CHAPTER FOUR

The men had just barely started their search of the apartment when the door suddenly swung open, and a young woman stood in the entry like a deer caught in the headlights. Before she could turn and run, BA had taken a firm grip on her arm and led her in.

"Who are you people?" She tried to shake loose, but BA was having none of it.

"We're friends of your ex." Hannibal smiled and nodded at Tovey, who was staring at the woman.

"Uh, Colonel - that's not my ex."

"Damn right, I'm not! I'm her secretary. Connie's been out of town for the last three days."

"Three days?" Hannibal's cigar nearly dropped from his lips, as he turned to his client. "That call yesterday came from this apartment. There's no question of that."

The four men turned and looked at the secretary, who had the grace to blush. "Look, I was just doing what I was told. She gave me the key, said to come here, call this number she gave me and play a recording into the phone. I didn't listen to it, I don't know what it was all about, okay?"

"Colonel, that means..."

"Yeah, that means she's probably in LA. Let's go."


*****

"Amy, I'm not in the mood for more gags, okay? It's bad enough these kids are playing their little tricks; I don't need you pulling my chain, too. Let's just find the kids and get the hell out of here."

Stung, Amy was almost reluctant to tell him about her own earlier search for the girls. She had followed the soft voices and little shuffling noises down the front hall. Every time she thought she'd caught up with the girls, the sounds stopped, only to start somewhere further ahead. Finally they had stopped all together. She'd tried the doors to a couple of rooms and found them locked, and then gone back downstairs, making her way to the kitchen.

But Face seemed almost glad to hear about it, and hurried back upstairs.

"Don't you see? That makes perfect sense. The girl, Mary, had to have come through a door between the front of the house and the servants' quarters. That was why she seemed to have disappeared from the front, and suddenly came around the corner in the back. We find that door, and we'll cut off the girls' method of hiding from us."

The first thing Face did was to take Amy to the place where he thought Mary had appeared. She could almost feel the tension rise when he could find no sign of a door. He began moving up and down the hall, checking every room, every closet, every cupboard, calling the girls, his frustration building with each failure. It didn't help that they were stumbling around waiting for flashes of lightning to see. But at the tone of his voice, Amy decided she wouldn't have come out of hiding either.

Face had glared around the main room, straining to see, then pulled his lighter and flicked it open, but the unshielded glare of flame only succeeded in blinding them both. Swearing under his breath, Face then started tapping the walls, checking for a hidden panels. Only when Amy was quite sure they had covered every inch at least three times would Face admit that the girls were not there. Somehow, and he would find out how, they had slipped past and gotten into the main part of the house once more.

She'd once more followed meekly as he marched down the steps to the kitchen, and watched, startled, as he shoved the heavy refrigerator in front of the stairs, blocking anyone from using them. She quickly stepped back as he moved past her.

She was starting to wonder if their problems were coming only from the outside.


*****

Face couldn't look at Amy as he stalked out of the kitchen. He'd been sure he'd heard Amy behind him. He'd also been sure he would find that door upstairs, or some kind of hidden panel.

Now he wasn't sure he'd even talked to that girl, Mary.

He didn't bother checking the downstairs rooms. From what Amy had said, the girls were almost afraid to be anywhere except their little domain above. Now that they couldn't get down the back way, he had them. Yeah, now he had the little...

He stopped short, felt Amy stumble against him.

"You go up and get them. I'm going to get the car."

He didn't listen to Amy's response. He didn't listen to the murmurs he heard from the landing, or the patter of small feet as he passed the foot of the stairs. He stepped out the door and strode across the porch, stumbled down the steps and practically ran to the car. Only then did he stop, looking out at the dark trees, their branches blowing wildly in the high wind. Stood with his hand on the roof of the car, taking deep breaths.

Tried to get the picture of three little bodies out of his head.