Halfway through the second ring, Naomi heard the Leightons’ phone clatter off the hook, followed by an eager, “Hello!?”
Naomi winced. She should’ve realized how anxious the Leightons would be, waiting for a possible call from Candace’s kidnappers. If she’d thought about that, she might not have called. But it was too late to think about that now… “Hi, Mrs. Leighton.”
“Oh… Naomi,” said Mrs. Leighton, weakly. “I thought you might be…” She trailed off.
“Sorry, no,” said Naomi. “I guess no one’s gotten in touch with you yet then, huh?”
“Nothing yet.” Mrs. Leighton sniffed. “I know it still hasn’t been that long, but this waiting is killing me. Fred’s managed to fall asleep—or at least pretend he has. I don’t think I’ll be able to do that, though.”
“I know what you mean,” said Naomi. “It’s terrible to feel so helpless. I just wish there was something we could do…”
There was a brief pause before Mrs. Leighton said, “So, was there a reason you called?”
“Well, actually, it’s about that business card,” Naomi admitted. “The one Detective Callahan gave you.”
“Oh, that?” said Mrs. Leighton. “What about it?”
“I guess I was just wondering whether you were planning to do anything with it.”
The answer took a little too long to form, and came out a little too stilted. “We, um, haven’t decided yet. Fred has some concerns.”
She really wants to call him, Naomi realized. Maybe she already has.
Mrs. Leighton continued, “Even if we do go ahead with it, though, we’ll probably keep it private. It would be better for you not to ask about it, I think. I’m sure you appreciate why.”
“I understand,” said Naomi, “but I guess I wanted to warn you. I, uh, I’ve actually met the man whose number is on that card. He… wanted to recruit me for his business, because of my ability. I think he has a lot of specials working for him. But he seemed really sleazy and creepy, and he was hinting that some of the work I’d be doing would be illegal, so I turned him down. I just thought maybe you should know about that.”
“Thanks, Naomi. I appreciate your concern, and I’ll tell Fred what you said.” It was too trite, too condescending. Mrs. Leighton was trying to hide something. “But I should probably—”
“You’ve called him already, haven’t you?” The accusation just kind of slipped out.
“What? No, I…”
But the denial wasn’t strong enough, wasn’t emphatic enough. Naomi knew her instincts were right. “Does Mr. Leighton know? He doesn’t, does he? Do you really think it’s a good idea to do something like this without him?”
Mrs. Leighton sighed. “Maybe if you have a child of your own someday you’ll understand, Naomi.” Naomi heard footsteps over the phone as Candace’s mother began to pace, padding across carpet and then clicking onto a harder surface. “I can’t just sit here and do nothing.”
Wait, why were Mrs. Leighton’s footsteps clicking? Naomi said, “Do you have your shoes on?” Whenever Naomi had been over to the Leightons’ house, Candace had been very strict about reminding Naomi to take her shoes off. The family kept that house spotless.
The footsteps stopped. Mrs. Leighton scoffed. “What kind of question is that? I should hang up, Naomi. A call from whoever took Candace could be coming through any minute.”
“You’re going to see him tonight, aren’t you?” said Naomi. “That’s why you’ve got your shoes on: you were just getting ready to leave the house when I called.”
The hesitation that came before the response was confirmation enough. “This isn’t your concern, Naomi.”
“Please, Mrs. Leighton, don’t…” But it was too late. Candace’s mother had hung up.
Naomi stared at her cell phone, shaking her head as her imagination went into overdrive. She saw Mrs. Leighton standing in the middle of a dark room, wringing her hands, while Ian Innis, wreathed in shadow, sat behind a big, ominous desk, his face painted with an evil grin, eyes fixed on his disconsolate victim’s chequebook… She couldn’t let this happen.
But what could she do? She couldn’t stop Mrs. Leighton from going: the woman was probably already in her car. She could call Detective Callahan… But of course, he was the one who had given the Leightons the business card in the first place. He was most likely in on the whole thing. Maybe he even got a cut from every “customer” he referred to Innis. He was dirty; he had to be. Bringing in other cops would probably mean dealing with that Jacklin pig, and just the thought of him made Naomi shudder. Besides, Jacklin already seemed disinclined to put much effort into Candace’s case, and ratting out Mrs. Leighton for seeking options outside the law wouldn’t help the police’s motivation any, Naomi was certain of that.
That left Naomi with only one option she could think of. She’d have to talk Mrs. Leighton down face-to-face. And that meant she had to beat Candace’s mother to the address on Ian Innis’s business card and stop her before she went in.
Naomi stood and took a quick drink of water from the bathroom sink. Her stomach rumbled: it needed something more than just fluids. But there wasn’t time for that, was there?
Stepping out into the hallway, Naomi slipped around the corner to the front door and knelt to put on her shoes. Someone tapped her on the shoulder, and she gasped and nearly fell over.
Emily glared down at her. “And where do you think you’re going?”