Part 2 - Chapter 28 - A Talisman Tells the Story

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I raced north on highway 101 in my Subaru. Brett braced his hands against the dashboard. "Slow down, B.G., this isn't a sports car, you'll roll us."

Approaching midnight, traffic was light, and I was passing every car I overtook. I wanted to go faster, but Brett advised that getting pulled over would only slow us down. He was right, but I couldn't purge from my mind the unimaginable that might be playing out this moment at the Morgan residence. What did Myna and Alex do to Officer Gilbert when he rang the doorbell? What about the Morgans? Did they take Hailee to some other location?

Brett remained silent, worry lines etched on his face. He bragged about his youthful appearance. Right now, he looked forty.

We finally arrived at the exit that put us onto Oxnard Boulevard. I turned toward the Channel Islands and glanced at Brett. "How do you think we should do this? We have no weapons."

"We aren't going to surprise anybody any more. Drive directly to the house." 

I pulled the Subaru to the curb and shut off the engine. We jumped out.

In front of the Morgans' house sat a parked police cruiser. Officer Gilbert's, I assumed. In the driveway, I saw a large SUV, rear end to the garage door as if poised to make a quick getaway.

"Does that SUV belong to the Morgans?" I asked in a whisper, having never seen either of their vehicles.

Brett took a long look. "Don't know."

"If it belongs to Myna and Alex, then they're still here."

"Let's not keep them waiting." Brett jogged toward the porch and front door. The two of us took up positions, one on each side of the front door. I felt completely naked without my Vaquero. We paused to listen. No sounds.

I sneaked a glance into the living room window. "Don't see anybody. The place looks deserted and undisturbed."

Brett tried the doorknob. "It's unlocked."

"I'll go first."

"No way, B.G."

"Well then, take it slow and quiet."

Brett eased open the door. The hinges creaked. Brett stepped onto the tile floor in the vestibule. No reaction from inside. I followed.

"I'll search down here," Brett whispered. "You take upstairs."

"No. We stay together. It's safer."

He didn't argue, and we quietly searched each of the downstairs rooms starting with Mr. Morgan's home office. The shotguns and rifle in his gun cabinet were undisturbed.

We entered the kitchen and found plates and glasses heaped in the sink. A gallon jug of milk sat on the counter. "Looks like everyone left in a hurry," I said, "but we need to check upstairs."

"If nobody is here, then we're screwed, B.G. We'll never find them, and I doubt you'll receive another call since you mishandled everything so badly."

I squeezed shut my eyes and blocked out that thought. "No blood. No evidence of a struggle. That's encouraging."

Retreating from the kitchen, I headed for the staircase. As we climbed, I became aware of the family photos I saw hanging on the wall during my previous visit. I avoided looking at them. I got an irrational fear that if I looked, it would result in bad luck.

I stepped onto the landing. Which way? I started down the hall toward Hailee's room. Brett separated from me and headed the other direction.

Approaching Hailee's bedroom door, I saw the door was closed. I laid my hand on the doorknob and hesitated, fearful of what I might find. I took a breath, swallowed, and opened the door.

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