“Your vest caught it!”

“I know,” he spit out, and then sucked in a deep, ragged breath. “But holy fuck that hurts!”

“You’re going to hurt like a son of a bitch for a few days, but you’ll be okay.” Tears blurred her eyes as the violence of the last twenty seconds rushed through her. Thank goodness I’m already on the ground. “I’m calling for backup.” Her fingers shook as she dialed.

“Looks like we found Craig,” Truman gasped.

He was right. In her bones, Mercy knew Craig had taken the shot.

Eddie answered her call. Mercy relayed their location and Truman’s situation. “Sit tight,” Eddie ordered. “We’ll get a county car over there ASAP, but we’re all on our way.”

She ended the call as Truman struggled to sit up, leaning against a rusted fender cemented to a pile of bricks. Relief swept over her as he moved on his own.

“Fuck me,” he muttered, wiping his forehead. “I don’t ever want to do that again.”

“I’ve never heard you swear so much, Chief Daly.”

He laughed and then moaned at the stab of pain in his chest. “I try to keep it clean. Did you see him?”

“No.” Mercy took another glance at the house. “But it’s got to be Craig. I saw something move at that boarded-up window. Exactly where I’d shown Eddie how a person had a perfect view if a stranger walked up to this house,” she admitted. The conversation seemed ancient. “We’re lucky he only took one shot.” She’d put on a vest before starting their hunt for Craig Rafferty. It was heavy and uncomfortable, something she rarely wore in her job, but searching for a killer had dictated it be worn.

She’d noticed Truman almost always wore one under his shirt.

This could have ended in a very different situation.

“Now what?” she asked. Can he walk out of here?

“Wait for the cavalry,” Truman said. “Is this as good of cover as we can get?”

“I’d say so. I’d rather be on the other side of the Tahoe, but no one shooting from the house can get us here.” She scanned the pile of junk behind them. “It’s mostly bricks and car parts, but it’s something. How are you feeling?”

“Like my chest is on fire,” he said. “Probably broke some ribs.”

“Can you run if we have to?”

“If we have to.”

The gunshot woke Rose.

I’m still alive.

Loud footsteps pounded down the hallway, and she scooted to the far corner of the bed, as far away from the door as possible. Locks slid and the door flung open. “Get up!”

“What’s happening?” she shrieked. Who’d he shoot? The smell of the fired gun reached her nose.

“Get up!” Craig grabbed her upper arm and lifted her completely off the bed. Her legs scrambled for purchase, and she flung out her arms to keep her balance. He hurled her through the doorway and she fell to her knees.

The air in the hallway smelled heavenly compared to the bedroom.

He hauled her to her feet and dragged her down the hall, her bare feet feeling warped wood floors. They turned into another room and he shoved her against the far wall. “On your knees.”

She collapsed against the wall, feeling old plaster and rough boards under her fingertips. She knelt, her forehead pressed against the plaster. One of his legs was firm against her back, but his attention was higher. Metal scraped against wood and he cursed. “Where’d they go?” he muttered.

Who?

Nervous energy rolled off him, and the odor of his sweat filled the room. A second scent emanated from him: her.

Her stomach turned over.

Then she felt his blade press against her cheek.

Truman breathed shallowly, the pain from the shot stabbing him with every inhalation.

At least I’m still breathing.

“Think Rose is in there?” Mercy whispered as they crouched behind their temporary cover.

Truman’s gut told him she was. But is Rose alive?

A woman’s screams sounded from the house and Mercy jumped to her feet. Truman lunged and grabbed her elbow before she dashed to the house. “Sit down!” he ordered as blinding pain radiated from his chest.

Mercy whirled on him, her eyes wide and her chest heaving. “That’s Rose!”

The screams intensified.

Mercy dropped to her knees and crushed her hands over her ears, pressing her gun against her temple. “He’s killing her,” she whispered.

Truman grabbed her other arm, holding her down, knowing she was seconds away from bolting toward the house again.

“We can’t wait,” she hissed, staring him in the eyes. “We’ve got to go in. I’ll go in.”

He shifted up to one knee with a low moan and gritted his teeth against the pain. “No one’s going in there.”

“If we wait for the others, it’ll be too late! Craig has to know we called for reinforcements.”

“We can’t go through the front door,” Truman said between clenched teeth. “He’ll kill us before we get there. Where’s the tunnel?”

With Mercy’s help, Truman made it to the Tahoe and backed it up the driveway to the road, out of sight of the house, hoping the shooter would think they’d left. Then they cut back through the woods on foot to where Mercy remembered Ned’s woodshed stood. Every step shook Truman’s chest, creating shooting pains that radiated up to his brain. Mercy glanced at him with concern a few times, but kept her mouth shut. He’d push on until it was physically impossible, and she knew it. A hundred feet of ground stood between the back door of the home and the woodshed. The woodshed’s door was out of view of any windows.

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