Rogue Page 46

Ignoring my hormone-challenged brother, I looked toward the end of the table, where my father had sat for the past fifteen minutes, chewing quietly as he listened to my informal report. “What did your Venezuelan contact have to say?”

He set his fork on the edge of his plate and wiped his mouth with a cloth napkin. “Nothing yet, but I expect to hear something soon. Until then, all we have to go on is your description.”

“Wonderful.” I frowned down at my halibut.

“It’s a start, which is more than we had before,” Parker said, cutting into a slice of scalloped potatoes with the side of his fork. “But I can’t believe Kevin Mitchell knew Harper was trespassing and didn’t report it.

You’d think he’d know better than that.”

“Yeah, you’d think,” I mumbled, pushing my asparagus around in a puddle of hollandaise. I wasn’t exactly eager to tell my father that Kevin blamed me for our lack of manpower. Fortunately, Marc seemed disinclined to mention it, too. I’d have to remember to thank him—after I kicked the shit out of him for trying to turn me into a stripper.

“By the way, I told Kevin to expect a call from you, Greg,” Marc said.

“Very soon.”

“Oh, he’ll get more than a call.” My father’s hand paused, his fork halfway to his mouth. “When this is over, he’ll get an escort to the Mississippi border and instructions to wait in the free zone until his father decides what to do with him. I’ll be on the phone to David Mitchell as soon as we finish here.”

At the other end of the table, my mother cleared her throat politely to get our attention. “What about this missing dancer?”

“Her name is Kellie Tandy, and she goes to Tulane on a partial scholarship,” Marc said. “A couple of years ago she was looking for a better-paying job to help make up for what the scholarship doesn’t cover, and her roommate convinced her to audition at Forbidden Fruit.

“When Kellie disappeared before her second set, her roommate—Ginger—called the police. They showed up at the club a couple of hours later and asked questions, and took a picture of Kellie for their file. But that was it. They seemed to think Kellie would show up in a few hours, and they told the roommate to go back to their apartment and wait.”

“I assume she never showed up?” Ethan asked around a mouthful of fish.

“Right. The next day, when the police said they were doing everything they could, the roommate made up the missing person poster on her own and took up a collection from the other dancers and the Forbidden Fruit management to offer as a reward.”

“What about her family?” Parker asked. “Can’t her parents put some pressure on the cops?”

“She doesn’t have any parents,” I said, because Marc was busy chewing.

He swallowed and took a drink to clear his throat. “They died when she was sixteen, and she spent her last year and a half of high school in foster care, because her two remaining grandparents were too old to take her in. She’s a favorite among the other dancers.”

Marc’s expression was professionally detached, but I knew him too well to believe what I saw on his face. Hearing about her parents had made Marc determined to find out what happened to Kellie. He had a soft spot for orphans, because when he was fourteen, his mother was killed by the same stray who’d infected him.

“Okay, let me see if I understand everything correctly.” My father pushed his empty plate forward and leaned back in his chair. “Kellie Tandy goes missing from Forbidden Fruit in New Orleans on Thursday—the same day Bradley Moore is murdered in Arkansas—but the police won’t look for her. On Saturday, Robert Harper is lured out of that same strip club by the rogue tabby, who breaks his neck in the alley and leaves the body buried in garbage. Less than two hours later, Parker and Holden find the body and bring it back to us.” He glanced around the table, waiting for a response.

“Sounds right to me,” I said.

“Me, too,” Jace spoke up, while everyone else nodded. Except my mother. She pushed back her chair and disappeared into the kitchen without a word. Seconds later she was back with a homemade strawberry cheesecake, which she began cutting on the oak sideboard against one wall.

“So we’re just supposed to believe it’s al coincidence?” Ethan asked, taking the dessert plate my mother handed him and passing it to Jace, who passed it to Parker, who passed it on to my father. “All this happens at one strip club in New Orleans, but we can’t figure out how it’s related, if it even is. But it has to be, doesn’t it?”

I shrugged, watching as they passed down another plate. “Well, it didn’t all happen at Forbidden Fruit.”

“What do you mean?” Jace asked.

Marc answered for me, placing a slice of cheesecake on my place mat.

“Bradley Moore died four miles or so from another strip club in Arkansas.

He had a stack of ones in his wallet.”

Ethan glanced from him to our father. “So this is about strip clubs?”

“No.” My mother set her knife and pie server in the empty half of the glass pie plate, frowning at her youngest son as if he’d just told her the earth was flat. “I would bet the location is largely irrelevant. At least to the tabby. She started in eastern Arkansas—as far as we know, anyway—then moved down to New Orleans, and in both cases she seems to have lured a stray from a strip club to kill him. But why would she go into a strip club? Why would a woman go to a strip club alone?

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