“Miss MacKenna is on another line. Would you like to hold, or may I take a message?” the receptionist inquired.
He didn’t leave a message, but he did relax. It was okay. Kate was where she was supposed to be.
He was crossing the busy street heading to his car when his phone rang. Nate was on the line.
“We’ve got a problem. Ewan MacKenna hasn’t shown up at the police station. His attorney’s still there waiting for him, and he swears he doesn’t know where his client is. Can’t find Ewan’s car, either. We’ve sent some men to his house. No car, no Ewan. He left in a hurry, too, because his front door was wide open. Police went in and searched. Nothing.”
“What happened to Ewan’s surveillance?”
“Evidently some idiot pulled it when Roger was found with all that evidence. I’ve got some guys checking a couple of Ewan’s favorite health clubs.”
“You better get someone over to the hospital to make sure Bryce and Vanessa haven’t disappeared.”
“I was just about to send someone. I’ll talk to you later.”
Dylan pulled his car key out of his pocket and was inserting it in the door when he saw Agent Kline rushing across the street waving to get his attention.
“Glad I caught you. Ewan MacKenna’s missing,” Kline said as he caught up to him.
“Yeah, I heard,” Dylan answered.
“Well, there’s more. I just got a call from the lab. They found a match to the fingerprints on the calendar, and they just happen to belong to Ewan MacKenna himself. Maybe you’re right. Maybe the crime scene was staged. So now I guess we’ve got a whole new kettle of fish to deal with here.”
Kline folded his arms, looked at the ground for a second as he thought, and then said, “Here’s my original theory: Someone the old man trusts films the video and makes himself an extra copy. He sells it to Roger. Roger watches it and knows he’s got to get rid of Kate or he’s not gonna see a dime. So what does he do? He calls Jackman and cuts him in because he needs his connections. This all makes sense, right? But now I’ve got to consider that either Ewan is in on it with Roger and Jackman, or maybe the video is sold to Ewan. Roger doesn’t know anything about it. Ewan watches it, and he cuts Jackman in, and the two of them set Roger up to take the fall. It could have happened that way because, I’m telling you, there sure as certain isn’t any brotherly love going on in that family.”
Dylan draped his arms across the car door and listened to the agent’s hypothesis.
Kline continued to think out loud. “Still nice and tidy, right?” he asked. “Now I’ve got to wonder about the timing. Why did Roger kill himself when he did?”
“I don’t think he did kill himself,” Dylan said.
Kline’s shoulders hunched a bit more. “Yeah, maybe.”
Dylan got in the car and rolled down the window. “Hopefully, evidence will prove it.”
“If Roger was murdered, Ewan becomes the number one suspect. He’s capable of murder.”
“In that family . . . they’re all capable of murder.”
“I’ll let you know when we find Ewan,” Kline said. He jogged back across the street and into the building.
Dylan couldn’t get rid of the uneasy feeling that he was missing something. He was looking at it but not seeing it. He locked in on Kline’s comment about timing. Maybe that was it. The timing was wrong. Yeah, that’s what was bothering him.
At the first stoplight he dug through his pocket, found Anderson’s cell phone number, and called him.
The attorney, who had forgotten to turn off his phone, answered in a whisper. “May I call you back?”
“No, you may not,” Dylan said firmly. “You need to answer a question for me right now.”
“I’m paying my respects—”
“This can’t wait.”
“Let me just step outside this door . . .” His voice became louder. “All right. What do you want to know?”
“I’ve got some puzzle pieces missing,” Dylan answered. “I need you to help me create a timeline.”
Timing really was everything, and the phone logs at Smith and Wesson would confirm what Dylan had finally figured out.
The truth didn’t set him free; it enraged him. How could he have been so blind? And why had it taken him so long to see what was there the whole time?
He realized he was driving like a maniac. He didn’t care. Panic was building inside him, and all he could think about was getting to Kate. He needed to see her and know that she was all right. She didn’t realize the danger, and she was so trusting. She was sitting in the middle of a hornet’s nest. The bastard knew where she was, and he would be coming for her.
He turned the corner on two wheels, slammed on the brakes, and hit the ground running. He had a plan. After he made sure Kate was safe, he was going to kill the son of a bitch.
Dylan sprinted into the building. Two policemen were hurrying down the stairs toward him. As soon as he saw their expressions, he knew something was wrong.
“Where’s Kate?” he demanded.
“Gone . . . she’s gone,” one of the officers answered.
The other rushed to add, “We’ve searched the entire building. She left in a hurry.”
They both talked at once.
“Phone was off the hook, purse and briefcase still there . . .”
“The alarm on the back door . . . someone disarmed it . . . couldn’t have been her . . .”
A security guard rushed forward, visibly shaken. “This is all my fault. She went out the back door. I got called on the intercom to come up to the entrance, and I didn’t question it. I thought it was one of the cops.”
“We called it in as soon as we realized . . . The FBI is on the way. Agent Kline says to wait here.” The first policeman said.
Dylan was too late. The son of a bitch had her.
Light slowly crept into the black void. Kate struggled to open her eyes. It was such a difficult task, and when she finally managed it, the room she was in refused to come into focus. Thoughts were spinning in and out of her mind, and nothing was making sense.
She was lying on something hard and cold. What was it? A table? A slab? She couldn’t be on a slab. She wasn’t dead. She could feel herself breathing. Had she been in an accident? She couldn’t remember. She wasn’t in pain, but she didn’t think anything was broken. She gingerly tested her arms and legs to make sure. Good, she could move, but it was difficult. She felt so weak and lethargic, and she couldn’t understand why. What had happened to her?
Oh, no, she didn’t get blown up again, did she?
Panic jolted her awake. Isabel. Oh, God, Isabel was in trouble. Someone had taken her. Kate remembered running. She had to get to her before he hurt her . . .
Where was her sister? Kate tried to call out to her, but her voice wouldn’t cooperate.
Drugged. She had been drugged. She remembered the peculiar smell pressed against her face. And then a pinch. Yes, someone had pinched her arm.
She didn’t know how long she’d been unconscious. Her mind was clearing now, and she could feel her strength coming back. She managed to sit up. A wave of nausea gripped her, but it quickly passed.
The room finally came into focus. She was sitting on a hardwood floor. There were books on shelves against the wall and a desk in front of her—a library. Why did it look so familiar? The video. Yes, that was where she’d seen the desk. Compton MacKenna had been sitting there. She was in his library. The painting that had been behind him in the video was still there hanging on the wall. A hunting scene . . . with kilts. A countryside somewhere in Scotland.
What was she doing here?
She made a feeble attempt to stand and nearly toppled over. Gripping the arm of the chair to balance herself, she was about to try again when she heard a door slam. Then she heard voices getting closer.
“Are you sure you gave her enough? I’m worried she’ll wake up before I’m ready.”
Kate froze. She recognized the voice. Vanessa.
Who was she talking to? Kate heard another voice, but too far away and muffled.
Vanessa continued to speak. “I’ll need at least fifteen minutes. Twenty would be better. And that’s enough time? Okay, I’ll stop worrying. We still need to hurry, though. Drag him into the library.” Another door slammed shut. “And hurry. You need to get back before you’re missed.”
Vanessa was just outside the door now. Kate dove to the floor and rolled onto her back. Her heart was pounding. She heard a crash. It sounded like glass breaking. Then laughter.
“Don’t worry,” Vanessa said. “Nothing in this rat trap is worth anything. Can you believe that senile old man thought I’d be happy with this house and a measly hundred thousand dollars? And he thought he could give his fortune to a stranger. I swear, I almost killed him with the camera. That stupid fool. I didn’t put up with a drunk just for this dump. By the way, sweetheart, Bryce should be expiring any moment now. He was too drunk to know how many pain pills he was taking. I told the doctors I was worried about him accidentally overdosing.” There was the sound of feet shuffling and then, “My hands are full. Could you get the door for me?”
Kate felt a slight draft as the door opened. She heard a skirt rustle. Vanessa was walking toward her. She stopped and nudged Kate’s foot, and Kate knew the woman was staring at her. And then Vanessa kicked her thigh. Hard. Kate was certain Vanessa was watching her face. She didn’t dare flinch.
“She’s still out cold,” Vanessa said smugly. She walked to the desk.
What was she doing? And where was “sweetheart”?
Then she heard him. He was dragging something. He dropped whatever it was to the floor with a heavy thud.
A phone rang, and Vanessa let out a slight gasp. “That has to be your cell. Mine’s in the car. We need to hurry. Go. Go. I’m right behind you. Oh, I almost forgot. Here, take the desk phone out with you. I’ll lock the door—just in case.”
Quick footsteps, and the library door closed. Then another door shut. Kate thought it might be the front door. Were they really gone? Or was it a trick? It was deadly quiet. She didn’t move for several seconds. Finally, she dared to open her eyes.
They were gone. But she wasn’t alone. Ewan MacKenna lay on the floor facing her. His eyes were closed. Was he dead or alive? She crawled close and put her hand on his chest. He was breathing. Had he been drugged, too?
She had to get help. She made it to her knees and reached for the top of the desk for support. Then she saw it. A basket of flowers.
The elevators were too damned slow. Nate raced up the three flights of stairs to the ICU. He crashed through the double doors, spotted the nurses’ station on his right, and headed there.
A technician and a nurse were working behind the counter. “Where’s Vanessa MacKenna?” he demanded, panting for breath. “Her husband, Bryce, is a patient here.”
The two of them shared a worried look, and the nurse moved closer to the counter. “Sir, are you a family member?” she asked. Her voice was soothing, as though she were comforting a distraught relative.
“No, I’m Detective Hallinger,” he said. He showed his badge. “Now answer my question.”
“Mrs. MacKenna isn’t here,” the nurse said. No more soothing pretense. She was all business now. “She received a call here at the station.”
The tech nodded. “I answered it. A man was calling. He said he was Bryce MacKenna’s brother, Ewan. I remember the name because he said it a couple of times. He was upset and said it was urgent that he talk to Mrs. MacKenna. I went and got her, and she talked to him. Whatever he was saying upset her. I heard her tell him several times to calm down, and when she hung up the phone, she was very distraught. Wasn’t she, LeeAnne?”
“Yes, she was.”
“She told me there was an emergency, and she had to leave.”
“Did she tell you where she was going?” Nate asked urgently. He watched the second hand on the clock behind the counter. He knew he had to hurry. “Think,” he demanded.
“No, she didn’t tell me where she was going,” the tech answered.
“It’s not too far away,” LeeAnne interjected. “She told me it wouldn’t take her any time at all to get back if we needed her.”
“She also said she wouldn’t be gone long,” the tech volunteered, trying to be helpful.
“Compton MacKenna’s house is close by,” he said. “Did she mention his name?”
“No, she didn’t.”
“Call her,” he demanded. “You have her number. Call her and see if she’s there.”
“We did try to call her, but she didn’t answer. I even had her paged here at the hospital—”
“Try her again,” he said. He shoved his hands in his pockets as he waited.
The nurse didn’t argue. She found the number and made the call.
“It’s ringing,” she whispered.
“How’s her husband doing?” Nate asked the tech.
“Mr. MacKenna expired a few minutes ago. That’s why we were trying to get hold of Mrs. MacKenna. She had hoped to be by her husband’s side. She’s a devoted wife. And he was so self-destructive. But she knew he was dying—she’s prepared for it.”
“Voice mail answered on the fourth ring,” the nurse said. “Should I leave a message?”
He shook his head and reached for the phone. “Get me an outside line. I’ve got to call this in.”
Vanessa was about to become a terrified woman, running for her life.
She needed to look the part. She ran halfway down the hill, turned toward the driveway, closed her eyes, then threw herself on her left knee and struck the cement. The skin split just as she’d hoped, and the cut began to bleed. Stumbling to her feet, she kicked one shoe off and deliberately fell into the shrubbery. She instinctively protected her face with her arms, but when she looked, there were cuts and scratches everywhere. She rolled over and made sure there were twigs and a blade of grass or two in her hair and dirt on her face. Her knee was throbbing—a small price to pay for the millions she would inherit. She checked her watch again just to see how much time she still had.
She hadn’t thought to rip her clothes, but when she staggered to her feet, she heard her skirt tear. Nice touch, she thought, tearing it just a bit more.