In The Victim's Shadow

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Chapter 37

Katherine was just coming out of the shower when her phone rang. She ran to get it, her hand hovering over it for only a moment before she snatched it up. Panic forced its way into her heart, but she refused to let anything spoil her day. She pushed it back out and said, “Hello.”

“Morning, beautiful. Is there a rule against the groom talking to the bride on her wedding day?”

She giggled. “I’m pretty sure that only applies to seeing me.”

“Good, because I don’t like the fact that you kicked me out of our bed last night.”

“Poor sport.”

“I’ve waited thirty-six years for this day.”

“What’s a few more hours?” She asked. “Do you have the tickets?”

“Two tickets to paradise, right here in my suitcase,” he said.

“I know Hawaii is ordinary, but I’m glad we decided to stay fairly close.”

“I am, too. Certainly with all your morning sickness, a cruise would be difficult.”

“You got the top floor, right?”

“Guaranteed.”

“You know there’s no such thing as a guarantee with a hotel, right?”

“Honey, I don’t care if they give me a coat closet, as long as it’s on the top floor.”

“I’ll see you at the wedding,” she said.

He grew silent for a moment before saying, “Be careful today.” A brief flash of her ordeal in the elevator yesterday rushed through her mind like a silent picture show. She shoved it out.

“No, John, not today. I will not think of him today.”

“I love you,” he said.

“I love you, too.”

They hung up, and Katherine stared into space for a moment. Rainbow wound her body around her legs. Katherine picked up the cat. She had lost most of the extra weight and felt perfect to hold again. Katherine tipped her on her back like a baby and rubbed her belly. “You and me and John makes three,” she said. Rainbow mewed in response.

“Oh, dear,” Katherine said, a thought suddenly striking her, “how will you get along with Brittney and Baxter?” The cat let out a cry of protest and jumped from Katherine’s arms. Katherine laughed. “As if you understood me,” she teased.

She trudged off to the kitchen and put on the teakettle. Her stomach lurched at the thought of food. She would save that for later after all the daily vomiting and retching had run its course.

She walked around the apartment, the last time she would take this stroll as a single person—maybe even the last time it would be a single person’s apartment.

She and John would be moving to the big house as soon as they got back from their honeymoon. Peter had already begun to move his things into John’s apartment since John spent most of his time at Katherine’s. The decorators had been in and out of the apartment for the past couple of weeks, making the place Peter’s instead of John’s. “You better marry me,” he had teased. “Your father’s already taken over my pad.”

The kettle went off, and Katherine went to fix her herbal tea. She carried the tea and some soda crackers into the living room and put up her feet.

She glanced around. The apartment had an odd feel to it, now that she knew her mother’s killer had been in it. John had been surprised when she refused his offer to let her stay at his place. “No,” she had said, shaking her head vehemently. “I will not be run out of my apartment. Besides, he’s not getting in now—not with the new locks and added security.”

She had been shocked when she discovered how many security officers would be at the hotel during the wedding. “Overkill, don’t you think?” she had asked Peter, but he had flatly refused to change his mind. After what happened yesterday, she was glad he had been so stubborn.

Her cell phone rang, and she snatched it up. “I’m trapped,” Beth cried into the phone.

“What’s wrong?”

“Some big ole ape in the lobby won’t let me up.”

“Where’s Tony?”

“Lunch break, apparently.”

“Put Lucas on.”

“Hello,” a gruff voice on the other end said.

“It’s okay, Lucas. You can let Beth up. She’s my maid of honor.”

A moment later, Beth was ringing her door chime. Katherine opened the door, and Beth flew into her arms. “Ahhh!” she screamed. “You’re getting married.”

Katherine grinned. “Yep, this is it. I can’t believe it.”

“I can’t believe your dad and Mary pulled it off in such a short time.”

“It helps that Mr. Craft knows what he’s doing. The place had nearly everything. Mr. Craft said they had done so many weddings that his staff could set it up in their sleep.”

Beth held up a bag. “I know you’ve got morning sickness and all, but I brought bagels. You’ll need something in your stomach.”

Katherine looked at the bag, and the power of suggestion took over. She clutched her mouth, ran to the bathroom, and threw up all her tea. She came out smiling. “Okay, let’s eat.”

***

Peter fidgeted with the table centerpieces, stood back to eye them, and called Mary over for a consult. “What do you think of this?” She looked at it, scrunched up her nose, and shook her head. “Why not?” Peter asked.

“It’s too plain,” Mary said. “I like the decorations they already have on the table.”

Peter compared his masterpiece, a clay pot with roses in it, against the hotel’s crystal vase and abundant bouquet of mixed flowers. He sighed. “I guess you’re right.” He took the pot off the table and replaced the crystal vase. “What am I supposed to do with all these flower pots?”

Mary looked thoughtful and said, “Send them over to the hospital.”

Peter nodded. “You look beautiful, by the way,” he said.

Mary blushed. “Thanks. You look handsome yourself.”

Peter gave her a hug. “I’m sorry Bradley can’t make it,” Peter said. “It won’t be the same without him.”

Mary sighed. “Duty calls, I guess. Wouldn’t it just be his luck to have to take an emergency call on today of all days?”

One of the bridal assistants came in carrying the wedding dress. “I’m going to hang it in the bridal room.” Mary nodded. Peter’s breath caught as he looked at the beautiful gown that Katherine had restyled to suit the current trend. In his mind’s eye, he saw Amber walking down the aisle toward him. She was so beautiful that day that he had been unable to think of little else.

He told Katherine she could have her pick of gowns. He had even offered to fly in a designer from Paris, but she wanted Amber’s gown, and he was glad she had chosen it.

Chandler Reynolds entered the hotel and spotted Peter. He clapped him on the back. “Well, old friend…it may not be our kids getting married to each other, but here we are, kids all grown—grandkids arriving. Where’d the years go?” He chuckled.

Peter shook his head. “We’re getting old, Chandler.”

“How about a drink to celebrate?”

Peter glanced around the ballroom. Everything was in its place. The candelabras sparkled with excitement. The flowers bloomed brightly, and the tables glistened with elegance. There was nothing for him to do but wait. “That sounds like a grand idea,” Peter said.

The two old friends made their way to the bar and sat down. They did not need to tell the bartender their order. They had been coming here for most of their lives. They had celebrated the birth of each child, the marriage of Austin, mourned the death of Amber—together, here on these same bar stools.

“Here you are, gentlemen, scotch on the rocks—just the way you like it—two cubes, two ounces of water.” He set down the drinks in front of them and waited. They picked up the glasses, held them high in a toast, and downed them. The bartender picked them up and refilled them, then walked away. They would nurse the second drink.

Pennington Craft came up behind them, putting a hand on each man’s shoulder. “How’s it going, gentlemen?” He signaled the bartender and promptly received the same drink Peter and Chandler had.

“You missed the toast,” Peter accused. Nevertheless, they raised their glasses again and toasted for their friend’s sake.

Peter turned and saw Katherine and Beth walk through the doorway and heaved a sigh of relief. Until this whole business of Katherine’s stalker, and Amber’s killer, was behind them, he would not rest easy. He had been shocked when they discovered the fingerprints of Amber’s killer in Katherine’s apartment, and now with all this Chad business and the whole elevator thing yesterday—well, fear now permeated every second of his day. Just the thought of his wife’s killer in his daughter’s apartment made him shudder. He had joined forces with John in trying to convince her to move out, but Katherine, being a stubborn woman, would not listen to reason. He hadn’t thought she was in any real danger inside the apartment, and the police were working overtime trying to track down the killer, but now he realized how wrong he’d been.

“Daddy,” she said, coming up behind him and whispering in his ear, “don’t you dare get drunk before you walk me down the aisle,” she warned, scolding him like a mother.

He turned to receive her embrace. “Not on your life. You’d better run and get dressed before all the guests start arriving.”

She kissed him on the cheek, accepted a congratulatory hug from Chandler and Pennington, and trotted off to get dressed, maid of honor in tow. The hairdresser was waiting for her when she arrived in the bridal room, waving her brush around in frantic motions. “I said eleven o’clock,” she snapped. “It’s ten after.”

Katherine smiled apologetically. “I’m sorry. I can’t control morning sickness.”

The hairdresser’s eyes flew open, and her fingers touched her lips. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t know.”

“It’s okay,” Katherine said. She sat down in the chair, facing the mirror. “Make me beautiful,” she said.

There were two chairs in the room, both resembling salon chairs, both facing the mirror. Beth sat on the other and within minutes transformed herself from mother-of-the-year to sexy seductress. Katherine marveled at the speed in which she worked. Even the hairdresser was impressed.

Hair and make-up completed, Beth stepped into her gown—the same black dress Beth wore to the library function, with a silver-blue trim added to match the embroidery on Katherine’s gown. She stepped back, holding both hands by her side in a ‘palms up’ gesture that invited either compliment or criticism. “What do you think?”

Katherine shook her head. “You look amazing.”

The hairdresser put the final touches on Katherine’s hair and started on her make-up.

“I’m going to see if Austin is here with Timmy yet,” Beth said, walking to the door. “He’s so nervous about being the ring bearer that he couldn’t even eat this morning.” She laughed and opened the door. “I’ll be back to help you with your dress in a minute.”

“Do you want me to do your flower girl’s hair?” the hairdresser asked.

Katherine shook her head. “That’s generous, but we’re not having a flower girl today.”

She had thought about it, but there weren’t any girls in her life young enough to be a flower girl, except for the girls in her ballet class, but she had envisioned jealous rivalry if she had picked one over the other. So instead, she had chosen to have the aisle littered with bright red rose petals—real roses to give off a romantic scent.

“Well then,” the hairdresser said standing back to admire her work. “We’re finished.”

Katherine looked at herself in the mirror and did a double take. She knew she resembled her mother. People had told her so her entire life, but when she saw her reflection in the mirror, it was as if her mother had come back to life. A tear slipped down her cheek. She wiped it quickly away before it could damage her make-up.

“No crying,” the hairdresser warned.

Katherine laughed. “Sorry. I will do my best not to.”

Beth reappeared, laughing. “Thank God for Daddy,” she said. “Austin couldn’t get Timmy’s tie right. The poor little boy was practically choking when Austin arrived with him. Let’s get you into that dress.”

Beth took the garment down off the hanger and held it while Katherine stepped into it. She pulled it up, fastening it in the back. Katherine commissioned to have the neckline modernized, but aside from that, she looked exactly as her mother had so many years ago. “What is your father going to say?”

“Let’s find out. Will you go and get him for me?”

Beth slipped out the door while Katherine waited nervously. She stood up abruptly when the door opened, biting her lower lip in anticipation of her father’s reaction.

Peter gasped, and then his eyes moistened as he smiled at his beautiful daughter. Katherine’s golden hair, which was as lovely as her mother’s had been, was swept up and pulled back away from her face. Her long hair cascaded down her back in abundant curls that she had secured with stylish combs. When Amber had worn the dress, the bodice had been full—as was the style at the time. The dressmaker had reinvented it into a sleek, off-shoulder bodice, with beads of pearls edging the top. From Peter, Katherine had inherited her lips. Every other feature had come from Amber.

“How do I look, Daddy?” her voice squeaked.

His eyes went soft, glistening with unspent tears. “Radiant. Your mother would be so proud of you.”

“Is proud, Daddy,” she said. “I feel her right here with us.”

He nodded agreement. “I will walk you down that aisle,” he said, “but I will not give you away because, no matter how many babies of your own you have, you will always be my little girl.”

Tears stung Katherine’s eyes. She fanned her face with her hands to keep from crying. “Stop,” she warned, “before I cry.”

Peter and Katherine stood at the head of the aisle, drew in their breaths, and began their march to the altar. Katherine locked eyes with John and saw tender love. She smiled, felt her father’s arm tighten, drawing her close, wanting to keep her to himself for as long as possible. She laughed lightly and Peter grinned in return.

He left her standing next to John, and a sense of loneliness edged into his heart as she pulled her arm from his. In a way, it was like losing his Amber twice.

“It’ll be okay,” she whispered, and he took his seat.

They promised to love each other, swore to honor and protect each other the rest of their lives, exchanged rings, kissed, and walked back down the aisle together—a family of three.

While the photographer took pictures, their wedding guests enjoyed a delicious array of appetizers, a prelude to the gourmet meal waiting for them at the conclusion of the pictures. They sipped wine while chatting and laughing gaily. It was a grand party, which all society editors would be writing about tomorrow.

While the photographer’s camera whirled with a mind of its own, Katherine looked around, nervous as ever. John whispered in her ear, “He wouldn’t dare show up. Not with all this security.”

Katherine nodded. “I guess you’re right.”

“Can I see some teeth,” the photographer growled.

Katherine obliged, but still an uneasy feeling crept up her spine.

A server came and announced dinner, and they all took their seats. Forks clashed against plates as hungry guests devoured every morsel. Voices rose and fell as guest enjoyed lighthearted conversations. Tittles of laughter spilled around them, and Katherine didn’t think anything could ruin this day.

As John’s best man, Austin stood and gave a comical speech about putting the baby before the marriage. “Although I’m John’s best man today, I’ve known Katherine my entire life. So it’s no surprise to me she and John decided to do the whole thing backwards and get the bambino before the altar.”

“Look who’s talking,” Katherine shouted, laughing.

Austin chuckled. “John, you’re a lucky guy. Everyone knows she’s a gem, and we all knew you were in love with her long before you did.” Thunderous applause reverberated off the walls. “The best of luck to you both.” He nodded in Katherine’s direction. “You’re going to need it.”

Beth stood next. “Katherine and I have been friends for a long time. She’s always been there for me, even when I didn’t follow her advice, or do what was best for me. I thank her for that because she really knows how to be a true friend.” Beth caught Katherine’s eyes and saw the chandelier lights bounce off her glistening tears. “There isn’t much I can say about Katherine that we don’t all already know, but what I can tell you is what a pleasure it is being a part of these two lives. I get the honor of working with them every day, and I see the dedication and love they have for their jobs and each other. They have the key ingredients for a happy life together.” She looked at Austin and chuckled, tagging off his speech. “Anyone who knows Katherine well knows she’s always one step ahead of the game, so yes, the ‘bambino’ would come first.” Katherine threw back her head and roared. John pulled her close, chuckling as he kissed her cheek. Beth raised her glass high. “To John and Katherine, may the Lord bless your union, and may we always be friends.”

Then they were cutting the cake, trying to dodge the requisite cake in the face, to the laughter of all their guests. John swiped cake across Katherine’s nose and licked it off. Then he trailed his finger down her top, licking as he went, keeping time to the oohs and aahs along the way. Katherine pulled his face to her lips. “Stop,” she laughed.

John grinned and wiggled his eyebrows playfully. “They all know what tonight’s about.”

Katherine demurred. “We don’t have to demonstrate.”

John pouted. The DJ announced the opening dance. John raised his eyebrows. “Saved by the dance.” Katherine laughed as she and John took their place on the dance floor for their expected first dance. As John looked down at Katherine, he felt like the luckiest man alive. “Hello, Mrs. Wheaton,” he said, as Katherine put her hand in his and his arm encircled her waist.

“Hello, Mr. Wheaton,” she said, smiling back.

The music switched, and Peter took John’s place for the father-daughter dance. Then, halfway through the dance, John, unable to bear being apart from his bride, cut in.

Peter chuckled good-naturedly, but felt a stab in the heart when he realized he was no longer the most important man in his daughter’s life.

When the music died to a lull, Katherine whispered, “I really must use the bathroom.”

“I’ll go with you,” John said.

Beth approached. “May I borrow your husband for a dance?”

John tried to protest, but Katherine insisted. “I’ll be fine, John. It’s just the bathroom.”

“No place is safe right now.”

Katherine shook her head and crossed her arms over her chest. “So, what if he kills both of us? Do you think anything is going to stop him if he truly wants to shoot me?”

Beth pulled on his arm. “Please.”

Katherine nudged him toward Beth. “There’s plenty of security around this place. He’s not getting in.”

Beth tipped her head sideways, pleading. John looked at Katherine and her hard glare and relented. He took hold of Beth, spinning her around the dance floor. Katherine stood and watched a moment, admiring her husband. Their eyes met several times, their love openly displayed in them. She smiled at him, and then she slipped out the door.

Katherine walked toward the restroom, her footsteps echoing on the dark green tiles. With all the guests enjoying the festivities in the grand ballroom, the hallway felt bare, vulnerable. She shivered, looked back over her shoulder. Her body shuddered. Something was wrong, but she couldn’t put her finger on it.

A noise at the far end of the hallway caught her attention. The only thing down there was the door to the parking garage. “Is someone there?” No reply. She began to push open the bathroom door, stopping when she heard the noise again.

She let go of the door. “I said, is someone there?”

“It’s me,” a voice whispered.

Katherine tilted her head to one side. “April?”

A voice, barely audible, squeaked back, “Yes.”

Katherine stepped toward her, covering half the distance to the door. Then she stopped, looked back at the ballroom again.

“I need help,” April pleaded.

Katherine gestured toward the ballroom. “Let me just get someone to help.”

“No!” April begged with a strange cry in her voice. “Just you. I need your help.”

Katherine bit her lower lip. All her instincts told her to run, pick up her heels and not look back...but she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t turn her back on April. “Come with me,” Katherine said.

April shook her head. Her eyes glistened with tears. “Please, Katherine.”

Katherine saw April close her eyes as her lip began to tremble. She stepped forward, pushing all hesitation aside as she reached out to aid the beautiful, young woman.

The door flew open. Katherine gasped as Chad yanked April back by her hair. A knife appeared next to her throat.

“I’m sorry,” April whispered, true regret choking her words. Tears began streaming from April’s eyes. “I’m sorry.”

“I’ll cut her. I swear I will if you don’t come with me.”

Katherine held up her hands. “Chad, please don’t do this.”

“Shut up bitch!”

“Why? What have I done to you?”

Chad gritted his teeth. His words came out in a hiss. “Of course you wouldn’t know. Miss prissy, high and mighty. Well, I’m sick of it.”

Katherine shook her head. Then she caught sight of April’s eyes, followed them to April’s waist, where Chad’s arm had loosened its grip. If she timed it correctly, she might be able to catch Chad off guard. She inched forward. “We’ve only just met. How would I know what’s going on? Is it because our date didn’t work out? That wasn’t your fault. These things just happen.” She took another step.

“Get in here.”

Katherine shook her head, knowing if she stepped into that parking garage, her life might well be over. Chad pierced April’s skin. Little droplets of blood appeared. April cried out in pain. What if she screamed? Would anyone hear her? Most likely not. The sounds of the music and laughter were too loud. “I said get in here.”

“Don’t do it,” April said. Chad pushed the knife farther into April’s skin, this time a small stream of blood appeared. Katherine stepped through the door, letting it close firmly behind her.

Chad grinned. “Much better, bitch. See now, that wasn’t so bad, was it?”

“Please Chad—why are you doing this?”

Chad laughed. “All my life I’ve waited for this moment. I will not let you take it from me.”

April raised her foot and stomped down on Chad’s. She cried out, “Run, Katherine!” She tried to squirm from his grasp, but he tightened his hold. Katherine turned to run. Chad brought the knife down, slicing through the air, plunging it into April’s thigh. She dropped to the ground.

Katherine felt Chad’s strong arms close around her throat. He pulled her against him and whispered in her ear, “Bitch.” Then she saw April lying on the garage floor blood running from her leg. She kicked Chad in the groin and took off running. She screamed, “Help! Help!” She could hear Chad running behind her, heard the sound of her high heels thundering, a cacophony compared to the silence of his athletic shoes. If she kicked them off, she could run faster. Then again, the sound surely would draw attention. No more than her screams would, she reasoned. She let the shoes slip off, gaining momentum with her new freedom.

There must be a security post up ahead, wasn’t this the way to the ticket agent. Suddenly, she realized what was wrong—what she had pushed aside when she first left the ballroom—there were no security guards anywhere in the hallway. What happened to all the extra security her father had ordered? There should have been half a dozen guards in that hallway. Had she underestimated Chad? Was his threat far greater than she had given credit?

She took a chance and glanced back. Chad was no longer behind her. Terror seized her. She took in a huge breath, as large as her exhausted lungs would let her, prepared to let out the monster of all screams. She could see the faint outline of the parking attendant’s booth. She did not see any signs of life. Something was wrong. The gate—it was closed!

The scream was just leaving her throat when Chad stepped out from between two parked cars. He was grinning. Then his hands clasped around her throat, and her world went black.

The music ended with the third song since Katherine’s departure. John looked over at Peter, who was telling some story to a group of people that kept growing larger by the minute. The music had given him a headache. He waited anxiously for Katherine to return, so he could ask her how quickly they could leave and not be rude.

Beth returned to the table, having just finished dancing with Timmy. She looked at John, puzzled. “Katherine’s not back yet?”

John shook his head and rose. “I’m going to see what’s keeping her.”

Beth pushed him back down. “I’ll go. You’ll look silly in the women’s bathroom. You’ll watch Timmy for me?”

John nodded and settled back to watch Timmy’s demonstration of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Beth made her way to the bathroom. The hallway was deserted and felt creepy. Where was all the security detail Peter had ordered? She pushed open the door and stepped inside. “I know you’re pregnant and all, but you can’t spend the entire night in—” She came to an abrupt halt when she saw all the stalls were empty. “Katherine,” she called. She walked over to each stall and peered inside. “Katherine,” she called again, growing alarmed. Her neck prickled. Her heartbeat quickened. Something definitely was wrong.

She made her way back toward the dining room, wondering at the last minute if she might have gone to the bar to get a soda. She veered to the right instead of entering the ballroom. She saw the bartender and said, “Hey.”

He looked up from the glasses he had been washing and smiled pleasurably. “Hey, yourself. What’s your pleasure.”

“I’m looking for my friend. I’m wondering if she came this way.”

“What’s she look like?”

“She looks like a bride.”

He shook his head. “I’m sorry, haven’t seen her. Did you try the ladies’ room?”

She nodded. “Thanks .” She turned to walk away.

“If I see her, who do I say is asking?”

“Beth.”

“So, you have a phone number to go with that name?”

Beth shook her head. “I’m not available.” His eyes traveled to her left hand. “It’s complicated,” she said, flattered nonetheless.

He shook his head and sighed. “The best ones are.” He nodded in her direction. “Enjoy the party.”

“Thanks,” Beth said.

John looked at her when she entered the ballroom. He didn’t like the look of fear written across her face. He stood, shaking his head as he dreaded the words she spoke, “She’s not there. She’s not anywhere.”

He tore from the room, ran up and down the hallway shouting her name. In the ballroom, the music fell silent as Beth filled them in on what was happening. Peter frantically joined in the search. Soon all the guests were searching, turning the wedding reception into a search party.

John entered the parking garage, looking around in panic. He saw a pool of blood off to the right and made his way to it, crying, no…no…no… Stuffed behind a couple trashcans, he saw the splayed out body of a security guard, his throat covered in blood. John did not need to touch him to know he was dead. Peter came and looked over his shoulder, heaving a huge sigh when he saw it wasn’t Katherine.

Peter looked at the security patch on the man’s shoulder. “That’s the company I hired. There should be three of them out here and two patrolling the hallways.”

They all looked around. “Fan out and holler if you see something,” John said, leading the group away from the corpse.

“I’ll call the police,” Beth said.

“Don’t forget to call Dan Steele,” John said.

“What’s happening, Mommy?”

Beth hurriedly turned her son in the other direction. She looked at her sister-in-law. “Betty Lee, would you mind taking Timmy back inside. See if you can find some ice cream somewhere.”

Timmy’s eyes lit up. “Ice cream’s way better than looking for lost people,” he said.

Beth smiled, confident he hadn’t seen the dead body.

A scream pierced through the garage as one of the women found another body. “Another one over here,” the woman’s husband said.

Beth dialed nine-one-one, relaying the message to the operator.

More guests poured into the parking garage. John saw something lying on the ground. In a surge of panic, he rushed toward it, picked it up, held it against his body as dread coursed through him.

“What is it?” Beth asked when she caught up with him. She gulped air into her tired lungs.

He held up one satin shoe. Beth gasped, cried, “No!”

John’s heart sank as the reality hit him that he had failed. As hard as he’d tried, he couldn’t protect her, she was gone. Anger boiled his blood. “I’m going to find you bastard!” he shouted. He threw the shoe, hitting a car and setting off the alarm.

Peter put a hand on his shoulder. “We’re going to find her,” he firmly said. “Don’t even dare to think otherwise.”

John spun around. “How are we going to do that? The police can’t find him. So how are we supposed to?” An idea rushed at him. He caught it. Feeling a renewed sense of hope, he said. “But I know someone who can.”

John rushed toward his car, ripped the just married paraphernalia off it and climbed in behind the wheel. The passenger door ripped open, and Peter stepped inside. “Where are we going?”

“I’ve seen that kid around who was following Katherine. I know where he hangs out.” He leaned out the window. Speaking to Beth, he said, “Let Dan Steele know we’re headed for the Magic Cup. It’s a coffee joint on Mission.”

Beth nodded. “What are you going to do?”

“Find Greasy Charlie. If anyone knows where the bastard took Katherine, it will be he.” John backed the car out and, tires squealing, he raced toward the exit, passing three police cars just entering the garage.

He double parked in front of the coffee shop, threw open the door and stormed inside, Peter hard on his trail. Several eyes turned at the commotion. Chairs screeched as people scattered. He found the kid easily enough, as most everyone had backed into a corner. There he was spinning his hips in an obscene way, his eyes glued to his computer screen. John stomped his way to him, ripped the computer screen off the table, and thundered, “Where is he?”

Greasy Charlie gaped up at him, shaking his head. “I don’t know. Honest.”

John raised the laptop over his head, prepared to slam it to the ground. “Okay. Okay. I might know. There’s a place he likes to go. You can see the entire city there. He said he feels like a king when he’s there.”

John lowered the laptop. Charlie snatched it from him. “Show me,” John demanded.

“I don’t know exactly,” Charlie said, “I’m supposed to meet him at this place.” He took out a piece of paper and showed it to them. “I’m just supposed to follow these directions.”

John snatched the papers from his hand.

Peter, looking over John’s shoulder, clutched John by the elbow. “I know where he took her.”

They turned and left. Charlie hollered after them, “I hope you find her.”

John turned back. Charlie flinched at the stormy look in his eyes. John pointed a finger at him. “If I don’t, I’m coming back to find you.”

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