Friday, March 11, 1994
from the kitchen with a roll of
silver duct tape. He ripped off a large piece.
At the tearing
sound, Jeagan jumped, raised her head,
and watched in numb horror.
He grabbed her
hands and jerked them behind her back.
“What are you doing!” She
struggled unsuccessfully to free herself from his strong
“Don’t worry about it,” he
mumbled coldly. “You’ll know soon enough.” He tore off another
piece of the tape and slapped it across her mouth.
She tried to control the
rising panic. Her heart pounded in her ears while icy fear
spread through her body. Turning, she strained to look out the
windows of the family room to see if Madison was still there.
He was their only hope. If he didn’t help them, no one could.
How could she have been so wrong about him and not have seen
While Agnes held Isabel,
Williams ripped more tape and bound Isabel’s hands.
“No, please!” Isabel cried.
Ignoring her, he pulled
another piece of the tape across her mouth.
“Let’s get them out to the
van,” Agnes said.
Williams grabbed the handles
of Isabel’s wheelchair and rolled it toward the kitchen while
Agnes pulled Jeagan from the floor and pushed her after them.
Once outside, Jeagan looked
toward Madison, who was bent forward with his head in his
hands. “Madison!” Jeagan tried to scream through the tape.
“Don’t waste your breath.”
Agnes jammed the gun in Jeagan’s back while she steered her
through the breezeway toward the garage. “Madison wouldn’t
help you even if he could hear you.”
In the garage, Williams lifted
Isabel’s slight body into the rear seat of the van and secured
the seat belt around her. Her muffled sobs and tear-filled
eyes pleaded for him to let her go. He again disregarded her
cries and calmly placed her wheelchair in the rear.
Agnes pushed Jeagan, who
kicked and struggled, into the van, slapped her hard across
the face, and held her while Williams bound her feet with the
duct tape and strapped her in the seat.
The door closed with a
thunk! Williams moved around the side of the van and
climbed behind the wheel.
“I’ll follow you,” Agnes said
through the open window. She walked over to her red Cadillac
Eldorado, which was parked next to the van.
After a quick nod, Williams
backed out of the garage. Sedately, he drove around the side
of the house and down the driveway.
Tears burned Jeagan’s eyes.
They spilled over onto the raw handprint on her cheek. She
tried to blink away the tears so she could see Madison out the
window. He hadn’t moved; he still sat on the lounge chair with
his head in his hands. He’s useless, she thought. He
cares too much to participate in what they’re doing to us but
too little to stop it.
She turned toward Isabel. In
shock, Isabel stared straight ahead, her eyes glazed and
Jeagan thought about her
father. I’m sorry, Dad! I love you. I wish I had listened
to you instead of running off mad at you. A cold terror
gripped her body. When she realized she would never see her
father again, especially since they had parted on bad terms,
she forced herself to focus on how she could stop Agnes and
Her mind raced to find some
way of escape even as Williams maneuvered the van over the
rutted country road behind the estate. Black-and-white cattle
grazing in a pasture watched in idle curiosity as the van
After about a mile, the road
dead-ended into water. Williams stopped at the water’s edge,
got out of the van, and walked around to the rear to wait for
Agnes, who soon pulled in behind him.
Jeagan searched for something
sharp inside the van. She spotted a piece of metal sticking
out of the floor that held the seat belt in place. The edge
appeared rough enough to eventually tear a hole in the tape if
she could reach it. She stretched her bound hands around to
the seat belt fastener and pressed the button to unlatch it.
When it popped open, she shifted her body toward the floor and
angled herself so she could work her wrists against the metal.
The tape tightened and dug into her wrists. Heedless, she
continued to saw it against the rough edge.
Seconds later, the rear door
of the van flew open. Williams reached in, ripped the tape off
Jeagan’s feet, pulled her out of the van, and shoved her into
the front passenger seat. She struck out at him with her
elbows and feet, but Agnes grabbed her arms while Williams
strapped the seat belt around her. Next, Williams moved Isabel
to the driver’s seat and strapped the seat belt around her as
Jeagan screamed, the sound
muffled through the duct tape. No, this can’t be happening!
She struggled wildly against the seat belt and tape. Suddenly,
her world went black. The last things she remembered were
bright sparkling lights and a sharp pain in the back of her
Agnes jerked the tape off
Jeagan’s hands and mouth and then slammed the door.
Williams waved his hand in
front of Isabel’s face. She didn’t even blink. He pulled the
tape off her hands and mouth; she would be no problem.
He reached over Isabel’s limp
body, started the van, shifted it into drive, backed away
quickly, and watched the van coast down the embankment into
the cold, rain-swollen lake. Within seconds, the van twisted
and bobbed. It slowly sank into the dark, murky water.
Saturday, March 19th
Jeagan bolted upright and
screamed. “No!” Where was she? Frantically, she scanned the
room. Home. I’m home now. It’s all over. I’m safe.
Tears stung her eyes as she
gasped for breath. She really was home and safe. Tension
slowly melted away while she sank against the headboard. She
closed her eyes and let her breathing and heart rate slow
When she felt calmer, she got
up, made her way into the bathroom, and leaned on the vanity.
Cold water from the tap helped to cool her flushed cheeks. She
blotted the water with a hand towel, watching the reflection
that stared back at her. To the girl in the mirror, she said,
“It’s over…done. Those nightmares have got to stop!” She took
a deep breath, turned on the cold water again, filled the
vanity cup, and drank it all. Maybe a nap hadn’t been such a
good idea, but she’d been tired after her early morning flight
from Memphis to Denver. The idea of an afternoon nap on her
own bed in her own townhouse in Highlands Ranch had been
She placed her palms on the
vanity. “Get a grip!” Standing up straight, she inhaled
deeply, and headed for the kitchen. A Coke was what she needed
and maybe a few cookies, if she could find any in the pantry.
She’d been gone for almost two weeks, so she couldn’t remember
exactly what she did and didn’t have.
Almost afraid to look inside,
she pulled on the black refrigerator door. Hmm!
Thankfully, nothing green or furry jumped out at her, but she
spotted several plastic containers, which might need to be
discarded in toto without being opened. Coke cans lined
a shelf on the door. Ahh! She took one, popped the top,
and took a long drink. The instant charge felt good. She
bumped the refrigerator door closed with her hip before
turning toward the pantry. A box of stale vanilla wafers sat
on a shelf, but she dug into them anyway and stuffed one into
her mouth. Box and Coke in hand, she headed outside to the
It was good to be home. Now in
her own backyard, it was hard to believe she’d ever been in
any danger. Those who had hurt her were securely locked away
in a jail near Oxford, Mississippi and would be standing trial
soon. She hoped against hope that she wouldn’t have to return
for the trial, especially since Williams and Agnes had been
caught in the act of attempting to drown her and Isabel. And,
Madison had confessed to his part in the kidnapping and
She set the can and cookie box
on the glass-topped patio table and pulled out a chair. After
she sat down, propped her feet on another chair, and leaned
back, she felt the warmth of the March sun, set in the cobalt
sky, re-energize her chilled body. Unhurriedly, she munched on
the cookies and finished her Coke. Then, she got up and roamed
around the yard to see what was about to bloom. The lilac
bushes wore hundreds of tight red buds, bright green tulip
leaves pushed through the layer of bark mulch, and fuzzy
caterpillar-like pods dangled from aspen branches, soon to be
followed by leaves. Hopefully, a late spring snow wouldn’t
kill all the early growth.
Her thoughts turned to Roger
Sanderlin, the private investigator her father had hired to
keep an eye on her while she was in
The man who, thank God, had ultimately followed her from
Memphis to Oxford and rescued Isabel and her from the
submerged van. A shiver ran up her spine when she allowed the
reality of what had almost happened to come crashing back.
She walked back inside and closed the French doors. It’s
over! The empty cookie box and Coke can clunked loudly
when she dropped them into the trash can. It was time to
Returning to her bedroom, she
pulled clothes out of the suitcase—sorting by laundry and dry
cleaning—and remembered how she had accused Roger of stalking
her in Memphis, even had reported him to hotel security and
the police. She smiled when she realized how foolish The
Peabody Hotel security guard must have felt when Roger whipped
out his private investigator’s identification and informed the
guard that her father had hired him. Well, how was she to
After the fact, she was glad
her father had thought she was running off on a tangent when
she flew to Memphis to investigate a
possible murder. A murder she
believed had occurred fifty years earlier. But, what else was
she supposed to think when she had visions of events
surrounding the murder when she sat at the antique desk she
had recently bought? It was, she soon found out, the same desk
young Isabel had used at The Peabody Hotel at the time her
lover was killed all those years ago.
Thank goodness Jeagan’s father
had had the good sense to send Roger after her. But, she had
been right—even if being right had almost gotten her killed.
Her investigation had proved
Robert Lloyd, Isabel’s father, had indeed shot her
lover fifty years earlier and dumped his body in the
Mississippi River, never to be found. Isabel had never known
what happened to Alan. Nearly nine months afterwards, under an
assumed name, she had given birth to a baby boy in a hospital
Robert Lloyd had used his
considerable wealth and influence to ensure that Isabel was
told her baby was stillborn, when in fact the child was alive
and well and sold to a Seattle attorney. The attorney who
arranged for the baby boy to be adopted by a family far away
from Memphis, so the prominent name of Lloyd would not be
Though she had almost lost her
life doing so, Jeagan had uncovered the truth. Isabel now knew
what happened to her fiancé all those years ago and knew that
her son had been alive at birth. In her early seventies,
Isabel had a son who would now be almost fifty.
After the dust had settled
from Jeagan’s and Isabel’s narrow escape from drowning in
Isabel had commissioned Roger to find her long-lost son.
Tonight over dinner, Jeagan and Roger would discuss how to
begin the search for Alan—the name Isabel would have given
him—with the only known clue: a letter from a Seattle attorney
addressed to Isabel’s father. The letter was dated April of
1945, the month Alan was born, and stated that a check for ten
thousand dollars was enclosed.
Almost fifty years had passed.
Would Alan, or whatever he was named by his adoptive parents,
still be alive? If so, was he living in the Seattle area?
Would he even want to know about his birth mother? So many
questions—questions for which Jeagan and Roger were determined
to find answers.
Jeagan switched mental gears.
She found it ironic that Roger wanted to have dinner at
Pappadeaux, the restaurant where she had ended her engagement
to Brandon two weeks earlier. But, it was one of her favorite
restaurants, so she didn’t object when Roger suggested it.
This time, she felt she could eat and enjoy herself while they
talked about ‘the case.’
She glanced at the clock on
her nightstand. It was still early, so she continued to unpack
and put away shoes and toiletries while her mind raced. Lots
to do. Her boss, Lorin Ottonello. She had to call him to
explain the situation. Her job as a technical writer was
important to her, but working with Roger to find Alan for
Isabel took precedence over her job at Caldwell & Ottonello
The suitcases soon were empty.
Stop procrastinating! Call him and get it over with.
After all, Lorin had been very understanding when she had
called him from the Oxford Mississippi Community General
Hospital and told him about almost drowning and her
concussion. But, she’d been gone almost a week longer than
planned. He’d expected her at work on Monday, even if only
part-time for a while.
She wondered if he would be
there today, a Saturday. A glance at the small calendar on the
nightstand told her that he would be there, considering the
office was open on the first and third Saturdays of the month
during their busy season. She sat on the edge of her bed,
gathered her resolve, and reached for the phone. Brrng!
Startled, she jumped like she’d touched something hot. No
chance to say hello after she picked up the receiver.
“Jeagan! I just found out what
happened to you. Are you okay?”
Brandon! Jeagan’s blood
pressure shot up ten points. “Hello, Brandon,” she said as
politely as she could manage. “I’m fine. I just got home as a
matter of fact.”
“I’m sure glad to
hear that. I ran into your dad at the bank a few minutes ago,
and he told me what happened. I’m really sorry you got
involved with those people down there and almost got yourself
killed. I mean, if you’d listened to me in the first place and
returned that blasted desk, none of this would’ve happened.
You’d still be wearing my ring, and things would be the way
they were before.”
Jeagan was flabbergasted. How
dare he? The way they were before! “Brandon, I did what I
needed to do. I was right about the desk and the
“Yes.” Brandon hesitated as if
thinking. “I’ll give you that. You…you were right about the
murder, but still you should’ve listened to me and stayed out
of someone else’s drama.”
How could I have ever
thought I loved this man?
Jeagan wondered. “Brandon, you’re unbelievable, you know
“Well, ignoring your tone of
voice, I’m taking that as a compliment. I’d like to see you.
I’ve really missed you. How about dinner tonight? I’ll even
cook for you.”
“No, thanks, Brandon,” Jeagan
said, although it had always been hard for her to resist him
when he was trying to be sweet, even when she knew he was
self-centered and egotistical. “I…I already have a date for
“Oh, it’s like that,” he said,
a hard edge to his voice.
it’s not like anything.” It struck her again why she
had broken their engagement. “I believe I returned your ring
before I left for Memphis, so it’s not like anything. We’re
not engaged anymore, and I don’t owe you an explanation.”
“Nevermind! Just forget it!
I’ll talk to you later.” With that, Brandon slammed down the
Jeagan jerked the phone away
from her ear and returned it to the charger. How could I
ever have been stupid enough to think I had a future with him?
She reached for the phone again. Once again, it rang before
she could pick it up. Grand Central Station!
“Hello?” Jeagan said warily,
afraid it was Brandon calling again.
“Hey you!” Jeagan recognized
Keri Kurtz’s voice, a fellow technical writer and close friend
“Hi, Keri. I was just going to
call Lorin. How’s it going?”
“It’s wild over here! Lucie’s
quit and Sharon’s taken some time off and gone to Alaska to be
with Bruce. He got hurt in a plane crash.”
“Good grief, Keri! What
“He went on one of those
week-long fishing/camping trips with Bill and Charlie. The
ones where outfitters fly you in by one of those planes that
lands on water—”
“You mean a seaplane?”
“Yeah. Anyway, the guys flew
into the wilderness area okay, but when they were picked up at
the end of the week, the pilot clipped the tops of some trees
trying to fly out. The plane crashed.”
“Nope. The guys were pretty
banged up, but I don’t think any of them was hurt badly enough
to keep them from going again next year.”
“I leave for two weeks, and
the place falls apart.”
Keri laughed. “You’re right
about that. And, I hear you almost got yourself killed!”
“Not on purpose. Fortunately,
I was unconscious when they tried to drown me, so I don’t
remember much about it.”
Keri let out a dry laugh. “You
call that fortunate?”
“Considering the alternative,
I guess I do.” Jeagan shivered. “So… with Lucie gone and
Sharon out, who’s helping you hold down the fort?”
“Just Erin and me for now.
Hope you’re going to tell me you’ll be back here soon.”
“Well, like I said, I was
about to phone Lorin when Brandon called and then you called.”
I thought he was past history… bad Karma… yesterday’s old
Jeagan chuckled. It felt good
to laugh. “He is. Believe me.”
“That’s good. He’s…well, you
know how I feel about him.”
“I know exactly how you
feel about him, Keri. Shyness isn’t one of your virtues.
Anyway, getting back to the workload, I’m afraid I won’t be
able to help you out.”
“I’m sorry, Keri. I’ll be out
a little longer.”
“No, don’t tell me that,
Jeagan!” Keri whined. “I’m working ten to twelve hours a day
and still can’t get it all done. We’re expecting a Request for
Proposals from the Department of Energy this week. The
proposal will be six to ten volumes. We need you, Jeag!”
Jeagan didn’t want to let her
co-workers down when they were in a pinch, but wasn’t finding
Alan more important than a proposal? “Well, let me talk to
Lorin, if he’s there.”
“Okay, but I better see your
pretty face around here soon, or I’m coming after you.”
“You’re the greatest, Keri!”
Jeagan laughed. “I’ll see you soon.”
Keri switched Jeagan over to
the operator who placed Jeagan on hold while she tried to
“He didn’t answer the page,
Jeagan,” the operator told her when she came back on the line
a couple of minutes later. “He must be in a meeting. I’ll grab
him as soon as he comes out and have him call you.”
Jeagan thanked the woman, hung
up the phone, and went into the bathroom where she turned on
the bathtub faucet full blast. A long, leisurely, hot bath was
what she needed. She’d missed soaking in a tub while she was
in the hospital with only a shower in her room.
Adding a sprinkle of lavender
essential oil, Jeagan peeled off her clothes, stepped into the
tub, and lay back. She closed her eyes and breathed in the
pungent scent of lavender. What I need is a massage,
she thought. Wonder if I can get an appointment in the next
few days at Shear Art? Just thinking about how Judy could
work her magic on knotted muscles with hot stones and scented
oils and soft music helped Jeagan to relax.
* * *
At seven o’clock,
she answered the door. Roger stood on the porch grinning.
Dressed in an olive silk shirt and khakis with his sandy hair
falling over his forehead, he reminded her of someonea
young Robert Redford? Well, maybe a cross between him and
Matthew McConaughey. She smiled to herself.
“Look at you!” Roger stepped
Pleased, Jeagan smiled and
closed the door. “At least I look better than I did the last
time you saw me.”
“Well,” Roger teased. “I was
kinda getting used to that white bandage on your head and the
hospital gown with the seven dwarfs on it.”
“Ha! Ha!” Jeagan frowned. “Not
funny.” She picked up her handbag and checked her hair in the
mirror over the entrance hall table.
Roger helped her on with her
black wool coat and opened the door. “Seafood okay with you?”
“My favorite.” Jeagan buttoned
her light-weight coat over her ‘little black dress’—the same
one, she realized, she’d worn the night she broke up with
Brandon. Well, she thought, Roger isn’t
Brandon, and I’m not
engaged to him. No
worries about a breakup tonight.
After closing the door, Roger
said, “I just had an interesting phone call from a buddy of
mine. He’s retired from the Seattle Police Department.”
“Think he can help us find
Alan?” Jeagan walked with Roger along the sidewalk to his
black Range Rover.
Roger opened the SUV door.
“Don’t know, but he’s interested in trying.” He closed the
door after Jeagan slid inside. When he went around to the
driver’s side and got in, he continued. “His name’s Will
Thompson. He was with the force for more than twenty years, so
he knows a lot of the legal eagles and
politicos in Seattle. He
might be able to dig up some information for us.”
“That’s great!” Jeagan
fastened her seat belt. “I sure hope we can find Alan.
Isabel’s had enough heartache and pain in her life. She’s due
a little happiness before… .”
Roger started the car and
turned his head to back out of the parking space. “You mean
before she dies?” He chuckled. “Don’t think she’s going
anywhere for a while. She’s a tough ol’ gal.”
“I hope you’re right.” Jeagan
remembered when she had first seen Isabel in the lobby of the
Orpheum Theater in Memphis. Had that only been eleven days
ago? It seemed like a lifetime ago. Isabel had been sitting in
a wheelchair looking content, confident, and for all the
world—well, regal. That was before Jeagan had turned Isabel’s
life upside down by telling her that her father had murdered
“Did you talk to your boss?”
Roger asked. He checked the side mirror before he pulled into
traffic on Highlands Ranch Parkway going east.
“Finally. I didn’t think Lorin
was ever going to call back, but he did around four-thirty.”
“How’d he take the news that
you weren’t coming back for a while?”
“He wasn’t very happy about
it, especially since they’re so short-handed right now with
Sharon out. I really hated to ask for more time off.”
“But he was okay with you
taking the time?”
In the side mirror, Jeagan
watched behind her as the last of the sunset edged the purple
mountain tops in orange. It was good to see a Colorado sunset
Roger glanced at Jeagan. “Are
you with me?”
“Oh, sorry,” she said. “I’m
still a little spacey. Uh…after I told Lorin how important
this is to Isabel, he gave me another week off.”
“A week? Is that all?”
“Afraid so. I need to be at
work a week from Monday. That’s all the time he said he could
spare me. They have some really big proposals coming up, and
they need me before the first of April.”
“So…that gives us about eight
days to find Alan.”
“Something like that,” Jeagan
confirmed. “Think we can do it?”
Roger crossed University and
continued on Colorado Boulevard toward County Line Road.
“We’ll give it our best shot.” He checked the clock on the
dash. “Our dinner reservation’s for seven. Looks like we’ll be
a little early.”
“We could sit on the patio and
have a drink since it’s such a beautiful evening,” Jeagan
commented. March could be one of the snowiest months in
Denver, but today had been an exceptionally balmy day.
Crabapple trees were covered in red buds about to open and the
forsythia would soon be covered in bright, yellow flowers.
Spring was slow coming to Colorado, at least compared to
Memphis, Jeagan realized, but when it finally made its
appearance, she knew how beautiful it was going to be.
“That works,” Roger agreed.
When they arrived at the
restaurant, Roger seated Jeagan on the patio at a black
wrought-iron table before he went to check in with the
hostess. “If a waiter comes by,” he said, “order a glass of
merlot for me.”
“Okay.” She listened to the
quiet splashing of the waterfall in the center of the patio
area while she looked around at the other couples seated on
benches or at tables enjoying cocktails. Had it been less than
two weeks since she’d met her dad and Brandon here for dinner
and had made a fool of herself by stomping out like a bratty
teenager? She sat up straighter. Well, yes, she had, but she’d
been provoked by her patronizing ex-fiancé and her father.
Stop thinking about it, she thought. That’s past
“What can I get for you?” a
short, dark-haired waiter asked.
“Oh,” Jeagan said, startled.
“I’ll have a glass of Asti Spumante.”
“Martini & Rossi okay?”
Roger returned to the table
before the waiter left. He ordered his favorite merlot. “Our
table will be ready in a few minutes,” he told Jeagan while he
pulled out a chair and sat down.
“Why the long face?” Roger
asked after the waiter left.
Jeagan shook her head. “Just
remembering the last time I was here.”
“When you returned good ol’
Brandon’s engagement ring?”
Jeagan nodded. “That was a
particularly black night for me.” She tried to put it out of
her mind. “But, let’s not talk about Brandon. When do we leave
Roger leaned back in his
chair. “Is tomorrow soon enough?
“Wow! That was
quick. Hope you booked an afternoon flight. I’ve got ironing
“You’ll just have to go
wrinkled. The flight’s at 7:45
Jeagan grimaced. “Not much
time to get ready.” Well, she could sleep on the plane.
“Thought you wanted to find
Alan?” Roger teased.
“I do, but I’m—” Jeagan looked
at him to see the smile that lit his face and the way the
dimple on his right cheek showed when he laughed. Oh no!
she thought. You just broke off an engagement to someone
you thought was perfect until you got to know him. Don’t get
yourself involved with someone else, even if he is a Robert
Before Jeagan could say
anything else, the waiter appeared with their wine. She
thanked him and reached for her glass. “Mmm. That’s good,” she
commented after a sip.
After Roger tasted his wine,
he said, “I’ll be by about a quarter to six in the morning.”
Jeagan groaned, figuring out
how early she would have to get up.
“No whining. All you have to
do is throw some jeans in a suitcase. Maybe an umbrella since
we’ll be in Seattle. Oh, and maybe a sexy nightgown or two.”
Jeagan laughed and raised her
hand defensively. “All right, you! Stop right there. There
will be no sexy nightgowns. Besides, I sleep in a big Broncos
jersey, number 84 to be exact. And, that brings up hotel
rooms. I assume you have booked us into a respectable hotel,
in separate rooms.”
“Naturally, but I asked for
adjoining rooms.” Roger’s eyes twinkled. “Just in case you get
scared during the night or need to borrow a toothbrush,” he
waved his hands for emphasis, “or something.”
It was good to see the smile
on Roger’s face and to feel lighthearted. “As long as there’s
a lock on my side of the adjoining door.”
The hostess walked up. “Your
table is ready.”
“Thanks.” Roger stood and
pulled Jeagan’s chair out for her. “You’re no fun,” he
whispered against her hair.
“I can be when I want to be,”
she whispered back.
When they were seated inside
by a window, which faced west toward the Rockies, Jeagan took
the offered menu and scanned it.
“How about an appetizer to
start?” asked the waiter, freckle-faced with bright
“Oysters sound good.” Roger
looked at Jeagan with a question in his eyes. “Tell me you
“Absolutely,” Jeagan answered.
“Thank goodness,” Roger said
trying to look serious. “I could never travel thirteen hundred
miles with someone who didn’t like oysters.”
“Jeagan?” a voice said behind
Startled, Jeagan turned
around. “Brandon.” Oh, no! “What are you doing here?
Are you following me?”
Brandon, dressed impeccably as
usual in a starched white shirt, navy wool suit, and colorful
silk tie, shrugged. “How could I be following you when I’ve
been here for an hour sitting at the bar with some of the guys
from the office?” He pointed toward the bar.
Jeagan turned her head and
noticed about five pairs of eyes looking their way from the
“Aren’t you going to introduce
me to your date?” Brandon asked. He rested his hand
possessively on Jeagan’s shoulder.
“Uh,” Jeagan stammered,
flustered and angry. She shrugged his hand off her shoulder.
Roger stood and offered his
hand. “Roger Sanderlin.”
“Brandon Montgomery, Jeagan’s
fiancé.” He reached around Jeagan to shake hands.
Jeagan jerked her head to look
up at him. “Ex, Brandon. You left off the ‘ex.’ ”
Brandon dismissed her comment.
“Only a matter of time before you’ll be wearing this again.”
He pulled out the engagement ring Jeagan had worn only a few
Incredulous, she said, “I
can’t believe you’re carrying that ring around with you.”
Roger cleared his throat. “If
you’ll excuse us, Brandon, I believe our oysters have
A waiter set a platter on the
table and asked if Brandon would be joining them.
“No,” Jeagan retrieved her
napkin, which had slid off her lap to the floor, snapped it,
and spread it across her lap.
Brandon patted her on the
shoulder. “Well, I’ll let you two get on with your dinner.
I’ll see you later, Jeagan.” He made to leave and then turned
around, a sly grin on his face. “Nice meeting you, Roger.”
“Same here.” Roger sat down
again. “Good-looking guy.”
“Don’t let his looks fool you.
Under that expensive suit lies a heart of black coal.”
Nonchalantly, Roger said,
“Seems determined to get you back. Can’t blame him for that.”
He dipped an oyster into cocktail sauce.
Jeagan picked up a fork and
jabbed at an oyster. The shell spun, clattered against the
tray, and sailed off the table, barely missing a passing
waiter who ducked just in time. Jeagan, her face a brilliant
shade of red, apologized to the waiter. She mumbled something
unintelligible to vent her frustration and got up to retrieve
the shell with her napkin.
Roger calmly dipped another
oyster. When Jeagan sat down again and placed the napkin on
the table, he said, “So, eat out in public often?”
Jeagan’s face broke into a
smile, and then a laugh finished off the remaining anger.
Flashes of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman—when she tried
to open a clam (or was it a snail?) shell that flew across the
room—ran through her mind. “Slippery little devil,” she said,
mimicking Julia Roberts, between giggles.
Roger stopped a passing
waitress. “Excuse me, could this lady have a clean napkin,
“Of course,” the waitress
replied. She removed Jeagan’s napkin and returned momentarily
with a fresh one.
“Now,” Roger said, “Where were
Jeagan took a long drink from
her wine glass and settled in her chair, determined to relax
and not let Brandon spoil her evening. Movement at the bar
caught her attention. She glanced up.
looked their way and saluted her as he left the restaurant
with his co-workers.
She ignored him, thankful she could now eat in peace.
“I believe we were talking
about our trip to Seattle.” She squeezed fresh lemon onto an
oyster and dipped it. When she swallowed, she continued. “I
can’t believe him.”
“Forget him.” Roger dipped
another oyster and added extra horseradish. “He’ll get the
message eventually that you’re done with him. Just say ‘no’
when he calls.”
“Ahh. The old ‘just say no’
trick.” Jeagan nodded.
“Yep. If a guy hears it
enough, he finally gets the message.”
“I’ll bet you haven’t heard it
too many times,” Jeagan teased.
“I’ve had my share of being
Curious, Jeagan asked, “Have
you ever been engaged?”
“Once,” Roger said. Jeagan
watched a shadow pass over his face.
She placed her fork on her
plate. “What happened?”
Roger downed the remainder of
his wine as if to fortify himself. He set the glass on the
table and looked at Jeagan, anger sparking in his eyes.
“Angela was killed in a crosswalk downtown on her way to work.
Some guy in a black SUV ran a red light and hit her.”
“Oh, Roger, I’m sorry.” Jeagan
reached out to touch his hand.
“The guy didn’t stop. Just
kept on going. The police never found him.”
“When did it happen?”
“Three years ago.” He
continued, his green eyes misty with hurt. “I’d still like to
find the guy.”
“Didn’t anyone get a license
Roger shook his head. “It was
early in the morning, about seven. Angela was on her way to
work at The Post. She’d interviewed one of the top
executives at U.S. West the day before, after she’d got wind
of a possible buyout. She was anxious to dig into the story
and scoop The News. I remember how excited she was.”
Memory glazed Roger’s eyes.
Not knowing what to say,
Jeagan sat still. She remembered how it hurt losing her
mother. Not the same but still a deep loss.
“Excuse me a minute.” Roger
got up from the table.
Jeagan watched him stride
toward the restrooms at the rear of the restaurant. Another
reason, she thought, not to become involved with him.
He was still mourning the loss of his fiancée.
“I’m sorry, Jeagan,” Roger
said when he returned after a few minutes. His face was damp.
He’d obviously splashed cold water on it. “I get mad all over
again when I think about the fact that someone ran her down
and just kept going.”
“Don’t apologize. You have
every right to be angry.”
“If I could only find the guy
and get my hands on him.”
“You’ll find him, Roger.”
Again, Jeagan touched his hand reassuringly. “I know you
Roger visibly settled down as
if by effort. “Yes. I’ll find him someday. Then, I’ll have
closure, and he’ll be behind bars where he belongs.”
For the next few minutes,
Jeagan and Roger worked on the salads, which the waiter
brought after he cleared away the oyster shells. Neither spoke
until a slim, thirtyish, dark-haired woman stopped by the
“Hi, Roger,” she said, a wide
grin on her face.
Roger, his fork in mid-air,
looked up. He smiled and laid his fork on his plate. “Shelley?
What’re you doing here?” He pushed his chair back and stood.
Shelley wrapped her arms around Roger’s neck and kissed him on
the lips. Roger, obviously caught by surprise, placed his
hands on her arms and gently pushed her away.
She laughed. “I came in from
Dallas this morning to see Mom and Dad and to get in some
skiing. Imagine seeing you here. How are you?” Shelley
cut her coffee-colored eyes at Jeagan.
“Good.” Roger noted the cold
look Shelley aimed at Jeagan. “Uh…Jeagan, this is Shelley
Boswick, Angela’s sister. Shelley, this is Jeagan
“Nice to meet you, Shelley.
Roger told me about your sister. I’m so sorry about what
“Yes, I’m sure you are,”
Shelley said, her tone flat and icy. “I see you are moving on,
Roger,” she added bluntly.
“I—” Roger started.
“No. It’s not like that,”
Jeagan said quickly. “Roger and I are working on a missing
person’s case. We’re leaving in the morning for Seattle to
search for a man who was taken from his mother and given up
for adoption after she was told he was stillborn.” She
stopped, her face reddening. “I’m sorry. I’m babbling.”
“How touching,” Shelley
commented—her voice still like liquid ice—and slid her hand up
Roger’s arm and onto his shoulder. “Call me when you get back
in town. I’ll be here for a week or two. You’ve still got my
number, don’t you?” she crooned.
Roger, embarrassment flushing
his tanned face, nodded. “Yes, I’ve still got your number,
So have I,
After Shelley detached herself
from Roger and walked away, Jeagan said, “Which sister were
you engaged to?”
Roger laughed. “She’s a real
nut case. She was always jealous of anything, or anyone, her
sister had. When she found out Angela and I were engaged, she
started calling me and telling me Angela was seeing someone
else and had never been faithful to anybody and would never be
faithful to me.”
“Did you ever go out with
“Are you kidding? She’s a
vampire. I’d be afraid to be alone with her for more than five
Jeagan laughed. She couldn’t
imagine Roger being afraid of anyone or anything. She watched
him dig into his salad.
He took a few more bites,
wiped his mouth, and pushed his plate away. After he rested
his forearms on the table, he said, “Enough of my past and
“You’re right,” Jeagan said,
thoughtful. “But maybe we could get Brandon and Shelley
together. They’d be a great match. Egotistical jerk and
Roger laughed. “Match made in
heaven. All you’d need to do is tell Shelley you’re still
engaged to Brandon, and she’d be after him in a flash.” He
reached over and covered Jeagan’s hand with his. “But, let’s
forget them. We have a job to do with a short time to do it.
I’ve got us booked at the… .” He pulled a folded piece of
paper out of his shirt pocket and opened at it. “We’re at the
Jeagan’s eyebrows rose.
“Marriott? Isn’t that going to be pricey?”
“I’ve got a nice expense
account for this job, so don’t worry about the money. Isabel
will get her money’s worth out of us.”
“Okay.” Jeagan watched while
the waitress placed their entrees on the table. She couldn’t
wait to bite into her shrimp and loaded baked potato. Real
food! She tried to forget the pain and the hospital food
she’d had at the Oxford hospital. Although not bad, it was
generally tasteless. But, then, she’d been lucky to be alive;
therefore, any food was good food.
“Still with me?” Roger studied
“Oh. Yeah, sure. Just enjoying
this heavenly food.”
“Well,” Roger cut into his ahi
tuna, “if you like seafood, Seattle ought to be right up your
After dinner, Roger drove
Jeagan home. Both were silent, full from dinner and thinking
about the coming trip.
“Have you been to Seattle
before?” he asked Jeagan while he walked her to her door.
“No. But, I hear it’s
beautiful. Dad has told me about his business trips up there.”
“It can be beautiful when it’s
not raining. I checked the forecast earlier today. We might
get lucky with the weather.”
“Well, thanks for dinner.”
Jeagan unlocked her door. Uncomfortable, not knowing what to
do when she didn’t feel like this was a date, but maybe more
of a business dinner, she stuck out her hand.
Roger grinned and took her
hand. He pulled her to him and kissed her on the cheek. “See
you in the morning—early.” He released her and stuffed his
hands in his pockets as he skipped down the steps and loped
across the sidewalk.
“’Night,” Jeagan called.
Roger waved before he got into
his Range Rover. She watched him drive away.
The door closed and locked
behind her, she kicked off her shoes, grabbed them by the
sling straps, and headed for her bedroom. When she dropped
them in the closet and her handbag on the vanity, she turned
toward her room. The message light on the phone blinked red.
She frowned. “That better not
be Brandon again,” she muttered while she crossed the room.
After pressing the message recall button, she heard the
mature, cultured, southern male voice of someone who
identified himself as Mark Edwards, Isabel Lloyd’s attorney.
“Isabel,” he informed Jeagan,
“has had a heart attack. She has spoken of you often recently
while we’ve been working on her new will, so I thought you’d
want to know. She’s at Methodist Hospital Central in the
Intensive Care Unit. Please call me on my cellphone when you
get this message. If I’m not available, you can call the ICU.”