Home > Cry No More(12)

Cry No More(12)
Author: Linda Howard

She came to lying propped against Brian’s knee, while he anxiously patted her face, her shoulder, her arm. “Milla? Milla! Wake up!”

“I’m awake,” she mumbled, the words slurred. “Nap.”

“Nap? You took a nap?” Disbelief made his voice get louder.

She fought to gather her scattered wits, but she felt as if she were underwater, every movement an effort. “No. Man—jumped me.”

“What? Shit!” Brian’s head came up and he glared around him. “They must have had a lookout that we didn’t spot.”

Slowly she heaved her weight off his knee and sat up. Her entire body ached, as if she’d been slammed to the ground. Oh, wait—she had been.

“No, he wasn’t one of them.”

“How do you know?”

“He told me he’d break my neck if I made a sound.” And he’d come close to doing it anyway, if the way her throat felt was any measure of his intent.

“Why would he do that, unless—”

“—he was watching them, too,” Milla finished, when Brian broke off the sentence as he worked through the logic.

“But why jump you? We were just watching. He could have stayed where he was and we’d never have known.”

Anguish tore through her as she remembered how close she’d been to the man who’d taken Justin. She closed her eyes. “I was about to do something stupid.”

“Like what? You don’t do stupid things.”

“One of the men in the second car—the passenger—is the one who stole Justin.”

Brian drew in a long breath, then blew it out. “Shit. Damn.” He was silent a moment. “I guess you were going to go for him, huh? Even though there were four of them?”

Her silence was answer enough. She pulled off her baseball cap and ran her hands through her matted curls. “I’ve dreamed of seeing him again. I’ve thought of it for ten years, imagined getting my hands on him. I was going to choke answers out of him, if I died doing it.”

“And you would have; all four of them were packing, in case you didn’t notice.”

She hadn’t; after seeing the face that had haunted her dreams for a decade, she hadn’t noticed anything else. Evidently the guy who’d jumped her had inadvertently saved her life.

Groaning, she got to her feet. The blanket she’d had draped over her was lying a few feet away, and she retrieved it. The night-vision scope had rolled against the base of the adjacent tombstone. The pistol that had been in her pocket, however, was gone. Her assailant must have taken it.

The headache she’d had earlier was back with sickening force, pounding in her temples, and she felt slightly nauseated. “Let’s go home,” she said tiredly. She’d come so close, but achieved nothing. The bitterness of it was an ashy taste in her mouth.

Silently they made their way back to the truck. As they passed the cantina, fury rose in her again and impulsively she turned, shoving the door open so hard it banged against the wall. Rough, startled faces turned toward her, hazy in the dim light of the smoke-filled little room.

She didn’t step inside. Instead she said, in the Spanish she’d honed over the years, “My name is Milla Edge. I work for Finders in El Paso. I will pay ten thousand American dollars to anyone who can tell me how to find Diaz.”

There had to be a million Diazes in Mexico, but judging from the sudden stillness of the men in the cantina, they all knew who she meant. Rewards had been offered before, of course; ten years ago, there had been one for any information about the kidnapping of Justin Boone. She also regularly handed out bribes, mordidas, and paid what seemed like a small army of informants. Announcing a reward in a dingy little cantina in a tiny village probably wouldn’t produce any different results, but at least she felt as if she was doing something. The man who’d destroyed her life ten years ago had just been here in this village, behind the church, and “Diaz” was the only possibility she had for his name. A stab in the dark sometimes brought blood.

Women weren’t welcome in Mexican cantinas unless they were prostitutes. One of the men began to get to his feet, and Brian stepped up close behind her, making his imposing presence known. “Let’s go,” he said, taking her arm, and the force of his grip said he wasn’t kidding.

She climbed into the disreputable truck and Brian got in behind her. The motor fired as soon as he turned the key, and they were already in motion when two of the cantina’s patrons stepped to the door and watched them drive away.

“What was that for?” Brian demanded hotly. “You always tell us not to take chances, then you walk into a cantina? That’s just asking for trouble.”

“I didn’t go inside.” She rubbed her forehead and sighed. “You’re right. I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking. The sight of him—after all these years . . .” Her voice thickened and she swallowed. “I’m sorry,” she said again, staring through the duct-taped windshield into the night.

Having said his piece, Brian didn’t keep on nagging at her. He concentrated on his driving, on the lookout for potholes, cows, and people driving without headlights.

Milla’s nails dug into her palms. Ten years had passed since she’d seen his evil face. She hoped they had been long, miserable years for him, though there was no way they could have been as long and as miserable as they’d been for her. She hoped he suffered from some medical condition that was incurable and hideously painful, but nonfatal. She wanted him to live a horrible existence, but she didn’t want him to die. Not yet. Not until she got the information she needed from him, and found Justin. Then she would gladly kill him herself. He had destroyed her, so why shouldn’t she destroy him in return?

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