Impatience rocketed through Jon as Kyle conferred with his team, then Kyle said into another mic that would be picked up by the small earpiece in Tabby’s ear, "Go ahead and get on the bus. A brunette in a jogging suit will get on with you. She’s one of ours."
Tabby stepped onto the bus, paid the fare and moved down the aisle to an open seat next to an elderly man wearing a plaid sports coat and a brown fedora on top his balding head.
The bus began to move. Tabby’s cell rang again. The tinny sound echoed in the van.
The muffled voice said, "So far so good. Get off at the next stop."
A few minutes later the bus halted and Tabby got off.
Why had the kidnapper made her take the bus for only a few blocks? Jon’s breath stalled. "Where’s her protection?"
Kyle was frantically talking to his people, trying to get someone else close. "Stacie can’t get off or they’ll make her. Michael, where are you?"
"Riding up as we speak," came a man’s reply.
"Shift to your right, Tabby," Kyle said softly into her earpiece.
She did, showing a man getting off his bicycle for a drink of water.
Jon’s breathing eased. He hated being on the sidelines like this, depending on others to protect the woman he loved.
The astounding thought ricocheted around his head and landed with a sharp pang in his heart. He did love Tabby. He had for a long time, but just hadn’t wanted to see it. He hadn’t wanted to mess up the relationship between them. What a fool he’d been.
"Now what?" Tabby said into the phone.
"Go inside the church," the voice said.
Tabby pivoted so the camera had a great view of the big, redbrick church. A tall white–tipped steeple with a black–faced clock embedded in the brick rose toward the sky.
Jon’s stomach dropped. If she went inside the church they would lose her for sure.
Tabby stared at the beautiful old church as trepidation crept up her spine. She glanced over her shoulder, wondering how her guards were going to follow her inside. She doubted the kidnappers would buy a random cyclist deciding he needed to pray.
"What are you waiting for?" the voice on the other end of the cell phone said.
Realizing the kidnapper was watching her sent a ribbon of fear unfurling through her veins. She forced herself to stay calm as she moved toward the wide double doors. The right–side door of the church swung open.
Into the phone, she said, "Is my sister inside?"
The line went dead.
Tabby debated whether to continue to hesitate and jeopardize her sister’s life or to go in. She couldn’t wait for the Trent team to find a way to follow her inside; she had to make a decision. She decided to take her chances. Her sister’s life depended on it. She stepped through the doorway.
The door slammed closed, the loud sound reverberating like shock waves cascading over her flesh. Someone slid up behind her and jammed something hard against her ribs. A gun!
She jerked as terror slammed a fist into her gut. She’d walked into a trap.
"Don’t make any noise," a man’s voice said near her ear.
The duffel bag was ripped from her fingers. Her arms were bent back behind her and secured with something thin and tight. A soft fabric bag was placed over her head and cinched around her neck. Panic stole her breath as the oppressive material clung to her skin. She thrashed about, trying to get loose and in the process dislodged the earpiece. It fell somewhere inside the confines of the bag.
"Stop it," the man demanded, giving her a violent shake. "Let’s go."
She couldn’t make out the interior of the church through the dense material as she stumbled along behind the man. Her thoughts raced. Was her sister even alive? Would this man kill her and take the money? Would she never get to see Jon again? That thought more than the others sent a fresh wave of despair and anxiety rushing through her. She didn’t want to die without telling Jon how much she cared about him.
Practically dragging her, the man led her through the church and out another door. The cold air outside didn’t penetrate the inside of the bag. She grew dizzy from her own carbon monoxide. She was pushed into the backseat of a car.
"Hurry up. Before someone sees," a second male said in a thick Spanish accent.
Tabby squirmed to a better position so that the camera concealed in the button of her coat could capture what she couldn’t make out. She took shallow breaths, hoping to conserve her air. The first man got into the car and slammed the door shut. The driver started the engine. The car vibrated with an irregular rumble as if the vehicle needed a tune–up or something. The driver accelerated and made several turns. Feeling disoriented and overheated from the hot air blowing through the car vents, Tabby had no idea which way they were headed.
She sent up a silent prayer. Lord, please keep me safe. Let Jon find me and Beth. Alive.
"It was a trap!" Jon slammed his fist into the dashboard. "I should never have let her do this!"
Tabby was now at the hands of her sister’s kidnappers and it was his fault. He should have insisted on making the drop and not putting Tabby in danger. If anything happened to her… He couldn’t bring himself to even think it or he’d go mad. "Can’t you make this bucket of bolts go any faster?"
"Any faster and they’ll make us," Kyle replied in a calm, controlled voice as he drove, weaving his way through the midday traffic and keeping the dark blue sedan in sight. The soft bleep of the red blip on the monitor indicated Tabby’s movements. They could hear her shallow breathing and the men’s conversation through the small mic.
Jon’s cell phone rang, making him flinch at the shrill noise. Boy, his nerves were shot. He pulled the phone from his pocket and pressed the answer button. "Yes."
The same muffled voice he’d heard coming over the line on Tabby’s phone, filled Jon’s ear. "Now we have both sisters. We want another hundred thousand. Tomorrow. Same time, same place. And don’t get any bright ideas about involving the cops." The line disconnected.
Jon relayed the message to Kyle.
"This is good," Kyle said.
"Good! Are you nuts? They have Tabby now." Fear and dread clawed at his throat.
"As long as they think they can get more money out of you, they will keep the sisters alive," Kyle said. "Hey, didn’t you say Tabby lived in Newton?"
"Yeah," Jon said as his gaze snagged on the passing scenery. With a little shock he realized they were following the kidnappers back toward Tabby’s neighborhood. When they headed down her street, Kyle pulled to the curb and killed the lights.
Stunned, Jon watched as the kidnappers’ car turned into her driveway and disappeared into the garage. "They are going to Tabby’s place!"
"Do you know the layout of her house?" Kyle asked.
"I do." A spurt of hope jolted his heart rate.
"Good. Because we’re going to rescue your assistant and her sister."