Hannah got up and closed the door. Turning, she gave him her opposing-counsel scrutiny. “Grant told you, didn’t he?”
Brody leaned forward, hands clasped, forearms resting on his thighs. “He said you intervened between a man and his girlfriend.”
“That’s not exactly what happened.” She shivered. “I didn’t tell Grant everything. The man got away—with the girl.”
“Oh.” Brody sat back. Shock and alarm filled him as she told him her story.
“And yesterday I got an e-mail that appears to have come from that girl.”
“And you’re just telling me now?”
Hannah glanced away. “I reported it to the Las Vegas police. I was waiting to hear back from them. I didn’t think I was in any immediate danger.”
“He took your purse?”
“My phone, too.” Hannah nodded. “He has my e-mail and cell number as well, though I had my provider disconnect service and remotely wipe the contents of that phone.”
“Does he have this address?”
“Yes. He has my driver’s license, et cetera. But he’s thousands of miles away. The Vegas cop was more concerned with identity theft.”
Thousands of miles didn’t feel like enough distance to Brody. “What did the e-mail say?”
“ ‘Help. The end comes Tuesday.’ ” Hannah’s voice broke. “That’s it. The subject line was the girl’s name. The detective in Vegas said it was untraceable. It was sent from an anonymous e-mail account called Hide My Identity, and the IP address of the computer was shielded with a virtual private network. He suggested I let my local police know about the incident.” She smiled weakly. “So I called you.”
Because he was the only cop she knew? Part of Brody wanted the reason to be more, but Hannah Barrett was a complicated woman. She stirred up too many unknowns in his gut. It was easier to date women who didn’t keep him up at night, not that he dated much. The shooting in Boston and his subsequent divorce had driven him to Scarlet Falls in search of a fresh start. The events had also left him wary of intense experiences, and Hannah Barrett’s intensity meter was stuck on high.
“I don’t want to unnecessarily alarm Grant,” she said. “He knows the man took my purse and has this address.”
“Your brother installed a very high-end security system. Your assailant is probably thousands of miles away, but you should keep the alarm on at all times. If you forward me the e-mail, I’ll have a look at it.” Brody rubbed his jaw. “I don’t know what this means, but I don’t like it. Please call me if anything seems odd. Anything.”
“All right,” she said. “I don’t know what ‘the end’ is, but it doesn’t sound good, and Tuesday is only a few days away.”
“Try not to think about it. You notified the Las Vegas police. There’s nothing else you can do.” But Brody wasn’t going to be able to put it out of his mind. “And do not respond. This could be a trick to get more information from you, like your current whereabouts. Anyone who is good enough to conceal his own current location has enough skill to trace yours.”
Tormenting a woman could also be some sick bastard’s idea of fun—or revenge.
Mick pulled up to the pump. Colored light from a gas station sign gleamed off the hood of the car. The V-8 engine was powerful, and the tank emptied like there was a siphon attached. But they were in Scarlet Falls on Saturday night, just as he’d planned. With pit stops, the trip had taken a little longer than he’d anticipated. He stretched his back. Considering how many hours they’d spent in the car, he didn’t feel too bad. Alternating sleeping and driving had helped, so had the coke.
“I’ll go pay.” He got out of the car and zipped his jacket. The upstate New York cold was a smack after living in the desert. He went inside to pay for their gas in cash, and the attendant turned on the pump. Enjoying the heat in the store, Mick watched through the window as Sam slid the nozzle into the tank. An old Camry pulled up behind the Charger. A young woman got out and swiped her credit card at the pump. Her long brown ponytail swayed as she inserted the nozzle in her tank. While the gas pumped, she came into the small store and asked for a pack of cigarettes. She handed the clerk some cash, then pocketed the receipt and her change.
Mick walked back to the car. His brother’s eyes were bright in the reflection of the sign. Too bright. Damn it. He shouldn’t have let him snort that coke. The pump shut off, and Sam removed the nozzle. Taking his sweet time, he hung it up and screwed on the gas cap.
He got into the driver’s seat, his eyes straying to the rearview mirror.
“Don’t even think about it,” Mick said. Looking back, he watched the woman return the nozzle to its place, close her gas cap, and get into her car.
Sam grinned. “Why not? No rules, remember?”
“We have to keep a low profile.”
His brother started the car. He waited until the little sedan pulled out ahead of them. “We can do that and have some fun.”
“Better to scope out the town first and find somewhere to crash, and I want to see the blond tonight.”
But Sam was on the highway behind the woman. “Tomorrow’s soon enough, isn’t it? Like you said, we need to find a place to stay.”
Mick knew, before they even approached the stop sign, what Sam was going to do. “Don’t do it. Not in my car—”
The sedan stopped. Sam tapped her bumper. “Relax. The car is fine. It was just a kiss.”
Both vehicles pulled to the shoulder. Sam was out of the car. Mick hunched in the front seat, fuming. His car better not have a fucking scratch in the paint. But he didn’t intervene. There was no stopping his brother once he was in motion.
Sam approached the front of the Charger, his posture apologetic. The woman got out of the Camry, and they both bent to examine her bumper. Sam pointed to the car. In the same movement, he punched her in the face. She hit the ground like a cinder block. Sam went to the open driver’s door. The trunk popped up. He ran back to the woman, scooped her up, and heaved her into the trunk. Slamming the lid, he jumped into the car and drove off. Mick followed. Where were they going?
He followed the Camry four miles until it turned off the country road into a dark lane. They parked in front of a mobile home with some sort of big building in the background. Mick got out of the car. A couple of dogs barked in the dark.
Sam got out of the Camry.
“Where are we?” Mick asked.
“Her place.” His brother had a purse in one hand. “I checked the phone listing. No man listed on the house or business. Let’s see if she lives alone.”
They went up to the front door. Sam used the key to open the door. He flipped the light switch. It was a mobile home, but a large one. They’d certainly lived in worse.
“Not bad.” Sam walked through the rooms. In the kitchen, he picked up an electric bill from the table. Only one name on the label: Joleen Walken.
Mick went into the bedroom. He checked the closet and drawers. “No men’s clothes.”
“Second bedroom is an office.” Sam closed another door. “Just girl stuff in the bathroom.”
Maybe this would work out. “Nice job, Sam.”
Sam grinned. “Gotta have faith. I know what I’m doing.”
He’d certainly had enough practice.
He went back to the car to get the girl. Mick held the door. Her body looked limp when he picked her up, but by the time his brother got her to the front step, she was awake and kicking.
Mick shut and locked the door. Sam dropped the girl on the floor. Her body hit the thin carpet with a breath-expelling thud. She crabbed backward. Her chest heaved, and her eyes searched for an escape route.
There wasn’t one.
Not with Sam.
“You want to go first, Mick?” Sam’s voice was tight with restraint. Edgy from being cooped up in the car, he needed to vent.
“No, that’s OK. I’ll pass on this one.”
“You sure? She looks like your type.”
“I appreciate the offer, but I’m tired. I’m going to take a nap.”
“OK.” Sam moved in.
Mick went into the bedroom and closed the door. It was best to let Sam work out his rage. Mick could wait. Soon he’d have the blond all to himself.
“I’m fine. Really.” Hannah studied her brother’s profile across the center console of his pickup. Physically, Grant hadn’t changed much over the months since he’d left the army to raise their murdered brother’s children. His frame was naturally large, and physical labor kept him heavily muscled. It was his eyes that were different. For the first time ever, he seemed content.
“Are you sure?” he asked. “I can cancel our trip.” Grant and the family were scheduled to leave the next morning.
“That’s ridiculous,” Hannah said. “You’ve been planning this vacation for months. Carson wants to see Mickey Mouse. After all he’s been through, he deserves a visit to Disney World. So do Ellie, Julia, and Nan. There’s no reason to let them all down. Besides, AnnaBelle and I aren’t going to do anything except take leisurely walks, watch movies, and eat pizza while you’re gone.”
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