Full Scoop(7)

By: Janet Evanovich

"He wouldn't sleep like that if he knew how bad he looked," Jamie said.

Maggie checked her wristwatch. "I can only stay a minute. I have to get my goat home in time to pick up Mel at school." She rolled her eyes. " 'Get my goat home'? That sounds too weird."

"I have a weird life too," Jamie said, "so I can relate." She motioned for Maggie to take a seat in her small sitting area. "Okay, here's the deal. I didn't call you in here to discuss the ad. Vera came across an article from the Associated Press," she said, indicating the printout she held. "I can't think of a way to make this easier on you, so I'll just blurt it out. Carl Lee Stanton has escaped."

Maggie's smile vanished, wiped away by a look of astonishment and disbelief. "How?" she asked.

"He got away as he was being rushed to the emergency room near Texas Federal Prison complaining of chest pains. He had all the symptoms of a heart attack. I suppose the prison isn't equipped to handle that kind of emergency?" she asked.

"Not if they needed to do a catheterization or a CAT scan, or in some cases a cardiac MRI," Maggie mumbled.

"Guards were leading him, handcuffed and shackled, toward the back entrance when two men drove up in a red Jeep Cherokee and started firing. One of the men, dressed as a clown, pulled Carl Lee into the Jeep, and they took off."

Maggie swallowed. "Was anyone killed?"

"Two guards are in critical condition. A witness thinks the clown got hit, but he couldn't be certain. People were diving behind cars and bushes." Jamie paused. "Authorities suspect Carl Lee is on his way back to Beaumont for the money," she said finally.

Maggie tried to take it in. Of course he would want his money. The police had never found the two hundred and fifty thousand dollars that Carl Lee had stolen from the ATM van when the driver and only occupant had broken company policy and stepped outside the vehicle for a cigarette. Carl Lee had been waiting.

"You and Mel need protection," Jamie said.

Maggie was suddenly hit with the enormousness of it. Her face went numb; the air felt thin, as though she were in a tight space and couldn't get enough oxygen. "Like the police are going to care what happens to Carl Lee Stanton's old girlfriend," she said.

"Hey, wait a minute. You were a victim, too."

A sudden thought chilled Maggie. "Mel," she whispered. "I need to make sure she's okay."

"Carl Lee has only been out for a few hours," Jamie said. "It's going to take him and his buddies a while to get from Texas to South Carolina."

"What if he somehow managed to catch a plane? What if he was provided with a disguise and fake identification? What if—"

"Anything is possible," Jamie cut in, "but it's highly unlikely that Carl Lee Stanton would take such a risk. That's the first place police are going to look. He's a cop killer, for Pete's sake! It was sheer luck that the ATM driver lived because you can bet Carl Lee meant to kill him." Jamie paused to catch her breath. "Every news station in this country is probably flashing his picture as we speak. Plus, his buddies aren't going to let him out of their sight. They expect to be paid for their trouble, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out how Carl Lee plans to come up with the money."

It made sense, Maggie thought. She met Jamie's gaze. "It's all going to come out."

"Not all of it. We covered our bases."

Maggie was thankful her parents were away and would be spared the news, if only temporarily. They had flown out two days ago for the trip Maggie's mother, a retired geography teacher, had always dreamed of taking. She wanted to see an actual Egyptian pyramid and visit the royal tombs that she'd read about and watched on the Discovery Channel. Maggie's father had surprised her with a two-week vacation package for their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary.

"Everybody in town knows I went out with him. I'm amazed it never got back to Mel." Maggie sighed. "I should have told her the truth a long time ago."

"We all talked about it, remember? We thought it would be better to wait until she was older, more mature. I can be there with you if you feel it's time."

Maggie blinked back sudden tears. "How do you tell your daughter something like that?" she asked, the dread and remorse hitting her like a huge wave, "Oh, by the way, Mel, that handsome man in the framed photo on your night table is not your father. Your real father is a cold-blooded killer who escaped prison today, and when he gets here there is going to be hell to pay."

Chapter Two

"What do you mean you don't have a rental car?" Zack demanded, setting his olive-green duffel bag down, as well as a narrow, oblong suitcase and an oversized shoulder bag containing the latest technology in laptops and what he referred to as his FBI toys. "Someone named Helms arranged it hours ago."