Take the Key and Lock Her Up (6 page)

“There are two people in the cab,” he said.

She turned her attention to the truck they were chasing. Sure enough, someone was
sitting in the passenger seat, a woman with long brown hair. Hawley?

“Can’t you go faster?” She pulled out her cell phone.

“Not without flipping this thing. It’s not exactly a Maserati.”

“I wouldn’t know. Have you driven a Maserati?”

He didn’t answer, but something about the tightening of his jaw made her think he
had
, and that he regretted letting that fact slip out.

The truck hit a bump and started to slide. He steered into the skid, his arm muscles
bunching as he fought the wheel. He hit the gas and straightened the truck out.

Emily’s heart seemed to skip several beats, her stomach flip-flopping as if she were
on a roller coaster. She swallowed hard and tried to ignore the dizzying rush of trees
flying past her window. Had she seriously wanted him to drive faster?

“Tuck,” she yelled into her cell phone. “We’re chasing the suspect. It looks like
he might have Mrs. Hawley with him. Request backup.” Devlin supplied the name of the
road they were on and Emily relayed the information to her partner.

They lost sight of the truck as they maneuvered through several sharp turns. When
Devlin rounded another long curve, the suspect’s white truck appeared ahead—pulling
to the side of the road.

Devlin yanked the wheel, bringing his truck to a shuddering stop behind the other
truck. Before Emily could remove her seat belt, Devlin was out of the cab, sprinting
into the woods after the fleeing driver.

Emily said a few choice words that would have eclipsed the cursing Devlin had done
earlier and hopped out. She drew her gun and aimed it at the other vehicle, determined
to follow procedure this time to clear the cab and make sure there wasn’t a second
suspect.

Crouching down, she crept to the bed of the truck. She straightened and aimed her
gun over the side. Clear. No one hiding in the back. She crouched down again and continued
to the driver’s door. She stood up, pointing her gun inside. The only person in the
cab, her eyes wide with terror, was the young mother who’d gone missing four days
ago.

Emily’s knees went weak with relief.
Thank God.
Her screw-up in the basement hadn’t cost this poor woman her life.

She shoved her gun in the holster and held up her hands. “Mrs. Hawley, I’m Detective
Emily O’Malley. Are you all right? Are you hurt?”

Stupid questions. She regretted them as soon as she said them. The woman had bruises
on her face and arms. Of course she wasn’t all right. Hawley burst into tears.

“It’s okay, ma’am. Everything’s going to be okay.” Again, the inadequacy of what she’d
said twisted her gut, but what else could she say at a time like this?

The sound of a roaring engine had her turning. Tuck’s car barreled around the curve
in the road. He skidded but quickly corrected and pulled over behind Buchanan’s truck.
Emily ran to the driver’s side.

“Mrs. Hawley is in the first vehicle,” she yelled as Tuck rolled down his window.
“Call an ambulance. Stay with her. Buchanan took off after the suspect.”

She ran toward the pine trees lining the road, ignoring Tuck’s shout, telling her
to wait. An unarmed civilian was chasing an alleged murderer who probably
was
armed. Waiting this time wasn’t an option. Buchanan’s life was at stake.

Tracking someone through the woods wasn’t a skill she’d ever mastered, but she didn’t
need to be an expert to follow the trail Buchanan and the suspect had left behind.
The grass was matted down, and little branches were broken all along the path.

She burst out of the woods into a clearing and skidded to a halt. Twenty feet in front
of her, Devlin and the suspect were locked in combat, rolling back and forth on the
ground. She leveled her gun at them.

“Police, freeze—both of you!”

Devlin wrapped his hands around the man’s head and jaw and gave a mighty jerk. A sickening
crack echoed through the trees. The suspect slumped to the forest floor, unmoving,
his neck twisted at an impossible angle. Devlin slowly climbed to his feet. He crossed
the clearing, passing Emily without looking at her. His jaw was clenched tight and
his entire body seemed taut, like a bowstring ready to snap. He continued into the
trees and disappeared back toward the road.

Emily rushed to the suspect, checking his pulse even though she knew he was most likely
beyond any help she could give him. As she’d feared, he was dead. Her gun hand began
to shake. She holstered her weapon and bent to the side to get a good look at the
suspect, or victim, or whatever label applied in this situation. This was definitely
the man she’d passed on the highway a few hours earlier, the same man who’d shut the
basement door in her face. At least they had the right guy this time.

She checked his pockets. No wallet. Nothing to identity him. She took a picture of
his face. If a fingerprint scan didn’t yield results, maybe she could get the local
FBI office to run his picture through their fancy facial-recognition software.

When Emily emerged from the trees by the road, Tuck and Mrs. Hawley were sitting on
the hood of Tuck’s car. He was speaking to her in low, soothing tones. She seemed
much calmer now. Then again, Tuck hadn’t pointed a gun at her like Emily had.

Devlin leaned against the tailgate of his truck a few feet away, looking deadly and
dangerous. The image was certainly accurate. He truly
was
dangerous. Lethal. His unreadable gaze briefly met hers before shifting to the other
woman.

Emily halted beside the car. “Mrs. Hawley, the suspect is . . . he’s dead, ma’am.
It’s over.”

Tuck gave her a questioning look. She shook her head. She’d tell him the details later,
when the victim wasn’t around.

The young woman’s brows drew down. Maybe she was still in shock. She didn’t look relieved.
Instead, she looked . . . confused, and scared.

“What do you mean it’s over? Are you saying you found him?”

“The man who was driving the truck? Yes, we . . . found him. He’s dead.”

Hawley waved her hand, as if what Emily had said was irrelevant. “Yes, yes, I heard
you. What about the other one?”

Devlin straightened, suddenly on alert. “
Other
one?”

Hawley shrank away from him. He sighed and leaned back against his truck, as if he
was used to eliciting that kind of reaction.

“I don’t understand,” Emily said. “Was there a second man in the truck with you?”

“No, no. The truck driver was the one who abducted me and drove me back and forth
between the different locations.”

“Different locations?” Emily breathed.

“From that house where you saw me to the cabin to that other place. But the driver,
he’s not the one who . . .” She squeezed her eyes tightly shut. “He’s not the one
who . . . hurt me,” she whispered miserably. “He was the
assistant
.” She shuddered.

Emily stared at her in horror. Tuck looked just as stunned as she felt. Devlin looked
. . . intent, like a predator waiting for his prey.

“‘Cabin’? ‘Other place’? What are you saying?” Emily asked. “He drove you to different
places to . . . hurt you?”

Hawley wiped at her tears. “You don’t understand.” Frustration warred with grief on
her face. “They were a team,
two
men. One of them moved us around. The other one, he’s the one who . . .” She closed
her eyes and wrapped her arms around her waist.

Tuck and Emily stared at each other in shock.

Emily put her hand on the woman’s shoulder. “Mrs. Hawley, please. What did you mean
by . . .
us
?”

Hawley opened her eyes, the tears flowing freely down her cheeks now. “I’m not the
only woman they were holding captive. There are three more women out there.”

 

Chapter Five

A
MAZE OF
police cars and the coroner’s van blocked Devlin’s pickup truck on the side of the
road. O’Malley, her boss, and her sidekicks—Tuck and Jones—spoke in a huddle thirty
feet away, probably trying to decide what to do about Devlin.

While he didn’t regret killing one of the scumbags who’d abducted and tortured those
women, he did regret killing him in front of a witness—especially when that witness
was a police officer. A detective was bound to notice the quick, practiced efficiency
of his movements, and wonder
why
he seemed so comfortable doing what he’d done.
Why
was a dangerous word in the mind of a cop.

Two uniformed officers strode past the driver’s side window and headed into the woods
where the CSI team was collecting evidence. Devlin curled his fingers around the steering
wheel. But what he really wanted to do was curl them around the gun hidden in the
door panel. Cops made him nervous as hell, but that wasn’t the only reason he was
agitated.

In less than forty-eight hours, he was due to report back to his employer, Extreme
International Tours, Incorporated. There was no reason anyone from EXIT should be
monitoring him right now, or know that he’d foolishly managed to get involved in police
activity. But he, better than anyone, knew EXIT didn’t always need a reason. He’d
done his share of random monitoring over the years, watching assets without them knowing
it, to ensure they were still loyal, following instructions, not doing anything to
jeopardize the company’s true mission. If one of his peers was watching him, and reported
back to his boss on today’s events, what would Cyprian think?

Damn it, he didn’t need these complications. He should have made O’Malley get out
of his truck back at the house and just gone to Alex’s by himself. Then he wouldn’t
be watching the deep shadows between the trees, every muscle in his body tensing in
warning. He needed to get out of here and call his employer, see if he’d heard anything.

Cyprian was a reasonable boss, and Devlin had never given him cause to doubt him in
the past. But if this situation in any way compromised EXIT, if the cops dug into
the company, searching any deeper than the tour front, potentially forcing EXIT to
temporarily shut down sensitive operations, things could quickly spiral out of control.
And if Cyprian believed Devlin had disclosed confidential information to the police,
it could spell disaster for anyone involved—including the sexy detective.

Of course,
not
answering O’Malley’s questions was just as dangerous as answering them. A guide who
spent his days escorting wealthy, eccentric people on extreme, dangerous jaunts around
the world had no reason to avoid questions—unless he had something to hide. Devlin
definitely had something to hide, so he’d have to walk a thin line between satisfying
O’Malley’s curiosity so that she wouldn’t dig too deeply into EXIT and whetting her
appetite for more.

He thumped the seat beside him and studied the trees again, searching for an elusive
shadow that would tell him he was already on Cyprian’s radar. Hopefully, after conferring
with her boss and cohorts, O’Malley would decide he had nothing to contribute to their
investigation—which he didn’t—and follow other leads. Then he could head to Alex’s
house and gently break the news about Carolyn. After that, Devlin would spend a few
precious hours with his family before heading out of town on his next assignment.

He forced his gaze away from the trees. Too late, he realized O’Malley was watching
him. Her gaze shifted to the woods. Devlin cursed again. He’d just made her even more
curious than she already was.

Sloppy. Sloppy and stupid.

Her hand drifted to her side, where her firearm was holstered. She nodded in answer
to something her boss said. Then she motioned to a uniformed officer and took a pair
of handcuffs from him.

Damn.

She started toward Devlin, the silver circles of metal dangling from her left hand,
her ever-present buddies—Tuck and Jones—at her side.

Devlin sighed deeply. It looked like he was going to have to answer her questions
at the police station. Still, he figured as long as she was the one interviewing him,
things would go fairly easily. That zing of instant attraction that had swept through
both of them back at the house gave him an advantage. A few well-timed smiles and
some sexy innuendos would throw her off her game and convince her he was just a flirt
with nothing to offer her investigation.

But what would happen to Alex while Devlin was on his way to the police station? Would
simpering Drier end up callously breaking the news about Carolyn? Alex deserved far
better than that. There was only one way of ensuring that Devlin would be the one
to break the news.

He needed to lawyer up.

By calling Alex, he could ask his lawyer father not to talk to any cops before speaking
to him. By the time Alex got to the station, Devlin would have convinced O’Malley
that her questions were pointless and she’d have already decided to release him. Then
Devlin could take Alex aside, break the news, and drive him back home. Simple. Easy.

He grabbed his cell phone and punched in the familiar number.

O’Malley reached the truck and tried the door handle. Locked. She frowned and motioned
for him to open the door.

He pointed to the phone and pretended not to understand her request.

“Hello?��� Alex’s polite but formal voice told Devlin he didn’t recognize the number
calling him. Since Devlin had never called him from this particular phone number before,
that made sense.

All of the people Devlin worked with used burn phones—cheap, throwaway phones without
a contract that couldn’t be tracked back to an owner—when on missions. But Devlin
used one even when he was on a break between assignments, which had led to some teasing
from others at EXIT, like Gage and Kelly. But Devlin preferred to be overprepared
and overcautious. His prepaid burn phones were difficult to trace to an owner, which
was exactly what he wanted.

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