“I come here.” She poured a second cup. “How about you?”
“Skiing in winter. Kayaking in summer. Nice thing about living in the country is the proximity to outdoor sports.”
“I haven’t used my skis in years. Maybe I’ll drag them down from the attic this year.”
So they had something in common.
“Are you still trying to find that girl?” he asked.
She nodded. “I’m waiting to hear about the fingerprints from the Vegas cop. He said it could take a while.”
Brody nodded. “Different regions and states use different AFIS software. The FBI maintains a national database, but every print doesn’t make it into the national system.”
“Sometimes it is, but persistence can pay off,” Brody said. “Maybe Chet can help you.”
“Why would he want to help me?”
“He needs a distraction, and after spending the last three years searching for Teresa, he knows all about looking for lost teenagers.”
“I guess he does.” Hannah collected their dishes and moved them to the sink. “Are you sure this wouldn’t be the worst thing for him? Seems too close to home, if you know what I mean.”
“I know Chet. Not being involved with the case is killing him. He’s a take-action sort of person.” Not unlike Hannah, thought Brody.
“In that case, I’d appreciate his help.”
Brody separated his car key from the rest. “Besides, I doubt he’ll want to see me today. I just ratted on him and ended the career he loves more than life.”
“It wasn’t your fault.” She pointed at him. Anger flared in her blue eyes. “You can’t take the blame for his dangerous behavior. You’re doing everything you can to help him.”
“How long will it take you to get ready?”
“Give me ten minutes.” She headed for the hallway. “Does he like dogs? I don’t want to leave AnnaBelle alone all day again.”
“Yeah. Chet likes animals. Bring her along. I’ll need a statement from you about last night, too.”
“All right.” True to her word, she was ready in minutes.
Brody walked her to the truck. “Are you sure you don’t mind?”
“You have to work, right?” Hannah opened the passenger door of her brother’s pickup. The dog jumped up into the cab.
“I have to testify in court this afternoon.” He had a robbery case to work, and the chief would likely assign him Chet’s open cases as well.
“And you’d like me to keep an eye on Chet?”
“I would greatly appreciate it. But he’ll get defensive if he suspects I asked you to babysit him.” Brody walked to the door of his sedan, parked behind the truck. “You’ll really need to act genuinely serious about finding Jewel.”
“I am genuinely serious about finding her.” Hannah’s eyes softened. “According to those e-mails, whatever was going to happen to her is done, but I’d still like to keep trying.”
He glanced at her profile, and the determined set of her brow. “Then we have no worries. Chet can sense sincerity, or the lack of it, as fast as a narc dog sniffs out dope.”
As he climbed into the sedan, nerves raised the hairs on the back of his neck. Brody paused, one foot inside the vehicle, and scanned the surroundings. His gaze swept over trees, roadside grass, and meadow, but he saw nothing unusual.
So why did he feel like they were in imminent danger?
Mick drove past the house. Big and white, the house looked like something from a movie set, the picture of domestic bliss. A big pickup truck and sedan occupied the driveway.
The sedan was an unmarked cop car.
Fuck. He sped up and drove down the road. When he was sure he was out of sight, he turned around and doubled back, easing behind the patch of evergreens from the other side.
What he wouldn’t give to be stalking this bitch in an urban neighborhood.
He rolled down the window and listened. Nothing.
Mick tapped a finger on the steering wheel. The house sat on a big rectangle of open ground, but woods surrounded the cleared area. With a cop in the house, he wouldn’t risk going to his favorite observation post. Maybe she’d called the police. Had she sensed his presence outside the night before?
“What do you want to do?” Sam asked.
He took his binoculars from the glove box, got out of the car, and went to the edge of the foliage. Putting the binoculars to his eyes, he peered through the pine needles and scanned the front of the house.
The windows along the front of the house were dark, and he didn’t see any movement behind the glass. But someone was inside, including a cop.
A few minutes later, the front door opened. The blond and a tall man in a suit and tie, obviously the cop, walked out onto the porch, their bodies close in an intimately acquainted way. Mick hadn’t gotten a good look at the man who’d been at the house the night before, but he bet it was the same man. The blond held the golden retriever on a leash. Mick increased the magnification, focusing in on a bulge on the woman’s hip. He expected the cop to carry a gun, but a lawyer? They got into the two separate vehicles.
Mick lowered the binoculars. Time to go. He’d have preferred to avoid the cop, but Mick would follow the woman. He wanted to know where she was at all times.
He slid behind the wheel. With the window lowered, he waited until he heard two vehicles pass before he started the engine. Then he nosed the car out from behind the trees. He could just see the taillights of two vehicles far down the road. He waited until they were nearly out of sight before pulling out onto the road. He had no intention of letting the cop spot him.
A cop will spot a tail on an empty road in a minute. Irritation buzzed over Mick’s excitement. He used the binoculars to keep them in sight.
Mick wasn’t taking chances. The cop could be her boyfriend. Hell, he could be her husband. The thought of stealing a cop’s woman sent an extra thrill straight to his groin. She’d be one of his spoils of war.
He thought of the gun on her hip. Why would a lawyer who lives in the middle of fucking nowhere carry a gun? Bears? Mick snorted. Just who was Hannah Barrett?
He wasn’t calling off his hunt just because there was a cop involved or because the blond had a piece. This went far beyond him wanting a woman. This was a matter of pride, of being a man, of getting what he deserved. No bitch hit him in the nuts and got away with it. Despite exorcising his demons on the pretty little blond girl last night, Mick had saved plenty for the lawyer.
He eased up on the gas. Far ahead, the sedan made a right turn. The pickup followed. Mick took his sweet time approaching the intersection. Giving the two vehicles in front of him plenty of room, he followed them to a quiet neighborhood close to the center of town. They parked in front of a small, tired house. Mick circled around the block and pulled to the curb a few lots down. A generous curve in the road gave him a straight view of the house. He took his binoculars from the console. The blinds were up in the front of the house, and he had a clear view within.
He slid down in the seat and watched the cop and the blond lead the dog up the front walk. The ease of last night’s grab reinforced Mick’s belief that opportunity would come to those who were patient. If he watched and waited, he would find Hannah Barrett’s weakness.
Brody escorted Hannah and the dog up Chet’s front walk.
Chet’s car was in the driveway, but the house was dark and still. The lawn needed mowing, and the clear morning light highlighted dirt coating the windows. The place looked almost vacant, which was appropriate. Chet existed here, but he didn’t live. Would he let Brody in? “I’m worried about him.”
“Nothing will happen to him today.” She leaned over and scratched AnnaBelle’s head. “We’ll see to that. Won’t we, girl?”
“He might not remember you were here last night.”
“In that case, we won’t remind him.” She smiled.
Brody’s heart did a double tap. He knew without a doubt she would take care of Chet. A verbal promise from Hannah was as good as a signed and notarized contract. She wouldn’t let him down, and he was really hoping that, with Hannah here as a buffer, Chet would actually open the door to the man who had destroyed his career.
They rang the bell. Footsteps approached. Chet’s face appeared in the sidelight. He stared at them for a few seconds, his face contorted by the swirls in the safety glass. Brody held his breath. The dead bolt slid away, and Chet opened the door, dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt. Brody had seen corpses that looked more alive. Chet’s skin was gray. His eyes had been bloodshot when Brody had woken him that morning, but now they were lifeless.
With a questioning glance at Hannah, he stepped back to let them into the foyer. He squinted at her. “You look familiar.”
“Hannah was with me last night at The Pub,” Brody said.
“Ah, shit.” Chet scrubbed a hand across his scalp. “Can we talk for a minute?”
He’s going to kick me out.
“Sure. Would you excuse us?” he asked Hannah.
“Certainly.” She took the dog into the kitchen.
“I’m sorry, Chet,” Brody said.
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