A waning moon, p.9
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       A Waning Moon, p.9
 

           Bliss Addison
He smiled, a dazzling smile that had her heart racing like an over-revved engine. Blossom, stop! Keep talking, and take your mind off his handsomeness. “It's worth a try, I suppose.”

  He cupped her elbow in his hand and led her toward the car. “Need something to eat?”

  “I'm feeling a little weak-kneed.”

  “And something to drink?”

  She groaned. “I don't want to see beer again for as long as I live.” She thought about her words and saddened. “That may not be such a long time.”

  “You've got to start thinking positive, Blossom.” He opened the car door and helped her onto the passenger seat.

  “Any place in particular you'd like to have lunch?” he asked after settling behind the wheel.

  “How about the Bloomin' Teapot?”

  He threw his head back and laughed. “God, I love this province.”

  ***

  Detective Quinn wound his tongue around an antacid tablet and watched Ian and Blossom leave the precinct.

  He took a sip of stale coffee and looked at Jocelyn over the rim.

  She tugged on her earlobe and returned his stare. “That was strange.”

  Nodding, he cleared a place on his desk and set the mug down. “Why now, after all these years, is someone interested in the Lamb investigation?

  “Maybe Tucker's and Earley's disappearances triggered interest back in Dickeyville.”

  “Do you really believe that? Where was he when Lamb disappeared? Why didn't he look into it then? Why now?” Ian Mahoney bothered him and Quinn couldn't understand the reason for it. "Anything about that Mahoney guy that seemed off to you?”

  She grinned. “Everything about him was right, believe me. Long, lean legs, tapered fingers, all male, sexy as all get out, chiseled features. Whoo-hoo.” She used her fingers to brush perspiration from her upper lip. “Something was definitely not right about her, though.”

  “The McDougall woman?”

  “Didn't you notice? The way her eyes kept darting around the room and her skin looked like it was on fire from the inside out.”

  He shrugged. “This is getting weirder by the day. Mahoney's got an agenda. I can feel it.”

  “Maybe it's coincidental. He could be in St. John’s on business and promised the grandmother he would look into Jennifer's disappearance while he was here, like he said. It's plausible.”

  “He's here on business, all right, and it has everything to do with the missing kids.”

  “What do you think that is?”

  He sighed. “If I knew, I'd know where to find those kids. If they're alive and in the province.” He was still clinging to the slavery-slash-sex toy angle. He gave his face a massage. “They may turn up somewhere no worse for wear.” With each passing day, the chance of that happening became less likely, he admitted. “Any word on Tucker's car?”

  “No, but Hawkes' investigator called Officer Parks a while ago to run a license plate number.”

  “And?” He hated that he needed to prod her for every bit of information. The one thing about Jocelyn that irked him.

  “The car was reported stolen last Thursday afternoon.”

  “The afternoon of the evening the Tucker girl went missing. Hmm.”

  “Too much of a coincidence for his interest in the car to be about another case.”

  “I agree. Hawkes would have Otten working exclusively for him now.”

  He rubbed his temples. “This damn case is giving me a whopping headache. It doesn't help, either, that the Chief is riding my back, constantly wanting updates. What's up with that? Any idea?”

  “He's probably got the mayor on his back. Hawkes is a good friend of Her Worship. Contributed heavily to her campaign.”

  Quinn harrumphed. “Parks still on board with us?”

  “She negotiated a dinner with Otten for Saturday night. That was good anticipation on your part, by the way.”

  He shrugged off the compliment, made a grab for his mug, then changed his mind when he saw coffee grounds floating on the surface. “Deductive reasoning. Everyone knows Otten uses his retired status for getting information from his former colleagues. He still has friends on the force.”

  “She'll get what information she can out of him.”

  “Good. He has resources we don't, can do things we can't and is a leg ahead with the offer of a reward, not that I'd like to answer all those crack pot calls they're going to get. We'll piggy-back him, and when it looks like he's found those kids, we'll be the ones making the arrest.” He couldn't get Mahoney out of his mind, and there was only one thing to do when he got that bothered. He booted up his computer.

  “What are you looking for?” Jocelyn leaned across the desk. “Maybe I can help.”

  “I'm checking out our friend, Ian Pendexter Mahoney.”

  Chapter Twelve

  His pretrial motion attended to, Whit strode through the corridor on the main floor of the courthouse toward the exit, his attaché case clutched tightly in his tense fingers. He pushed open the wooden door and stopped short on the cement landing when two reporters rushed at him.

  A tall man, looking barely old enough to shave and bundled in a khaki parka with a fur-trimmed hood, shoved a microphone in his face. “Mr. Hawkes, has there been any word on your sister?”

  “Nothing yet, but we have some promising leads.” Whit's breath frosted the air before him.

  “Who do you mean by we? Are you working with the police?”

  He turned to the squat, middle-aged woman, wearing a lavender snowmobile suit. “I hired a private investigator to look into my sister's disappearance, and we’re coordinating our efforts with the St. John’s Police Department, who are doing everything in their power to locate Mary Ellen.”

  “Has your sister ever run off before?” Khaki Parka asked. “Do you have any idea where she might have disappeared to?”

  “If I knew that, I'd know where to find her, now wouldn't I?” He smiled to soften the sting of his rebuttal. Never burn bridges you may need to cross later.

  Snowmobile Suit stepped in front of Khaki Parka. “Is it true you believe your sister was abducted? If so, why would you think that? Has there been a ransom demand or a threat?”

  A woman on the sidewalk strolling past caught Whit's attention. She looked like … He held his breath. Could it be…?

  The moment stood still. A gust of wind came up, whipping her curly red hair around her face. She canted her head, and with her middle finger, delicately swept the tendrils to the side. Their eyes met and held for a mere instant before she looked away, but that was all he needed to recognize her as the woman who'd haunted him the past six years. He exhaled and willed his legs to move.

  “Excuse me,” he said to the reporters, pushing past them and clambering down the courthouse steps. He sprinted down the sidewalk in the direction she’d walked and elbowed a path through pedestrians, calling out, “Miss...Miss!” in one breath, and excusing his rudeness in the next.

  People stopped and stared, craning their necks to locate the source of his interest, but like him, were unable to do so. She had disappeared. Again.

  You fool, his mind chided. All those years wasted because you think she's the woman you're destined to live your life with. For once, just admit defeat and get on with living. Wise advice. He should take it. But he couldn't. Her power over him was greater than his resolve.

  Her image flashed before his eyes at the most unexpected of times — during closing arguments, during jury selections, over oatmeal — as though taunting him. Catch me if you dare.

  He determined it would take nothing short of a miracle for him to catch her; she seemed as elusive as the fabled leprechaun with a pot of gold. Even still, he wouldn't turn his back on a miracle happening.

  What was so special about this woman that he couldn't erase her from his mind? Lord knew, he tried.

  His pragmatic self believed he would live the remainder of his life without ever meeting her, without ever knowing her name or anything else about her. H
e turned and sloughed toward his car parked at a meter on the street.

  “Great,” he muttered when he spotted the parking ticket under the windshield wiper.

  Life went on despite us.

  Whit entered his study and found Lyron sitting at the desk and talking on the phone.

  With his eyes on Whit, Lyron nodded and said into the mouthpiece, “Thanks for the tip.” He held the receiver over its cradle, stared at Whit a moment, then let it fall into place. “You look like you saw your worst nightmare.”

  He grunted, upset still that his red-haired beauty escaped him again.

  Lyron frowned. “Want to talk about it?”

  He shook his head. “Who was on the phone?”

  “Someone who wanted us to know he saw Mary Ellen being beamed up to a triangular-shaped spaceship. The call came through on your home line. I answered it. Didn't think you'd mind.”

  Whit nodded and sat on the sofa, loosening his tie and unfastening the top button on his dress shirt. “We'll be sure to follow up on that tip.” Sarcasm was unlike him, but the lack of progress in Mary Ellen's disappearance and being so close to his mystery woman and not catching up with her had put him in a foul mood.

  Lyron folded his arms across his chest. “Priscilla is doing a bang-up job screening calls. You should give her a bonus. She deserves it.”

  “Any other calls besides the nut job?”

  “Nada. After we get the composite made, we'll run off copies and distribute them around town. We should follow up on the gay angle, too, and check out the local watering holes just in case Malloy's gay-dar isn't off.”

  Whit arched his brows and checked his watch. “Malloy's late.”

  “He'll show. He needs the money.”

  “You checked him out,” Whit said.

  Lyron nodded. “He's harmless.” He flicked on the television and switched channels until he found the five o'clock local news.

  “And this just in,” a Barbie-look-alike said into the camera. The screen changed to the courthouse and a camera zoomed in on Whit.

  Whit stood, walked over to his desk and took the bottle of scotch from the bottom drawer, wondering how he missed noticing the cameraman when the reporters interviewed him.

  “I'll have one of those,” Lyron said without looking away from the television.

  He poured two generous shots into tumblers.

  The clip came to an end and Lyron muted the sound. “Coordinating our efforts with the SJPD who're doing everything in their power to locate your sister?” He snorted. “You schmooze.”

  Whit shrugged, but couldn't hold back a smile. He handed Lyron a glass. “You're still on medication. You shouldn't be having any alcohol.”

  “Yes, Mother.” Lyron drained the scotch in one swallow.

  Noticing Lyron check the time on the wall clock, Whit said, “He's really late. Maybe you should call him. See what the hold-up is.”

  Lyron fished his cell phone and Malloy's number from his coat pocket.

  While Lyron made the call, Whit sipped his scotch, staring without seeing out the garden doors.

  “You're making yourself an easy target. Get out of the doorway.” Lyron flipped his phone closed. “No answer. I'm getting a bad feeling.”

  Whit knew better than to downplay Lyron's premonitions. “He could be on his way and left his cell at home.” He moved into the room, out of sight of the window.

  “May…be.” Lyron bit the inside of his lip.

  “Where's your computer guru? Shouldn't he be here by now?”

  “He's always late.” Lyron took his coiled pad from his back pocket and made another call.

  “Who are you calling now?”

  “It's just a hunch.” Lyron held a finger in the air. “Jerome Dixon?… Are you his roommate?… Uh-huh.… When was the last time you saw him?… Has he ever done this before?… Okay, when he turns up, have him call Otten. He has my number.” He closed the cover on his cell and looked at Whit. “That bad feeling?”

  “Yeah?”

  “It just intensified. According to his roommate, Dixon hasn't been back to his dorm since Sunday afternoon.”

  Whit frowned. “That's when he met with you.”

  Lyron nodded. “He hasn't shown up for any of his classes the last two days, either, and his roommate said he's never done that before.”

  “That doesn't sound good.”

  “No, it doesn't.” Lyron stared into space.

  Whit thought about the attempt on his life Sunday night. “Baleman?”

  “He has something to do with Dixon's sudden disappearance. I'd bet my life on it.”

  Lyron's anxiety rubbed off on Whit. “Maybe we should check out where Malloy lives. Do we know where that is?”

  “We will in a minute.” Lyron opened his cell.

  Whit paced the length of the study, his steps clearly audible on the hardwood floors. He got Malloy and Dixon involved because of his offer of a reward. If anything sinister had happened to them because of it, he would never forgive himself.

  “Okay, got it.” Lyron closed his cell. “Let's roll.”

  Whit grabbed his coat and followed behind Lyron.

  Chapter Thirteen

  Whit pulled the car to the curb across the street from Malloy's apartment building and stared at the dilapidated brick structure. Plywood covered the two windows at the front of the building and someone had spray painted a peace sign in red on the front door. “Are you sure this is the address?”

  “It's where his bills are delivered.” Lyron unbuckled his seat belt and leaned between the dash and Whit to look out the driver's side window.

  “I don't want to know how you got that information.”

  “Good. Keep it that way because I have a feeling this is going to get very messy and I won't be playing by the rules by the time this is over.”

  Whit nodded. Whatever it took to find Mary Ellen, he'd go along with. Later, when she was at home, safe and sound, there would be time enough for self-recrimination and remorse.

  Lyron pulled his gun from his shoulder holster and checked the clip. “All set?” he asked, reholstering his weapon.

  "As ready as I'll ever be."

  “Stay behind me. Understood?” Lyron raised his eyebrows.

  "Understood."

  “All the way. No matter what happens, okay? Don't do something crazy like saving my life again if things get hairy. Get yourself to safety.”

  “Got it.”

  Lyron led the way across the street, up the chipped cement steps and into the dimly lit lobby of the building. “Second floor,” he said over his shoulder.

  “Apartment 2C.”

  Closing his mind to the odor of urine and garbage, Whit walked up the rickety steps behind Lyron and halted when he stopped on the landing and pointed to Malloy's apartment door. Whit nodded and followed Lyron through the hallway.

  Lyron knocked on the door.

  A child's cry came from an apartment across the hall.

  Lyron knocked again. After a moment, he turned the doorknob and found it locked. “Did you hear that?”

  “Hear what?” Whit leaned in close to him.

  “Get with the program, counselor. Someone inside is calling for help. Don't you hear him?”

  Whit caught on. “Yes, I did hear something.”

  “Good. Now turn around. You shouldn't see what I'm going to do. Wouldn't want to blemish your stellar reputation by making you an accessory to a misdemeanor.” After Whit turned, he could hear Lyron using his lock picks to open the door.

  “Well, will you look at that," Lyron said. "The door is unlocked. Remember, stay behind me.” He took his gun in his hand and with the stealth and poise of a cat moved into the apartment.

  “Smell that?” Lyron asked in a hushed voice.

  Whit smelled it — the metallic odor of blood and the putrid odor of vomit.

  “Watch my back.” Lyron stepped forward through the hallway and into the living room, his footsteps as soft as a baby's breath. With his
gun extended at arm's length ahead of him, he swept the room from side to side. Then, he looked down and said, “Crap.”

  Whit turned. In the light of the bulb overhead, he saw Malloy lying in a pool of blood on the floor in the middle of the room.

  “Tend to him,” Lyron said, already on the move. “I'll check the rest of the apartment. Be careful not to get his blood on you. He might be infectious.”

  Gathering his topcoat tightly together in front of him, Whit knelt beside Malloy and felt for a pulse in his neck. He let out a breath of relief when he found one. He pulled his cell from his coat pocket, punched in 9-1-1 and checked Malloy's pupils while he waited for someone to answer. When dispatch picked up his call, he said, “A man's been hurt. Pulse is thready and pupils are dilated and nonreactive. He's lost a lot of blood and may have internal injuries.” He gave her the address. “Apartment 2C.”

  Malloy moaned and tried to move his head.

  “Don't move,” Whit said, calmly but sternly. “You're going to be all right. The paramedics are on their way.”

  “How…bad…”

  Whit looked at Malloy's lacerated face, broken nose, bloodied lips and swollen eyes. “Nothing that can't be fixed. You're going to have one hell of a story to tell your friends.”

  Lyron ran back into the room carrying blankets and draped them over Malloy. He crouched beside him. “Kiki, who did this to you?”

  “The guy...the guy...”

  “The guy you saw Mary Ellen with?”

  Malloy managed a nod before he slipped into oblivion.

  An hour and a half later, Whit hung his coat on the rack beside the door in his study and heaved a weary sigh.

  “He's watching every move we make,” Lyron said, throwing his jacket over the chair in front of Whit's desk. “Bastard. When I get my hands around his neck…”

  “I know how you feel. I'm just thankful Malloy is going to be okay. Internal injuries, broken bones….” He grimaced. “Baleman really worked him over.”

  Lyron nodded. “He left him for dead. He would have been had we not showed up when we did.”

  “That's a fact.” He poured them each a scotch and handed one to Lyron.

  “Thanks. I wonder if my computer guy showed up while we were gone.”

  Whit strode to the doorway and called to his housekeeper. “Mrs. Butterworth.” A moment later he heard footsteps. “Did anyone come to the house while we were out?” The footsteps stopped.

 
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