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The cop grabbed the thug’s shoulders. Brody released the gear spool on the winch, and the officer lowered the man to the ground.

The cop handed Brody a wallet. “His name is Mick Arnette. He’s from Las Vegas.”

“Is this the man who attacked you in Vegas?” Brody asked Hannah.

Hugging her waist, she nodded. Her eyes were bright with moisture. Her control was slipping.

Brody pointed toward the phone the patrol officer was holding. “Where is the man in the picture?”

But Mick claimed his rights before Brody even arrested him. Probably not his first brush with the law.

“I’m not talking unless you let me go. And if you don’t, I want a lawyer.”

Brody walked over to Hannah.

Her face was drawn and strained. “It’s going to drop well below freezing tonight.”

“I know. We’ll find him.”

“Mick said if he doesn’t call his brother by eight”—Hannah checked her watch—“that’s less than three and a half hours from now, the brother will kill Chet.”

Brody took the cell phone from the officer. In the photo, Chet was lying on weeds. There was a wall or something behind him. Was he behind a building? Disappointment filled Brody. There was some writing on the wall in the corner of the picture. Brody expanded the photo, but the image was too blurry to identify the letters.

Chet could be anywhere.

The Scarlet Falls interview room was furnished with one metal table, bolted to the floor, and four chairs. Mick Arnette sat in one chair. A uniformed SFPD officer stood a few feet away.

“OK, Mick.” Brody took a seat across the table. “Where is he?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Mick leaned back. His handcuffs clanged as he intertwined his fingers. Attached to the ring in the center of the metal table, he didn’t have much room to maneuver. His smile was malicious. “I’ll talk to Hannah Barrett. No one else.”

“That’s not going to happen.” His relaxed posture sent anger crawling up Brody’s throat. He wanted to grab Mick by the hair and slam his face into the table. Never had he been tempted to hurt a suspect. He’d always played by the rules. But today, with Chet’s life on the line and the knowledge that this man had hurt Hannah and abducted a teenage girl, Brody had a much better understanding of what had driven Grant to beat the hell out of the man who’d killed his brother. This was personal.

Hannah would talk to this guy. No question. She would never be able to resist helping others.

Brody tossed Mick’s phone onto the table. “Why don’t you unlock this for me?”

“Why don’t you get a warrant? The courts have ruled that I have an expectation of privacy when it comes to the contents of my cell phone.”

Great. Another criminal who was an expert on the law.

“The warrant is on its way,” Brody said. To expedite the warrant, Stella had driven to the courthouse to personally obtain the judge’s signature. A technical expert was on hand to attempt to track the phone’s location and usage history the second the warrant was issued. If Mick communicated with his brother by phone, with the number and the records from the carrier, the police might be able to ping the brother’s current location.

“Don’t expect me to make this easier for you,” Mick said.

“Why are you in New York, Mick?”

“I’m not answering any questions from you until I talk to a lawyer.”

Brody left the room. He went to the end of the hall and ducked into the conference room. Hannah sat at the long table. She’d already given him her statement, but Brody didn’t want her out of his sight, not with Mick’s cohort running loose.

Shivering, Hannah had wrapped her hands around her coffee. She’d changed into jeans and a sweater but looked as if she was freezing. She set her cup on the table. “Did you find out where Chet is?”

“No,” Brody said. “I’m waiting for a call from the crime scene tech at Chet’s house.”

“So Mick won’t talk?” Her blue eyes went cross-examination sharp. She knew he was holding back. No pulling anything over on her.

Brody hesitated. “He says he’ll talk to you.”

“I’ll do it.” She pressed her hands on the table and stood.

Brody shook his head. “No. I don’t trust him, and I don’t negotiate with criminals.”

“But if there’s a chance he’ll say where he stashed Chet, then it’s worth a try.” Her jaw was set—as was her mind. “He’s restrained, right?”

Brody nodded.

“Then what’s the harm?” she reasoned.

I don’t want you anywhere near him.

Instead, Brody said, “He gets two minutes. A sheriff’s deputy is on his way to pick him up and take him to the jailhouse.”

Scarlet Falls’s small police station didn’t have a holding cell. Brody led the way back to the interrogation room. Mick’s gaze focused with intent on Hannah.

“Did you have something to say?”

Malice gleamed in his eyes. “You have no idea how much I want to fuck you.”

Rage ignited in Brody’s chest. His body was moving forward without any consultation from his brain. Hannah stopped him with an arm across his chest. “Don’t. It’s exactly what he wants you to do.”

Brody eased back. Mick was grinning. Hannah was right. If Brody hit him, he’d have grounds for a lawsuit, and ammunition when it came time for charges to be filed.

“Let’s go. He’s not talking.” Brody opened the door and steered Hannah through the opening.

“I want her to be my lawyer,” Mick called after them.

Brody shut the door. His phone vibrated. Vinnie, the crime scene tech, was calling from Chet’s house. Brody answered. “What do you have?”

“Not much,” Vinnie said. “He broke in through the slider. Chet’s phone was on the table, so we can’t trace him that way.” He paused.

“What is it?” Brody asked.

Vinnie exhaled. “It looked like Chet had been doing some serious drinking last night.”

“So he probably didn’t put up much of a fight.” Brody loosened his tie. Anger, and a hefty dose of fear for Chet, still warmed him. After the turmoil of yesterday, he should have checked on Chet this morning.

“No. They tracked some mud onto the carpet but not enough to analyze or compare the tread.”

“Fingerprints?”

“Since they came in through the slider, I expected to find prints on the glass, but there weren’t any.”

Mick’s attitude told Brody he was an experienced criminal. “They probably wore gloves. I want you to compare Arnette’s prints with the ones taken from the shooting scene last night.”

“OK, and I’ll let you know immediately if we find anything else.” Vinnie ended the call.

“Nothing?” Hannah shivered, though she was still wearing her jacket.

“No,” Brody said.

“See what you can make of this,” the middle-aged techie on loan from the county said from behind a bulky laptop. “I can’t enhance the image any more.”

Brody crossed the room to lean over his shoulder. He pointed to a few blurry white numbers and letters in faded paint above Chet’s feet. “What is this?”

Hannah looked over his shoulder. “Those white letters in the rust?” She squinted. “Looks like CR 268 . . . I can’t read the last few numbers.”

Brody stared at the image. It was a close-up of the red building in the background. The numbers and letters meant nothing to him, but there was something familiar about the image. “I don’t know what that means, but I feel like I should.”

The county geek said, “I’ll run it through whatever databases I can find and send a copy to the state computer forensics analysts. Someone will know what those letters and numbers mean.”

“It has to be local, right?” Hannah asked.

“Probably.”

“Let me send the picture to Mac. No one knows this countryside better.”

“Worth a try.” Brody asked the tech to message the pic with just the background, not Chet’s face, to the number Hannah provided. “You’ve heard from him, then?”

“Yes. He texted me this morning.”

“Where is he now?” Brody asked. Hannah’s youngest brother had a reputation for living off the grid.

Hannah scrolled on her phone. “He’ll be here sometime tonight. Hopefully his phone is still charged and he’s checking it, but no promises. You know Mac.” She lowered her cell. “Now what?”

“I don’t know. We keep looking for Chet.” Brody paced. “We’ve called in additional law enforcement from the county and state. Search teams are being organized.”

Chief Horner walked into the room. “The state police are setting up a command post at the county administration building. I’ll need you there. Also, the mayor scheduled a press conference in two hours. I’d like to have something intelligent to say.”

“Yes, sir.” Restless, Brody clenched his hands into fists. Prepping the chief for a press release was the last thing Brody wanted to do. He should be out there, looking for Chet. The image of his friend unconscious and gagged twisted his gut every time he looked at it. Chet wasn’t in the best health. The sun had been down for an hour, and the temperature outside was dropping.

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