A memory of the blond formed in his mind. Long-legged, polished hair and nails, expensive clothes. Everything about Hannah Barrett screamed class and money. He deserved her. But without exceeding the legal speed limit, he’d be parking outside Hannah Barrett’s house Saturday night, planning her abduction and his revenge.
The hospital hallway bustled with activity. From the bed nearest the door, Hannah held an ice pack to her face. The ache in her temple echoed all the way down to her tailbone. She was glad the second bed had been empty all night.
“I called your brother.” Royce frowned down at her.
Hannah turned her head to listen out of her uninjured ear. “You shouldn’t have done that.”
Royce shot her a Seriously? look. “You were assaulted, and you’ve spent the night in the hospital.”
“Only because you made me,” she scoffed. “I need to call Grant and tell him I’m fine.” Grant would worry, and his anxiety had been elevated since they’d lost Lee.
Hannah sat up. The small pains radiating through her body foretold of up-and-coming bruises. But her injuries were minor. She was lucky, unlike the girl who’d been abducted.
“He’s already on his way.” He glanced at his watch. “In fact, he should be here soon. His plane lands at ten forty-five.”
Hannah adjusted the hard pillow. “He’s going to miss Faith’s birthday tomorrow.”
“I’ve booked you two first-class seats into Albany leaving this afternoon. I’m going to New York to get up to speed on the Tate contract.”
Hannah’s brain absorbed the breadth of his statement. He was taking her client away. “Why? I worked my butt off preparing for that deal.”
Royce sighed. “Did you not listen to the doctor?”
“I heard him.”
“In case he wasn’t clear,” Royce said, “you have a ruptured eardrum and a concussion, but thankfully, there’s no bleeding in your thick head. You are taking some time off whether you like it or not. There’ll be other deals. Besides, I’ve been in car accidents. I know every part of your body must hurt right now.”
She tried to summon a glare, but scrunching up her eyes hurt. “The doctor said the concussion was mild and my eardrum will heal on its own. I’ll be fine by the time my vacation is over.”
“You will not return to work until my neurologist clears you.” Royce’s voice softened. “Your job is not in jeopardy, Hannah. It will be waiting for you no matter how long it takes for you to get better.” He stepped closer. His fingers closed around hers. “You know I care about you.”
The way he touched her hand set off warning bells. If her head didn’t feel like it was stuffed with dynamite, she would have been shocked by his admission.
“You’re my boss. Our relationship is entirely professional.” Hannah slid her hand away. Her reputation would be shredded if anyone heard Royce’s comment. She would not be that woman who slept her way to success. She’d advanced her career through hard work. Even without professional restrictions, he wasn’t her type. Though good-looking, Royce was too polished. The man used more hair products than she did.
A knock sounded on the door frame, and a man in a suit walked in. A badge on his belt identified him as part of the Las Vegas Metropolitan PD. A folder was tucked under his arm. Hannah had given a statement to another policeman hours earlier in the parking lot of Carnival.
“Ms. Barrett.” He narrowed critical eyes at her. “I’m Detective Douglas. Are you up to answering more questions?”
Douglas nodded toward Royce and the door, obviously suggesting her boss exit.
“I’m Ms. Barrett’s attorney.” Royce stepped back, but he didn’t leave the room.
The cop sighed, ignored Royce, and focused on Hannah. “I have some pictures I’d like you to look at.” The cop opened his folder. “Based on the description you gave me, I pulled the mug shots of some of our known local offenders.”
“All right.” Hannah found the handrail controls and raised the head of the bed until she was sitting upright.
He set a stack of photos in her hand. “See if any of these men look familiar.”
Hannah flipped through a few dozen photos and handed them back. “I don’t see either one of them here.”
“Are you sure?” he asked.
“I had a good view of the first man. I only had a quick glimpse of the second.”
“I guess that would have been too easy.” The cop frowned. “See if any of these girls look like the one you saw.” He handed her a different set of pictures.
Hannah looked at each one, sadness pinging in her chest as she flipped through school pictures and family snapshots of dark-haired teenage girls. “My God, they’re all so young. Are they all missing?”
“Yes, ma’am.” The officer clasped his hands behind his back and stood square.
Hannah shuffled the last picture to the back of the stack. “I’m sorry. She’s not here.”
“I started in southern Nevada, but I’ll expand my query to the surrounding states.” The cop stuffed his photos back into their envelope. “I’ll call you if I have more pictures for you to view.”
All those girls were from this region. How could so many innocents go missing? The sheer number was dizzying. Hannah clenched her hands in the sheet at her waist as if her grip on the fabric would hold her distress at bay. “Were you able to trace the GPS on my phone?”
“No, ma’am. We assume he removed the battery or destroyed the phone,” the cop said.
“Have you found anything else?” Hannah couldn’t get the girl’s desperate eyes out of her head. Help me.
The cop tapped his pen on his notebook. “The club has surveillance cameras in the lot, but they don’t have a hundred percent coverage, and the section of the lot you were attacked in technically belongs to the motel. No camera coverage there, so we don’t have an image of your assailants. Surveillance cameras caught the black SUV on its way out of the parking lot, but the license plate was obscured, probably intentionally. We questioned the Carnival staff and did a sweep of the area. But the club borders on an industrial park. Most of the surrounding businesses are closed at night, and there isn’t much foot traffic.” He flipped the page. “The clerk at the motel denied that anyone fitting those descriptions checked in today. We did find another motel guest who thinks he saw a few other underage girls going into rooms, but he wasn’t close enough to be sure.” The cop closed his notebook. “Our fingerprint tech managed to lift several prints off the inside of the rental car.”
“But hundreds of people have been in that car. It’s a rental.”
“The prints are likely recent. Fingerprints evaporate, especially in this desert environment. I’d like to send our tech over to take your prints for comparison.”
“Of course,” Hannah said. “But I valet parked several times yesterday, with clients in the car.”
“It’s still our best lead.” He stacked the envelope of pictures with his notebook. “I have your cell number and address in New York. If we get a match on the fingerprints or I have more pictures for you to view, I’ll call you.”
“But you’re not hopeful?” she asked.
The cop was quiet for a few seconds. “My team specializes in investigating possible cases of human sex trafficking. From the scenario you described and what we’ve discovered at the hotel, we suspect she was being trafficked. One of the men with her could have been her pimp or her boyfriend.”
“She’s a child.” Even as she protested, Hannah saw the truth in his assessment. Outrage and sickness welled in her throat.
“Yes, ma’am,” he said. “Our best bet is the fingerprints. If we’ve arrested either one of them previously, we’ll have their prints in the database. If the prints we lifted from the car aren’t theirs, then we might be out of luck. We’ll be watching the motel, but her pimp will probably move to a different location after tonight.”
Hannah’s mind spun. She moved her foot. An ache shot up her ankle. No doubt she’d discover more bruises tomorrow, but she didn’t care. Somewhere in the city, a young girl was being victimized, maybe killed, and the authorities were powerless.
“We appreciate your efforts, ma’am,” Douglas said. Despite his words, his eyes told Hannah he didn’t expect to find either the man or the girl.
“Isn’t there anything else you can do?” she asked. There must be something.
“I’ll check with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the FBI’s National Crime Information Center for missing females who fit the basic description you provided. We’ll keep looking. The odds are against us, but sometimes we get lucky.”
“I understand,” Hannah said. “Please don’t hesitate to call me if you need anything.”
“Thank you. And take care, ma’am. Keep in mind that he stole your purse and phone. He has personal information about you. Have you canceled your credit cards?”
“Yes. I did that while I was in the ER.” She’d been carrying a small evening bag containing just the bare essentials, but her wallet had been inside.
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