CHAPTER SIX

"Nothing?"

Tovey shook his head. A thin sheen of sweat covered his forehead, and his hands were trembling, ever so slightly.

"There's no answer. I let it ring and ring and ring...I don't understand. I thought your people were supposed to be there!"

"Just because there's no answer doesn't mean they didn't get there. Maybe they took the kids some place else."

"Wouldn't they have let you know? Somehow?"

Hannibal looked over at BA, who silently shook his head. There'd been no messages left on the phone in the van, nor at the newspaper office. Tovey's house was a good two hour drive from the airfield, and Hannibal knew he had only one choice now. He couldn't take a chance with those kids.

"Better call the cops, Fred. Have them check out the house. We'll check back with them on the way up."

When the cops showed up, Hannibal figured Face and Amy would know what to do. If they were able to...


*****

"You locked yourself out of the car?"

"Yes, Amy, I locked myself out the car. And then I dropped my picks and couldn't find them. Now that we've established that I'm a total klutz, may I please have your keys?"

Shaking her head, Amy came down the steps. The girls remained on the landing, pressed against the back wall where they had taken refuge when Face had come in the door. Amy saw him give them a half-hearted smile as she stepped past, and felt herself relax. A little.

She'd dropped her purse by the front door when she first arrived. Right by the front door. Right next to the potted plant. She was sure of it.

"Problem, Amy?"

"My purse. I put it right here and now it's gone."

"Gone? Are you sure?"

"Well, it isn't here, is it?"

"I mean, are you sure you left it by the door?" Face had come over and was looking over her shoulder.

"Face, I'm not dumb. I left it right here!"

Suddenly Face looked her straight on, and Amy didn't like the way his eyes narrowed. He turned and stared up at the three girls on the landing.

"Oh, no, Face, they wouldn't have taken it."

"You're so sure, are you?" He moved to the bottom of the steps. "Mary, did you take Amy's purse?"

Mary shook her head slowly, eyes never leaving Amy.

Amy came and stood beside him. "I told you they wouldn't take it."

"Then who did?"

"Well, maybe I just thought I left it there. Maybe I left it in the car."

Face glared at her and stalked out into the storm once more. Amy looked up at Mary.

"You promise none of you picked up my purse? Not another little joke, maybe?"

"I promise, Miss. We never touched your bag."

Amy smiled, satisfied. Obviously she'd left the purse, with her keys, in the car. She would have to take some crap from Face about it, but that was a small price to pay if it got them out of here. Amy moved to the door and looked through the small window. She could barely make out Face in the car. There was another huge flash of lightning, and for the first time, Amy realized that this was not just a run of the mill thunderstorm. This was major, and it was coming in fast.

She saw Face getting out of the car, and though she couldn't hear the engine over the wind, she turned to get the girls. That's when she realized they were still clad in only their nightclothes.

She glared up at the ceiling. Never, ever again would she let herself get talked into something like this. Give her bad guys shooting at them any day. It was a lot simpler.

"C'mon, girls, we need to get you into something besides those nightgowns if we're going out in that storm."

"Don't bother." Face had come back in, and the tension in his voice made her whip around. She watched as he slammed the door and bolted it.


*****

Face was surprised and relieved to see the children standing by Amy when he came back inside. It was almost worth enduring the scathing look Amy gave him when he explained the locked car. He was quite sure Hannibal would hear every detail about it later.

As Amy flashed past him for her purse, he looked up at the girls, smiling his most winning smile. The last thing he needed was them to decide to take off again. He fully intended to make sure that didn't happen while Amy was busy digging out her keys. Not on my watch, kiddos.

Then Amy couldn't find her purse.

Great.

He helped her search, but had a pretty good idea of what had happened to it. Amy, of course, refused to see the logic. If she'd left it by the door and now it was gone, there were only three choices as to who had taken it. All standing on the landing.

"Well, maybe I just thought I left it there. Maybe I left it in the car."

Face closed his eyes, silently counting to ten. With one last look at the culprits - all four of them - he headed back outside to search her car.

Her purse, as expected, was not in the car. He looked on the floors, the back seat. Nothing. Meanwhile, the wind was blowing harder; he could actually feel the little car sway with each onslaught. Expediency was called for now, not neatness. He reached under the dash and pulled the wires down. It took a few tries, but finally the engine sparked. He put the car in gear and eased it forward.

That's when he felt the wobble.

He stopped the car and stepped out. Almost immediately the rain started, drenching him in seconds. The lightning, now almost continuous, told him everything he needed to know. He hurried to the Vette, confirming his worst fears.

He looked around the grounds, trying to see what shouldn't be out there, but there was nothing but blowing debris and the grinning cherubs of the rose garden. He had no choice now. He hurried into the house in time to hear Amy telling the girls to get dressed.

"Don't bother." Amy looked back at him, startled. He slammed the door shut, making sure it was bolted, before turning back to her.

"Someone's slashed the tires."