Read The Killing Game Online

Authors: Iris Johansen

The Killing Game (2 page)

BOOK: The Killing Game
5.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“Why are you hesitating?” Quinn asked. “You know damn well she's the best.”

Basil couldn't deny that. She had helped the department out on many occasions. “She carries a hell of a lot of baggage. The media will go—”

“I said I'd take care of it. Recommend her.”

“I'll think about it.”

Quinn shook his head. “Now.”

“The department won't pay to fly her back.”

“I'll do it. Just put through the recommendation.”

“You're pushing, Quinn.”

“It's one of my finest talents.” His lips lifted in a sardonic smile. “But you won't even feel the bruise.”

He wasn't so sure. “It's a waste of my time. Chief Maxwell will never go for it.”

“She'll go for it. I'll tell her that I'll release your recommendation to the press if she doesn't. It will be a question of letting Eve work on the skull in privacy or have the media asking the chief why she's not doing everything possible to solve the little girl's murder.”

“She'll can your ass.”

“I'll risk it.”

It was clear he'd risk anything to get his way in this matter. Basil shrugged. “Okay, I'll do it. It will be a pleasure to see you kicked out on your ear.”

“Good.” Quinn headed for the door. “I'll be back in an hour to pick up the recommendation.”

“I'm going to lunch. Make it two hours.” A minor victory, but he'd take anything he could get. “You think it's the Duncan kid, don't you?”

“I don't know. Maybe.”

“And you want her mother to work on the skull? You bastard. What if it is Bonnie Duncan? What the hell do you think that will do to her mother?”

The only answer was the door closing behind Quinn.

An island south of Tahiti
Three days later

He was coming.

Her heart was beating hard, fast. She was too excited. Eve Duncan drew a deep breath as she watched the helicopter settle on the tarmac. Good heavens, you'd think she was waiting for the angel Gabriel. It was only Joe.

Only? Her friend, her companion through the nightmare that had almost torn her apart, one of the anchors of her life. And she hadn't seen him in over a year. Dammit, she had a right to be excited.

The door was opening and he was getting out of the aircraft. God, he looked tired. His face was almost always without expression and, to anyone unfamiliar with it, impossible to read. But she knew that face. From a thousand different situations she had memorized every glance, every tightening of the mouth, the little secret signs that told so much. There were new deep lines graven on either side of his mouth, and his square face was a little pale.

Yet his eyes were the same.

And the smile that lit his face when he saw her . . .

“Joe . . .” She ran into his arms. Safety. Familiarity. Togetherness. All was right with the world.

He held her tightly for a minute and then pushed her back and dusted a kiss over the bridge of her nose. “You have a few freckles. Have you been using your sunscreen?”

Protective. Bossy. Caring. Two minutes, and they were back where they were when she'd left him all those months before. She grinned up at him as she adjusted her wire-rimmed glasses. “Of course, but it's hard not to get a little sun here.”

He studied her up and down. “You look like a beachcomber in those shorts.” He tilted his head. “And relaxed. Not totally relaxed but not wound up tight as you were the last time I saw you. Logan's been taking good care of you.”

She nodded. “He's been very kind to me.”

“And what else?”

“Don't be so nosy. It's none of your business.”

“That means you're sleeping with him.”

“I didn't say that. But what if I am?”

He shrugged. “Nothing. You were in pretty bad shape after what you went through with that last reconstruction. It's entirely natural for you to have drawn close to Logan. A billionaire who whisked you away from the media to his own island in the South Pacific? I'd be surprised if you hadn't fallen into his bed and even more surprised if he hadn't made sure you would.”

“I don't fall into anyone's bed. I make a choice.” She shook her head. “Now, stop picking on Logan. You always were like pit bulls with each other.” She led him toward the Jeep. “And he's going to be your host while you're here, so you might as well be civil.”

“Maybe.”

“Joe.”

He smiled. “I'll try.”

She breathed a sigh of relief. “Did you see Mom before you left?”

“Yes, she sent you her best. She misses you.”

Eve wrinkled her nose. “Not much. She's too involved with Ron. Did she tell you they're going to be married in a few months?”

He nodded. “How do you feel about that?”

“How do you expect me to feel? I couldn't be happier for her. Ron's a nice guy and Mom deserves a good relationship. She's had a rough life.” That was an understatement. Her mother had grown up in the slums, been addicted to crack for years, and when she was fifteen had brought Eve into the same nightmare world. “It's good she has someone. She's always needed people, and I've always been too busy to give her the attention she should have.”

“You did your best. You were always more like a mother than a daughter to her.”

“For a long time I was too bitter to do her much good. It was only after Bonnie came that we managed to bridge the gulf.” Bonnie. When her daughter had been born, she had changed everything, transformed Eve's whole world and everyone in it. “It will be better for Mom now.”

“And what about you? She's all you have.”

Eve started the Jeep. “I have my work.” She smiled at him. “And I have you, when you're not yelling at me.”

“I notice you didn't say Logan. Good.”

“Were you trying to trap me? I care very much for Logan.”

“But he hasn't got you sealed and delivered.” Joe nodded with satisfaction. “I didn't think he could do it.”

“If you don't stop talking about Logan, I'll dump you beside the road and let you hitchhike back to Tahiti.”

“I'd have a tough time. No boats land on this island.”

“Exactly.”

“Okay. Since you have me at a disadvantage.”

Yeah, sure. Joe at a disadvantage was a rare phenomenon. “How's Diane?”

“Fine.” He paused. “I haven't seen much of her lately.”

“A cop's wife has a hell of a life. Another rough case?”

“The roughest.” He gazed out at the sea. “But I wouldn't have seen her anyway. Our divorce was final three months ago.”

“What?” Shock rippled through Eve. “Why didn't you tell me?”

“There wasn't much to tell. Diane never really became accustomed to being a cop's wife. She'll be happier now.”

“Why didn't Mom say anything to me?”

“I asked her not to worry you. You were supposed to be relaxing.”

“Oh, God, I'm sorry, Joe.” She was silent a moment. “Was it my fault?”

“How could it be your fault?”

“You were my friend, you helped me. For God's sake, I got you shot. You were almost killed. I know she was angry with me.”

He didn't deny it. “It would have happened anyway. We should never have gotten married. It was a mistake.” He changed the subject. “What kind of work have you been doing since you've been here?”

She looked at him in frustration. The divorce must have hurt him, and she wanted to help. But he had always edged away from talking about his marriage. Maybe she could get something out of him later. “I haven't had much work. Principally superimpositions and age progressions. A few reconstruction cases the LAPD sent me.” She made a face. “I soon discovered that most agencies prefer a forensic sculptor on the same continent. I'm pretty inaccessible here. I've actually done some regular sculpting to keep myself busy.”

“Satisfying?”

“In a way.”

“Not a good way?”

“It feels . . . strange.”

“Most people would say that working on skulls is a little strange. What does Logan say?”

“Logan thinks regular sculpting is healthy for me. He's probably right.”

“Does it feel healthy?”

“No, there's something . . . missing.”

“Purpose.”

She was not surprised Joe understood. He understood everything about her. “It's the lost ones. I could be doing more to help the lost ones come home. Logan says I need to distance myself. He thinks I should walk away, that it's the worst possible career for me to have.”

“And what do you say to him?”

“To mind his own business.” She grimaced. “Just like I tell you. I wish you'd both realize I'm going to do what I want to do regardless of what either of you think.”

Joe laughed. “I never had any doubt about that. I don't think Logan does either. Are you going to let me see your work? I've never seen you sculpt anything but skulls.”

“Later maybe.” She gave him a hard stare. “If you're decent to Logan.” She turned into the driveway leading up to the large white plantation house. “He's been terrific to me. I won't have you abusing his hospitality.”

“Nice house. Where do you work?”

“Logan had a lab built for me on the beach beside the house. Stop trying to change the subject. Are you going to be nice to Logan?”

“You're very defensive. As I remember, Logan can take care of himself.”

“I always defend my friends.”

“Just friends?” His gaze narrowed on her face. “Not lovers?”

She looked away from him. “Lovers can be friends. Stop probing, Joe.”

“Does it make you uneasy? Or are you already uneasy? Is he pushing too hard?”

“No,
you're
pushing too hard.” She parked in front of the house and jumped out. “Back off.”

“No problem. I think I've got my answer.” He took his suitcase out of the backseat. “I'll be much less abrasive once I have a shower. Do you want me to face Logan now, or do you want to show me where to lay my weary head?”

Less abrasive was definitely better. “You can join us later for dinner.”

“If I'm supposed to dress for dinner, you'll have to send me to the kitchen. I brought only this one suitcase.”

“Are you nuts? You know I don't live like that. I change a couple of times a day only because it's so hot here.”

“You never know. You're running in fast company these days.”

“Logan isn't fast company. Well, not here on the island. We live as casually as I did in Atlanta.”

“Very smart of Logan.”

“He works hard too. He does as much here as he did when he was in the States. He likes to relax when he gets the chance.” She stopped at the front door. “Why have you come, Joe? Are you on vacation?”

“No, not exactly.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, the department does owe me a few weeks. I've worked a lot of overtime while you've been here basking in tropical bliss.”

“Then why do you say you're not ‘exactly' here on vacation? Why did you come, Joe?”

“To see you.”

“No, why now?”

He smiled. “To bring you home, Eve.”

         

LOGAN TURNED AWAY
from the window as she came into the study. “Where is he?”

“I showed him to his room. You'll see him at dinner.” She wrinkled her nose. “I know you can hardly wait.”

“Bastard.”

She sighed. Having to strike a balance between these two men she cared about was irritating. “I could have met him in Tahiti. You promised you'd be nice to him.”

“As nice as he is to me.” Logan held out his hand to her. “Come here, I need to touch you.”

She moved across the room and took his hand. “Why?”

He didn't answer. “We both know why he's here. Has he talked to you yet?”

“He said only that he came to bring me home.”

He cursed. “And what did you answer?”

“I didn't.”

“You can't go, dammit. You'll just fall back into that dark hole where I found you.”

“It wasn't so dark. I had work. I had purpose. You never understood that, Logan.”

“I understand that I'm going to lose you.” His hand tightened on hers. “You've been happy here, haven't you? Happy with me?”

“Yes.”

“Then don't let it happen. Don't listen to that damn Pied Piper.”

She stared at him helplessly. Dear heaven, she didn't want to hurt him. Tough, smart, charismatic John Logan, corporate giant and businessman extraordinaire. She'd never dreamed he'd be this vulnerable. “My staying here wasn't supposed to be a permanent arrangement.”

“I want it permanent. I never intended anything else.”

“You never told me.”

“Because I had to walk on eggshells or you'd have run away. I'm telling you now.”

She wished he hadn't. It made her decision more difficult. “We'll talk about it later.”

“You've already made up your mind.”

“No.” She had grown accustomed to this lovely, tranquil place. She had grown used to Logan. These had been days of tenderness, affection, and peace. If she also felt restlessness, wouldn't it eventually go away? “I'm not sure.”

“He's going to try to make you sure.”

“I make my own decisions. He won't pressure me.”

“No, he's too smart. He knows you too well. That doesn't mean he won't use everything he can to make you go back. Don't listen to him.”

“I have to listen to him. He's my best friend.”

“Is he?” He gently touched her cheek. “Then why is he drawing you into a world that could destroy you? How long can you deal with skulls and murder without having a breakdown?”

“Someone has to do it. I can bring closure to a lot of parents who are still searching for their children.”

“Then let someone else do it. You're too close.”

“Because of Bonnie? She only makes me better at what I do. She makes me work harder for those other parents who also want to bring their children home.”

“It makes you a damn workaholic.”

She grimaced. “Not on this island. I don't have enough to do.”

“Is that the problem? We can go back to the States. We'll go to my place in Monterey.”

“We'll talk about it later,” she repeated.

“Okay.” He kissed her hard and sweet. “I just wanted to get in my innings before Quinn. You have options. If you don't like the ones I've given you, we'll find others.”

She hugged him. “I'll see you at dinner.”

“Think about it, Eve.”

She nodded and left the room. How could she not think about it? She cared about Logan. Did she love him? What was love? she wondered. She didn't know much about man-woman love. Eve had thought she loved Bonnie's father, but she'd been only fifteen; later she'd recognized her feelings for him as passion and a need for comfort in a rough world. She'd had a few other encounters, but they'd been unimportant, fading immediately into the shadow of her work. Logan was not unimportant, and he'd fight being overshadowed by anyone or anything. He could rouse her to passion and he was kind and caring. She would be sad if he disappeared from her life. Surely that could be love.

BOOK: The Killing Game
5.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Eunuch's Heir by Elaine Isaak
Heat by Joanna Blake
The Finder: A Novel by Colin Harrison
Their Baby Surprise by Jennifer Taylor
Circling Carousels by North, Ashlee
Carnal Pleasures by Blaise Kilgallen
Storming the Castle by Eloisa James
Marilyn Monroe by Michelle Morgan