Find the key.
The hotel room was dark but he didn't dare turn on a light.
Leonard had told him that Trevor and Bartlett were usually in the restaurant for an hour, but he couldn't count on it. Grozak had experience with that son of a bitch over the years and he knew Trevor's instincts were still as keen as they had been when he was a mercenary in Colombia.
So he'd give himself ten minutes tops and get out of here. His penlight flashed around the room. As sterile and impersonal as most hotel rooms. Take the bureau drawers first. He moved quickly across to the bureau and started going through them.
He went to the closet and dragged out the duffel and searched through it hurriedly.
Five minutes to go.
He went to the bedside table and opened the drawer. A notepad and pen.
Find the key, the Achilles' heel. Everyone had one.
Try the bathroom.
Nothing in the drawers.
The grooming kit.
Yes. At the bottom of the kit was a small, worn leather folder.
Photos of a woman. Notes. Newspaper clippings with photos of the same woman. Disappointment surged through him. Nothing about MacDuff's Run. Nothing about the gold. Nothing here to really help him. Hell, he'd hoped it was--
Wait. The woman's face was damn familiar. . . .
No time to read them.
He pulled out his digital camera and began to take the pictures.
Send the prints to Reilly and show him that he might have the ammunition that he needed to control Trevor.
But this might not be enough for him. One more search of the bedroom and that duffel . . .
The worn, dog-eared sketchbook was under the protective board at the bottom of the duffel.
Probably nothing of value. He quickly flipped through the pages.
Faces. Nothing but faces. He shouldn't have taken the extra time.
Trevor would be here any minute. Nothing but a bunch of sketches of kids and old people and that bastard--
He tucked the sketchbook under his arm and headed for the door, filled with heady exultation. He almost wished that he'd run into Trevor in the hall so that he'd have the chance to kill the son of a bitch. No, that would spoil everything.
I've got you, Trevor.
* * *
The alarm in Trevor's pocket was vibrating.
Trevor tensed. "Son of a bitch."
"What's wrong?" Bartlett asked.
"Maybe nothing. There's someone in my hotel room." He threw some money down on the table and stood up. "It could be the maid turning down my bed."
"But you don't think so." Bartlett followed him from the room to the elevator. "Grozak?"
"Not likely. He wants me dead but he wants the gold more. He's probably trying to find a map or any other info he can get his hands on."
"But you'd never leave anything of value there."
"He can't be sure of that." He stopped outside the door and drew his gun. "Stay here."
"No problem. If you get killed, someone has to yell for the police, and I'll accept that duty. But if it is the maid, we may be asked to leave this domicile."
"It's not the maid. The room's dark."
"Then perhaps I should--"
Trevor kicked the door open, darted to one side, and hit the floor.
No shot. No movement.
He crawled behind the couch and waited for his eyes to become accustomed to the darkness.
He reached up and turned on the lamp on the end table by the couch.
The room was empty.
"May I join you?" Bartlett called from the hall. "I'm a bit lonely out here."
"Stay there for a minute. I want to make sure . . ." He checked the closet and then the bathroom. "Come in."
"Good. It was interesting watching you tear through that door like Clint Eastwood in a Dirty Harry movie." Bartlett cautiously entered the room. "But I really don't know why I risk my valuable neck with you when I could be safe in London." He looked around. "Everything looks fine to me. Are you becoming paranoid, Trevor? Perhaps that gadget you carry has a short circuit."
"Perhaps." He glanced through the drawers. "No, some of the clothes have been moved."
"How can you tell? It looks neat to me."
"I can tell." He moved toward the bathroom. The grooming kit was in almost the same position as he'd left it. Almost.
He unzipped the kit. The leather case was still there. It was the same black as the bottom of the kit and might not have been noticed.
"I'll be with you in a minute." He slowly opened the case and looked down at the articles and then the photo. She was looking up at him from the photo with the challenging stare he knew so well. Perhaps Grozak hadn't seen it. Perhaps he wouldn't think it important even if he had.
But could he afford to risk her life on that chance?
He moved quickly to the closet and jerked out the duffel and tore up the support board.
It was gone.
* * *
Hey, I thought you were going to study for that final."
Jane glanced up from her sketchbook to see her roommate, Pat Hershey, bounding into the room. "I had to take a break. I was getting too intense to keep a clear head. Sketching relaxes me."
"So would sleep." Pat smiled. "And you wouldn't have had to study so hard if you hadn't been out half of last night playing nursemaid."
"Mike needed someone to talk to." Jane made a face. "He's scared to death that he's going to flunk out and disappoint everyone."
"Then he should be studying instead of crying on your shoulder."
Jane knew Pat was right, and she'd had moments of exasperation and impatience last night. "He's used to coming to me with problems.
We've known each other since we were kids."
"And you're too soft to send him away now."
"I'm not soft."
"Except about people you care about. Look at me. You've gotten me out of quite a few jams since we started to room together."
"They were serious to me." She strolled over and glanced at the sketch. "Good God, you're drawing him again."
Jane ignored the comment. "Did you have a good run?"
"Upped my distance a mile." Pat flopped down in the chair and began untying her running shoes. "You should have come with me. It's no fun for me running alone. I wanted the satisfaction of leaving you in the dust."
"No time." Jane finished the sketch in three bold strokes. "I told you, I had to study for my chemistry final."
"Yeah, that's what you told me." Pat grinned as she kicked off her shoes. "But here you are drawing Mr. Wonderful again."
"Believe me, he's not wonderful." She snapped the sketchbook shut. "And he's definitely not the type of man you'd take home to meet your mom and dad."
"A black sheep? Exciting."
"Only on soap operas. In real life they're big trouble."
Pat made a face. "You sound like a jaded woman of the world.
You're twenty-one, for God's sake."
"I'm not jaded. Jaded is for people who don't have enough imagination to keep life interesting. But I've learned to tell the difference between intriguing and troublesome."
"I could learn to live with that kind of trouble when it's packaged so nicely. He's gorgeous. Sort of a cross between Brad Pitt and Russell Crowe. You must think so too or you wouldn't keep drawing his face."
Jane shrugged. "He's interesting. I find something new in his face
every time I draw it. That's why I use him as a distraction."
"You know, I really like those sketches. I don't know why you haven't done a full portrait of him. It would be much better than the one you did of the old lady that won that prize."
Jane smiled. "I don't believe the judges would have agreed with you."
"Oh, I'm not knocking you. The other portrait was brilliant. But then, you're always brilliant. You'll be famous someday."
Jane made a rude sound. "Maybe if I live to be as old as Grandma
Moses. I'm far too practical. I have no artistic temperament."
"You always make fun of yourself, but I've seen you when you're working. You get lost. . . ." She tilted her head. "I've been wondering why you won't admit you have a fantastic future in store for you. It took me a while but I finally figured it out."
"Indeed? I can't wait to hear your take on this."
"Don't be sarcastic. I can be perceptive on occasion. I've decided for some reason you're afraid to reach out and grab the brass ring. Maybe you don't think you deserve it."
"I'm not saying you're not confident. I just think you're not as sure of your talent as you should be. Good God, you won one of the most prestigious competitions in the country. That should tell you something."
"It told me the judges liked my style. Art is subjective. If there had been another set of judges, I might not have fared so well." She shrugged. "And that would have been okay. I paint what and who I want. It gives me pleasure. I don't have to be first with anyone else."
"No, I don't, Miss Freud. So back off."
"Whatever you say." Pat was still staring at the sketch. "You said he was an old friend?"
Friend? No way. Their relationship had been too volatile to involve friendship. "No, I said I knew him years ago. Hadn't you better take your shower?"
Pat chuckled. "Am I treading on private ground again? Sorry, it's my busybody nature. It comes from living in a small town all my life." She got to her feet and stretched. "You have to admit I restrain myself most of the time."
Jane smiled as she shook her head. "When you're sleeping."
"Well, you must not mind too much. You've roomed with me for two years and you've never put arsenic in my coffee."
"It could still happen."
"Nah, you're used to me now. Actually, we complement each other. You're guarded, hardworking, responsible, and intense. I'm open, lazy, spoiled, and a social butterfly."
"That's why you have a 4.0 average."
"Well, I'm also competitive and you spur me on. That's why I don't find a roommate who's a party girl like me." She pulled her T-shirt over her head. "Besides, I'm hoping Mr. Wonderful is going to show up so that I can seduce him."
"You'll be disappointed. He's not going to show up. He probably doesn't remember I'm alive, and now he's just an interesting face to me."
"I'd make sure he remembered me. What did you say his name was?"
Jane smiled teasingly. "Mr. Wonderful. What else?"
"No, really. I know you told me but I--"
"Trevor. Mark Trevor."
"That's right." Pat headed for the bathroom. "Trevor . . ."
Jane glanced down at the sketch pad. It was curious that Pat had suddenly zeroed in on Trevor again. In spite of what she'd said, she generally respected Jane's privacy, and she'd backed off before when she'd seen Jane withdraw after she'd questioned her about him.
"Stop analyzing." Pat stuck her head out of the bathroom. "I can hear the wheels turning even over the sound of the shower. I've just decided I need to take you in hand and find a hunk to screw you and release all that pent-up tension you're storing. You've been living like a nun lately. This Trevor seems a good candidate."
Jane shook her head.
Pat made a face. "Stubborn. Well, then I'll skip him and go on to the local talent." She disappeared back into the bathroom.
Skip Trevor? Not likely, Jane thought. She'd been trying to ignore him for the past four years, and succeeded at times. Yet he was always in the background, waiting to push into her consciousness. That was the reason she'd started sketching his face three years ago. Once the sketch was finished she could forget him again for a while and get on with her life.
And it was a good life, full and busy and definitely not empty. She didn't need him. She was accomplishing her goals, and the only reason his memory still lingered was that their time together had taken place under such dramatic circumstances. Black sheep might be intriguing to Pat, but she'd led a sheltered life and didn't realize how much--
Her cell phone rang.
She was being followed.
Jane glanced over her shoulder.
At least, no one suspicious. A couple college guys out for a good time were strolling across the street and eyeing a girl who had just gotten off the bus. No one else. No one interested in her. She must be getting paranoid.
The hell she was. She still had her street kid's instincts and she trusted them. Someone had been following her.
Okay, it could be anyone. This neighborhood had bars on every block catering to college kids who streamed in from the surrounding campuses. Maybe someone had noticed that she was alone, zeroed in on her for a few minutes as a prospective lay, and then lost interest and ducked into a bar.
As she was going to do.
She glanced up at the neon light on the building ahead. The Red
Rooster? Oh, for God's sake, Mike. If he was going to get soused, he could have at least picked a bar whose owner had a little originality.
That was too much to expect. Even when Mike wasn't in a panic, he was neither selective nor critical. Tonight he evidently wouldn't care if the place was called Dew Drop Inn if they'd serve him enough beer. Ordinarily, she would have opted to let him make his own mistakes and learn from them, but she'd promised Sandra she'd help him settle in.
And the kid was only eighteen, dammit. So get him out, get him back to his dorm, and get him sober enough to talk sense into him.
She opened the door and was immediately assaulted by noise, the smell of beer, and a crush of people. Her gaze searched the room and she finally spotted Mike and his roommate, Paul Donnell, at a table across the bar. She moved quickly toward them. From this distance Paul seemed sober, but Mike was obviously royally smashed. He could hardly sit up in his chair.
"Jane." Paul rose to his feet. "This is a surprise. I didn't think you hit the bars."
"I don't." And it wasn't a surprise to Paul. He'd phoned her thirty minutes ago to tell her Mike was depressed and in the process of getting plastered. But if he wanted to protect his relationship with Mike by pretending he hadn't let her know, that was okay with her. She'd never cared much for Paul. He was too slick, too cool for her taste, but he evidently was worried about Mike. "Except when Mike is making an idiot of himself. Come on, Mike, we're getting out of here."
Mike looked blearily up at her. "Can't. I'm still sober enough to think."
"Barely." She glanced at Paul. "You pay the tab and I'll meet you at the door."
"Not going," Mike said. "Happy here. If I get one more beer down, Paul promised to crow like a rooster. A red rooster . . ."
Paul raised his brows and shook his head at Jane. "Sorry to put you through this. Since we've only been rooming together for a few months, he wouldn't listen to me. But he's always talking about you; I didn't think you'd mind if--"
"It's okay. I'm used to it. We grew up together and I've been taking care of him since he was six years old."
"You're not related?"
She shook her head. "He was adopted by the mother of the woman who took me in and raised me. He's a sweet kid when he's not being so damn insecure, but there are times when I want to shake him."
"Go easy on him. He's got a major case of nerves." He headed for the bar. "I'll pay the tab."
Go easy on him? If Ron and Sandra Fitzgerald hadn't been so easy on Mike, he wouldn't have forgotten what he'd learned on Luther Street and would be better able to cope in the real world, she thought in exasperation.
"Are you mad at me?" Mike asked morosely. "Don't be mad at me,
"Of course I'm mad at--" He was looking up at her like a kicked puppy and she couldn't finish. "Mike, why are you doing this to yourself?"
"Mad at me. Disappointed."
"Listen to me. I'm not disappointed. Because I know you're going to do fine once you work your way through this. Come on, we'll get out of here and go someplace where we can talk."
"Talk here. I'll buy you a drink."
"Mike. I don't want--" It was no use. Persuasion was striking out.
Just get him out of here any way she could. "On your feet." Jane took a step closer to the table. "Now. Or I'll carry you in a fireman's lift and tote you out of here on my shoulder. You know I can do it, Mike."
Mike gazed up at her in horror. "You wouldn't do that. Everyone would laugh at me."
"I don't care if these losers laugh at you. They should be studying for their exams instead of pickling their brains. And so should you."
"Doesn't matter." He shook his head mournfully. "I'll flunk it anyway.
I should never have come here. Ron and Sandra were wrong. I can never make it in an Ivy League school."
"The school would never have accepted you if they didn't think you could make it. You did fine in high school. This is no different if you work hard enough." She sighed as she realized she wasn't getting to him through that haze of alcohol. "We'll talk later. On your feet."
"Mike." She bent so that she could stare him directly in the eyes.
"I promised Sandra that I'd take care of you. That means not letting you start off your first year like a drunken sot or get thrown in jail for underage drinking. Do I keep my promises?"
He nodded. "But you shouldn't have promised--I'm not a kid anymore."
"Then act like it. You have two more minutes before I make you look like the asshole you're being."
His eyes widened in alarm and he jerked to his feet. "Damn you,
Jane. I'm not--"
"Shut up." She took his arm and propelled him toward the door.
"I'm not feeling very warm toward you right now. I have a final tomorrow and I'll have to stay up till dawn to make up for this trip to town."
"Why?" he asked gloomily. "You'd ace it anyway. Some people have it. Some people don't."
"That's bull. And a pretty pitiful excuse for being lazy."
He shook his head. "Paul and I talked about it. It's not fair. You've got it all. In a few months you'll graduate with honors and make Eve and Joe proud. I'll be lucky to make it through at the bottom of my class."
"Stop blubbering." She opened the door and pushed him out of the bar. "You won't even make it through the first term if you don't shape up."
"That's what Paul said."
"Then you should have paid more attention." She saw Paul standing on the sidewalk and asked, "Where's his car parked?"
"Around the corner in the alley. All the parking spots were filled when we got here. Do you need help with him?"
"Not if he can walk," she said grimly. "I hope you took his car keys away from him."
"What kind of friend would I be if I didn't?" He reached in his pocket and handed her the keys. "Do you want me to drive your car back to school?"
She nodded, took her keys out of her purse, and gave them to him.
"It's two blocks down. A tan Toyota Corolla."
"She worked two jobs and bought it herself." Mike shook his head. "Amazing, brilliant Jane. She's the star. Did I tell you that, Paul? Everyone's proud of Jane. . . ."
"Come on." She grabbed his arm. "I'll show you amazing. You'll be lucky if I don't deck you before I get you back to the dorm. I'll see you back at your room, Paul."
"Right." He turned on his heel and set off down the street.
"Wonderful Jane . . ."
"Be quiet. I'm not going to let you blame your lack of purpose on me. I'll help you, but you're responsible for your life, just as I am for mine."
"I know that."
"You don't know zilch right now. Listen, Mike, we both grew up on the streets, but we were lucky. We've been given a chance to climb out."
"Not smart enough. Paul's right. . . ."
"You're all muddled." The alley was yawning just ahead. Her hand tightened on the key as she pressed the unlock button and pushed him toward his Saturn. "You can't even remember what--"
Shadow. Leaping forward. Arm raised.
She instinctively pushed Mike aside and ducked.
In her shoulder, not her head, where the blow was aimed.
She whirled and kicked him in the belly.
He grunted and bent double.
She kicked him in the groin and listened with fierce satisfaction as he howled in agony. "Bastard." She took a step toward him.
A bullet whistled by her ear.
Mike cried out.
Dear God. She hadn't seen any gun.
No, her attacker was still doubled over, groaning in pain. Someone else was in the alley.
And Mike was falling to his knees.
Get him out of here.
She opened the door of the Saturn and pushed him onto the passenger seat.
Another shadow running toward her from the end of the alley as she ran around to the driver's seat.
"Don't kill her, you fool. She's no good to us dead."
"The kid may already be dead. I'm not leaving a witness."
The voice came from right in front of her.
She turned the lights on high as she started the car.
And ducked as a bullet shattered the windshield.
The tires screeched as she stomped on the accelerator and backed out of the alley.
"Jane . . ."
She looked down at Mike and her heart sank. His chest . . .Blood. So much blood.
"It's okay, Mike. You're going to be fine."
"I . . . don't want to die."
"I'm taking you to the emergency room right now. You're not going to die."
"I'm not." Christ, she was lying. She was terrified, but she couldn't let him see it. "Because there's no reason to be. You're going to get through this."
"Why?" he whispered. "Why did they-- Money? You should have given it to them. I don't want to die."
"They didn't ask me for money." She swallowed. Don't cry now.
Pull over and try to stop that bleeding and then get him to the emergency room. "Just hold on, Mike. Trust me. You're going to be all right."
"Promise . . . me." He was slumping forward in the seat. "Don't want to . . ."
Jane looked up quickly at the tall, fortyish man standing in the doorway of the waiting room. "How is he?"
"Sorry. I'm not a doctor. I'm Detective Lee Manning. I need to ask you a few questions."
"Later," she said curtly. She wished she could stop shaking. Dear
God, she was scared. "I'm waiting for--"
"The doctors are working on your friend. It's a difficult operation. They won't be out to talk to you for a while."
"That's what they told me, but it's been over four hours, dammit.
No one's said a word to me since they took him away."
"Operating rooms are busy places." He came toward her. "And
I'm afraid we have to get a statement from you. You showed up here with a victim suffering a gunshot wound and we have to find out what happened. The longer we wait, the greater chance we have of losing the perpetrator."
"I told them what happened when I checked Mike in to the hospital."
"Tell me again. You say robbery didn't appear to be the motive?"
"They didn't ask for money. They wanted--I don't know what they wanted. They said something about the girl not being any good to them dead. That's me, I guess."
"I don't know."
"It's possible. A kidnapping? Do your parents have a good deal of money?"
"I'm an orphan, but I've lived with Eve Duncan and Joe Quinn since I was a kid. Joe's a cop like you but he has private money. Eve is a forensic sculptor and she does more charity work than professional."
"Eve Duncan . . . I've heard of her." He turned as another man came into the room carrying a Styrofoam cup filled with steaming coffee.
"This is Sergeant Ken Fox. He thought you'd need a pick-me up."
"I'm glad to meet you, ma'am." Fox offered her the cup with a polite smile. "It's black, but I'll be glad to get you another one with cream if you like."
"Are you playing good cop, bad cop with me? It won't work." But she took the cup of coffee. She needed it. "Like I said, I was brought up by a cop."
"That must have come in handy tonight," Manning said. "It's hard to believe you were able to fight your way out of that alley."
"Believe what you like." She sipped the coffee. "But find out from the doctors if Mike's going to live. Those nurses gave me all kinds of soothing noncommittal assurances, but I don't know whether to believe them. They'll talk to you."
"They think he has a good chance."
"Just a chance?"
"He was shot in the chest and he lost a good deal of blood."
"I know." She moistened her lips. "I tried to stop it."
"You did a good job. The doctors say you may have saved his life.
How did you know what to do?"
"I took EMT training three years ago. It comes in handy. I sometimes go to disaster sites with my friend Sarah Logan, who does canine rescue work."
"You seem to have all kinds of talents."
She stiffened. "Are you being sarcastic? I don't need that kind of hassle right now. I know you have a job to do, but back off."
"I wasn't trying to intimidate you." Manning grimaced. "Lord, you're defensive."
"My friend has just been shot. I think I have a right to be defensive."
"Hey, we're the good guys."
"Sometimes it's hard to tell." She gave him a cool glance. "And you haven't shown me your ID yet. Let's see it."
"Sorry." He reached in his pocket and pulled out his badge. "My error. Show her your ID, Fox."
She examined both IDs closely before handing them back.
"Okay. Let's get this over quickly. I'll make a formal statement later but here's what you need to know right now. It was too dark in that alley for me to be able to ID the first man who attacked us. But when I turned on the headlights I got a glimpse of the man who shot Mike."
"You'll be able to recognize him?"
"Oh, yes." Her lips twisted. "No problem. I'm not going to forget him. Not ever. Give me a few hours after I get through this hell and I'll give you a sketch of him."
"You're an artist?"
"It's my major. And I've got a knack for portraiture. I've done sketches for the Atlanta PD before and they haven't complained."
She took another sip of coffee. "Check with them if you don't believe me."
"I believe you," Fox said. "That will be a great help. But you only saw him for a moment. It would be hard to remember enough to--"
"I'll remember." She leaned wearily back in the chair. "Look, I'll do everything I can to help. I want to get this bastard. I don't know what the hell this is all about, but Mike didn't deserve this to happen to him. I've met a few people who did deserve to be shot." She shivered. "But not Mike. Will you go check and see if there's any--"
"No news." Joe Quinn's face was grim as he came into the waiting room. "I checked as soon as I got here."
"Joe." She jumped to her feet and ran across the room toward him. "Thank God you're here. Those nurses were practically patting my head. They won't tell me anything. They're treating me like a kid."
"Heaven forbid. Don't they know you're twenty-one going on a hundred?" He hugged her and then turned to the two detectives. "Detective Joe Quinn. The head nurse tells me you're local police?"
Manning nodded. "Manning, and this is Sergeant Fox. Naturally, we have a few questions to ask the young lady. You understand."
"I understand that you're to leave her alone right now. She's not under suspicion, is she?"
Manning shook his head. "If she shot him, then she did a hell of a lot to keep him alive afterward."
"She's protected him all her life. There's no way she would have shot him. Give her a chance to get herself together and she'll cooperate later."
"So she told us," Manning said. "I was just about to leave when you came. Just doing our job."
Jane was tired of dealing with them. "Where's Eve, Joe? And how did you get here so quickly?"
"I hired a jet as soon as you called, and Eve and I came ahead.
Sandra is flying in from New Orleans, where she was vacationing.
Eve stayed at the airport to meet her flight and bring her here. Sandra's almost falling apart."
"I promised her I'd take care of him." She could feel the tears sting her eyes. "I didn't do it, Joe. I don't know what happened. Everything went wrong."
"You did your best."
"Don't tell me that. I didn't do it."
"Okay, but Sandra had no right to saddle you with that kind of responsibility."
"She's Eve's mother. She loves Mike. Hell, I love Mike. I'd have done it anyway."
"We'll wait in the hall," Sergeant Fox said. "Whenever you're ready to make a statement, Ms. MacGuire."
"Wait a minute. I'll go with you," Joe said. "I want to talk to you about the investigation." He turned to Jane. "I'll be right back. I want an update and then I'll go back to the nurse's desk and see if I can get more info about Mike."
"I'll go with you."
He shook his head. "You're upset and it shows. They'll be walking on eggshells around you. Let me do it. I'll get right back to you."
"I don't want to sit--" She stopped. He was right. She wiped her wet cheeks on the back of her hand. She couldn't stop crying, dammit. "Hurry, Joe."
"I'll hurry." He brushed his lips on her forehead. "You did nothing wrong, Jane."
"That's not true," she said shakily. "I didn't save him. Nothing could be more wrong than that."
"So what do you know about these sons of bitches?" Joe asked as soon as he was out of the room. "Any witnesses when they took off out of that alley?"
Manning shook his head. "No one's come forward yet. We're not even sure there weren't more than two men."
"Look, we're doing the best we can. This is a college town, and every parent of every student is going to be on our ass when they hear about this."
"And they should be."
"Ms. MacGuire offered to sketch the face of one of the perpetrators. Will it be accurate?"
Joe nodded curtly. "If she saw him, you'll be able to use it. She's damn good."
Fox lifted a brow. "You wouldn't be prejudiced?"
"Definitely. All the way. But it's still true. I've watched her do sketches of people she'd seen for only an instant while she was under extreme duress, and they were absolutely correct in every detail."
"The motive seems to be murky. Do you have the kind of money that would tempt someone to make a snatch?"
"I'm not a Rockefeller or a Dupont but I'm comfortable." He shrugged. "Who the hell knows how much money it would take? I've seen drug addicts who'd cut their mother's throat for ten bucks." He glanced at his watch. Eve should be on her way here with her mother. Jesus, he'd hoped to have something to tell them. "What about tire tracks? DNA evidence?"
"We've got forensics going over the alley with a fine-tooth comb."
Manning glanced over his shoulder at the waiting-room door. "She's a tough lady."
"You bet she is." Tough and loyal and loving and, dammit, she'd had enough trouble in her life without this happening to her.
"She was your ward?"
Joe nodded. "She's been with us since she was ten. Before that she was in a dozen foster-care facilities and virtually grew up on the streets."
"But she's been on Easy Street since she's been with you."
"If you call working every spare hour to pay her way through college Easy Street. Jane doesn't take anything she can't pay for."
"I wish I could say that about my son." Fox was frowning. "She looks . . . familiar. She reminds me of someone. There's something about her face."
Oh, Jesus. Here we go again. "You're right. She's damn beautiful." He changed the subject. "Which brings us back to another possible motive. Rape? Or white slavery?"
"We're checking with Vice on any report of--"
"Shit." The elevator doors had opened, and Joe saw Eve and Sandra get out. "Look, there's Mike Fitzgerald's mother. I've got to take her and Eve in to Jane. But I promised Jane a report on Mike. Will you try to pump one of those nurses and see what you come up with?"
"Sure. I'll do it," Manning said as he started down the hall. "You go back and take care of your family."
Tough bastard. For a minute there I felt as if I was getting the third degree. I don't know if I'd be able to keep my mind on the investigation if my family was involved," Manning said as they headed for the nurses' station. "And it's clear he cares about the girl."
"Yeah." Fox was still frowning thoughtfully. "Protective as the devil. Who did you say her--" He suddenly snapped his fingers. "Eve Duncan!"
"She said she lived with Eve Duncan."
"So I remember who the kid reminds me of."
"No, I saw a Discovery Channel show about a year ago about one of the reconstructions Duncan did of an actress buried in the ruins of Herculaneum two thousand years ago. At least, it was supposed to be her, but there was some kind of big investigation connected with . . ." He shook his head. "I can't remember. I'll have to go back and check on it. All I recall was that there was a big fuss about it at the time."
"You're getting off track. Who does Jane MacGuire remind you of?"
Manning glanced at him in surprise. "I'm not off track. It was the reconstruction. She's a dead ringer for that woman Eve Duncan was supposed to be doing the reconstruction of." He hesitated, searching for a name. "Cira."
The name was triggering memory in Manning too. He had a vague recollection of a statue and the reconstruction side by side in a newspaper. "Convenient. Then maybe Duncan isn't as good at her job as she--" He broke off as the door to the operating room opened and two green-garbed doctors strode out. "It looks like we may not have to do any pumping. The operation must be over."
Sandra looked terrible, Jane thought when Joe, Eve, and Sandra walked into the waiting room. Haggard, pale, and twenty years older than when she'd seen her a month ago.
"I don't understand." Sandra stared at Jane accusingly. "What happened?"
"I told you what happened." Eve's hand closed supportingly on Sandra's arm. "Jane doesn't know any more than we do."
"She has to know more. She was there." Her lips tightened. "And what the hell were you doing in that alley behind a bar with my son,
Jane? You should have known that all kinds of drug addicts and criminals could be hanging--"
"Easy, Sandra," Eve said quietly. "I'm sure that she has an explanation. It's not her fault that--"
"I don't care whose fault it is. I want answers." Tears began to roll down her cheeks. "And she promised me that--"
"I tried." Jane's hands clenched into fists at her side. "I didn't know--I thought I was doing the right thing, Sandra."
"He's only a boy," Sandra said. "My boy. He came to me from that dreadful mother and he became mine. This shouldn't have happened to him. It shouldn't have happened to us."
"I know." Jane's voice was shaking. "I love him too. He's always been like a little brother to me. I always tried to take care of him."
"You did take care of him," Joe said. "Sandra's upset or she'd remember all the times you pulled him out of scrapes and kept him on the right path."
"You talk as if he was a bad kid," Sandra said. "Sometimes he didn't think, but every boy has moments that--"
"He is a great kid." Jane took a step closer. She wanted to reach out and touch her, comfort her, but Sandra stiffened and Jane stopped. "He's smart and sweet and he--"
"Quinn?" Manning stood in the doorway. "The operation is over and Doctor Benjamin is on his way to talk to you all. Fox and I will get in touch with you later."
The detective was carefully looking at no one but Joe, avoiding everyone else's eyes, Jane realized.
"Mike?" Sandra whispered. "Mike?" She'd interpreted Manning's action the same way Jane had, and her eyes were wide with terror.
"The doctor will talk to you." Manning quickly turned and left the room, passing the surgeon on his way out.
Doctor Benjamin's expression was grave and sympathetic--and sad.
"No," Jane whispered. "No. No. No."
"I'm sorry," the doctor said. "I can't tell you how--"
He's dead, Trevor," Bartlett said. "The kid died on the operating table."
"Shit." It was the worst-case scenario in an already bad situation.
"Two hours ago. They just left the hospital. Jane looked like hell."
Trevor swore. "Are Quinn and Eve with her?"
"Yes, they showed up at the hospital right before the kid died."
Then at least Jane had family support and protection. "Do you know when they're having the funeral?"
"Hey, it just happened. And you told me to watch her but not to contact her."
"Are you going to the funeral?"
"I don't know yet."
"Do you want me to come back to the Run?"
"Hell, no. Stay there and keep an eye on her. She's more vulnerable now than ever."
"You think it was Grozak?"
"Good chance. The coincidence is a little too pat for comfort. They wanted Jane and the kid got in the way."
"Sad." Bartlett's voice was heavy. "I can't tell you how sorry I am that I failed her. I had no idea. It happened so fast. She disappeared with the kid into the alley and the next thing I knew the car was roaring out into the street."
"It wasn't your fault. We weren't even sure that Grozak was on the scene. You hadn't seen any suspicious signs."
"Sad," Bartlett repeated. "Life is precious and he was very young."
"So is Jane. And I don't want Grozak to get his hands on her.
"You know I will. But I'm not competent enough to handle types like Grozak if the situation becomes dicey. As you know, I have a brilliant mind but no lethal training. You'd better send Brenner or come yourself."
"Brenner is in Denver."
"Then you have no choice, do you?" Bartlett asked. "You'll have to make contact with her and tell her."
"And let Grozak know his guess was on target? No way. He could have been playing a hunch when he sent men to Harvard. I don't want to confirm anything that would indicate Jane may be important to Cira's gold."
"Pretty rough play for a hunch. He killed Mike Fitzgerald."
"Not too rough for Grozak. I've seen him cut a man's throat for accidentally stepping on his toes. He's probably the most vicious son of a bitch I've ever run across. But this was too clumsy. Whoever shot the kid ran off his mouth and tipped his hand. It was probably Leonard, and I'd bet Grozak didn't order the kill. It's more likely Leonard screwed up."
"Then maybe he'll back off now that Jane's on guard and surrounded by family."
"Maybe." He hoped Bartlett was right, but he couldn't count on it. "Maybe not. Stay as close as her shadow." He hung up the phone and leaned back in his chair. Christ, he'd hoped the kid would pull through. Not only because innocent bystanders weren't fair game, but because Jane didn't need another scar. She'd suffered enough wounds growing up in the slums to last her for a lifetime. Not that she'd ever talked about her childhood. Their time together had been too wary for confidences. Too wary for any normal personal interchange. But then nothing about their interaction four years ago had been normal. It had been stimulating, terrifying, disturbing, and . . .sensual. Christ, yes, sensual. Memories he'd carefully suppressed were surfacing and his body was tensing, responding as if she were standing before him instead of being in that college town hundreds of miles away.
Send those memories back where they came from. This was the worst possible time to let sex enter the picture. Not only for him but for Jane MacGuire.
If he could keep her at a distance, it would increase her chances of survival.
She's sleeping now." Eve came out of the hotel bedroom into the sitting room and carefully closed the door. "The doctor gave her a sedative strong enough to knock an elephant out."
"The only problem with that is she'll have it all to face again when she wakes up," Jane said. "I knew it would be bad for her, but I had no idea she'd completely fall apart. Ever since I was a kid, she seemed almost as strong as you are, Eve."
"She is strong. She kicked the drug habit, she helped me through that nightmare when my Bonnie was killed. She built a new life and a new marriage for herself and then survived a divorce from Ron."
Eve rubbed her temple. "But the loss of a child can destroy everything. It almost destroyed me."
"He's making arrangements for the funeral. Sandra wants to take
Mike home to Atlanta. We're leaving tomorrow afternoon."
"I'll go with you. You're staying with her tonight?"
Eve nodded. "I want to be here when she wakes up. She may not sleep as well as we hope."
"Or she might have nightmares." Jane added wearily, "But it seems being awake is the nightmare. I can't believe it happened. I can't believe Mike is--" She had to stop as her voice broke. She started again a moment later. "Sometimes life doesn't make sense. He had everything to live for. Why did it--" She stopped again. "Dammit, I lied to him. He was so scared. I told him to trust me, that I'd make sure he was okay. He believed me."
"And it gave him comfort. You didn't know it was a lie. In a way it was more of a prayer." Eve leaned back in the chair. "I'm glad you were there for him. When some of the pain fades for Sandra, she'll be glad too. She knows how much Mike cared about you, how much you helped him."
"Maybe he didn't really feel like-- He said a few things last night when I came to get him that-- Mike wasn't the most secure kid in the world, and I was tough on him sometimes."
"And you were wonderful to him ninety percent of the time. So stop playing what-might-have-been. You can't ever win that game. Think of the good times."
"It's hard to do right now. All I can remember is that bastard shooting Mike. Perhaps it was my fault. I acted instinctively when he attacked. Maybe if I hadn't resisted, he would have just robbed us. Mike asked me why I didn't give him the money. He didn't ask for money, but perhaps if I'd given him a chance to--"
"You said that the other man said something about getting the girl. That doesn't sound like robbery."
"No. You're right. I'm not thinking clearly." She wearily pushed back her chair and stood up. "Maybe it was going to be a rape or a kidnapping, like Manning said. Who the hell knows?" She headed for the door. "I'm going back to my dorm and pack. I'll see you in the morning. Call me if you need me."
"What I need is for you to remember the good things about your years with Mike."
"I'll try." She paused and then looked back over her shoulder. "Do you know what I remember most? It was when we were kids together and Mike had left home and was hiding out in an alley a few blocks from his house. His mother was a prostitute, and you know how bad it was for Mike whenever his father came home. I'd bring him food and at night I'd slip out of the house and go to keep him company. He was only six and he was scared at night. He got scared a lot. But it was better when I was there. I'd tell him stories and he'd--" Jesus, she was choking up again. "He'd go to sleep." She opened the door. "And now he's never going to wake up again."
You can't go, Trevor," Venable said sharply. "You don't even know that it was Grozak."
"It was Grozak."
"You can't be sure of that."
"I'm not asking your permission, Venable. I told you what you had to do and gave you the courtesy of informing you that there's a problem. If I decide it's best, I'm gone."
"What you're doing there is more essential. Why go off on the chance that Grozak was involved? Sometimes I think Sabot is right and Grozak isn't going to be able to pull this off anyway. He's vicious but definitely small potatoes."
"I told you that I believe Thomas Reilly may be involved. That changes the whole complexion of the situation."
"And you're relying on pure deduction. There's no proof. And she'snot important. You can't risk endangering the--"
"You do your job. I'll decide what's important." He hung up.
Christ, Venable could be difficult. Trevor would have preferred to just leave him in the dark about Jane. He couldn't do that. In an operation this delicate, to have any player stumbling around in ignorance would be foolhardy, if not actually suicidal. Even if he hadn't made a decision about whether to leave the work here at MacDuff 's Run, he had to have Venable cover his bases.
He rose to his feet and moved down the hall to the studio Mario was using. Mario had already gone to the adjoining bedroom, and Trevor crossed the study to stand before the statue of Cira. The moonlight was pouring into the room and illuminating the features of the bust. He never got tired of looking at it. The high cheekbones, the winged brows that looked a little like Audrey Hepburn's, the lovely curve and sensitivity of that mouth. A beautiful woman whose attraction lay more in the strength and personality of her spirit than in her features.
He smiled as he thought how angry she would be to have him compare her to Cira. She'd been fighting it for too long. And it wasn't really true. The resemblance was there, but since he'd met Jane he no longer saw Cira when he looked at the statue. It was Jane, alive, vibrant, intelligent, and very, very direct.
His smile faded. And that directness could be her worst enemy right now. She only knew one way to go, and that was straight ahead, jumping over all obstacles. She wouldn't be content to sit and wait for the police to find clues to Fitzgerald's death.
He touched the statue's cheek and it felt smooth and cold beneath his finger. Right now he wished he still did think of the statue as Cira.
Smooth and cold.
Without life . . .
His phone rang. Venable again?
"Trevor, Thomas Reilly."
"We haven't met, but I believe you've probably heard of me. We have a common interest. We almost ran into each other several times in Herculaneum over the years when we were pursuing that common interest."
"What do you want, Reilly?"
"What we both want. But I'll be the one to get it, because I want it more than you or anyone else. I've been studying your background and you appear to have a streak of softness, a certain idealism I wouldn't have attributed to you. You may even be willing to hand the gold over to me."
"Of course, I'd be willing to let you have a percentage."
"How kind. And what about Grozak?"
"Unfortunately, my friend Grozak is fumbling, and I feel the need for a backup."
"So you're double-crossing him."
"That's up to you. I'll deal with whoever can supply what I want. I'll probably even tell Grozak I've contacted you to stir up a little competition."
"You want the gold."
"I don't have it yet. I wouldn't give it to you if I did."
"I'd judge you have an excellent chance of finding it. But the gold isn't everything I want."
"The Cira statue. You can't have it."
"Oh, I'll have it. It belongs to me. You stole it away from me when
I was trying to buy it from that dealer. I'll have it all."
"I want something else. I'll make you a proposition. . . ."
That was Joe Quinn calling from the airport," Manning said as he hung up the phone. "He wants protection for Jane MacGuire when she comes back to school after the funeral."
"Are you going to request it?" Fox asked as he leaned back in his office chair.
"Of course I'm going to request it." Manning shook his head. "But after that budget cut, the captain is going to go ballistic unless I can show definite cause. Can we tie anything into that case you said you read about on the Internet?"
"Maybe. Let's see. . . ." Fox leaned forward and typed an access code into his computer. "I pulled up this old newspaper article when we came back to the precinct from the hospital. It's interesting, but I don't believe we're going to see a connection to anyone with homicidal tendencies. Unless we're talking about ghosts." He pressed a button to bring up the article and then swung the laptop around on his desk so that Manning could read it. "Evidently this serial killer, Aldo Manza, had a father who had an obsession with an actress who lived two thousand years ago, at the time of the eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed Herculaneum and Pompeii. The father was an archaeologist who wasn't above peddling illegal artifacts, and he'd found a statue of the actress, Cira, in the ruins of Herculaneum."
"Aldo developed an obsession too. He couldn't stand to let any woman live who bore a resemblance to the statue of Cira his father possessed. He'd go after them and slice off their face before he killed them."
"Gory bastard. And you said Jane MacGuire looks like this Cira?"
Fox nodded. "The spitting image. That's why she became a target."
"Yes. But Eve Duncan and Quinn managed to turn the tables on him. They set a trap in the tunnels below Herculaneum. Duncan reconstructed the face of one of the skulls the scientists found in the marina at Herculaneum, and they publicized it as being the skull of Cira. It wasn't, of course. It was a deliberate phony done by Duncan. The real skull looked nothing like Cira. But the combination of the skull and the presence of Jane MacGuire drew Aldo close enough so that they could take him out."
"As a doornail. Like his father."
"Any relatives who might want revenge?"
"Wouldn't they have tried before this? It's been four years."
Manning frowned. "Maybe." He was reading the article. Everything checked out as Fox had described, but there was one line that puzzled him. "It mentions that Duncan, Quinn, the girl, and a Mark Trevor were at the scene. Who's Mark Trevor?"
Fox shook his head. "I accessed a couple of other articles, and some of them have a mention of him. None of the other people present in that tunnel would make a comment about him. He was clearly at the scene but he left before either the police or media could interview him. One article indicated there were hints he had a criminal background."
"And yet Quinn's protecting him for some reason?"
"I didn't say that. He's just not talking about him."
"But if Trevor was involved with Fitzgerald's killing, I can't see Quinn not serving him up to us. He's too protective of the girl. Does
Trevor have a record?"
"What do you mean? Either he does or he doesn't."
"I can't seem to get through to the right database. It bounces me out."
"That's crazy. Keep trying."
Fox nodded as he turned the laptop back around to face him.
"But you said you didn't think Quinn would protect Trevor if he suspected him. Why waste the time?"
"Because there's always the possibility that Quinn might want to leave us out of it and cut Trevor's throat himself."
"He's a cop, for God's sake. He wouldn't do that."
"No? How would you feel if it was your kid, Fox?"
What are you doing out here on the porch?" Eve asked as she came up the steps. "It's the middle of the night."
"I couldn't sleep." Jane pushed her dog, Toby, to one side to make room for Eve on the top step. "I thought you'd be staying with Sandra at her condo."
"I was planning on it, but Ron showed up and I felt a little de trop. They may be divorced, but they both loved Mike. I'm glad he's there for her."
Jane nodded. "I remember all the fishing trips he took Mike on when he was a kid. Is he going to the funeral tomorrow?"
"Today," Eve corrected. "Probably. Did Joe go to bed?"
"Yes. He wasn't expecting you either. You'd better get some sleep.
It's going to be a difficult day." She looked out at the lake. "A nightmare of a day."
"For you, too. It's been a nightmare since the moment you met
Mike in that bar." She paused. "Do you ever have those dreams of Cira anymore?"
Jane looked back at her, startled. "What? Where did that come from?"
Eve shrugged. "Nightmares. It just popped into my mind."
"Now? It's been four years and you've never mentioned anything about them."
"That doesn't mean I haven't thought about them. I just figured it would be better if we forgot about everything connected with that time."
"That's not easy to do."
"Obviously," Eve said dryly. "You've been on three archaeological field trips back to Herculaneum since you entered Harvard."
Jane gently stroked Toby's head. "You never argued with me about it."
"That would have been placing too much importance on something I wanted to fade from your memory. That didn't stop me from hating it. I didn't want you to spend your youth chasing an obsession."
"It's not an obses-- Well, maybe it is. I only know I have to find out about Cira. I have to know if she lived or died when that volcano erupted."
"Why? It was two thousand years ago, dammit."
"You know why. She had my face. Or I have her face. Whatever."
"And you dreamed about her for weeks before you actually knew she existed."
"I probably read about her someplace."
"But you haven't been able to verify that."
"That doesn't mean it didn't happen." She made a face. "I like that explanation better than some wacky psychic bullshit."
"You didn't answer me. Have you dreamed about her?"
"Partially." She was silent a moment. "Have you been in contact with Mark Trevor?"
"What is this? Twenty questions?"
"It's me, loving you, and making sure that you're okay."
"I'm okay. And I haven't talked to Trevor since that night he left
Naples four years ago."
"I thought you might have run into him on one of those excavations."
"He wouldn't be on his knees spooning dirt with college kids. He knows where those scrolls are buried, blast him." Trevor had been involved in the smuggling of ancient Roman artifacts when he was contacted by a less than legitimate professor of antiquities and his son, Aldo. They'd discovered a library in a tunnel leading from the villa of Julius Precebio, one of the ancient town's leading citizens. The library had proved to contain a number of bronze tubes holding priceless scrolls, which had escaped the lava flow that destroyed the villa. Many of the scrolls had been devoted to describing Julius's mistress, Cira, who had been a bright star in the theater at Herculaneum. Aldo and his father had blown the tunnel to kill everyone who had knowledge of its location, including Trevor. But he'd managed to escape. "Trevor's the one who camouflaged the site after the cave-in. He doesn't want anyone to find that tunnel before he can go back and get that chest of gold Julius mentioned in the scrolls."
"Maybe he's already found it."
"Maybe." Jane had often wondered that same thing, but she had still kept searching. "But I have a feeling . . . I don't know. I have to keep looking. Dammit, I should be the one to find those scrolls. I deserve it. I'm the one who had that crazy after me trying to slice off my face because I looked like Cira."
"Then why didn't you tackle Trevor and get him to tell you where they were?"
"Persuading Trevor to do anything is never an option. He wants the gold, and he believes he deserves it after he lost his friend Pietro in that tunnel. Besides, how was I supposed to find him when Interpol couldn't keep track of him?"
"I rather thought he might have contacted you when you were over there."
"No." On Jane's first expedition she had fought that irrational thought for the entire time she was in Herculaneum. She had found herself looking over her shoulder, remembering Trevor's voice, fighting the feeling that he was around the corner, in the next room, somewhere--near. "It's not likely that he'd stay in touch. I was only seventeen and he thought I was too young to be interesting."
"Seventeen going on thirty," Eve said. "And Trevor was no fool."
"You'd be surprised."
"Nothing Trevor would do would surprise me. He was one of a kind."
Eve's tone was almost affectionate, Jane realized. "You liked him."
"He saved my life. He saved Joe. He saved you. It's hard to dislike a man who's stacked up that kind of credit. That doesn't mean I approve of him. His intelligence may be off the charts, and he definitely has a way about him. But he's a smuggler, a con man, and God knows what else."
"What else indeed? He's had four years to get into all kinds of nefarious pursuits."
"At least you're not defending him."
"No way. He's probably the most brilliant man I've ever met and could coax the birds from the trees. Other than that, he's an enigma, he's proficient in all manner of violence, and he has an addiction to walking a tightrope. None of those qualities tend to endear themselves to a hardheaded, practical woman like me."
"Woman . . ." Eve sadly shook her head. "I still think of you as a girl."
"Then that's what I'll stay." Jane leaned her head against Eve's shoulder. "Whatever you want me to be. You name it."
"I just want you to be happy." She brushed her lips against Jane's forehead. "And not waste your life chasing after a woman who's been dead two thousand years."
"I won't waste my life. I just have to have my questions answered before I can walk away."
Eve was silent a moment. "Maybe you're right. Maybe I was wrong to want to bury the past. Maybe it would have been healthier to just let you go for it."
"Stop blaming yourself. You never said a word to me when I went back to Herculaneum."
Eve stared out at the lake. "No, I never said a word to you."
"And it's not as if I'm devoting all my time to Cira. I've won a couple art competitions, I've gone on several search-and-rescue missions with Sarah, and I've kept my grades up." She looked up with a smile. "And I haven't been toying with gorgeous ne'er-do-wells like Mark Trevor. I'm golden."
"Yes, you are." Eve straightened and rose to her feet. "And I want to keep you that way. We'll talk more after this funeral is over." She headed for the door. "We'd both better get some sleep. I told Sandra we'd pick her up at eleven."
"I'll come in soon. I want to stay out here with Toby for a while." She gave the dog a hug. "Lord, I miss him when I'm at school." She paused. "Why did all this come tumbling out now, Eve?"
"I don't know." She opened the screen door. "Mike. That horrible senseless murder. I guess it reminded me of Aldo and his fixation on Cira, all those killings . . . and the way he stalked you. And now Mike's murder may have something to do with you too."
"Maybe not. We don't know anything for sure."
"No, we don't." The door closed behind her.
It was odd that Eve had connected Mike's murder with that nightmare time in Herculaneum. Or maybe not so strange. She, Joe,
Eve, and Trevor had been bound together in a common purpose to put an end to that monster, Aldo, and then had put it behind them. Only how could you truly abandon the memory of an experience like that and walk away? She and Trevor had been knit so closely that she felt as if she had known him forever. It hadn't mattered that his past was murky or that he was totally ruthless and self-serving. She had been motivated by self-preservation and he had been driven by greed and revenge. Yet they had come together and gotten the job done.
Stop thinking about him. Talking to Eve about Trevor had caused the flood of memory to rush back to her. She had put him firmly in the back of her consciousness and only brought him out at her convenience. That way she remained in control as she had never succeeded in doing when she was with him.
What could you expect? She had only been seventeen and he had been almost thirty and experienced as hell. She had handled him very well considering the emotional storm she'd been going through at the time.
She stood up and moved toward the door. Forget Trevor and Cira. They didn't belong in her life right now. She had to concentrate on her family and the effort it was going to take to get through today.
She hated funerals, Jane thought numbly as she stared down at the coffin. Whoever thought they were some kind of catharsis must be nuts. Every moment hurt, and she could see no healing coming from this ritual. She'd said her own good-byes to Mike during these last three days since that senseless murder. She was only here for Sandra.
And Sandra looked like she was going to collapse any moment and was paying attention to no one. Eve was standing beside her, but
Sandra probably didn't even know she was there. Several of Mike's friends were gathered at the grave site. Jane knew a few of them:
Jimmy Carver, Denise Roberts, and Paul Donnell. Her roommate,
Pat, had also flown down for the funeral and was looking uncharacteristically solemn. Nice of her to come. Nice of all of them.
Only a few more minutes and they could leave the cemetery.
Those minutes seemed to take a lifetime.
It was over.
She stepped forward to throw her rose on the coffin.
"Is there anything I can do?" Pat asked as Jane turned away from the grave. "I'm supposed to get back to school, but I'll bail if you need me."
Jane shook her head. "Go on. I don't need you. I'll see you tomorrow or maybe the next day."
Pat made a face. "I should have known. You don't need anyone.
You're always willing to step up to the plate if I'm in a jam but heaven forbid if I try to return the favor. Did it ever occur to you that I'd feel good to be on the giving end?"
"You don't know how much you've already given me." She swallowed to ease the tightness of her throat. "I should have told you. Sometimes it's difficult for me to . . . When I first met you, I was so serious and responsible I couldn't even think about just relaxing and having a good time. You taught me that having a good time isn't a crime and that joy can come from some pretty bizarre situations."
Pat smiled. "You mean like the time we got stuck in the car in that snowstorm because you had to come and get me when I drank too much? Not much joy there. You gave me hell."
"You deserved it. But even from that fiasco there will be good memories. We sang stupid songs and talked for hours while we waited to be rescued. It . . . enriched me. You enriched me."
Pat didn't speak for a moment. "I do believe I'm choking up. I'd better get out of here." She gave Jane a quick hug. "I'll see you tomorrow."
Jane watched her walk away. Pat was almost as awkward at personal interchanges as Jane was. Strange they shared that reticence when they were so different in other ways. Pat had been caught off guard by Jane's words at this sensitive moment. It was because of the very sadness of this time that the words had tumbled from Jane's lips. She had lost one friend, and she wished with all her heart that she'd been able to tell him how much he meant to her. She wasn't going to make that mistake again.
"Jane." Paul Donnell was standing beside her, his face pale. "I'm sorry. I didn't get a chance to talk to you before, but I want you to know how --- I can't tell you how I regret not walking you back to the car that night. I didn't think --- I hope you don't blame me for --- "
"I don't blame anyone but the bastard who killed Mike. And how could you know it would happen?"
He nodded quickly, jerkily. "That's right. I couldn't know, but I still regret --- I liked Mike. I never wanted anything to happen to him.
I just had to tell you that I --- " He turned away. "I just wanted to say
She watched him walk away. He was truly upset. Upset enough to disturb that slick facade he usually maintained. Perhaps he and Mike had been closer friends than she'd thought. Or perhaps he did feel guilty for not being there when Mike had needed him. A thought occurred to her. Or perhaps it was ---
"Come on, Jane." Joe was beside her, taking her arm. "I'll drive you back to the cottage."
"Okay." Then she suddenly shook her head. "No, I have to go to the airport. I'm going to say good-bye to Sandra and then go back to school. There's something I have to do there."
"Jane, take a few days off. You need --- "
"There's something I have to do." She turned away. "I'll be okay,
"The hell you will. You're not okay right now. Look, Sandra's upset.
She doesn't really blame you. It wouldn't make sense."
"She blames me," she added sadly. "She blames everyone and everything right now. She can't even stand to look at me. I know she doesn't want to hurt me. She can't help it. Her world's upside down. You and Eve need to comfort her and it's better if I'm not around."
"She's not the only one who needs comforting," Joe muttered.
"You need us, dammit."
"I have you. You're always with me." She tried to smile. "I don't have to have you in the same room or holding my hand. I believe Sandra does right now. I'll call you after I get back to my dorm. Okay?"
"No. But I guess it will have to be. You're not going to give in." His lips tightened. "But I'm not going to let you go back there unprotected. I've hired a security guard to tail you until Manning's investigation turns up a reason for that attack. He'll be waiting at your dorm when you get there."
"I don't care. If it makes you feel better."
"You're damn right it makes me feel better." He opened the door of the car for her. "No one is going to hurt you."
It was too late. She was already hurting. She couldn't erase the image of Mike lying in that car with the blood pouring from his chest, begging her to help him.
She could feel her eyes stinging. Not now. Don't start crying again now.
The time for tears was over.
Paul Donnell stiffened and turned around as he was climbing the steps to his dorm. "Jane?" He smiled. "What are you doing here? I thought you'd be staying behind in Atlanta. May I help you?"
"I believe you can." She reached over and opened the passenger door of her car. "Get in."
His smile faded. "I'm afraid you've caught me at a bad time. I'm behind in my homework since I took time out to go to the funeral.
Suppose I call you tomorrow."
"Suppose you get in the car," she said curtly. "Don't play games with me, Paul. Do you want to talk to me or do you want to talk to the police?"
"That sounds like a threat. I've been upset enough because I lost my friend, and I don't need --- "
"Was he your friend? Do you betray your friends, Paul?"
He moistened his lips. "I don't know what you mean."
"Do you want me to explain? Do you want me to get out of this car and shout it so that everyone on the campus can hear me? I'll do it. Mike must have told you that I'm not in the least shy."
He was silent for a moment. "Yes, he told me."
"He confided a lot of things to you. Because he trusted you. Mike was vulnerable to anyone he thought was his friend."
"I was his friend. I resent you --- "
She opened the driver's door and started to get out.
"No!" He strode around the car. "If you won't be reasonable, I'll have to --- "
"I'm not reasonable." She locked the doors as soon as he got in the car, and took off. "I'm angry and I want answers."
"You have no reason to be angry with me." He paused. "Just what do you think I did?"
"I think you set Mike up." Her hands tightened on the steering wheel. "I think you worked on him until he was so depressed and scared that he was like putty in your hands. I think you got him drunk and then called me. I think you knew someone was waiting in that alley."
"Crap. Look, I know Mike said some weird stuff that night, but he was drunk."
"That's what I believed until it all came together after the funeral and I was wondering why you were so nervous. There were plenty of parking meters available on that street. Why risk being towed off by parking in the alley?"
"There weren't any spaces when we got there."
"When I got to the airport today, I went straight to the Red
Rooster and questioned the bartender. He said that it was a slow night and there were plenty of available spaces on the street when he came on duty at seven. You got there at seven-fifteen, right?"
"I'm not sure."
"That's what the bartender said."
"Pull over. I don't have to take this."
"Yes, you do." But she pulled over to the side of the road and turned off the car. "Talk to me. Who paid you to set Mike up?"
"Then you did it because you had a grudge against him?"
"Of course not."
'"Then we're back to square one."
"I didn't have anything to do with it."
"Bullshit." She stared him straight in the eye. "You're scared stiff. I could almost taste it at the cemetery. You weren't grieving. You were putting on a front because you were afraid someone would suspect the truth."
His gaze slid away. "The police didn't think so."
"They will when I have a talk with them. I'm a cop's kid. That's almost family. They'll pay attention when I ask them to look closer at you."
"They won't find anything. It's not as if I'm some juvenile delinquent. I come from a good family."
"And I come from one of the lousiest neighborhoods in Atlanta, where whores and pimps and every kind of scum walk the street.
That's how I can recognize scum when I see it."
"Let me out of the car."
"When you tell me who paid you and why."
His lips tightened. "You're only a woman. I could force you to open this door anytime I choose. I'm just placating you."
"I'm a woman brought up by a cop who was a SEAL and wanted me to be able to keep myself safe. Joe's first rule was don't waste your time if you're attacked. Assume you're going to be killed and react accordingly. Kill them."
"I'm telling you the way it is. You're the one who threatened me.
All I want right now is information."
"You're not going to get it. Don't you think I know you'll go running to the police?" He burst out, "And it wasn't my fault. None of it was my fault."
A crack in the armor. "No one's going to believe that if you don't go to the police and confess."
"Confess? Criminals confess. I didn't do anything criminal. I didn't know." He gave her a panicky glance. "And I'll tell them you lied if you say I --- "
"What didn't you know?"
He was silent. Yet she could feel his sick fear. He was almost there. Push him a little bit more. "You were an accessory to murder.
They'll put you away and throw away the key. Or does this state have a death penalty?"
Breaking. Push a little harder. "I'll go straight from here to the police. They'll probably pick you up in a few hours. If you tell me what I want to know, I'll let you turn yourself in and try to schmooze your way out of this."
"It's not my fault. Nothing was supposed to happen. They said that they just wanted to talk to you and you weren't cooperating."
"Who wanted to talk to me?"
He didn't answer.
"I don't know. Leonard . . . I don't remember."
"Was Leonard his first name or his last name?"
"I told you --- I don't --- His last. If it was his real name."
"Why should you doubt it?"
"I didn't, until --- I didn't want Mike to die --- I didn't want to hurt anyone."
"Do you know Leonard's first name?"
He was silent a moment. "Ryan."
"What was the other man's name?"
"I have no idea. He never introduced himself. Leonard did all the talking."
"Where did you meet them?"
"I didn't meet them exactly. I was sitting in a bar a few weeks ago and they sat down and started talking. I needed the money and they promised it would be okay. All I had to do was make sure you came to the alley so they could talk to you."
"And it wasn't difficult, was it? Because Mike was so easy to manipulate. Just jerk a few strings and he'd dance."
"I liked Mike. I didn't want to hurt him."
"You did hurt him. You made him feel inadequate and then you set him up."
"I need the money. Harvard's expensive, and my parents can barely afford the tuition. I was living like a pauper."
"Did you think of getting a job?"
"Like you did?" he asked sourly. "So perfect. Mike hated that about you."
Don't show him how that jab hurt. "How do we find this Ryan Leonard?"
He shrugged. "I have no idea. They gave me half the money when I agreed to do it, and they put an envelope with the rest of the cash in my post office box when I called and told them I'd bring you to the Red Rooster that night. I haven't heard from them since."
"Do you still have the envelope?"
He nodded. "I didn't spend the money. It's still in the envelope. After Mike was --- I was afraid to even put it in the bank. I thought it might look incriminating if I had to go to the police. But there's no address. It's just a blank envelope."
"Where is it?"
"In my room at the dorm."
"In my English lit book."
"And you saw the other man that night?"
"I told you I did. Why?"
"Because I only saw one. I need a description."
"No, not now." She couldn't take any more. She unlocked the door. "Get out. I'll give you two hours to get to a police station and try to convince them how innocent you are. If you take off, I'll send them after you." Her lips tightened. "And I'll come after you too."
"I'm not a fool. I'll turn myself in. Not that I'm afraid of you. It's just the smart thing to do." He got out of the car. His fear was fading, and he smiled with a touch of bravado. "I'll get off. Maybe I'll only have to plea-bargain. I've got everything going for me. I'm young and smart and they'll just believe I'm a clean-cut kid who made a mistake in judgment."
She felt sick. God, he might be right. "Tell me. How many pieces of eight, Paul?"
"How much did they pay you?"
"Ten thousand when I agreed. Another ten when I set it up."
"And you didn't question why they'd spend that kind of money just to talk to me?"
"It wasn't my business. If they wanted to fork out that kind of --- " He broke off as he met her gaze. "Screw it." He turned on his heel and strode down the street.
Jesus, he was cocky. She wanted to gun the car and drive over the bastard. He'd betrayed his friend and he was only worried about his own neck. She leaned her head against the steering wheel for a moment, gathering her composure.
Then she started the car and reached for the phone. Joe answered on the second ring.
"I want you to do something for me." She stared after Paul as he reached the corner. "Paul Donnell is going to turn himself in to the police in the next couple hours."
"He set Mike up. He took twenty thousand dollars to get Mike to bring me to that alley." She interrupted him as he started to curse.
"He says they told him they only wanted to talk to me. He accepted it and didn't ask questions. He didn't give a damn."
"Son of a bitch."
"Yes. He said the name of the man who gave him the money was
Ryan Leonard and that he knew nothing else about him. He didn't get the name of the second man but he saw him close enough to give me a description. I want you to call Manning and tell him to get that description before Donnell tries to use it as a bargaining point. He's capable of it."
"Done. Anything else?"
"Tell him not to make it easy on him." Her voice was shaking. "He may not have pulled that trigger, but he was guilty as sin. I don't want to see him walk."
"I'm surprised you got him to talk."
"So am I. But he was already scared and I used it. I'm on my way to his dorm to get the envelope with the last payment Leonard gave him. It just occurred to me that he might decide to double back and pick it up to use the money for his defense."
"Let the police do it. There might be prints."
"I'll be careful. But there are too many restrictions on the police.
It might take too long to get a writ to search his room, and there's no way I'll let him get his hands on that money. I've got to go. I'll call you later, Joe." She hung up before he could argue with her.
She pulled away from the curb, made a U-turn, and started back toward the dorm.
Paul Donnell was seething with fury as he hurried down the street. He'd always had a distaste for bossy women, and Jane MacGuire was a prime example of everything he hated. It was too bad Leonard hadn't taken care of her in that alley.
Get rid of the anger. When he talked to the police, he had to appear heartbroken but straightforward and blame only himself. He could handle this. He could be very persuasive and he had to marshal all his talents. He'd call his father to get a lawyer to meet him at the police station. He'd read too many times of convictions that were caused by those first interviews with the police. He'd be respectful but tell those flatfeet that he'd been advised to get an attorney.
Yes, that was the strategy. But lawyers cost money and he wasn't about to rely on a public defender. He'd have the best, and that would take ---
He glanced behind him. No, it wasn't the bitch coming after him. This was a bigger car, the beams of the headlights spearing the darkness of the quiet residential street. He glanced away and quickened his pace. He'd better move fast and get to that police station in case the bitch decided to break her word and pay them a visit before he could get in his innings. He wouldn't put it past her to ---
Light. All around him. A motor gunned, roaring.
What the hell was ---
* * *
Jane parked in front of the dorm and jumped out of the car.
It shouldn't be too difficult to get into Paul's room, she thought as she moved quickly toward the steps. She'd visited Mike numerous times, and if security questioned her, she could tell them that she'd left something in the room and wanted to retrieve it. If that didn't work, she'd play it by ---
She stiffened. No. She was imagining --- It couldn't be him.
She slowly turned around.
He was dressed in jeans and a dark green sweater and he looked the same as the day she'd left him at the airport four years ago.
He smiled. "It's been a long time. Have you missed me?"
She was jarred out of her shock. Arrogant ass. "Not at all. What are you doing here?"
His smile faded. "Believe me, I'd have preferred to stay away from you. It wasn't possible."
"You've done a good job of it for the last four years." She shouldn't have said that. It sounded reproachful, and the last thing she wanted was for him to think she cared whether or not he'd forgotten her. "So have I. Water under the bridge."
"I wish I could say the same." His lips tightened. "We need to talk. My car is parked down the block. Come with me."
She didn't move. "I have something I have to do. Call me later."
He shook his head. "Now."
She started up the steps. "Go to hell."
"You'll find out more by coming with me than you will from that envelope in Donnell's room."
She stiffened and slowly turned to face him. "How did you know
I was going after --- "
"Come with me." He started down the street. "I'll have Bartlett
keep an eye on the dorm to make sure Donnell doesn't come back for the money."
"He's waiting in the car." He looked back over his shoulder. "You trust Bartlett even if you don't trust me."
She was trying to clear her mind. "You know my friend Mike was killed?"
"Yes, I'm sorry. I understand you were very close."
"And how did you know about what happened tonight with
"I had Bartlett bug your car."
"And your dorm room." He smiled. "Does that make you angry enough to follow me and give me hell?"
"Yes." She came down the steps. "You're damn right it does."
"Good." He moved down the street. "Then come along and I'll give you the first five minutes to scold me."
Scold? She wanted to murder him. He was just the same. Totally confident, totally contained, and totally without concern for anyone's plans but his own.
"You're thinking bad thoughts about me," he murmured. "I can feel the vibes. You should really give me time to explain before you get angry."
"You just told me you bugged my car."
"It was done with the best of intentions." He stopped before a blue Lexus. "Bartlett, I need to talk to her. Watch the dorm for Donnell and call me if he shows up."
Bartlett nodded as he got out of the car. "My pleasure." He smiled at Jane. "I'm glad to see you again. I'm sorry it's under such unhappy circumstances."
"I agree. Since you were evidently busy bugging my car and dorm room."
Bartlett gazed reproachfully at Trevor. "Was it really necessary to tell her that?"
"Yes. Give him the keys to your car, Jane. He might as well be on stakeout in comfort."
She started to refuse and then she met Bartlett's gentle, dark eyes, which had always reminded her of Winnie the Pooh. It was no use being angry with Bartlett. He'd only been following Trevor's orders. She tossed him the car keys. "You shouldn't have done it, Bartlett."
"I thought it best. Maybe I was wrong."
"You were wrong." She got into the passenger seat. "And don't you let Donnell into that dorm if he comes back."
"You know I'm not good at violence, Jane." He added earnestly,
"But I'll be sure to let you know right away."
She watched him walk away as Trevor got into the driver's seat.
"You shouldn't have involved him. He's no criminal."
"How do you know? It's been four years and he's been associating with me. Maybe I corrupted him with my wicked ways."
"Not everyone is corruptible." Although the chances of anyone being able to withstand Trevor if he chose to exert that magnetism and intelligence that had drawn her to him were very slight. He was a Pied Piper who could persuade anyone that black was white. She had watched him twist situations to suit himself during those weeks they had been together, and knew the dazzling power of that silver tongue. "And you like Bartlett. You wouldn't respect him if you were able to make a yes man of him."
He chuckled. "You're right. But there's no danger of Bartlett becoming a yes man. He has too much character."
"How did you persuade him to bug my car?"
"I told him it would help keep you safe." His smile disappeared.
"Though I didn't expect you to waylay Donnell. That could have been dangerous. A desperate man is always a wild card."
"He was scared. I could see it."
"Frightened men have been known to strike out."
"He didn't and it's over. It's none of your business." She turned to face him. "Or is it? You said you could tell me more than that envelope. Do it."
"The other man's name is probably Dennis Wharton. He generally works with Leonard."
"How do you know?"
"I've run into him in the past."
"Then why didn't you tell the police you knew who killed Mike?"
"I didn't want them to go on the run."
"I want them for myself," he said simply. "The police aren't always efficient. I didn't want to risk Leonard and Wharton getting another chance at you."
"And you thought they'd try?"
"As long as the situation isn't too dicey. The police aren't making much headway. I'd bet those two will make at least one more try before someone else is sent to complete the job."
"Sent by whom?"
He shook his head. "Really, Jane, I can't tell you everything. Then I'd have nothing to use as a bargaining chip."
"Why did they come after me?"
"They considered you a valuable asset in the game."
"Game?" Her hands clenched. "It was no game. Mike died in that alley."
"I'm sorry," Trevor said gently. "I don't believe he was meant to die. It was an accident."
"That's no comfort. And how do you know what was meant to happen? What did you have to do with this?"
"Everything. It was probably my fault."
"I should have come sooner. I was hoping that I was wrong and there wouldn't be a fallout, so I sent Bartlett instead. I should have bundled you up and taken you back with me."
"You're not making sense. What's this all about?"
Jane froze. "What?"
"Or to be more precise, Cira's gold."
She stared at him, stunned.
"A chest filled with gold over two thousand years old. The antiquity alone would make it exceptionally valuable. The fact that Julius Precebio gave it to his mistress, Cira, would even add to the mystique."
"You found it?"
"No, but I'm on the trail. Unfortunately, there are others who know I'm on the trail and are looking for an edge." He inclined his head at her. "And they found it."
"Why would they think --- "
He glanced away from her. "I'd bet they're guessing you may be my Achilles' heel."
"Perhaps our past? That time we were together in Herculaneum was pretty highly publicized."
"Ridiculous. You have no Achilles' heel."
He shrugged. "Like I said, they're looking for an edge. I never said they found it. But I didn't want to come here in case it seemed to confirm that they were right, so I sent Bartlett."
"And they used Mike to get to me," she said dully. "And that damn gold."
"Damn them." She was silent a moment. "And damn you."
"I thought you'd feel like that. But there's nothing I can do now but damage control."
"The damage is done."
"It may have just started. They used Mike Fitzgerald to get to you. Who's to say they won't use someone else you care about?"
Her gaze flew to his face. "Eve? Joe?"
"Bingo. You'd go anywhere, do anything for them."
"No one's going to hurt them," she said fiercely.
"Then your best bet is to avoid their involvement entirely. Get the hell away from them and go someplace where you'll be safe."
"And where is that?" she asked sarcastically.
"With me. I'll keep you safe and I won't have to worry about you being a thousand miles away."
"I don't give a damn about your blasted worries. And I'll keep myself safe. You should never have --- " She stopped as her phone rang.
She glanced at the caller ID. "It's Joe."
"Donnell's dead," Joe said when she picked up the call. "And the police want to talk to you."
"Dead?" She went rigid. "What are you talking about? He can't be dead." She saw Trevor stiffen next to her. "I just saw him a little over an hour ago."
"I let him out of my car on one of the side streets about four miles from here." She tried to think of the street name. "I don't remember which one. I wasn't paying any attention."
"Donnell was killed by a hit-and-run driver on Justine Street.
There was a witness in one of the houses who saw a light-colored car drive up on the sidewalk and hit him."
"Not likely. After the driver hit him, he backed over him."
"Did the witness get a license number?"
"No. The kid had had a couple drinks and was feeling no pain. He was lucky to be able to dial the police and report what he'd seen.
Where are you? I'll send Manning to pick you up and get a statement."
She still couldn't believe it. "They killed him. . . ."
"That's what you've got to convince Manning."
"What do you mean?"
"He was killed by a light-colored sedan. You drive a tan Toyota
Corolla. Donnell had admitted to you that he was an accessory to Mike's death. You'd just come back from your friend's funeral and were understandably upset."
"But you called Manning and told him that Donnell was going to turn himself in."
"And that you were concerned he'd get off. Do the math, Jane.
Isn't it reasonable that you might have changed your mind and gone back to take justice into your own hands?"
"No." She had a sudden memory of that moment when she'd actually thought how much she'd enjoy running the cocky bastard down. "I might have been tempted, but I'm not an idiot."
"And we'll convince them you didn't do it. It will take a little time, but we'll do it. I'll have a lawyer meet you at the station and I'll be there myself in the next couple hours."
"Good God, you actually think they're going to charge me?"
"I don't want to take the chance without being prepared. Where are you now?"
"I'm still at Donnell's dorm."
"Stay there." Joe hung up.
She slowly pressed the disconnect.
"Donnell's dead?" Trevor asked.
"Hit-and-run. Light-colored sedan." She shook her head. "It's crazy. Joe thinks they may charge me."
"No." He started the car and pulled away from the curb. "That's not going to happen."
"Where are you going? Joe told me to stay here until Manning --- "
"And I'm sure he had the best of intentions, but there's no way I'm going to risk them putting you in a cage even temporarily. There are too many ways to get to prisoners." He pulled even with Bartlett sitting in Jane's car. "Get out. We're heading for the airport."
"The hell we are," Jane said. "I'm not going anywhere with you."
"You're going to the airport," Trevor said as Bartlett jumped into the backseat. "After that, it's up to you. But you might consider that Donnell was murdered to eliminate a possible witness. It will give you some indication of how high the stakes are. Mike Fitzgerald and
Paul Donnell are both down and they were only minor players. You, on the other hand, are a prime target. And Eve and Joe may be put on the agenda if you go near them. How are you going to take care of them if you're locked up?"
"There's no certainty that I'll be locked up. If they examine my car, they won't find any damage."
"But they might impound it for an in-depth test. They may hold you temporarily until you can be cleared. Are you willing to take that chance? Think about it." His foot pressed the accelerator. "And let me know when we get to the airport."
Excerpted from COUNTDOWN © Copyright 2005 by Iris Johansen. Reprinted with permission by Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
- Genres: Suspense
- hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: Bantam
- ISBN-10: 0553803425
- ISBN-13: 9780553803426