CHAPTER NINETEEN

Alex reproached himself for allowing Jenny out of his sight and his anger heightened as he thought of her stubborn resistance to reason. He should have known, with her blind faith in her father she'd never leave L.A. without finding him. He just hadn't figured that she'd venture out in this strange, broken city without help. He'd misjudged her. Her determination to find her father had prevailed. Obviously, she adored her dad and believed he was innocent of wrongdoing, except for caving in to the mafia's threats to harm his family.

       As for him, his suspicions of Philip Lansing continued to deepen. Why, for instance, was Lansing so determined to call Jenny at risk to himself and to her. Why did he suddenly want the sealed envelope and why was he willing to jeopardize his status with the Program? And, why did he leave strict orders to keep the envelope sealed? What could be of such value to him that he'd risk his life and his daughter's life unless he'd been involved in a shady transaction in his dealings with Berkowitz? His professional instincts told him that Lansing was guilty of a greater crime than he'd portrayed to the jury. Either he was an excellent actor, or he was hiding an alarming secret.

       Alex pulled out his wallet and dialed the number on Harry Ferguson's card.

     "Harry," Alex glanced at his watch, "I...we're still searching at various hospitals. I may not return your car until tomorrow, if that's all right with you. Then I'll try and find a rental.

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       "Never mind about the rental car. You probably couldn't find one anyway." Ferguson's voice boomed cheerfully, "Use the Taurus as long as you need it. This is the least I can do for visitors caught unaware in our shaky city."

       "I can't thank you enough. And, Ferguson...will you say a prayer or two for us?"

       "I already have, son. I've asked and thanked God that He would lead you to the young lady's father and that you and Jenny will find a lifetime of happiness together."

       "Well," Alex laughed. "we've just met, we're not quite at that 'lifetime' stuff."

       "You will, you will, you didn't meet by accident, you know and anyway, I got it from a good source."

       Alex drove carefully through the beleaguered city, stopping to ask at West Valley hospitals. It was dusk when he pulled into the crowded parking lot of Valley Presbyterian Hospital and showed the receptionist his badge.

       "Have you seen a tall brunette, long hair, green eyes, searching for Philip Lansing?"

       The receptionist, weary from the hectic day of frantic, pleading relatives insisting on seeing their injured loved ones, looked up at the handsome man and surprised herself by responding with a smile.

       "Yes, she was here. I sent her to the waiting room....fourth floor. She seemed very anxious."

       "Fourth floor, thanks."

       "Sir," the receptionist called after him. There's a U.S. Marshall guarding her father's door."

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       Alex sprinted up the four flights to the overflowing waiting room. His heart sank. No Jenny. He asked at the nurses' station and was directed to Philip's room.

       He approached the Marshall guarding his door an showed him his badge. "Has Lansing's daughter been around?"

       The Marshall shook his head.

       "Has anyone been around asking to see him?"

       "A young curly headed blonde kid came by and I sent him on his way, but no girl."

       "Did the boy give his name? Anything that might help me find her?"

       "Well, he seemed overly anxious to see Lansing and hung around for a while but when he saw I was suspicious he left. Went down the stairs."

       "How long ago?"

       "Uh," the Marshall glanced at his watch, "probably 30–40 minutes."

       "Which was it, 30 or 40 minutes?"

       He sputtered, "well, I'd say more like 40."

       "You have a cell phone?"

       "Yeah, sure."

       "Give me the number. I'll be in touch."

       The Marshall obliged. "Lansing is still under, but when he wakes up, shall I tell him anything?"

       "Nothing. I'm off to look for his daughter. I'm afraid she may have met with trouble."

       "Haven't we all today?" he grimaced. "I've lived in L.A. all my life, been through a few quakes, but nothing like this one. Man, that was powerful, and they tell us it's not the Big One. God help us when that hits."

       Alex turned to leave. The Marshall called after him. "Sure I shouldn't tell Lansing his daughter's looking for him?"

       "I'm sure," Alex waved and hurried down the stairs and out to Ferguson's Taurus. He sat behind the wheel, his head resting in his hands and closed his eyes. In this vast metropolis, where would he look for Jenny? He had no clue.

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       But someone did. "Lord," Alex whispered, "I don't know where Jenny is, but You do, I don't know if she's in trouble, but you do. Lead me to her. Thank you."

       His first impression was to contact O'Reilly. Of course, why hadn't he thought of that? He'd apparently sent U.S. Marshalls to the Gavota's California estate. Alex started the Ford and drove until he found an empty telephone booth. No matter what O'Reilly ordered, he wouldn't leave Los Angeles without Jenny.

       He remembered Harry Ferguson's prediction... "I've already thanked God that you'll find her father and that you and Jenny will have a lifetime of happiness together. You didn't meet by accident, you know, and anyway I have it by a good source."

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