She didn’t have to look at Luke to know he’d tensed. Not going to happen. “Luke’s my partner on this case. Whatever you can tell me, you can tell him.”
Vance’s bony hands clenched into fists. “You—you’ll bring him in alive, won’t you?”
He knew where Lee was. She’d been certain of that. Monica had just waited for him to break. “I’ll do my best.”
His throat worked. “I just… he couldn’t have done it. I’m sure it’s just…”
“Where is he?” Luke asked.
“I-I can show you. You’ll never find it on your own. An old hunting cabin near the river. Broken down, but Lee took me there a few times.” He swallowed again and the rasp of his breath was loud and painful. “Said he liked to go out there to get away. It used to be his old man’s place.”
“You should have told us sooner,” Monica said. “We’ve lost valuable time.”
“I didn’t want…” His hands slowly unclasped. “I don’t want this to turn into a freak show with the media and everything, okay? I thought he’d be back. When he needs to cool off, he always goes there, but I thought he’d be back.”
But the hours were ticking by, and there was no sign of Lee.
Luke’s gaze stayed on the deputy. “How many people know about that cabin?”
“Not many. It’s far back in the woods, pretty secluded.”
Perfect hiding spot.
“Just come with me,” Vance entreated. “If he’s there, I can bring him in. I know it, he’s my friend.”
Now she met Luke’s eyes and, after a moment, he gave a slow nod.
“All right, Deputy.” She exhaled and felt the reassuring weight of her backup gun against her left ankle. “It’s your show, but if he comes out armed, all bets are off.”
She heard the click of his swallow and the quick utter of his prayer.
Come out easy.
What they always told the killers. But so often…
They came out fighting.
“Let me get the sheriff,” she said.
But Vance shook his head. “If he did this…” The guy’s skin paled even more. “If he sees the sheriff and all the deputies coming after him, I-I’m afraid of what he’ll do.” His voice dropped to a whisper as he said, “His old man ate his gun. I don’t want him to do the same.”
Kenton glared at the computer screen. The connection at this place was shit. He needed the files yesterday, and it was taking three minutes just for one page to load.
He wanted the autopsy records on Kyle West. Needed them. The sooner he could—
The light scent of lavender wrapped around him. “I’ve got my new phone,” Monica whispered against his ear, her breath feathering over him.
Every muscle in his body tensed. What the—
Then she was gone.
He blinked and swiveled around. Monica was heading for the door, Dante close behind her. Yeah, what else was new? Lucky bastard wouldn’t let her get far.
But… her phone?
The door swung closed behind her.
Hyde had brought Monica a new cell phone when he came down. The tech guys had torn apart her other one while they tried to track the Watchman.
Watchman. Fucking stupid name. Who’d come up with that brilliant tag?
He glanced back at the computer. The page had finally loaded on the screen in front of him.
But Kenton didn’t really care. I’ve got my new phone. He whipped out his own cell and called SSD. Ramirez should be riding desk today, doing grunt work on the case and—
“Yo.” Ramirez never bothered with ID’ing himself.
“What’s special about Monica Davenport’s new phone?”
“Uh, wanna run that by me again?”
He held on tight to his patience. If Sam were in the central office, she would have already given him the info. “I need you to check for me—find out if Monica’s new phone has a tracer.” A hunch. Because Monica’s moves were always so precise. Why tell him about the phone? Why—
A hum of sound. Then jazzy elevator music in his ears. Oh, crap, anything but—
“Got a tracer.” A hint of excitement in Jon’s voice. “One of the new ones from Development. Whether her phone is on or off, we can get a lock on her and ID her exact location.”
He jumped out of his chair. “Get a lock on her.”
“Get a lock on her,” he repeated. “Now.”
Because Monica always had a reason. Always.
His gaze flew around the sheriff’s office. She’d wanted to slip away from the deputies, but Monica had also wanted to make sure she could be tracked.
Sonofabitch. She’d left him a perfect trail of breadcrumbs to follow.
They tailed the deputy’s cruiser through the backwoods. Over a sagging wooden bridge. Down muddied dirt roads.
As they went deeper into the woods, Luke noticed that Monica grew more tense. Not that he blamed her. Not one damn bit. This whole scene set his nerves on edge. The sooner they found Pope, the better.
Then he saw the cabin. Dark wood with a sloping porch and two small windows near the front. A line of wildflowers outside.
Wildflowers. What the hell?
Monica’s breath came out, hard and fast. Too fast.
The deputy had stopped. His brake lights flashed as he turned off the car.
“Get your gun,” Monica said. “Get it and get ready.”
But she’d said Lee might be the victim. Wait, shit, what—
She already had her weapon out. She didn’t look at him as she said, “It’s him.” Her stare was on the wildflowers.
Vance hopped out of his car. Paced nervously.
Luke opened his door, nice and slow. He pulled his weapon, felt the reassuring weight in his hand.
Vance squared his shoulders and marched toward the cabin. He slammed his fist on the door. “Lee! Lee, come out!”
No sign of Pope.
Monica climbed from the car.
Vance spun around. “I’m checking the side, he might be there. Lee!” He raised his voice. “Man, we’ve got to talk. Come on, buddy, come out!”
He disappeared. More pounding. Maybe on a second door?
Luke eyed the cabin. No lights were on inside.
“Lee’s in there,” Monica said, her voice pitched low. “We have to get him out.” She licked her lips. “We’re gonna have to move fast. As soon as you see Vance again, I need you to—”