Page 14

“Not my dog,” Mason repeated. He watched the animal inhale the food. He hadn’t seen the dog since yesterday, and it acted like it hadn’t found anything to eat since then.

Ray stared at him. “When did you get a dog?”

“He showed up a few weeks ago. I feed him every now and then. I don’t know if he belongs to someone in the neighborhood or got dumped here.”

“Did you call the county?”

“No, I checked all the missing dog sites I could find. He doesn’t have any tags. I keep expecting him to disappear.” Mason scratched his temple. He didn’t know what to do about the dog. What if he took the dog to the county and it turned out to belong to a neighbor?

“You should take him in. Maybe he’s got one of those chips.”

The dog finished its food, sat, and stared at Mason expectantly.

“He’s still hungry.” Ray pointed out the obvious.

Mason went to the kitchen and got the bag of dog food from under his sink. He dumped another serving in the bowl, and the dog went back to work. Ray eyed the food bag.

“You act like you have a dog.”

Mason scowled at him. “I got tired of feeding him half of my frozen pizzas. This was easier. He hangs around constantly.”

“Because he knows you’re a softy and give him food.”

The dog left some food in his bowl and trotted over to the area rug in the living room, turned three times, and flopped down with a sigh.

Ray’s eyebrows shot up. “Holy crap, that dog has picked you. I thought I’d never see the day. You need to take him to the vet and get him scanned for a chip before you get too attached to him.”

“I won’t get attached to him. I don’t like dogs. Too much work. And who’s gonna let him in and out all day when I’m at work?”

“Put in a dog door. Your backyard has a good fence. You really need to take better care of him instead of letting him roam,” Ray pointed out.

“Screw you.”

Ray grinned. “You talk to Schefte yet?”

“Yeah, I’m clear for the next week.”

“Shit. Think it’ll take that long?”

“It’ll take as long as it takes.” Mason didn’t want to think about it. “You good with the McGregor and Temple cases?”

“Yeah, those won’t be a problem. You taking a few days off actually happened at a pretty opportune time.” Ray scowled. “That didn’t sound right.”

“There’s no good time for crap like this to happen. I know what you meant.” Ray was right. Their case load had lightened a bit of late. People were more focused on the holiday instead of committing major crimes. And it’d been really cold. That always calmed crime down for them. For some reason, people were better behaved when it was freezing outside.

“So you’re moving into the Fairbanks place?”

“For now. If this doesn’t get resolved quickly, there’s gonna be a media storm, and the family needs someone to ask the right questions of the police and FBI. I think they were relieved when I offered to be their go-between. That way they can focus on themselves and not constantly wonder if the investigators are getting shit done. That’ll be my job.”

“You talk to the FBI already?”

“A bit. Remember Ben Duncan?”

“Yeah, he’s a good one.”

“It’s his case. He’s waiting for the CARD team to swoop in, but he’s got a hundred pairs of feet on the street already. And he planted an agent in Lucas and Robin’s place. That’ll help me out, too.”

“I don’t think the CARD team has been called into the Portland area in four years.”

Mason nodded. He and Ray were familiar with the case of an eight-year-old who’d vanished from his school. The boy was still missing.

“There’re some similarities there,” Ray pointed out. “The school. Divorced parents.”

“Yeah, I’m sure the FBI zeroed in on that immediately. Honestly, I don’t see it. I think this is a stranger abduction. That case focused on family members.”

“Stranger abduction? Those are pretty rare.”

“True. But I know this family. None of them would do this,” Mason argued.

“You know the birth mom’s friends? She’s not remarried, right? What about the guys she’s dated? There are all sorts of people in their circles that you aren’t aware of.”

Mason silently swore. Ray was right. He’d let his knowledge of the family narrow his vision of the entire investigation. But it wasn’t his investigation; he was an observer.

That didn’t mean he couldn’t poke around a bit on his own.

“What the hell are you thinking about?” Ray asked. “You look ready to go dig up some graves.”

“I’m not investigating this case.”

“But you should have a good view of what’s happening. Do they have a command center set up somewhere?”

“Yes, there’s a church a couple of blocks away. I’m gonna swing by there on my way back and stick my nose in. I want them to get used to seeing me around.”

“They gonna have any problem with that?”

“I don’t think so. Duncan seemed like he almost expected me to insert myself into the liaison role. As long as I’m not interfering, I think he’ll be happy to use me to communicate with the family.”

“Who’s the agent they embedded?”