A shrill ring sang out from the cell phone tucked in Nick Jackson’s pocket, echoing loudly in his Lieutenant’s cramped office.
Nick yanked the phone out of his pocket, intent on silencing it before asking his boss to let him come back to duty early from medical leave. While he didn’t relish pushing papers, it beat sitting at home alone. Glancing at the display, he swore. Scowling, he flipped open the phone.
“Sheriff Daniels, to what do I owe this surprise? And how in the hell did you get this number?” Craig Daniels was the sheriff in his hometown of Harbour Springs and a friend from high school. One of the few straight friends Nick had retained from that time.
“Nick, the dojo was broken into a couple hours ago—”
“So call why are you calling me?” Nick demanded.
“We can’t find Tristan. He isn’t answering either of his phones, and you’re still on the lease,” Craig stated flatly, his voice giving away his regret, one cop to another.
Nick’s heart stopped, and he dropped into the seat behind him. “What do you mean you can’t find him?”
“Just that, Nick. He’s not at the house, not at the dojo, and not answering his phone. And his sister wants to file a missing persons report. She claims he hasn’t been answering his phone for a couple days.”
“Amberlee’s involved? I’ll be there tonight.”
“There’s storm coming in.”
“It’s winter. There usually is.” Nick snapped shut the phone and ran his hands through his hair. Unadulterated fear coursed through his veins, demanding he return to Harbour Springs immediately. His mind raced with myriad details that had to be accomplished if he wanted to leave within the hour.
Nick looked up, stunned to see Lieutenant Tony Simmons sitting on the corner of his desk, the door closed, concern etched in the hard edges of his eyes. It was a look Nick had seen before, the look of a concerned father when one of his kids screwed up or was in trouble.
“Um, Tristan, my ex, is missing. I need to go home,” Nick answered, stumbling through the words.
“In that case, take the time you need, keep us posted and your request to return to work early has been denied,” Tony answered easily. “Go home and find him.”
* * * *
Had it been a week since that call? Nick looked from the Glock in his lap to the sleeping form on the bed. They’d found Tristan McTavish, his boyfriend—no his ex-boyfriend—that night in an abandoned one-room shack seven hundred metres behind the log cabin Nick and Tristan had once shared. Tristan had been disoriented and shaking, his body over-sensitised.
Nick rubbed a hand over his face, trying to scrub away the memory. Tristan had been chained naked to a wall, his face encased in a leather hood, a wool blanket thrown over him. A space heater had been turned on, but it hadn’t been enough to warm the shack, and hypothermia had set in.
The phone on the nightstand next to Nick began to vibrate, pulling him from the memory. “What’s up, Craig?” Nick asked, peering at his watch.
“Gamma Hydroxybutric Acid.”
“GHB? That’s what was in the baggie?” Nick jumped to his feet and padded out of the master bedroom not wanting to wake Tristan. “Are they sure?”
“Yes. There weren’t any traces in Tristan’s blood or urine, but it only lasts about twelve hours in the system.”
“Well, that explains the amnesia. What about the rape kit?” Nick asked, checking all of the locks on the doors and windows.
“I don’t think rape was the intention. It would have been easier to rape him at the house,” Nick said, returning to Tristan’s bedroom. “We know he put up a fight once chained. They might have used the drugs to get him to come along peacefully.”
“Makes sense. There weren’t any prints in the cabin or on the cuffs. Which means the attacker either used gloves or—”
“Or doesn’t sweat enough to leave them,” Nick finished, returning to the wingback chair he and Craig had moved into the bedroom when Tristan returned home from the hospital. “Probably gloves. Maybe thick winter ones. It would add to the confusion, especially if Tristan were to remember anything from then.”
“Plenty to think about. Thanks.”
Nick hung up the phone and propped his feet up on the ottoman.
The results confirmed what he’d suspected, someone was terrorising Tristan. The question was why. The quick search he and Craig had done of the house when he’d first arrived in town had yielded a box containing several photos and a bloodstained shirt.
The shirt was Nick’s, but he knew the blood wasn’t. He’d been in uniform when he’d been shot, but Tristan wouldn’t have known that. Everything had been sent to the lab in Grand Rapids for analysis, priority had been given, but there was no guarantee when they would get back the results, or if there were anything useable.
The photos were more than a little disturbing. They were of his apartment, him in the hospital, leaving the building when he’d been shot, and at the station some time beforehand. For that one, someone had had drawn a bulls-eye target around his head.
The notes he and Craig had found ranged from a simple demand to leave town to more graphic promises of torment and torture. Logically, he knew everyone was a suspect. The first to enter his mind were Tristan’s father and three of his brothers – Paul, Mike, and John Jr. He couldn’t dismiss a jealous lover or jilted one. He still wasn’t sure if Tristan had a boyfriend or lover, but he felt certain he did. Of course, it could be Amberlee, also, using the missing person routine as a ruse. He still couldn’t pinpoint a reason. If someone were trying to win Tristan’s affections, there were much easier ways, ones that didn’t include Nick. Why bring an ex-lover back into the picture, even if they were after him, it didn’t make sense for Tristan to be a target.