Authors: Helen Brenna
Tags: #An Island To Remember
“Okay, fine. I’ll come to Duluth. Next week.”
“Good. I’ll call you with the specifics.” Barbara paused. “And, Missy? This young woman is five-months pregnant. She plans on making a decision soon. You could be a mother in only a few months.”
Missy hung up the phone and held back the sudden rush of tears threatening to undo her. Five months pregnant. Five months. She glanced at Ron, wishing she could talk to someone about Jonas.
“Did I hear what I thought I heard?” he asked. “You could be a mother by Christmastime?”
Missy nodded, feeling dazed. “That’s what she said.”
“Holy smokes! That means I could be a grandpa!” Ron muttered. He might not be blood, but he was the closest thing Missy had ever had to a real father. “I gotta tell Jan!”
“No, that’s not—”
Ron was already out the door and heading quickly down the alley. As Missy watched Slim scamper after him, she felt her life spinning even more out of control.
She could have a baby in a few months’ time. She might finally—finally—be a mother, but the timing couldn’t have been more wrong. This was all Jonas’s fault. Life had been just fine before he’d collapsed on her doorstep.
I’ll bet you didn’t even cry.
The memory of his accusation that morning came out of nowhere. How could one man be so wrong? She’d not only cried at his funeral, wreck that she’d been, she almost hadn’t made it to the ceremony. Barely able to hold herself upright, she’d sobbed, for what could’ve been, what should’ve been, what they’d had and ruined, and for what would never, ever be.
She’d cried all over again for the baby she’d miscarried only a few weeks before he’d died and had never told him about, ached to have a piece of him with her after he was gone. She may have been the one to file for a divorce, but it’d had nothing to do with no longer loving the proud and oh-so-responsible Jonas Abel.
If anything, she’d loved him too much.
Having slept the entire morning after Missy left for work, he’d regained some of his energy. At least he was able to maintain his balance as he moved about. After grabbing some toast, he managed a shower and a half-assed change of the dressing on his wound. Then with his gun next to him on the sofa table, he sat on Missy’s living room couch, staring at his laptop screen and rifling through the files stored on his memory stick.
Almost from day one of this undercover operation Jonas’s superior, Mason Stein, had been worried about internal leaks. The FBI had been under intense scrutiny due to agents selling evidence, so every detail Jonas and Matthews had accumulated through the years had been kept extremely tight. As far as Jonas knew there were only four men privy to the progress in this investigation: Jonas, Matthews, Stein and Stein’s boss, Paul Kensington.
With his legs spread in front of him and his back against the wall, Jonas scanned through the sixteen gigs’ worth of data he’d maintained on his own. Names, photos, dates, drop locations, bank records, license numbers, safe houses, suppliers, dealers. Theoretically, it was all useless. He and Matthews had been made, but how?
Moment by moment, Jonas replayed in his mind the details of the days before he’d been shot and could identify nothing of significance. He could not for the life of him pinpoint when they’d nailed him as FBI.
The morning Jonas had gotten shot he’d been woken by a phone call summoning him to a meeting at a local bar. Nothing unusual about that. He’d picked up Matthews and stopped for coffee along the way. As they’d left his car to go into the bar through the rear entrance, a group of men had jumped him and Matthews in broad daylight. He’d recognized all of them. None had been significant players in the operation he and Matthews had been about to take down. But the shots that had killed Matthews and pierced Jonas’s side had come from the building above them.
Who was the shooter? And why hide?
They could’ve busted this operation wide-open months ago, but they’d been waiting to nail Delgado, the top dog. He was in Colombia orchestrating a huge shipment of drugs that was supposed to be taking place within the next couple of weeks. It was too much of a coincidence that the shit had hit the fan just before they’d planned on nailing the son of a bitch.
Knowing he couldn’t use his cell phone, let alone a landline to make any calls, Jonas pulled out one of the untraceable booster phones he’d bought, dialed into an encryption center and then connected with his personal cell phone center. He had three messages.
Number one was from Mason Stein. Short and simple. “Where are you? Matthews is dead. You gotta come in.”
Message number two. Also from Stein. “If you’re listening to this, you’re alive. Damn, I hope you’re alive. We need you, Jonas, if we’re still going to bust these guys.”
Three. Stein again. “Where the hell are you?”
No. Jonas was not going in. If Stein was mixed up in this mess, the longer he thought Jonas dead, the better.
For the first time in Jonas’s life, he was going to disobey a direct order. For the first time in his career with the Bureau, he didn’t know who to trust. He tried imagining his life without the FBI. Who would he be? Where would he go? What the hell would he do?
Only one thing was for sure. Today wasn’t going to bring any answers. Frustrated, he glanced up from his laptop and took in the details of Missy’s house. He’d never seen anything like it. The place looked clean, but cluttered.
A desk, the type of place that most would have used to organize bills and mail, housed stacks of unorganized paperwork. Magazines and junk mail were mixed in with old letters and bills, loose photographs in with receipts. Lists were taped and tacked all over the surface.
As for the rest of the first floor, every wall was painted green, brown or gold, but there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason coordinating the colors. That was Missy for you. If she liked the colors, she was going to have them, whether or not the combination looked good. Funny, but the rooms looked okay to him.
Live plants were everywhere, hanging in windows, sitting on sills, end tables and counters. Succulents, leafy palms, bushy vines and even a few that flowered, you name a variety of houseplant and it was likely somewhere in her home.
Mats of woven sticks or rugs probably just as eco-friendly covered her bamboo floors. He ran his hands along the side of a bookcase. Figures. As in her bedroom, she’d mixed antiques with modern designs, and wicker and metal with everything, as if she couldn’t decide on a set theme.
Leave it to Missy. He shook his head and smiled. If it wasn’t nontoxic, sustainable, organic, recycled or all of the above, it had no business being in her house, touching her skin, or going in her mouth.
Surprisingly, as he continued to glance around, some of the tension he felt in his shoulders seemed to leave his body. Her carefree attitude was one of the things about Missy that had initially attracted Jonas, but ultimately one of the things that had forced a wedge between them.
He flashed on coming home after spending two weeks in training out in Quantico and finding their apartment empty. The sinking feeling he’d had in his stomach hadn’t been unlike the feeling he’d had as a kid coming home from school one day to find they’d been kicked out of their house. The bank had foreclosed.
But no. He was the only man he knew whose wife had spontaneously gone out and bought a house. With a check. He’d had enough in savings at the time—even more now—that he, too, could’ve gone out and paid cash for a home. That wasn’t the point. He’d wanted to provide that for her, or at least be involved in the decision. She’d been so ecstatic to have a yard and more room that he hadn’t the heart to stand his ground.
You don’t pay any attention to me. You’re gone all the time. You don’t love me.
The accusations she’d thrown at him ripped through his mind. Trying to provide for her by succeeding at his job had been the only way he’d known how to show his feelings for her. So in the end it’d turned out she was right. He didn’t know how to love her.
Shaking off the unproductive thoughts, he shifted in the chair and was immediately reminded of the bullet wound in his side. He might like to think he was tiptop, but he wasn’t. Even worse than the pain was the feeling of weakness. Too weak to fight, too weak to run, too weak for much of anything.
Food would help. He hated being hungry. Setting his laptop aside, he eased himself off the couch and made his way slowly into the kitchen. He opened Missy’s refrigerator and rummaged through the shelves. Fruits and veggies, organic of course. He grabbed an apple, took a bite and chewed as he searched for something a bit more filling. Tofu. Not going to cut it.
Closing the door, he went from one cabinet to the next. Whole grain this and that. Sticks and weeds, all of it. It sure would help his medical condition if Missy had some freaking meat in this house. After the amount of blood he’d lost, he needed iron. Big-time.
At least she wasn’t a vegan. He’d noticed a carton of eggs in the fridge. He toasted some bread and fried four brown shelled, free-range eggs that had apparently been hand selected from an actual nest and was just finishing eating when he heard the back door open.
Pulling the gun from his waistband, he moved as quietly as he could to the hallway leading to Missy’s bedroom. He held the gun to his chest and waited.
Movement registered in his peripheral vision and he glanced up. The outline of a man’s figure reflected in the glass front of a picture in the living room. Whoever it was knew his way around the place.
Jonas hazarded a glance around the corner.
Old man. Sixty-something. Cat trailing him. Must know Missy.
There was no way that Jonas, in his injured state, could move swiftly enough to hide. He stuffed the gun back in his sweats and slowly walked out toward the living room, stretching a bit as he went, feigning a sleepy and nonthreatening state.
“What the…” the man said, stopping in his tracks. “Who are you?”
“Whoa! I might ask the same of you.”
“I live next door. Ron Setterberg.” He pointed at a hair dryer sitting on the counter. “I was just dropping that off for Missy.”
The man had keys. Interesting.
“Your turn,” the guy said.
The cat jumped onto the counter, sniffed at Jonas’s dirty plate, and tentatively licked at some yolk.
“I’m a…” Who was he supposed to be? Buying himself some time, he picked up the cat and petted him. “Just visiting,” he said, being as vague as possible. “Came in late last night. Missy wasn’t expecting me.”
The man glanced warily at him. Who could blame him? With long hair, a scruffy beard and unkempt clothing, Jonas very likely looked like a bum. He had a feeling that the cat liking him was the only thing saving him.
“Go ahead and call Missy. You won’t offend me.”
Without taking his eyes off Jonas, Ron pulled a cell phone out of his back pocket and hit a button. Apparently, Missy was on speed dial. Even more interesting. “Missy, hon? I dropped the blow-dryer off at your house, and there’s a man here.” The guy paused and listened as he narrowed his eyes at Jonas. “He’s your
Brother. Jonas barely kept himself from laughing out loud. That was probably the funniest damned thing he’d heard in months. He and Missy looked about as much like siblings as an AK-47 and a Browning 9mm, and his thoughts about her weren’t even close to brotherly.
“All right. If you say so.” The man disconnected the call and stuffed the phone into his pocket. Then he sighed and ran his hand slowly down his cheek. He didn’t believe Missy, and Jonas had to give the guy credit for that. Still, he clearly cared enough about her to not make a scene.
Jonas let the cat jump to the floor. “I’ll only be here a few weeks,” he said, trying to put the other man at ease.
“Missy’s a very special person. Means a lot to many people on this island.”
She certainly did have a way with people. There was no doubt about that. Not wanting to give away his injured state, Jonas stayed where he was while the neighbor headed toward the back door.
“Well, I’m next house on the right if you need anything,” he said, standing in the doorway.
If Missy needs anything, is what the man really meant. “That’s good to know. Thanks.”
Not five minutes later, Jonas heard a key in the lock again. He stood ready, his hand on the gun behind him when a woman barged into the house. She had short, graying hair, and tortoiseshell reading glasses hung from her neck. “I didn’t believe it,” she muttered to herself. “He told me, but I didn’t believe it.”
“Can I help you?”
“No, you most definitely cannot.” She put her hands on her hips and studied him from head to toe. “I’m Jan Setterberg, Ron’s wife.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Missy’s bro—”
“Bullshit,” Jan interrupted. “Ron’s more polite than I am, so I’ll come right out and say what he and I are both thinking. I don’t know who you really are, but Missy’s never mentioned any man in her past other than her husband. And he’s dead. So you are quite likely—from the looks of you—nothing but trouble.”
Knowing Missy, these neighbors were as important to her as she was to them, so Jonas kept his mouth firmly shut and let the woman have her say. As much as he was messing with Missy’s life, it seemed the least he could do.
“Missy’s like a daughter to us,” Jan went on. “I hope you have her best interests in mind, but if you don’t maybe you should leave Mirabelle sooner rather than later.” She spun around, letting the screen door slam on her way out of the house.
The cat walked toward Jonas and weaved in and out of his legs. “You like me now, cat, but trust me, that’ll change. It always does.”