His questions came rapid-fire. “Did she have a regional accent? Exactly how did she phrase that?”
When Chet’s interrogation was finished, Hannah looked down at the paper. She’d remembered a few more details, but her head ached from the strain.
“Go on downstairs and take a break while I put this all together and make a few calls.”
Hannah went down to the kitchen for more water. She took a Tylenol from her purse and swallowed it. Needing a distraction to take her mind off the never-ending replay of Jewel’s abduction, she switched on the television, turned the volume on low, and sat on the couch. A blue scroll on the television caught her attention.
“Breaking news: Shooting in progress, Scarlet Falls, NY.”
She ran to the bottom of the stairs. “Chet!”
He appeared on the top landing. His face was drained of color.
“You heard about the shooting?” She glanced back at the TV. A commercial played. The blue banner was unchanged. No new information.
“What shooting?” He descended the stairs.
She pointed at the TV. The thought of Brody shot and killed took Hannah out at the knees. She wobbled. Chet grabbed her arm and eased her onto the couch. “I’ll find out what happened.” He reached for the phone.
Eyes locked on the TV, Hannah wrapped her arms around her body. Chet had been upset before she’d told him about the shooting. He ended his call. “He’ll call me back as soon as he has details.”
Who was shot?
He sat on the sofa next to her, eyes riveted on the TV.
“What happened before I called you?”
“I opened my e-mail. There are more than three hundred messages in there from the last six months.”
“Are you going to open them?”
“I don’t know,” Chet said.
A blond female reporter in a newsroom appeared on the TV. She read from a teleprompter. “A report just in. A shooting is in progress at a kennel in Scarlet Falls. At least one police officer has been shot.”
Brody dove for the ground. A bullet whizzed past his head. Weapon in hand, he crawled to the steps and took cover behind the thick concrete. The suspect was firing through the windows from inside the house. At that angle, he couldn’t shoot Brody without coming outside.
But Brody was pinned. He couldn’t see the shooter from his position.
Where was Stella?
Had she retreated to the car? She couldn’t have left him and Lance. Disappointment swamped Brody as he scanned the area.
Wait. He saw her moving behind the unmarked car. Crouching, she ran to the trunk, opened it, and removed Brody’s AR-15. Holding the rifle across her body, she moved toward him.
She hadn’t run. She’d gone for a longer-range weapon. Smart girl. Relief flooded Brody.
Another shot came from inside the house, puffing the dirt in front of Stella. Brody looked up. Just the tip of the muzzle of a rifle protruded through a hole in the glass. Stella went flat, took aim, and fired a three-shot burst. The shooter went quiet.
Had she hit him? And was Lance still alive?
Twenty feet away from Brody, the downed officer’s feet kicked on the ground. Not only was he still alive, he was trying to inch away from the house. But his body didn’t budge. His injuries were too serious, and he appeared too weak to move. Blood stained the grass next to his leg. Too much blood for Lance to last very long without help. But to get to him, Brody was going to have to cover open ground. He’d be a clear target, like a metal duck in a shooting gallery.
To save Lance, Brody would have to trust Stella.
“Can you cover me?” he shouted.
She nodded and lifted the rifle. Sweat soaked Brody’s shirt. She yelled something back, but Brody didn’t hear it. His hearing was muffled, as if he were wearing the double layers of ear protection he used at the firing range.
Brody levered a knee under his body, launched to his feet, and ran for Lance. Stella fired at the window as Brody crossed the grass, grabbed Lance under the armpits, and dragged him toward the police cars. Lance’s blue eyes were wide open and hazed with fear and pain.
A shot rang from the house. A bullet whizzed by Brody’s head. He dropped, covering Lance with his own torso. Stella took aim and fired again. Then she straightened, waiting. Quiet descended again. Brody’s hearing returned as suddenly as it had disappeared. He heard the wind and Lance’s groans beneath him. The thin wail of an approaching siren floated in the air.
Brody pulled Lance behind the police vehicles. The cop’s pale face was turned away. Was he alive? Brody kept one eye on the house and reached for his neck. A pulse thrummed weakly against his fingertips.
In his peripheral vision, he saw a red stain spreading in the dirt next to Lance’s leg. The bullet had struck him in the thigh. Blood was turning the gravel muddy. He was bleeding out fast. Brody yanked off Lance’s clip-on uniform tie, folded it in half, and pressed it to the wound. Then he yanked off his own tie, looped it around Lance’s leg, and tied it snugly. The blood flow seemed to slow, or was that Brody’s wishful thinking? “Hang on, Lance.”
Lance’s eyes darted in wild circles. “Where is he?”
“No worries. Stella’s got us covered,” Brody said.
A door slammed. The shooter ran out the side exit of the house, a rifle in one hand, two bags in the other.
“Stop. Police,” Stella yelled.
The man whirled and fired a round at them. Stella answered with a burst from the AR-15. The shooter stumbled. She’d hit him. He recovered, though his pace was slower as he limped toward the barn. A few seconds later, a Camry roared out of the barn and over the field on the other side of the house. The vehicle fishtailed as it made a high-speed turn onto the road and sped away.
Sweat dripped into Brody’s eye, blurring his vision. He wiped his forehead with his sleeve. “Did you get the plate number?”
“No. Too far.” Moving toward him, Stella used the radio on her collar to update dispatch and give a basic description of the vehicle and suspect.
“How’s Lance?” she asked without taking her eyes off the house.
“Hanging in,” Brody said.
Lance’s eyes were closed, but he was still breathing.
Brody’s heartbeat ran in triple time. His lungs heaved, and sweat poured down his spine as he turned his attention back to Lance.
“I think the bleeding is slowing,” Brody said, mostly for Lance’s benefit. Stella returned to the car for a blanket. She covered Lance’s shivering body.
“I’m dying,” he wheezed.
“No, you’re not.” Stella took his hand.
“We got this,” a voice said over Brody’s shoulder. An EMT. Brody turned. A paramedic unit and two state troopers were parked next to his vehicle. When had they arrived?
Brody and Stella stepped back and let the EMTs take over. A sudden wave of weakness swept over Brody as his adrenaline plummeted. He leaned on his thighs and waited for his vision to clear. Stella stumbled to the side of the road and heaved into the weeds. When his head settled, he moved back to his vehicle and sat on the front bumper. Stella joined him a few minutes later.
“You OK?” he asked.
“Yes.” Her voice lacked conviction. She stared at him. “You’re bleeding.”
Brody looked down. His hands were coated in blood. More red stained his clothes. “It’s not mine.”
“You have a cut on your forehead.”
“I can’t feel it.” Brody’s whole body was numb.
More police cars and an ambulance arrived. An EMT taped a piece of gauze over Brody’s cut. Emergency personnel loaded Lance into the back of the ambulance and drove away. He heard the whump-whump of helicopter blades. He covered his eyes and squinted at the sky. A news helicopter hovered overhead.
“Think he’s going to make it?” Stella asked.
“I don’t know.” Brody turned to look at her. “You did good.”
“I never shot anyone before.” Her eyes were huge in her pale face. She was thirty years old, with seven solid years on the SFPD, but her pallor and shock made her look impossibly young. Stella scuffed a toe of an ugly black shoe in the dirt. “Most cops go through their entire careers without shooting anyone. I had hoped to be one of them.”
“Don’t we all.”
“You ever shoot anyone?”
“Get over it?”
“Not really,” Brody said. Except for that one surprising conversation with Hannah, he never talked about his one and only shooting. Why had he opened up to her? “If you need to talk to anyone, I’m around. Don’t let it fester. The chief is going to put you on administrative leave or desk duty for a week or two. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just policy. He’s also going to send you in for a psych eval. Do yourself a favor. Talk to the doctor. It’ll help.”
“Not at first. I thought I could handle it.” He paused for a breath. The shooting in Boston had been completely justified. He’d had no legal issues. But no amount of training had prepared him to take a life. “I was wrong. It would have been easier if I’d have dealt with it right away.”