Read Teresa Watson Online

Authors: Death Stalks the Law

Teresa Watson (8 page)

“A reporter never reveals his sources.”

“Hm.”

“What?”

“I have a feeling you called your dad, who called in a favor someone owed him.”

“Not true. I did it on my own.”

“Sounds kind of shady to me, Jake.”

“That’s because you have a very suspicious mind right now, Lizzie.”

“Gee, I wonder why? It couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that my boyfriend has been lying to me for months, and an ex-boyfriend has arrived in town, acting like he is some knight in shining armor coming to rescue the damsel in distress? Nah, that can’t be it.”

“You’ve gotten rather sarcastic over the years.”

“No more than usual.”

“I wouldn’t know about that. I haven’t been around, by your choice.”

“We aren’t going there. Not now. I’m liable to say something I am going to regret, and ruin a perfectly good friendship.”

“Wow, I didn’t even know we were friends.”

“We’ll work on it.”

The doorbell rang. “Oh my gosh, can’t people give me a break?” I groaned.

“Stay there. I’ll get it.”

He came back a minute later, with Owen right behind him. “Go away, Owen. Whenever you show up, it’s never anything good. I can’t handle any more bad news. I don’t even want to talk to you right now.”

“Well, I’m sorry, but this can’t wait.”

“What is it?”

“T.J.’s missing.”

 

 

Chapter Seventeen

“What do you mean he’s missing? I just saw him about three, four hours ago.”

“Where?”

“In my driveway. He wanted to talk.”

“That must have been an interesting conversation.”

I ignored the comment. “We talked for a few minutes, and he left.”

“Did he say where he was going?”

I shook my head. “I didn’t ask, and he didn’t volunteer any information. Have you tried contacting his superiors?”

“They were the ones who called me,” Owen replied. “He had a meeting in Dallas at four, but he never showed up.”

“Maybe he’s sulking,” I said. “We didn’t exactly part on the best of terms.”

“I’ll bet,” Jake said.

“He’s not at his house, and his car is nowhere to be found.”

“Don’t they have a tracking device on his car?”

“Apparently it’s been deactivated.”

A sense of dread came over me. I had a feeling I knew what had happened to T.J., but I didn’t want to jump to conclusions. “Just how close are they to catching my aunt?”

Jake looked at me. “You mean crazy serial killer aunt?”

“Half-aunt on my mother’s side.”

“I don’t know for sure,” Owen said. “They know she’s in the area somewhere, but they haven’t been able to pinpoint her exact location.”

“She knows T.J. is a federal agent,” I told him.

“Are you sure?”

I nodded. “Pretty sure. She mentioned it two months ago, and when I saw her yesterday…”

“You saw her?”

“Are you going to let me finish or not? When I saw her yesterday, she specifically told me not to trust either one of you. She didn’t tell me why.”

“How does she know?”

“How should I know? All this mysterious mumbo jumbo crap falls under your job description, not mine.”

“This doesn’t make sense,” Jake said. “If she knew months ago who T.J. was, why didn’t she do something about it then?”

“Two months ago, she said she was taking care of some business, but that she would be here as soon as she finished.”

“I guess she’s done,” Owen said.

“You should know that Hopkins and I weren’t her intended target of that explosion. She told me it was you and T.J., but I have a feeling it was just him.”

“Why?”

I shrugged. “Again, asking those questions falls under your job description, not mine.”

“Well, technically, Lizzie,” Jake said, “since you’re a reporter, you are supposed to ask her those kinds of questions.”

“Not helping, Jake.”

“Sorry.”

“Look, I don’t know what her plans are, and I don’t care. I told T.J., I’m telling you. Keep me out of it. If you want to find her, find her on your own.”

“If you ask me, you’re the common denominator in all this,” Jake said.

“No one asked you,” I said, glaring at him.

“Right, not helping.”

“I think he’s right,” Owen replied.

“I didn’t ask you, either, and I don’t care what you think at this point.”

“I know you’re mad at me, Lizzie, and you have every right to be. But for now, can you put aside your hostilities and hurt feelings to help me find T.J.?”

“What makes you think I know where he is?”

“She’s your aunt!”

“Everyone seems to forget I barely know the woman! I don’t know how she thinks, or what her motivation is in all this. Go ask Hopkins. Talk to the Feds. Finding him is their job, not mine.”

“Well, that’s the other thing. He wants to talk to you.”

“What for?”

“I have no idea.”

“This is crazy.”

“Lizzie,” Jake said, “if you have any feelings for T.J., and I know you do, you owe it to him to help. It’s not going to hurt anything to go talk to Hopkins, is it? I’ll even go with you, if you want me to.”

“I can’t allow you to interfere in this, Mr. Mathias,” Owen said.

“Wait a minute. You’re asking her, a civilian, to help you find a federal agent, but you won’t let me go with her to talk to someone who can help us find him? And how is offering her some support interfering? It’s more than you and Deputy Dawg have done the last few months, from what I’ve heard. She at least deserves to have someone with her who won’t use her for some ulterior motive.”

“You’re right, Jake,” I said. “I do deserve to have some moral support.” I went to the phone and dialed a number. “Hey, are you busy? No? Do you think you could meet me down at the hospital in fifteen minutes? Great, see you there.” I hung up and looked at them. “I don’t trust either one of you as far as I can throw you, which isn’t very far since I have one arm in a cast. So this is what is going to happen: Owen, go do whatever you’re supposed to be doing. Jake, you’re going to drive me to the hospital, and wait outside for me.”

“Who did you call?” Owen asked as we walked to the front door.

“Who else?Your sister. And when I tell her what you did…” I shook my head and whistled.

Yeah, it was petty, and a low blow, but a girl’s gotta hit below the belt once in a while.

 

 

Chapter Eighteen

Trixie was waiting for me at the entrance of the hospital when we pulled up fifteen minutes later. Jake got out and opened the door for me. “Are you sure you don’t want me to go in with you?”

“It’s nice of you to offer, but I think we can handle this,” I told him. “We won’t be long.”

Trixie gave me a hug before we walked in. “You look like you’ve had a pretty rough day.”

“You have no idea, girl, no idea at all.”

“Tell me about it before we get up there.”

So, as we rode the elevator to the third floor, I told her everything. By the time the doors opened, she was livid. “I can’t believe my brother did that!” she fumed. “I swear, I am going to kick his…”

“Hold on, Trixie,” I said, putting a hand on her arm. “I’m mad at him, but he was put in a position where he didn’t have much of a choice, I think.”

“Why are you defending him?”

“I’m not. They all have one goal: to catch my aunt. When you’re desperate, you’ll use whatever means necessary to achieve this goal, even if it means screwing your family and friends in the process.”

“You’re being rather calm about this,” Trixie said. “If it was me, I would be thoroughly ticked off.”

“Who says I’m not? Trust me, I am. But I have to put that aside right now to help them find T.J. before Debra does something to him.”

“You think she has him?”

I nodded. “I have no doubt about that at all. I just don’t know where she is holding him.”

There was a different man sitting outside of Hopkins’ door. “I’m Elizabeth Crenshaw,” I told him. “Sheriff Greene said that Agent Hopkins wants to see me.”

“Hold on a minute,” the man said. He made a call that lasted less than a minute. “You can go in, Ms. Crenshaw, but your friend will have to wait outside.”

Trixie started to say something, but I stopped her. “It’s ok, Trix. I’ll be fine. All I have to do is scream, and he’ll come running, I’m sure.” I smiled at the man and went inside.

Hopkins was staring at the wall as I walked in. “Sheriff Greene says you know about T.J.”

“He’s the person you met in Red Oak,” I said, sitting down in the chair by his bed.

He nodded. “If it makes any difference, he tried to get out of the assignment three months ago. He didn’t feel right about the way we were using you for information.”

“You were using me for bait.”

“Yes, we were. But you are the only connection we have to her.”

“You still have Earline, her mother’s best friend.”

“She isn’t doing us much good locked up, Ms. Crenshaw. You and your mother are the only living family she has left.”

“But she hasn’t made contact with my mother, has she?”

He shook his head. “No, she seems to have attached herself to you for some reason.”

“Lucky me.”

“At a meeting with our superiors a few days ago, T.J. said he thought Cosgrove was hiding out at an old farmhouse a few miles outside of town.”

“Well, that certainly narrows things down. There are only twenty or thirty farmhouses around here. Shouldn’t take more than two or three days to search them all.”

“He said it had a red barn near the main house.”

“So that narrows the search to maybe fifteen. Why didn’t you tell Owen this?”

“Because I wanted to tell you that T.J. truly loves you. He was hoping that you wouldn’t find out about his assignment until after we caught your aunt. He was talking about resigning and joining the sheriff’s department on a full-time basis, just so he could be here with you. I didn’t think that was something you wanted me to tell the sheriff.”

I didn’t know what to say. Half of me thought it was sweet that he wanted to give up his career to stay here; the other half wanted to kick him to the moon for the deception. “I broke up with him, Agent Hopkins. No one likes to be used, even if it is for the right reasons.”

“Just give him a chance to explain before you write him off completely,” Hopkins said. “You’re the first person who has been able to crack through that hard heart of his since his wife died.”

“His…wife?” Wow, did not see that one coming.

“She was an agent, like us. She was killed on assignment overseas. T.J. took a leave of absence for a few months, and when he came back, he had changed. He didn’t allow himself to get too emotionally attached to anyone. But once he took this assignment, he mellowed. You became more than an assignment to him. He fell in love with you.”

I shook my head. “But it doesn’t change the fact that he used me. That’s not something I am going to easily forget or forgive.” I stood up. “Is there anything else?”

“Just one more thing. The envelope that T.J. gave me had a flash drive in it. It contained some new information he had. I never got the chance to look at it. Your aunt must have it now, so whatever he knows, she does, too.”

“I’ll tell Owen about it. What do your superiors have to say about all this?”

“Not much at this point.”

“Did you tell them about T.J.’s suspicions about her whereabouts?”

“I did. They’re going to start searching the county soon. I doubt they told your sheriff about it.”

“So you want me to do it.”

“Professionally, I am telling you not to get involved. Personally, I think you should tell him what is going on. This is his turf; he needs to be involved because he knows the area. Whether you decide to tell him or not is up to you.”

“I’ll do what I can.”

“Good luck. I hope you find him.”

I thanked him and left. Trixie was leaning against the wall, filing her nails. I nodded to the agent outside the door, grabbed her arm and walked to the elevator. “We need to go see Owen right now.”

“Why? What’s going on? What did Hopkins tell you?”

I quickly gave her a recap of the conversation as we got on the elevator. “Just like the FBI to feel like they have it all under control,” she said.

I pushed the down button and watched the doors close. “We need to tell Owen what is going on so he can start his own search.”

“He isn’t going to like having the Feds on his turf without his knowledge.”

“I agree, which is why he will send out his own people. And we are going to be one of the search teams.” The doors opened on the ground floor and I stepped out. “Are you coming?”

“What is this ‘we’ bit?” Trixie said, following me. “I’m not a search and rescue kind of gal. I’m more of a give aid and comfort person.”

“Well, after we find him, you can give him aid and comfort. Now, let’s go,” I said, grabbing her arm and dragging her out the door.

 

 

Chapter Nineteen

Needless to say, when we told Owen and Jake about our plan, they were less than enthusiastic. Okay, so they flat out said “No!”

“I am not about to let you take my sister out on a manhunt for a serial killer!” Owen said.

“But Debra isn’t after me. She’s after you and T.J.,” I pointed out. “She’ll be much safer with me than with you.”

“She’ll be safe, period, because neither one of you are going out there.”

“Besides, you are still recovering from your last run in with Debra,” Jake said.

“What, this?” I said, holding up my cast. “Just a scratch.”

“If that is just a scratch, I wonder what you’ll call a gunshot wound,” Owen replied.

“The point is,” I said, “you need us. You don’t have enough people to do a big search. With the manpower you have, it will take you twenty-four hours to go to every single farm. Unless you’d rather the Feds find her first. They’ve already got at least a two-hour head start.”

Owen’s eyes narrowed. “No way are they going to come onto my turf and arrest her.” He rummaged through a cabinet behind his desk and pulled out a county map. “We’ll split this up into five search areas. Lizzie, you and Trixie take the east side of town. There are about ten farms out that way. I doubt you’ll turn up anything. I think she’ll stick close to Interstate 35 for a quick getaway, so my men and I will cover those areas.”

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