“So much for questioning him,” Mac said. “Now how are we going to find out where Donnie is?”
Grant poked Corey with his boot. No response. “Hey, I didn’t expect the idiot to try and tackle me. I didn’t even hit him. Fool fell down and knocked himself out.”
“Doesn’t matter how it happened.” Mac lifted his palms. “An unconscious man can’t tell us anything.”
“Shit.” Grant sheathed his knife and swept both hands through his hair. What now? He nodded toward the vehicle. “I have some zip ties in the van.”
“Here.” Mac handed the plastic fasteners over Grant’s shoulder.
He bound Corey’s wrists behind his back. He dragged the man by his feet to the building and zip-tied him to the natural gas pipe running from the meter into the ground. “I’ll call McNamara from the car, explain everything, and get him to send men to the house and the rink.”
Mac was running for the minivan. “Where do you want me?”
“I don’t know.” Grant ran for the sedan. “Donnie was after Carson and Julia. I have to make sure they’re safe. Ellie is at the rink with Julia.”
But which one would Donnie go after?
The ice rink was a very public place. When Grant had dropped off Ellie and Julia, dozens of parents had crowded the bleachers and lobby. The house was the easier target, and Carson, who’d gotten a clearer view of Donnie, was the better witness. Chances were, Donnie would be going after the boy. Also, the rink was all the way across town. Mac might not even get there before the police.
“I’ll take the house. You head for the rink.” Grant drove off. He called the cop. Though supremely pissed off, McNamara promised to send units to both the rink and house ASAP. Grant shoved the gas pedal to the floor. He’d get there first. He’d call Hannah and Ellie and put them both on alert. His instinct told him the ambush on Corey had gone all wrong. Punching numbers on his phone, he ran through a stop sign, the case whirling in his mind. Grant had missed an important piece of information. Now all he could do was hope his failure wouldn’t cost the people he loved their lives.
Donnie parked his van down the street from the Barrett house. He’d had it with these people. He was tired of being jerked around. That applied to his client as well. He’d killed two people for that loser. Sure, he’d enjoyed the act, but he still deserved to be compensated for his effort and risk. Motherfucking coward was too chicken to do his own dirty work. Well, he was going to pay up. Donnie was a killer. Nobody was going to fuck with him.
His mind wandered back to the night he’d strangled his girlfriend. Her death was an accident, but what a rush! Donnie still got chills thinking about his submissive’s final session. That night was going to be hard to beat. He was going to have to find a new place to crash. Even on ice, she’d been getting ripe enough for the neighbors to smell. It was far too risky to go back to her trailer. But first, he needed to get this job behind him.
He opened the back of the van and pulled out a backpack. Mentally, he tacked an extra 10 percent on to his invoice. His aggravation and effort didn’t come cheap. Shrugging into the backpack, Donnie took out the gas cans and headed down the street. If he couldn’t find that motherfucking one piece of evidence, he’d destroy it. It had to be in that house somewhere. If the house was incinerated, the evidence would be history, and the little fucker who’d IDed him would be gone, too. Donnie was never going back to prison.
Enough was enough. He was through with this shit. In the next ten minutes, the whole cluster would be behind him.
He’d find his client, demand his payment, and be on a fucking beach in fucking Florida by fucking next weekend.
The big house loomed against the clear, black sky. The place was ugly as sin anyway. Donnie was doing everyone a favor by burning it to the ground. He walked across the front lawn, massive snowmelt leaving the grass squishy underfoot. At the corner of the porch, he picked up the first can and started pouring. The sharp scent of gasoline punched through the night air. He splashed can number two across the clapboards along the side of the house. Kneeling on the soggy ground, he opened the backpack and pulled out handfuls of roman candles, bottle rockets, and a round box called a cake, some combination of pyrotechnics that could be lighted all at once. Whatever. Donnie didn’t need a carefully calculated explosion. He just needed a nice, raging fire. The time for finesse had passed. This old tinderbox of a house ought to burn hot. He’d rid himself of the evidence and his witnesses in one big whoosh of fire.
Excitement zinged through his blood as he piled the fireworks on the porch, stepped back, and lit the closest fuse.
Sitting cross-legged on the family room area rug, Hannah ended the call with her brother. Goose bumps rose on her arms as she thought of Lee and Kate’s killer coming after the children. Next to her, Faith wriggled on a blanket. Hannah had been flipping her onto her belly for rollover practice and some hopefully tiring exercise. Faith rolled onto her back and squealed with joy. Nan was knitting on the sofa, her booted foot elevated on the ottoman. Kneeling at the coffee table next to the older woman, Carson colored a picture. The dog snoozed, her head resting on Carson’s leg.
The quiet, peaceful scene stirred fear in Hannah’s belly. Everyone in that room depended on her to keep them safe. The enormity of the responsibility outweighed any deal she’d negotiated.
Hannah picked up the babbling baby and set her on her hip. Though she curled toward Hannah’s body for support, Faith held her own head and upper body weight. Hannah went into the laundry room and checked the alarm panel. The green light flashed, letting her know the system was up and running with no issues. She carried Faith to the living room. Standing to one side, she peered through the window but saw no movement outside. They moved from room to room. Hannah didn’t see any signs of trouble or company through any of the windows, but her spine tingled and her belly cramped. Something was happening. She could feel danger approaching.
Or had Grant’s warning call fired up her paranoia?
The dog rushed past. A low growl emanated from her throat. Hannah followed her to the window.
Movement at the corner of the house caught her attention. A shadow stretched across the grass. Someone was outside. She moved closer to the glass. At the edge of the porch, a glow flared brightly and then dimmed, briefly illuminating a man’s figure. Next to Hannah, AnnaBelle barked.
Hannah hugged the baby close. Dialing 911 on her cell phone, she inhaled her panic and rushed down the hall. The house was set up as a fort, with everything aimed at keeping the inhabitants secure. Getting them all out quickly hadn’t been included in the plan. Thank God they were all in the same room. The dog raced from window to window.
“I need everyone to go out the back door right now.” She spied the detached garage through the kitchen window. She snagged the keys from a bowl on the kitchen counter on her way past. “We’re all going to the garage and getting in the minivan.”
Nan’s eyes caught Hannah’s. Alarm registered. “Let’s hurry, Carson.”
With one hand, Hannah grabbed the crutches in the corner and handed them to Nan.
A whistle and boom sounded from the front of the house. Carson screamed and covered his ears with both hands. Faith wailed.
“Don’t wait for me. Get the kids out of here.” Nan took the crutches and gave Hannah a push. “Go!”
Hannah swallowed her indecision. With her sprained wrist, the older woman could barely hobble across the room on crutches. The children had to come first. Hating every step, she ran for the back door.
“AnnaBelle!” Carson cried as Hannah pushed him over the threshold. Fire crackled behind them, and Hannah could hear the dog still barking from the living room. She whistled. Leaving the door open, she ran for the garage. Carson turned back toward the house, calling for Nan and the dog in a pitiful, frightened scream. Hannah dragged him toward the garage.
“No!” he screamed. “We can’t leave them.”
“I’ll go back in a minute.” Hannah released him to open the garage door. She pushed him into the garage and helped him get into the minivan. With the baby still in her arms, she climbed into the driver’s seat and backed the van out of the garage. When the vehicle was clear of the building, she drove it across the grass and parked it behind Ellie’s house, where she hoped the fire couldn’t reach. Then Hannah climbed into the back and set Faith in her car seat. “Can you buckle her in, Carson?”
He nodded, his face wet with tears.
“Do you know how to lock the van doors?”
He nodded again. Hannah put the keys on the front seat. “Lock the door behind me, and don’t open it unless it’s safe.”
“I’ll be right back.” She jumped out of the vehicle. The locks clicked behind her.
Praying that the car was far enough from the house, Hannah raced for the back steps. Flames shot from the front of the house, and smoke poured from the open door. She pulled the neck of her sweatshirt over her nose and ran inside. The front of the house popped, whistled, and boomed. Fire crackled.
“Nan!” Hannah coughed as she ran into a cloud of black smoke. In the corner of her eye, she caught movement. Outside, a man ran across the backyard. He was heading for the van—and the children.
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