Jon walked out of the Newton Community Church building and into the mid–morning air still humming the last song the band had played. Who knew churches had bands with electric guitars, electric piano and mean drums? Tabby’s church was nothing like the one his mother had dragged him to when he was a kid. Mom’s church had been somber and depressing with hymns sung to an out–of–tune organ and uninteresting sermons.
Today had been a different experience. The pastor had talked about setting one’s hope in Jesus rather than the material items of this world. A theme Jon had heard before, yes. But the presentation of the message wasn’t one of judgment and condemnation for having material possessions, but rather that this world’s pleasures could be gone in a heartbeat. Whereas hope could never be taken away. For some reason Jon found that very comforting.
"Thank you for coming with me," Tabby said as she slipped her arm through his. "I really needed that today."
He smiled at her, liking the way the winter sun touched her golden hair as they made their way across the parking lot to his sedan. "I enjoyed it. I might come with you again if you’ll let me tag along."
She beamed. "Of course you can. I’d love that."
And for some reason pleasing her pleased him.
Monday morning Tabby was a nervous wreck. All night she’d dreamed of Beth, the dreams mixing with old memories and awful scenarios. She awoke feeling more anxious than ever before. She couldn’t eat the wonderful scones Mrs. Marsh served. Even the gourmet coffee didn’t appeal.
Jon was on the phone talking with the bank when the man from Trent Associates returned. Tabby wasn’t sure what to make of the young man with his nearly white hair and tanned skin. He looked like he should be out catching a wave on some tropical beach rather than sitting on Jon’s couch.
Yesterday when they’d explained the situation, he’d jotted down notes in a notebook much the way the two homicide detectives had when they’d questioned her and Jon about the dead man in Jon’s suite.
Shuddering at the memory, Tabby now asked, "Do you think the kidnappers killed that poor man?"
"Most likely. Though why…" Kyle shrugged his wide shoulders. "Maybe he was motivation to get you to cooperate."
"It worked," she mumbled. "What about the security guard?"
"The police found him unconscious in the janitor’s closet," Jon said as he joined them in the living room. "Someone hit him from behind."
"Poor man," Tabby said.
"The bank will have the money ready by eleven," Jon said. "What’s the plan, Kyle?"
"This is how we’ll play it. Once you get the cash, I’ll rig it with a tracking device," Kyle said.
Tabby frowned. "Won’t they expect that?"
Kyle grinned. "They’ll never find it."
"Are you sure?" she asked. Worry that something would go wrong and her sister would end up dead gnawed at her stomach.
Kyle gave her a patient look. "I’ve done this many times. Trust me. There’s no way they’ll find the device. Plus, you’ll be wearing an audio wire and a video camera."
Jon took her hand. The warmth of his skin next to hers was reassuring and calming. "So then we’ll go wherever the money ends up and find her sister?"
"In theory. But we’ll also have a team of people in place to follow the pickup person." He handed Tabby a manila envelope. "Here’s your phone back. I made some modifications so we can hear the conversation when they call and also do a trace."
"This is all so overwhelming," she said, feeling a tad light–headed.
"We’ll get through this," Jon reassured her.
"So when they call, what do I do after I get my instructions?" she asked.
"Oh, you won’t be taking the call," Jon said. "I’ll be making the drop."
"But they’re expecting me. I don’t want to put Beth at risk."
"They won’t be surprised to see me since they already know I’m providing the money."
"They said I had to be the one," she said, hating the thought of something happening to Jon, too.
"I’m not letting you put yourself in danger," he said, his tone adamant.
"Isn’t that why we called Trent Associates, to minimize the danger?"
"She’s right," Kyle interjected. "It’s better if she makes the drop."
"I don’t like it," Jon said as he ran his free hand through his hair. "There’s no way to control the situation. We should call the FBI."
Jon’s obvious upset and desire to protect her touched and pleased Tabby deeply. She squeezed his hand. "I trust God will protect me."
Jon met her gaze. Worry reflected in his dark eyes. "I wish I had that kind of faith."
"You could," she said softly, sensing the need to tread lightly. She didn’t want to push him to believe. He needed to want it from his heart. "God is waiting for you to invite Him in."
For a moment Jon stared at her as if trying to comprehend her words. Then he brought her knuckles to his lips and placed a gentle kiss there. "Let’s hope your trust isn’t misplaced."
"It’s not," she whispered, her eyes riveted to his well–formed mouth. Longing to lean closer and kiss him hit her like a blast of winter air, shocking in its intensity. His gaze held hers, his eyes darkening as if he could read her thoughts. Heat rose up her neck but she couldn’t look away. For a second she thought he moved, his head dipping slightly.
Kyle cleared his throat, shattering the moment into a million pieces.
Whoa. She really had to get a grip. Jon was her boss. And getting involved with him was not on her list of goals in life. No matter how much her heart wished otherwise.
"Please, be careful," Jon said to Tabby before she left the safety of the plain white van parked a half a block from the Fenway Park T stop. The thought of something happening to her sent dread and anxiety rushing through his veins. His stomach was a mess of knots and his shoulder muscles were pulled so tight he could barely move.
She gave him a small smile that barely wobbled. "I will."
Admiration for her brave front galvanized him to capture her hand and pull her close for a kiss. She gasped slightly before melting against him. He put all the worry and affection clogging his veins into the kiss. When finally he eased up, he rested his forehead against hers. "Come back to me."
Her blue eyes were a bit glazed as she touched his cheek before stepping away.
From the cab of the van, Kyle said, "Can you hear me, Tabby?"
She touched her ear where a small, flesh–colored receiver had been inserted in her ear and nodded. "Yes." Squaring her shoulders, she turned away. "Here we go."
Jon fought the urge to rush after her as she walked down the block. Instead, he closed the side panel door and then slid into the van’s passenger seat.
Kyle sat in the driver’s seat and was talking into a small mic. "She’s heading to the stop. Jay, you got her?"
A man’s voice reported back, "I’m on her."
To Jon, Kyle said, "Jay’s cover is a homeless guy Dumpster diving."
A video monitor with feed from the microscopic camera embedded in the button of Tabby’s coat gave them a clear view of anyone approaching Tabby. Off to her left a man digging through the trash could be seen.
Tabby stood at the top of the steps leading down to the subway platform. People moved passed, but no one came within reach of her. Then her cell phone rang. Inside the van it sounded close enough to touch.
Her voice shook slightly as she answered, "Yes."
A muffled voice instructed her to get on the approaching bus going north on Park Drive. The line went dead.
Jon’s heart sped up. He didn’t like this twist. Too much could go wrong.
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