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Bucking Bronc Lodge 04(9)

By:Rita Herron

Timmy’s little chin quivered, and the crumpled drawing slipped to the floor at his feet. He didn’t bother to pick it up or speak.

Dammit, he looked so lost and forlorn that Miles had to blink to control the emotions clogging his throat.

Jordan gave him an encouraging smile, then lowered herself into the seat beside Timmy and gestured for him to go. “Timmy and I will be fine,” Jordan said quietly. “We’ll talk for a few minutes, then meet you at your cabin.”

Miles nodded, although leaving his little boy made him feel as though he was abandoning him somehow.

Then Jordan looked up at him with those beguiling green eyes, and her plea to trust her rolled through his head.

Dammit, he’d been lost before he’d come here.

Whether he wanted to admit it or not, and even if he didn’t like shrinks or counselors or talking about problems like these head doctors insisted, he had no idea how to reach his son.

He needed her help.

Trying for some sense of normalcy, he ruffled Timmy’s hair. “See you in about an hour, sport.”

His gaze caught Jordan’s, a silent plea in his eyes.

She nodded, then walked him back toward the door. “If I need you before we meet up, I’ll call.”

He nodded, not trusting himself to talk, then stepped through the door. Worry crawled through him as he left his son, but he reminded himself that time was of the essence.

That Mason Blackpaw might have news.

So he strode out into the sunshine and breathed in the clean ranch air. Across the way, he spotted a group by the barn, another set of campers grooming the horses in the pen. Normally the smells and scenery in front of him brought instant peace, but today peace eluded him.

He leaned against the porch rail and punched Mason’s number. A second later, the detective picked up. “Any news?” Miles asked, not bothering to detail the subject line. Blackpaw knew there was only one thing on his mind.

“Nothing good,” Blackpaw muttered. “We put a tail on Dugan, but the rookie lost him last night. Haven’t caught up with him since.”

Miles cursed. “Can’t we track his cell phone?”

“Working on getting a warrant, but so far zilch.”

“How about a GPS on his car?”

“Dugan is smart,” Blackpaw said. “He had it dismantled.”

Son of a bitch.

“Can’t we crack his alibi?”

“Working that angle, too. Woman who stuck up for him is nowhere to be found.”

“You mean you lost her, too.”

Blackpaw mumbled an obscenity this time. “I mean she’s disappeared.”

A cold sweat broke out on Miles’s brow. Maybe she’d run off with him?

Or more likely...Dugan had killed her to cover his tracks.

Chapter Three

Miles paced the length of the porch, one eye catching sight of Brody’s pickup truck lumbering down the drive. “Dammit, I need to be out there looking for Dugan myself. He’s probably already killed his alibi and looking for some other innocent woman to carve up.”

“You’re preaching to the choir here,” Blackpaw said. “But you know what the lieutenant said. You’re too close to this one, McGregor.”

“Of course I’m close to it, but that’s what makes me motivated. Last time I talked to Hammond, he didn’t seem convinced that Dugan was guilty.”

A long pause followed, steeped in tension. “That’s another problem,” Blackpaw admitted. “With the Kelly woman’s murder, we both know there’s more to the case than we originally thought.”

“Don’t tell me you think Dugan was set up,” Miles growled.

“No,” Blackpaw said. “I think he’s as guilty as homemade sin. But—”

The sun slid behind a winter cloud, making the sky turn a hazy gray. “There is no but. He killed those women and he killed Marie.”

“But what about June Kelly?”

“We’re still looking into it.” Miles had no answer for that. Yet.

“You know, I did find evidence that Marie was seeing someone. Two men over the last five years.”

Miles chewed the inside of his cheek. He’d be a piss-poor cop if he ignored evidence and didn’t consider every possibility. “Go on.”

“The first was a pediatrician named Lamar Cohen but he’s clean. The other man was more recent. Neighbors saw them together.”

Miles swallowed hard. So this man had been with Timmy? Had Marie planned to marry him? Let him be a father to Timmy?

“What else do you know about him?”

“His name was Paul Belsa. Apparently he was some kind of wealthy businessman. I don’t know what kind of business yet, but he was slick. Drove an expensive car.”