If he thought his tough-guy act could scare little Mia, he’d thought wrong. Cab opened his mouth to try again when his phone alerted him he had another call. It was the detachment.
“Hold on,” he growled at Mia and switched over. “Cab here.”
“It’s Tom from the station. Listen, you’ll never believe this. I’m at the hospital with Alan Higgens. He’s beat up pretty bad.”
“Alan?” The taxi driver? “I just spoke to him not long ago.” Cab got back into his truck and turned the engine on.
“Four guys broke into his house, found him and beat the crap out of him. He can barely talk, but he said they looked foreign and spoke with pronounced accents.”
Cab stiffened, his hands on the wheel, foot hard on the brake, remembering what Kevin had said. “Middle Eastern?”
“Yep. How did you know?”
“A little bird told me. What did they want?”
“Where he took one of his fares tonight. A woman. Alan said Jason Thayer put her into his cab and paid for her ride. He was supposed to take her to the Cruz ranch, but he took her to your place instead. Carl’s place.”
“That’s right,” Cab said, doing a U-turn and beginning to drive back toward Carl’s. “He did. And she slipped out of the car and ran away. Did Alan tell them all that?”
“Yeah. I think so. Like I said, they beat him pretty badly. Left him for dead, I think, but Alan’s tougher than he looks. Who are these guys? Who’s the woman?”
“I don’t know, but I can guess where they’re going.”
“I’ve already called units to Carl’s place. It might take a while, though. There was a bad car accident near the airport. Everyone we’ve got is over there.”
Cab frowned. The airport was in the other direction. “I’m not at my place. Neither is the woman. Rose got a hold of her and took her somewhere. I don’t know where.”
“Well, at least they’re out of danger, then,” Tom said.
“I guess,” Cab said, but a hunch told him they weren’t. Where was Rose?
“Tom, I’m on my way back toward my place. Call you back in a minute.”
“Okay. No heroics, boss. Wait for the backup.”
Cab clicked off, not bothering to answer. “Mia? You still there?”
“You need to tell me where she is right now. She’s got a runaway with her, Fila—a woman who’s being chased by some very bad men. They’ve already beat up Alan Higgens to find out where she went. If they find Rose and Fila, she’s going to be in serious danger. Alan told them they’d be at Carl’s place and they’re on their way there.”
“Carl’s?” Mia’s voice shot up.
“Mia? They’re not at Carl’s, are they?” He’d checked the whole house. Could they have hid from him somewhere?
“Not at the house,” Mia said in a small voice. “Rose is going to be really mad if I tell you.”
“Rose might be dead if you don’t tell me,” Cab said bluntly. “Spit it out!”
“The woods. She built a tree house in Carl’s woods.”
Cab was speechless for a moment. A tree house? He thought back to all the boards she’d been cutting—for her shed. The shed she’d never built. But a tree house for crying out loud?
In Carl’s woods?
Cab had a flash of the day he’d run into her driving on the road near Carl’s. The day he’d asked her in to dinner and she’d cried about Jason.
He remembered wondering where she’d come from since she’d been heading back toward town. She couldn’t have been at the Cruz ranch; that was the other way. He’d figured she’d come to see him, lost her nerve, driven right by his place, then come to her senses and turned back. But she hadn’t, had she?
Because now he remembered the sound that had woken him up the night before that, and the slim figure he’d seen in the woods when he went to investigate.
“Cab? You still there?” Mia asked.
Cab didn’t answer her. It all made sense. Rose wanted time alone. She wanted to get away from Emory Thayer. She wanted to be by herself. Was she camping in Carl’s woods?
Was she there now?
“Shit!” Cab cut off the call and redialed the station, slamming his foot down hard on the gas. He swung onto the country road that led out toward Carl’s place. “Tom, get everyone out to Carl’s—everyone you can. Now! The woman is out there and so is Rose.”
He ended the call and called Ethan next, repeating everything he knew as he flew down the road, taking turns like a race car driver. All he could picture was Rose in the woods alone, four armed men hunting her. What would they do when they found her? He saw Sam Grady’s crime scene. Amanda Strassburg’s beaten and flayed body.
Not his Rose. Cab increased his speed, nearly losing control of the truck around the next curve.
“We’re on our way,” Ethan said without asking any questions. Cab knew he’d collect Jamie and Rob. They had plenty of shotguns on the ranch. Five minutes later he flashed past the lane to the Cruz ranch. He hoped the men were already on their way.
When he neared the mansion, he slowed down and parked near the end of the long driveway. Exiting his truck as quietly as possible, he crept up it slowly, taking his time and keeping as much as possible to the trees that fringed the property. He blew out a breath when he realized how right he’d been to do so. A car he didn’t recognize was parked in front of the house and the front door was wide open, light from inside spilling out. Like him, the foreigners had chosen to search the house first. He hoped they wouldn’t be more successful than he had been.
If the terrorists were in the house, however, that was good news for him and for Rose. All he needed to do was skirt around the yard, keep to the shadows and slip into the woods. Surely her tree house wouldn’t be that hard to find, now that he knew what he was looking for.
As he began to work his way around the wide yard that surrounded Carl’s mansion, he heard shouting from inside the house. A door slammed, several men spilled out onto the front porch. Cab froze.
He couldn’t understand the language they were speaking, and now he knew exactly what Kevin meant when he said they were obviously foreigners and obviously looking for trouble. Perhaps these men thought they’d blend into middle America, but they were dead wrong. No one around here dressed like that, and no one spoke like that, either. They were all armed, Cab saw with a twist of his gut. And armed well, several of them with sub-machine guns. His Glock wasn’t going to stand up to those.