Page 35

She nodded. If they hadn’t found the file in another day or so, she’d have to tell the police everything. She couldn’t risk Hoodie Man showing up and finding her empty-handed. Maybe the kids could be placed in protective custody or something. She almost laughed out loud. As if a town the size of Scarlet Falls would have anything like protective custody, and she doubted Hoodie Man was a mafia kingpin worthy of FBI attention. Though Lindsay’s suicide had made the national evening news, it was a one-day event. The case was forgotten in the wake of other tragedies in the month that had passed since her death. The Hamilton case was a local disaster.

“I think you, Julia, and Nan should temporarily move in with us.” Grant stroked the back of her hand with his thumb. “I had a security system installed, and Hannah and I will be armed. Mac too, if I can talk him into staying for a few days. Plus, the dog barks if anyone even gets close to the house.”

As much as Ellie treasured her privacy, Grant offered her family protection she couldn’t provide alone. “OK.”

“That was fast.” He raised his brows, obviously surprised by her quick agreement.

“Safety in numbers and all that.” She wasn’t going to tell him that she felt more secure simply being with him. “I’m not sure how Julia will react.”

“What about your grandmother?” Grant asked.

“Oh, Nan will be fine with moving in with you.” More than fine, Ellie suspected.

“OK, then. I’ll text Hannah and let her know.” Grant picked up his phone. “There are extra bedrooms, but I’m not sure about sheets and pillows.”

“I have plenty at my house. We’ll work out the details.”

“Either Hannah or I will drive Julia and you to school and work tomorrow.”

“I’m calling in sick.” She had weeks of accumulated personal time. Roger would have to get along without her until this mess was over. “The file isn’t at the office. I looked everywhere. I even went through Frank’s computer files and saw nothing related to the case. I plan to spend tonight and tomorrow searching your brother’s house.”

“Good plan.” He nodded. “And you can tell me what you know about the case.”

“I’ll tell you everything,” she said.

“Everything about what?” Detective McNamara walked in.

Ellie exhaled. Grant made her forget they were sitting in the police station. “My daughter’s father.” The lie slipped out on impulse, and Ellie regretted it the moment the words left her lips. Now Grant was sure to ask her about Julia’s dad, a subject that embarrassed her fifteen years later. Nan was right. She needed to put her old news behind her. She’d already trusted Grant with her family. Her backstory hardly compared.

The cop’s gaze dropped to their hands on the table. Did he believe her? “I’m going to post a patrol car on your street overnight. I’m not sure how long I can do that, but the chief has approved it for tonight. We’ll address it again tomorrow. You had a security system installed?” he asked Grant.

“Yes.” Grant nodded. “It’s basic, but it covers all the doors and windows.”

“Better than nothing.” McNamara paced the tiny room. “We put out a BOLO, that’s a be on the lookout bulletin, for this guy. We’re pulling possible suspects from our records. I’ll come by as soon as I can to ask the kids to look at some mug shots.”

“All right.”

McNamara turned to Ellie. “Do you have a security system?”

“No,” she said.

Grant stood, pulling her to her feet beside him. “Ellie and her family are going to stay with us. We’ll keep them safe.” His voice held no doubt.

But Ellie was uncertain enough for both of them. She felt safer with Grant, but he was temporary. What would she do if the situation wasn’t resolved when his leave was over?

“What do either of you know about the Hamilton case?” McNamara asked.

Grant shrugged. “Just what I saw in the interview on TV.”

“They said your brother was their lawyer.” McNamara watched Grant’s face.

“I know.” Grant gave nothing away. “But you’d have to ask the law firm to confirm that. There were some files in Lee’s office, but none were labeled Hamilton.”

“Where are those files now?” the cop asked.

“They were returned to the firm,” he said.

“How about you, Ms. Ross? You work for the firm.” The cop shifted his focus to Ellie. She wished she could be half as calm and collected as Grant.

Ellie nodded. “But I’m contractually bound by a confidentiality clause. I can’t discuss client business without permission from my boss or a subpoena. I’m sorry.”

“I understand.” But the tension in the cop’s shoulders suggested he didn’t like it one bit. “I’m hoping to have one of those soon.” He searched her face for a reaction.

But really, she didn’t know much about the case that hadn’t made the news or been school gossip. Lee had just taken them on as clients. She lifted a palm. “Honestly, Lee didn’t share his notes. I doubt I can give you any new information about the case.”

Except that everyone wanted the file, and at least one man was willing to hurt her family to get it.

“Any progress on Lee’s murder?” Grant asked.

McNamara gave him a quick head shake. “I’ll drop by later with those mug shots.”

So that Julia and Carson could help identify a killer.

Chapter Twenty-Four

The wallpaper in the dining room was covered in faded hummingbirds in flight. They hovered on the walls as if they could swoop down and steal a slice of pepperoni. Eating in the big, formal space was like being trapped inside Alfred Hitchcock’s classic horror film, The Birds. But the kitchen table wasn’t big enough for the entire group.

Grant closed the pizza box. Carson and Hannah sat across from him. Julia, Ellie, and Nan clustered at the other end of the table. Faith fussed in her car seat in the corner. Mac hadn’t responded. Damn it. When Grant finally got a hold of his youngest brother, he was going to teach him to be responsible. How the hell would Mac be able to take care of these two kids if he couldn’t even remember to keep his cell phone charged and handy? At least he’d dropped the guns off with Hannah this afternoon before going AWOL again. Mac had also left Grant a special present, Dad’s best knife, a KA-BAR he’d carried when he was a young Ranger.

Hannah claimed her favorite weapon, a Glock with the stopping power of an elephant. Grant stuck to the Beretta that matched his service issue. The security system was armed. At the moment, AnnaBelle’s vigilance was focused on the slice of pizza dangling from Carson’s fingers, but later, Grant was sure the dog would be on watch. An SFPD cruiser sat in the driveway. They were as safe as they were going to be for the night, but tomorrow, who knew?

Cleanup consisted of one run to the garbage can by the back door.

“Can you walk Faith for a while?” Grant asked his sister. “Ellie and I are going to search this house from top to bottom.”

“All right.” Hannah sighed and scooped the baby out of her car seat. “You know what? I saw a baby bath tub upstairs. I’m going to make an attempt to get my girlfriend here cleaned up because she’s beginning to smell ripe. Maybe a bath will distract her.”

“Or she’ll scream through it,” Grant said.

Hannah lifted a whatever hand. “She’s going to cry anyway, so it’s not like I have anything to lose.”

Carson scooted out of his chair and tugged on Hannah’s T-shirt. “Can I take a bath too?”

“Of course.” Hannah smiled.

“I’ll help.” Julia pushed her chair back. “Come on, Nan. Let’s get you to the sofa.”

“Thanks.” Hannah carried the baby out of the room on her hip. His sister seemed to have softened over the past couple of days, as if she’d lost her icy, tough veneer when she’d shed the suit and put on her jeans.

Julia helped her grandmother hobble out of the room.

Grant watched Carson head off happily with Julia, the dog at their heels. “I’ll admit it’s nice to have some help with the kids.”

“Has it been rough?” Ellie asked.

“Carson’s pretty easy. I just hope I’m not messing him up for life.”

“He seems to have bonded with you,” she said.

“Yeah.” Which was part of the problem. Grant only had three more weeks stateside. Mac was proving to be too unreliable to handle the kids. But Hannah . . . she acted almost domestic tonight. Almost. But with every day that passed, she behaved more like his little sister and less like a hotshot corporate attorney.

“Where do you want to start?” Ellie pushed the chairs under the table.

“I already searched the office.” Grant headed for the stairs. “The master bedroom is the next most likely place to keep important documents.”

He stepped aside and let Ellie go up first, enjoying the view of her hips swaying in front of him.

“Agreed.” Ellie stopped in front of Lee and Kate’s bedroom. Grant had straightened the downstairs, but the master bedroom was still in disarray from the break-in. Clothing was scattered, and articles hung from gaping drawers.