Home > Cry No More(6)

Cry No More(6)
Author: Linda Howard

She pulled up her shorts, rinsed her hands, and dried them on her bottom because she’d forgotten to bring a towel with her, then unwound the shoelace from the nail. The door swung open and she turned out the dim light as she stepped into the dark hallway. She faltered, coming to a stop. There was supposed to be a light on in the hallway. There had been when she went into the bathroom. The bulb must have blown.

Chills ran down her back. She so didn’t like the dark. How was she supposed to make it back to their room when she couldn’t see a thing?

A board creaked, to her left. She jumped a foot high and tried to scream, but her heart was in her throat and all she could manage was a squeal.

A rough hand clamped over her mouth; she got a dose of really bad B.O., then something hard slammed into her head and she slumped, unconscious.

El Paso, Texas

Milla’s cell phone rang. For a moment she thought about not answering it; she was dead tired, dispirited, and had a throbbing headache. The temperature outside was 107, and even with the air-conditioning in the SUV set on high, the heat coming through the windshield burned her arms. The image of Tiera Alverson’s battered face and the fourteen-year-old’s sightless blue eyes staring up at nothing wouldn’t leave her mind. In her dreams tonight she would hear the sound of Regina Alverson’s harsh sobbing when she heard that her little girl was never coming home again. Sometimes Finders succeeded, but sometimes they were too late. Today, they had been too late.

The last thing Milla wanted to do right now was take on someone else’s heartache; she had enough aches of her own. But she never knew who might be calling, or why, and after all, she herself had made finding people her personal crusade. So she opened her eyes just enough to find the right button to punch, then immediately closed them again to shut out the ferociously bright late-afternoon sun. “Hello.”

“Señora Boone?” The accented voice on the speakerphone filled the Chevy SUV. Milla didn’t recognize it, but she spoke to so many different people every day that there was no way she could recognize everyone. This was definitely business, though, because only when it concerned Finders was she known as Milla Boone. After the divorce, she had taken back her maiden name of Edge, but the public so associated the name Boone with the cause of finding missing children that she’d been forced to use it in all publicity and anything to do with Finders.

“Yes, this is she.”

“There is a meeting tonight. Guadalupe, at ten-thirty. Behind the church.”

“What kind of meeting—” she began, but the voice cut her off.

“Diaz will be there.”

The phone went dead. Milla sat up, her headache forgotten as adrenaline buzzed through her system. She clicked off the phone and sat very still, thoughts racing.

“Which Guadalupe?” Brian Cusack said from the driver’s seat, mostly in frustration, because he’d heard everything.

“If it isn’t the closest one, then it doesn’t matter.” There were several Guadalupes in Mexico, ranging in population from about fifty thousand down to a collection of only a couple of hundred souls. The one closest to the border qualified as a village.

“Shit,” Brian Cusack said. “Shit.”

“No joke.” It was after six; no one would be at the office to provide backup. She could try to track down people at home, but there wasn’t time to spare. If the meeting was at ten-thirty, then they needed to be in position at least an hour beforehand. Guadalupe was about fifty miles from El Paso and Juarez. In this traffic it would take them forty-five minutes to an hour to get to the border. It would be less hassle to park the SUV, walk across the bridge into Mexico, and pick up transportation there, rather than go through the paperwork involved in driving across, but the operative phrase was “less hassle,” not “no hassle.” When time was short, any hassle at all could mean the difference between success and failure.

They both had their passports and their multiple-entry tourist cards for Mexico; that was standard procedure, because they never knew when they’d be called on to cross borders. That was about all they had, though, other than a couple of night-vision devices that they had used searching for little Dylan Peterson—a successful find, thank God—and that had been left in the duffel as they then swung immediately into the search for Tiera Alverson. They hadn’t needed a lot of stuff in the Alverson case; the job had taken them to Carlsbad, New Mexico, and had required patience and time, not survival gear.

They would have to make do with what they had, because there was no way she could pass up an opportunity to get Diaz.

Diaz. The man was as elusive as smoke on a windy day, but maybe this time they’d be lucky.

“We won’t have time to pick up any weapons,” Brian said evenly as he seized an opening and muscled the big SUV around a poky white Toyota with huge rust spots on the door.

“We’ll have to make time.” They never took the chance of smuggling weapons through at the border; instead they had arrangements to buy weapons once they were across. Most of the time she didn’t need weapons—all she was doing was talking to people—but sometimes common sense dictated they be able to protect themselves.

She tried Joann Westfall’s number, hoping she could catch her second-in-command at home, but the answering machine came on. Quickly Milla left a message filling Jo in on the admittedly sketchy details of where they were going and why. It was her own rule that none of the Finders went off by themselves, or without letting someone else know where they were.

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