven’t talked to that bastard in over a decade. Whatever you think he’s guilty of, I’m sure he did it.”
“So you two aren’t close?” He asked the obvious.
“Hell no. My mom married his dad when I was eighteen. I moved out that summer so I didn’t spend a lot of time with him but that little fucker was weird.” His voice was filled with disgust.
“He didn’t have any friends and he was always dissecting stuff. Plants, bugs, and I can’t be sure if he actually did it, but my mom was afraid he’d killed a couple of the neighbors’ pets. With a father like that it’s a wonder he didn’t do worse.”
“That guy was a raging racist. Blamed all his problems on anyone who wasn’t white. Typical ignorant bastard. Can’t believe my mother ever married him.”
“Was he abusive?”
“Nah, not to her. But I saw him rough the kid up a couple times when I came home for summer break. He said he was trying to toughen Phillip up. Hell, the kid even tried to join the police force—probably to please him—but he failed the psychological test. I’m not supposed to know but my mom let it slip.”
This guy definitely fit their profile. “Are they still married?”
“No. He died about five years ago. Heart attack. She moved up to live near me not long after. I’ll ask her, but I doubt Phillip has contacted her. She’d have told me.”
Jack bit back a sigh. He’d been hoping they were close. Now he had a history on the guy, but he wasn’t sure how much good it would do him if he couldn’t find him. “Is there anything else you can think of that might help?”
“In your message you said you were with Coconut Bay PD, right?”
“They used to vacation there.”
“My mom, step-dad and Phillip. For the last three summers he lived with them, they always spent a month down there over the summer.”
A burst of adrenaline shot through Jack. “Did they own any property?”
“No, nothing like that. They just rented whatever condo was cheapest.”
So much for that angle. “Thanks for calling me back, I appreciate it. If you think of anything else—”
“There is one thing. It might be nothing but he used to have a massive crush on a black chick who summered there with her family. His old man put an end to that real fast. I know from my mom that he tried to see the girl in secret, but she broke up with him because she thought he was a coward.
After that happened, my step-dad’s truck got water poured in the gas line. The kid was really passive aggressive so who knows if it was him or not.”
“You remember the girl’s name?”
“I remember she was rich. Like, really really rich. Her last name was…Sands. Don’t know the first name though.”
“Thanks, you’ve been really helpful. If you think of anything else, you’ve got my number.”
“No problem. Hey, what did he do anyway?”
Jack massaged his temple. He didn’t want to get into the gritty details with this guy but he owed him something. “He shot a cop.”
“No shit.” The other man let out a low whistle.
As soon as they disconnected, Jack fired up his computer. He was going to find this guy if it killed him.
Izzy popped the top on another beer and handed it to one of the few patrons at Mad Dog’s. “You want me to add it to your tab?”
“Sure. Thanks Izzy.” Don smiled as he took the beer. “You got a light?”
“You know you can’t smoke in here.” She placed a hand on her hip. Don had been coming to the bar for about fifteen years, long before she’d been around, and back when smoking had been legal.
“I know. I’m going to take it outside,” he grumbled.
She pulled out the silver lighter she always carried and slid it across the bar to him. “I’ll watch your drink.”
He winked and grabbed the lighter before heading toward the front door.
“How’re you feeling?” Adam’s voice sounded close to her left ear.
She swiveled and clutched a hand to her chest “Jeez, I didn’t even hear you.”
He grinned and her heart stuttered. “Any excitement tonight?”
“No, you haven’t missed any excitement in the past three minutes.” He’d been hovering over her like a hawk. Not that she wasn’t grateful, but she couldn’t imagine what he thought could happen to her in a restaurant when she was surrounded by people.
“Has Toby been up here to talk to you yet?”
She shook her head and tried to ignore what his presence did to her senses. “No, last I checked he was still on his phone.”
Adam frowned. “Me too.”
When they’d arrived at work ten minutes ago, Toby said he might have some information from his detective cousin, but then he’d gotten a phone call and they hadn’t talked to him since.
“You want to come to my place after work?”
Adam’s question came out of nowhere.
Before she could answer a customer interrupted them. “Hey lady, can I get a beer down here or what?”
Izzy turned to see where the rude voice came from. The man had a buzz hair cut and wore a leather jacket with fringe. From where she stood it looked like he had the beginnings of a healthy beer gut. She walked to the other end, gave him his drink and ignored the annoyed attitude he threw her way.
Some wannabe biker was the least of her problems. As she walked back to the other end of the bar, she picked up a few dirty dishes and set them in the small sink next to where Adam stood.
“Would you mind watching the bar for a few minutes?”
“Why? Where are you going?”
She cleared her throat. “The ladies room.”
“Oh…right. No problem.” He grabbed one of the dirty glasses and started washing it.
She patted the black mini apron tied around her waist to make sure her cell phone was still there.
She ducked under the bar and hurried toward the back. Once in the bathroom, she checked the three stalls. They were all empty.
She locked herself in the last one and sat on top of the closed toilet lid and tried to steady her breathing. What was wrong with her? Everything was happening so fast with Adam, that’s what.