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Lieutenant Bo Duggan didn't like what he saw in the rearview mirror of his SUV. A black van had been several vehicles behind him since he pulled out of the parking lot of San Antonio Police headquarters ten minutes earlier. The van was still there.
Maybe it was a coincidence.
Bo didn't slow down or speed up. He simply continued his fifty-five-mile-per-hour pace on the drive home. Except he wouldn't go home just yet. Not with the possibility of that van on his tail.
As a veteran SAPD cop and head of the Special Victims Unit, it was always a possibility that someone was dissatisfied with the outcome of a case and wanted to bring that personal grudge to Bo's doorstep. But he wouldn't let it get that far. He already had enough to manage with the other crazy things happening in his life.
What the hell was going on anyway?
The day before, he'd learned someone was running a cyber-investigation on him. A deep one. From an unsecured computer at a coffeehouse, no less. He was still trying to get a list of possible suspects from the partial fingerprints taken from that keyboard. Then someone had tried to break into his SUV while it was in the parking lot at police headquarters. Now this.
Slipping his phone from his pocket, Bo called one of his sergeants to inform him of the situation and to give him the van's license plate number to run through the database. Bo's second call was to his house, and as he expected, the nanny, Rosalie, answered.
"Rosalie, I don't want to scare you, but are all the doors and windows locked, and is the security system turned on?" Bo asked.
"Yes." But he could tell from her hesitation that she was already alarmed. Probably because he hadn't been able to keep the concern out of his voice. Still, better to be safe than sorry. "Why?"
"Just a precaution." He checked to make sure the black van was still there. It was. "Keep everything locked up tight, and don't let anyone in unless you hear differently from me."
There was more hesitation. "I'm sorry, but someone's already here."
His stomach knotted, and he pushed his foot to the accelerator. "Who?"
"Madeline Cooper, the woman who's interested in buying the house across the street. Remember, she called yesterday to make an appointment with you so she could ask some questions about the neighborhood? I let her in about five minutes ago."
Bo didn't relax. He was expecting Ms. Cooper, just not this soon. And not with that van following him.
"Tell our visitor I'll get there as soon as I can," Bo explained to Rosalie. "And if anyone else calls or comes by, get in touch with me immediately."
"You're scaring me, Bo. What's going on?"
"I'll explain it all when I get there. Right now, I just want to take a few precautions and make sure you and the kids are safe."
He clicked End Call and was about to call for backup before he stopped the van and confronted whomever was inside, but he realized that wouldn't be necessary. The van made a right turn, off the main highway, and disappeared down a side street.
Bo blew out a long breath and wanted to dismiss the incident as mild paranoia on his part, but something in his gut told him he had reason for concern. After twelve years of being a cop, the one thing he'd learned was to trust his gut.
He pressed a little harder on the accelerator while he kept watch around him, to make sure that van didn't resurface. It didn't. Bo made the turn into his neighborhood without any sign of it or any other suspicious vehicle. However, in front of his ranch-style house there was an unfamiliar two-door blue Ford.
Ms. Cooper's probably.
He would quickly answer his prospective neighbor's questions and send her on her way.
Rosalie met him at the door that led from the garage and into the laundry room. Oh, yes. She was concerned. Normally, Rosalie was cool and calm under pressure.
But Bo saw the stress, and the tenseness only accented the wrinkles at the corners of her eyes.
"Everything okay?" Rosalie asked.
"Yeah. How are the kids?"
"Fine. They're playing in the nursery." She glanced down at the monitor she held in her hand. She carried it with her whenever she wasn't with the twins so she would be able to hear them no matter where she was in the house. "So, why did I have to make sure the doors and windows were locked? "
"I thought this black van was following me. I was wrong." Bo kept it at that, but Rosalie's raised eyebrows let him know that she would want to discuss this further. "Where's our guest?"
Bo headed in that direction, and he kept his jacket on so that it would shield his shoulder holster and gun. Best not to alarm Ms. Cooper in case she was squeamish about such things.
He found her just where Rosalie said she would be. Not seated, but standing by the limestone fireplace, where she was looking at a framed photo. He'd forgotten the photo was there, but then he rarely went into this room. Heck, for that matter, he rarely had guests. Between fatherhood and his job, there wasn't much time for anything else.
Madeline Cooper turned. Their eyes met, and Bo made a split-second cop's assessment of her. Tall, about five-nine. Average build. Shoulder-length, straight brown hair. Green eyes. A full mouth. Very little makeup, just a touch of pink color on her lips. She wore matching olive-green pants and a sweater. The outfit was nondescript. Definitely not flashy.
She was not a woman who wanted to draw attention to herself.
But something about her caught Bo's attention.
"Do I know you?" he immediately asked.
"No." Her answer was immediate, as well. Maybe too immediate.
"You look " Bo didn't know where to go with that. Several things came to mind, including, much to his surprise, that she looked damn attractive. But what also came to mind was that she was ".. familiar."
"Oh." It was her only response.
Bo was ready to launch into more questions, but his phone rang. He pulled it from his jacket pocket and looked at the screen. It was Sergeant Garrett O'Malley from headquarters.
"Please excuse me a second. I need to take this call. Duggan," he answered after his guest nodded.
"I ran the license plate on that black van you thought might be following you," O'Malley informed him. "It must be fake. No record of it."
Hell. That was not what Bo wanted to hear. "What about the van itselfwas it stolen?"
"That's my guess. I checked, and there were two black vans reported stolen in the last twenty-four hours."
Bo didn't like that, either. "Keep digging. Try to locate that vehicle. And call me if you find out anything else." He kept his instructions vague since he had an audience nearby. Madeline Cooper seemed to be hanging on his every word.
"Is there a problem?" she asked, her forehead bunched up.
"No problem." At best, that was a hopeful remark. At worst, a lie.
He might not know which was the truth for a while.
Bo walked closer, studying her and trying to figure out why bells the size of Texas were going off in his head.
"You have a lovely home," she commented. She folded her arms over her chest and tipped her head to the photo on the mantel. "That's your wife?"
Bo glanced at the photo of Nadine. She sported a grin from ear to ear, because that picture had been taken the day she learned she was pregnant.
"My late wife," he corrected. "She died not long after giving birth."
"I'm so sorry for your loss." It sounded heartfelt, as if the loss had been hers, as well. Strange. "Do you have a son or daughter? "
"Both. I have twins."
She glanced away but not before Bo saw something flicker through her eyes. What, exactly, he didn't know, but it didn't seem to be a normal reaction.
"I remember your name now," she continued. "Wasn't your wife at the San Antonio Maternity Hospital during that hostage standoff?"
Bo let the question dangle between them for several seconds. It was definitely an uncomfortable silence, and if he'd had any doubts that his guest was nervous, he didn't have them after that. "That's right. My wife had the babies by herself while hiding in a nurses' lounge. She had internal bleeding and died."
The lack of emotion in his tone certainly didn't mean there was a lack of emotion in his heart. No. Losing Nadine had been the most difficult thing he had ever faced. If it hadn't been for the babies, he would have shut down and died emotionally right along with her. But he'd survived for their children and because that's what Nadine would have expected him to do.
"So, you had questions about the neighborhood?" Bo asked, changing the subject.
She nodded. "Um, is it safe?"
He thought of the van and hesitated. "I'm a cop. I wouldn't be living here with my children if it wasn't."
Another nod. She moistened her lips. Hell. That mouth was so familiar. Where had he seen it before?
"Are you from San Antonio?" he asked.
"No. Born and raised in Dallas, but for the past two years I've been traveling so much that I don't really have a place to call home."
There it was. Another flicker in her eyes before she glanced away again. "No family."
"You're not a very good liar." Bo hadn't intended to be so blunt, but frankly he was tired of this conversation. For a woman who wanted to know about the neighborhood, she didn't have much interest in it. "Now, why don't you tell me why you're really here?"
She opened her mouth. Closed it. Stared at him. And looked even more uncomfortable. He knew how she felt. Bo was uncomfortable, too.
He stared at her, waiting for an explanation that one way or another he was going to get. He wouldn't let her leave until he knew if she were connected to that van.
He was about to toss that particular accusation at her, when something flashed in his head.
And he knew where he'd seen that face and that mouth.
"I know why you look so familiar," he told her. "The surveillance video at the hospital."
She shook her head. "What video? "
"The one I studied a thousand times after the hostage standoff. A woman wearing green scrubs left the area of the nurses' lounge only seconds before I got there. The hair is different, darker, but the mouthit's the same."
She didn't deny it. In fact, her body language confirmed it. "I have a problem," she practically whispered. "A serious one."
"Yeah, you do. You left the scene of a crime, lady, and the police want to question you. Hell, I want to question you. What were you doing in that nurses' lounge with my wife and newborn babies? "
She stood there, blinking hard as if fighting back tears. "I was a hostage, too. I was trapped there like everyone else on the ward."
Bo hadn't known what answer to expect, and he wasn't sure yet if he believed her. After all, she'd fled the scene, and people didn't usually do that sort of thing unless they were running from the law. But there was something in her voice. Something in her eyes. Some deep pain. Bo understood that and knew she probably wasn't faking it. He'd already determined she wasn't much of a liar.
He went closer to her so he could keep watch with his lie-detector eyes. "You were with my wife?"
"Yes." She sank down onto the sofa and looked at her hands. "After the gunmen stormed into the hospital ward, they fired some shots at the ceiling. People ran. Obviously, there was chaos. And Nadine was in the labor room next to me. Our labors were just starting so we were able to get out of our beds and hide."
Each bit of information was a mixed blessing. For months, he'd wanted to know what Nadine had endured in those last hours, but since she'd never been able to tell him herself, he had been the one to try to fill in the blanks. As a cop, those blanks had been filled with gruesome images. Now, he had the chance to learn the truth. Well, maybe.
If this woman was telling the truth.
Because his legs suddenly felt unsteady, Bo had to sit, as well. He took the chair across from her. "How did you get from the labor rooms to the nurses' lounge?"
"The gunmen were trying to gather everyone into the hall outside the delivery suites. Nadine and I waited until the gunmen were in one of the other rooms, and that's when we left. We used the back hall and followed it to the nurses' lounge."
She fidgeted with the clasp on her purse, finally got it open, extracted a mint and popped it into her mouth. "There was a TV in the lounge, and we were able to figure out what was going on."
Yes. He remembered the TV. It was still on with the volume muted when he got to Nadine. "You didn't try to contact anyone?"
"There was no phone in the lounge, and neither of us had our cells with us. We'd left them in the labor rooms. Then, it wasn't long before the pain made it impossible
to try to escape. So, we stayed put and helped each other."
Just hearing this reopened all the old wounds. The pain. Hell. Several hours before the hostage standoff had begun, Nadine had called him from her routine doctor appointment. Her cervix was dilated, she'd said, and the doctor wanted to go ahead and admit her to the hospital.
Bo knew he should have been there to protect her. And he would have been if there hadn't been a damn traffic accident. That fifteen-minute delay had meant the difference between life and death. Because if he'd been there at the hospital, he could have gotten Nadine the help she needed, and she might not have died from complications.
He pushed aside those regrets and focused on his guest. "Why are you really here? And please don't try to lie and say it's because you're interested in the neighborhood."
She nodded, paused again. "I wanted to talk to you about what happened in the nurses' lounge."
"Good. Because I'm all ears. And while you're at it, why don't you explain why you fled the scene?"
Silence. But that didn't mean she didn't have a response. There was plenty of nonverbal stuff going on. Increased respiratory rate. Her pulse, working on her throat. Bo didn't care for any of it. Nor did he care for her. This woman clearly had some secrets, and he didn't plan for them to be secrets much longer.
He came out of the chair, startling his guest with his abrupt movement.