The Forgotten Daughter - Page 73

Josie’s head was spinning faster than the conversation surrounding her. She stepped farther back. Her internal struggle was tearing her apart. This man could very well tell her father all about the way he’d helped her and Scooter escape today, but this was also her chance to make sure Scooter was safe, which was far more important. “Call Scooter,” she said.

The room went silent as all eyes settled on her.

“He can tell you where that man is.”

Chapter Sixteen

Scooter had never imagined his motorcycle could go so fast. His cheeks were on fire from the wind whipping at his skin, and Nightingale’s Resort had never looked so good. He was happy, too, to see lights on. It had to be close to three o’clock in the morning.

Of course there were lights on. He’d called before leaving Duluth. Roger hadn’t been home, but Bronco had been. Scooter had told him enough that Bronco promised to send men over to his mother’s house and to scour the resort’s grounds.

Scooter cut the bike’s engine at the same time he pulled it up onto its stand. Bounding off, he ran to the front doors while checking to assure the folded sheet of paper was still in his coat pocket.

The stack of papers Chief Reinhold had given him had been ransom notes. For Josie. As far as he, Clyde and the chief could figure out, Francine had learned who Josie was the day she got arrested for speeding and had been planning her kidnapping ever since. The fireball and the incident in the boathouse had most likely been attempts to get her alone.

It appeared Francine had been following the gangster Ray Bodine and his activities closely. With his arrest, she’d decided she wanted a piece of the bootlegging conglomerate Roger oversaw. The woman had penned several ransom notes. Some asked for money—large amounts of money—while others asked for shares of Roger’s business. One demanded the entire operation.

Each one had stated stipulations and rather graphic details of what would happen if her instructions weren’t followed.

The door swung open before he reached it. Recognizing Ty, Scooter asked, “Where’s Josie?”

“In her bed, safe and sound.”

Relief washed over him, yet he asked, “You sure?”

“I’m sure,” Ty said. “Roger’s in his office, waiting for you.”

Scooter crossed the threshold. Josie was going to hate him forever, but she’d be alive. Maybe someday she’d come to understand he’d done this for her own good. Forcing her to trust him, to let him help, hadn’t worked out, so he wasn’t counting on that anymore.

Josie was so different from the other women he knew. When his father died, his mother and sister had immediately relied on him to make it all better. To take care of them. Josie wasn’t like that. She never would be. Unfortunately, that was just one of the many things he loved about her.

The door to Roger’s office was open. Scooter didn’t pull it shut, knowing Ty was right on his heels.

Roger stood and planted both hands on his desk. “What the hell is going on? And why do I have the feeling I should have known about it long before now?”

“Because you should have,” Scooter said. “You’re going to want to sit down for this.”

Roger slapped his desk. “Start talking, boy. I get home tonight and Bronco tells me you called and said someone’s after Josie. Who and why?”

“Did you tell her that?” Scooter asked.

“Not a chance. I sent her up to bed.”

“And you checked?” Scooter asked, “Made sure she’s there?”

“Of course I checked.”

Scooter let out a sigh of relief, and then dug in his pocket. “This is just one, and because there were a dozen others, I was allowed to take it.”

“What is it?” Roger asked, reaching across the desk.

Scooter had envisioned starting this conversation at several points in the long stream of events, and finally settled on beginning with the highlights. “It’s a ransom note,” he said, giving it to Roger. “Francine Wilks wrote it. Mind you, she’s in the Duluth jail right now, but she penned several versions of that note, all similar. All asking for money in exchange for Josie.”

“Josie?” Roger paled and lowered himself onto his chair, reading the note. When he looked up he asked, “This woman’s in jail right now?”

“Yes,” Scooter said. “She’d discovered Josie was your daughter when she was pulled over for speeding in Duluth. Francine Wilks is from—”

“I know who she is and where she’s from,” Roger said. “Ty’s told me everything he’s discovered, but said you’d tell me more.”