Long Lost Page 67

’’Preferably.’’

’’I don\'t have a clue.’’

’’Do you think Carrie Steward is in that big house?’’ he asked.

’’Only one way to find out,’’ I said.

WITH the chain blocking the driveway, we decided to take it on foot. I called Win and filled him in on everything that was going on in case something went very wrong. He decided to come up after he checked on Terese one more time. Berleand and I debated and concluded that we might as well try just going up to the door and ringing the bell.

There was still light, but the sun was in its death throes. We stepped over the chain, started up the middle of the road, past the security camera. There were trees on either side of us. It seemed at least half of them had a NO TRESPASSING sign stapled to them. The road wasn\'t paved but it seemed to be in pretty good shape. In some spots there was gravel, but for the most part it was loose dirt. Berleand made a face and walked on tiptoes. He kept wiping his hands against the sides of his legs and licking his lips.

’’I don\'t like this,’’ he said.

’’Don\'t like what?’’

’’Dirt, the woods, bugs. It all feels so unclean.’’

’’Right,’’ I said, ’’but that strip joint, Upscale Pleasures, that was sanitary.’’

’’Hey, that was a classy gentlemen\'s club. Didn\'t you read the sign?’’

Up ahead, I saw a line of shrubs and over that, a little bit in the distance, I could make out a gray-blue mansard roof.

A little ding sounded in my head. I picked up my pace.

’’Myron?’’

Behind us I heard the chain drop to the ground and a car come up. I moved faster, wanting to get a better look. I glanced behind me as a county police car pulled up. Berleand stopped. I didn\'t.

’’Sir? You\'re trespassing on private property.’’

I rounded the corner. There was a fence surrounding the property. More security. But now, from this vantage point, I could see the mansion straight on.

’’Stop right there. That\'s far enough.’’

I did stop. I looked ahead at the mansion. The sight confirmed what I\'d suspected the moment I had seen the mansard roof. The house looked like the perfect bed-and-breakfast a picturesque, almost overdone Victorian home with turrets, towers, stained-glass windows, a lemonade porch, and yep, a blue-gray mansard roof.

I had seen the house on the Save the Angels Web site.

It was one of their homes for unwed mothers.

TWO police officers got out of the car.

They were young and muscle-bloated and had the cocky cop-stride. They also wore Mountie hats. Mountie hats, I thought, looked silly and seemed counterproductive to law enforcement activities, but I kept that to myself.

’’Something we can do for you gentlemen?’’ one of the officers said.

He was the taller of the two, his shirtsleeves cutting into his biceps like two tourniquets. His name tag said ’’Taylor.’’

Berleand took out the photograph. ’’We are looking for this girl.’’

The officer took the photograph, glanced at it, handed it to his partner with the name tag ’’Erickson.’’ Taylor said, ’’And you are?’’

’’Captain Berleand from the Brigade Criminelle in Paris.’’

Berleand handed Taylor his badge and identification. Taylor took it with two fingers as though Berleand had handed him a paper bag full of steaming dog poo. He studied the ID for a moment and then gestured toward me with his chin. ’’And who\'s your friend here?’’

I waved. ’’Myron Bolitar,’’ I said. ’’Nice to meet you.’’

’’How are you involved in this, Mr. Bolitar?’’

I was going to say, long story, but thought that maybe it wasn\'t really that complicated: ’’The girl we\'re looking for may be the daughter of my girlfriend.’’

’’May be?’’ Taylor turned back to Berleand. ’’Okay, Inspector Clouseau, you want to tell me what you\'re doing here?’’

’’\'Inspector Clouseau,\'’’ Berleand repeated. ’’That\'s very funny. Because I\'m French, right?’’

Taylor just stared at him.

’’I\'m working on a case involving international terrorism,’’ Berleand said.

’’That a fact?’’

’’Yes. This girl\'s name has come up. We believe she lives here.’’

’’Do you have a warrant?’’

’’Time is of the essence.’’

’’I will take that as a no.’’ Taylor sighed, glanced at his partner Erickson. Erickson chewed gum, showed nothing. Taylor looked over at me. ’’This true, Mr. Bolitar?’’

’’It is.’’

’’So your girlfriend\'s maybe daughter is somehow mixed up with an international terrorist investigation?’’

’’Yes,’’ I said.

He scratched an itch on his baby-faced cheek. I tried to guess their ages. Probably still in their twenties, though they could pass for high schoolers. When did cops start looking so damn young?

’’Do you know what this place is?’’ Taylor asked.

Berleand started shaking his head, even as I said, ’’It\'s a home for unwed mothers.’’

Taylor pointed at me, nodded. ’’That\'s supposed to be confidential.’’

’’I know,’’ I said.

’’But you\'re exactly right. So you can see how they might be touchy about their privacy.’’

’’We do,’’ I said.

’’If a place like this isn\'t a safe haven, well, what is? They come here to escape prying eyes.’’

’’I get that.’’

’’And you\'re sure your girlfriend\'s maybe daughter isn\'t just here because she\'s pregnant?’’

Now that I thought about it, that was a fair question. ’’That\'s irrelevant. Captain Berleand can tell you. This is about a terror plot. If she\'s pregnant or not, it makes no difference.’’

’’The people who run this place. They\'ve never caused any trouble.’’

’’I understand that.’’

’’And this is still the United States of America. If they don\'t want you on their property, you have no right to be here without a warrant.’’

’’I understand that too,’’ I said. Looking at the mansion, I asked, ’’Were they the ones who called you?’’

Taylor squinted at me then, and I figured he was about to tell me that was none of my business. Instead he too looked toward the house and said, ’’Strangely enough, no. Normally they do. When kids trespass, whatever. We found out about you from Paige Wesson at the library and then someone else saw you chasing a kid over at Carver Academy.’’

Taylor kept looking at the house as if it had just materialized.


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