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Authors: Mitzi Pool Bridges

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BOOK: Find My Baby
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“Look at those narrow eyes,” Nester added. “She looks mean enough to me.”

“Now that you mention it, her eyes look soulless.” Rosie shivered. “Poor Kayla.”

“Poor Sam,” Nester said, looking at the sketch of the baby. She put her arms around her niece. “We’ll help you find him, Kayla.” She turned to Luke. “Won’t we?”

Instead of answering, he went to the stove to re-warm the coffee. Turning around, he saw that his mother and Nester were gone. Good. He had enough distractions already. He didn’t like it when they looked at him with the kind of trust that made a man squirm. They didn’t seem to realize there were procedures he had to follow. Rules he couldn’t break.

Still, he found that somewhere deep inside, he wanted to believe Kayla. He’d take her to headquarters if for no other reason than to clear this up.

Picking up the drawing, he gave Kayla a questioning look. “This was the woman at the house?” He picked up another one. “And the man?”

Kayla nodded.

“And you have no idea who they are? You’ve never seen them before?”

“Never,” Kayla whispered, then rubbed her throat. “I’m losing my voice.”

He reached into the pantry and took out a jar. “Put some honey in your tea. It will help.”

Their hands brushed. A current sparked between them. Luke gave her a closer look. He liked the way her dark hair fell around her face. And he definitely liked that face. Pale though, way too pale.

Staring into her cup, Kayla said, “Why would anyone take my son? I’m nobody. I have no money. My mother struggled all her life and died poor. I worked to put myself through college. I know nothing of my husband’s family except what he told me; that they died after he graduated from high school. He had nothing either.” She looked up at Luke. “I have nothing of value. If they wanted a ransom, I couldn’t raise the money.”

“If they were after a ransom, would they have kept you prisoner for a month? Would they have let you hold and nurse your baby during that time? Would they have tried to kill you?” He shook his head. “There’s more here than a simple kidnapping.”

He tried to think back to other kidnappings and all he knew about them. As far as infant kidnappings went, this would be just one of hundreds if not for the fact that they’d kept the mother prisoner and allowed her access to her son during that time. Out of the norm.

“Why then?” she asked. “I’m not a political person. Aunt Nester is my only relative and this is the first time I’ve seen her since I was a child. What reason would anyone have for doing this? Taking a baby, yes. That’s done. But not like this.”

He didn’t have an answer, but with the help of HPD and the FBI, he’d do his best to find one. “I want to know everything about you, where you lived, where you worked, bought groceries, went to church. I want your doctor’s name and the names, addresses and phone numbers of your friends. And don’t forget to put down the address where you lived and the exact spot where you were kidnapped. Perhaps someone in the neighborhood saw something or someone.”

Kayla dragged another sheet of paper close and began to write.

“And I want to know if you’re seeing anyone.”

“What difference would that make?”

“You never know,” Luke answered. He’d seen men do some pretty horrendous things to girlfriends and their families, including murder, beatings, and neglect. And though there wasn’t a husband in the equation right now, perhaps there was someone who wanted to take that position, but didn’t want a kid as part of the package.

She let out a sigh. “There hasn’t been a man in my life since David. In fact there hasn’t been much of anyone in my life.”

Luke found that hard to believe. A woman who looked like Kayla, pregnant or not, had to have men attracted to her. And everyone had friends. She handed him the list.

“This is it?”

Kayla shrugged, tucked her hair behind her ears. A reflex she seemed totally unaware of.

“I told you. There aren’t many people in my life. I’ve moved around so much over my lifetime I didn’t have time to make friends.”

With nothing to go on except her word, he stared at the list: a grocery store, and a clinic. A church and a library, plus her landlord and a teacher she’d worked with until a few days before her abduction. She’d added the address of her apartment complex.

“It won’t take long to check these out.”

“You’re wasting your time. No one I’ve been in contact with since I’ve been in Houston had anything to do with this.”

“How do you know?”

“I just do. None of these people would be involved. It’s someone else entirely.”

“Like who?”

“I don’t know.”

“But you just said it had to be someone else. Which someone else?”

Kayla let out a frustrating sigh. “You sound just like a cop. If I knew the answer I wouldn’t be here. I’d be with my son.”

Luke let it go. “Did you give this list to the detective who interviewed you?”

“I didn’t stay around long enough for them to ask. When I realized they thought I was guilty of hurting Sam, I told them I had to use the bathroom. When no one was looking, I left.”

“How did you do that?” It wasn’t easy to get away from the police if they were interested in you.

“The detective waited for me at the door of the restroom, but I got lucky. There was a ruckus down the hall. I think a prisoner got loose or something. There was a lot of banging and yelling. The detective went to take a look. That’s when I took off.”

Nothing like escaping custody to make one look guilty.

He did his best to talk himself out of getting involved. It was the last thing he needed right now. Heaving a giant sigh, he realized he couldn’t talk himself out of it. He’d do what he could. Kayla needed help in the worst way.

“Do you have a jacket?”

She shook her head.

“Borrow one. We’re going to find that house.”

Nester came into the room with a warm jacket and scarf. She’d been listening again. “Take care of her, Luke.”

“Let’s go.” He shrugged into his jacket and waited while Kayla went over to hug Nester. His gaze went to the two older women. They looked at him as if he could move mountains.

The weight of their trust settled uneasily on his shoulders.

Dammit to hell, he was getting involved in a case that belonged to another detective, one that normally wouldn’t be on his radar.

He stared at the phone. He should at least call in.

Kayla watched him expectantly; those compelling blue eyes pulling at him.

A cop who should know better, one who always did the right thing, cursed himself for going against procedure and possibly, just possibly, doing the wrong thing.

Chapter Four

“Why are you taking on something you don’t want to?”

Cursing, Luke swung around a stalled car on I-45 and pressed the accelerator. “I’m looking into this for a lot of reasons that wouldn’t make sense to you. But you need to realize something. You have to go back to headquarters whether you want to or not for a couple of very good reasons.”

She couldn’t keep the panic from showing. And Luke saw it.

“First, we have to make the authorities believe your story. Second, we need the help of both HPD and the FBI. Don’t worry. They won’t keep you. But they have the resources and the manpower we don’t have. Alone, we have nothing.”

“I’m going to find him,” she said with all the conviction she could muster. “The cops aren’t interested in the job.”

“What if Sam can’t be found? The world can be small at times, at others it’s huge.”

She sat there in silence before saying, “I wonder if Sam was taken by someone in the black market baby business.” She turned to face him. “Does HPD have anything like that in the works now?”

“Not my department. There’s always someone who wants a baby and doesn’t care how they get it.”

Kayla winced. “I guess.”

“You’d be a perfect candidate. No husband. No family. No close friends. No resources. But how did they know that? It would mean someone who knows you was involved or you were followed.”

“It’s not anyone I know and if I was followed, I didn’t know it. It was an ordinary morning. A little cooler than normal, but the sun was shining and I felt good. Two blocks from my apartment complex, a van pulled close and stopped. Before I knew what was happening, the van doors opened and I was whisked inside. A mattress was on the floor of the van and though they held me down firmly, it was if they were doing their best not to hurt me.”

The fear from that time swept through her. She had to wrap her arms around herself to keep from shaking.

“Sounds very deliberate. And even if you were stalked for the purpose of stealing your baby once he was here it wouldn’t be likely the kidnappers would keep you so long after the birth, or try to kill you later.”

“It’s so off the wall,” she admitted. “It’s as if they wanted to keep Sam healthy until a certain point. I think that point was the night they took Sam and I escaped.”

“Sounds logical,” he agreed. “You need to think about everything you heard. Did they say anything that would give you a clue as to who they were? Or why they specifically wanted your baby?”

“I’ve been doing just that for four weeks now. I haven’t come up with anything.” She paused. “Sam is my son. He doesn’t belong to the person who stole him. And I’m going to find him.”

Before the pain could swallow her again, Kayla quietly took control. Right now, she needed that above everything else. She needed a place to start. The matchbook she’d moved from her sweats to her jeans pocket was her only clue. She’d found it tucked down in the slit in the arm of an old chair before she left the house that had been her prison. It could belong to one of the kidnappers. It was one of those small, fold-over books almost every bar handed out. The words on the cover were seared in her memory. Howard’s Place—Food-Drinks-Fun. The psychedelic red, orange and yellow cover had leaped out at her. Now she wondered what kind of fun. A strip joint?

It was such a slim possibility that it would lead to anything, Kayla wasn’t about to share it and have that small hope knocked down.

They drove on in silence.

“Which exit?”

“I know where the cops got onto the freeway. From there we’ll have to backtrack and hunt for the house.” The cops didn’t accept that she couldn’t find it last night. She knew where the truck had picked her up. Reason told her she couldn’t possibly have run more than a mile.

The house had been impossible to find in the dark, but with the sun shining, she’d find it. She had to. Maybe then the police would believe her. “There,” she pointed. “Take that exit.”

He followed her instructions. When they were on the frontage road, he looked over at her. “Where to from here?”

“Take the first road to the right. I know where I was picked up. I just don’t know where the house is since I came through the woods.”

“We’ll find it.”

The confidence in his voice, the timbre of it and the way it rumbled in his chest, made her more certain of herself.

She concentrated on her surroundings, trying to distinguish every landmark, looking for something familiar.

Since the road wasn’t heavily traveled, Luke drove slowly, allowing her to view the area. “I don’t remember any of this.”

She’d been running for her life, her only thought to save herself. In daylight nothing looked familiar. If she couldn’t find the house, no one would believe her. Panic sent her heartbeat pounding.

It was bad enough the cops didn’t believe her, but for some reason, she very much wanted Luke to.

“Do I need to turn around?”

They’d gone a good five miles. And if she remembered correctly, the cops hadn’t driven very far to reach I-45.

“I don’t know.” She hated the way her voice trembled. “Maybe.”

He made a U-turn and headed back to the frontage road. In minutes they were there. “Now what?”

“Take a right and look for a road.”

She’d cut through the woods, which meant there had to be another road to the house.

Then she saw a path. “Take that.” She pointed.

Luke had almost gone too far, but he cut the wheel and bounced over the uneven path into the woods.

“Do you think this is it?”

Kayla stared out the window. The trees all looked the same. A sob rose up in her.

“There’s something. Looks like an old house,” Luke said.

She saw it. It looked empty, desolate, like it should be torn down. The porch sagged. The roof peeled back and was patched haphazardly. “Maybe,” she said as she tried to tamp down the sudden leap of hope.

He cut the ignition and coasted to the front.

“Does it look familiar?”

“I never saw the outside. They put a blindfold on me in the van. If we can get inside, I’ll know”

After pulling a flashlight from behind the seat, he went around to open her door. But Kayla was already out and headed for the house.

At the door, she was unable to move, unable to put one foot in front of another.

“You okay?”

“Go ahead,” she said, the words barely audible.

He took her arm gently. “We have to know if this is the right place,” he said softly.

She braced herself. When he turned the knob she followed him inside. The orange smell assaulted her the minute she stepped through the door. Her stomach heaved.

“This is it.” Gagging, she put a hand over her mouth and ran back outside.

He followed her. “What’s wrong?”

“The smell.”

“Actually, for an old house, it’s not that bad.”

Stepping away from the sagging porch, she bent over and heaved. There was nothing to come up but tea and the few bites of pancake she’d had earlier, but the effort left her weak and shaky.

He was beside her, held her at the waist. “Can I help?” he asked, handing her his handkerchief.

She shook her head, gathered her strength. “I’m all right now. Let’s go.”

“You sure? This is the second time you’ve been sick this morning. Are you ill?”

“Morning, noon and night, the kidnappers all but force-fed me oranges. Vitamins, they said. Worse, every time they came close that’s all I smelled. Now, even the smell of oranges makes me sick.”

She could do this. She had to.

BOOK: Find My Baby
11.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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