“Done.” Brody squeezed his arm and backed away, giving the rescue crew room to work. The EMTs’ movements were urgent. Had they found him in time?
Hannah’s feet dangled off the edge of the gurney as the neurologist shone a light in her eyes. Concerned about the cumulative effect of concussions, the doctor had run her through the same balance and coordination tests as Royce’s neurologist. “Other than minor bruises and abrasions, you seem fine to me.”
“Really?” she asked.
The doctor scribbled on his chart. “You passed all the tests.”
She’d be able to go back to work. Why didn’t that idea fill her with the pleasure she’d expected?
A nurse came in with paperwork. Hannah signed the forms and collected her things.
Brody entered the cubicle. He’d already been poked, prodded, and x-rayed. Despite two cracked ribs and a concussion, he refused admittance. “Well?”
“I’m fine.” She hopped down off the table and took his arm. “But you look like you’re going to fall down.”
“I’m OK,” he said, but he allowed her to lead him to the hallway.
“How’s Chet?” She moved toward the waiting room.
“Dehydration did a number on his kidneys, and his liver tests don’t look good. No shock there. But he’s going to recover, at least physically.” Brody tugged her down a different corridor. “He’s going to start up his search for Teresa again. He found an old e-mail from one of his contacts in a national missing persons organization. Someone who looks like Teresa was spotted in Vegas. Apparently, Vegas is a national trafficking hub. I’m going to put him in touch with Detective Douglas.”
“That’s something.” She tried to sound hopeful.
“For Chet, anything is better than sitting in his house with nothing to do. On a more positive note, Lance is going to make it. They moved him out of intensive care.”
Hannah exhaled. She squeezed Brody’s hand. “I’m so glad. What about the woman?”
She would never get the sight of that poor girl in the trunk out of her head.
Brody studied their joined hands. “Her name is Marcia Falcon. She’s a pharmaceutical rep from Cleveland. She checked into a hotel on the interstate. We think they abducted her from the parking lot of the sports bar next door. The bar gave us the surveillance footage. Marcia was eating there at the same time as the Arnette brothers.”
“Oh, no.” That poor woman. “Is she going to make it?” Hannah didn’t ask if Marcia would be all right. Raped and beaten and kept in the trunk of a car, she would never be all right again.
“Yes, physically she should recover. The doctors are stunned that she survived.”
“It’s amazing what the human body is capable of bearing.” Hannah had seen all that her father had endured, and his heart refused to give out.
“I want to go home.” Brody steered her toward a rear exit. “I don’t want to run into any reporters. I’m not giving anyone a statement or filling out a single form.”
“Surely, no one would expect . . .”
He raised a brow. “You’d be surprised.”
Outside, a patrol car waited for them. They slid into the back. Brody rested his head against the seat for the ride home. “Do you need to get the dog?”
Hannah shook her head. “Mac picked her up and took her home with him.”
“Good,” Brody said. “You’re still keeping all this from Grant?”
“Yes. Mac and I agreed that none of this would help his post-traumatic stress. We’ll tell him in person.”
“He’s going to be furious when he gets home.”
“Yes, he will.”
She was still surprised by Mac’s response at the rail yard. She’d always thought of Mac as the least emotional of all of them. He’d rather be out in the wilderness than in a room full of people. Maybe she’d been wrong. Grant was reaching out to her for contact, and he said he was doing the same with Mac. Grant shouldn’t have to do all the work. Hannah would talk to Mac tomorrow.
The car dropped them at Brody’s house. Inside, Danno greeted them with ankle rubs and meows. They went upstairs and shared a hot shower. They were both mottled with bruises and scrapes.
“We are a sad sight.” Hannah gingerly blotted a seat belt abrasion across her chest.
“Indeed.” Brody tugged her into bed.
She helped him wrap an Ace bandage around his ribs. He settled back on the pillows with a groan of pleasure. He pulled her down beside him.
When his phone buzzed, he lifted it off the nightstand and opened one eye. “It’s Douglas.”
Brody sighed and answered the phone. Five minutes later, he ended his call. “The address on Mick’s license was bogus, but the Vegas cops found some people in that neighborhood who knew where he really lived. They raided the place today and found five underage girls being kept there by another woman. None appear to be Jewel, though the police are having a hard time identifying any of them. None of the girls will say anything. Three are likely illegals.” He paused, and Hannah could tell he was holding something back.
She sat up. “What?”
“They found evidence that someone was being held prisoner in a shed out back. One of the other girls said that was Jewel. Douglas thinks this girl known as Lola is the one who sent you those e-mails. Mick had your purse in the house. Your business card was on the table. Lola won’t talk to them, but she asked for you.”
“I want to go to Las Vegas,” Hannah said. Mac could keep the dog for a couple of days.
She lay back down.
“I’ll go with you.” Brody wrapped his arm around her waist and spooned against her back. “We’ll arrange flights in the morning.”
“You don’t have to go with me.”
“Tomorrow morning I’ll have a tome of a report to type. But I won’t be on active duty until I get medical clearance. According to the ER doc, I’m going to have a few weeks off at minimum.” He rested his chin on her shoulder. “And I am not ready to let you out of my sight.”
The thought of leaving Brody behind hurt more than any of her injuries. She’d almost lost him tonight. She wanted to spend as much time with him as possible.
She rolled over to face him. Putting a hand on his chest, she said, “I don’t want this to end between us. I know we both said we didn’t love the idea of a long-distance relationship, but I’m willing to give it a try if you are.”
He kissed her. “I’ll do anything for you.”
Late the next afternoon, Hannah sat in a conference room down the hall from Detective Douglas’s office in Las Vegas.
Douglas scanned his report. “We found an arrest record for a weapons charge against Mick Arnette in Ohio. Some of his fingerprints weren’t clear, so they hadn’t been entered into the national database. After checking the missing persons reports for Ohio, we found a girl we believe is Jewel. Her name is Jenna Young, native of Toledo. Jenna ran away from home about a year ago. Her mother didn’t report her missing for several weeks.” He put a paper on the table in front of them. A dark-haired teenager smiled sadly at the camera.
Hannah sucked in a quick breath. “That’s her.”
But she looked different. Her eyes were mournful rather than panicked, and her face was fuller in the picture, as if she had lost weight since.
“Why wasn’t she reported missing right away?” Hannah asked.
“Her mother said Jenna had run away before. She thought her daughter would come back on her own.” Douglas frowned. “But the Toledo police found out that the mother’s boyfriend was a registered sex offender. He’d been convicted of molesting a twelve-year-old girl seven years before. Seems he hooked up with Jenna’s mother barely six months after his release from prison.”
“So you assume he molested Jenna.” The coffee in Hannah’s stomach soured. Brody put an arm across the back of her chair and gave her shoulder a supportive squeeze. She couldn’t have gotten through this day without him. His solid and quiet support made the most onerous subjects bearable.
“Probably a fair assumption,” Douglas said.
“Any ideas on how to find her?” Brody asked.
“We found a computer at the house. Our technicians think the e-mails you were sent originated from that unit. This girl, Lola, claims to have sent them. We recovered a computer. Most of the files have been wiped, but our cyber techs hope to recover deleted files from the hard drive. But we do have the records for Mick’s burner phone, and the cyber team followed a data usage trail. We strongly suspect Mick’s operation is part of a larger organization.”
“So what do you want from Lola?” Hannah asked.
“I’d like her to tell us what she knows. We want to bring down as much of this organization as possible. But she doesn’t trust us. Where she comes from, law enforcement is often as corrupt as or in bed with the criminals. With the Mexican cartels, either you do as you’re told or they kill you and your entire family.”
“I’ll do what I can,” Hannah offered.
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