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She recognized a young Chase, probably thirteen, tall and a little lanky, but already showing signs of becoming a man. The girl, who looked like his sister, was one of the girls in the first photo. Della sighed, thinking about her own sister, and how little they were a part of each other’s lives now.
Touching the glass, she passed her finger over the images of the other people.
Family. Family lost. Her chest suddenly felt empty remembering the pictures of her own family. Pictures now hidden in a drawer, not on public display. Did that mean losing someone to death was easier than watching them turn their backs on you?
She studied Chase’s image in the photo. Happy. Surrounded by people he loved. Now they were gone. She supposed it hurt both ways.
Her sinuses began to sting. Swallowing, she put the picture back.
Baxter inched closer to her and sat next to her leg. The animal stared up with intensity. His gaze didn’t come off threatening, just evaluating.
She dropped her hand and let him smell her again. He bumped her knuckles with his wet nose and breathed in her scent. Not just once, but twice. Slowly, his tail began to wag, and he moved in closer, lovingly leaning his head against her leg.
It was almost as if the dog could smell Chase’s blood inside of her. Was that possible? Did she smell different now that she had his blood? She lifted her hand up and sniffed her own wrist near her vein. She didn’t detect anything different.
She knelt down and stared into his large brown eyes.
She leaned close to the dog’s ear. “I’m not out to hurt him, just work with him.” She whispered the words so low Chase wouldn’t hear. “Not that I haven’t wanted to kick his ass a couple of times.” She ran her hand over the dog’s side.
Moving her hand up, she touched the collar and felt some engraving in soft, aged leather. Brushing the hair back, she turned the collar in a circle to read the inscription.
The tap of footsteps moved into the room. “Never turn your back on a challenge,” she repeated what she’d read. “Is that for the dog or you?”
“Both,” he said.
A flash of emotion touched his eyes. She had a feeling the saying meant something, but what? She batted back the curiosity. She was here to work the case, not get chummy.
“You two made friends?”
He held two files in his hands.
“Looks like it.” Della stood and walked to the large table. The dog followed her and rubbed against Chase as he joined them in the center of the room.
She dropped into a chair. Chase sat in the one next to her. Not so close their shoulders touched, but close enough she thought about his nearness.
He nudged the files over to her, his brows tightened. “I’ve already gone over them. Dozens of times. I’m not sure they are going to help. Getting more information would require we pay either Craig Anthony or one of his hired goons a visit. I have a feeling the FRU won’t allow it.”
“Burnett will allow it,” she said, certain Burnett would do everything in his power to save someone. She pulled the files closer.
“All we have are two possible names. There’s nothing in there that can tell me which one is our Natasha. And while having a name seems important, I’m not even sure that will help us.”
“It has to.” Della flipped open the first file.
She scanned quickly, looking for … she found the name of Natasha Owen’s mother. Jenny Owen. “It’s not Natasha Owen.” She closed it and reached for the other one.
Chase put his hand on top of the file. “How do you know?”
She decided not to lie. “Because her mother’s name isn’t Asian.” There was a slight possibility that Natasha’s mom might have taken on an American name. Lots of Asians did that, but usually it was the younger ones. Someone older than thirty or forty normally held tight to the culture of their parents.
“What? How? I don’t understand,” he said.
“Natasha’s half Asian.” She tried to pull the file from under his hand, but he flattened his palm on top of it.
“How do you know that? It was so dark in that vision that you … you couldn’t have seen her.”
“I didn’t.” She lifted up off the chair and pulled the picture from her back pocket. “But I’ve got this.” She considered not showing it to him until he released the file. But she was tired of playing games. They had to trust each other.
Not on a personal level, she reminded herself, still believing he held secrets, but enough to work on the case.
Enough to save two people … two people possibly in love, who needed and deserved to be saved.
Save Natasha.
She handed him the picture and cut her eyes around the room.
He studied the photo.
“Turn it over,” she said.
He did and then looked back up at her as if puzzled. “Turn it over to see what?”
He handed her back the picture. Her breath caught.
“I don’t … But it was … There were names here earlier. It had the name ‘Natasha,’ along with my aunt’s and Chan’s.” Glancing up, hit hard by the doubt in his eyes, she frowned. “I’m telling the truth!”
She stared again at the pristine white, unmarked back of the picture. Oh, hell, was her mind playing tricks on her?
Or was it the ghost?
*   *   *
Della looked at Chase standing by his refrigerator. “It was there earlier,” she said for the tenth time in the last five minutes.