“Don’t you go pissing Jimmy off,” Sylvie said as they finally entered the cluttered little shop a few minutes after it opened.
Too late. Jimmy was the same asshole from the street fair. There was no sign of anyone else.
“You’re late,” the man said as Sylvie walked in.
“It’s not my fault,” she whined.
“That’d be mine,” Morgan said, waiting for Jimmy to look at him.
Jimmy jumped, then narrowed his eyes and decided somewhere in his pea brain to stand his ground. “What do you want?”
“Oh, nothing much.” Morgan strolled through the center aisle. “Just my daughter back.”
“Who?” Jimmy stared at Morgan for an instant, frowning. Then he turned to Sylvie. “This is your old man?” He took several steps toward her. “This is the washed-up fighter?”
Morgan ignored that comment, knowing Sylvie frequently manipulated the truth. She moved toward the cash register at the back of the store, as if putting a barrier between herself and Jimmy—and Morgan. Morgan followed her.
“Don’t go acting surprised,” she said, a lot braver behind the counter. “I told you all about him.” She reached beneath the register and pulled out a neon orange purse.
“Where you going?” Jimmy asked.
“Away from here.” She looked at both men, slinging the long strap of her purse over her shoulder. “I got things to do, and I certainly can do better than either of you.” She stomped away from them along the length of a counter that ran along the back wall, toward a curtain that obviously covered a doorway.
Her body language spoke volumes and Morgan, used to looking for tells in his opponents, read her intent. Damn. She was going to run. He vaulted the long counter, landing hard against the doorframe on the other side just as she slipped past the curtain. Beyond the fabric barrier was a storeroom filled with boxes set every which way. By the time he reached it, the back door stood wide open. And Sylvie was nowhere to be seen.
He ran out the door, jumping down the broken steps into the alley. He couldn’t hear footsteps, didn’t hear her retreat. Had she really gone? Or was she hiding somewhere in that mess inside? He turned, intent on going back to look, but froze.
Jimmy stood in the open doorway, a shotgun aimed straight at Morgan. “You get out of here, or I’ll call the cops and tell ’em you were breaking in.”
“No, you won’t.”
Sylvie had said she didn’t know where the babysitter lived. Was that the truth? Did Jimmy know? “Tell me where Brooke is and I’ll leave you alone.” Morgan leaned closer to the man, glaring at him. “Maybe I should be the one to call the cops.”
“I don’t know or care where she is.” Jimmy gave the gun a shake, as if using it to emphasize his words. It looked old enough that being rough with it might make it go off. “So, get out of here.”
Still, Morgan couldn’t give up. Not yet. The ache in his gut at losing Sylvie now, at the idea of not getting Brooke after all this, ate holes through him.
Morgan backed up and lifted his hands. “Look, I’m going. See?” Getting shot right now wouldn’t solve anything.
“Yeah, you keep going. And tell that bimbo you brought in here that she’s fired.” He looked up and down the alley. “You hear that, Sylvie? You’re fired.”
Then Jimmy turned and slammed the door. Morgan heard the lock click in place.
Morgan wasn’t stupid. He had a pretty good idea that Sylvie was in that shop, hiding behind some of those boxes. He wanted to scream, and he took back all those earlier thoughts that he should protect her from Jimmy’s wrath.
Hell. She deserved his wrath—if it was even remotely real.
Morgan had to go half a block before there was enough space between the buildings for him to walk through. It was a narrow gap, littered with trash and weeds. He moved through as quickly as he could and found himself on Main Street.
He stood there for a long minute, trying to figure out what to do. Chasing after Sylvie would be a waste because he really didn’t think she’d gone anywhere. Would walking through the front door be stupid, knowing that Jimmy had a gun? If he waited long enough, would she come out?