Jack plopped back on the curb, his breath gone again. Grounded. His eyes scanned the cops milling about the street. He searched for a friendly face, looking for any hope of getting to Lakefield as his mind rapidly flicked through options and rapidly rejected them.
How could he to get to Lacey?
Lacey woke in the icy darkness and her head jerked in pain. “Shit.”
She didn’t remember hitting her head, but she had one hell of a headache and a sharp pain in the right temple as it pulsated against the hard ground. She lay silent, blinking rapidly and trying to catch her breath. How had she…DeCosta. Fight. The cloth on her nose. Her body shivered spastically, trying to warm itself on the dirt floor. The cold had seeped through her clothes and cooled her core.
Her eyes slowly adjusted to the dim light and she swallowed hard as she studied her surroundings. Low ceiling, close walls. She smelled damp dirt and musty cold air. A few cracks of flickering weak light shone through the wood ceiling. A fireplace. He’d dumped her under a building, maybe a house. She listened hard for footsteps as she stared pleadingly at the cracks, willing heat to filter through. No sounds. Her foggy breath steamed in the dim light. She was fucking freezing.
Death from exposure could come fast in these temperatures.
She had to get moving.
She pushed up to a sitting position and blindly fingered the ties on her ankles. Her feet were bound, and he’d tied her hands in front of her. She couldn’t feel a thing with her numb hands. Her fingers screamed with pain as she moved them, reviving the circulation, sending tears down her face.
She’d been so stupid.
DeCosta. It’d been DeCosta’s younger brother, Bobby.
Too late, she’d realized Detective Callahan would never send someone to move her to safety. It’d confused her that the man seemed faintly familiar. She’d thought maybe he was an officer in plainclothes whom she’d met before. Callahan’s hunch about the identity of the killer had been right. The kid had grown up. If she hadn’t been exhausted and sick with worry and guilt over Melody Harper, she might’ve figured it out sooner. She blinked away tears as she fought her numb fingers.
Fighting back had accomplished nothing. Bobby DeCosta had been surprisingly strong for his size. Her pepper spray had been in her purse, stupidly out of reach as he grabbed her arms. She’d clawed his face, drawing blood, making him howl and slap her. At the pain, his eyes changed and didn’t look human. It was like he became a different being, something created from rage.
Lacey forced her fingers to keep wiggling and bit her lip at the burning pain. After a long minute, her fingertips could feel the rough texture of the rope wrapped around her ankles. The knots were tight and swollen, because her legs had lain in a puddle of melting snow. A fingernail ripped as she dug at the damp knots, making her gasp and her eyes water.
Her head throbbed like the bass in a teenager’s stereo. A concussion? Everything hurt. An all-over hurt. The kind where you can’t focus on one particular pain because all the other pains were just as strong.
When would he be back? She moved her hands faster. He hadn’t killed her yet, and God damn it, she wasn’t going to let him.
Had Jack lost control when he returned to an empty truck? First Melody gone and now her.
I’m so sorry, Jack. You didn’t deserve this.
A knot loosened the tiniest bit. She attacked the ropes, fighting to work through her pain. She’d get the damn ropes off and then she’d find a way out. She squinted at the door; its lock looked fuzzy. She blinked and saw two locks. She closed her eyes tight and opened them again. Only one lock on the old door. Fuck. She’d really hurt her head.
She breathed deep and focused on her fingers. She had to get out.
In the fading light, Jack and Alex flew down the freeway in Alex’s old Bronco. At this speed, they’d hit Lakefield within the hour. Jack checked the GPS on the dashboard. He’d gotten a look at Lusco’s notepad as he’d printed the address. Their destination was out in the boonies, up the Coast Range a bit. Heavily forested. Extremely isolated. It was going to be pitch-dark when they got there.
Alex’s truck was old but boasted every techno-geek gadget available. His friend hadn’t hesitated when Jack had called for help. Alex had simply asked when and where.
The speedometer read 95 MPH and Jack gripped the door handle tighter. This could be a wild goose chase. Their killer might be headed for Mexico. Or Canada. They were throwing all their eggs in one basket.
Today was the day. The tenth anniversary of Dave DeCosta’s sentencing. Whatever horror was going to happen would happen today. Bobby DeCosta had made that clear in his note card to Lacey. He hadn’t written specific actions, but his target was clear.
Jack had thought DeCosta nabbed Melody to take Lacey’s place. But now he knew Melody had been a lure to flush Lacey out.
Jack had delivered the quarry on a silver platter.
He was going to get her back. He’d promised her he’d keep her safe and he was going to keep his promise. He couldn’t live with himself if he didn’t. He put the images of a bleeding pregnant woman out of his mind.
Alex concentrated on the slick roads, not speaking. His mind plotting, Jack barely noticed his cell go off. He ignored it. The ring stopped and then started again.
He hit the speakerphone. “What?”
“He made contact.” Callahan’s tone was short, tight.
“He knows we’re coming. He spotted county and SWAT setting up outside his property and called the switchboard. They put him through. He wants to deal.”