He was the prime suspect in a kidnapping.

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Chapter 27 – 2

She reached over and touched his arm. “It’s all right, Father. You see, I have known about him for quite a while. I just couldn’t find time to talk to you about it. Mother doesn’t know I’m aware of her past, either.”

“How…who told…”

“The letters, I found the letters and read them all.” The pain on his face cut like a knife, but she couldn’t spare him now. Maybe together they could figure out how to save Ella.

“It’s a shame you had to find out that way, Ruthie. I suppose we should have told you ourselves, but your mother and I actually did fall in love. We put the unpleasant memory behind us. So, that is why you wanted to talk to Ella—because of Mother?”

All she could do was nod.

“Mother had those letters burned, child. I saw her give them to Sarah…” Color drained from his face.

“Father, please don’t blame Sarah. She only hid them for Mother’s protection from that horrible man. The torn ball gown is hidden away, as well.”

Shadows zipped by under the starlit night, and the motor chugged along, the only sound, except for the labored breathing of the man beside her. It upset her to hurt him, but things had gone too far. If they were to save Emma, he must know the whole story. “I’m sorry, Father.”

“It’s not your fault. Emma is the one paying for her father’s roguish behavior, poor child. What can we do, Ruthie? We cannot run in and tear her away from the captors. Do you know who is responsible or where they took her?”

Lights from the city dotted the horizon, she didn’t have much time. “I think I do, Father. Eric Horton. He must be the one. Oh, he hired someone to do his dirty work, but he is behind it. Denied the prize, he will stop at nothing to get what he wants. We’ll go to his house and confront him. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ella was tied up in his basement.”

The auto slowed. “I think we should go to the police first. We’re not equipped to handle this alone.”

“No, Father. He might become desperate and shoot his way out. I’ll be able to tell by his face if he’s hiding her. Please?”

“All I can promise is, we knock on his door—see what he does. Anything else, we get the police.”

I’m lucky to get that much from Father. Can’t rock the boat now. “That is all I ask. Thank you. Do you know where Horton lives?”

He gave a curt nod.

The rest of the trip passed in silence until they rolled onto the banker’s street.

“Are you sure about this, Ruthie?”

The deepening wrinkles in his face, and the sadness of his eyes, didn’t escape Ruth’s notice, but she must find out. “It will be alright, Father. Wait in the motorcar for me.”

The walkway to Eric Horton’s front door stretched ahead endlessly, but too soon, the door was before her. A huge brass doorknocker loomed in front of her face. Trembling, she raised it and let it drop. The sound echoed up and down the street. Terror gripped her, and she almost ran back to the motorcar, but the door opened, and a wizened old man peeked through the opening, displeasure written on his face.

“What do you want? Don’t you know its four o’clock in the morning?”

“I’m looking for Eric Horton. This is where he lives isn’t it?” Instinct kicked in—she slipped a foot across the doorjamb.

“Mr. Horton has been out all evening. I don’t expect him back for a while. Who wants to know?” The door closed slightly.

“Don’t lie to me. I know he’s here. The auto is parked in the driveway.” Ruth planted her foot firmly.

“That’s not his auto, miss. It’s mine. Audie chauffeured him tonight. Now, if you will excuse me.”

Her foot stopped the door as he swung it shut, and she winced. “Not until you tell me where he’s gone. There has been a kidnapping, and he is the prime suspect.”

The old man looked visibly shaken. “Kidnapping, but who?”

“Tell me where he is.” Ruth took advantage of the lapse, pushed the door back, and entered the house.

“Why, he went to The Blue Feather. It’s become his custom. I don’t expect him tonight.”

“Where, exactly, is this place?”

“Down on the river, but you can’t go there, it’s not for the likes of you. Danger lurks everywhere.” He shook his head.

Ruth sprinted down the walkway and shouted over her shoulder, “I can take care of myself.”

“Why are you running, Ruthie. Was he home?”

“No, drive down to the river, Father. He’s at The Blue Feather.”

Chapters of the novel appear on Monday and Wednesday.

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