Sheri Lewis Wohl
A very bad feeling sat deep in the pit of Chris Russell's stomach, but he couldn't put a finger on why. At his desk, he fastened the straps of his bullet-proof vest and wrestled in silence with the uneasiness that had stuck with him since he'd gotten out of bed in the morning. The bulky vest secure, he slipped on his black jacket with the bold yellow letters DEA stenciled on the back.
He picked up his sidearm, checked the clip, and then slipped it into the holster at his waist. He put an extra clip in the black leather mag pouch on his belt and two more in his bag. Next was his rifle. It fit into the black nylon bag that looked, to the casual glance, like an over-sized gym tote. Zipping the bag shut, he picked it up and turned to head out the door. Regardless of his discomfort, it was time to go. Without something concrete, he would move forward. No reason not to.
Chris had worked this case since the start and wanted to bring it to a successful conclusion despite the sensation at the back of his neck like cold, dead fingers brushing his skin. He didn't care what anybody else said, intuition counted for a great deal in his book. Intuition had kept him alive more than once during his time with the Army Rangers and he was not about to ignore it now. But he'd still go full bore ahead with this bust. Setting it up had taken months, and it was time to take down the key person responsible for bringing huge quantities of drugs into his city. That bad feeling, though, would keep him on his toes, and his senses on hyper-alert.
They still didn't know the name of the man they would haul into federal custody later tonight. The Medicine Man was the only i.d. they had…precious little to go on. The Medicine Man had set up his facade with such skill that law enforcement was unable to break through to discover the identity behind it. That bothered Chris as much as it pissed him off. He would know who this asshole was before the sun came up, one way or the other.
Through careful work and perfect timing, he and the others involved in the operation had put their own cast together. The bust would play like the finest symphony, flushing out the man who pulled strings like a master puppeteer. At long last, he would answer for his crimes. The Medicine Man would be out of business.
Chris would be lying if he said he wasn't curious as to the identity of the one who was able to pull off such a successful and profitable drug enterprise without his name ever being slipped even once. A pretty good feat when to offer a name in exchange for a deal was common practice. Too bad the guy didn't work on the right side of the law; he would have been a great success. Now, he was about to find his ass sitting in prison.
The warehouse appeared deserted when Chris and his partner parked the black SUV in the shadows about a block away. North of town and a scant block off Market Street, the warehouse sat near rolling hills. Those hills, dotted with low brush and pine trees, provided an excellent cover position for Chris and the other agents. The only downside was that the front of the building was wide and flat with a quick and easy escape to Market Street. There was no way to block access without tipping their hand. They had little choice except to leave the front section unprotected. If all went well, and Chris prayed it did, the unprotected front wouldn't be a problem. If it didn't? Well, he wasn't going to think that way. It would go their way. The bastard was going down.
He pulled his rifle from the bag and attached the night scope before he slung the strap over his shoulder. His partner, also armed, motioned he would take the left side. Chris nodded and started to the hill on the right. They were near enough to the rear of the building that both would have a clear, lethal shot, while still able to maintain sufficient cover.
Kneeling behind a clump of pine seedlings, the tallest of which was only about three feet high, Chris brought the rifle to his shoulder and peered through the scope. He let out the breath he'd been holding. This was the spot. He had a clear view of the warehouse and a straight shot, if need be.
Subtle movement rippled around the warehouse. SWAT officers from the Spokane Police Department and deputies from the United States Marshal's Service were taking up posts in various locations around the perimeter. Bottom line: it was covered from every angle it could be, and by the best from each of the participating agencies. No one was about to walk out of this without handcuffs on their wrists and a federal indictment looming large on their horizon. Now all that was left to do was wait.
After over two hours of patience, a dark van rolled up to the rear door. About damn time. Chris shouldered his rifle and peered through the scope for a better look at the newest arrivals. Right away he recognized the two men who got out and walked around to the rear of the van. Eddy Pearson and Andy Shea were well-known and frequent visitors of the SPD's local bed and breakfast. Eddy was also the guy responsible for setting this up. He'd been given a choice: either set it up or head to Walla Walla where Washington State's notorious maximum security prison was located. Eddy wasn't eager to risk a trip back to Walla Walla and had been far more amenable to their suggested plan. The deal still held jail time for Eddy, but at the much more comfortable Geiger Corrections Center. The meeting was thus arranged and Eddy was, so far, playing his part to perfection. Amazing how the threat of time in a maximum security prison could elicit the kind of assistance needed for a bust this important.
Less than five minutes later, a late model BMW pulled up behind the van and a lone man got out. Once more Chris looked through the scope. No, it couldn't be. He adjusted the rifle at his shoulder again before peering through the high-powered scope for another close-up look. What was he doing at this warehouse in the middle of the night? He needed to get out of there before he muddied up the bust they'd spent so long pulling together. Chris started to sling his rifle back over his shoulder and then stopped. Slowly he brought the rifle around and put his eye back to the scope.
Oh, shit. Now he understood. He lowered the rifle and took a couple of deep steadying breaths. It didn't matter. Not in the big picture. The Medicine Man had to be stopped, regardless of his identity.
At the sound of gunshots near the building, Chris snapped the rifle back up to his shoulder in one fluid movement. In the seconds since he'd lowered his rifle, something had gone very wrong. The shots didn't stop, their sound as loud as cannons in the still night.
"Damn it," he muttered as his finger glided to the trigger. This could not go south, not now.
Chris adjusted the rifle to ready it for firing, and put his eye to his scope. Again, unease slithered through his body. He had a brief glimpse of a rifle protruding from the driver's window of the BMW—pointed right at him—before the punch of a bullet sent him flying backward.
Then everything went black.
Louie Russell shot out of her chair and through the door connecting her office to Harry's, from where the thunderous expletive had issued. His round face was red, and looked even redder because of the jet-black braids yet to play host to even one strand of white. His dark eyes were narrowed and flashing as he looked up at her.
Eyebrows raised, she shook her head. "Watch it, Harry, you know my CPR card is out of date."
Her comment was only part jest. It had been ages since she'd completed her CPR training and whether they liked it or not, neither one of them was getting any younger. The crimson flush on his neck and face didn't give her a warm and cozy feeling. She could almost hear his arteries pop and that was most definitely not a good thing.
Harry was a good fifteen pounds heavier than when she'd moved into her small office five years ago, and he hadn't been a little guy back then. The last couple of years, each time one of the clients skipped, she was certain the big one was just around the corner for her friend and co-worker. His face would get bright red, and with every successive explosion, it seemed to take longer for the flush to fade. Yeah, she pretty much figured it was past time for Harry to get a physical and way past time for her to refresh the old CPR training.
"Funny," he muttered at the same time he tossed a manila folder toward her like a Frisbee. It landed with a plop on the yellowed vinyl at her feet. "Little Canadian bastard took off."
"Which little Canadian bastard?"
A reasonable question since he seemed to have a corner on the market lately. Among other illegal product, BC bud was big business these days and for whatever reason, Spokane was destination central. Dope hadn't lost its appeal in these parts, or at least that's the way it seemed to Louie. The constant influx kept both local and federal law enforcement busy, not to mention Harry's door swinging, and by extension, hers. If Harry was busy, Louie's caseload went up in direct proportion. Nothing like good old mathematics to keep a business popping and the paychecks rolling in. If she'd known how much money there was in this business, she might have been tempted to change jobs eons ago.
"James McDonald." Harry's words were clipped as though it was painful to even say the name.
"Oh the cute Canadian bastard," Louie said and nodded. Just the mere mention of McDonald's name seemed have reignited the flush in Harry's face. She didn't like that.
"Oh yeah, Russell, he's a real cutie all right. Took off on a 100K bond. I am not inclined to cough up the dough and his parents, poor suckers, can't afford it either. Do you know what the exchange rate is right now? This will wipe them out, lock, stock, and barrel. A shame too, they seemed like real decent people to me. I hate it when this kind of shit happens."
Harry shook his head and pulled a candy bar from the middle drawer of his desk. He peeled back the wrapper and took a big bite. The scent of chocolate floated across the air. The wrapper crackled as he balled it up and tossed it in the direction of the trash can. He missed.
"Harry…" Her eyes narrowed and she nodded her head toward the treat.
He shrugged and said through a mouth full of candy, "I'm stressed."
Good excuse was what she thought, though Louie kept the commentary to herself. Not that she blamed Harry for being a bit tense. When somebody skipped, it was bad all the way around. Still, she'd heard the story too many times to feel much of anything beyond annoyance. She sympathized with the parents and their potential loss, but personal feelings had no business in this business. There were good people and there were bad people, plain and simple. Her job, however, wasn't to worry about the distinction. Her job was to get James McDonald back in a courtroom before Harry was forced to forfeit the bond and, by extension, the McDonalds lost all their collateral.
"How much time?" she asked.
"Joe Harper's the Assistant U.S. Attorney on this one and he gave me a call. He'll hold off on a motion for bond forfeiture until the end of the month. I promised him you would drag the boy back so I'm counting on you not to make a liar out of me." He popped the final chunk of the candy into his mouth and licked his lips, a satisfied smile on his face.
"Great, Harry, I love it when you make promises on my behalf. Any leads on where this little fellow took off to?"
"Yeah, he went north."
There were reasons why she was the field person and Harry stayed in the office. She let out a long sigh. "You're just a bundle of information, Studhorse."
"Yeah, well, I'm the money, baby, you're the great white hunter."
"Some kind of Indian you are. You don't even pretend to try."
"Naw, too much work and I think you forget, I'm the chief so I get to order trackers around. That's what a chief does these days. Besides, I did my time, now it's my turn to sit on my fat ass and watch someone younger and much better looking do all the hard work. Does the old heart good, if you know what I mean." He tapped a finger to his chest.
Louie smiled, relieved to see the tension in his face begin to relax. The brilliant red in his cheeks finally faded to a flushed pink or whatever color it could be called underneath his latte-colored skin. Despite the candy bar, a heart attack did not appear imminent—for the moment anyway. She still intended to pester him until he made an appointment for a physical. Oh and yeah, she'd best look into that CPR refresher too.
"And you do it so well." She bent down to retrieve the folder still on the floor by her feet. "I have thirty days?"
"Don't press it." Harry tilted back in his chair to study her with a glint in his black eyes. "Make it twenty-five."
"Oh, so you want to make a challenge out of it?" To work in this business, it was impossible not have a bit of gambler's soul. A wager was their way of making a game out of the hunt. She wasn't much of a true gambler, but this was a game she loved to play. Hide and seek with a little kick-the-can thrown in for good measure, combined with rules with far more elasticity to them than when she'd been a cop.
Harry leaned forward in his chair and folded his arms on top of a pile of folders littering his desk. "Tell you what, Russell. You bring me that boy in twenty days and I will up your take another five percent."
Her smile broadened. "I so love a challenge, especially one with a little bonus attached. I'll hold you to the wager, Studhorse." She pointed a finger at him.
"It's a deal, sugar. The extra five percent is worth it if you bring me the boy. It will make this chief very happy to not have to cough up a cool hundred."
"Ah, Harry, have I ever let you down?"
"No, baby, that's why you're still here."
"You're such a sweet talker."
"So the ladies say."
"Ah ha! And what ladies would those be exactly, if you don't mind me asking?"
Harry waved his hands in the air. "A gentleman doesn't name names."
Louie shook her head and left him laughing at his own cleverness. She turned in the direction of the part of the building she called hers. The tile was faded, the woodwork a bit battered and dull. Still, it was as comfortable as an old pair of shoes, as though she'd been here all her life.
In her office, Louie spread open the folder Harry had tossed to her and started to read. The picture of James McDonald showed a youthful looking man of twenty-nine with wavy red hair and bright green eyes. No deep lines creased his face, and his skin was smooth and unblemished. She was struck by the thought his was not the face of a hardened criminal. Yet, the nature of the alleged crimes spoke of more than an amateur. He had, after all, been caught red-handed in his attempt to haul a major amount of BC bud over the border.
Still, he looked more like a Scottish throwback. It was easier for Louie to imagine the handsome face and lithe body in full Highland regalia rather than the dark glasses and black clothes of the stereotypical drug runner. She rather liked the Highland image.
A major player, she mused while she flipped through the indictment and accompanying paperwork Harry'd prepared for the bond. James McDonald was caught in possession of a serious amount of dope without any identifiable links to a known organization. Hence the theory he was the top man. A solitary run? Or, a guy with a plan to make quick piles of money without deep involvement with other established networks?
Not according to the feds. They seemed to think he was The Big Guy and were patting themselves on the back for the bust. But why would the supposed kingpin do the run himself? Solitary or not, it seemed a major flaw in the case, at least in her opinion. She'd been on the job long enough to know how it all came down. Leaders paid mules to transport their drugs; they didn't do it themselves. That James was caught with a huge load of dope in a jet black Suburban didn't make sense if he was truly the top man.
But it didn't change the facts. He was charged with some very sobering offenses, and the one hundred thousand dollar bond was a clear sign the feds were dead serious about this guy. Harry, of course, took it seriously as well. He didn't respond well to being parted from his cash or being forced to collect on collateral. Most of the time, he posted the bond and the defendant showed up. Everybody was happy, so to speak. Every once in awhile, though, a James McDonald situation popped up. Not good for anyone involved, except Louie. It's how she made a living.
She fired up her computer and logged in to do a little background work on James and his family. An hour later, her pad full of notes, Louie leaned back in her chair. Interesting. Very, very interesting.
Her chair squeaked as she stood. She opened the top drawer of her desk, took out her gun and tucked it into her shoulder holster. The dark blue jacket she slipped into was excellent for hiding the gun. In blue jeans and leather boots, her hair cut in a short, sporty style, she blended in well with the general population. She liked Spokane with its big city size and small town friendliness. Luxury cars and pickup trucks moved together through the streets of the city without drawing a second glance. A person could fish in the afternoon and attend the symphony the same night. It was a blue-jeans-to-velvet kind of town that suited her extremely well. She was born to be in this place.
Bottom line: Louie liked it here and she liked her job. The profession had been thrown at her rather than one made from conscious choice, but sometimes things worked out very well in spite of everything. This was one of those instances. Five years ago, she would never have believed she'd end up a bail enforcement agent, let alone one of the top agents in the region. These days, she was offered more jobs than she could handle. Harry's always came first. Their relationship was much more than professional, and she for one was not about to forget it. Loyalty weighed heavy in her book.
Dropping her small spiral notebook and pen into her pocket, she waved to Harry and headed out to the parking lot, off on the hunt for James McDonald. She figured twenty days was a cakewalk with this guy, and the extra five percent Harry promised was icing on the cake.
Halfway to her car Louie heard a familiar rattle. She did an about-face and jogged over to where eighty-seven—year-old Meg English pushed a tired silver cart with a single paper sack in the bottom. Dressed in her familiar peach track suit, Meg could easily pass for a woman at least a decade or two younger. Today she wore a snappy pair of sunglasses, her always tidy hair in a single braid down her back.
"Let me," Louie said as she eased the rickety cart from Meg's firm grasp.
"Well, Miss Louise, thank you." Meg stepped aside and let Louie take control. She patted her hair with thin, slightly shaky hands and then straightened her zippered jacket. Her smile revealed even, white teeth.
"I told you I'd take you for groceries, and you promised not to walk all the way to Rosauers again," Louie said, pushing the cart across the asphalt parking lot with Meg beside her
"Now, Louise, that was indeed a fine offer, but if I let you take me in the car, how would I get my exercise? I don't want my bottom to get as big as a balloon. I've seen what women my age look like when they get too soft."
Fat chance. Louie laughed and shook her head. "Like that's really going to happen to you."
Meg pursed her lips, her face serious even though her deep brown eyes twinkled. "It will if I get lazy." She lifted her chin.
Not only was Meg the most energetic octogenarian Louie ever met, she was as thin as a rail with a bottom that would never in a million years be mistaken for a balloon. At a whopping five foot three, if she stood very tall, Meg maybe weighed a hundred pounds on a good day. Her mocha skin glowed with good health and her ebony hair hosted a mere peppering of white. Few, if any, would guess her true age. Louie sure hadn't and had been floored the day she discovered how old Meg was.
More days than not Meg could be found with her silver cart on the way to the grocery store for fresh fruits and vegetables. If not the grocery store, it was Auntie's, the huge local bookstore down on the corner of Main and Washington where she'd pick up the Wall Street Journal. Or, if not on her way for books or groceries, she could be found at one of the downtown charities helping those whose lives had spiraled into homelessness and despair.
Meg was one-of-a-kind. And there was little use in arguing with her. Louie'd tried many times before and each time she'd lost. Instead, just as she did today, Louie chastised Meg—though with a friendly smile—and then carried the cart up the flight of stairs from the ground floor, where Louie's office was located, to the second story, where Meg's one-bedroom apartment overlooked Monroe Street.
Louie waited for Meg to unlock the apartment door before taking the cart into the kitchen. Louie loved to spend time with Meg. She was spirited and interesting with a keen eye on current events. She didn't talk much about herself and even though Louie would love to have known more about her history, she respected Meg's privacy and didn't ask personal questions.
She was dying to know about the original paintings by artists such as Frida Kahlo and Remedios Varo that graced the small apartment walls. She hadn't recognized the names on the paintings the first time she studied them. But she was an investigator, so she'd gone home and looked on her computer. The good old internet poured forth its magic. Fascinated by the history of the two twentieth-century surrealist painters, Louie spent the better part of two hours just reading. She now knew a whole lot about Kahlo and Varo. What she didn't know was how the two originals landed on the beige walls of a Monroe Street walk-up.
Even now as Louie looked around the familiar room with the older yet tasteful furniture, she felt comforted, the same way she did every time she went there. Still, she was very curious to know how a woman with such obvious grace and intelligence lived so simply in a small apartment in downtown Spokane. Curious minds want to know…
Today, like most days, Louie kept her curiosity to herself. She put away Meg's small sack of groceries and helped her settle into favorite chair. Meg's eyes were closed, the lines in her face relaxed and serene. Louie tried hard to be quiet as she moved to the door. She wasn't exactly a bull in a china shop but she wasn't quite a ballerina either. She wanted to stay for a cup of tea, except duty called. Tea would have to wait for another day.
"Thank you." Meg said, her eyes still closed.
Louie paused and smiled. "You're very welcome. Now, you call me next time you need to go to the store, promise?"
"I promise to think about it."
"You're a stubborn old lady, Meg English," Louie said with a laugh.
A smile turned up the corners of Meg's mouth, though she still didn't open her eyes. Her hands were on the arms of the chair and her fingers tapped lightly. "So I've been told at a table of kings."
Louie raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, right, and I had dinner with Prince Charles last night."
"Yes, Prince Charles, such a serious boy."
Louie raised both eyebrows. "You know Prince Charles?" Sure she does, just about as well as I know the president.
Meg opened her eyes, a twinkle in the deep brown gaze, and gave her a little nod. "Know him? No, not really, but I did have dinner with him once," she said and winked. Then she settled back into the chair and closed her eyes again.
Louie was still shaking her head when she stepped into the hallway and closed the door. Table of kings indeed.
* * * *
"I'm gonna kill him." Paul threw the portable phone across his office. The sound of shattered plastic raining down was like that of a ghostly storm. Harsh but brief. He looked over at the mess. Gonna have to replace that out of his pocket. No big deal. Right at this moment, it was the least of his worries. He could care less about a stupid telephone or how much it would cost to replace.
The big issue pressing like a hundred-pound weight on his head right at the moment was where to find his little brother. It wasn't a big stretch to believe Jamie could get busted for something as stupid as dope dealing, but to skip out on the bail and leave their parents hanging high and dry … even Jamie wasn't that big of an asshole. He might be a lot of things not particularly savory, but Paul had never known him to do one thing to harm the folks. Until now.
Jamie had managed to put Mom and Dad at risk to lose everything. Their home, their retirement savings, everything. Not acceptable. No way, no how.
Paul dropped to his chair and ran his fingers through his hair. Time for a haircut, he thought, and then wondered why something so inconsequential would occur to him at a time like this. He could care less what his hair looked like.
What he needed was to find Jamie before the bond was forfeited by the court. He hoped he could find him before it was too late. For all he knew, it could be too late already. The criminal justice system wasn't the arena he knew.
Paul dug through his desk drawer and found the business card the bondsman had given him the day he and his parents had bailed Jamie out, even though leaving Jamie in jail had been Paul's preference. It was high time for Jamie to face the consequences of his actions without Mommy and Daddy stepping in to pick up the pieces for him. Paul wished they'd listened to him. If they had, this call would be totally unnecessary.
He started to reach for the phone, but was interrupted by a tentative knock on his door. In the doorway, looking like he'd rather be anywhere else but in Paul's office was his goaltender, Todd Fox. At seventeen, Todd was an easy six-foot-three and one of the reasons the team was well on its way to a league championship. Until last night anyway.
"Coach, you wanted to see me?" There was just the slightest tremor in Todd's voice.
Paul waved him in. "Yeah, we gotta talk."
Todd dropped to a chair and looked at the floor. "Coach, I know I messed up last night. It won't happen again."
"I know it won't."
Todd's head snapped up and a look of horror crossed his face. "Are you cutting me?"
Paul smiled and shook his head. "No, as long as you tell me what's distracting you. Last night your game sucked big time and that's not like you. What's up?"
The panic in Todd's young face faded, replaced by sadness. Tears welled in his eyes, something Paul hadn't seen before in this very focused and tough young man. "It's my grandma, Coach. She's in the hospital."
"Is it serious?"
Todd nodded and a single tear escaped down his cheek. "I'm afraid we're gonna lose her."
Paul swiveled his chair until he faced his computer. "Hang on a second." His fingers punched the keys in rapid succession. A couple minutes of silence passed before Paul swiveled back to look at Todd. The printer behind him whirred and a second later he grabbed the single piece of paper it spat out.
"You go pack a bag and I'll have Coach Curry pick you up."
"To do what?" Todd's eyes were bright and he didn't move.
"To go home. I just made a plane reservation for you into Vancouver. I assume your folks can pick you up there?" Paul shoved the printed ticket across the desk to Todd.
"What about Friday's game?"
"We'll make it through one game without you, I promise. There are some things more important than hockey. Go see your grandmother. I'll see you back here on Sunday."
Todd picked up the ticket and got up out of the chair. A big smile was on his face. "Thanks, Coach. I'll pay you back, I promise."
Paul stood and patted Todd on the shoulder. "Not a problem. I have a ton of frequent flier miles to use up anyway. Didn't cost me, or the team, a dime."
As soon as Todd left, Paul sat down at his desk and reached for the phone. He paused when it dawned on him that he'd made confetti out of it. He dug in his pocket and pulled out his cell. Flipping it open, he punched in the number off the business card as he wondered what he was going to say. He didn't know where to start. He'd always avoided trouble with the law. He'd never even been pulled over for a traffic ticket, let alone gotten himself thrown in jail by the federal government.
Oh, he'd been stuck with a tough-guy reputation all right, but if people really knew how much was back office propaganda, they'd be shocked. Then again, people believed what they wanted to believe, and for years he was the toughest player on the ice. Few realized, or cared for that matter, he always left his aggression at the rink. Of course the phone he just destroyed might argue the point if it could. Still, funny as it seemed, he'd been a big tough professional hockey player without a single encounter with the police at any level.
At the moment, he needed to figure out the playing field, which meant he needed to start somewhere. The man who helped his parents post the bond for Jamie had seemed reasonable. Even more than that, he was interesting and friendly. Harry Studhorse, Paul discovered, was an enrolled member of the Blackfoot Tribe. He was a tall, regal-looking man with waist-length black braids and a hearty laugh. Right now, Paul was grasping at straws and Harry Studhorse seemed as good as any place to start.
"River City Bail Bonds."
"Mr. Studhorse?" The name still made him smile when he said it. He found out after their initial meeting it was an old and distinguished name in the tribe, one that went back for many generations. Once he got beyond the novelty of it, the name conjured up an image of a large and powerful horse, sort of like the bronze sculptures lining the hills overlooking the Columbia River near Vantage, Washington. He wondered if the original bearer of the name had been a big, powerful warrior.
"Harry, this is Paul McDonald."
"Sir, please tell me you're calling to let me know where your brother is at this moment?"
"So do I. Well, what then can I do for you, Mr. McDonald?"
"Please call me Paul, and I'm calling to see what I can do to help. My parents can't afford this." There was no sense beating around the bush or pretending things weren't as they were.
"Not high on my list either, Paul."
He liked the candid response, made him feel he talked to kindred soul—sort of. "So Harry, how can I help?"
"I've got Louie Russell on it, but if you have any ideas where he might be at, it would help Louie to know."
"A bounty hunter?" Paul didn't expect that even if it was a logical progression; River City Bail Bonds surely wanted Jamie back here as much as he did. Still, a bounty hunter seemed drastic. His brother wouldn't take well to the kind of people Paul saw on reality shows. No, Jamie wouldn't do well with that at all, and much as he hated to admit it, Paul didn't want Jamie hurt. In fact, if anyone was to hurt his brother, it'd be him.
"It's bail enforcement agent these days, and just for your own safety, Louie doesn't like being called a bounty hunter. And yes, I have to get the boy back here or I'm out a hundred grand. That doesn't sit any better with me than it does your folks. So, if you have any idea where he's hiding…"
"I wish I did, I'd drag him back here myself." Paul wasn't kidding either. He'd grab Jamie by the collar and drag him in kicking and screaming if he could.
"Well, Paul, do us all a favor and start thinking, maybe make some calls to his friends. Louie will be tracking you down and any inside info you have will be real helpful."
"I don't know his friends and that's the truth. My brother and I are not what you'd call close and haven't been for a very long time. Still, I'll see what I can dig up."
"We appreciate the help, Paul. We want to get your brother back here safe and sound so my hundred grand stays where it is and your parents keep their collateral."
"You'll get no argument from me, Harry, and if I come up with anything, I'll call."
"Sounds good, keep in touch."
Paul flipped the phone shut. Laying it on the desk, he ran his fingers through his hair and massaged the back of his neck where the throb was beginning to grow stronger, a red hot hammer pounding with a steady rhythm at the base of his neck. A bounty hunter chasing down Jamie…Christ. Jamie might be a lot of things like irresponsible, immature, and yes, even stupid in some ways. But he wasn't violent.
Paul didn't have any personal knowledge of bounty hunters, but his mind conjured up an image of a bulked-up tree trunk of a guy with lots of muscle and less brains. He saw the TV images of bounty hunters and, despite his rational mind knowing Hollywood wasn't the reality, those images still made him nervous. Jamie was bound to get hurt even if the bounty hunter wasn't a tree trunk.
He wished he knew how to help or better yet, who to call. He hadn't lied to Harry when he told him he and Jamie weren't close. He hadn't even talked to Jamie in over three years. He made Paul so mad with his constant refusal to grow up that it worked better if they just didn't see each other at all. At least it worked better for Paul.
Of course, he got reports from Mom and Dad every time he was back home in Surrey. The last time he and Jamie were face to face was three years ago on Christmas, and then he ended up so furious with his younger brother that he headed back to Spokane two days early just to get away. It was either that or take a hockey stick to Jamie's groin. Not exactly the poster children for brotherly love.
Now this. It just didn't stop with Jamie. Ever. It was one thing after another, year in and year out. At some point, it'd seem like little Jamie would have to grow up and become a man equal to the name of James. So far, it hadn't happened. He managed to roll from one stupid stunt to another.
This was different. Most of Jamie's escapades were annoying and pretty much always costly. In the big picture though, they were minor problems. This latest clash with law enforcements was the mother of all trouble. There was nothing minor about it. He'd managed to get himself brought up on federal charges, in the United States no less, and then if that alone wasn't bad enough, managed to convince the parents to bail him out. They'd put everything they owned on the line for Jamie, and now he'd left them high and dry. They'd lose their house and what little money they'd saved would be gone as well. His parents were good people whose only crime was to love their errant son just a little too much.
Paul opened the cell phone one more time and punched in the number for his accountant. He talked with Ken for a good twenty minutes before he shut the phone and put in back down on the desk. His hands folded, his eyes shut, Paul took several long, even breaths. So much for his great idea. Why couldn't it be easy?
With a sigh, he reached under his desk and pulled out his skates. Lacing them up, he stomped out of his office and to the rink. It was quiet in the arena right now; practice for the team didn't start for another hour. For the moment, the place was his alone. Nothing helped him think better than to glide across the ice, a hockey stick held in his hands.
He opened the door and stepped onto the smooth ice. Bill would grumble later when he'd be forced to run the Zamboni again to smooth out all the damage Paul would inflict. But hey, it was good for all of them to break their routines once in a while, Bill included.
As Paul's skates hit the ice, he no longer thought about Jamie or the bounty hunter on his tail.
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