CHAPTER FIVE

Hannibal settled into his seat, calmly lighting a cigar. Murdock could be heard humming something tuneless in the cockpit, while BA was tightly gripping the arms of his seat. He'd claimed he could handle the short flight to LA, that he needed to be ready if the kids needed him. Hannibal was keeping an eye on him, just in case. Fred Tovey was staring out of the window at the lights far below.

"So, Fred, why don't you tell me a bit more about this ex of yours. Like, why she would threaten her own children."

Tovey's shoulders sagged. "Probably because they aren't hers. I was married before; the children's real mother died shortly after the youngest was born. I met Constance about four years ago. It was the usual rebound romance; I should have known better. I thought she really cared about the kids. But then, a couple years ago, she started getting...well, I can't say abusive, but very strict with them. They started avoiding her. Then she started demanding more and more of my time, wanting to go on weekend trips, cruises - all without the kids. Gradually, I realized that the kids were not only avoiding her, but staying away from me as well, because she was constantly by my side. I don't know what caused the change, but I'd had enough. I divorced her; a messy affair. She fought it tooth and nail, even made a claim for custody of the kids, anything to make me change my mind.

"I realized afterwards that she had only pretended to accept the children; if she hadn't, I never would have married her. But she was jealous of them, the time I spent with them, the attention I gave them - all of which she thought should belong to her. I don't know why I didn't see it right away, but..." He looked bleakly at Hannibal. "I never thought she'd...I never..."

"Well, don't worry, Fred. My man is with the kids now, so they'll be safe. He won't let anything happen to them."


*****

"Face, wait, I..."

Amy watched as Face slammed out of the front door, while muffled voices came from the landing above. She was torn between running after Face to try and calm him down, and finally catching up with the girls. Thinking of the tone of voice Face had used earlier, she decided to go after the girls. The sooner they were all out of here and in a more controlled environment, the better for all.

The girls, apparently finally realizing they had gone too far, were waiting at the end of the north hall, near the spiral stairs. Amy could just see them in the muted light. Linda and Barbara were again holding Mary's hands, heads bowed. Mary looked at Amy with what could almost be described as...fear. Whatever frustration Amy was feeling melted away.

"It's all right, Mary. We're not really mad at you, but we need to stop playing now. We have to leave, go some place else to wait for your parents."

"He's angry."

"No, no, he's not, Mary. He's just...worried. Because of the storm."

"No, he's angry. Because Mama's not here. She should be here."

Amy stopped, puzzled. "Your mother wasn't supposed to be here, Mary. Only your nanny."

"He was supposed to take care of us. But he got angry."

"He will take care of you, Mary." Amy stepped closer, knelt down in front of the girls. "I promise you, Mary, I will take care of you. I won't let anyone hurt you."

"That's what he said, too. But then he got angry. He scared my sisters. So we ran."

Amy straightened. She began to wish she had gone upstairs instead of just calling Face from the kitchen. What had he said to them? She knew he didn't necessarily like kids, but he'd never shown an active dislike for them. At least, not when Amy had been around.

He had certainly been angry when he had come downstairs. Yelling at her. And then shoving the refrigerator in front of the steps, like he was trapping them...

"I promise you, Mary, no one will hurt you. I will take care of you." She smiled as she stood and motioned toward the stairs. "I won't let him hurt you."

No one will hurt my girls...


*****

Face, having paced in the wind for several minutes, finally felt his heart beat was down where it should be. He still had no idea where that monstrous image had come from, but he felt he'd put it far enough out of his mind to deal with reality. And right now, reality was getting into his car. He could have sworn he'd left the doors unlocked when he arrived, but it was locked tighter than a drum now. Not that it was a big deal to break in; he just didn't understand why he'd locked it.

He pulled his picks out, trying to find the right one by feel. A sudden gust of wind blew and he turned his back to it, dropping the picks in the process. He leaned heavily against the car. No way he'd be able to find them in the tall grass, in the dark...

Stupid!

He looked up at the house, then at Amy's car in front of his own; he'd just have to come back for the Vette. He breathed a deep sigh of relief as her door opened. He glanced inside; as expected, small and cramped, but it would do just until they found a decent motel.

He straightened and looked again at the house. If Amy had finally corralled the girls, they would be out of here in just a few minutes. And yet...

He really didn't want to go back in that house.