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Colton Under Fire
Cindy Dees

Liam let them in, and Zog made a beeline for the thermostat on the wall in the dining room. He popped the cover off and fiddled with the electronics inside. “Gotta look at the base unit,” he announced.

They piled upstairs to the slant-ceilinged office. At one end of the space was a short door that turned out to lead to a partially finished attic space.

“Perfect,” Zog breathed.

Frowning, Liam watched the guy get down on his hands and knees and crawl for the corner over the front door. Flashes of light indicated that Zog was photographing something. When the guy backed up and headed for the other side of the open space, Liam estimated that Zog was on top of the camera in Chloe’s room. More flashes of light.

“Hand me that zipped pouch in the bottom of the bucket,” Zog muttered.

Liam passed it over and was startled when the technician went to work, quickly attaching wires to something in the corner.

“’Kay. Done,” Zog announced.

Liam opened his mouth to ask what the guy had found, but Zog waved him to silence. They tromped downstairs. Zog replaced the thermostat cover while mumbling something about being glad it was just a fuse that needed replacing and chuckling over how they were gonna be able to charge for a full-service visit. Then they piled into the van and drove away from Sloane’s bungalow.

“Well?” Liam demanded.

The stoner persona dropped in an instant, and Rahm spoke crisply. “State-of-the-art surveillance and transmission system. Someone’s nearby monitoring the camera feed, or else there’s a remote unit nearby where the data is being collected, forwarded to another location, and possibly recorded for later viewing. Either way, your stay-at-home mom has some serious hardware in her attic. Stuff’s practically military grade.”

“But why?” Liam blurted in frustration. “She’s a mom.”

“You sure about that? There’s a good twenty grand in gear installed in that house. We’re talking a top-drawer private security firm or the FBI. They’re the only types who have access to that kind of tech besides the military.”

Suddenly, Liam didn’t know anything at all about Sloane. Who in the world would bring that kind of juice to spy on her? And why?

The van pulled to a stop beside his pickup truck back at the station.

“Here,” Zog said, holding out a flash drive and a cigar-box-sized box with an antenna sticking out of it. “You’ll need these.”

“What are they?”

“Plug the antenna unit into an electrical outlet and plug that flash drive into your computer, and you’ll see the exact same feed as the cameras. I cloned the whole system for you.”

Liam sputtered. He didn’t want to spy on Sloane! He only wanted to know who’d done it. “Is there any way we can track who’s picking up the signal?”

“I planted a signal tracker at the house, but I’m gonna have to go back to the bench in my lab and catch an outbound batch burst of data before I can give you a location. Give me, say, twelve hours? I doubt the surveillance batches are going out any slower than that.”

“Fair enough. Thanks for all your help, man.”

Zog said soberly, “I hope you find the answers you’re looking for.”

So did he. It would kill him to have to take Sloane down if she was mixed up in something nefarious. And Chloe—that kid couldn’t end up back in her father’s hands. Could the Coltons be convinced to sue for custody—

Slow down, there, Tonto. Sloane isn’t convicted of anything yet. Innocent until proven guilty, buddy.

Please God, let Sloane not be tangled up in something illegal.

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