The destination of the path remained a burning mystery, but Tammy innocently tossed fuel on the flames with a chance comment one day while they were watching television. The topic on Sesame Street was professions, which was the perfect opportunity for Lisa to ask her what Giddon did to earn a living.
Tammy eyed her suspiciously. “Gwamma doesn’t want I tell.”
Lisa’s heart lurched painfully. “Why not?”
Tammy shrugged her tiny shoulders, the large eyes imploring her not to pry.
It was one thing to ask casual questions of Giddon’s daughter. It was quite another to trick her into betraying her father. Lisa let the matter drop, but she began to pay more attention to the activities around the house - like the shiny black car that sometimes came up the driveway and followed the path back into the woods without stopping at the house. About thirty minutes later it would return and leave the way it had come. When Lisa questioned Sarah about the car, she passed it off as a friend of Giddon’s, and quickly changed the subject.
What was down that path that no one wanted to talk about, and why did Giddon insist that his houseguest should not wander around alone? What did Giddon do to afford such finery? Most important of all, was she or Giddon’s family in any danger?
The questions plagued her until one evening when the black car returned. Sarah and Tammy were putting up groceries when Lisa announced she was going to take a walk. Sarah apparently hadn’t noticed the car. She smiled and waved a hand in dismissal.
“Go ahead. We can handle this job by ourselves.”
Lisa started down the driveway as if heading for the road, but once she was out of sight of the house, she circled around through the woods and made her way back to the path. She stayed in the brush beside the trail, as she had done in her dream. Only this time the path remained clear. As the path turned, the broad side of a metal building came into view, nestled at the foot of a cliff. She squatted behind a screen of brush and watched.
The black car sat outside the building with its trunk open. After a while Giddon and the driver emerged from the building. Giddon was carrying a wooden box, which he carefully placed in the trunk. The driver handed him an envelope and hopped into the car. Lisa drew further back into the brush as the car drove by.
Giddon went back into the building and Lisa made her way through the darkening woods to the spot in the drive where she had entered. She brushed leaves from her clothes and slowly walked up the drive. There might be a thousand explanations for what she had witnessed, but only one came to mind. Was Giddon involved in a drug ring? Why else would he be so concerned about her excursions in the woods? Had Allen been here to make a drug deal with Giddon? Was that why Giddon had been so angry? What other reason would there be for telling his daughter not to discuss his occupation? Surely Sarah and Tammy weren’t involved, but did they know? She caught her breath as another thought struck her. What would Giddon do if he found out she had witnessed his connection?
She swallowed a lump in her throat. She had to act as if she were returning from a long walk...nowhere near his pick-up point. She sauntered up the drive, trying to appear casual.
Giddon met her as she neared the house, eyeing her suspiciously. “Kind of late for a walk, isn’t it?”
Her smile felt stiff. “It’s cooler this time of the day.”
He plucked some stick-tights from her sleeve. “Are the weeds getting a little high along the drive?”
Her mouth went dry and she involuntarily licked her lips. Did he guess?
“I saw some flowers in the woods and went to look at them.”
He studied her face with mocking eyes, and his mouth twisted into a humorless smile. “And you didn’t pick them? You’re an unusual female.”
He wasn’t buying it for one minute. She had to come up with something better than that. “I don’t believe in picking every flower I find in the woods,” she said with feigned disdain.
He nodded, his gaze probing hers suspiciously. “You’ll have to show me these beautiful flowers. I must have missed them.”
Her face was hot and cold by turns. He wasn’t sure she had seen anything, or surely he would have accused her. She pretended to stifle a yawn. “It’s late, and I’m tired.” She tried to step around him, but he stopped her with an iron grip on her arm.
He was standing close and she looked up into his face, acutely aware of an increasing pulse which wasn’t entirely due to the dangerous situation. His grip on her arm loosened and she stiffened as his hand slid up to her throat. His long fingers traced her jaw to the hair on the back of her neck. She felt an unwelcome rush of excitement and reached to push his hand from her hair. The masculine smell of him, the way his big hands caressed her cheek so softly...hands without calluses. If only she could believe he wasn’t involved in anything illegal. Unfortunately, the evidence pointed in the opposite direction.
He stepped closer, slipping his other hand around her waist, and pulled her gently against him. As strong as he was, it would be useless to resist. Besides, her lack of response in the past had been far more effective.
His head bent down and warm lips claimed hers in a kiss that questioned her interest. She waited for him to release her, but his lips moved across her cheek and down her neck with soft caressing kisses. Her heart pounded. He couldn’t help but detect her wild pulse. His persistence was taking its toll, and when his lips found hers again, she responded involuntarily. He groaned and pulled her firmly against his body, his kiss becoming passionate.
She tried to push away from him but his embrace was too strong. He lifted his head, his hungry gaze searching her face. As his grip on her relaxed, she stepped away from him, a flush creeping up her neck.
He smiled knowingly, his eyes mocking her. “I guess the evening was a little cold?”
She stared at her shoes, remembering their first kiss by the creek. What was it about him that she responded to in spite of what she knew about him? Did he know she was attracted to him? The thought sent a shiver up her spine. Did he think that it would keep her silent? There was little point in denying her attraction, but he’d best learn to keep his distance. She finally lifted her chin, meeting his amused gaze defiantly.
“I don’t believe in fraternizing with the boss.”
For a moment he looked surprised, and then he frowned. “Drop the formalities. We both know why you’re here.” His voice was crisp.
The words sliced through her disguise, stabbing into her heart. She stepped back and glared at him. “I’m here as a companion for your mother, not you!”
His brows shot up and his eyes twinkled. “You’re a little spitfire, you know that?” He shook his head in surrender, and his voice softened. “I meant I’m not your boss. I may be footing the bill, but you’re working for Mom, not me.”
She bit her lip. Was she always misinterpreting his intent, or was he merely quick-witted enough to think of a good excuse on the spur of the moment? At any rate, he had successfully removed her barrier. It was time to fall back and rebuild another. She shrugged.
“Speaking of your mother, we’d better go in so she doesn’t worry.” She turned and started for the door, but his hand gripped her arm again.
“If you want to walk this late in the evening, you need to make sure I’m with you. There are bears and other animals in the woods, you know.”
Those animals were more afraid of her than she of them, and he knew it. She smiled up at him innocently. “I guess a walk in the cool evening isn’t worth the risk of being eaten up by beasts is it?”
His eyes were twinkling with humor, and something else. “Why do I get the feeling it’s the bears that should be concerned?” His expression sobered and his eyes lost a little of their warmth. “You’re an interesting woman, Lisa. I sure hate to think of something awful happening to you because of your curiosity.”
She caught her breath. The fear his words invoked must have shown on her face. His expression softened. “Stay close to me. I won’t let anything happen to you.” His hand dropped from her arm and she opened the door. Was he threatening her?
In her room that night, she wrote a letter to Connie explaining what she had observed. There was no point alarming Connie about her situation, so she didn’t mention the conversation with Giddon that had inspired the letter. The logical thing to do was leave, but she had a good job and she wasn’t sure there was anything untoward going on. Still, it didn’t hurt to let someone know - just in case. Giddon was obviously watching her, so calling on her telephone might be tipping her hand.
She re-read the letter and then added another paragraph.
“You’re right. He is handsome, but I’ve never met anyone with such moods! Could you have Howard look into his record? It would make me feel better.
I think I’m ready to look for that car now. If Len has time, maybe he could help me. He used to be a pretty good mechanic.”
Howard and Connie would keep the investigation private. Before she folded the letter, Lisa described the incident with Allen, asking Connie if she had given him the instructions to the Giddon house.
She sat staring absently out the window. It was difficult to believe that Connie would tell Allen, knowing his weakness for alcohol, but how else would he have known? Maybe he didn’t. Maybe he was here to see Giddon, and was distracted - or even worried that she would detect his source.
She glanced down at the sealed envelope in her hand. Would Giddon try to intercept it? Probably not. He hadn’t discouraged the short telephone calls with Connie on his phone. Maybe she was letting her imagination get the better of her. There was nothing illegal going on, simply mysterious. Anyway, hadn’t Giddon said that he wouldn’t let anything happen to her as long as she was close to him?
She rubbed her temples and took a deep breath. He had only said that because he was trying to discourage her from prying into his business. It was meant as a threat, not a promise. Sarah would do whatever Giddon said, because he was her son...and Tammy had no choice. Tammy. If Giddon was involved in a drug ring, Tammy needed a way out.
She shook her head to remove the cobwebs of imagination. There was probably an innocent explanation for the scene at the building. What she needed to do was get a look inside the building and put her fears to rest. But how could she do that when he was there every day?
The next morning she paused at her door when she heard Yancey talking to someone. The delayed conversation indicated he was talking on the telephone. She paused at her door, reluctant to invade his privacy, but intrigued by what she might derive from his conversation. She glanced back to make sure she wasn’t being observed. Tammy and Sarah were eating a snack on the patio. Giddon’s angry voice recaptured her attention.
“Twenty-Five thousand? That’s a lot of cocaine.”
After a pause, his voice was more controlled.
“I don’t owe you anything. Consider it an advance until you get the package. I expect you to repay me once it’s sold.”
Silence followed. Apparently he disconnected the call. She quietly opened the door to her room and carefully closed it behind her and took a deep breath. Apparently he was shipping someone twenty-five thousand dollars worth of cocaine. There it was - the proof. But no, it wasn’t proof at all. It was bits and pieces of a telephone conversation with a mystery person. A few minutes later he walked down the hallway. When the back door closed, she emerged from her room. A quick check assured no one was in the house. She walked hesitantly to his office. The door was unlocked. Inside, she closed the door and looked around. From the window of his office, the path was clearly visible. That was something to remember.
Waiting until Yancey disappeared down the path, she walked over to the desk. The top was clean except for accessories and a few letters standing upright in a sorter. In the second drawer she found a check book with duplicates. The latest entry was to a Sharon Dobson in the amount of twenty-five thousand. She replaced the checkbook and started to close the drawer, but a thick envelope caught her attention. It looked like the envelope the man in the black car had given him. Carefully lifting the envelope from the drawer, she opened it. She caught her breath. It was stuffed with one thousand dollar bills – fifty of them. The return address on the envelope was Columbia, South America, but it wasn’t addressed to anyone.
Blood left her head so fast that for a moment she thought she would faint. She quickly replaced the envelope with shaking hands, making sure it was in exactly the same position as she found it. As she shut the drawer, the envelopes on the top of the desk caught her attention. One was an electric bill, but the other was addressed to Sharon Dobson, Brownsville, Texas. At last, a tangible lead. She grabbed a pen and a notepad, hesitating a second before pulling the top sheet off the notepad. No impression of the address would be left on the pad this way. With the note in her hand, she opened the door slightly and peeked out. Assured that no one was there, she went to her room. There she opened her letter to Connie and added a request to check on that name and address. She didn’t mention the conversation or the money. Sealing the letter, she took a stamp from her purse and placed it on the envelope. Announcing that she was mailing a letter didn’t seem wise, so she walked down to the mailbox. Standing at the mailbox, it occurred to her that the red flag would be exactly that for Yancey. A short walk up the road uncovered another mailbox. She placed the letter inside and lifted the flag. She had to get a car as soon as possible. Of course, she could call Connie, but Yancey’s conversation on the phone was fresh in her memory. Would she have been able to hear his conversation behind a closed door?
Back at the house she showered and changed before starting lunch. Yancey walked in as she was setting the table.
“Smells good,” he said as he headed down the hall.
In a few minutes they were all seated at the table, passing food.
Sarah addressed Yancey. “Sharon called this morning.”
A sharp look under furrowed brows preceded his terse answer. “Again?”
“She called earlier?” Sarah replied amiably, ignoring his obvious annoyance.
“Yes, wanting more money.”
“How much this time?”
“Too much.” He spooned mashed potatoes onto his plate with a vengeance and said nothing more the rest of the meal. Afterward he left, shutting the door with force.
Lisa was silent a moment, gathering courage. They had talked in front of her, so it couldn’t be what she thought.
“Who is Sharon?”
“His sister,” she said, a touch of distain entering her tone.
Lisa hesitated, not wanting to pry and not sure if the conversation was supposed to end there. Obviously it wasn’t her daughter. Of course he would have a father, and probably siblings.
“Half-Sister,” Sarah corrected, her voice composed again. “Sharon was born shortly after my husband remarried.”
Lisa stared at her. Surely she must feel bitter about that fact, and yet neither her voice nor her expression gave any indication that she felt animosity. It was as if she were talking about someone she didn’t know.
“I keep telling him that as long as he gives her money, she’ll never get out of trouble, but he just says she’s the only sister he has and he has the money.” She shrugged. “He won’t have if he keeps bailing her out.”
Bailing her out? Was she in jail? And yet, Yancey had mentioned cocaine in his telephone conversation. Maybe they found cocaine on her and she needed twenty-five thousand to get out of jail. But then, there was the package, and the money he wanted back. Maybe Sarah was making up a story to cover up for Yancey. Still, if that were the case, she need not have brought up the telephone call at the table. The conversation obviously upset Yancey, but he didn’t seem to be concerned that a stranger was listening. As secretive as he was about the rest of his business, it seemed out of character for him to talk openly about something that could provide proof. On the other hand, if Sarah was telling the truth, there was another side to Giddon - a loyal brother. Getting into that building was getting more important all the time.