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Molly Kilpatrick was a dead woman. She'd managed to keep ahead of the criminals who wanted to kill her, but she knew her luck was almost up...until she read about Jasmine Wolfe. Jasmine had been missing for years, and Molly resembled her enough that it would be easy for Molly to assume her identity. All she had to do was convince Jasmine's fiance, Cash McCall, that she was the woman he had supposedly loved and lost. One look at the sexy sheriff and she knew trying to convince him wouldn't be a hardship. But by becoming Jasmine, Molly had only exchanged one set of murderers for another. Someone wanted Jasmine dead and would stop at nothing to make sure that this time she stayed that way.
As the black sheep in the family, Brandon McCall wasn't exactly expected to be the one rescuing damsels in distress. But Anna Austin was in trouble, and he'd never been one to walk away from a beautiful woman. Anna was determined to find out what had happened to her past, her parents. And someone clearly wanted those secrets to remain buried. They'd already proved they were willing to kill to do it. Could Brandon protect Anna long enough for her to uncover the truth?
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April 01, 2011
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Excerpt from Double Play by B.J. Daniels
Outside Antelope Flats, Montana
The abandoned barn loomed out of the rain soaked landscape, the roof partially gone, a gaping black hole where the doors had once been.
Sheriff Cash McCall pulled his patrol car up next to Humphrey's pickup. Through the blurred thumping of the wipers, Cash could see Humphrey Perkins behind the steering wheel, waiting.
Cash cut the engine and listened to the steady drum of the rain on the patrol car roof, not anxious to go inside that barn. Hadn't he known? Hadn't he always known?
Steeling himself, he pulled up the hood on his raincoat and stepped out of the patrol car. Humphrey didn't move, just watched as Cash walked past his pickup toward the barn.
Five minutes ago, Humphrey had called him. "I found something, Cash." The old farmer had sounded scared, as if wishing someone else was making this call, that someone else had found what had been hidden in the barn. "You know the old Trayton homestead on the north side of the lake?"
Everyone knew the place. The land had been tied up in a family estate for years, the dilapidated house boarded up, the barn falling down. There were No Trespassing signs posted all around the property, but Humphrey owned the land to the north and had always cut through the Trayton place to fish. Seemed that hadn't changed.
"I noticed one of the barn doors had fallen off," Humphrey had said on the phone, voice cracking. "I think you'd better come out here and take a look. It looks like there's a car in there."
Cash stepped from the rain into the cold darkness of the barn. The shape under the large faded canvas tarp was obviously a car. He could see one of the tires. It was flat.
He stood, listening to the rain falling through the hole in the roof patter on the tarp. Clearly the car had been there for a long time. Years.
Wind lifted one corner of the canvas and he saw the back bumper, the Montana State University parking sticker and part of the license plate, MT 6-431. The wind dropped the tattered edge of the tarp, but Cash had seen enough of the plate to know it was the one a statewide search hadn't turned up seven years ago.
He'd been praying it wasn't her car. Not the little red sports car she'd been anxiously waiting to be delivered.
"When I get my car, I'll take you for a ride," she'd said, flirting with him from the first time he'd met her.
How many times over the years since she'd disappeared had he heard those words echo in his head? "I'll take you for a ride."
He closed his eyes, taking in huge gulps of the rank-smelling barn air. Her car had been within five miles of Antelope Flats all these years? Right under their noses?
The search had centered around Bozeman, where she was last seen. Later, even when it had gone statewide, there wasn't enough manpower to search every old barn or building. Especially in the remote southeastern part of the state.
He tried to breathe. She'd been almost within sight of town? So close all these years?
Cash opened his eyes, scrubbed at them with the heel of his hand, each breath a labor. He turned away and saw Humphrey's huge bulk silhouetted in the barn door, the hood of his dark raincoat pulled up, his arms dangling loose at his sides.
"It's her car, isn't it?" Humphrey said from the doorway.
Cash didn't answer, couldn't. Swallowing back the bile that rose in his throat, he walked through the pouring rain to his patrol car for his camera.
He knew he should call for forensics and the state investigators to come down from Billings. He knew he should wait, do nothing, until they arrived. But he had to know if she was inside that car.
Rain pounded the barn roof and fell through the hole overhead, splattering loudly on top of the covered car as he stepped past Humphrey to aim the camera lens at the scene inside. He took photographs of the car from every angle and the inside of the barn before putting the camera back in the patrol car.
On the way to the barn again, he pulled the pair of latex gloves from his pocket and worked them on his shaking fingers. His nostrils filled with the mildewed odor of the barn as he stepped to one side of the car, picked up the edge of the tarp and pulled.
The heavy canvas slid from the car in a whoosh that echoed through the barn and sent a flock of pigeons flapping out of the rafters, startling him.
The expensive red sports car was discolored, the windows filmed over, too dirty to see inside except for about four inches where the driver's side window had been lowered.
He stared at the car, his pulse thudding in his ears. It had been summer when she disappeared. She would have had the air-conditioning on. She wouldn't have put the window down while she was driving. Not with her allergies.
The rain fell harder, drumming on the barn roof as several pigeons returned, wings fluttering overhead.
He walked around the car to the other side. The left front fender was dented and scraped, the headlight broken. He stepped closer, the cop in him determined to do this by the book. Kneeling, he took out the small plastic bag and, using his pocket knife, flaked off a piece of the blue paint that had stuck in the chrome of the headlight.
Straightening, he closed the plastic bag, put the knife and bag in his pocket and carefully tried the driver's side door.
The door groaned open and he leaned down to look inside. The key was in the ignition, her sorority symbol key chain dangling from it along with the new house key--the key to the house she'd told everyone they would be living in after they were married.
The front seat was empty. He left the door open and tried the back. The rear seat was also empty. The car would have been brand new seven years ago. Which would explain why it was so clean inside.
He started to close the door when he saw something in the crack between the two front seats. He leaned in and picked up a beer cap from the brand she always drank. He started to straighten but noticed something else had fallen in the same space. A matchbook.
Cash held the matchbook up in the dim light. It was from the Dew Drop Inn, a bar in Bozeman, where she'd been attending Montana State University. Inside, three of the matches had been used. He closed the cover and put the matchbook into an evidence bag.
Shutting the back door, he stood for a moment knowing where he had to look next, the one place he'd been dreading.
He moved to the open driver's side door and reached down beside the front seat for the lever that opened the trunk. He had to grip the top of the door for a moment, steadying himself as he saw the large dark stain on the light-colored carpet floor mat under the steering wheel.
The tarp had kept the inside of the car dry over the years, the inside fairly clean, so he knew the stain on the mat wasn't from water. He knew dried blood when he saw it. The stain was large. Too large.
As he pulled the lever, the trunk popped open with a groan. He drew the small flashlight from his coat pocket and walked toward the rear of the car, the longest walk of his life.
The bodies were always in the trunk.
Taking deep breaths, he lifted the lid and pointed the flashlight beam inside. In that instant, he died a thousand deaths before he saw that what was curled inside wasn't a body. Just a quilt rolled up between a suitcase and the spare.
Cash staggered back from the car, the temporary relief making him weak. Was it possible Jasmine had been on her way to Antelope Flats? All these years he hoped she'd run off to some foreign country to live.
Instead she'd been on her way to Antelope Flats seven years ago. But why? His heart began to pound. To see him?
Or at least that's what someone wanted him to believe. Wanted the state police to believe.
He thought of the blood on the floor mat, the car hidden just miles from his office, from the old house he'd bought that Jasmine called her engagement present.
He rubbed a hand over his face, his throat raw. Jasmine wasn't living the good life in Europe, hadn't just changed her mind about everything and run off to start a new life.
He turned and walked back out into the rain, stopping next to Humphrey's pickup. The older man was sitting in the cab. He rolled down the driver's side window as Cash approached.
"I'm going to call the state investigators," Cash said, rain echoing off the hood of his jacket. "They're going to want to talk to you."
Humphrey nodded and looked past him to the barn. "Did you find her?"
Cash shook his head and started toward his patrol car, turning to look back at the barn and the dark shadow of Jasmine's car inside. All those years of trying to forget, trying to put that part of his life behind him.
He realized now that all he'd been doing was waiting. Waiting for the other shoe to drop.
That shoe had finally dropped.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Molly Kilpatrick chucked her clothing into her only suitcase. No time to fold anything.
Since the phone call, she'd been flying around the hotel room, grabbing up her belongings as quickly as possible. She had to skip town. It wouldn't be the first time. Or the last.
She fought back tears, trying hard not to think about Lanny. Her father's old friend was probably dead by now. He shouldn't have taken the time to warn her. He should have saved his own skin. She tried not to think about the horrible sounds she'd heard in the background before the phone went dead.
Even if the police had responded to her anonymous call immediately, they would have gotten there too late. She knew she couldn't have saved Lanny. All she could do was try to save herself.
Zipping the suitcase closed, she slid it off the bed and took one last glance around the room. She'd never owned more than she could fit into one suitcase, never stayed long in one place and made a point of never making friends. This, she knew, was why.
She'd been raised on the run, she thought, as she picked up the baseball cap from the bed and snugged it down on her short, curly blond hair.
As she passed the mirror, she checked herself, adjusting the peach-colored T-shirt over her small round breasts, tucking a pocket back inio her worn jeans, glancing down at the old leather sandals before slipping on the sunglasses and picking up her purse.
She could become a chameleon when she needed to, blending into any environment. It was a talent, the one talent she'd learned from her father that she actually appreciated. Especially right now.
She didn't bother to check out since she wasn't registered anyway. For someone like her, getting past a hotel-room lock was a walk in the park.
From experience she knew that entire floors of suites were set aside for high rollers and those rooms got little use even when rented for the night. She was always gone shortly after sunrise and even the couple of times she'd been caught, she'd been able to bluff her way out of it.
She thought about picking up her last check at the cafe where she'd been working. It wouldn't be enough money to make it worth the risk.
Vince and Angel would find out soon enough that she'd taken off. No reason to alert them yet. It was too much to hope that the police had gotten to Lanny's quick enough to catch the two convicted felons in the act.
No, she could only assume that Vince and Angel had not only gotten away but were looking for her at this very moment. If anything, fifteen years in prison would have made them even more dangerous.
On the way through the hotel, she stopped at one of the slot machines. It was foolish. She should be getting out of there as fast as possible. But superstition was something else she'd gotten from her father. And right now she needed to test her luck to make sure it was still with her.
She dropped a quarter into the slot machine and pulled the handle. The cylinder spun, stopping on first one bar, then another and for a moment she thought she might hit the big jackpot, but the third bar blurred past.
A handful of quarters jangled into the metal tray anyway. She scooped them up. Not as lucky as she had hoped but still better than nothing, she thought as she shoved the quarters into her jeans pocket, picked up her suitcase and headed for the exit.
As she moved through the noisy casino, she looked straight ahead but noticed everything, the hectic movement of gamblers pulling one-armed bandits, change girls stopping to hand out rolls of coins, cockt ail waitresses weaving through the crowds with trays of drinks.
Goodbye Vegas, she thought as she cleared the door-less opening and stepped from the air-conditioned casino into the hot desert night. She breathed in the scents, knowing she wouldn't be back here, not even sure she would be alive tomorrow. She had no idea where she would go or what she would do but it wasn't as if she hadn't done this for as long as she could remember.
As she headed toward her car parked in the huge lot, a white-haired couple came out of their RV, a homeless man cut through the cars toward the busy street and a handful of teenagers rolled through the glittering Vegas night on skateboards.
There was no one else around. But still she studied her car under the parking lot lights as she neared it. She doubted she had to worry about a car bomb. Vince and Angel preferred the personal touch. Also, they would want her alive. At least temporarily.
She unlocked the trunk of the nondescript tan sedan, put the suitcase in and slammed the lid. As she opened the driver's side door, she surreptitiously took one quick glance around and climbed in.
Not one car foll owed her as she wound her way through the lot and exited on a backstreet. She headed down the strip toward Interstate 15, took the first entrance ramp, and saw that she was headed north. It didn't matter where she was headed, she had no idea where she was going to go anyway.
Keeping an eye on her rearview mirror, she left the desert behind. But she knew she wasn't safe, not by any means. Vince and Angel would move heaven and earth to find her.
And they'd kill her when they did.