Authors: Debbie Viguie
He tried a different approach, searching instead by date range. He scrolled quickly through the names that came up but none of them were even similar to Malcolm Griffith.
Either he had been erased from their computer system or he had lied about being here in the first place. A good computer tech might be able to search the computer and find out if the records had been altered, but they didn’t have access to someone like that.
He shut down the reservation program and was about to turn off the monitor when an icon on the desktop caught his eye. It was labeled Schedules.
He clicked on it and it popped up a workbook. There were tabs for different staff members. He clicked on the one for the psychologist, Dr. Carpenter. A spreadsheet with the days and times marked out and several boxes filled in with names came up. One of the boxes had his and Cindy’s aliases filled in. He saw appointments for the others that they had met so far at the retreat.
He scrolled down past a black bar and he was suddenly looking at entries for the previous week. Apparently they kept the old schedules, at least for a while. Holding his breath he did a search for Griffith.
Malcolm Griffith had been scheduled for appointments with Dr. Carpenter on two different days. He had been scheduled to be here which meant he likely had been here. If he’d never shown up at the retreat center his information still should have come up in the reservation program showing whether he was charged a fee or refunded money or something. No, the fact that he was here in this file and missing from the reservation program told Jeremiah that Malcolm had been here and someone from the center had wanted to cover that fact up.
He also knew that given the first appointment with Dr. Carpenter had been scheduled prior to Malcolm’s last phone call to his wife, the psychologist almost certainly had talked with him. Which meant they needed to talk to him.
Jeremiah closed down the program, shut off the monitor and moved over next to Cindy.
“Did you find anything?” she whispered.
“Yes, he was here but someone erased him from the system. They just didn’t do a very thorough job of it,” he said. “Are we all clear?”
“I haven’t seen anyone.”
They slipped out of the building, closing the door softly behind them, then hurried away from the building. They had only gone a dozen feet when Jeremiah heard a step and then a flashlight clicked on, shining right into their eyes.
Cindy squealed and grabbed onto Jeremiah’s arm. She had planned to do that if they were caught, but she found that the reaction happened completely naturally. Her heart was pounding and she was so grateful that whoever it was hadn’t come along when they were still inside the building.
“Where are you going?” an accented voice asked.
“The pool,” Cindy said.
“You’re a long ways from it.” The flashlight lowered and she could see the Russian dance instructor staring at them.
“I told you we were going the wrong way to the pool. Would you listen? No!” she said, feigning anger, and hitting Jeremiah on the arm.
“What did you want me to do? Stop and ask for directions? From who? It’s the middle of the freaking night,” Jeremiah snapped.
“Well maybe you’re not as eager to get to the pool as I thought you were.”
“Come on, you know we would have gotten there and you would have chickened out...as usual.”
“I might not have.”
“Right. Then why are you wearing your bathing suit under the towel if you were actually planning on going skinny dipping?”
“In case we ran into anyone on the way there,” she said, actually flushing at the thought of skinny dipping with Jeremiah.
“Okay, cool it you two,” the big Russian said. “The pool’s off limits after ten. And it’s not okay to go skinny dipping at any time. And all this passion, frustration you’re feeling, I suggest you save it for the dance floor. You’re going to be sensational at the tango. Now, how lost are you? Do you need help finding your way back to your bungalow?”
“I think it’s over there,” Jeremiah said pointing in the wrong direction.
The dancer shook his head. “Which number?”
“Fourteen,” Cindy said.
“Then you are all the way at the end, that way,” he said, pointing past Jeremiah and slightly behind him.
“Thank you,” Cindy said, trying to be as sincere as she could. “If it weren’t for you we would have been tromping out here all night.”
“It is my pleasure,” the man said, giving her a slow, sexy grin.
“Let’s go,” Jeremiah said, grabbing Cindy’s hand and pulling her in the direction of their bungalow.
“Goodnight, and thank you again,” she called over her shoulder.
They hurried back to their bungalow and once inside Jeremiah turned to her with a frown. “You were flirting with him, that wasn’t necessary.”
“When a woman’s mad at her boyfriend it’s not unusual for her to flirt with someone else in front of him.”
“To get his attention or punish him?”
“Probably a little of both,” she admitted. “And if we were really lost and it was your fault of course I’d be grateful to him for helping out.”
She paused and looked at him. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, it just...bothered me is all.”
“You were jealous?” she asked, unable to stop the grin that began to spread across her face.
“Yes,” he admitted.
A little thrill rippled through her being. “How jealous?” she asked, taking a step closer to him.
“Jealous enough to punch his lights out.”
She took two more steps so she was right in front of him and slid her arms up around his neck. “You know that you don’t have to be jealous,” she said, smiling up at him.
He stared at her a moment with a tortured look on his face even as she pressed closer to him.
“Cindy, don’t,” he said, his voice husky.
“Why? What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Because unlike you I actually dressed the part. I’m not wearing swim trunks under this towel.”
“Oh!” she said, letting go and quickly stepping back. For just a moment she thought she caught him smirking.
Jeremiah had no idea what had caused him to say that. It wasn’t true, but the look on her face had been priceless. He was grateful, though, that she had moved away. Ever since they had run into the Russian he had found it impossible not to think about Cindy skinny dipping and it was playing havoc with his restraint. In a few minutes they would be getting ready to be going to sleep and the last thing he needed to be doing was thinking about her naked.
He went over, grabbed his pajamas and toiletry kit from his suitcase, and headed into the bathroom to change. When he was finished he exited back into the room. Cindy gave him a smile before disappearing into the bathroom with her things.
He sat down on the edge of his bed and took a few deep breaths. At least they had found out some good information tonight. It didn’t put them any closer to finding out what had happened to Malcolm. At least, not yet, but it was a start.
He heard the shower go on in the other room and he closed his eyes in frustration. Once again he was thinking about water pouring off Cindy’s skin. He laid back with a groan and tried to pray. They needed to wrap this up fast or it was going to be a very long week indeed.
When Cindy emerged from the bathroom Jeremiah appeared to be asleep. She was a bit relieved. It saved some potentially awkward conversation, particularly since all she could think about was the other two times she’d stayed overnight in any kind of hotel or resort with him and they’d had to share one bed. She found herself wishing that they hadn’t been able to get a room with two beds in it and then scolded herself for the thought. Why did things between them have to be so complicated?
She turned off the light and got under the covers. As soon as she laid down she realized that she hadn’t gotten a chance to ask Jeremiah what he’d found out about Malcolm and she felt instantly guilty. They were here to find a missing man and with every minute that passed that was going to be harder to do. Yet all she could think about was her relationship with Jeremiah.
Pull it together, Cindy,
she scolded herself.
It didn’t help her focus more when she reflected on the fact that since the beginning she’d been sure that what they were actually looking for was a dead body and not a kidnap victim. After all, if the man had been kidnapped surely his wife would have gotten some sort of ransom demand.
Unless like I did in Hawaii he stumbled into a situation and his kidnappers need him alive for some reason.
A brief wave of anxiety rolled over her. She hated remembering that experience. There had been so much pain, so much terror. She wouldn’t wish that on anyone, especially a friend of someone she knew. What if Malcolm was like her? Desperately hoping that rescue was on its way but knowing that he would probably never be found?
Her stomach twisted in knots. If he was alive, he had to be found. They needed to stop wasting time.
She got out of bed and turned on the light. “Jeremiah, wake up!” she said.
He stirred and then rolled over and looked at her. “What’s wrong?”
“Do you think Malcolm is dead?” she asked.
“I honestly don’t know what to think. All I know is that he was here at some point.”
“Then it’s possible that he’s still here.”
“I guess. It’s not exactly the ideal place to hold a hostage, but if whoever took him knew what they were doing it could be pulled off. And it might even be easier than trying to move him offsite without being seen.”
“We have to check those other buildings, the staff only ones.”
“Okay. In the morning we’ll look at our schedule and see if we can find time to sneak over there.”
“No, if he’s alive then every second is crucial to keeping him that way. We need to go tonight.”
“Are you serious?” he asked, blinking at her in surprise.
“Deadly serious. If he’s alive we need to find him.”
Jeremiah sat up. “If we go to those buildings we can’t get caught. Not when they’re so clearly off limits. No amount of blushing and bickering will get us out of that one.”
“If we’re caught, that’s it. They’ll throw us out of here and there will be no one who can stop them from doing that.”
She nodded. It was a huge risk, but so was every minute that they delayed. They could miss the opportunity to save Malcolm or the evidence they needed to catch his murderer could be destroyed. Either way time was of the essence.
“Okay, but I would feel a lot better if you stayed here with the door locked,” he said.
She should agree with him. She
to agree with him. Earlier when she had been hovering near that door watching for signs that someone was about to spot them it had been completely nerve wracking. And despite her efforts they had been caught anyway.
“I know you would. And I would probably feel better, too, in some ways, but I can’t. I can’t stay while you go out.”
“Because I couldn’t stand the fear of losing you again.”
“Again?” he asked, frowning.
It felt like her chest was tightening, squeezing the breath out of her. She didn’t want to talk about this. Not now. Not ever. She’d said it, though, the words were out there and he’d never understand if she didn’t explain. She moistened her lips and cleared her throat before continuing.
“When we were in Iran, you let me think you were dead. I believed it and I had to live with it and those hours were the longest, worst hours of my life. Worse than my sister dying. Worse than my brother nearly dying. I was lost. And ever since then I’ve been afraid that you would die for real.”
He reached out and grabbed her hand. “I’m not going to die.”
“Can you promise me that?”
“I promise you, I’m not going to die,” he said, staring down at their hands.
“Look me in the eyes and tell me that.”
Jeremiah slowly raised his eyes to meet hers. “I promise you that I am not going to die tonight.”
She took a deep breath, leaned forward and kissed him. “Thank you,” she said as she pulled away. It did make her feel better even though she knew that he couldn’t completely promise something like that. Aside from desperate kidnappers and murderers there were a lot of things that could hurt someone. Accidents happened.
She felt her heart skip a beat for a moment. She didn’t want to go down that road in her mind. It was not a good road and it led to an even worse destination.
“So, it’s agreed,” he said. “I’ll go alone.”
Mark woke up to the sound of a baby crying. His brain was fuzzy as he turned his head to see the clock. It was nearly two in the morning. Traci was dead to the world, not even a twitch to show that she heard the crying. He didn’t know how she did that. Every time one of the twins cried it woke him up, even if he knew it wasn’t his turn to go check on them. Traci, however, managed to somehow lock into her subconscious when it was his night to handle things and she would never wake up. It baffled him and he would have given almost everything he owned to know how she did it so that he might replicate it.
He staggered out of bed. It was Ryan crying, he could tell. Ryan was a lot quieter in his crying than Rachel was. Rachel’s cries were enough to wake the dead, which meant he really didn’t know how Traci slept through it. Maybe she was undead, he thought. That was the only possible answer. Rachel was destined to grow up and be a scream queen with the set of lungs she had. Either that or a drill sergeant.
He winced as he entered the twins’ room and the cries just became more piercing. Maybe when she got older he’d take her to work with him and see if she could outscream a police siren.
Ryan was awake, but quiet, just staring up with round eyes as Mark glanced at him. When Mark picked up Rachel she blessedly lowered her volume several notches. “What do you need, sweetheart?” he asked even though he suspected he already knew the answer.
He was so bleary-eyed and out of it that it took three times as long as it should have to get her into a fresh diaper. When he had finally put her back down he staggered out of the room, made it back to bed, and flopped down on it hard enough to make the bed shake.