Back at Twyla’s apartment, her father had gone downstairs to call Scooter about Forrest’s real father, and when he’d come back upstairs, he’d ushered Ty into the hallway. Shortly afterward they were all rushed home, where Bronco met them.
The tension in the air had been so heavy her heart had dropped clear to her heels. The fact Norma Rose had accompanied her upstairs and gone to bed in her own room rather than going for a walk with Ty had told her something was happening. Something bad.
When her father had checked on her three times within a short time period, she’d feared that something involved Scooter. Unable to withstand that thought, she’d plumped her bed with pillows to look as if she was still sleeping and had crept down the back stairway, all the way to the basement.
Built to look like little more than a storage space for all the things the resort needed, the underground portion of the building had more hidden rooms than a fly had eyes. The Minnesota 13 her father distributed from producer to seller was delivered to the barn in crates and barrels earmarked as furniture or building supplies. A portion of it was transported via a tunnel and stored in the basement, to be served to customers upstairs. The majority, however, was repackaged in the back rooms and then sent down another tunnel that led to the one cabin that was never rented out. It appeared to be like all the others, just farther away and hidden by the woods surrounding it. Bronco lived there and guarded the trapdoor under the back steps like a soldier. That tunnel was the one Twyla had used when she’d snuck out to meet her friend Mitsy.
There was another tunnel that very few people knew about. It was the one Josie and Gloria had used on the Fourth of July to reach The Willow cabin without being seen. That was the tunnel she’d used tonight.
She’d quickly found the false wall that gave way to the door, and had hurried down the long earth corridor. The tunnel ended with a ladder that led to the inside of the outhouse behind Gloria’s cabin. The tiny hut was concealed by the cascading limbs of the willow tree, and also had a large Do Not Use sign affixed to the door, which appeared to be locked tight with a huge padlock.
She’d just exited the outhouse and had been about to cross the yard to Gloria’s cabin when she saw the man sneaking around the other side. He wasn’t one of her father’s men, she was certain of that, so she’d scrambled to the base of the tree and quickly climbed up, staying close to the trunk so the leaves wouldn’t rustle.
To her utter dismay, he’d shot under the tree, too, where he now sat on the ground, Tommy gun in hand.
Critters could be heard scampering in the woods and an owl hooted every now and again, but the man didn’t so much as twitch. Therefore, neither did she. She didn’t move a muscle, other than her heart, which she thought could burst from fear with the way it continued to pound. The familiar sound she’d heard a short time ago had increased her fears. Hearing Scooter arrive on his motorcycle had brought tears to her eyes. She was glad to know he was okay, but more afraid than ever that he’d once again come to her rescue. The ability he had to do that was uncanny, but this time it was sure to get him killed.
This was definitely one of her more stupid plans, but in her bedroom, full of worry about Scooter, going to Gloria had been the only thing she could think of doing. Now all she could hope for was sunrise, which would be in a couple of hours.
When the thud of running feet sounded, she knew her luck had run out, and the sound of Scooter’s voice shouting her name confirmed her worst fears had come to light.
Josie opened her mouth to shout his name, to warn him to stay back, but the man beneath her beat her to it.
“Scooter, is that you?” the man asked, stepping out from under the dangling willow branches.
“Yes, it’s me, Owen,” Scooter shouted in return. “Put that gun down.”
Owen? Owen Lester? She’d been sitting in the tree above Dac’s little brother? What was he doing here? She could no longer see him, but recognized his voice.
“Sorry,” Owen said.
“Have you seen Josie?”
“Nope, I’ve been here, guarding this cabin just like Bronco said,” Owen told him. “Dac wasn’t home so Bronco hired me as an extra gun.”
A thud and clatter sounded. Josie couldn’t see, but it sounded as if someone had just kicked in Gloria’s door.
That was Scooter shouting again.
“I don’t know,” Gloria said. “What’s happened?”
“If you’re hiding her, so help me, woman!”
Josie’s stomach fell. That was her father’s voice.
“I’m not, Roger, I swear,” Gloria said. “I haven’t seen her since she left for Twyla’s with the rest of you.”