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[email protected]. Clicking on the attachment, she gasped. Staring back at her was a picture of Chet, bound, gagged with duct tape, and apparently unconscious. She studied the photo. The picture was zoomed in close. Where was he? She couldn’t see much of the background. Just grass and weeds under his head. A dark red wall of some sort behind him. He could be anywhere.

“Where is he?” she asked.

“Like I’m going to tell you.” He sneered. “My brother is watching him. If I don’t call by eight o’clock, he’ll kill the old man. He’ll enjoy doing it.”

An icy ball formed behind Hannah’s ribs. She took his phone out of her pocket.

A lock screen appeared. “Pass code?”

“Like I’d give you that.” The arrogant bastard actually smirked. “Let me down and untie me. Then I’ll tell you.”

Right. Not. Hannah debated for a minute. She could call Brody. He’d bring the police. They’d start a formal search for Chet. But would Mick talk to the police? She doubted it. She had a feeling he knew the Miranda warnings by heart.

She waved the knife. “My father was an army ranger. He taught me how to do all sorts of interesting things, like rig snares and hunt game. By the time I was twelve, I could skin and field dress a deer.” She reached up and touched his solar plexus with her forefinger. “You make a cut from the deer’s sternum to its crotch. That’s the tricky part. The cut has to be deep enough to get through the hide and abdominal muscles, but you don’t want to puncture the intestines. You need to pull those out intact so their contents don’t taint the meat.”

His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. The brief shimmer of fear in his eyes gave her hope that he’d tell her where his partner was keeping Chet.

A predatory, egotistic smile split his face. “Nice bluff, counselor. But you aren’t like me. You aren’t going to cut me. You have morals. You care about doing what’s right. And you’d go to prison for it.”

A small voice inside her wanted to make him pay. He was the worst example of humanity. He preyed on helpless young girls and old men. He wasn’t worth the air he breathed. Once he was arrested, the courts would take over. He’d be one more cog in an overcrowded wheel. He was a plea away from a short sentence.

But she couldn’t do it. She’d fight to defend herself or another, but she couldn’t hurt a man hanging helpless from a tree, no matter how much the man deserved it. Her father and her brother had fought and sacrificed for freedom and democracy, not vigilante justice. But now she truly understood the anger and frustration that had driven Grant to pound on their brother’s killer.

Damn it.

She couldn’t let him go, and she couldn’t make him talk. That left one option. She had to trust Brody.

Hannah pulled out her own cell and dialed Brody. His voice mail answered. She called the police station. A man answered the call. “Scarlet Falls police. Sergeant Stevens.”

“If you call the cops, I’ll never tell you,” Mick said. “If the old man dies, it’ll be your fault.”

Hannah ignored him. “I need to talk to Detective McNamara.” Hannah stared at the photo of Chet. There must be a clue in the picture that could tell her where Chet was tied up.

“Detective McNamara is unavailable.”

“Please, interrupt him.” She gave the sergeant her name. “It’s an emergency.”

“Better hurry,” Mick chided. “It’s fucking cold out here today. The old dude won’t last long. When we grabbed him, he already looked half dead.”

Chapter Thirty

“The suspect opened fire first,” Brody said for the tenth time. Why was he wasting time recounting the shooting over and over while he’d rather be searching for the killer?

“And you have no idea how seriously he was wounded?” the chief asked.

“No. I saw his body jerk, but he kept running.” Brody knew debriefing after a shooting was important, but the chief and mayor were in full butt-covering mode. A killer was on the loose, and they didn’t want to assume any blame. Plus, once he was caught, they wanted every i and t accounted for, in case the criminal sued the township. They always sued the township.

“We have the local ERs on alert in case he seeks treatment.” The chief scratched his smooth jaw.

Brody scraped a hand over his own stubble. He hadn’t taken time to shave.

Stella sat at the other end of the table. As the officer who’d shot the suspect, she’d been put on desk duty. Helping with the search wasn’t an option for her.

The mayor slapped both hands on the table. “I think that’s enough, Detective.”

The chief turned to Stella. “Department policy states that any officer involved in a shooting is automatically placed on desk duty for a minimum of one week. Although I see no indications that this is anything but a justified shooting, I’ll be performing a full investigation. You will also be required to see the psychologist. The doctor will have to clear you to return to patrol. You too, Detective McNamara.”

She blinked to Brody, and he nodded. He’d follow up with her, as he wished someone had done with him in Boston. Instead, the precinct cops, mostly old-timers, had projected a suck-it-up mentality that he’d felt obligated to emulate. Would his marriage have failed if he’d gotten help then instead of waiting for full-blown post-traumatic stress to develop? It didn’t matter, he decided. His wife had left him when the going got tough. Clearly, she’d thought “for better or for worse, sickness or health, and richer or poorer” were multiple-choice options rather than vows. He was better off without her.

A knock sounded on the door.

The chief frowned. “This better be important.”

The sergeant opened the door. “I’m sorry, sir.” He nodded to Brody. “I have a call for Detective McNamara. She says it’s an emergency.”

Brody stood. “Excuse me. I’ll be right back.” He followed the sergeant out into the main room. “Who is it, Sergeant?”

“Hannah Barrett,” the sergeant said. “I put the call through to your desk.”

Brody hurried to his office, picked up the phone, and pushed the blinking button. “Hannah? What’s wrong?”

“I have bad news. There was someone waiting for me when I got home. Let me start with I’m fine . . .”

Brody’s limbs turned cold, and his heart stumbled as she gave him a succinct synopsis of her abduction at gunpoint. “You’re sure you’re all right?”

“Yes. I handled him.” Her voice sounded strained. “But his partner has kidnapped Chet. They must have been following me.”

“You’re at Grant’s place?”

“Yes. In the woods behind the garage.”

“Is he restrained?”

“Don’t worry. He’s not going anywhere,” she assured him.

“Stay put. We’ll be right there.” Brody hung up. He returned to the chief’s office, summarized Hannah’s call, and gave his boss Grant’s address. “I’m going there now.”

The chief rose to his feet. He motioned for the sergeant. “Get whoever is on patrol out there, and get some backup from the county and state police. They’ll have to pull personnel from the manhunt. Brody, do you have any physical evidence other than the haircut the killer gave the second victim to indicate these two incidents might be related?”

“Not yet.” Brody ran for the exit. Hannah was in the woods with an armed attacker. Pushing his sedan, he cut the drive out to her brother’s place to twelve minutes. He parked near the garage behind a patrol car. Running toward the woods, he yelled, “Hannah?”

“Over here,” a male voice answered.

Brody spotted figures in the forest. What the . . . ? Hannah was leaning against a tree, arms crossed, brows knitted. She appeared calm, but Brody could see the turmoil brewing behind her negotiation face. Next to her, a uniformed patrol officer stared at a man strung from a tree by his feet.

“Get me the fuck down from here,” the criminal barked.

“You want me to cut the rope?” Hannah pushed off the tree trunk and started toward him.

The criminal craned his head to stare at the ground five feet below his face. His body twisted. “No!”

“Make up your mind.” She shrugged, her casual gesture belied by the fury in her eyes.

Brody’s gaze swept the scene. Hannah had strung the man up like a side of beef. He and the patrol officer exchanged a look of disbelief—and respect.

His gaze lifted to Hannah. He walked over to her and pressed his forehead to hers. She’d told him she was all right, but until he’d seen her, touched her, his heart had refused to process that fact. “I can’t believe you caught him. You’re amazing.”

She was totally badass, and he was damned glad.

Her eyes were bleak. “Show him the picture, officer.”

The patrol cop held out a cell phone. It looked like Hannah’s cell phone case. Brody shaded the screen. Oh, shit. Chet.

“He won’t tell me where he is.” Hannah’s mouth thinned.

“We’ll find him.” Brody put an arm around her. More sirens approached. He went over to the patrol cop. “Let’s get him down.”

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