Without a Trace… Chapter 55

Ambrose drove the wrong way down a one-way street heading east across Cozumel away from the open-air plaza in San Miguel. “Are you two okay?”

Steve turned his head to look behind him, down the road. “How’d you find us?”

“I saw you enter the building,” Ambrose spoke above the road noise. “I drove around back to park.”

“Did you see who was shooting at us?”

“No.”

“One minute the police were helping us,” Leslie stammered, “and the next, they were trying to kill us.”

Ambrose drove beyond the crowded streets to a single-story apartment building across town.

Steve gripped the roll bar above his head for support. “Where are we?”

“My apartment.”

“We have to get help,” Leslie pleaded. “What if they followed us?”

“You’ll be safe here,” Ambrose reassured her. He glanced at the oval bloodstain on her shirt. “How bad are you hurt?”

Leslie covered the wound with her hand. “We have to find our daughter.”

“One step at a time,” said Steve. He helped Leslie from the Jeep and followed Ambrose to the first floor entrance at the back of the pink and white building. Watercolor paintings of divi-divi trees adorned the living room walls in the small apartment. In one corner, a drop cloth covered a wooden easel speckled with blue and green paint.

Ambrose returned from the bathroom with a box of cotton bandages and a bottle of rubbing alcohol. He handed Steve the alcohol and tore open a package of gauze. “Why was someone shooting at you?”

Steve pondered the question. “You mean, why were the police shooting at us?”

Ambrose looked up from the first-aid supplies. “I don’t understand.”

Leslie winced from the sting of the rubbing alcohol. “Why would the police try to kill us?”

“Because they’re involved,” Steve insisted, dabbing a cotton ball around the wound on Leslie’s side.

Ambrose cut a length of medical tape and affixed it to the gauze patch. “Involved in what?”

Leslie chewed her lower lip. “Our daughter’s disappearance.”

Ambrose crossed his arms above a small crucifix hanging from a gold rope necklace beneath his shirt. “Is this why you saw Lieutenant Mierez?”

“What do you know about him?” asked Steve.

“I know not to cross his path unless you’re looking for trouble. The police suspect you of killing a hotel maid.”

Leslie stared at her husband, her eyes fixated on his shocked appearance. “What? Who?”

“I never hurt her,” Steve insisted. “I found her snooping in our room. She ran out, and I followed her. Then I found her, dead.” He screwed the cap on the bottle of rubbing alcohol. “Someone killed her because she knew too much.” He pointed to Leslie’s wound. “You’re lucky the bullet only grazed you.”

Leslie forced a smile. “Tell me about it.”

“Where’s your daughter?” asked Ambrose.

“Somewhere in Cozumel,” said Steve. “An abandoned house. We don’t know exactly where.”

Ambrose rubbed the stubble on his chin. “There are several remote properties on the eastern side near the shore, mostly small cottages owned by local fisherman.”

“Are any abandoned?” asked Leslie.

“I’m not certain. I mostly travel the western side from the airport access road to the Presidente Suites. There are no abandoned properties on this side of Cozumel.”

“What about the lighthouse at Punta Molas?” asked Steve.

Ambrose focused on the wall in front of him, staring at his portrait of a black seductress in a string bikini and floppy straw hat. “What do you know about the lighthouse?”

“I know a woman died because she knew something about Punta Molas.”

Ambrose pulled a jug of water from the refrigerator. He took three glasses from the cupboard above the stove in the kitchenette and turned his back to Steve and Leslie as he poured. “You’re dehydrated,” he said to Leslie, handing her a glass of cold water. “Drink as much as you can.”

Steve took the glass from Leslie’s hand and gave it back to Ambrose. “You first.”

“This is filtered water,” said Ambrose. “It’s safe to drink, I assure you.” He drank from the glass before he gave it to Leslie. “You can trust me.”

Steve watched a cockroach scurry along the wall above the sink. “Tell me what you know about the lighthouse.”

“I’m not sure what I can tell you.”

“Is there any private property near there?”

“Not now. Several years ago a tour guide ran his business from the cross-island highway near Playa Bonita. His tours catered to the more adventurous crowd, people who wanted to view Cozumel’s natural habitat up close and personal. A hurricane destroyed the property.”

“Can you take us there now?” asked Leslie.

“It’s too dangerous at night.”

Leslie cupped her hand to her side and winced. “We have to try. Sarah’s out there somewhere—worrying, waiting, praying we’ll find her.”

“We don’t even know for sure if she’s there,” said Steve.

“All the more reason to go now. Every minute we waste is another minute Sarah’s in danger.”

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