Jaycee bit back the laughter. What a motley crew they were. Three women, one of whom was about to burst pregnant, a seven-year-old little girl, and a baby. But they were counting on that to throw their enemies off.
She motioned with her head for Wanda Kerr to take a seat on the leather couch with her daughter. They could have left the children in the hotel room with the woman while she and Laura talked with J. T.
But this way, they had eyes, ears, and Angel’s special senses out here watching their backs. It was a calculated risk, but at this moment, a very minor one. Whoever was working on the inside would not want to reveal themselves yet. Besides, what threat were an abuse victim and a little girl?
As she approached the desk where a young man sat, Jaycee smiled at Laura. “Good afternoon, Trent, isn’t it?” She extended her hand, noting that man’s surprise. Was that because she remembered the name of a supposedly inconsequential assistant? Was it their surprise visit? Or was there something behind that look? “I need to see J. T.”
Whatever the look had been, it was gone quickly behind a mask of smug, self-importance. “Mr. Tyler is a busy man. If you leave your name, a number where you can be reached, and what this is in regards to, I will relay your message.”
Jaycee was sure that her message would be relayed alright, but to whom? She nodded just slightly to Laura, “Oh no, I just changed her.” Her friend shoved the young assistant aside and laid Chloe in the center of his desk, and began unwrapping her daughter from the blankets.
Jaycee was not as confident in her ability to communicate mentally with her daughter as she was her husband, but she had to try. She smiled when Angel threw her crayons on the floor and stomped her foot, “No, I don’t want to color. I want ice cream. NOW!”
“Forgive me, precious,” she mumbled under her breath as she pinched the baby’s chunky thigh. Chloe added her wails of pain and outrage to Angel’s screams.
Trent shook his head, “I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to do that somewhere else.”
But the words were barely out of his mouth before Angel launched herself at the man, “Leave her alone. She’s just a baby, bad man.”
Jaycee had slowly moved around the man and closer to the door. As Trent tried to extricate himself from her daughter’s death grip, she threw open J. T.’s door. Shit, she was not pleased with what, or rather who, she found with the man.
“Jaycee, what are you doing here?”
Oh, well, there was nothing to be done about it now. Besides, they had factored this into their plan. “Delivering Diego Garcia into your hands and wrapping up the McBride case for you.” That should get the other men’s attention.
Jaycee knew it was more than coincidence that Agent Saunders and Special Supervisory Agent Stephens were both with J. T. For a heartbeat, she even questioned whether her old friend had sold out his beliefs, too. If they were wrong, if J. T. were working with Garcia also, then she was almost certainly condemning good men to their deaths, including her husband and the father of her baby.
“This had better be good, Jaycee,” her eyes met his, and she hesitated.
“Mommy,” she turned to see Angel in the doorway behind her. Her daughter smiled as she felt the brush in her mind. Reassurance. “I need to pee.”
Jaycee almost burst out laughing at the looks of utter disgust on the agents’ faces. Obviously, the men were not fathers, not used to be around children. J. T. just snickered, “She’s your child alright, Jaycee. Go, get her settled. We were just finishing up here. Then we’ll talk. I’m assuming it can wait five minutes?”
She smiled and nodded, so Tyler had listened to those seeds of doubt she had planted last time. How much was he aware of? She heard the grumbles as she escorted Angel out, “As lead investigator, I should be…”
Now that they had J. T.’s attention, she and Laura settled their girls quickly with Wanda. She had never thought to see her client again when she placed her and her daughters in the underground network for domestic abuse. So when the woman showed up with Laura’s mother and the others from Arizona, she had been alarmed.
But she, of all people, understood the need to find closure with your abuser. Most days, she thought that she had. Then something would happen to trigger some memory, and she would wonder if she would ever be free of Sean Riley.
Without any special skills or knowledge that would help in Mexico, they had decided it was best if the woman remained behind. Though, Jaycee had a bad feeling about the whole thing. Instead, she would have put the woman on a bus or plane back to Arizona and her daughters, but Wanda insisted that her Fate lay here. Grandfather had agreed, and Jaycee was learning not to argue with the old man.
With Chloe asleep in Wanda’s arms and Angel quietly reading a book, she and Laura were ready when the door opened, and J. T. ushered out the other two men. Stephens was obviously displeased, but the men could not take any action without revealing themselves prematurely as they had counted on.
“I’ll await your updates,” the man looked pointedly at her and Laura. His nose curled at the other woman and children.
J. T. nodded and motioned for them to come in. Both men stood half-blocking the doorway, close enough to hear everything said. Though Jaycee would bet, they did not need to. She smiled and nodded as she walked past them, pulling the door closed behind them.
“Okay, Jaycee, what is all this drama about?” J. T. took his seat behind the impressive antique desk that went with the office and post of U. S. Attorney for the Southern District, Texas.
Laura spoke as Jaycee pulled her yellow legal pad from her overly large purse and went to her friend’s side. She laid it on the desk and began to write, ‘Play along with what she says.’
J. T. frowned but nodded as Laura started to speak, “I know that Diego Garcia has been one of your suspects as the money behind McBride. What if I told you that you were right?”
“How do you know that? He’s just one of the possibilities.”
“Because my sister and your former Agent Caleb Williams have been undercover in Torreon for the past few weeks.”
“Is this the preacher’s wife or the librarian that shot the sheriff?”
Laura laughed, “You take a guess.”
“I’m not here to play any games, Ms. Reynolds.”
“Laura Valeria Garcia-Reynolds. Do you want to guess where the Garcia came from, Mr. Tyler? I know that your office had a file on me. Why didn’t you ever connect the dots?”
“You’re telling me that you are related to Diego Garcia? That you’re the connection between the cartel and McBride? You know I can have you arrested right here. Your child taken into the care of social services. Maybe I should read you your rights…”
“I know my rights. And the answer to your first question is yes. Diego Garcia is our half-brother. Our father, Ignacio, was, or more accurately is, married to his mother. But no, I am not and never have been involved with that side of the family.”
“But Mercy used our father to infiltrate the Garcia compound. You should know that they have Callie McBride now.”
“So that’s what happened to his wife and child. I’m sorry to hear that. Not just because we had hoped Mrs. McBride might have more information than we had thought. But well, Garcia is not the type…”
“To leave witnesses?”
He nodded his head, “And that’s where we need your help, Tyler.” This time it was Jaycee who spoke. “My husband and his cousin Ryan, remember I told you that former Agent Ryan Ranger and Rex were cousins? They have gone to Torreon to help Mercy and Will rescue Callie McBride.”
“And you want me to commit federal agents to this mess? With no evidence? Hearsay? You know I can’t do that, Jaycee.”
“No, we understand that you can’t commit your resources to an unauthorized covert action, J. T. But you can take custody of Callie McBride. You can use her testimony to arrest and convict Garcia.”
“When? Where? And what do you want out of this deal?”
“We want all charges against Ryan, Will, Mercy, and Laura dropped. If we deliver Callie McBride to your custody on Monday at noon. The border at Laredo.”
“Jaycee, you know I can’t grant immunity like that. Not without taking their depositions, gathering more evidence.”
She nodded and smiled as she scribbled, ‘Tonight seven, the park near your house, bring the kids.’
“Alright, J. T., have it your way. If you change your mind, you can reach us at the Motel Nine on Studemont Street, room two-forty-six.” On the pad, she wrote, ‘Send agents you trust there.’ She passed him the keycard for the room.
Her friend frowned but nodded. “I’m sorry that I could not be of any more assistance. I wish I could help your husband. But his cousin should have known better than to try something like this on their own. If they had come to me, brought me evidence first. But the law is the law, Jaycee. You know that.”
Jaycee nodded to Laura, who stood up from the chair across from his desk. “Ms. Reynolds, I need you to stay in town. We may have further questions once I consult my lead investigator.”
“Of course, you know where to find us.”
They left his office, huddled together, their heads down. “Trent, get me Stephens on the phone, now.” Jaycee could not stifle the chuckle, but she made certain that it sounded more like a sob. Wanda and the girls joined them as they headed towards the door.
“What now?” the woman asked.
“Back to the hotel,” Jaycee said loudly enough to be overheard. But she turned back and looked up long enough to see J. T. nod his head at her. She only hoped their ruse had worked. Lives depended on it. Including Rex’s. Perhaps even theirs.
“You can trust him, Mommy,” Angel whispered as they left the office.