Home > Cut and Run(5)

Cut and Run(5)
Author: Mary Burton

She thanked the board, the shelter’s director, Tina, and reminded everyone to “give until it hurts just a little, or better, a lot.” She exited the stage, suddenly able to justify that second martini.

“Dr. McIntyre, want a snack?” The question came from Kat Jones, one of the kids who currently resided at the shelter. Kat had been in and out of foster homes until two months ago, when her pregnancy was discovered and she was branded as “difficult.” For now, the shelter was all that stood between her and the streets.

Faith thanked the bartender and faced the young girl holding a tray of hors d’oeuvres. “Thanks, Kat. I’m not that hungry.”

Kat wrinkled her nose. “I don’t blame you. This fishy stuff smells like shark bait.”

“It’s wild salmon from Iceland and very expensive.”

“I guess you need bait to catch big fish, right?” The girl’s small, delicate face didn’t quite jive with the dark-brown hair streaked with purple and green or the multiple piercings in each ear.

Faith laughed. “That’s exactly what it is.”

The kid was smart. If someone gave her a textbook, she would balk. However, when Faith gifted her with a reconditioned laptop, the kid had spent hours reading and working online. Despite her keen intelligence, Kat had been on a long and rocky road to a better life since the day she was born. And this pregnancy had heaped another huge obstacle onto her path. Happy endings for girls like Kat were few and far between.

“So that’s your second drink,” Kat said. “Craving liquid courage?”

Not courage, but maybe a brief respite from memories of today’s autopsy. “I’m going to be calling it a night soon and will hire a car.”

“But it’s only nine.”

“I’ve been up since five.”

“I guess you could leave now,” Kat said, leaning toward Faith a fraction. “But if you do, you’ll miss the Texas Ranger standing at five o’clock. He’s staring at you.”

Faith didn’t need to turn to know the Texas Ranger was Mitchell Hayden.

“Tell me you aren’t in trouble,” Kat said. “He looks like he wants to arrest someone.”

“I’m not in trouble. But how about you? Are you still maintaining our noncybercrime pact? No hacking into systems to snoop around.”

Kat shrugged a thin shoulder, as if they were talking about simply surfing the net. “I haven’t broken any laws.”

Faith didn’t press. The kid was trying, and that was good enough for her. “Good. Would you offer that gentleman by the bar more food?”

Kat rolled her eyes. “That guy has eaten almost two trays on his own.”

“He and his wife donated the land for the shelter. It would be nice to keep him happy.”

Kat didn’t move. “The Ranger doesn’t look happy.”

He never did. “I’ll handle him.”

“Fine. Whatever.” Shrugging, Kat strode over to the judge.

Faith waited until the girl was out of earshot before she approached Hayden. “Good evening, Captain Hayden. I didn’t think you’d make it.”

The times she’d seen Hayden and his late wife together made her believe soul mates did in fact exist. After Sierra’s death, he’d left Austin to work near the border, but now after four years, he was back with a new promotion that he was still trying on for size.

“Nice award,” Hayden said.

She held it up so he could see Sierra’s name. “It’s an honor.”

He studied the etched words with a silent, deliberate presence that made her skin tingle and her soul tinge with guilt.

Three weeks ago, she’d attended the site visit for this event. The committee had toured the hotel for almost an hour. After the group had dispersed, she’d been in no rush to go home, so she’d wandered into the hotel bar. She’d been sipping a martini when he’d tossed his Cattleman felt hat on the bar beside her. She’d waved away his apology for having missed the meeting, ordered him a bourbon, and made small talk. He’d never mentioned his Kevlar vest, which had caught a slug that morning, but after a long pause had said he was staying at the hotel. And, well, one thing led to another.

The sex had been purely physical. No kissing. No talk of affection. No one was looking for a soul mate. And it suited them both. Since then, they’d met at this hotel six times. Both had seemed to accept it wouldn’t last, so each had taken care to keep the affair secret.

His dark gaze swept quickly over her white blouse and slacks. “Did you raise a lot of money tonight?”

“Yep, and then some.”

“Sorry I was late.”

“No apologies.”

“Any word from Jack Crow’s daughter?”

“I left her a voicemail message,” she said.

Death was a constant factor in her line of work, but she never wanted to dwell on it.

“Room 701,” he offered.

A tingle shot up her spine. “I hope you got a room with a view.”

“It has a bed.”

“That’ll do.”

Mitchell Hayden wasn’t pretty boy handsome. His eyes were too deep set and his jaw too broad to resemble anything classical. Toss in a nose that looked as if it had been broken once or twice, and you ended up with a face that resembled a street brawler’s. There was a sharp intelligence in those gray eyes that missed little. When Faith was in his sights, just for a little while, she forgot about the youth center, Kat’s precarious future, and Jack Crow.

“I’ll need another half hour here,” she said.

“No rush.”

Kat approached the two of them with a tray holding a fresh martini and bourbon. “Last call.”

Faith drew in a breath as she swapped her partly drunk martini for the new. She didn’t hide her irritation that this underage girl was thumbing her nose at state and federal law by serving alcohol.

Hayden took the bourbon. “How old are you, kid?”

“Twenty-six,” Kat said without pausing.

He shook his head as he sipped. “What year were you born in?”


He grinned. “You’re quick. I’ll give you that. But pick up another tray with booze on it, and I’ll call your caseworker.”

Kat rolled her eyes as if she hated the attention, but Faith knew the stunt was designed specifically to elicit a response. Negative attention was better than none.

“Roger that, Captain.” Kat made a show of saluting. “The bus is leaving for the shelter. Thanks for the gig, Faith.”

“Glad you could make it. Don’t forget I’m taking you to your prenatal visit on Wednesday.”

“Can’t wait.” A bit of Kat’s attitude faded as it always did when the baby was mentioned. She left the two, sauntering across the room as if daring the bus to leave her.

“What’s that kid’s story?” Hayden asked.

He’d always paid close attention when Faith had made presentations at the board meetings, but he rarely asked questions about the kids at the shelter. Both he and his sister had made generous donations in Sierra’s name, but they always remained on the periphery.

“She’s smart as a whip. Knows computers inside and out. Mother used drugs, and father laundered money for a drug cartel. Both are now dead. The last foster family kicked her out after they found out about the baby, so the shelter is her best bet now. She’ll turn eighteen in December, and then I’m not sure what’s next for her.”

“Who’s the baby’s father?”

“She won’t say. And for the record, she didn’t serve any booze tonight. That tray was her way of trying to provoke a reaction.”

“Out of me or you?”

“Me. She’s been needling me for a few weeks.”


“She’s looking for a lifeline. She knows she’s drowning but doesn’t know how to save herself.”

“And you’re going to save her?”

“If she’ll let me.”

The shelter director and Margaret motioned Faith forward as the local television station crew arrived to film her and a few donors. “I’ve a couple of details to wrap up. No need for you to stick around.”

“I’ve nowhere to be.”

“Suit yourself,” she said. She crossed the ballroom to the reporter, spoke on camera for several minutes, visited with the guests, and kissed Margaret on the cheek. When she was finished speaking to the hotel staff, it was past ten.

She looked around the room, but she didn’t see Hayden. His patience for the tedious side of her life had its limits. She left the ballroom and headed toward the lobby. Her heels clicked across the marble floor as she made her way to the elevator.

“Dr. McIntyre?”

She turned and saw a tall, lean man with a neatly shaved face and warm brown eyes. Midforties, smartly dressed in a gray suit and a shirt of a similar but lighter shade.

“Have we met?” she asked.

He held out his hand. “Kevin. I saw the event sign with your picture and thought you were someone else for a moment. Then I recognized the McIntyre name. I knew your father.”

“Should I apologize now?” She accepted his hand.

White teeth flashed. “No. He didn’t cross-examine me. Good thing, I suppose. He was known as a real tough nut in his time.”

If by “tough nut” he meant “ruthless legal shark,” then yes. “That he was, Kevin.”

“I just saw you crossing the lobby, and I wanted to introduce myself. Would you like to grab a drink in the bar?”

“No, thank you. It’s been a long day.”

Rejection slid off him like water off a duck. “Maybe we’ll catch up again some time.”

“Have a good evening, Kevin.”

“You, too, Faith.”

Faith sensed that under all his sleek manners and polish lurked an ulterior motive. She’d dealt with several men like him since her father’s death. Wearing nice suits, they came bearing law degrees and threats. And as she’d told them all, Russell McIntyre might have been worth a fortune once, but it was all gone. What she had now had either been left to her by her mother or she’d earned herself. Stones didn’t bleed, no matter how hard you squeezed.

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