Read Edge of the Heat 7 Online
Authors: Lisa Ladew
Tags: #General Fiction
"Let me call down there. See what his schedule is. I'll let you know." Hawk heard the doorbell ring. "I gotta go."
Hawk set his phone down and walked to the front door. JT and Dani stood there and he was glad to see them. "Come in, guys. I'm working. Vivian is still in bed. I didn't have the heart to wake her but now that you're here, I think it would be good for her to get up and move around a little bit."
Dani smiled. "I'll go get her and see if she wants to go shopping for clothes. You guys lost everything right?"
Hawk nodded grimly. They had. Even their cars were burnt messes.
Dani disappeared down the hallway. Hawk lifted his chin at JT and motioned for him to follow him into the office area. Once they got in there, Hawk closed the door. "JT, I need a favor."
"Go," JT said, leaning against the door.
Hawk ran a hand through his hair. "It's a big favor. I need you to make something disappear. And if you're caught, it could mean jail time, depending on how you do it."
JT didn't even blink. "Anything for you, Hawk. You know that."
Hawk shook his head. He hated asking his brother-in-law to do this, but he and Craig didn't think they had any choice. "Thanks man. I need you to go into the woods behind the house and cut to the left. Walk about two hundred yards. You'll see a falling down shed behind the big black and white house four houses down. It's all overgrown, like nobody's been in there for years. Inside you'll find four containers of butane and a huge tub of marijuana. I need you to make them all disappear. Like they never existed."
JT nodded, a light coming into his eyes. "Consider it done. How soon?"
A rock rolled off of Hawk's chest. JT would probably do a better job than even he or Craig could have of making that stuff disappear into the night like smoke.
"It's gotta be tonight, man. We need it gone."
JT nodded and Hawk sat down, relieved.
"I need a favor too," JT said, his voice full of regret.
Hawk looked at him and nodded, knowing he would do anything JT asked, even though he couldn't think of a worse time for the request to come.
JT held up his hands. "I know you're out of your mind busy right now but all I need is for you to look up a license plate for me. You have access to DMV records, right?"
"Yeah," Hawk said. That wouldn't take long.
JT pulled a small piece of paper out of his pocket and handed it to Hawk. Hawk turned around to face the computer and typed away until he got back a result. He read it off the screen. "Battaini Investigations. PO Box 3497A in San Francisco."
Hawk swiveled around in his chair to face JT. "I know of the company. It's a private investigator's office in San Francisco."
JT shook his head. "Why would a private investigator be following me?"
"Yeah, I saw this car a couple times in San Francisco last week and now it's been parked outside our hotel every day."
"Are you sure it's the same car?" Hawk asked.
JT nodded. "I saw the guy in San Francisco and then again here. He was watching us a couple of times when we went out for breakfast. A big, heavyset, solid guy who looks former military. That the owner?"
Hawk shook his head. "The owner is Brindi Battaini. She's a new hotshot PI down there. I've heard of some of her exploits over the last year. My boss has worked with her twice. That guy is probably one of her employees."
"Maybe," JT said. "All I know is he's freaking me out. I've tried to approach him twice and he just took off."
Hawk gave him an appraising glance. "Look, JT. I've got to head down to San Francisco anyway. I'll try to talk to her, and see what's going on."
JT shook his head. "Yeah but she's not going to tell you anything."
Hawk stilled, thinking. Finally he spoke again. "She might, though. I can be very persuasive."
JT stared at him for a long moment. "When?"
"Maybe today. Let me make a call."
Hawk stepped out of the building into the cool San Francisco air. He'd caught a last-minute, military hop flight to San Francisco and promised Vivian he would be back by dinnertime. Blitz Palmer had been a complete dead-end. Definitely not the guy they were looking for. He glanced at his watch. He had exactly ten minutes to get across town to make his appointment with Brindi Battaini. Impossible. But he would try anyway.
Hawk drove the lumbering, borrowed, government sedan as quickly as he dared up and down the inclines of San Francisco. He ended up being only twenty-five minutes late, which was better than he had hoped for, but since it was after five o'clock, he still wondered if he had missed his chance. Luckily the hop flights ran every hour on the hour until eight p.m. He'd have a good chance of getting home for a late dinner.
He hurried into the office of the red brick building on Franklin Street. A woman with waist-length, bouncy blonde hair stood with her back to him, locking the glass door that read Battaini Securities. Probably a secretary. Hawk ran up to her and tried to put on a charming smile. "Wait, I have an appointment with Miss Battaini. Is she still here?"
The young woman turned cold eyes on him and scolded him. "You're late."
"I know, I'm sorry. Traffic was awful. Is Miss Battaini here?"
The woman in front of him studied him for a few more minutes and then lightened up. A smile crossed her face, making her look all of twenty-five. She stuck out her hand. "Hi, call me Brindi. You must be Hawk Kincaid with the FBI."
Hawk smiled back and mentally relaxed. Now he knew why he'd been hearing so much about her. Too many men in law enforcement and security were still old-fashioned, thinking only other men could do the job well, so when a woman did the job as well as they did, it was always news to them. When an
woman did it, those same men fell all over themselves trying to work with her.
Brindi led him inside and sat him down in the chair opposite her desk. Hawk stuttered for a moment, not sure how to proceed. He hadn't spent any time thinking about how to get her to do something that was surely against her ethics and could even make her lose her license if things went bad.
He would have to explain to her how bad things were for his family right now. How important this information was. He would appeal to her sense of decency, of rightness. Promise her he would never reveal what she said. Something important niggled in the back of Hawk's mind and he reached for it, but he couldn't quite get it. He let his mind work it out on its own and turned his attention back to Brindi.
"One of your men is following someone and I need to know why."
Brindi blinked, but didn't respond in any way.
"JT—Jon Taylor. You have someone following him."
Brindi leaned back in her chair and put her hands behind her head. Her eyes searched the ceiling and she shook her head slowly. "You know I can't tell you anything about that."
Hawk pressed his lips together. "And you know I can get a warrant. Make you open the files."
Brindi sat straight up and faced him openly. "Do you have grounds for a warrant?"
Hawk stared at her, trying not to challenge her. Slowly, he shook his head no.
Brindi opened her hands like that explained everything. "Sorry, Hawk. I wish I could help you. But I know you understand my position. I just wish you hadn't come all the way from Westwood Harbor to hear me say no. I could've told you that over the phone."
Hawk leaned forward, not about to give up that easily. He lowered his voice. "Look, Jon Taylor is my brother-in-law. Our family has been through seven levels of hell in the last forty-eight hours and we need your help."
Brindi gave him a small smile. "Hawk, you seem like a nice guy and I'm really sorry about your family. But I can't help you. You know the confidentiality rules and ethics. I take them very seriously."
Hawk felt his heart sink like a stone. "I get that. But let me ask you something. How would you feel if you provided information to someone that caused people to end up dead? Innocent people."
Brindi narrowed her eyes. "Is that the case?"
Hawk pressed his lips together. He didn't want to lie, but if she heard his story— what he had been through in the last two days and if she thought those events were related to this...
Hawk exploded out of his chair as connections formed like a cement wall in his mind. He held a hand up. "Brindi, I'm sorry. I have to make a phone call. It's a matter of life and death. Can you excuse me for just a moment? Please don't go anywhere."
Confusion showed on Brindi's face but she waved him out into the waiting area where he could make his phone call in relative privacy. Hawk dug the borrowed phone out of his pocket and dialed Vivian's number.
When she answered he blew out a shaky sigh. "Viv, where are you?"
"Home," she said. He did not like the dull note in her voice, but at least she had answered.
"Stay there. Don't let anybody in the house. Who is with you?"
"Why, Hawk? What is going on
"I'll tell you as soon as I can, babe. Is anybody there with you?"
"JT and Dani are here."
"Let me talk to JT – it's important."
Hawk waited impatiently until he finally heard JT pick up the line and speak a greeting. "JT, I'm in San Francisco. I can't explain right now but I think someone might be after you, Vivian, and Emma. We thought this was all about Craig and I, but I think we were wrong. Call Craig and tell him to drive Emma home. Stay with Vivian until I get there. Don't let anyone in the house."
"Got it." JT said.
Hawk silently blessed his brother-in-law and hung up the phone. He returned to Brindi's office to find her waiting patiently for him. He sat down and opened his hands wide.
"The lives of six people are depending on you." He gripped the desk as a shudder ran through him. "Make that seven people. My wife is pregnant."
Hawk sat silently as the silence filled the room. He had spilled his story and now all he could do was wait for Brindi's verdict.
Brindi leaned back in her chair again and sighed long and slow. Finally she faced him. "I don't know who the guy is who hired me to follow Jon Taylor. I've only talked to him on the phone."
Hawk felt relief spread through him like some calming drug. "What name did he give?"
Brindi pulled a file out of a drawer on her desk and opened it up. "Kevin Hall."
Hawk wrote it down quickly, knowing it would be a dead end. "How did he pay?"
"In cash. He placed it in our drop box in the entryway in the middle of the night."
"Are there cameras out there?"
Brindi nodded but her face was grim. "Sure, but I already checked them. He's got a cap pulled down low over his face and you can't see anything but his chin."
Hawk pressed on. He already knew the guy was smart and careful. He could have expected all of this. "How are you updating him?"
"By email. But it's a throwaway email. I'm sure his name is not associated with it."
Hawk nodded. "But it's the best we have for now. Give it to me and I'll track down his IP address."
Brindi slid a piece of paper across the desk to him. "Are you going to get a search warrant?"
Hawk shrugged. "It looks like I'll have to. I've got a guy who could peek into those files for me, but he's in Hawaii. His sister just beat cancer and he took her on a long vacation to celebrate."
Brindi fiddled with the paper on her desk. "I've got a guy too, but he's in Vietnam on assignment. It might take me a day or two to get him on it but I'll ask him if you need me to."
Hawk thought for a moment and almost gave her the go-ahead, but could they really wait for a day or two?
His hand snuck to the phone in his pocket. "Wait. I know someone who can access those files." He yanked out the phone and turned it on, then shoved it back into his pocket in frustration. "My phone blew up in the explosion. I don't have his number in this one."
Hawk wracked his brain trying to remember the number, but he knew it was hopeless. Then he realized he had another way to get ahold of Knox Rosesson. "I'll bet he's on his computer. I know his Skype name. Any chance I can use your computer?"
"Of course." Brindi pushed the laptop across the desk so he could reach it.
Hawk spun the laptop around and found Skype in the program files. It was already logged in with Brindi's Skype name, Bbattainisecurity. Hawk hoped Knox would answer. He typed in Knox's Skype name, alphaprivatesecurity, and sent a friend request and message.
Knox, pick up, I need to talk to you.
He bent over the keyboard again to add his name when the program chimed acceptance and then a call began ringing through.
Knox's face filled the screen and his voice sounded out of the speakers. "Hi darlin, what can I help you with?" he drawled in a bedroom voice.
Hawk clicked the tiny video icon so Knox could see him. Knox's smile faded immediately. "Oh, it's just you, Hawk."
Hawk quirked a smile. "It's good to see you too, Knox."
"Sorry, man. I thought I was going to get to talk to the lovely lady in the picture."
Brindi popped up from her chair and came around the desk to get in the frame, peeking over Hawk's shoulder. "Here I am," she breathed.
Knox's smile reappeared and Hawk shook his head. They didn't have time for this.
Hawk put his hands up in front of the screen. "I hate to break this party up but I'm calling for a reason."
After a beat, Knox pulled his eyes away from Brindi and gave Hawk his full attention.
That was more like it. "I need to know the IP address for a throwaway email account. This is personal and important. Life and death."
Knox made a
gesture and Hawk recited the email address. He knew Knox would help him.
"Give me five minutes," Knox said and his Skype screen blanked.
Brindi returned to her chair. "Who is
? He's hot."
Hawk pressed the mute button on the video chatting software and turned to Brindi, a sour look on his face. "That's Knox Rosesson."
Brindi's eyes widened. "Of Rosesson Home Security?"