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“Good plan.” Grant settled in a chair, trying to look comfortable and hoping his attitude rubbed off on Carson.

“Hi, Carson. I’m Kailee.” Kailee smiled. On her lap she held a sketch pad and pencil.

“Hi, Kailee.” Carson crawled into Grant’s lap.

Grant hugged him close. No matter what happened, he wanted the boy to feel safe while he was reliving a scary incident.

McNamara crouched in front of Carson. “Kailee is really good at drawing people. Do you think you can describe the man you saw this afternoon?”

Carson turned his head to give Grant a questioning look.

Grant tightened his grip. “It’s OK.”

The boy pressed closer to Grant’s chest and nodded. “Yes.” His voice was small.

“OK, then. I’ll be back in a little while.” McNamara closed the door on his way out.

“Carson, tell me about the man’s face,” Kailee said.

“He’s always crying.”

Kailee tilted her head. “That’s interesting. How do you know?”

“He has a teardrop on his face.” Carson pointed to his own cheekbone, just below his eye socket. “Right here. It’s blue.”

Kailee’s pencil moved on her paper. “Like this?” She turned the paper to face Carson. She’d drawn the outline of a face with a tear where Carson indicated.

His head bobbed.

“Does he have any other pictures on his body?” she asked.

“He has a lucky charm on his arm.”

“A lucky charm?” Kailee’s pencil hovered above the page.

Carson’s missing drawings flashed in Grant’s head. “A shamrock?”

The boy smiled. “Uh-huh.”

“Show me where it is,” Kailee prompted.

Carson pointed to the inside of his wrist. “Here.”

Grant pictured the park and Carson and Julia being chased down the street. The tattoos seemed small. How did the boy get a clear picture? “How did you see the pictures? Weren’t you running away?”

“Today I was running.” Carson gave him a solemn nod. “But not last time I saw him.”

Grant’s heart missed a beat. “Last time?”

“He came to our house.”

“When?” Grant asked.

Carson’s eyes teared. He wiped under his nose with the back of his hand. “A little while after Mommy and Daddy left.” He sniffed and his little body shook with a single and silent bone-deep sob.

Grant hugged his nephew tighter and met the artist’s shocked eyes. The murderer had been to the house the night he’d killed Lee and Kate. If he’d missed them at the house, how did he know where they were going?

And he’d gone after Carson. The obvious reason why sent a blast of cold through Grant. His nephew could identify the killer.

“Carson, tell me exactly how you saw the man up close,” Kailee said.

“Julia babysits when Mommy and Daddy go someplace. She brought me macaroni and cheese. Nan made it for me special ’cause she knows I like it.” He took a breath. “Faith was crying, like always. I was watching TV. I’m not allowed to do that much, but Julia said it was OK.” Carson laid his cheek against Grant’s chest. “AnnaBelle barked, so I knew someone was outside. But I didn’t open the door ’cause there wasn’t a grown-up home.” He went quiet.

“If you didn’t open the door, how did you see the man?” Kailee prompted.

But Grant knew before the child answered. He pictured the chair in the foyer, Carson dragging it in front of the door and climbing on it.

Carson shrugged, his skinny shoulder moving in an abrupt up-and-down motion. “I looked out the peephole.”

Kailee continued her gentle questions, sketching while Carson talked. An hour later, Detective McNamara interviewed Carson while the artist went to work with Julia. The cop was brief, just asking the little boy to tell him what happened. Afterward, Ellie and Julia joined them in the now crowded conference room. Julia slid into the remaining chair. Ellie stood behind her daughter. With both kids’ input, Kailee had a rough sketch of the suspect.

Julia also confirmed the dog had been barking the night Lee and Kate were killed. “I was busy with the baby, though. I didn’t see anyone at the door.”

Kailee handed her sketch to Detective McNamara, who said, “Why don’t you take the kids and get them something from the vending machine in the break room?”

Carson gave Grant a questioning look.

“It’s fine. You’re safe here.” Grant pulled out his wallet and took out a few ones. He handed the bills to Carson. “Get whatever you want. I’ll be right here waiting for you.”

Carson took the money and followed Kailee and Julia down the hall to an open door.

McNamara studied the drawing. “Those tattoos suggest prison to me. The shamrock is a sign of the Aryan Brotherhood. We’ll enter this description in the National Crime Information Center and see if we get a match. We could get lucky. We’ll also get this picture out to the media. Someone might recognize him.”

Grant folded his arms across his chest and glanced at Ellie. “I don’t want Julia’s or Carson’s name on the news.”

With a grim nod, Ellie eased into the chair her daughter had vacated.

“Agreed,” McNamara said. “But attempted child abductions are big stories. I would expect the media to be all over this. There’s really no way to keep them out completely, but they won’t be able to name Carson or Julia because they’re minors. You’re lucky the press isn’t already here. We can’t stop them, so we might was well use them.”

“I saw on the news that my brother had agreed to represent the parents of Lindsay Hamilton in a civil trial. Do you think that could have anything to do with all of this?” Grant gestured to the kids in the break room.

McNamara scratched his head. “Honestly, we don’t know.”

“During the interview, the Hamiltons said Lee had discovered something about their daughter’s case.”

“We have no new evidence in the case,” McNamara said. “We never had enough to charge anyone. Bullying is harassment. Bullying someone until they commit suicide isn’t exactly murder. Bullying cases get a lot of national media coverage, but it’s damned hard to prosecute kids criminally. Sometimes a civil case is easier to win. Look at the O. J. Simpson trials. He was acquitted of murder, but found liable in the wrongful death suit.”

“So what kind of evidence would Lee need to win a civil suit?”

“That’s hard to say,” McNamara evaded. “We can’t ask your brother, and we don’t know what he had in mind. Do you?” The police would clearly like to have Lee’s file, too.

“No.” Sweeping a frustrated hand over his head, Grant glanced down the empty hall. Through the open door of the break room, he saw the little boy kneeling on a cafeteria chair at a round table. The artist handed him an open bottle of water and a bag of pretzels. Bluish semicircles of exhaustion hung under Carson’s eyes. His childish innocence and vulnerability sent Grant’s protective instincts rushing through him. “I’d better get Carson out of here before he’s spotted.”

“Give me a few minutes.” McNamara took the drawing and the verbal description with him to his office down the hall. “Let me make sure I have everything I need from him.”

“I can’t believe this is all happening,” Ellie said. “You know what this means, right? This guy is after the kids because they can identify him. They’re the only witnesses.”

She was right, and while the police were investigating the break-in and the attack on the kids, they didn’t know this guy had also threatened Ellie. Grant was tempted to come clean with McNamara, but he’d promised. And really, what could the cops do? They didn’t have the file. They had no idea who was behind all this, and all they had was the perpetrator’s description from the kids.

Their best bet was to keep looking for Lee’s notes and wait to see if the cops came up with any possible suspects from the composite drawing and kids’ descriptions. All Grant needed was a name to go on the offensive.

Chapter Twenty-Three

As soon as the kids and the cop were out of sight, Ellie’s legs collapsed. She couldn’t believe this was happening. She’d overprotected Julia since her birth, and she still hadn’t managed to keep her daughter safe.

Grant eased into the chair next to her. His face looked as tired as she felt. He covered her hand with his. As much as she didn’t want a relationship with him, at this point there was no denying that they were in this together. Although he likely wanted to tell Detective McNamara everything, Grant had kept his promise. He hadn’t told the police about her abduction.

“What are we going to do?” she said, staring down at their joined hands.

“I don’t know.” Grant scratched his jaw. Beard bristle scraped. The blond scruff gave him a new, dangerous edge.

She lowered her voice. “Thank you for sticking with me.” She didn’t know if the police had listening devices in the room, but she wasn’t taking any chances.

“I keep my word.” He squeezed her fingers. “Though we might want to rethink that decision as time goes by.”