Grabbing his clothes from the floor, Braden tugged on his boxers and went back to the guest room. He raked a hand over his hair. Where the hell was Greg Murphy? He obviously wasn’t interested in running. That meant he had to be staying somewhere nearby. He wasn’t at his house and he wasn’t in any of the local hotels, motels or even bed and breakfasts. And if he was, he must have a damn good disguise because everyone had been notified to be on the lookout.
As he tossed his dirty clothes into a pile, his phone buzzed in his hand. It was the station.
“Tell me you have good news.”
“We managed to track the call to the marina, right down to Lloyd Redford’s boat slip. I’m on my way over there with Perry right now,” Vanessa said.
Braden hated to leave Lilly alone but if their guy had just called from the marina, then he couldn’t be in two places at once. “I’ll be there in ten minutes. Wait for me. We don’t want him getting away.”
As soon as they disconnected, he grabbed a clean change of clothes from his overnight bag and strode back to Lilly’s room. He knocked once on the bathroom door before entering.
The shower curtain jingled as she pulled it back. Her thick black hair was covered in soapy suds. “Any news?”
“They tracked the call to the marina. I’ll have my phone on me if you need me.”
She wiped a trail of soap from her face, but remained expressionless. “I’ll be fine, Braden, I promise. I’ve got a gun and I’ll be careful.”
He stared at her for a long second. “I’ve got my phone—”
“You already said that. I’ll be fine.” With that, she pulled the curtain back into place.
Braden knew he was being crazy, but the thought of leaving her burned an acid hole in the middle of his chest. Unfortunately he didn’t have a choice.
The drive to the marina seemed to take forever but only because of his anticipation. As soon as he pulled into the gravelly parking lot, he spotted Perry and Vanessa. When he pulled his truck up next to Vanessa’s car, both detectives got out.
Weapons drawn, they stood in between the vehicles and surveyed the marina. Everything was eerily quiet this early in the morning. There wasn’t a ripple slicing through the glassy water and it looked like all of the regular boats were docked at their respective slips.
“It’s quiet,” Perry murmured.
“I’m going to take the right side and come up from behind Lloyd’s boat. I want both of you to announce yourselves, but don’t put your weapons down no matter what. We don’t know if Lloyd’s involved, but…” He didn’t bother to finish his thought. It didn’t seem possible that the older fisherman was capable of killing all these women but they couldn’t take any chances.
Both Vanessa and Perry nodded.
Braden headed across the parking lot until he reached one of the far docks. Some of the wooden planks creaked beneath him as he hurried. A few seagulls sounded in the distance, but it was otherwise quiet.
He crouched low behind one of the poles near the front of Lloyd’s troller. From his vantage point he could see Vanessa and Perry on the other side.
“Lloyd Redford! It’s the Hudson Bay Sheriff’s Office. We need to speak with you right now!” Perry’s booming voice carried across the water.
There was no doubt that whoever was inside had heard him. Out of the corner of his eye Braden saw a flash of movement. He turned his head and saw Mitch Byrne open his sliding glass door and step out onto the back deck of his cabin cruiser. Braden frowned when he saw the doctor. Mitch lived at home with his wife. As far as Braden knew, they only used their boat for recreation. Brandishing his weapon, he motioned for him to get back inside.
The doctor nodded and immediately shut the door behind him. Braden briefly wondered if the man was on the outs with his wife, but brushed the thought away.
“Lloyd! Come out or we’re coming in!” Perry shouted again.
Braden’s heart skipped a beat when one of the front windows creaked open and a masked man slipped out and onto the bow. He glanced around, as if he might jump into the water. He was obviously trying to figure out an escape route.
From their position at the back of the boat, his detectives wouldn’t be able to see this guy.
His heart racing, Braden stepped from behind the pole and pointed his gun at the guy. “Hands where I can see them.”
The masked head jerked up and made eye contact with him. He was about twenty yards away, but Braden could see the surprise in every movement of the guy’s body. The man glanced toward the water, then toward the dock where Vanessa now stood with her gun drawn.
Braden slowly walked in Vanessa’s direction and kept his gun trained on their guy. “You’ve got nowhere to run.”
Wordlessly the man smiled and shook his head before jumping off the side of the boat.
“Fan out!” Braden ordered.
He watched the bubbles fade, but a minute later, no one had emerged from the water. Unless this guy was going to make a break for the intracoastal—and that would guarantee death in this weather—he had to emerge somewhere in the marina. Braden cursed his lack of manpower as he raced down the planks and kept his gaze and gun trained on the water.
While they searched, he called in two of his guys to head over with dive gear and requested three more deputies to help with the search. If he had more men free, he’d have called them too. Twenty minutes later they showed up and began searching. While the two men hunted below the water, Braden and the five others combed the docks.
As the minutes turned into an hour and a half, his frustration increased. With hundreds of slips and too many rows of those slips to count, there were too many places to hide undetected. If the killer had managed to hide and escape before backup had shown up, they’d never find him. When they turned up nothing, he and his detectives met back by Redford’s boat.
“How did this happen?” Vanessa muttered.
Perry shook his head, mirroring her frustration.
Braden’s hands fisted into tight balls. They’d been so close. So close he could practically taste it. There was still a chance his two divers might find him but Braden’s hopes plummeted with each second that passed. Relaxing his hands, he pulled out a pair of latex gloves from his jacket.
“Come on. Maybe we’ll find something useful inside. Vanessa, you stay out here.” He refused to believe this guy hadn’t left some sort of clue behind. He hadn’t been prepared for them so maybe he’d gotten sloppy.
The boat dipped as he and Perry boarded. The only thing keeping Braden sane was the fact that Lilly was safe. He’d called while canvassing the marina and his grandmother and three other ladies from the church were already at the house helping her set up.
“Did you hear that?” Braden stopped and held a hand up.
There it was again. A low moaning coming from inside. He placed a finger to his mouth and withdrew his gun. He motioned for Perry to follow him. After easing the wooden hatch door open, he descended the few steps into the interior cabin. The small living room and kitchen area were immaculate and empty.
Braden swiveled toward the bedroom door, which was halfway open, and pushed it open with his foot. Lloyd Redford was stretched out on the queen sized bed with his hands tied behind his back and a gag in his mouth.
“Are you alone?” Braden asked without stepping inside.
When Lloyd nodded, Braden holstered his gun and pulled out his pocket knife. As soon as he’d freed the older man’s hands, Lloyd ripped the gag out of his mouth.
“Son of a bitch got the drop on me,” he growled.
“What happened?” Braden sat on the bed next to him while Perry stood guard at the door.
The older man straightened and stretched his legs. “I heard a clinking noise this morning, like someone was throwing rocks at my door so I went to check it out. I’d taken two steps outside when someone shoved a gun into my back.”
“Did you see what he looked like?”
He shook his head. “No, he wore a mask.”
“What did he want? Did he take anything?” Braden pushed.
“Didn’t say more than a couple words the whole time he was here. He just took my cell phone and plugged it into some kind of black box. When I asked him what he was doing, he said he wanted to have some fun with you.”
“Me? Or Hudson Bay S.O.?”
“You. He said he liked watching you chase shadows. And he muttered something about seeing how fast it would take the golden boy sheriff to get here. Then he knocked me out. I woke up not too long ago like this.”
“What did he knock you out with?”
“Did you notice any rings or distinguishing features on his hands or anywhere else on his body?”
“He wore gloves and with that mask I couldn’t see much else. I did notice that his eyes were a funny color.”
“Yeah, kind of like a blue or purple. Probably wearing some of those fancy contacts.”
Braden stood and motioned for him to do the same. “Why don’t you take a look around and see if he took anything.”
Lloyd nodded and stood up on shaky feet. As they exited the room, Braden tried to see if he could catch the other man off guard. Even if he’d been a victim, he’d still seen his boat leaving Lilly’s aunt’s house the other night. It could have been someone else driving it but that had been days ago.
“Were you at Debra Carmichael’s house Tuesday evening? I saw your boat there and haven’t been able to get hold of you since.”
At the question, Lloyd froze by the small island in the kitchen and turned to face Braden. He glanced at Perry, then back at Braden before focusing on his feet. “Can I talk to you in private?”
Braden frowned, but nodded at Perry to leave. “Well?”
The older man cleared his throat and to Braden’s surprise, a red flush crept up his neck. “Debra and I were seeing each other…socially. I’d left a few things at her place and I didn’t want her reputation sullied.”
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com