- An Excerpt from Fragmented Past -
Chase rang the doorbell. Someone shuffled inside, and he pictured Shadyn staring at him through the peephole. Holding his hand up, he waggled his fingers. The door creaked open, and Shadyn’s face appeared.
The chain was drawn across the door. Chase gestured at it. “I see you’ve developed a flare for drama since the last time we met.”
“Tylar’s not here.”
“Oh, I’m aware.” He hadn’t wanted her to be. It might spook her into running this time, which could lead her straight into Beau’s trap. “May I come in?”
Chase waited as Shadyn stared him down. It looked like he was considering slamming the door in his face. He wouldn’t blame Shadyn if he did, but it wouldn’t do much good. A nice hard kick could pop that chain right off the jamb. Which Chase had every intention of doing if Shadyn tried to close the door. He was not leaving without some sort of arrangement.
Shadyn must have picked up on the mood, since he muttered a ‘fine’. He closed the door enough to release the chain.
Chase stepped into the house and did a quick assessment. A bag with clothes spilling out rested on the floor next to the coffee table. The couch had collected a mismatched set of linens and a pillow. Curious. “Isn’t this a three-bedroom house?”
Interesting that he didn’t appear to be sleeping with Tylar or in a guest room. “No reason. Have you noticed that black van parked across the street?”
“Isn’t it yours?”
This guy was just full of conclusions. “Why would it be mine?”
“I…it’s just that Tylar…we just…” His Adam’s apple bobbed.
Sonofabitch. Shadyn had to know more today than he did yesterday, or he wouldn’t be stuttering over a simple question. There was no way Tylar had filled Shadyn in. Getting information out of her had always been like pulling teeth.
Perhaps Shadyn found access to something he shouldn’t have. “Why do you think that van is mine?”
“Well, it’s just…” Shadyn trailed off again. “You showed up at our work the other day after following us out of the Everett store.”
Chase would like to think he was a lot smarter than parking across the street like a jackass. He certainly wouldn’t sit there in the light of day. “That van is Beau’s thug. And he’s a threat to Tylar.”
“Look, Mr. Tiburon, I don’t want to get in the middle of this.”
Those words were a dead giveaway that Shadyn knew something. He had been far more cavalier yesterday. “Judging by the way you’re acting, you’re already involved.”
Shadyn glanced at the door like he was going to run. He could try. The place was secluded enough for Chase to catch him without drawing attention. And it wouldn’t be a complete waste since he hadn’t gotten in his cardio for the day.
“You really don’t want to be here, do you?” Chase asked.
Shadyn didn’t answer but Chase could see his breathing rate had increased. Moisture was gathering on his forehead.
Oh, he definitely did not want to be here. And this man was no threat to anyone, especially the guy in that van. “Can we be honest here? If she walked through that door right now and I grabbed her, would you try to stop me?”
Shadyn’s face blanched.
“That’s what I thought.” This was not someone he would’ve pegged for Tylar to choose for protection. If she was carted off under Shadyn’s watch, he’d probably tell himself he did all he could before moving on with his life.
“Are you planning on taking her?”
“No.” Well, not yet, anyway. “I want to help.”
Chase had a plan, but it would take him at least a day to get everything in order. First he had to get Jimmy out of the state so he couldn’t carry out an order to kill her. An order Chase hoped to God Jimmy would refuse, even if he was around to receive it.
Shadyn continued to stagnate inside a cloud of nervous energy as Chase wondered how much he knew. Tylar wouldn’t have said anything about her life prior to Corner Street unless her arm was twisted. Shadyn clearly wasn’t the kind of guy who would act threatening enough to get her to talk. The only explanation was that damn file. The one Beau said she’d taken off with.
Chase took a shot in the dark. “Did you find her folder?”
Shadyn straightened and swallowed hard. His nod was almost imperceptible.
Chase let out a frustrated breath. This was why Cellar Institute kept student records on campus. If Proctor Teri had sold her, Beau would have only received a couple pages of instructions, a birth certificate, and her social security card. No training schedules, no notes on her behaviors or medical records. At least Cellar Institute had the sense to keep the Manning name out of their documentation.
“Did you read it?” Chase asked.
Instead of answering, he asked, “How did you know Tylar wasn’t here?”
Fair question. “I pulled her schedule.”
Shadyn had found documentation that Tylar was a human trafficking victim and had enough circumstantial knowledge to tie it to Corbin, who Chase worked for. Yet he had the balls to tell Chase that looking up an employee’s information in a system owned by Manning, Inc. was illegal.
Get real. “Nobody questions me when I walk into one of our stores. And if they did, Corbin would back me up. Are you living with her?”
“Whoa. Nuh-uh. I’m just staying here until Timmary gets back from Florida.”
Tylar lived with the redheaded cosmetician. Better than shacking up with this guy. Time to drive a point home. “What would you do if the guy in the van tried to grab her?”
“I don’t know. Call the cops, I guess.”
“You would call the cops.” Chase laughed. No way they would get here in time to stop Gary. “Would that be before or after he beat the life out of you? Asking for a friend.”
Shadyn’s eyes drifted toward the window facing the driveway. “Do you think he’ll try something while I’m here?”
Probably not. Gary had at least one felony and had to still be on probation. Chase doubted he would take the kind of risk that could land him closer to Washington’s three-strikes law. But he couldn’t be sure. Maybe he shouldn’t have confronted him. “If Beau gets impatient, Gary could come after her. I chased him off before I came down here, which could speed things up.”
A drop of sweat trickled down Shadyn’s temple. “I’m not going to be able to stop you or that guy. Isn’t that what you’ve basically been saying?”
Quick thinker, this one. “I’m here because I need your help. Since I know you read the file, it’s in your best interest to cooperate.”
“And if I go to the cops with the threat you just made?”
That was not a threat. “What is it with you and cops? It’s obvious Tylar set it up for Beau to take the blame if anything happens. There’s nothing linking her to Corbin or me.”
“Did it have our names in it? Or anything else to implicate us?” Chase asked.
“Then don’t play games. All I’m asking is for you to help keep Tylar away from Beau. If you don’t want to, that’s fine. I’ll take her anyway, and you will have an accident shortly after, if not during, the abduction. Is that the threat you’re looking for?”