Elliot still hadn’t decided whether or not to go home tonight by the time he got to work. There was nothing at the trailer of any interest for anyone. Everything of any importance he kept in his truck, or on his person.
Tonight, Elliot set the alarm on his truck before he went into the work. He’d never felt the need to do that at the restaurant before, but he still felt violated from realizing someone had been in his home.
Sandy was waiting for Elliot when he came in the back door. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
“Sure,” Elliot said and followed her into her office.
Looking around to make sure no one was paying attention to them, Sandy shut her office door and motioned for Elliot to come to the other side of the desk with her. “There was a guy here earlier asking about you.”
“What?” Elliot asked in alarm.
“Yeah, he said he knew you from Evansville,” Sandy said. At the look of pure terror on Elliot’s face, Sandy asked, “Is that where you were from originally?”
“Yes,” Elliot said and sat down in Sandy’s chair. “Someone went through my trailer too, a pro. If I didn’t know what to look for, I would never have known someone had been there.”
“Shit,” Sandy hissed and started to pace.
“What did the guy look like?” Elliot asked.
Sandy shrugged. “Tall, dark hair, not very stocky, but strong looking. Blue eyes, hook nose. He had a cop feel about him.”
Elliot thought about the description. It almost sounded like Terry Howard. “Mustache?”
“No, clean shaven,” Sandy said.
Pulling out his iPhone, Elliot opened the browser and looked up Terry Howard, Evansville City Police. When a picture of Terry came up, Elliot showed it to Sandy. “Is this the guy?”
“Yeah, that’s the guy,” Sandy said and took the phone from Elliot. “You know him?”
“He was the one in charge of the investigation into Jenna’s disappearance,” Elliot said. “How on earth would he have figured out to come here?” Elliot rubbed his face with both hands. “Steven and his group of friends showed up at the club I went to last night, which, ironically, was the same club Cara and Megan were at.”
“No shit?” Sandy said. “That’s creepy.”
“Yeah, and that’s not all. It creeped all of us out. I’d already got a hotel room, so I had Cara and Megan stay with me last night. Some guy came to the hotel room asking about Jenna Matthews, but it couldn’t have been Terry. Cara knows who Terry is. Whoever it was stayed at the hotel last night and was watching us,” Elliot said.
“A private investigator maybe?” Sandy suggested.
“Could be,” Elliot agreed. That made sense. Michael Matthews was still trying to find Jenna. He might have hired a private investigator. That would explain the pro job on his trailer, but why would they be interested in him?
Elliot pulled out the secure phone and called Mark. He didn’t get an answer, so he left a message telling Mark he would try to call back later.
“Let’s get out there and get things going,” Sandy said. “We don’t want people to get suspicious.”
“True,” Elliot agreed. “I’m not sure what’s up with Steven, but I’ve noticed he watches everyone very closely.”
“I’ve noticed that too,” Sandy said.
When they came out of the office, Steven was standing at the edge of the bar. He turned and gave them a questioning look.
Sandy raised her voice and said sternly, “Next time, you make sure the chicken is cooked all the way through before you send it out. I don’t want to get any more complaints like that.”
Elliot dropped his head. “Yes, ma’am. I’ll check the chicken better from now on.”
“You better,” Sandy said and then turned to Steven. “What you looking at? Don’t you have some beer to move?”
Steven turned and went into the cooler.
Sandy watched him disappear and then said to Elliot, “Why don’t you take a walk outside and clear your head.”
At first, Elliot didn’t understand what she was getting at, and then she patted her front right-hand pocket, which was the same pocket Elliot had his secure phone in. He realized that she meant for him to go outside and try to call Mark again.
Cara pulled in just as Elliot got to his truck. She’d been thinking about him all day. The feel of being in his arms was still with her, and she wanted to feel it again. Cara couldn’t even begin to understand why she was so wildly attracted to this man, but she was. Usually, Cara felt a twinge of guilt when she was attracted to someone because it felt like she was giving up on Jenna, but she didn’t feel that this time. Cara didn’t even feel like she was betraying her lesbian friends. Elliot just did something to her. If her friends were real friends, they wouldn’t care who she was with as long as she was happy.
“Shit,” Elliot mumbled under his breath, smiled and waved at Cara, who parked next to his truck. “Hey,” he called as Cara got out of her car.
“Hey,” she said and walked up to him as he leaned against the back of his truck. She stepped closer to him and reached out and touched his forearm. “Thank you again for last night.” Cara looked over her shoulder at the restaurant. “I have to admit I’m a little creeped out about seeing Steven today.”
Elliot smiled down at her. “It’ll be okay. Just ignore him.”
“Hard to do sometimes,” Cara said.
“I know,” Elliot admitted. “He’s really obnoxious.”
Steven stepped out the back of the restaurant and regarded the two of them curiously. It was just enough to set Cara into motion. She turned, leaned her body fully into Elliot, and kissed him.
Elliot was completely caught off guard by Cara’s kiss, but his body immediately responded to the familiar sensation that kissing Cara had always brought. His arms went around Cara, and he kissed her back, savoring the feel and taste of her.
So thoroughly was Elliot into kissing Cara that he didn’t notice the phone in his pocket vibrating until Cara pulled back and asked, “What is that?”
Coming to his senses, Elliot reached in his pocket and hit the silence button. “Alarm. It reminds me to take my vitamins.”
Cara raised an eyebrow. “Really?”
“Yeah,” Elliot said and started to touch Cara’s face, but she pulled away.
“I know a vibrating phone when I feel one, Elliot.” She shook her head sadly and walked away.
Elliot sighed and watched her walk into the restaurant. He went in front of his truck and called Mark back. Before Elliot could say anything, Mark asked, “Where are you?”
“At the restaurant,” Elliot answered.
“Is Cara there too?” Mark asked.
“Yeah, why?” Elliot asked.
“Keep her there, do not let her leave,” Mark said urgently. “Someone leaked information to Michael Matthews about the body being found, and he went ballistic.” Mark paused. “Elliot, he shot your mom.”
Elliot stood there, stunned. Finally finding his voice, he asked, “Is she?”
“No, but she is in intensive care,” Mark said. “He’s on his way over there. Elliot, he thinks Cara knows where Jenna is.”
“Didn’t you say you thought he might be tracking her?” Elliot asked and looked back at the restaurant.
“Yes. There’s a lot more to it. Dana, our team and I are on our way there. Stay at the restaurant. We’re hoping he won’t try something at a public place,” Mark said.
“Don’t count on it,” Elliot said. “I’ve seen what he will do in public. How far away are you?”
“We’re just north of Georgetown. We’ll be there in about an hour,” Mark said. “Keep your phone on and let us know if anything changes. We’ve alerted the Bath and Rowan County Sheriff’s departments, so they are watching for him.”
“Can we trust them?” Elliot asked, always suspicious.
“I hope so,” Mark said. “I’ve been researching them as part of the plan for next week, and everything has come back good. In fact, I was planning on coming down this week to brief them.”
“Okay, right,” Elliot said. “I’m going to get inside and start cooking. See you soon.”
“There you are,” Sandy said when Elliot walked into the restaurant.
“Just talked to Uncle Mark,” Elliot said and looked around. Everyone else was going about their duties. Cara refused to look at him. Steven glared at him when he walked past them.
“Is that what took so long? Everything okay with your family?” Sandy asked.
“No, actually,” Elliot said. “I may be having to go home for a couple of days,” Elliot said and wrote, “Call Mark,” on a paper towel and handed it to Sandy.
Sandy looked at the paper towel with a nod and went toward her office. “I’ve got to do some ordering. I’ll be out to help in a little bit.”
Elliot turned and went to the kitchen. Jason looked at him with concern. “What’s up, man?”
“Got some bad family news,” Elliot said. “I may have to go home for a few days. You think you can handle things while I’m gone?”
“Sure,” Jason said. “We may not be having the more exotic deer and bison you’re so famous for, but I think I can fix just about everything else. You have the recipes written down somewhere, right?”
“Sandy has them in a file cabinet in her office. Most everything is pretty simple. I think you’ll be fine,” Elliot said. He was distracted though. His mother was in the hospital. His father was on his way to get Cara. It was all getting ready to come to a head. He’d been preparing for this day for two years. Cara wasn’t supposed to be in the picture, and hopefully, he’d be able to keep her out of it. The final battle was about to take place. Elliot tried to focus on preparing food while he prepared for the fight of his life in his mind.