OF ALL the places the guy had to run to—why Montana?
Nick sighed as he stuffed the last items of clothing into his rolling suitcase—the big one, the one reserved for long-ass trips—and gritted his teeth as he pushed in more underwear. He had no idea how long this job would take but hoped it would be over in a matter of days.
Famous last words.
Being a private investigator who found people who didn’t want to be found—and a fairly decent one at that—meant that Nick Cutter had to travel a lot. He had tracked down missing adult children of rich parents, long-lost relations, ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, you name it.
Most of the time it was ridiculously easy. There was this thing called “the Internet” that enabled anyone with the skills of your average twelve-year-old to find almost anybody who was “missing.” And most of the time, those who were “missing” weren’t trying too hard to cover their tracks.
Only a few people genuinely tried to disappear.
This guy was one of them.
Nick stopped packing for a moment and sat down on the bed. Outside, the cold San Francisco night—made colder by the wind whipping up off the bay—set off the stars in the black sky in sharp relief. He turned his attention to the photo and brief bio in the open file folder on the bed.
Peter Satoru Kimura. Age twenty-seven. Ethnicity: Japanese. Not married, no children, no pets. Born and raised in Los Angeles, one elder sister.
He stared at the photo for the thousandth time.
A pale, narrowly drawn face. Intelligent brown eyes, a slender nose, and a thin-lipped mouth that looked like it would quirk upwards if amused. His features were delicate-looking. It was the kind of fine-boned look that had always gotten Nick in trouble.
Peter had short black hair in the picture. If he had tried to change his appearance, he might have dyed his hair a lighter shade, perhaps dark brown, something an Asian person could get away with and still have it look natural. He’d gone missing for two months, so maybe he’d grown his hair out as well. Though a long-haired Asian guy might look somewhat out of place in Montana.
Nick ran his hand through his dark-blond hair. Fortunately, his blue eyes and standard-issue Caucasian features would stand him in good stead for blending in to a small mountain town like Weller Falls.
He’d traced Peter to that town in the far western reaches of the Big Sky state. Weller Falls was originally a cattle and mining town, but in recent years Hollywood celebrities and other fashionable types had “discovered” this charming place nestled up against a mountain range, with its small but scenic waterfall located on its eastern edge.
As the Hollywood celebrities built summer homes, the people that supported the chic and the cool moved in to serve the beautiful people. Fancy boutiques, art galleries, and smart cafés opened up, and the once-rustic community turned into a rural western version of Beverly Hills or the Hamptons.
Some of the old-time citizens, Nick had read online, were none too happy with the changes in their small town. Weller Falls was rapidly dividing into those who welcomed the gentrification of the town and those who favored the old way of life. It was big-city folk versus cowboys and mining folk, and Weller Falls was uncomfortably settling into hardened camps.
And the guy thought he could disappear in this town…?
Peter Kimura had been staying at a short-term residence hotel in North Beach, the kind frequented by European tourists and artists, for two weeks before he suddenly disappeared from San Francisco without a trace.
Nick had been hired by Jack Williams, a sometimes client and casual friend, to find Peter. “This one’s a personal request from a friend of mine,” Jack had told him. “Just find the guy, get me an address, and send me the bill. If needed, consider travel expenses okayed in advance.”
When Nick began his investigation, he’d been surprised at what he found. Peter Kimura had no Facebook page, no Twitter, no blog. He was a librarian and had graduated from UCLA, so his initial search was from that angle. No hits for librarians across the country for a Peter Kimura, but there was one for a “Tori Tanaka.”
The post he’d found online had been a “Welcome Our New Librarian”-type post for the Nahala branch library of the public library system in Weller Falls, Montana. No photo or other information, other than naming a Mr. Tori Tanaka as one of their new librarians.
The timing was right—he was hired two months ago—and given the very small number of male Japanese-American librarians in the country, Nick’s attention was caught immediately.
On a hunch, Nick dug further and researched Peter Kimura’s mother’s maiden name. It took some finagling, but he’d been a private eye for ten years and any information could be discovered if you knew how to get it. When he found it and saw that it was Tanaka, he could guess the rest.
The guy’s full name was Peter Satoru Kimura. “Tori” was conceivably a nickname that could be derived from Satoru—and hence—Tori Tanaka.
Nick had phoned the Nahala branch, pretending to be from UCLA’s Library and Information Studies alumni association, and asked to speak with whoever was in charge of personnel. He received confirmation that Tori Tanaka had graduated from UCLA, and finished by saying that he’d mail the alumni newsletters to Tori at the branch, no need to tell him he’d called.
So he’d found Peter Kimura. His job didn’t actually require him to fly to Montana to confirm that Tori Tanaka was Peter Kimura, though Jack had said he’d cover travel expenses. He’d reimbursed Nick for flying to LA to check old court records a few times before, so Nick knew a short trip to Montana wouldn’t be a problem.
He shut his eyes and sighed again. Why was he doing this? He was taking a personal interest in this one—which was on the edge of being unethical. Peter’s photo just did something to him. He couldn’t let it go. There was something about that face.
He picked up the photo and stared again at the beautiful man with the shy, startled look on his face. How long has it been… since someone caught your eye like this? His cock moved a little, desire lighting a slow burn down below.
And why did the face in the photo look… familiar somehow?
His hand found its way to his groin, and he started rubbing himself through his clothing. Soon he was fully hard, and he undid his fly and plunged his hand inside, covering his length with his warm hand and manipulating his cock with his palm and fingers.
He worked it, increasing the frequency, until he came with a jerk and a guttural cry. The warm, sticky liquid covered his lower abdomen and fingers, and he reached for a tissue from the nightstand to clean himself up.
This is no way to start a case.
Damn you, Peter Kimura, whoever you are.
THE flight to Missoula was uneventful, but the small aircraft that took him the rest of the way to Weller Falls was a nauseatingly bumpy ride.
After disembarking, Nick sat in the small airport with his eyes closed and his head leaned back, trying to recover. He hadn’t tossed his cookies, but he’d come pretty damn close.
When he’d revived sufficiently, he got up and bought a bottle of water at the small gift shop, then headed outside. The airport was on the edge of town, but a well-maintained road soon led him to Weller Falls’s downtown district.
Weller Falls was an odd mix visually: old honky-tonk cowboy bars and grimy liquor stores juxtaposed with expensive fashion boutiques and stores selling fancy interior furnishings. Some blocks were completely gentrified, while others were relics of another era and working class to the bone.
He checked into the Bluebird Motel, a rundown 1960s vintage motel located next to a gas station. His room featured an old analog TV with cable, a push-button corded phone, and just a shower in the bathroom—no tub. There was a shabby wooden desk with a memo pad with “Welcome to the Bluebird Motel” on it and a lamp.
The room was clean enough, though, and could have been much worse. He’d stayed in worse, certainly. He wished he had a mini-fridge—that would have come in handy. He’d kept his gun in places like that before. People usually didn’t think to look there for a gun. But there’d been no need to pack one on this trip, and the security involved in flying on a commercial flight would have made it impossible anyway.
Nick walked down the road a few blocks, found a diner called the Bitterroot Coffee Shop, and went inside. He sat down at the counter and picked the menu from its stand.
The waitress was a pretty blonde woman, young, maybe a college student. Nick felt all of his thirty-five years as he watched her take clean mugs from the dishwasher tray and stack them upside down on a plastic rack. As she turned around, he buried his nose in the menu.
“Hi, my name is Julie. Would you like some coffee to start?”
“Uh, yeah, thanks.”
Julie poured the coffee. “I’ll give you a few minutes, okay?” She turned and disappeared into the kitchen.
He ordered a club sandwich on white with fries as a late lunch, as it was getting on for 3:00 p.m. When Julie paused a moment in her busyness—she was a whirlwind of activity—he initiated some small talk, passing it off as coming from a curious stranger in town, which he in fact was.
“Anything to do in this town?”
The young woman pursed her lips. “Well, there’s the university. I’m a senior there, music major. There are a lot of concerts and stuff. Some dance exhibitions from the dance department…. I think that’s about it. Oh, the theater department does some plays.”
“What about the rest of the town—there much going on?”
“Well, with the movie stars that have moved here, there’s talk of building a new nightclub or two. There’s not much to do late at night in a small town like this.” Julie took a cloth and began wiping the counter. “Of course, a lot of the old-timers like it that way. I mean, if you’re young, there’s not much to do here.”
She went on chatting merrily while Nick silently grimaced. If you’re young. When did he begin feeling old? Was it when he’d noticed the Castro filling up with young things fresh off the boat and eager to taste the San Francisco club scene? He’d been that young once.
His sixth sense prickled the back of his neck as a man sat down at the counter to his right, three seats away. Something about this one….
“Oh, Tori, hi! Some coffee?”
“Yes, thank you.”
Nick was struck by the soft, almost musical voice. It was masculine and yet contained such a gentle quality that he couldn’t wait to hear the man speak again. He risked a small sideways glance.
It was Peter Kimura.
He casually turned his head back to his meal and mentally logged his observations.
Peter had grown his hair longer, just as he’d speculated he might, and he had also dyed it a rich dark brown—again as he’d predicted. As for the rest, the man was younger-looking than his twenty-seven years, and he had beautiful clear skin—another of Nick’s weaknesses. He was thinner than he’d looked in the photo. His five nine frame, a few inches shorter than Nick, appeared lean as he sat on the stool, and he was clad in an off-white button-down shirt and dark blue corduroy slacks.
He was frigging gorgeous.
Nick groaned inwardly. It was his only rule: Never get involved with the target.
It had never been an issue before. But this man just stopped him in his tracks. It was like he was created with Nick in mind, just perfect for him, and then they broke the mold forever so there would only be the one. Someone whose appearance left him breathless.
But that was three years ago.
You’ve moved on from that.
He dimly sensed through his racing thoughts that Peter and Julie the waitress were holding a conversation, and he cursed himself for getting distracted. “Oh, you know what?” Julie was saying. “This gentleman here is from out of town. Why don’t you ask him what he thinks of Weller Falls?”
He forced his face to turn in Peter’s direction, almost as if swiveling on a pedestal. Then he saw something he wasn’t expecting to see.
Peter was staring at him with an expression of shock.
Nick pasted a smile on his face. “Hey. Nice to meet you,” he said with an offhand wave. “You live here long?”
From the corner of his eye he saw Julie leave to serve a customer down at the end of the counter, while Peter said, after a pause, “Sorry?”
That musical voice held Nick in a momentary thrall, and then he shook it off. “I said, how long have you lived here in Weller Falls?”
“Oh… um… not long.”
Nick waited, but nothing more was forthcoming. Damn.
“Seems like a nice place,” Nick said, a little desperately.
“Why are you here?”
Nick started. “Excuse me?”
The other man blinked, and his eyes grew even bigger. Nick stared back, longing to touch that soft-looking pale skin and make those pretty eyes look only at him.
“I’m sorry… I….”
Peter got up abruptly and walked toward the exit. Nick heard him apologizing to Julie and canceling his order. The next moment, he was out the door and halfway down the street.
Nick clutched the counter tightly with one hand. Go after him? Or use this as an opportunity to gather more info? He hesitated for a moment, feeling his body tense as if to get up, but then he forced himself to relax.
He’s obviously a regular here, since he was speaking familiarly with Julie. Just go with it, ask her some questions when she’s got a moment. You know where he works. You can catch him later. Let’s get a little background here if we can.
He’d finished his meal by the time Julie came around again. She stocked a nearby napkin dispenser with fresh napkins and was looking about to see if something else needed doing when Nick made his move.
“Excuse me, Julie,” he said. “I’m sorry, I know you’re busy but… can I ask who that was?” He indicated the stool that Peter had vacated so hastily about ten minutes before.
“Oh, Tori?” she said. “He’s the librarian at the Nahala branch. He usually comes here on the weekends.”
Her reaction was completely normal—not suddenly suspicious or protective of Peter. That indicated that Peter, although he was using a false name, wasn’t behaving like someone who was trying to hide his whereabouts. He hadn’t told Julie that he didn’t want people knowing about him.
Peter apparently thought that using a different name and moving far from San Francisco was enough to cover his tracks.
Nick almost wanted to hide his face in his hands.
It was a Saturday, so Peter’s visit to the Bitterroot Coffee Shop today was consistent with his habit of coming on weekends. It looked like he didn’t avoid the little routines that made up everyday life. He obviously didn’t expect that someone would track him down to this small town in the western mountains.
“Nice guy,” Nick said noncommittally. “Where’s he from originally?”
Julie frowned a little. “I think he said California,” she said. “But I don’t know which part. I think he’s either from LA or San Francisco, though.”
She smiled apologetically as she was called away by another customer, while Nick sat on his stool as if set in stone. Not particularly hiding where he came from, either.
Just what was Peter Kimura’s story, anyway?
THE Nahala branch library was on the northern edge of town. The rear part of the building faced a forest of tall pine trees, and their looming presence sheltered the library from the wind that came down from the mountain range.
That crisp wind played havoc with Nick’s hair as he reached the main entrance. He opened the door and went in.
The interior of the building looked as its exterior suggested it would: it was old, post-war, probably 1950s vintage. The walls were painted light beige, and the musty smell of books assaulted Nick’s nostrils from the moment he walked inside. He wondered if the basement doubled as a bomb shelter.
Faded construction paper cutouts of houses, people, and animals were tacked up on the children’s section’s walls. Nick walked through the room, smiling at the low tables and chairs for the kids.
He wandered up and down the fiction and literature aisles, stopping occasionally to pick out a book and flip through it. He wondered idly if this was Peter’s favorite section of the library.
Funny how he had only thought of him as Peter, not as “Kimura” or “the target” as he usually would.
This case had felt different from the start.
As he continued on his stroll through the library, he cased the layout of the building. There was a fire exit back door in addition to the main front entrance doors. There was also a door behind the librarian’s front desk that he assumed led to the staff break room and restrooms. He wondered if the staff offices had a door that exited the building. He decided to check it out when he left the library.
It was always best to be prepared.
He suddenly noticed a middle-aged woman staring at him from behind the head librarian’s desk. She had short salt-and-pepper hair and a severe look on her face.
Nick instantly reverted to being twelve years old again, and hastily looked down. He got the feeling that this woman had that effect on a lot of people. Again, he cursed himself for letting his thoughts run away from him and not paying attention to his surroundings. He was a well-muscled guy wandering around a public library and a stranger in town. He didn’t want to stand out or get noticed.
Eventually he took his leave, walking back along the same route he’d come from downtown. His mind swirled with questions.
Peter’s reaction on seeing him—Why are you here?—had startled him, and he still didn’t know what it meant. Did Peter know him from somewhere? It was a look of… recognition. And yet Nick couldn’t recall ever seeing Peter’s face in person before today.
And he was certain that if he had, he would have remembered him. A man with looks like his would have remained in his memory, even if he had only known him for one night.
He generally didn’t do a lot of one-night stands, not these days anyway. That kind of traipsing and catting around belonged to his teen years and twenties. Funny, it wasn’t even all that appealing anymore. His life was getting more stable now and he was wanting to…
… settle down?
Good Lord, he didn’t just think that, did he?
Nick snorted to himself, as his footsteps brought him back to the center of town. He turned his thoughts back to the mystery of Peter Kimura.
Think, idiot. He acted like he’d seen you before. Where could he know you from?
And dammit, why did Peter seem familiar to him, too?
He still hadn’t figured it out by the time he got back to his motel room.
Had he met Peter at a social event? Some gay gathering somewhere? But he didn’t even know if the man was gay or not. Surely not through his work or Peter’s—the info on Peter was that he’d only been in San Francisco for a couple of weeks before abruptly departing again. He had no job and was living in that temporary residence club in North Beach.
Of course, Nick had gone there before leaving for Montana and talked to the resident manager. She was a middle-aged Chinese woman who’d told him that Peter was a quiet tenant and hadn’t been any trouble. He’d come up from LA and initially told her he would be looking for an apartment in the city. When he left, he hadn’t given her any forwarding address or word on where he was going to next. When pressed, the woman said she’d seen Peter chatting several times with another guest, a young college student, and gave Nick a business card with just a design and an e-mail address on it, with the handle of “flixbabble3946.”
He’d called the residence club a few times after that, hoping to catch the student in, but no luck. He’d e-mailed him at the address on the card but received no response.
The manager had been quite taken with Peter—probably with his looks more than anything else, Nick thought, although the man’s personality was another factor in his favor. Apparently Peter had that “nice” quality that made women relax and feel at ease around him automatically. Or maybe they felt motherly toward him.
He did look a trifle… lost.
Some women really went for that look.
For some reason, that made Nick feel a little pissed off.
HE’D assumed that Sundays in Montana would involve hunting and fishing or roping cattle or something like that. But actually, Weller Falls at least didn’t fit the stereotype.
Nick found himself wandering to the Gallery District, a two-block neighborhood where a well-heeled crowd strolled along the sidewalks, visited art exhibitions, and sat in swanky cafes sipping lattes. It was nice and familiar, this urban atmosphere beneath the spectacular backdrop of the Bitterroot Mountain Range. He could get used to this, the fresh and somewhat dry air of Montana a change from the clear, damp wind that came up off the San Francisco Bay.
He wondered if these changes were welcome in this community. He wondered how he would feel if he were an old cowboy or miner who was forced to witness the “gentrifying” of his town. And he wondered—not for the first time—why Peter Kimura would run away to this place.
Nothing in the man’s background indicated a connection with Montana or even a fondness for mountain living. He’d known a gay man once who moved to Utah despite its conservative political atmosphere because of his love of skiing. But Peter didn’t look like the skiing or mountain-climbing type. And again, Nick didn’t even know if he was gay or not.
So Nick would simply have to find out as he went along. Though if he could figure out the connection—if there was one—sooner rather than later, that would help him to know better how to approach Peter.
Peter was skittish and already seemed to have formed an opinion about Nick, though on what basis he had no clue. He didn’t seem frightened of him, but something about Nick clearly startled him. Enough that he had to run away the first time he saw him.
If he moved slowly and cautiously, as with a nervous deer, the guy ought to let him approach at some point and find out a little more about him.
Nick walked into the Far West Café and ordered a latte. He sat down at a small table near the window and took a sip.
He needed a plan of attack. Peter’s work week would begin the next day, Monday. He’d already checked the library’s hours—they opened to the public at 10:00 a.m. So if he could be there as soon as it opened, before it got busy, he should get an opportunity to speak with Peter.
But what to say to him? How to approach him? He was still trying to figure that out.
Start with the obvious. Peter seemed to recognize him, so maybe that angle might work. “Excuse me, but when you saw me in the diner on Saturday, you seemed to recognize me. I’m sorry, but I don’t recall where we’ve met. Could you tell me?”
It might work, but it was a little upfront, almost confrontational. The reaction on the man’s face had been one of shock after all, so maybe the direct approach wasn’t the best idea.
Again, he’s a skittish creature. So maybe….
Maybe he shouldn’t go into the library at all. Maybe he should wait outside for Peter at the end of his shift (which was 6:00 p.m.—he’d checked this on Saturday) and talk to him then.
Yeah, that might do it. “Excuse me, but….”
The problem was, the only response he could envision Peter making to that would be to run away again.
Nick turned his gaze to the window, staring at the cars passing by. Was he that scary? Or was their previous encounter that disastrous? Dammit—why couldn’t he recall anything?
Okay, let’s really knuckle down and think about this. Was it a bar encounter? Some late-night boozy conversation that he’d forgotten as soon as it had ended? No, Peter had been in San Francisco for a mere two weeks before leaving the city a couple of months ago. Nick thought hard about it but didn’t recall meeting anyone in that period of time. He’d check his calendar, but didn’t think anything would turn up.
Besides, again, anyone with Peter’s looks, which were right in Nick’s wheelhouse of what he found intoxicatingly attractive…. There was absolutely no way he would ever forget—
Wait. Wait a moment.
His fingers froze on the glass.
Three years ago.
It was autumn—like it was now—and the nights had turned crisp and cold in the Castro, with the bay winds chilling you right to the bone. He was in one of his garrulous social moods and felt like hitting the bars the way he used to for the first time in months. So he’d dressed nicely for once and headed out to the hottest bar in the Castro at the time, the Time Gone By.
The Time Gone By was designed to resemble a gentlemen’s social club in Victorian England with dark wood paneling on the walls, bookcases, musty-looking old books, fragile glass-topped small wood tables and overstuffed velvet-upholstered armchairs. The type of place a librarian would love, he suddenly realized.
He’d been at the club for a few hours when an extraordinarily attractive young Asian man approached his table and softly asked in a musical voice if he could sit down with him.
Nick stared, then said yes. Though a little bleary at that point, he distinctly recalled being struck by the man’s bespectacled face and lean, long-legged frame. They were etched into his brain from the moment he first laid eyes on him.
The young man was hesitant at first, but finally initiated some small talk with Nick. He had a shy and beautiful smile. He coyly refused to give his name, and so Nick didn’t give his either. It was a flirting game. He figured he’d get the guy’s name out of him at some point. As a P.I., Nick prided himself on being personable when needed and getting people to talk, but this night he didn’t employ any of those tactics. He just continued conversing with the guy because he wanted to.
It was love at first sight.
They spent an hour talking about books and music and movies. Nick read a lot of mysteries—not surprising, given his profession—while Peter was a science fiction and fantasy geek. Their tastes were complementary in some ways and wildly differing in others.
Nick had already been drinking before Peter came and sat with him, and as the night wore on his attraction to the other man grew unbearably intense. When they moved to the next room, the darkened one with the dance floor, Nick couldn’t stop himself from reaching out and grabbing Peter and pulling him close.
The smell of his skin… his hair. The night simply wasn’t long enough. He wanted to keep this man in his arms forever. It wasn’t just the physical attraction, but also the mental and emotional stimulus of their conversation with one another. He began to feel as if this was the one, that maybe soul mates actually existed. Their chemistry was perfect.
By then he was definitely drunk. Flashes of images remained in his mind—Peter’s eyes, crinkling slightly in mirth or glinting with desire; the quirk of his lips that gave him a slightly pixie-ish look; the swish of his black hair as it fell awkwardly into his eyes. He wanted to touch and hold and kiss every part of him that he could see—and the parts he hadn’t seen yet.
At some point, he had to use the restroom, and when he returned, the young man was gone.
He’d looked all over the club for him, even going outside and circling the building a few times, trying to see if he was out getting a smoke or flirting or giving someone a blow job or something, anything. As the minutes passed and he didn’t find him, his heart sank.
They hadn’t even exchanged names. The young man had refused to tell him where he lived, what he did, anything that would identify him. Nick thought he would have all the time in the world to discover who he was. But he was wrong.
The young man had vanished into thin air.
At first, Nick didn’t want to accept it. They’d had so much in common. He couldn’t have gotten dumped because they were too compatible, right? It made no sense. The man was fairly young, maybe graduate student age, but hardly a vulnerable teenager—even if he was new to the club scene, or a virgin with men.
He had held the man in his arms. He’d had hold of him—and then let him get away.
Over the next few weeks, he found himself going back to the Time Gone By night after night like a love-struck teenager, hoping he would show up again. Because he’d drunk so much, he didn’t have a crystal-clear memory of the young man’s features, even though he knew he had taken in his looks that long night with a sense of never wanting to forget him.
His friends sympathized, but after a while they gently urged him to forget the guy and move on. He reluctantly had to agree that one night spent talking and dancing together in a club was hardly likely to portend the great love of one’s life. And after all, if the other man had truly felt the same way about him, he wouldn’t have disappeared on him.
In time, the impressions and memories of the man’s face began to fade and he did move on, caught up in the daily routine of work, errands, socializing, and all else that made for a full life.
Three years passed.
And then Jack called him about this missing guy….
HE BLINKED. Jesus Christ, so that’s it.
Peter Kimura was the man he’d met and instantly fallen in love with three years before.
That explained Nick’s—well—reaction to seeing Peter’s photo. It certainly wasn’t every day that he jacked off to a target’s photo. And that unsettled feeling he’d had about this case from the very beginning…. It all made sense now.
What he wasn’t clear on was how he felt about all of it.
He’d been crushed by Peter’s disappearance that night. He’d been dumped before, sure. Hadn’t everyone been at some time or another? But the other man had felt so right, so perfect for him, that it honestly had hurt a lot. Even though he kept telling himself it was just one night, that if it had really been meant to be that it wouldn’t have ended like it did, it was a long time before he could shake the pain of the loss. The young man—Peter—had been that special.
He was a resilient person, one who genuinely liked people and easily made friends. He was well-adjusted and bounced back quickly from adversity. And so he recovered from losing Peter and put the whole encounter into the recesses of his mind.
And now it was right back in his face.
He had found Peter again—who, for some reason, was using an alias and had abruptly moved to Montana only days after he’d told the residence club manager that he would be looking for an apartment in San Francisco.
The question was, what was he going to do with him?
MONDAY morning, and Nick still hadn’t made a decision.
He could pretend he didn’t remember that night, but he really just wanted to be honest with the other man.
The day dragged on while Nick pondered his options. He e-mailed Jack, saying he’d located Peter Kimura and that he was using the name “Tori Tanaka” and working at the Nahala branch library in Weller Falls, Montana.
He finally decided to wait for Peter at the staff door at the back of the library at the end of his shift. As the minutes ticked toward six o’clock, Nick found his heart starting to pound and his mouth going dry.
What happened that night? Why did you run out on me?
He clamped down on those thoughts. They didn’t help now.
Six o’clock. He continued to wait, standing under a tree.
The door opened and Peter exited, along with a young woman. Nick stared, trying not to let feelings of jealousy come up. They were smiling and laughing, and Peter held the door open for her as she fumbled with her shoulder bag, which was slipping down her arm.
The woman got herself straightened out and apologized to Peter, who shook his head and smiled. Peter walked the woman to her car and waited for her to get in and start the engine before he turned with a friendly wave and set off across the parking lot on foot.
Nick waited until the young woman had pulled out of the parking lot before opening his mouth. “Peter.”
The other man stopped in his tracks—then turned to face him.
His voice was subdued and quiet, not what Nick was expecting.
Nick approached him slowly, stopping about five feet away. The other man hadn’t moved an inch. “I’m sorry,” Nick said, “I know this is sudden—”
“Why are you here?”
It was the same question he’d asked at the diner. Nick fumbled for the right words.
He found himself saying exactly what he didn’t want to say—what he’d been afraid to say.
“I remember you.”