Special Forces Father
Author:Mallory Kane

chapter Seven

Kate woke up from a pleasant dream that she didn’t remember. She opened her eyes and saw that it was light outside. She checked the clock on her bedside table. It was almost eight o’clock. How had she slept so late?

Then she remembered. Travis had talked her into taking a dose of Max’s cough syrup last night. Plus the blue-gray color of the light seeping in at the edge of the blinds told her that it was cloudy, maybe even raining, outside.

Travis. She glanced at the pillow next to hers. There was an indentation there. A contented, safe feeling enveloped her as she remembered him turning off the light and lying down next to her. She remembered wanting to kiss him. Wanting to do more than kiss him. But she’d been so sleepy after her shower and the tiny dose of antihistamine. Closing her eyes, she let herself drift back to last night. She had kissed him. She’d almost asked him to make love to her.

Then, with the swiftness of a blade cutting the air, her thoughts turned to Max and her safe, sexy, comfortable feelings dissolved. Her little boy wasn’t safe or contented. He was in a cold, unfamiliar bed, and when he woke up, he’d want his mommy.

“Oh, Max,” she whispered and pressed her palm against her chest. How much longer could she stand it without him? It had been two days. Before today, she’d have believed she couldn’t survive for two hours without knowing where he was.

Now she faced the knowledge that it would be days until the trial started, and who knew how many days before the court ruled on whether Myron Stamps had been temporarily insane when he’d shot Paul Guillame. Her eyes filled with hot tears that scalded her tender skin as they slid down her cheeks.

She threw back the covers and got up. In the hall, she glanced into Max’s room, half expecting to see Travis on the bed asleep, but he wasn’t there. The couch in the living room was empty, as well.

“Travis?” She glanced back down the hall toward the bathroom, but its door was open and the light was out. “Travis?” she called again. Her gaze snapped to the coffee table, where she’d left the phone last night, but it wasn’t there.

Her hand pressed against her chest again as rising panic stole her breath. Where had he gone? To see his cousin again? The hand clutching her chest clenched into a fist and rose to her mouth. She pressed her knuckles against her teeth as a heavy emptiness settled deep in her heart.

For the first time in her life she understood what a patient meant when he or she said they were tempted to take a handful of tranquilizers and climb into bed. She was so tempted to sleep until all this was over and Max was home again. The realization that she could even consider putting her child’s safety into someone else’s hands while she withdrew from the world surprised and terrified her. She paced back and forth from the front door to the far wall of the living room and back again, wringing her hands as more tears coursed down her cheeks.

Her carefully constructed life was falling apart. She’d worked hard to make this house into a home for herself and Max. The two of them were a family. They’d been happy and contented and safe, until the kidnapper had snatched her little boy—her world—away from her. She paced, unaware of the time, her mind so scattered with fear and helplessness that she couldn’t compose a rational thought.

Then, on one of her turns away from the front door, she heard it swing open. She whirled without thinking, her reaction an instinctive one, responding to the sound and nothing more.

Travis stepped inside. He was in sweatpants and a T-shirt and running shoes, and he was soaking wet. He stood on the tile floor just inside the door and wiped his face with a small towel, then rubbed it across his dripping, tousled hair.

“Travis,” Kate whispered and flung herself into his arms.

“Hey—” Travis said, staggering backward. He caught himself and held his hands up and out. “I’m wet. Kate, what’s the matter?” he asked, grasping her upper arms and setting her away enough so that he could look into her eyes.

“I woke up and didn’t know where you were,” she said.

“I couldn’t sleep, so I went out for a run—well, actually it was a short walk, around the block. I was sure I’d be back before you woke up,” he finished with a shrug.

Kate stared into his eyes and saw herself as he saw her. Immediately, she shook off the sleepy haze. What was the matter with her? She remembered the classic definition of insanity. Performing the same actions over and over and expecting different results.

How many times was she going to fall apart when he left? Granted, he hadn’t been gone at all—this time. But she had enough anguish, enough heartache, just dealing with Max being abducted. There was no way she could survive getting sucked into missing Travis again.

“Sorry,” she said coolly, not wanting to tell him the whole truth. “I woke up dreaming about Max.” She shrugged. “I got upset.” She did her best to hold Travis’s gaze when his eyes narrowed. She knew that look. He knew she wasn’t telling him the whole truth.

After a moment, he nodded. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here.”

She made a dismissive gesture. “I’m okay.”

He looked down at his wet clothes. “I’m dripping all over the floor. I’m going to take a shower, if that’s okay.”

Kate nodded.

Travis stood there for another second or two, then headed for Max’s bedroom, where he’d stowed his duffel bag.

“Travis?” she called.

“Yeah?” he said, stopping at the door.

“Where’s the phone?”

“Oh.” He fished in the pocket of his sweatpants. “Here. I took it with me, in a plastic bag so it wouldn’t get wet. I didn’t want you to have to answer it alone.”

She took the baggie with the phone inside it and stared at it as he headed into the hall bathroom, closing the door behind him.

Didn’t want you to have to answer it alone. Kate grimaced as his words replayed in her head. “Don’t be nice to me,” she muttered.

She was still holding the phone, encased in its plastic bag, when it rang. She jumped, almost dropping it, and her heart leaped into her throat. It had to be the kidnapper. She glanced down the hall, but the bathroom door was still closed and she could hear the shower running. The phone rang for the third time. One more ring and it might go to voice mail. She couldn’t take that chance. The kidnapper had warned her that she’d better be the one answering the phone the next time he called.

She flipped the phone open. The display said Private Number. She pressed the answer button. “Hello?” she said.

“This is Dawson Delancey. Is this Dr. Chalmet?”

Kate felt light-headed with relief. “Y-yes,” she said breathlessly.

“I’m Travis’s cousin. We’ve met a couple times in connection with cases.”

“Yes, Mr. Delancey.”

“Call me Dawson, please. May I speak to Travis?”

“He’s—in the shower,” she told him.

“Okay. I’d told him I’d call last night to find out what the kidnapper said, but I got tied up on a case.”

“He was angry that you answered. He had told me not to tell anybody. He said that if someone else answered this time I would never see—” her breath hitched “—never see Max again.”

“So did he let you talk to Max?”

“Yes, he did.” To her dismay, her eyes filled with tears just thinking about his little voice saying, Come get me, Mommy.

“Did Max seem to be okay?” Dawson’s voice turned gentle.

“I—I think so,” Kate stammered. “He wanted his favorite car, but he said they gave him a stuffed bear and a train. And I heard a woman’s voice in the background talking to him nicely. So I think he’s being cared for. He didn’t sound upset until—”

Just as she smelled the clean, fresh smell of soap and felt the brush of cotton terry cloth, Travis’s hand covered hers. He pulled the phone away from her ear and pressed Speaker. “Dawson, it’s Travis. You’re on speaker with Kate and me.”

“Hey, Trav. Kate was just telling me about how Max is doing. Kate, you were saying?”

“He was telling me about his toys when the man took the phone away from him,” Kate said. “That was when he started getting upset—” Her voice broke. “He started crying and yelling for me. Then the man told the woman to get the kid out of here.”

“I see. I think that sounds promising.”

“What did you find out?” Travis asked.

“Not much. But more than we had. I was right about the accent. Dusty has a program that compares speech patterns and pronunciation.

“The phone he used is a prepaid one and he bought it here, so I’ve sent the serial numbers to every phone store in the greater New Orleans area. Hopefully we’ll get a hit.”

“What about the car?”

“The numbers you got plus the distinctive graphics on the windshield hit. The sticker is a Chicago city sticker. Once we had that, we got the city clerk’s office to run the partial plate for us. The car’s registered to a Shirley Hixon. Lucas contacted his brother-in-law who’s a prosecutor in Chicago. He’ll get the woman checked out for us.”

“You didn’t tell him—” Kate started.

“Nope. Just told him I needed the info. We have a good arrangement,” Dawson said. “He doesn’t ask me any questions when I need a favor, and I don’t ask him any when he needs a favor.”

She sighed in relief.

* * *

“WHAT’S THAT noise in the background?” the man who’d hired Bentley Woods asked him. “Is somebody on TV strangling a cat?”

“Ha,” Bent said with a grimace. “That kid’s a spoiled little brat.”

“Well, you better make sure he stays healthy. I thought you said your wife was taking care of him.”

“My girlfriend.”

“So anyway, like I was saying, one of the Delancey brats confronted Myron yesterday. I was out of the office or he’d have gotten to me, too. He asked Myron about Dr. Chalmet’s kid, and mentioned the abduction.”

“That must be the guy that answered the phone. Probably the same guy that’s staying at her house.”

“Staying? There’s a Delancey staying at Dr. Chalmet’s house?”


“Delancey. Didn’t you hear what I just said? One of the Delanceys was nosing around, asking questions. And Stamps doesn’t think he was just helping his little brother Harte with the case. He said the guy was acting like it was personal—and he mentioned the little boy.”

“All I know is what you tell me,” Bent said with exaggerated patience. “What’s so special about these Delanceys?”

“You never heard of Con Delancey?”

“I have not. Who’s Con Delancey?”

“Only one of the biggest, richest politicians ever in Louisiana. Most of his grandkids are cops. We don’t need them snooping around in this.”

“How come if everybody knows these Delanceys so well, nobody knows who went to Stamps’s house?”

“I didn’t see him. Myron did. He recognized him as a Delancey, but he didn’t know which one.”

“Oh. So he doesn’t know and you don’t know. What the hell’s this got to do with me, anyhow? I’m doing the job you’re paying me for. I’m taking care of the kid and making sure the doctor does what she’s supposed to do.”

“I’ll compensate you for the additional work.”

Bent started to ask what additional work, but he knew what the man wanted him to do. And he liked the idea of more money. Besides, he’d already called a buddy of his in the Chicago P.D. to get them to run the Maryland license plate and see who the car was registered to. If he played his cards right, he could bill that to this guy, too. Maybe be could double his money. “Fine,” he said grouchily. “Same fee.”

“Same? You can’t be serious—”

“Hey,” Bent interrupted the man. “You’re the one worried about the information getting out. All I gotta do is pack up and leave. You’ll be stuck with the kid and trying to keep your nose clean at the same time.”

“Okay, okay. But you’d better get back to me with some information and fast. Don’t forget that a whole bunch of the Delanceys are police. Don’t make ’em suspicious.”

“I’ll get your information. You get me my money.”

“You’ll get it when the job’s done, along with the second half of the original fee. I’ll call you back this afternoon.”

“All right.” Bent hung up. Delanceys. It sounded as if it would be in his best interest to find out who the Delanceys were and why they were interested in Dr. Kate Chalmet.

As he pocketed his phone, the kid’s wailing went up a few hundred decibels. “Can’t you shut that kid up?” he yelled. He was going to go crazy if he had to spend another minute in the same house as that spoiled brat. When he wasn’t crying for his mommy, he was complaining about the toys Shirley had bought him or telling her he wanted milk not juice, or juice not milk.

“I’m taking the laptop and going out,” he yelled over the kid’s whining. “I’ll be back later.” A lot later.

“Bring me some more of that jambalaya you bought the other day.”

“Aren’t you sick of that stuff yet? I didn’t like it the first time.”

“You don’t have to eat it,” she countered. “Get it from the same restaurant. And get some more apple juice for Max.”

Apple juice for Max, Bent mocked as he got in his car and headed to the small shopping center a couple miles from the trailer park. It had a grocery store, an office supply store, a coffee shop that sold pastries and sandwiches and a Chinese restaurant. He’d have to drive another three miles to get Shirley’s jambalaya. But first he was going to have a latte and do a little business. He needed to check on that Maryland plate and he wanted to do some research on the Delanceys.

He’d left a message last night for a buddy of his who was still with the Chicago P.D. By the time he reached the coffee shop, got his coffee and signed on to the internet, his phone rang. It was his buddy calling him back. “Hey, pal, what’s shaking?” Bent asked when he answered.

“Not much. What’s up with you?”

“Nothing new. Still scraping by with a couple private jobs. You know how it is.”

“Yeah. So I ran that plate you gave me. The car’s registered to a Travis Delancey. I dug a little deeper and found out he’s active military.”

“No kidding? So he’s stationed in D.C.? Is that why his car has a Maryland license plate?”

“Got no idea. You know all I know now.”

“Okay. That helps,” Bent said. “Thanks, pal, I owe you one.”

“Yeah, you do.”

Bent sipped his coffee and typed the name Travis Delancey into a search engine. He found out he was the third son of Robert Delancey, older son of the late Senator Robert Connor “Con” Delancey. There were lots of news stories, comments and blogs about his grandfather, Con Delancey, who apparently was murdered by his personal assistant twentysomething years before.

Bent was surprised at how much information was online about the family, especially the grandfather. Con Delancey had shaken hands with a lot of famous and infamous people—politicians, foreign dignitaries, celebrities. His grandchildren were all over the internet, too. Bent paged through hundreds of family photos, school pictures, candid paparazzi-like shots until he was practically cross-eyed. It didn’t take long for him to see that they were a state-sized version of the Kennedy family. Both lines were revered as American royalty and yet their histories were fraught with scandal. As with the Kennedys, the Delanceys were a handsome bunch, with a definite familial resemblance. Bent saw how Stamps could have recognized a member of the family even if he’d never met that particular Delancey before.

But as much information as was out there, the girl, Cara Lynn, was the only obvious connection between the Delanceys and Dr. Kate Chalmet. When he entered Chalmet and Delancey into the search engine, he found the same information he’d discovered before. The doctor and Cara Lynn Delancey had entered LSU the same year.

College. That was a thought. Maybe there was more than one Delancey family member who went to LSU. He entered Travis Delancey graduated LSU. The search engine asked him if he’d meant Delancy. He amended his search to Travis Delancey college LSU. That brought up a list of Delancey grandchildren and where they’d gone to college. Travis Delancey, about halfway down the list, had LSU beside his name. Bingo.

Bent then searched images for Chalmet and Delancey and LSU. There were several of Cara Lynn and Kate, together at various school functions. But nothing else.

He looked closely at the photos of Cara Lynn Delancey. It wasn’t that much of a stretch from Dr. Chalmet being friends with Cara Lynn Delancey to the theory that Dr. Chalmet’s little boy was Travis Delancey’s son, especially considering he’d shown up in New Orleans within hours of the kid’s kidnapping.

Excitement churned in Bent’s gut, along with the espresso drink. He saved the link to the photo in his bookmarks and shut down the laptop. Then he walked over to the office supply store and got an enlargement of the photo of the doctor with Cara Lynn Delancey.

Back in his car, he studied the picture. He could easily make a case that the whiny brat was related to the Delancey girl. There was a striking resemblance. Yep, the kid could definitely be a Delancey. Bent felt his scalp burn with excitement. This little tidbit could turn out to be a gold mine.

* * *

AFTER KATE LEFT for her office, Travis headed to Baton Rouge to confront Congressman Gavin Whitley at his office. When he walked into the suite, he saw that the door to the plush inner office was open.

He didn’t stop at the secretary’s desk. Instead he walked right around it.

The fiftysomething woman said, “May I help—?”

But by then he’d left her in his dust and was in the congressman’s office. Whitley sat behind his desk, staring out the window.

Travis quickly took in the items on the top of the dark wood desk. They included several legal-sized manila file folders haphazardly scattered across the surface, a Styrofoam take-out container and a cell phone. “Congressman Whitley,” he said.

Whitley’s head snapped around. “What?” He blinked as his eyes focused. “Who are you?”

“I think you know,” Travis said, “but I’ll introduce myself. I’m Travis Delancey. I spoke to your colleague, Myron Stamps, yesterday.”

The man’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. He leaned forward and started to lift the receiver on his desk phone, but then his gaze snapped to the office door behind Travis.

Travis figured it was the secretary at the door, but he knew better than to turn around and look.

“Congressman, I’m sorry. I couldn’t—”

“It’s all right, Mary. Call security please, to escort this—gentleman—out of the building.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Tell the guards no hurry, Mary. I’ll just need a few minutes,” Travis said.

Mary looked at each of them in turn, then compressed her already thin lips as she left the office and closed the heavy wooden door behind her.

Travis calculated that he had two minutes at most, if he wanted to get away without being detained and asked a lot of questions. “I have one simple request,” he said to the congressman. “Return Dr. Chalmet’s child to her immediately and she won’t press criminal charges. I haven’t decided what I will or won’t do yet.”

Whitley’s brows drew down and he shook his head. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“I don’t have the time or the patience to play this game, Congressman. I don’t have a security force to call, but I do know several police detectives. I can call them. They’ll be glad to come over here and put you in handcuffs for kidnapping a child—a federal offense, by the way. Or maybe you’re ready to start talking, right now.”

Whitley’s lips began to tremble, but he stuck to his guns. “I will repeat. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Travis reached out and picked up the cell phone. “Really? I must be mistaken, then,” he drawled as he looked at the recent call log on the phone. There were several calls that appeared routine—other congressmen and senators, his wife, his country club. But there was one that was labeled Unknown. Travis’s pulse skittered. “So this recent seven-minute phone call right here?” He held up the phone’s screen so Whitley could see. “The one that says B.W. Who’s that?”

“I’m afraid I don’t remember that call,” Whitley said. “Perhaps it was a wrong number.”

“Wrong number? You programmed it into your phone, and this call is seven minutes long.”

“Aah, yes. I believe that’s—a real estate agent. That’s right. I’m thinking of buying a cabin on the lake.”

Travis laughed. “I don’t think so.” He pulled out his phone and called Dawson. “Hang on just a minute,” he said to Whitley.

When Dawson answered, Travis said, “Hey. I’m with Whitley. Just took a look at his phone and found out he’s been talking to our friend. Want the number?”


Travis read the phone number off to Dawson. “It’s labeled B.W.”

Whitley started to rise. “You can’t do that—”

Travis glared at him. He sat.

Dawson said, “Great. This’ll simplify a lot of things.”

“Thanks.” Travis hung up, then deleted the listing from Whitley’s phone. He turned the congressman’s phone over, took out the battery and dropped it on the floor. “Oh, no!” Travis exclaimed and took a step, stomping on the battery and smashing it. “Look what I’ve done. I’m so sorry. You’ll have to get a new one.” He set the phone back on the desk and dug a couple bills out of his pocket. “Here’s some money for your new battery. Again, I’m truly sorry.” He glanced at his watch and saw that it had been just over two minutes since he’d walked past the secretary.

Travis headed for the door. “When I find the kidnapper, he’s going to be begging the police to let him tell all about who hired him and why. Oh, by the way, I hope you had that number memorized. Because it’s not in your phone anymore.”

To his satisfaction, Whitley’s mouth dropped open as he realized Travis had deleted the phone number. He slipped through the office door and closed it behind him.

Travis scooted past Mary’s desk, giving her a half salute. “Thanks, Mary. Tell the security guys I hate it that I missed them.”

Mary was apparently struck speechless, because she didn’t say a word as Travis left the office and headed toward the rear of the building. He was counting on the guards to come in the front. He slipped down the rear fire stairs and circled the building just in time to see two uniformed men heading up the steps at the front of the building. He waited until they’d entered, then jogged to his car and took off, wondering if Whitley was planning to tell them that a Delancey had come into his office, destroyed his phone battery and walked out.

Once he was back in traffic and headed toward Kate’s, he called Dawson again. “Is it too early to ask if you got anything from that number?”

“Five-and-a-half minutes? Nah. Not too early,” Dawson said wryly. “Dusty’s already done some computer magic and traced the number to a very busy store on Canal Street. Nobody at the shop recalls who bought it, but the store has been helping the NOPD trace the cell phones of a drug ring, so they’ve been trying to get license plates when they can.”

“They have the kidnapper’s plate?”

“Yep. We caught a break there. The plate was partially obscured by mud but it’s a Cook County, Illinois, plate and the first two numbers match the numbers you saw. When we checked with the Cook County DMV, they confirmed the make and model.”

“So it’s the same vehicle I saw. It belongs to the kidnapper.”

“Yep. We’ve been trying to pick up the phone’s GPS signal but we haven’t had any luck. He must turn it off when he’s not using it. But we will. When we call him, Dusty will pinpoint him to the nearest tower, or triangulate off three if we’re lucky.”

“Great,” Travis said.

“Do you have time to drive over here to Biloxi this evening? We could talk about when to get Lucas or Ryker involved.”

“Not tonight. I’m going to be late getting back to Kate’s house and I don’t like her to be there alone in the dark. And I’m not so sure about getting them involved.”

“Okay, but if you try to do something dangerous by yourself, I’ll sic every Delancey on the police force on you if you try.”

“Yeah,” Travis said with a wry chuckle. “I hear you.”