Authors: Iris Johansen
Tags: #Eve Duncan
“Yes,” she said gravely. “I’ll keep him safe. Though he doesn’t really need me. You don’t have to worry about him. I can feel the strength coming back to him. In a few days, he’ll be fine.”
“Thank you.” She gave Margaret an impulsive hug and stepped back quickly. “I’d appreciate it if you’d let me call you and check on him.”
“Devon could give you better medical details.”
“She’s wonderful,” Jane said. “But I want to talk to you.”
“Then call me.” Margaret smiled. “Though you may be one of those people I have to be wary about. What the hell. Life would be boring without taking a few chances. I’ll give you my cell number before you get on the plane.” She turned away from Toby. “Are you ready? I told Devon I’d take you to the airfield. She said Caleb was already there.”
“Yes, I’ve already said good-bye to Devon.” She bent down and gave Toby another quick hug. “Get well quick, Toby. That’s an order.” She hurried out of the office after Margaret.
But Margaret was standing by the van, her head lifted, her gaze on the trees.
Jane stopped short. “Margaret?”
“Get in the van.”
Jane got into the passenger seat. “Is something wrong?”
“Maybe.” She got into the driver’s seat. “Someone’s been out there in the forest, watching.”
Jane tensed. “Who?”
Margaret shook her head. “I don’t know. It could have been someone from the village. But they’re not usually curious about anything that happens at the research center. They accept us now.”
“How do you know that there was someone out there?”
She was silent a moment before she said reluctantly, “The birds.”
Jane’s brows rose. “The birds told you?”
“No, I just felt it. And stop looking at me like that. Dammit, I didn’t want to answer that question. I know it sounds crazy.” The headlights of the van pierced the darkness as Margaret drove down the rough dirt road. “Look, I’m not a Dr. Doolittle. I can just sometimes sense things that are connected to nature or animals. I don’t know why. It just happens. Sometimes I can get pictures or memories, but it’s usually from animals with a higher degree of intelligence.” She made a face. “I have real problems with birds.”
“I … see.”
“And stop being tactful. You don’t see anything.”
“True. So explain. How do you
She shrugged. “A disturbance. Something that’s not normal. But most birds forget so quickly that you only get an immediate impression.” She made a face. “But someone was there, and they didn’t like it. That’s all I know. It’s just as well you’re getting on that plane.”
Jane smiled. “Since the birds don’t like me?” Then the smile faded. “I’m not really making fun of you. I just don’t understand, so it’s easier to laugh. But I’m not laughing at how you helped my Toby. I’m very grateful.”
“Then find out who hurt him. That’s all I want from you.” A few minutes later, she pulled into the airfield and stopped beside one of the three hangars. “Nice plane. Sleek, powerful.” She watched Seth Caleb come down the steps of the plane. “A little like him.”
“Yes.” Jane jumped out of the van and went toward Caleb. “Are we ready for takeoff?”
He nodded. “I was just about to call you.” He looked at Margaret. “What’s wrong with her?”
Jane looked back to see Margaret coming toward them. The girl’s expression was tense.
Jane tried to smile. “Birds?”
Margaret shook her head, her gaze on the third hangar. “Get on the plane, Jane.”
“What’s wrong now?”
Margaret whirled to Caleb. “Get her on the plane.”
Caleb took Jane’s elbow. “Let’s do what she says. She seems to want you out of here. My instincts say that we should listen to her.” He was nudging Jane toward the plane. “Good-bye, Margaret.”
“Good-bye.” But Margaret was following closely behind them. “You have very good instincts, Caleb.” She was still gazing at the third hangar. “I thought you would the moment I saw you. But maybe not good enough to—Down! Rifle!”
“What?” Jane glanced at the hangar and caught a glimpse of long metal cylinder emerge from the darkness of the hangar.
A rifle aiming in their direction.
“Down!” Margaret cried again as she ran toward Jane.
But Margaret was directly behind her, Jane realized. Any bullet would have to go through her to reach Jane.
“You get down, dammit!” Jane turned, pulled away from Caleb, and tackled Margaret to the ground.
She didn’t even hear the shot.
She only felt the pain.
And then even that pain was lost in the darkness.
The rain had almost stopped, but the dark clouds made the gradually lightening sky retain its gloom, Eve thought.
Still, she was glad to have the night over. The two hours since Ben had left seemed more like years. She’d get dressed, then call Ben and make him come back to the cottage for breakfast. Then she’d phone FedEx and arrange the pickup for the reconstruction. She wanted it out of her hands because she was almost certain that she wasn’t going to twiddle her thumbs here when she was so disturbed about what had happened to Toby. She would go to Summer Island and try to find out what was—
Her cell phone rang.
“You’re up early. I was going to call you. I’ve been thinking and I’ve decided I need to go to—”
“Jane’s been shot.”
Shock. She couldn’t breathe. “What?”
“I just got a call from Seth Caleb on Summer Island. He thought the news would come better from me.”
“No,” he said quickly. “God, I’m messing this up. I’m scared to death, and I’m not handling this right. So much for me being the right person to tell you. She’s not dead, but they don’t know how bad it is. It just happened and they’ve taken her to the—”
“Who shot her?”
“Caleb didn’t know. It was a sniper shooting from a hangar at the airfield. Caleb couldn’t leave Jane to go after him.” He added grimly, “But you can bet he’ll be on his trail the minute it’s safe for him to do it.”
She didn’t care about that bastard right now. All she wanted to know was that Jane was going to live. “What kind of wound?”
“The bullet entered the back and exited the upper shoulder.” He paused. “She’s losing a lot of blood. They took her back to the veterinary research center for treatment.”
“Why not the village hospital?”
“No hospital on the island. Just a resident doctor and clinic. Caleb said something about Margaret’s saying that she’d get better first aid at the animal hospital at the center.”
“Who the hell is Margaret?”
“I don’t know. Someone who evidently has no faith in the village medical facility.”
“Then get Jane on a plane back to the States.”
“Caleb will do that as soon as he thinks she’s stable. I told you, she’s losing a lot of blood.”
“I’m so scared, Joe,” she whispered. That was an understatement. She was terrified. “I just talked to her a few hours ago. How could this happen?”
“We’ll find out. I’m not going to wait for Caleb to bring her back to us. I’m on my way to the airport now. I’ve rented a plane to take me to Summer Island.”
“Good.” She drew a shaky breath. “You’re closer to her down there in Miami and will be able to get to her sooner. Don’t wait for me. One of us has to be there for her right away. I’m heading for the airport here as soon as I hang up. It may be easier for you to arrange a plane to the island for me out of Miami. Though I hate like hell to have to change planes. I’ll call you when I get to the airport and let you know if I have a problem arranging a nonstop out of there.”
“Right. And I’ll make a few calls before I take off. I’ll call headquarters, and maybe the captain can pull a few strings to get you out of there.” He added, “Though she’s not going to be pleased I’m skipping out on that trial. Screw it. If they let the bastard off, I’ll go after him again.” He paused. “It’s going to be okay, Eve.”
“Maybe.” She closed her eyes. “She told me that Toby was poisoned, Joe. Who would poison a sweet dog like Toby? Who would shoot our Jane?”
“We’ll find out.” His voice was suddenly harsh. “Dammit, I can feel your—I want to be there for you.”
“Be there for Jane.” She cleared her throat. “I’ve got to go, Joe. I’ve got to tell Ben that I’m leaving and ask him to give the reconstruction to the FedEx man.”
“Ben Hudson. He showed up last night after I went to bed.”
“He said he’d had a dream, and he wanted to be with me.” She said unsteadily, “It’s almost funny, isn’t it? All those premonitions that were plaguing you. Everyone seemed to be so worried about me when it wasn’t about me at all. It was about Jane. We should have been worried about Jane.” She had to get off the phone before she broke down. “I’ll call you when I get to the airport.” She hung up.
She drew a deep breath and turned toward the bedroom.
Get a grip. Throw some clothes into an overnight bag and get out of here. She called Ben.
He answered on the second ring. “Do you need me?”
“No, but Jane needs me. I have to go to her. Where are you?”
“About a mile or so down the road, just inside the woods.”
“Come to the cottage. I have something I want you to do.”
“Right away, Eve.” He hung up.
At least she wouldn’t have to worry about Ben in those dark, wet woods any longer, she thought as she quickly packed her bag and set the FedEx box by the front door.
She checked her watch. Almost fifteen minutes had passed since her call to Ben. Shouldn’t he be here? He was young and strong and when he said right away, it meant full speed ahead.
Stop worrying. He’ll be here soon.
But she needed to get to the airport, and she couldn’t sit here twiddling her thumbs. She’d meet him on the road and tell him about the FedEx. In two minutes, she was in the car and driving down the driveway toward the road.
It was starting to rain again, dammit. She hit the windshield wipers and headlights, her eyes straining for a glimpse of Ben. He was wearing Joe’s yellow slicker. He should be easy to spot as he walked toward her.
But she almost missed him.
Because he was not walking toward her. He was crumpled on the ground at the side of the road.
She stomped on the brakes and jumped out of the car.
Then she was kneeling beside him, her knees sinking into the rivulets of mud and water. The yellow slicker was also streaked with smears of mud.
Mud, not blood. But he was so damn still.
Eve pushed the hood of the slicker back away from his face.
And then she saw the blood. His face was white in the pale morning light, and there was a deep, long gash over his left eye.
“Ben,” she whispered.
“Don’t you worry. I don’t think he’s dead. I’ll take care of him.”
Her head jerked to the side, and she saw a gray-haired man in a green camouflage slicker just behind her. His old red pickup truck was parked at the curve of the road with headlights blazing. He was gazing at Ben with concern as he came toward them.
She tensed warily and her hand reached in her pocket and closed on her gun. He could just be one of the neighboring farmers who used the lake road to cut across to the highway. He didn’t seem to be a threat. As he drew closer, she relaxed a little more.
A seamed and weathered face, blue eyes that had creases at the corners.
And she had never seen a more kindly expression.
“Why, he’s just a kid. Who is he? Your brother?” He fell to his knees beside her. “That looks like a bad cut. Maybe we’d better get him to the hospital.” He took out his phone. “I’ll call 911.” He was dialing even as he reached out to grasp Eve’s shoulder in sympathy. “We’ll get him help right away.”
She instinctively flinched away from him. “Who are you?”
“Just someone who wants to help. My farm is down the road from your property. I believe in being a Good Samaritan. We all have to help each other.” His smile was as gentle as his expression. “My name is Doane.” He extended his hand. “What’s yours?”
“Eve Duncan.” She turned back to Ben. “Finish making that call. I don’t like the way he’s breathing.”
“Really?” He leaned forward over Ben and his hand fell on her shoulder as he tried to get closer. “I think he may be—”
She didn’t hear the end of the sentence.
She didn’t feel the pinprick on her upper back.
But she slumped forward over Ben’s body a second later.
“RELAX.” REX NELKER, THE PILOT
Joe had hired to take him to Summer Island, glanced at him as the Learjet lifted off the Miami runway. “We’re moving as fast as we can. We should have good weather all the way to the island. I’ll have you there in an hour or so.”
“I’ll relax when you tell me we’re landing.” But Joe knew that Nelker was right. Everything had gone as smoothly and quickly as possible for a last-minute departure. He had practically been able to step on the plane minutes after he arrived at Miami International. But that didn’t keep him from being on edge. He hadn’t heard back from Seth Caleb after that first phone call. For all he knew, Jane could be dead.
Don’t be negative. It would tear the heart out of him.
He’d assume the best until he found out differently. He couldn’t bear the alternative.
And neither could Eve. He loved Jane, but she was not only Eve’s adopted daughter, she was her best friend. She and Jane had come together when Jane was a street kid, and they had found ways to bond in many, many ways. It would tear Eve to pieces if anything happened to Jane.
So don’t borrow trouble. Do the job and make things as easy for Eve as possible. He’d made a few calls just before he got on the Learjet and arranged a private flight for Eve out of Atlanta. She’d be arriving at Summer Island only an hour after he landed.
He just hoped it wouldn’t be too late.
Everyone seemed to be so worried about me when it wasn’t about me at all. It was about Jane. We should have been worried about Jane.
It was about Jane.
But was it all about Jane?