“She’s in jail. However, she was here for the Fourth of July party and took pictures of your family,” Scooter said. “And yesterday, she tried to kidnap Josie.”
“To hell you say,” Roger bellowed. “Josie was at her Ladies Aid meeting all day yesterday. Ask Gloria.”
Scooter wasn’t here to hash all that out. There were more important matters to address. “J. P. Morgan, the owner of US Steel, wasn’t impressed with the number of deckhands he was losing in Duluth and sent Clyde Odell to see what was happening. I met Clyde yesterday in Duluth. He’d discovered Francine’s prostitutes would entice the deckhands to their rooms and then fill them full of hooch. Some they dumped into Lake Superior were too drunk to wake up before they drowned. Clyde told the Duluth chief of police that J. P. Morgan wanted that to stop, and Francine’s place was raided.”
“Just like that?” Roger asked, skeptical.
“Money talks,” Scooter said. “You know that.”
“Who’s this Odell fellow and why haven’t I ever heard of him?” Roger asked.
“Because he just moved here last week,” Scooter said. “But you’ll meet him. Turns out he’s Forrest’s real father.”
Roger grabbed something off his desk. “He’s the man in this picture?”
Scooter took the photo and examined it. “Yes, he’s older now, but that’s him.” Later he would ask how Roger obtained that picture, but right now, there were other things Roger needed to know. “Clyde called and asked me to drive up to Duluth tonight because they’d found these ransom notes. The chief believes he has enough other evidence against Francine, but is holding the notes just in case.”
“In case of what?” Roger asked.
“In case she’s told her family in New York her plan.” The matter couldn’t be more serious to Scooter, and he let his gaze display that to Roger. “They could already be on their way here.”
Ty stood. “I’ll go and make some calls.”
“No,” Roger said. “You’re retired. This is something that’s best handled on the inside. I’ve been securing my interests for a long time, and have provisions in place for a takeover.”
The hair on Scooter’s arms stood on end as he glanced from one man to the other. The tension was heavy with what Ty and Roger weren’t saying. Scooter had a distinct sense of being trapped in the middle. Not just between Ty and Roger, but in a much deeper sense, too. He was about to find himself more imbedded in Roger Nightingale’s business than Dac and his stuffed bull.
Then again, he already was in deep. He’d been trapped for some time now. In Josie’s trap.
If he’d seen Ginger in the back of Brock’s truck while throwing the tarp over it, he’d have marched her straight in to her father. When he saw Twyla heading to town in Dave’s Chevy, he’d instantly called Forrest. Because he wouldn’t want to see any of the girls in danger, but he hadn’t proclaimed himself as their guardian. Not like the way he had Josie. He hadn’t gone to her father because he’d been worried about his own hide. Sure, one word from Roger could destroy all he’d built, but he’d been there before and could start over. Hard work never scared him. He hadn’t said anything, because he was protecting her. Josie being hurt scared him stupid, because he loved her more than anything else on this earth.
An eerie feeling gnawed at him once more, so he asked, “You’re sure Josie’s in her bed?”
“Yes,” Roger said. “I’m sure.”
She was going to hate him more than she already did, but so be it. He wasn’t a quitter and wasn’t about to start being one now. Her life meant far more than his heart.
Scooter placed both hands on Roger’s desk. “There are two more things you need to know. One of Francine’s men is still on the lam, and Josie hasn’t been going to society meetings every Tuesday.”
* * *
Josie had never imagined she’d find herself trapped up a tree, but here she was, high up and hidden among the long and tangling veins of the weeping willow tree next to Gloria’s cabin and she couldn’t figure out a thing to do about it. She was too far away from the resort to scream for help; no one would hear her, other than the man she’d climbed the tree to get away from. He was as well hidden as she was; the only difference was he didn’t know she could see him.
She’d panicked when she’d seen the stranger and had shot up the tree. This time she should have listened when she’d been told to stay put. She might have done so if she’d been told why.