Rogue Page 54

Vic nodded and led Owen and Parker out the door and down the hall, presumably toward the guesthouse, where three different televisions and two computers were at their disposal, ready to be used for the greater good of mankind. Or feline-kind, in this case.

“Okay…” My father turned back to face the rest of us. “So, we’ve traced the tabby and whoever she’s following, but we don’t know who that is, or where either of them are now. Right?”

“Right,” Michael said, his fingers clacking away on the keyboard without pause.

Dad closed his eyes, obviously thinking. “So the last known location for the tabby is Pickering, Louisiana, where she left Jamey’s body. What about whoever she’s tailing?”

“Leesville, which is less than ten miles north of Pickering,” I said, glancing down at my notes. Marc shifted closer to me to see them better.

“It’s where the last stripper disappeared from, and where Painter made his last anonymous call.”

“And you’re sure it’s him?” My father’s eyes opened to take us both in from his armchair. “Did you listen to both messages?”

“We only heard the last one, but it’s definitely him,” I said, annoyed when Dad looked to Marc for confirmation of what I’d said. As if my word alone wasn’t good enough.

“So we know who the informant is, and we have a description of the tabby. The only one we know nothing about is whoever she’s following.”

“Wel , we do know something,” Marc said, glancing at the notebook balanced on my knee. “He’s taken a stripper in a different town for each of the past four nights. If he sticks to his pattern, he could be taking another one right now. But we have no idea where he is.”

“Okay, so trace his path.” Dad templed his hands beneath his chin, his most familiar I’m-thinking gesture. “Maybe we can make an educated guess based on that.”

Maybe we can at that. I dropped the legal pad in Marc’s lap—in case he needed the cheat sheet again—and stood. My father’s gaze fol owed me as I passed his chair, and I heard the springs creak as he turned to watch me. Stopping in front of the huge oak desk, I spun the atlas around and pulled it close.

“Okay. He drove south from Arkansas, al the way to New Orleans.” I traced the interstate down through the state line and into Louisiana. But then I had to stop and flip through the atlas pages to find Louisiana.

“From New Orleans, he probably followed I-10 to Lafayette, then went north—not sure how—to Leesvil e.”

My finger hovered over Leesvil e. “From there, he could go east on Highway 28, or turn either north or south on 171.”

“I don’t think he’ll go back east,” Marc said, closing his eyes as he leaned his head back against the sofa cushion. “He seems to be working his way west.”

To Texas. I was unwilling to vocalize such a thought, at least until I’d either confirmed or dismissed my suspicion involving Andrew.

“Maybe so.” I exhaled deeply to slow my racing heart, then propped one hip on the edge of my father’s desk— hoping to look completely relaxed—and pulled the atlas onto my lap. Michael scowled, but went back to information-gathering when I stuck my tongue out at him.

“South of Leesville, there’s nothing but more small towns and large patches of forest, until you hit I-10. From there, he could go back east toward New Orleans—which we all agree he probably didn’t do—or west, in which case he’ll wind up in Beaumont, then Houston.”

Marc ran one hand through his dark curls, then leaned his head on the back of the couch and closed his eyes again. He looked exhausted. I knew exactly how he felt. “Well, the closer he gets, the easier he’l be to find,”

he said.

Oh, shit. I didn’t know where the stripper-kidnapper was going, but I was starting to seriously suspect he was somehow connected to Andrew.

And I knew exactly where Andrew was headed.

Here.

“Anything new on those dancers yet, Michael?” my father asked.

My brother nodded without looking up. “Yeah. Just a second.”

Hopping down from my father’s desk, I dropped the atlas on the blotter and headed for the door. “I’ll be right back.”

“Where are you going?” my father asked, and I heard springs creak as he stood behind me.

“To the guesthouse for a soda.” My sneakers squeaked on the tiles in a fast, irritating rhythm.

“You need some help?” Marc called. I didn’t answer.

At the end of the hall, I pulled open the back door and shoved the screen out of my way. It slammed shut behind me as I dashed down the steps, wondering where to go next. The guesthouse was out of the question; Vic, Parker, and Owen were in there scrounging up news reports. The barn was a definite no, too; it seemed very wrong to interrupt Jamey’s eternal rest with my own problem, no matter how serious it was.

At a loss for where to go, I settled for a patch of grass to the left of the back porch, against the rear wall of the house. An owl hooted his greeting as I flipped open my phone, my heart thudding in my ears. I scrolled through the missed calls, thankful for the well-lit LCD screen. It didn’t take long to find the voice mail from Andrew. The one I hadn’t entirely listened to in the airport.

Not listening was no longer an option. Maybe it never had been.

Holding my breath, I pressed a button and brought the phone up to my ear, my hand shaking. I focused on the tree line ahead, waiting for the message to play.

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