As much as she resisted, Grant’s house felt like home. It felt too good. Almost good enough to blot out the image of a frightened teenager Hannah had left behind in Vegas. Almost.
Suddenly, she needed to wash the trip from her skin. She took a hot shower. The clothes in her suitcase were dirty, but she found her battered Syracuse University sweatshirt in one of the dresser drawers. She tugged it on with a pair of yoga pants and thick socks. After the warmth of the desert, the damp of autumn in New York State chilled her to the marrow.
Tired but restless, she fluffed up the pillows and settled in bed with her laptop. Her e-mail account was full, as usual. There were several messages from concerned coworkers and clients who’d heard about the attack in Vegas. She sent quick thank-you notes back.
Her mouse hovered over an e-mail from [email protected]. The subject line read Jewel. Hannah’s hands froze. A wave of cold swept over her skin. Only the police and Royce had been present when Hannah had given her statement. No one else would know the girl’s name—except the girl and the men who took her.
Hannah clicked on the e-mail. The message was short: Help. The end comes Tuesday.
“You sure this is the right address?” Brody shifted his unmarked police car into park at the curb in front of a narrow two-story home. A dozen blocks from the town center, the houses crowded together on small lots. White with black shutters, the place was plain but neat. No trash littered the tiny chain-linked yard. A maple tree had turned to crimson in the center of the small front yard, and its fallen leaves had been raked recently.
In the passenger seat, Chet Thatcher, the only other detective on the small Scarlet Falls PD, checked his paperwork against the brass numbers affixed next to the front door. “This is Jordan Brown’s last known address. Maybe he moved.”
Brody pointed to the small script letters that spelled Brown on the side of the black metal mailbox.
Chet tapped a forefinger on his report. “His parents’ house.”
“What do we know about him?” Brody asked. Chet had been working this case for the last month, but he’d asked for Brody to ride backup today.
“Jordan is twenty. He’s been arrested for burglary and once for narcotics possession. He got out of rehab six months ago.” Chet flipped a page on his clipboard. “A house was burglarized two blocks from here last night. The resident came home to find her window smashed, jewelry and two hundred dollars in cash missing. In her words, Must be that no-good piece-of-shit Brown kid who lives on Tyler Street.”
“Anybody actually see Jordan in the act?” Brody asked.
“No. I don’t have enough probable cause for a warrant, but the theft follows his established pattern of behavior. We arrested him two years ago for breaking into neighbors’ cars to fund his habit.” Chet showed him the kid’s mug shot. “There have been three similar break-ins in this neighborhood over the past six weeks.”
“Let’s go see if he’s home.” Chet got out of the car.
Brody stepped out into the street. “No car in the driveway.”
“Maybe Mom and Dad are at work.” Fifty-six years old and balding, Chet had a skinny frame and moved with a jerky, bowlegged stride as if he’d spent his life on horseback. The closest he’d been to a horse was the stands at Saratoga on race day.
Brody knocked on the front door, but the house remained quiet. Chet stepped into the flower bed, cupped his hands over his eyes, and peered in the living room window.
“See anything?” Brody asked.
Chet shook his head. “Maybe no one’s home.”
Behind the door, something slammed. The house rattled. Brody and Chet ran around the side of the house. A thin man in jeans and a black T-shirt raced across the small back lawn and vaulted over the three-foot fence, landing next to three grade-schoolers playing in a sandbox. He paused on the other side and glanced over his shoulder. Brody recognized Jordan Brown from his photo.
“Stop! Police!” Brody yelled.
The kid bolted, and Brody followed, tossing the car keys at Chet. Brody chased the kid through a neighbor’s side yard into the next street. Jordan ducked around a group of kids playing baseball and sprinted into another yard. He passed a shed and turned into a grass alley that ran between two fenced lots. Brody skidded through the sharp left, his dress shoes sliding on the muddy ground. He almost collided with Jordan. The kid had stopped short. A Dumpster blocked the exit. On both sides, six-foot-high wooden fencing blocked Jordan’s escape. He’d never get over an obstacle that high before Brody could get his hands on him.
Jordan bulldozed Brody. The kid’s shoulder rammed Brody’s solar plexus. They went down to the ground. The kid rolled off Brody and bounded to his feet. He took one running step before Brody grabbed his ankle and sent him sprawling. But Jordan recovered with the speed of youth, getting his feet back under his body.
Where was Chet?
Brody kept his ears tuned for the sound of the unmarked police car as he lurched to his feet and grabbed Jordan by the collar. The kid spun around. His hand went into his pocket. Sunlight gleamed on a knife. Jordan lunged. Brody turned his body to dodge the blade. He grabbed the knife hand and twisted the kid’s wrist until the weapon dropped to the ground. Converting the wristlock into an arm bar, he forced Jordan facedown on the ground and pinned him to the weeds with one knee in his lower back. “You are under arrest.”
“Get the fuck off me.” Jordan squirmed.
“Hold still.” Brody leaned harder. Anger sent another shot of adrenaline into his bloodstream. Scarlet Falls used to be a nice, safe town. He didn’t appreciate scumbags like this one ruining it. Decent people were trying to live here.
His heart rammed against his breastbone, and a drop of sweat ran into his eyes. He wiped a forearm over his brow and pushed aside a vivid memory: another drug addict, another criminal—another near miss. A car door slammed, and Brody shut the mental door on his unwelcome vision with equal force.
Chet ran up the alley, gun drawn. Pale faced and wheezing, he pointed his weapon at Jordan. His gaze fell to the knife. “Shit. Guess I’m a little late.”
“It’s OK. I got him.” Brody reached for the cuffs on his belt.
Frowning, Chet returned his unneeded weapon to its holster. “You all right? He didn’t cut you, did he?”
“I’m fine.” Brody handcuffed Jordan’s hands behind his back and patted down his pockets. “Why did you run, Jordan?”
“I’m not talking to anyone except a lawyer,” Jordan said to the grass.
Brody pulled a small baggie of white powder from Jordan’s jeans pocket. He scanned the kid’s arms. Jordan sported more tracks than Penn Station.
“Is that heroin, Jordan?” Chet asked. “You just got out of rehab.”
Jordan didn’t respond.
“Did you call for backup?” Brody asked Chet.
Chet nodded. “Patrol car should be here any minute.”
Brody hauled Jordan to his feet. Chet holstered his gun. They walked Jordan to the end of the alley. A Scarlet Falls PD cruiser pulled up, and Brody put the kid in the back. Then he took a minute to catch his breath. He inhaled a lungful of crisp November air, cooling his blood.
“Book him on assaulting an officer with a weapon, to start,” Chet said to the officer. The patrol car pulled away to transport Jordan to the police station.
Chet’s phone rang. He stepped aside to answer it and returned a minute later. “I’m working on a search warrant. Your suit is destroyed,” Chet said as they walked back to the unmarked car. “I’m sorry I couldn’t keep up on foot.”
Brody brushed at the mud on his trousers. Spotting a tear in the fabric, he gave up. Good thing he didn’t buy expensive suits.
“I guess it’s not a bad thing that I have to retire soon. These knees don’t have any more foot chases in them.” Chet had six more months before the mandatory retirement age kicked him off the force.
But they both knew it wasn’t Chet’s knees or age that had ruined his health.
“I’m fine.” Brody’s finger lingered on a slice in the fabric of his jacket. That had been a close call. If he’d been an inch or two closer to Jordan, Brody would have been gutted.
“You almost got stabbed because I wasn’t there.”
“I almost got stabbed because that kid pulled a knife on me. I’m fine, Chet. Let it go.”
Chet didn’t look convinced.
None of this was Chet’s fault, any more than Brody’s old partner in Boston was to blame for that disaster. Brody changed the subject. “If you’re going to retire, you need a hobby.”
Chet snorted. “Can you see me playing fucking golf?”
“Retired bankers play golf. Retired cops get boats,” Brody clarified with a grin.
“I hate fishing, too.”
Chet snorted. Brody slid behind the wheel and drove back to the Brown house. Brody’s phone played the Hawaii Five-O theme. He glanced at the display but didn’t recognize the number. “Detective McNamara.”
The caller said, “This is Hannah Barrett.”
“Hannah.” He wouldn’t have been more surprised if the president was on the line. “I thought you were out West.”
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