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The voice coming in over the police radio sounded skeptical.
“Philip Long isn’t here. He must have been moved to another location.”
Detective Macy Greeley held the steering wheel in one hand and the radio with the other. “He may have gotten out. You need to check the perimeter and start a search. Any idea where the homeowner is?”
“We’re looking into it.”
“I’m just coming up to the turnoff. I’ll be there in five.”
In the distance the flashing lights of emergency vehicles and patrol cars bled red, white, and blue into a wash of black sky. The windshield wipers barely had time to snap back into place before Macy was once again driving blind. The view outside the car windows came at her in short bursts—a lonely stand of trees, an isolated mailbox, a farmhouse, a roadside fruit stand. A gust of wind pushed her into the oncoming lane and for a brief time she slid across the slick surface. It was late spring and snow was falling in the Whitefish Range. Summer still seemed a long way off.
Philip Long’s phone call had woken her up thirty minutes ago. She’d been dozing in the incident room they’d set up at the Walleye Junction police station where the authorities were monitoring his home’s incoming calls. It had been three days since he’d been abducted at gunpoint at a gas station, but his kidnappers had yet to make contact. All the authorities had so far was video footage of two masked gunmen threatening to kill their hostage if he didn’t get into a dark blue van. When Philip Long tried to call his home number, it was Macy who answered.
She’d recognized his voice immediately. As far as she knew he was the only Englishman in Montana with a talk radio program. Apparently he had a way of making people sit up and listen. During their brief phone conversation, Macy had hung on his every word.
I don’t know how much time I have, he said.
Can you tell us where you are?
I’ve been kept in the dark since I was taken. I really have no idea.
Look around. Describe what you see.
It’s a family home. Maybe two floors with a basement. I’m not sure when they’ll come back. I have to go.
How many kidnappers are there?
I see headlights in the trees. Someone’s coming up the driveway.
* * *
Macy’s eyes flicked to the digital clock on the dashboard. It was almost three in the morning. A half hour had passed since they’d spoken. If they didn’t find him soon somebody else would. Macy checked the sat nav. The police had traced Long’s phone call to a residence on the outskirts of Walleye Junction. The first wave of law enforcement officers was already there.
There was no sign of the secondary road she needed to turn onto. Dark windswept trees twisted overhead, the branches arching so far they almost brushed the top of the vehicle. The drainage ditch that lined Route 93 was overflowing. Black water lapped onto the road. She caught sight of what looked like an exit and put on her turn signal.
A figure burst from the trees to her right just as she was slowing down. Macy hit the brakes hard, turning the wheel as the vehicle went into a spin. A pale face. A startled look. Philip Long flew into her windshield and disappeared over the roof as the car started to roll. Glass shattered. The frame buckled. Two and a half times around and the SUV came to a rest on the hard shoulder, its back end suspended above the drainage ditch.
Macy’s screams got caught up in a tangle of pain, panic, and grinding metal. She swung her head around as she tried to make sense of what had happened. Still in her seat belt, she was hanging upside down in the cab of the SUV with her hands braced against the ceiling. Her left wrist ached. She held it to her chest and blinked into what was left of the windshield. Outside, the SUV’s headlights picked up the trail of rain-soaked debris that had been thrown into the road when the car rolled—broken glass, a notebook, an empty Diet Coke can, her handgun still in its holster, Philip Long’s body. She struggled to move, but her seat belt was tight across her lap. She tugged at the clasp. It wouldn’t give. Using her legs as leverage, she pushed back hard against the seat and tried again. Metal scraped against pavement as the car lurched back another foot. She swayed from the seat belt as the ceiling buckled beneath her.
“Shit, shit, shit, shit.”
Driving rain, whipped up by strong wind, hit her directly in the face. She pressed her fingertips into her eyes and tried to think. She needed to remain calm. Help was close by. They’d get to her in time.
Outside the car something caught her eye. She looked on in disbelief. Philip Long was still alive. He staggered to his feet and swayed barefooted on the empty road. His wet gray hair was matted to his head. He took a tentative step toward her then stopped. The heavy roar of an engine filled the night. A vehicle was approaching. Its headlights hit Philip right between the eyes. He raised a hand and backed away.
Macy turned on the interior light and sifted through the wreckage in the car. The cord for the police radio was tangled on something beneath the passenger seat. She couldn’t find her phone.
A motorcycle pulled up just out of her line of sight. Exhaust fumes drifted into the cab. Macy twisted around to get a better look, but all she saw was the driver’s heavy black boots. The motorcycle’s engine continued to rumble as its driver moved across the road. Her SUV’s headlights caught him from behind. Rain poured over his helmet and down his close-fitting motorcycle gear. He knelt to pick up her gun before walking to where Philip Long was standing in the road with his hands up. Philip was yelling something, but the words were warped by wind and driving rain.
Macy’s seat belt snapped loose and she fell onto the roof in a heap. Her body felt awkward and heavy. She rolled to her side and crawled through the debris on her hands and knees. She was halfway out the window when the first of two shots rang out.
She slid across the wet gravel on her stomach, the broken glass crackling beneath her. She risked one last look. Philip Long was lying on his side, eyes wide, lips slightly parted. The man turned toward her patrol car just as she dropped into the drainage ditch. The water was ice cold. She dipped below the surface and let the dark current carry her away.
Copyright © 2016 by Karin Salvalaggio Ltd