A waning moon, p.4
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       A Waning Moon, p.4
 

           Bliss Addison

  “I understand, too, why you were interested in whether Graham and I were involved. You didn't want to be blindsided, but not for the reasons I thought. You were covering your tracks. It doesn't matter how careful you've been, my brother’ll find me. He'll find you, too.”

  Kinlock remembered back to the night he’d abducted Mary Ellen. She’d been easy game in comparison to Jennifer Lamb.

  When he'd called Mary Ellen's name as she walked out of the library, she'd reacted as he'd anticipated and followed the sound of his voice without question or worry.

  As he knew it would, the sight of him on the ground writhing in agony in a pool of blood (goat’s blood from the local butcher, but she didn’t know differently) shocked her.

  He remembered her backpack sliding from her arm and falling to the snow-packed ground when she knelt beside him.

  “What happened? Who did this to you? How long have you been here?” The questions came without a break as she wiped the blood with a tissue from his forehead, lips and chin.

  He held out a hand, and she helped him up. He cried out and clutched his chest. “I may have broken ribs. Can you help me to my car?”

  “We need to call campus security and get you to the hospital.”

  When she took her cell phone from her backpack, he grasped her hand. “I'll be fine. I'll deal with this myself.”

  Reluctantly, she agreed and helped him to his car. It took all her strength to hold him upright.

  When they stood beside the old Honda, he miraculously revived. She’d been too concerned about him to notice the chloroform bottle and gauze he took from the driver's seat. Nor could she fend him off when he captured her in a stranglehold and pressed the anesthetic against her nose.

  Later, she woke here, in a room identical to her bedroom at Whit's. The same cherry wood double canopy bed, white satin bedspread, dolls, stuffed animals, carpeting, white rocking chair in one corner, a parlor palm in the other, and a bookcase holding all her favorite books. He'd gone through a great deal of trouble to make the kids feel comfortable and keep them healthy.

  Kinlock wouldn't worry about anyone finding him when this was finished. He had a long time to prepare and plan for his departure and left no detail to chance.

  What he told her about himself — that his alcoholic parents had beaten him and locked him in a closet for days at a time — were lies to draw on her sympathetic nature. It had worked. She had hugged him and told him no one would ever hurt him again.

  He turned his thoughts back to the present and watched her pull the afghan around her.

  The dampness in the basement made the air cold. He adjusted the thermostat two degrees higher and took the tray of syringes, alcohol swabs, empty vials and a rubber band in his hand. Movement on the monitor caught his attention as he passed. Mary Ellen was acting the spoiled child again, crying, and flinging herself backward onto the bed. He pressed a fingertip to the screen on the monitor. “It'll be over soon, Mary Ellen. No harm will come to you. I promise.” He turned down the volume on the speaker and walked out of the lab.

  Kinlock entered Mary Ellen's cell. “How are you this morning, Mary Ellen?” he asked as though he didn't know. He set the tray of supplies on the bed.

  “What do you care?”

  He cared, but couldn’t tell her.

  Kinlock watched Mary Ellen pretend to study him when, in fact, her focus was on the open door and the hallway beyond. He could virtually read her thoughts: If I can make it to the door, I’ll be able to escape. I can outrun him. She eyed him covertly as she bit the inside of her lip. Any minute now she’d build up enough courage and make a run for it. Several seconds passed. Her expression changed and a split second later, she took off in a sprint as he’d anticipated. He hated to have to do it, but he put a foot in her path. She tripped. He caught her before she fell.

  She straightened, turned and glared at him. “You're going to be very sorry you abducted me. My brother is not someone you want to mess with.”

  “Your brother has no idea where you are, nor will he. No one knows about this place. Now why don't you get up and sit on the bed like a good little girl.”

  “I'm not a little girl!”

  He waited.

  After a moment, she walked to the bed.

  “Sit.”

  She crossed her arms against her chest, cocked her hip and glowered at him.

  He chuckled. “I never would have thought you had it in you, Mary Ellen, but you are feisty, aren't you?”

  Her attitude probably came as a surprise to her, too.

  When she didn't move, he said, “Have it your way.” He took her hand and raised her sweater to her upper arm.

  “What are you doing?” She jerked out of his grasp, lost her balance and fell backward onto the bed. She dug her heels into the mattress and moved upward until her head hit the headboard. “Don't touch me. Don't ever touch me again!”

  “I need to draw some blood. Don't fight me. You'll only make it worse for yourself. It'll be over soon, and you won't feel a thing. I promise.”

  “Why do you want my blood? What are you going to do with it?”

  Mary Ellen could speculate, but she would never come up with a feasible answer to either question. It would make sense later, but not now.

  Without speaking, he took her hand again, and again she yanked it back.

  He sighed. “Cooperate or I'll make Graham suffer. You don't want that, do you?”

  She perked up. “Graham is here? You took him, too?”

  “He's in the next room.”

  “What do you want from us? If it's money, my brother will pay.”

  “I don't want your brother's money.”

  “Then what do you want?”

  “You'll find out soon enough.” He patted her hand. “Now, do I have to torture Graham to get your cooperation?” He forced coldness into his eyes. She needed to believe he would carry out the threat.

  “No.” She held out her arm.

  No longer the timid, bumbling blockhead he’d portrayed when they first met, he worked with the skill of a phlebotomist, tying the rubber band around her upper arm, swabbing the area over a large vein with alcohol, then tapping it. He took great caution not to hurt her when he sank the syringe into the vein.

  He filled six vials, placed a wad of cotton against the puncture and secured it with clear adhesive tape. Gathering his supplies and her blood samples together, he said, “I'll be in with your breakfast in a little while.”

  “I'm not hungry.” She pouted.

  “Don't be like that. You know you're hungry, and you know you have to eat.”

  “Not if I want to die. And don't treat me like a child. I hate you. You deceived me and made me think you were interested in me. You lied about everything, and you lied just now! You did hurt me, you arrogant son-of-a-crow.”

  He left, without saying another word.

  In his lab, he stored her blood samples in the cooler for a later analysis and took a moment to check on her. She stared into space. He understood how lost and alone she must feel and wished he could console her.

  It startled him when she suddenly jumped from the bed, ran across the room and squatted on the floor next to the wall.

  He turned up the volume on the speaker and heard her say, “Is someone there? Graham is that you?”

  No, it isn't Graham, Mary Ellen. It's Jenny, someone you don't know.

  Kinlock unlocked the door to Graham’s cell and entered, taking a surreptitious look at the young man biting his nails and pacing the room.

  “How are we today, Mr. Earley?”

  Graham flung his arms into the air and stopped in mid-stride. “You have me caged like an animal. How the fuck do you think I am?”

  “Didn't your mother teach you it isn't nice to use crude language?”

  “I don't have a mother, and you can go screw yourself.”

  He set the tray on a table and prepared a syringe. “A physical impossibility for any man, unless, of course, he's hung
like a horse. Are you hung like a horse, Graham?”

  “Something you'll never find out.”

  “Don't be so sure. Sit down and roll up your sleeve.”

  Graham folded his arms against his chest and glared at him.

  “Do it, or Mary Ellen will pay for your defiance.” The threat worked on Mary Ellen. Kinlock hoped for the same result with Graham.

  “Mary Ellen? You're holding Mary Ellen a prisoner, too?” Graham unfolded his arms, strode to Kinlock and grabbed him by the lapels of his lab coat. “What have you done to her? If you've hurt her, I'll —”

  “What will you do, Mr. Earley? It seems you're in no position to do anything.” He stared at the hands that held him, then at Graham. “Remove your hands, please.” He watched as Graham looked at the open door. “There are armed guards in the hallway.” He bluffed. He was getting good at it. “There's nowhere for you to run, and there's no escape. See for yourself if you want.” When Graham didn't move, he said, “Go ahead, but be warned, the guards have been instructed to use any means necessary to prevent an escape.”

  Graham eyed the open doorway, his fists clenching and unclenching at his sides.

  While Kinlock waited for the young man to do what was best, he neatened the supply tray and prepared an alcohol swab. “I’m ready when you are.”

  Graham set his gaze on Kinlock and said, “I know you from somewhere.”

  “You mean this guy?” He messed his hair, swept his bangs across his forehead, put on a hound dog expression and turned his feet inward. “Imagine me with blond hair.” Mary Ellen had recognized him right away, but she’d been in his company more than Graham.

  Graham nodded, frowning. “You're the guy who was sniffing around Mary Ellen.”

  “I like to think of it as befriending her.”

  “Yeah, right.” Graham scoffed. “Why are you keeping us here? What do you want?”

  “It's not what I want. It's what you can give me.”

  “And what's that?”

  “All in due time, Mr. Earley. All in due time. Now, are you going to sit and roll up your sleeve so I can draw some of your blood, or do I have to pay a visit to Mary Ellen?”

  Graham did as he was told.

  A moment later, Kinlock labeled and stored the blood samples in the tray.

  “If these come back clean, and if you behave, I’ll let you see Mary Ellen later.” He hated lying, but Graham needed something to look forward to. Hopefully, this nasty business would be finished before Graham could call him on the lie.

  Kinlock reentered the lab to the ring of the telephone. Knowing who was calling, he sighed and answered the phone. “Hello.”

  “How are the new recruits settling in?”

  “Good.” Kinlock gave away nothing to his blackmailer. The least said, the better.

  “We may have made a mistake taking the Tucker girl. She isn't an orphan, like I thought. She has a step-brother, Whitfield Hawkes, and he's becoming a problem. Dispose of him.”

  “Yes, sir.” Kinlock hung up. Soon, he'd be done with this bastard, too.

  Chapter Six

  Blossom woke to sunlight streaming in her bedroom window and something soft tickling her nose. She swatted the feather from her pillow, opened her eyes, and stared at the red numbers on her alarm clock: 8:30. Shocked, she threw back the covers and was about to dash to the clothes closet when she remembered Olive, Lawrence and Rose tended her bookshop today and possibly for the remainder of the week.

  In no hurry now, she yawned and stretched and sat motionless for a few minutes, savoring the peace and quiet.

  Dressed in a pink chenille robe, her hair looking like a bird's nest and yesterday's mascara blackening the skin below her lower lashes, she shuffled into the kitchen.

  Ian, dressed in faded blue jeans, an ecru fisherman knit sweater and cowboy boots sipped coffee at the counter.

  "Good morning," she said, half-yawning.

  He smiled, showing teeth so white they seemed one solid piece. “Sleep well?”

  "Very well, thank you," she said, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

  He set his mug on the counter and moved toward her. Instead of taking a step back as she would at any other time, she held onto the calmness that had enveloped her. When he brushed a tendril of hair from her eye, she savored the scent of his aftershave, a crisp fragrance that had her closing her eyes and raising her nose into the air for more.

  “That's better,” he said, smiling.

  He did a slow study of her hair, eyes, and mouth, then his gaze lingered on the v-shaped area where her robe had fallen open. Feeling unsteady, she drew her belt tightly around her waist and knotted it — twice.

  That amused him, she noticed. His eyes virtually sparkled.

  “I have croissants.” He poured her a cup of coffee, adding sugar and cream to the precise measurement she would. “We'll get on the road after you have breakfast and do the things you women do to get ready.”

  “Right. For St. John’s.”

  Another dazzling smile sent her heart racing again.

  She wondered how long she could stop herself from jumping into his arms and begging him to make love to her. When it came to handsome men and abstinence, she had the staying power of a lightning bolt. All part of the Curse. It made her do crazy things.

  She looked into his eyes, those sparkling eyes with specks of gold, and her brain stalled. She forgot how to breathe and gulped for air. The next thing she knew, Ian held her forearms in an iron grip and screamed her name. His fingers burned hot against her skin through the thick fabric of her robe. She wanted him. God, how she wanted him.

  "Blossom, are you all right?”

  His calm voice brought her back to reality. She concentrated on breathing and managed those wanton feelings into submission. “I'm fine.” Her voice faltered, betraying her. She saw the concern in his eyes and reassured him. Ian should not have to worry about her. “I am. Really.” Her strength returned, and she managed a smile.

  Careful not to touch him, she opened the refrigerator.

  “How long will it take you to get ready?” he asked.

  “What? Not long.” She poured a tumbler of orange juice. Her hands shook, she noticed, when she raised the glass to her lips. She drank greedily and put the empty glass in the dishwasher. “Fifteen minutes tops.” She fled to her bedroom and threw clothes into a carryall.

  Thirty minutes later, out of sorts and out of breath, she shuffled into the kitchen. Nothing had cooperated. Not the water, not her clothes, not her hair. She showered in cold water, brushed her teeth in hot and every pair of jeans seemed to hug her waist tighter than usual.

  Ian grabbed her bag. “All set?”

  “Yep.” Like liquid gelatin. “I'd like to check on the seniors before we leave, see how they're doing.”

  She led the way down the stairs and onto the sidewalk. Ian opened the door for her. She entered her bookstore amidst a cacophony of twenty or so golden-agers talking, all at the one time it seemed, and Sinatra belting a tune from the stereo. The scent of sandalwood incense mingled with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee.

  Lawrence, she noticed with concern, had dispensed his cane to a corner and stood talking to three ladies near a shelf of books. Though rapt in conversation, he took a second to tip his sou'wester in her direction.

  Knowing instinctively Ian would follow closely enough behind to pinch her heels, she walked to Olive who apparently had cash register duty. “I don't need to ask how everything's going.” She smiled.

  “I hope you don't mind, dear. Some friends from church stopped by.”

  “Not at all.” She looked around the room again at the smiling faces, listening to the animated voices. Even anti-social Rose seemed to be enjoying herself, acting as mistress of the shop, serving coffee and muffins. The ol' folks found a place to assemble.

  Olive leaned across the counter and cupped a hand around her mouth, slanting her eyes toward Ian. “Lardy, he's a hunk. If I were thirty years younger, I'd make a
play for ‘im.” She exaggerated a wink, stepped back and fanned her face with her hand.

  Blossom looked at Ian and found him peering around the shop, nodding and smiling at the ol’ folks. “We should get going if we want to get there before nightfall.”

  “Why are you going to St. John’s?” Olive asked. “You never said.”

  Before Blossom could open her mouth, Ian answered, “I have business there and invited Blossom along for company.” He frowned then, as though something occurred to him.

  “Your granddaughter disappeared from the university in St. John’s, if memory serves.”

  “Yes, that's right.”

  “It must be very difficult for you not knowing what happened to her. Would you like us to talk to the police while we're there?”

  Olive took no time to decide. “Would you? I'd be so appreciative. The detective never returned any of my calls. I can pay you for your time.”

  Ian patted her hand. “It’s not necessary. Favian Quinn, isn't it?" With Olive's nod, Ian asked what she knew about Jennifer's disappearance. Olive rattled off the answers to all his questions like she read them from a cheat sheet.

  “Would it be all right if I told Detective Quinn that I'm looking into Jennifer's disappearance on your behalf?”

  “Yes, of course. Whatever you need to do to find my Jennifer.”

  “I'm not making any promises, but I'll do what I can.” Ian leaned across the counter and kissed Olive's cheek.

  Outside on the sidewalk, Blossom turned to him. “You are such a schmooze.”

  “Jealous, darlin'?”

  Blossom was feeling a lot of emotions, and jealousy was one of them.

  He steered her down the sidewalk, past the driveway leading to the back of her building where her Honda was parked. “Where are we going? My car is back there.” She hooked a thumb over her shoulder.

  “Our ride is there.”

  She followed the direction of his outstretched finger and stared at a new Mustang convertible. According to superstition, a green car was bad luck. She didn't need more of that and said so.

  Ian scoffed and muttered something about childish superstitions as he stowed her luggage in the trunk.

  She tried hard not to notice the tight fit of his jeans over his butt or the broad shoulders outlined in his suede jacket. When he turned, she forced her eyes away from the bulge in his crotch.

  “Meet with your approval?” he asked.

 
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