"Fire Games"

Marc sat across Amber Bennett in the small interview room and studied her. It was no secret she was hiding something. He could see it in her big brown eyes and the way she pursed her full lips before she spoke. But he’d had enough of her lies and half-truths. Tonight he was going to get his answers.

“We need to find him, Ms. Bennett. He’s the key to helping us find Maggie Davis.”

Amber sat staring at the photos he’d placed before her, blinking back tears. He deliberately placed the photo of Marcy Davis and her daughter, Maggie, beside her brother’s mug shot to gain a reaction. And hopefully her cooperation.

The feminine replica of Austen Bennett’s face finally looked up at him and he was again caught off guard by his reaction to her.

“I'm sorry about what happened to that little girl and her mother, but Austen had nothing to do with that.”

Marc tamed the frustration that threatened to erupt inside him. Anger and swearing hadn’t helped him get through to her before so he would try a different approach.

He leaned over the table and said with forced understanding, “I know you’re just trying to protect your brother, but someone just tried to kill you today and I have a ten-year-old girl missing. If he has nothing to hide then why is he on the run? Why isn’t he here answering my questions instead of you?”

Her eyes widened in horror. “You think that guy was trying to kill me?”

She couldn’t be that na├»ve. She could’ve been raped, tortured, murdered–any number of things. Just picturing her bloody and bruised almost made him sick with rage. He brushed the unorthodox feelings aside and asked a question of his own. “What makes you think he wasn't?”

She pursed her lips and he again noticed the telltale act. “Maybe… maybe he was there to rob us.”

Marc thought back at the small house and couldn’t imagine why a thief would want to target such a modest home. Unless there was something of value only the owner and the thief knew about.

“Okay. So let’s say this thief decides to greet you at the front door with his face exposed. What would he be looking for?”

Seeing the illogic of her thoughts, she fixed him with one of her wide-eyed stares and shrugged.

The action annoyed Marc into hanging up his patience and understanding. “Well, I think you do know,” he snapped and she began frantically shaking her head. “I think you know exactly what that “thief” was looking for, I think you know exactly where your brother is, and I think you know deep down that he’s a cruel, sadistic killer.”

“No!”

Marc sat back, surprised by the furious outburst.

“Austen may not be perfect but he’s no monster.”

Silence occupied the room before he spoke again. “Then where is he Amber?”

To his surprise, tears began to fall unchecked down her smooth, dark cheeks. “I don’t know,” she whispered then buried her face in her hands and broke down in sobs.

He felt awkward and unsure of what to do. He didn’t know how to deal with tears but that didn’t stop him from getting out of his seat and pulling her into his arms. It was against protocol, but he couldn’t stand to see her harboring such misery alone.

“Let me help you,” he whispered into her ear.

Her sobs quieted and she pulled away from him, defeated. That didn’t sit well with him. He wanted her trust, not her beaten down spirit.

She sat down and stared at her hands. “Ever since we were kids, Austen liked playing with fire. Once, he took our mother’s car joy riding. And we were just seven.” She shook her head when she added that detail. “He’s always been a bit of a risk taker, a dare-devil, but he’s no kidnapper. Or killer.”

“We have evidence at the crime scene that he was involved.”

“No, you have evidence that someone’s trying to frame him,” she said with conviction. “I think he’s gotten mixed up with some really dangerous people who are trying to ruin his life–or worst, hurt him.”

“How can you be sure of that?”

“I know my brother. Last night was the first time in weeks that I’ve heard from him and he was in a panic. Austen never panics and that scared me. He told me to leave town that night but I waited until today.”

Marc processed what she told him and didn’t know what to believe. Everything she said was consistent with what had happened so far but he still needed to get his hands on Austen Bennett.

However, her bastard brother was even smarter than Marc thought. He knew the only way they could get him was through his twin sister so he was scaring her into hiding. Marc looked at Amber and an idea began to form. He still had a murder to solve and a ten-year-old girl to find. He’d do what needed to be done to draw Austen out.

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