“Hey, do you work here?” One of the girls who had been looking at the T-shirts came over to them.
“Uh, no.” Tara frowned, looking around for the man who’d been behind the table. “He was here a minute ago.”
“There isn’t anyone.” The girl actually pouted. “Darn, I wanted this one.” She held up a black T-shirt with a ghastly skeleton on it. Maybe it was a blessing the man wasn’t here.
“Morgan did you see…?” She turned to find Morgan gone. In the distance, just this side of the park, she saw him jogging down an alley that led away from the street fair. The T-shirt salesman was a short distance ahead of him, hurrying away.
MORGAN’S CURSES FILLED the air. Where the hell had the guy gone? As he’d talked to Tara, he’d watched the vendor behind her react. Something—recognition or realization—had dawned on the man’s face. Looking up the side street now, Morgan didn’t see a trace of him.
Half a dozen people came and went around him. A couple women stood on the corner, chatting in the sunlight. A boy played in the dirt with one of those yellow toy trucks Morgan had wished for as a kid.
But no shaggy-haired T-shirt vendor in sight. Morgan walked for a couple blocks, looking down alleys and casually glancing into whatever window he could without turning into a Peeping Tom. Nothing. Nowhere. It was as if the guy had vanished into thin air.
Finally, resigned, Morgan headed to the street fair. If nothing else, the guy had to come back and get his merchandise. But when Morgan returned to the booth, an older, worn-out-looking woman was there. He tried to question her, but she was too busy to talk.
“You wanna buy a shirt? I got customers.” She held up one of the rumpled garments. To any other questions, she just shook her head, focusing on the seemingly endless line of customers.
“Then tell me where the man went. Your partner?”
“I don’t keep track of no one but me.” She turned to a couple women on the other side of the booth. With a sigh, Morgan settled under the oak to wait, though he wasn’t really sure what he was waiting for.
Sitting there in the mottled sunlight, with nothing to do but think, Morgan wondered why he was even here. Was he just wasting his time? No. This was the best lead he had, and he couldn’t walk away. The idea of leaving wasn’t even an option. He had to find Sylvie and Brooke.
He had no choice.
As he watched people moving around the spacious park and shopping at the varied booths, it was with a calculated eye. He was studying. Looking—but not hoping. He never let himself go there.
He’d given up on hope a long time ago. Losing it was too painful. But where else could he look? Who else should he talk to? He thought about calling Jack, but he was tired of calling his brother with no news. Tired of failing.
Tara Hawkins must have gone to the diner. Despite himself, he looked around for her. Damn it. He didn’t see her anywhere. Maybe she’d know more. Should he go back there?
Turning toward the T-shirt stand, he forced himself to focus. This was his mission—Brooke was his responsibility.
Throughout the rest of the day, the woman at the booth did a brisk business. Nothing unusual. Just busy. She cast Morgan several furtive glances, which made him more determined to stay put. The man didn’t return.
Finally, as the sun set low, the woman pulled boxes from under the table and packed the remaining stock. No one came to help, and she glared at Morgan.
If he didn’t want to have an up-close-and-personal meeting with the sheriff, he knew he had to be careful about how he approached her.
When she taped the last box closed, Morgan moved closer for one last try. He didn’t say anything at first, simply stood, watching, trying not to intimidate her too much. She, on the other hand, had no hesitancy in glaring at him.
Slowly, deliberately, Morgan pulled out his wallet. Not to get money, but to slip out the familiar, worn picture. He hesitated. Was this a good idea? He had no clue, but he didn’t know what else to do. Praying he was making the right choice, Morgan put the picture on top of the last box. “She’s mine,” he whispered around the lump in his throat. “She’s a year older than that picture.”