A Dangerous Man (Elvis Cole and Joe Pike #18) - Robert Crais
Debra Sue closed her eyes and listened with all her might. The TV was off, their modest living room was dark, and Ed was sprawled on the couch. Her husband was dead to the world, but his snores were soft as a whisper. When they bought the little house a block from Sunset Boulevard, Ed worried traffic sounds would be intrusive, but they weren’t, not really. Debra Sue had grown used to the noise quickly, and found the sounds soothing. She touched her husband’s shoulder.
“Let’s go to bed, baby. Get up.”
Ed lurched awake, eyes wide and blinking.
“Bedtime. Everything’s fine.”
Ed’s eyes flagged, and he was halfway back to sleep.
“Scared me. Sorry.”
“It’s late. I’ll be right in.”
Ed swung his legs off the couch and lumbered into the hall. She heard him use the bathroom and settle into bed, but Debra Sue didn’t move to join him.
She whispered his name.
She said her own name.
She said their daughter’s name.
Debra Sue smiled.
Debra Sue finally rose from the chair and moved through their quiet home. She made sure the front and back doors were locked, carefully checked the windows, and turned off the lights in each room. She set the alarm.
The warm night air was rich with the scent of night-blooming jasmine and orange blossoms, along with a trace of fresh paint. They had painted their little home with cheery colors after escrow closed—a bright lemony peach with a pale lime and burgundy trim—and joked that they’d given the place a new-car smell. Ed planted two orange trees in the backyard, but the jasmine had been there, and Debra Sue loved it. The jasmine was a sign. Their little house would be a happy and beautiful home.
Debra Sue turned on the outside lights, and made her way down the hall. She stopped outside Isabel’s room when she heard her baby girl singing. Debra Sue stifled a giggle.
Isabel cracked her up.
Isabel was three years old. She was their only child, though Debra Sue and Ed talked about having another, and an absolute sweetheart. She was sweet, good-natured, and almost always happy.
Debra Sue moved closer, and listened.
Debra Sue fought not to laugh. Isabel was lying in her crib, waving her arms in the air, and singing to herself.
Debra Sue didn’t go in. She didn’t want to disturb her daughter, and have to bring Isabel into bed with her and Ed. Right now, undisturbed, Isabel was in a wonderful, beautiful dreamland, imagining whatever fanciful stories happy three-year-old girls imagined.
Debra Sue loved Isabel so much her eyes filled with tears.
“Every day, baby girl. Every day of your life will be as happy as this. Daddy and I will make sure it is.”
Debra Sue eased past Isabel’s door, and crept to her bedroom. Ed was out cold, and no longer snoring. She brushed her teeth, flossed, and washed her face in the dark, then sat on the edge of their bed.
Debra Sue listened, and heard only the soft, baby-girl melody.
But now Debra Sue didn’t smile. She eased open her nightstand drawer and studied the black 9mm Sig Sauer pistol. Ed’s nightstand contained an identical pistol. They had bought the guns, and learned to shoot. They practiced.
Debra Sue shut the drawer, and lay down beside her husband. She touched his hand. She sighed like a ghost in the darkness.
“Mommy and Daddy will keep you safe.”
Debra Sue listened for something she prayed never to hear, and finally fell asleep.
Three tellers were working the morning Isabel Roland was kidnapped. Clark Davos, a sweet guy whose third baby had just been born; Dana Chin, who was funny and wore fabulous shoes; and Isabel, the youngest teller on duty. Isabel began working at the bank a little over a year ago, three months before her mother died. Five customers were in line, but more customers entered the bank every few seconds.
Mr. Ahbuti wanted bills in exchange for sixteen rolls of nickels, twelve rolls of dimes, and a bag filled with quarters. As Isabel ran coins through a counter, her cell phone buzzed with a text from her gardener. Sprinkler problems. Isabel felt sick. The little house she inherited from her mother was driving her crazy. The sprinklers, a leaky roof over the porch, roots in the pipes because of a stupid pepper tree, the ancient range that made scary popping noises every time she turned on the left front burner. Always a new problem, and problems cost money. Isabel had grown up in the house, and loved the old place, but