When PI Jake Marshall fails to stop the abduction and subsequent murder of a client who was being stalked, he vows to do everything in his power to identify the man responsible. He'll need all the help he can get, including Kelly, his partner in the agency, and Russ Foster, a library security guard he met at a local bar ... with whom he's becoming personally involved.
Soon, it becomes even more imperative they find the stalker when a friend of Jake's also disappears and everything points to the stalker as his abductor.
Can Jake and Russ stop the stalker before he kills again? And how will their search affect their budding relationship, presuming the stalker doesn't target one of them next?
Jake didn't expect to hear from Gail until Saturday morning at the earliest, so he decided it was safe to leave the apartment and find somewhere to relax. Given the day he'd had, he needed to. He might have called Russ to see if he wanted to meet him at The Copper, but he still didn't have his number despite having said something about it when they were at the zoo. "Senior moment?" he grumbled, laughing at the idea. "I'm only thirty-two. It had better be a long time until that happens."
As he often did, unless the weather was bad, he hoofed it to the bar instead of driving. When he got inside he looked around, wondering if Russ was somewhere in the crowd -- which he wasn't. He managed to snag a just vacated stool at the bar and ordered a beer. Turning to face the room, he sipped his drink while surveying the men and women at the tables and on the small dance floor at the back of the room.
He spotted Paul and Todd at the same moment they saw him. Paul waved, gesturing for him to join them, which he did.
Since Alan and his stalker, and the fact Alan was missing, were on the top of Jake's mind, the first thing he asked after sitting down was, "Has the guy you told me about bothered you any more, Paul?"
"No, although we did see him again when we stopped into Donovan's after work Tuesday."
Todd scowled. "He couldn't seem to take his eyes off Paul --"
"And you," Paul interjected.
"And me," Todd agreed. "But he kept his distance."
Paul chuckled, hugging him. "The fact you started making out with me as soon as we spotted him probably helped."
"It's not funny," Todd muttered. "He's a creep."
"You haven't seen him anywhere else?" Jake asked.
"Nothing. Well, other than I was working on a case where one of my clients was being stalked. He disappeared today, so now I'm working for his boyfriend, trying to find him and the man who might have been his abductor." He proceeded to give them the gist of what had happened.
"Damn, Jake," Paul said when he finished. "Did this guy, the stalker, try to pick him up at a bar, first?"
"That's hard to tell. Like you, the occasional man made advances on Alan, and Alex, when they went out together. There's no way to tell if one of them began stalking Alan after he turned him down. I might know more tomorrow if my computer lady can come up with a face, or a partial one, from the security video frames I sent her."
"Is it normal for a stalker to move from passive stalking to kidnapping their victim with nothing in between, like anonymous gifts or letters or what have you?" Todd asked.
"Not really," Jake replied. "There's usually that escalating pattern, which allows the police, or someone like me, to locate the stalker before he can harm his victim."
"We need to check our cars," Paul said to Todd. "Not that whoever took Alan would be after one of us but it's still spooky, especially since that guy showed up again on Tuesday."
"I doubt it's the same man," Jake said. "He's obviously fixated on Alan. He wouldn't be thinking about going after anyone else."
Paul nodded. "I suppose so, but I'm still checking, damn it."
Todd put an arm around Paul's shoulders. "Of course you are. We both are, just to be on the safe side."
"Well, now that I've got us all on a downer," Jake said, "what's new and exciting in your lives?"
"Let's see ..." Paul stared off into space. "We bought a new sofa, we're thinking about getting a dog, and, oh yeah, we're getting married."
Jake about choked on his beer, trying not to laugh as how casually Paul made the announcement. "Congratulations. When did this happen?"
"Todd proposed last night and I accepted. We haven't set a date yet. We did let our families know and they're happy about it."
Todd grinned. "My dad said it was about time I made an honest man of Paul."
"Well, it is," Paul agreed, kissing his fiancé.
"I wondered if you'd be here," someone said from behind Jake. He looked up and saw Russ. "Is it okay ...? Can I join you?" Russ asked.
"You bet," Jake replied, getting nods from his friends. "Paul, Todd, this is Russ, and vice versa."
Russ pulled out the remaining chair and sat, setting his beer bottle on the table.
Paul studied Russ then said, "I haven't seen you around here. Are you new?"
"I moved into the neighborhood two weeks ago. I came in last week, met Jake, and convinced him to go to the zoo with me last Sunday."