THEY HAD JUST FINISHED filling the Jeep with gas and grabbing a quick bite to eat at the Amana Colonies along Interstate 80 in Iowa when Alex’s phone rang. He didn’t have to guess who it could be.
“Hi, Mike,” he said, looking back over his left shoulder at the traffic coming up behind him as he merged onto Interstate 80.
“You still all right, Alex?”
“Fine. We’re on the road, headed your way. I have you on speaker.”
“I’ve followed all of your instructions to the letter.”
“And you didn’t use the phone you’re on now to call anyone?”
“No. This is the only call I’ve made with it since I unwrapped it.”
Alex was relieved that the man was taking everything so seriously. He did wonder why, though — what kind of encounters he could have had that would make him go along so willingly.
The other thing that concerned Alex was that it seemed certain that Cain had to know about the land. Why else would they have taken Walter Buckman to the ninth floor of Mother of Roses, where he would be under the thumb of Dr. Hoffmann? One way or another they would have gotten all the information out of Mike Fenton’s partner — and God only knew who else.
If Cain’s people were watching airports and bus stations to see if they could catch Alex and Jax, then they surely would also be waiting and watching the land up in Maine. After all, they had to know right where it was. They had to know that sooner or later Alex would end up there. Everything was funneling them right to that one place.
Of course, if Cain’s men could snatch them in an airport, he and Jax would be unarmed, which would make it a lot easier for them. That was probably what they were hoping. They wanted to capture Alex, but they surely would kill Jax on sight.
At least if they ran into Cain’s people up in Maine, he and Jax would be armed and expecting trouble.
“I’m not sure how long it will take us to get there,” Alex said when Mike asked. “I think it must be about thirteen hundred miles to Boston. We got a late start today, so I imagine we’ll be there by day after tomorrow — late in the day.”
“Since I suspect that my office was being watched, I feel uncomfortable having you come to Boston for us to meet. I think it would be best if we met closer to where the land is located, and to where some of the others are.”
“You have a place in mind?”
“Yes. I’ve made reservations, if it’s all right with you and Jax. If not, I can change the location. It’s farther up beyond Boston, but it’s on the way to where you’re headed, so it would be convenient and it wouldn’t lose you any time.”
“Well, I guess we are most interested in getting to the land.”
“That’s what I thought.”
“So, where do you want us to meet you?”
“In Bangor, Maine. I’m at a motel just outside Boston right now. I’m going to be heading up to Bangor in a day or two, after I finish taking care of some legal details. I already made reservations for you as well in the name of Hank Croft.”
“How’d you pick the name?”
“Stuck my finger in a phone book. It seemed like an easy name to remember. I’ll be staying at the same place.”
“Hank Croft. Got it. But when you check into a motel they usually want to see a driver’s license or some kind of ID.”
“That’s one of the reasons I’m still in Boston. I’ve been taking care of that. You would be surprised how easy it is to get those kinds of documents. It’s easier than going to the DMV. As long as I was at it, I picked up an ID for Mrs. Jenna Croft — they gave me a quantity discount. It will all be on your bill. I had the IDs say you were married. I figured that, just in case, it would make it easier.”
“Jenna Croft. That’s good thinking,” Jax said, leaning toward the phone in Alex’s hand. “You mentioned ‘where some of the others are.’ Who are these other people?”
“They’re from the Daggett Trust. They need to sign off on the transfer of title to the land into Alex’s name.”
“And do they know you’re coming?” Jax asked. “Know that we’re coming? And where we’re all to meet?”
Alex gripped the steering wheel in his fists and gritted his teeth, but tried to keep his voice calm. “Mike, they could be followed. They could do any one of a number of things that could compromise us.”
“I told them your instructions. They will follow everything you told me, do everything the same as I’m doing.”
“How can you be sure that they will take all of it seriously enough?” Jax asked. Alex could hear a thread of anxiety and anger in her voice.
“These are very cautious people. They’re the ones who originally told me about mirrors.”
Alex shared a look with Jax.
“You told them about the rearview mirrors in their cars as well?” Alex asked.
“I did. They were quite embarrassed that they hadn’t thought of that long before now. They were mortified, in fact. They’re in the process of retracing their tracks over the last few years to try to identify anything that could have been put at risk because they hadn’t considered the mirrors in their cars.”
“Who the hell
She frowned and shook her head as if to say she couldn’t imagine and shared his concern.
“I have to tell you, Mike, it worries me that there are other people involved, other people who know our plans. It creates opportunities for trouble to find us.”
“Alex, I trust these people with my life.”
“Good for you, but I don’t know if I’m willing to trust them with mine, or Jax’s.”
“I can understand your concern, but I assure you, these people can be trusted.”
“Maybe so, but why can’t you take them the papers after I sign them? Why do you have to bring them in on this meeting?”
“Because these people are the board of directors of the Daggett Trust. The Daggett Trust has a large stake in this. The directors have to be there in order to make this happen. While the technicality is written in convoluted legal terms, what it boils down to is that they have to, in essence, approve of the title to the land going to you.”
“What do you mean, they have to approve it? I thought that if I meet the conditions of the inheritance, which I do, then the land goes to me.”
“Yes, that’s right. But their approval is one of those conditions, as is payment of the legal fees. You do recall me telling you about the fees, don’t you?”
Alex thought it an odd thing to bring up. “Yes. How much?”
“I don’t have the final figures on the expenses, yet, but it will be a little under ten thousand dollars.”
Alex thought the legal fees were pretty hefty, but he didn’t say so. He didn’t know how much work was involved or how much lawyers were supposed to cost in such matters. Throwing in the danger element, he supposed that it didn’t sound so out of line.
“What if they don’t approve for some reason?”
“Alex, believe me, these people are looking forward to you having the land in your name.”
“Because the inheritance of this particular piece of land has cast its shadow over a number of people for centuries before it finally settled on you. They know that the land is meant to go to you.”
“How would they know that I’m the one who is supposed to have it?”
There was a long pause before the man answered.
“Because of the Law of Nines.”
Alex almost dropped the phone. Jax’s face lost a little color.
The tires droned on against the pavement and made a rhythmic thump at every expansion joint in the road. Alex couldn’t figure out how the Daggett Trust fit into it all, or how these people would know anything about mirrors, much less the Law of Nines.
“Well?” he whispered to Jax.
She shrugged as she shook her head, as if to say that it made no sense to her, either.
“Alex, are you there?”
Alex cleared his throat. “Where is it you want to meet Hank and Jenna Croft?”
“At the Downeaster Motel in Bangor. The fastest route that will take you in the direction of the land trust is Interstate 95 up through the state. I thought it best to make the stop along that route, in Bangor. I figured that Bangor is a big enough place that it won’t be easy for them to watch as it would be a smaller town closer to the land.”
“That makes sense.”
“The Downeaster Motel is just off of Interstate 95 on Hammond Street, right there in Bangor. I’ll give you exact directions and the address when you get closer, but it’s not hard to find, just a right turn off I-95 north and go up a short distance.”
“All right. Don’t use the phone you’re using right now to call anyone else. Use it exclusively to call us. I see the number on the caller ID. I’ll call you along the way to let you know how we’re doing. If anyone but me calls you on that phone, destroy it and buy a new one and then call me immediately.”
“How long do you think it will take?”
“I don’t know. It’s starting to get dark here now. Probably close to another three days. I want to be careful and not draw attention to us. I also don’t want to show up exhausted and half asleep, either. Not being alert can get you in a world of hurt with these people. I’ll be able to give you a better arrival time as we get closer.”
“Call anytime, day or night. I will have this phone on me all the time.”
“Same here. If anything smells fishy, I want to know about it.”
“You’ve got it. I can assure you that we’re all being extremely careful.”
“What about the other people in your office? Does anyone else know about the land or me?”
“I am the office.”
“What do you mean?”
“There was only me and Walter Buckman. Mr. Lancaster died a number of years back in a car accident.”
That’s what had happened to Alex’s father, but he didn’t say so.
“You and Mr. Buckman handled everything with all your clients by yourselves? No secretaries? No assistants?”
“No, none. We only have one client: the Daggett Trust.”
Alex lifted an eyebrow to Jax.
“You need to consider everything that Walter Buckman knew and assume that they now know it all,” Jax said. “These people are perfectly willing to use any means necessary to get answers. Assume that if he liked salt on his eggs, they know how much.”
“We have already made that same assumption. We’ve taken efforts to close off any avenues his knowledge would have opened for them.”
“Let’s just hope that it’s not too late,” she said.
“All I can tell you is that we’ve done everything we can think of to minimize the risk. As you’ve said, these people are dangerous. We can’t entirely eliminate every single threat, but we’ve done what we can. Unless you have any other ideas?”
“No,” Jax said. “We know quite well how dangerous these people are, but we don’t know how many people they have, what they’ve been up to, or the specifics of what their plans are.”
“Other than knowing that these people are dangerous, we’re largely in the dark as to what’s going on,” Alex added, not completely, one hundred percent convinced that the man was not somehow connected with Radell Cain and trying to suck them into a trap. If Mike Fenton was on Cain’s side, Alex didn’t want to give the man the idea that Jax and he could provide answers he didn’t have. “You probably know more than we do. We’re hoping that when we meet, you can fill us in on just what this is all about.”
“Let’s stay in touch,” Mike said. “Keep me updated as you get closer.”
“I will. Good-bye for now,” Alex said.
Alex flipped the phone closed. He glanced over at Jax. “What do you think?”
“I don’t know.” Jax shook her head. “The Law of Nines is something from my world. It has to do with how things work in my world. I don’t see how anyone here could know about it.”
“It’s involved in my world now, too,” he reminded her. “So you think it’s another ambush?”
Her mouth twisted in thought as she considered for a moment. “I don’t know, but the man seems to ring true to me.”
“He could be conning us. I never suspected Dr. Hoffmann of working for Cain, or those nurses and orderlies being from your world.”
“The only thing I know for sure is that Cain would like nothing more than to capture you,” she said. “We can’t allow that.”
“What do you say we hope Mike Fenton and the others are on our side, but be prepared for them being on Cain’s.”
“That’s all we can do.”