“Joanna was grandma’s name,” Autumn said, carefully placing a knife beside a plate Ethan saw was chipped. “I never met her; she died when I was little. Remember, I told you, Ethan. She died of the big C.”
“I remember. I’m sorry,” Ethan said to her.
Joanna shrugged. “She was actually my great-grandmother, and she was ninety-four.”
Ethan watched her spill out the last capsule from a prescription bottle and hand it to Autumn.
“Down the hatch, sweetie. Last one.”
“You gave her one last night?”
Joanna was nodding when Big Louie raised his head from his now empty food bowl and barked. Both Ethan and Joanna went on instant alert.
A moment later, Harm’s face appeared in the kitchen door’s window. Ethan opened the door and stepped back. “What’s up, Harm?”
“I left the house last night without my aloe vera, Sheriff, and my face hurts something fierce. Glenda told me Faydeen said you probably had some.”
Joanna was staring openmouthed at his burned face, quite clear in the bright morning sunlight. She hadn’t noticed when she’d delivered their toast and coffee. Autumn asked, “What happened to your face, Mr. Harm? What’s aloe vera?”
Ethan said, “Harm was trying to get himself ready for a Myrtle Beach vacation. He wanted to look like a tanned hunk before he leaves, you know, to hit the beach looking like a local dude.”
Harm grinned. “Unfortunately, I didn’t listen to Mylo at Golden Tan. I insisted on going the full time three days in a row on his three-sixty tanning bed, and I didn’t keep my face covered.”
Ethan laughed. “Hold on, Harm. I’ll get the aloe vera.” He heard Joanna telling her daughter, “Aloe vera’s a slimy green gunk that takes the sting out of a bad sunburn.”
Autumn stared up at Harm. “I thought you were dark like my best friend Timmy Jeffers. Now I see you’re dark red. That must hurt. I’ll bet your mama really yelled at you.”
That was all it took for Joanna to spurt out a laugh. Big Louie jumped up on Harm’s leg. Ethan just shook his head as he walked to his bathroom to fetch the aloe vera Faydeen had bought for him after the blistering hot Fourth of July parties six weeks ago when he’d roasted himself but good. He wondered again how he was going to pry any information out of her, wondered how he could make her believe he could help her. He didn’t want to spook her, make her run away. He had to be patient, had to try to gain their trust. He didn’t think he had a choice. There was something really bad going on here. He knew in his gut he had to know what was going on to keep them safe.
GEORGETOWN, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Mr. Maitland said, “She’s gone.”
Savich pulled his cell phone closer to his ear. “Who’s gone?”
“Melissa—Lissy—Smiley. You remember, Savich, the sixteen-year-old-girl bank robber you put in the hospital six days ago for repairs? I just got a call from Agent Daugherty guarding her at Washington Memorial.”
“What do you mean she’s gone? She died?” Savich said, half an eye on Sean and his buddy Marty, who were shooting baskets at the hoop set beside his garage door. Both children were pretty good if you took into account their combined ages barely reached ten and the basket hoop was three feet lower than usual. They had a lot of misses. He’d painted the garage door three months before. Time to give it another coat.
“No, no, a guy walked up smooth as silk to our agent sitting in his chair outside Lissy Smiley’s room, pulled his FBI creds out of his jacket pocket, let Daugherty see his SIG clipped to his waist in the process, and told him he was there to take a shift, give Daugherty some rest. Daugherty had no reason to question what he said, and, I will admit, it’s Sunday after all, and the Red Sox and Yankees were playing. It did occur to Daugherty to check with his supervisor during the seventh-inning stretch to ask when he was expected back, since he hadn’t been notified about any change, and his supervisor proceeds to tell him there was no replacement sent and he was an idiot. He topped it off by not remembering the agent’s name. Long and short of it was Ms. Smiley was long gone with the guy by the time anybody got back to the hospital. The guy was the getaway driver for the Gang of Four.”
“Pretty impressive. I wonder where he got the fake ID,” Savich said.
“I don’t know that yet, but I will know soon. I’ll tell you, Daugherty will be cleaning toilets on the fifth floor of the Hoover Building until Christmas. This isn’t good, Savich.”