I threw some cash on the table, and headed outside with my phone. I walked a bit away from the building while waiting for the reply.
“Shrimp?” I expected Tania to be near tears, but her inner bitch was in control. She sounded angry. “Don’t forget that you promised toys for the children.” So the kids were hiding, I wondered when someone could go and get them. It would have to be soon, Toby might wander anywhere.
“Sweetheart, are you all right?” I asked.
“Yes, dear, I’m fine. Just a bit tied up at the moment. Don’t worry about me.”
I nearly laughed at that. Of course I was worried about her. They were after me, not Tania and I’d rather die than have her hurt. While that is usually a figure of speech, it seemed likely to be literal all too soon.
The unknown male voice was back. “Right, Mr Shrimpton. TV shows suggest that this is when I tell you not to involve the police but I doubt you would.”
“Damn straight, I won’t tell the cops,” I replied. “My associates, on the other hand, already know that there is something up.”
“Dang and drat.” Dang? Who the fuck says dang? “Still, come unarmed and alone to 15 Bayfront Road.” There was a pause. “Actually bring your goon. Just be warned, if I get nervous, your wife gets it.”
“In about half an hour, at 3 o’clock. Ivy should be back from looking for your kids by then.”
Fuck no. No fucking way. “You had better ring Ivy and tell her to stop hunting my children. Because I’m on my way there and if she is there, I will be hunting her. And I won’t be gentle if I find her,” I growled into my phone. “Whatever it is you want, I’ll be more cooperative if my children are left alone. Understood?” They had Tania but Lana and Toby were off limits.
“We have your wife. You hurt Ivy and you may not have a wife.”
“Are you listening to me at all? I said I’d hunt Ivy if she continued to hunt my children. If she stops, I’ll walk unarmed where ever you like. Hurt Tania or my children, you are a dead man. I will kill you myself, even if I have to come back from the grave to do it. You and Ivy.” I took a deep breath then exhaled. “You have 5 minutes. If I find her when I get there, she will get hurt.”
“Your wife counts for nothing?” he asked.
“Tell her what you’ve told me and she’d agree. The children are a priority. Do you understand?” I was still virtually growling. “Last warning, call Ivy off. I’ll be Bayfront at 3.” I savagely hit the hangup button.
I looked around for Kane. He was standing a few feet back, maybe for my privacy or to be out of my way if I lost it. “We are hitting the road. Now. Hollowlog Springs is the first stop.”
He nodded and started the car. I got in and we were off.
“Is this where your family was hiding?” he asked.
“Yes, and you would have gathered that they have my wife and are threatening to grab the kids. Do *anything* you have to if there is a child being taken out of this park. Clear?”
“Absolutely. You were very intense on the phone.”
I nodded, “This situation is going very bad. You want to bail?”
“I’m still in, I don’t quit when things get tough. What was that about Bayfront?”
“Before he mentioned the kids, he set up a meet at 15 Bayfront. He said I should bring my goon, so you are supposed to be there. No weapons, you do any martial arts?”
“A little but I’m more a boxer. I throw a mean punch.” He slowed the car as we pulled into the small turnoff for the park. I was pleased that there were no cars.
I got out and looked around. No sign of the kids but Lana was a genius at hide and seek. “Chook, chook, come home to roost,” I shouted. No response and I had a panic moment. I walked much further in while Kane stayed near the car. “Chook, chook, come home to roost!” I shouted again.
This time I heard rustling in the vegetation and Lana popped into view. “Daddy, daddy!” she shrieked as she ran toward me.
I picked her up and hugged her. A few moments later then Toby appeared. He still preferred crawling so it took him a little longer to get anywhere. I grabbed him and hurried back to the car. “Let’s roll. Marta’s house, I hope either she or Ted happens to be home.”
We arrived 10 minutes later. I knocked on the door. Fortunately, Ted was home and answered the door.
“Take care of your godchildren. I’ll either be back in a couple of hours to explain or never return.” He raised an eyebrow but I didn’t give him a chance to ask a question. I handed Toby to him, made sure that Lana was out of the car and left.
“Dude, under normal circumstances, I’d be telling you to chill. But,” he glanced over at me then back at the road, “I guess not until this is done.”
“You got that right. I think that dude watches too much TV and too many movies. He sounds like he’s straight from some cheesy detective show.” I still hadn’t a clue what he wanted, fuck I hated going in blind. My phone chirped at me, I saw it was Ted and diverted the call to voice mail. It wasn’t a nice thing to do to a friend but when I did have a chance to catch up, he’d understand. “If you see an opportunity to get my wife out, do it. Doesn’t matter what’s happening to me, just get her safe.”
“Boss, I don’t like it. I’m your bodyguard, not hers.”
I sighed. “I don’t like it either but Tania doesn’t deserve this. Her survival is more important than mine. You call me boss, those are your orders.”
The address did turn out to be in the swampy section of town. Well, I would have looked here eventually. Especially since the shack was on Ted’s list. We arrived, I checked my watch and found it was 3. We stepped up to the rickety ancient building and I cautiously knocked on the door.
“Come in, hands up in the air,” called a light female voice.
“Shrimp, no. It’s a trap,” shouted Tania.
“Of course it is, sweetheart,” I replied. “That won’t stop me from walking in so you can walk out.”
I walked in slowly, hands held high. As I entered, I did my best to assess the situation. Tania was tied to a chair, a quite young woman standing near her. The man I’d been talking to was waiting not too far inside. He patted me down, but frankly, if I had a small weapon, he’d never have found it. He gave Kane the same treatment, Kane looked vaguely disgusted by it. I would have recognised either of them from the sketches Kane did - was that just yesterday?
“Lana and Toby?” asked Tania.
“Safely with their godfather,” I replied. She nodded, relief plain on her face. “Bad luck?”
She sighed. “Lana found a new toy. She got in the car and blew the horn while I was busy with Toby. I heard a car approaching and sent the kids to hide. That’s when they got me.”
I turned my attention to the others and spent a few seconds deciding how to play this. They were nervous and very likely to be twitchy. Much as I wanted to vent, I decided that quiet reasoning would serve better. “You know my name already, and you’ve met my associate here, Travis Kane,” Kane nodded toward them. “I assume that is Ivy but I don’t know your name,” I said to the guy, “or why you are so interested in me. Though I do have a theory about that. Would you enlighten me?”
“I’m Ethan Pesce and Ivy is my little sister. We want to know exactly what happened to my twin sister, Sophie.”