I don’t have time to argue with her. I drag her to the bathroom and shove her inside. “If I’m not back by the time the maids find you, I’m dead. Take that bag of cash strapped over your shoulder and the rest in the duffel I’m leaving behind, and get the hell out of here. I’m not taking the Escalade, so it’ll be here if you need it. And don’t scream to get attention. It might be the wrong kind of attention, the kind that gets us both killed.”
“Don’t do this,” she demands, and I shut the door, grab a chair from the desk behind me, and shove it under the doorknob.
“I’ll be back,” I promise, silently swearing to myself that it will be with my sister by my side.
“Chad! Wait! I need to tell you something.”
I pause. “Yes?”
She’s silent several beats before she says, “Please don’t get killed. Please come back.”
The plea is desperate, passionate, as if she really does give a damn about me. And damn it to hell, it’s hard to leave her behind, when I’m not sure I’ll ever see her again.
WHEN I EXIT the hotel the doorman is quick to turn in my direction, but I hold up a hand, waving him and the use of the Escalade off. My walk through the high-end neighborhood is short. I travel a few blocks past little shops and a busy cross street filled with restaurants and a towering new high-rise under construction. This, like another half-dozen locations where I’ve acquired properties across the country, is meant to allow me the option of a safe haven if needed, while I slowly amass resources using the deeply disguised holding companies I’ve always known we’d need to stay off the radar of Sheridan and his cohorts.
With each step I take, I think of Amy. I haven’t seen my sister, really seen her face-to-face, in six years. The idea of holding her and telling her that I love her has me shaking inside. The range of emotions we’ll both feel if she’s in the apartment I set up for her will be extreme and surreal, and while there will be relief and happiness for us both, I know her anger will come hard and fast. But I’ll deal with it. If she’s alive and well and I can touch her, hold her, if I can know she is safe, she can bust my chops all she wants. Please be there, I think. Please be angry and give me hell.
My heart races as I cover yet another block, and I start to relive that moment almost two months ago now when Jared called me from overseas. He’d intercepted chatter from Sheridan’s camp that had made it clear that the job Amy had taken in a New York museum had attracted their attention and tied her to our past. I’d missed that communication myself, and I still don’t know how. But Jared had found it, and he was too far away to help. That one problem had forced me to tell Meg about Amy for the first time. I wonder now if the timing was all a setup, a way to get me to expose Amy’s location, but I refuse to believe Jared was involved.
My pace quickens, the certainty that I’m about to find out if Amy survived my captivity turning seconds into what feels like hours. I enter the apartment complex foyer and skip the elevator, opting for the service stairs. I’m on the second floor in a flash, bursting through the doors and charging to the door that should be Amy’s. I knock when I want to kick the door down. I knock some more until, with a shaking hand, I reach in my pocket and find the key I’d made years before. When I stick it inside the lock, it doesn’t move.
Cursing under my breath, I dig in my pocket again and pull out a picking tool I’d grabbed from my bag somewhere in New Mexico and make fast work of opening the door. Before entering, I arm myself with my gun, and step forward. Shutting the door behind me, I stand there and listen for any noise, any sound that might tell me someone is here. I hear nothing. Not a damn thing. Inching forward, I bring the completely empty apartment into view. I’d had it furnished in case Amy needed it, but those items aren’t here now, and neither is she. Where the hell is the furniture? Where the fuck is my sister?
I scan for clues, anything to tell me where Amy is, and my gaze catches on a note pinned to the wall. Rushing toward it, I stare at the plain white sheet of paper that contains only a typed phone number—as good as a ransom note.
I growl, pounding the wall over and over until my knuckles bleed. Time ceases to exist until I somehow come back to myself, to the room, and to my senses, and search the rest of the barren apartment. When I’m sure I’m alone, I shove my gun in the waistband of my jeans under my shirt and snatch my new phone that I picked up on our way to Denver, dialing the number typed on the piece of paper, pacing as the line rings. Once. Twice. Four times, and then a voice mail beep, with no outgoing message.
“Call me back, motherfucker,” I order roughly. “And if you hurt one hair on my sister’s head, I swear to you I’ll scalp you and bring popcorn to snack on as I watch you bleed to death.” Ending the call, I stand there, inhaling heavily, as if my sense of smell might tell me if my sister was ever here. Logic overcomes me and it hits me that smell can’t, but neighbors could.
Aware that I’m in danger, practically inviting Sheridan to grab me again, I can’t seem to give a damn. Even if Amy wasn’t here, Meg would have told Sheridan that this is where I’d planned to take her.
Still. Don’t. Give. A damn.
Exiting the apartment, I start knocking on doors, and two apartments down, a little old lady answers. The woman, who can barely remember what her own apartment number is, offers no help. I’m fucked.
Giving up this strategy, I take the stairs, exit the apartment building through the foyer, and cut to my left, stopping at a cell phone store. Hesitating only a moment, I decide a few stops will give me a chance to find out if I’m being followed. Quickly, I cross the road, hitting up the retailer for several more disposable phones, which I buy with yet another fake credit card and ID. I’m out of the door and walking again, taking a different route to the hotel than I’d followed on the way to the apartment.