She closed her eyes and asked God to forgive her for not seeing the truth that had been right in front of her. But how could any of them have known this? Still wanting to put it all together, she tried to picture Sherwood and Armond working together. It didn’t add up, but then she’d had a hard time believing her own father had turned out to be a criminal, too.
Armond moaned and opened his eyes. He glanced over at Josie, surprise making him grunt. “What are you doing here?”
Josie couldn’t be sure how coherent he was, so she decided to stick to generalities. “Sherwood brought me here to see you. Is there anything you want to tell me, anything you remember?”
Armond coughed and gave her one of his penetrating stares. “Too many memories. Too much to explain. Where is my son?”
Josie’s hands were tied behind her back again, so she couldn’t get any closer. “Lou? He and Vanessa are safe.” She hoped and prayed. “I think Sherwood has them somewhere in the building.” She leaned up in her chair.
Armond became agitated. “Did you find—”
The door opened and Sherwood waltzed in. “Enough chitchat. We’re expecting company.”
Josie’s heart bumped painfully inside her body. “Connor?”
“Miss him, Gilbert?”
“Just concerned,” she replied, her tone cool in spite of her quickening pulse. “Do you think you’ll actually get away with this?”
“I don’t see any problem in getting away with this.”
She wanted to shout there were two very strong problems—her and Connor. But her helpless situation tore at her. She could easily escape if she set her mind to it, but she wouldn’t leave Armond or Connor. She’d wait until Connor showed up and then maybe together they could figure something out.
* * *
When the SUV pulled up to the rusted-out industrial building, Connor tried to see through the blacked-out windows to gauge the building’s shape. Long and narrow, two-storied, with very few windows and doors. A maze out in the middle of the swamp. The building was only yards from the lake and tucked back along a narrow dirt road. Probably something to do with shipping, but Connor wondered what kind of shipping.
Not that it mattered right now. Still studying his surroundings, he got out of the truck and breathed in the smells of stale oil and decaying loam. Somewhere off in the dense, mossy woods, an animal hurried through the underbrush. The whole place was enveloped in a mantle of desolation and loneliness.
This was the kind of place where people came to die.
But he didn’t plan on dying here. And he sure didn’t plan on anybody he loved dying here. “Let’s get this over with,” he told his guards.
They took him by his elbows and guided him into the main doors. Once the squeaking doors closed behind him, Connor started making plans. His keepers had frisked him, but he’d expected that, so he’d kept his cool and let them have at it. He expected Sherwood to immediately force them to do a more thorough search.
Which was why he’d also asked Mama Joe’s boys to bring their own weapons and the one he’d tucked into the backpack. The only thing he had on him now that mattered was the real SIM card. And he’d stashed it in a place the guards wouldn’t think to check—inside his bootheel. He could go old-school himself when needed.
The goons pushed him down a long, dark hallway toward another double steel door. This place was about as isolated as you could get, but Connor had brought his own brand of backup for that very reason. Mama Joe’s boys could find their way through a maze of live alligators.
When the two men pushed him through the doors, he braced himself for anything and held his breath.
“Welcome.” Special Agent Sherwood smiled and motioned Connor inside the long, dark room.
Heat and humidity hung in the stale air like wet curtains. It clogged Connor’s throat and dripped down his hair and neck.
He took in the scene, his gaze hitting on Josie first. She was tied to a chair, her hands and feet twisted together with rope.
She gave him an imploring return stare, but what he saw in her eyes gave him the boost he needed to get this over with.
She looked at him in a way that showed she believed in him.