Chapter Twenty-four

*Base Hit*

"I hate bloody puzzles." Jax muttered varied expletives through clenched teeth. It didn't help when Sabrina laughed at him. "Your sense of humor is not an asset at this time."

"In other words, you want me to shut up." She smirked. "Never in a million years would I see a resemblance between you and Stefan, but there it is. Blonde hair, green eyes and over usage of the Queen's language."

She had noticed a bizarre tile pattern on the wall in the kitchen area. Because of her keen eye, they decided that this must be a clue and decided to investigate. In other words, tear the wall apart. Jax had no idea how much time had passed, but judging by the numbness in his fingers, they'd been at it for awhile.

After much chipping and pulling, they met success. Exhaustion prevented Jax from doing a dance. "Can you fit through there?" he asked, pointing at the hole in the wall.

"Oh, yeah," she said. "I've dropped at least ten pounds." Her vibrant eyes sizzled, as she looked him over from head to toe. "I'd wager that you can fit, too. I'll go first."

She moved in, head first, leaving her rear open to his eager ogling. Desire ignited inside his brain and his pants. His hands itched to touch that glorious rounded backside. Yet, he resisted.

A few grunts and twists later, she completely disappeared. A loud thud followed her vanishing act.

"Oh, my God!"

Her cry brought a chill to his bones. He dived into the hole, shouting her name. "Sabrina, I'm coming!"

Hands grabbed him as he reached the other side. He struggled.

"Relax, Jax," Sabrina said. "They're helping."

He stopped and gave his helpers a good look. Were his eyes deceiving him? He recognized two faces--Sheena Adams and Cliff Montgomery--from his teenage years. As he stood, he stared at them and then at Sabrina. "What the hell is going on here?"

"Looks like an impromptu class reunion," Sabrina quipped.

"A reunion of childhood sweethearts," Sheena added.

Jax became still. His thoughts churned. "None of this was random after all."

~*~

"Buon giorno." Dawn stood aside as the bellhop delivered her luggage. When he moved to leave, she began to tip him. "Grazie."

The young man shook his head. "Grazie, signorina. No, non è necessario, ma grazie mille."

He backed from the room and Frisco appeared in the doorway. Her superior closed the door upon his entry.

"Did you tip him?" she asked. "He wouldn't take anything from me."

"It's all taken care of." Frisco shrugged. "Consider it a perk of the WSB. The Bureau handles everything."

"Sweet." She tossed her suitcase onto the bed and began to unpack.

He laughed. His gaze traveled around the room. "The rooms are well equipped, but if you need anything, let me know. That door connects our rooms."

Alarm bells sounded inside her head. She glanced over her shoulder at the door and then at Frisco. Color heightened his high cheekbones. The smile in his eyes contained a sensuous flame. She turned away, unsure if she should believe the hidden subtext that assaulted her mind.

"I'm sure I'll be fine."

"I'll keep it unlocked just in case."

A flicker of apprehension coursed through her. "Um…okay."

Don't think, she cautioned herself, just focus on the job. She hung up her last outfit, zipped the suitcase and stowed it inside the closet. When she turned around, she discovered that Frisco had plugged in and powered on her WSB issued laptop. She moved to stand behind his shoulder. The spicy scent of his cologne filled her senses and left a tingling sensation. She circled the table to sit on the opposite chair.

"What time are we meeting the others?"

"It's just us." The computer kept his full attention. "The others are in Paris."

What the fu--? All kinds of accusations came to mind. She knew better than to voice them. The sexual tension that burned between them could very well be a figment of her imagination. Frisco Jones was a handsome, powerful man. Pursuing an amateur spy was beneath him.

"Why are we here if they're in France?"

"We're putting your profile to work. Remember?" He plugged his Palm Pilot into the laptop. When he was done, he turned the computer off and pushed it across the table to her. "There's a safe in your closet. Keep this locked whenever it will be out of your sight. I downloaded your profile. Now, we'll see how accurate it is. Are you ready to interview your first suspect?"

Her eyebrows rose in amazement. "Ready? Yes!"

Frisco drove along the narrow, cobblestone streets with finesse. As they headed toward the countryside, he said, "Stay close to me at all times. You haven't been issued a weapon and I don't want anything to happen to you."

"Understood."

She felt calm in the face of impending danger. Her blood seemed to pump with renewed vigor. Adrenaline rush? Maybe, but whatever was going on, she knew she'd been born for this.

Less than an hour later, they turned onto a dirt road that led to a farmhouse. Chickens, goats and sheep roamed in wild abandon. As they left the car, she glanced toward the back. A pigpen sat behind the house and cows grazed on a hill.

Very easy access to pig and cow blood. She wondered who this person was.

"The animals could mean everything or nothing at all," Frisco advised, "but take note."

"Do they speak English or will you need me to interpret?"

Frisco briefly touched her back. "I'm fluent in Italian, too," he said with a gentle laugh, "but no, Ava Magnani speaks English."

"A woman. What's her connection to the victims?"

"She attended boarding school with the females."

Dawn frowned. "That's a stretch. How many students are enrolled at a boarding school at any given time?"

"They resided in the same dorm on the same floor," he replied. "She and two others are the only ones who haven't turned up missing with a calling card of animal blood left behind. Bears some investigation, don't you think?"

She nodded. "Definitely."

~*~

Jerry closed his cell phone with a practice turn of the wrist. He returned the phone to his belt clip and paused to look each member of his captive audience in the eye.

"Was that Frisco?" Keesha asked.

Jerry nodded. "It's possible he and his young recruit have solved the case."

A glint burned in Stefan's eyes. "Dawn Jensen accompanied him?"

"Yes, she completed the profile," Jerry stated. "I found it impressive, and I don't impress easily. She and Frisco will join us tomorrow.

"What did they find out?" Tommy exhibited pulsating energy as he perched on the edge of his seat.

"The link to the female victims is Ava Magnani--"

"She attended boarding school with Sabrina," Stefan interjected. "I remember because Sabrina often spoke of her. She duplicated my sister's efforts on many occasions. Her actions bothered Sabrina to no end."

"It sounds like she harbored an obsession," Jagger said. "Was she obsessed about the other females, too?"

Jerry nodded. "Like Sabrina, she has studied medicine. She's done some modeling per Sheena Adams another missing person and so on and so forth. She's made a career of copying her former classmates."

"Instances of obsession are always tricky," Keesha said. She cut a glance in Stefan's direction before settling her gaze on Jerry. "What do we next?"

"Magnani is being held for questioning. So far, there are no signs of breaking. I'm flying down tonight to have a few words with her. In the mean time, you and Jagger will investigate her properties and any known associates."

"What can Stefan and I do?" Tommy asked.

"Oh, you have the hardest task imaginable," Jerry said in a low voice.

"What's that?"

"Wait," Stefan answered.

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