“You think that’s ballsy? Wait till you hear the rest of my plan.” Sam patted the duffel bag at his side. “Go ahead. Take a look.”
Mick unzipped the bag. “Holy fuck. We drove across the country with that in the car?”
Sam shrugged. “It’s not dangerous until it’s detonated.”
In the passenger seat of the unmarked car, Hannah rubbed her hand on her denim-clad thigh as Brody ended his call. “That was Detective Douglas in Vegas. Mick Arnette’s prints match the one set of prints they found in your rental car. Mick has never been arrested in Nevada, and he isn’t in the national fingerprint database either. They’re going to check out the address on his license. They’ll let me know what they find.”
Would they find Jewel?
“Douglas did say that they have a criminal record for Sam Arnette. According to Douglas, Sam is one nasty SOB. He was dishonorably discharged from the army. Douglas doesn’t know why. Vegas police arrested him for armed robbery, but the sole witness mysteriously disappeared, so he was never convicted. Douglas is sending me a picture of Sam.” His phone buzzed. He swiped the screen with his thumb and handed it to Hannah.
“That’s the other man from the attack in Vegas,” she said.
Brody nodded. “Makes sense that the brothers would be together.”
Police chatter hummed from the radio on the dashboard. Brody’s phone buzzed again. He answered it, uttered a few yeses, then signed off with “Call me when you have something.”
“The warrant came through for Mick’s phone,” Brody said. “The geeks are already analyzing his records and trying to track data usage and pings on local towers. Hopefully they’ll be able to narrow down the search for Chet.” Brody took a deep breath. He looked haggard. The chief had kept him busy for too long. It was almost seven o’clock. Only one hour left until the end of Mick’s deadline. Tick tock. “It gets worse.”
“Tell me.” Her stomach did a slow roll as Brody steered through a turn. She grabbed the armrest. He was pushing the speed.
“The scene of yesterday’s shooting? The one where the woman was murdered?”
Hannah’s brain shot ahead of his words. “The Arnettes?”
“Their fingerprints were all over the inside of that house. Sam’s prints were on the bat used to kill Joleen.”
Her hand shot up to cover her mouth. That woman was killed because the Arnette brothers followed Hannah to Scarlet Falls from Las Vegas. Sam had beaten that woman to death with a bat. What would he do to Chet?
“What if we can’t find him?” she asked.
“There’s no we.” Brody’s tone sharpened. “You’re a civilian. Law enforcement will find Chet. Local, county, and state cops are all over this, and the FBI is on alert. Every inch of this county will be combed. There isn’t anything else that can be done at this point. Patrol cops are already out searching.”
Hannah nodded. “I still feel like it’s my fault, and I hate waiting.”
“You cannot take the blame for what some psycho criminal does.”
She knew Brody was right, but she still felt like she’d brought this danger home. If Grant hadn’t taken the family away, who knew what could have happened to them. Instead of Chet, Sam Arnette could have Carson or Ellie or another member of the family in his clutches. The temperature was still dropping. The forecast called for below-freezing temperatures tonight. Snow was a possibility. In the photo, Chet was wearing a thin shirt. No jacket. If he was still alive, he wouldn’t last long outside tonight.
A voice call came over the radio. Brody turned up the volume. The dispatcher called off a string of numbers that meant nothing to Hannah, but the tone was urgent. Hannah caught the words shooting and officers down.
Brody reached for his phone and speed-dialed a number.
“All units, be on the lookout . . .” Mick Arnette’s name and description followed.
Brody ended his call. He curled his fingers around his phone and punched his thigh. “A moving van knocked the sheriff’s car off an overpass. Both deputies were shot and killed. Mick Arnette escaped.”
He slowed the car and turned right. The rural road was empty, and he punched the accelerator. The car surged forward into the dark.
“He’s loose?” Horror crawled up Hannah’s throat.
“Oh, no.” Two women were murdered. Chet was taken, and two police officers were dead. “Now what?”
“Massive manhunt,” Brody said. Determination hardened his face. The car approached a wooden bridge over a shallow creek, and he slowed the vehicle.
The bridge exploded in front of them. Wood and dirt plumed into the air as the car hurtled forward into a cloud of smoke.
On instinct, Hannah grabbed for the armrest. Brody yanked the wheel to the side. The car flew down the embankment. The world spun as the vehicle flipped. Momentum and gravity flung her against the seat belt. Something exploded in her face. She had no idea how many times the car rolled before coming to a stop.
She breathed. Fine, acrid dust settled over the car’s interior, and the deflated airbag lay across her knees. Her heart banged against her ribs, and her eyes watered, blurring her vision. She wiped a forearm across her face. “Brody?”
In the light of the dashboard, she could see blood from a gash on his temple running over his closed eyes. She touched his shoulder, but he didn’t respond.
Bridges didn’t blow up by accident. She knew instinctively Mick Arnette was responsible, with his ex-military brother’s assistance—and they had explosives. She needed to get Brody out of the car.
Though she suspected adrenaline was blocking her pain—no one walked out of an accident this serious without at least minor injuries—her limbs seemed to be intact and usable. Her fingers were slippery with sweat. She wiped them on her sweater and grabbed for the seat belt release. The button was jammed. A broken piece of rearview mirror on the seat nicked her finger.
But even if she unfastened their seat belts, how would she get Brody out? She couldn’t carry him.
They needed help. Her phone. Where was her phone? She couldn’t think straight.
“Hurry up,” a voice said from outside the car.
Hannah reached for her weapon. Before she could clear the gun from its holster, the door opened.
“Ah, ah, ah.” The muzzle of a gun was in her face. Behind it, Mick Arnette was looking into the car. She almost didn’t recognize him. He was dressed like a Best Buy clerk, and his head was shaved bald. But the evil glint in his eyes was unmistakable. “Put your hand where I can see it or my brother shoots your boyfriend in the head.”
The driver’s door opened. Another man stood on Brody’s side of the vehicle pointing a gun at his temple. She squinted. In the dashboard light, his features were just visible enough that Hannah could recognize Sam Arnette.
“Get out of the car.” He made a small motion with the muzzle of the gun. “Take it slow.”
Hannah reached for the seat belt release but it still wouldn’t give. Mick pulled a knife from his pocket. “Don’t try anything. My brother would like nothing more than to kill the cop.”
He took her gun, leaned across her body, and cut her seat belt, then slashed the strap across Brody’s chest and took his handgun as well.
Mick backed up. “Let’s go, sweetheart.”
Hannah swung her feet out of the car. Her fingers closed around the mirror shard. She tucked it up the sleeve of her sweater. Her knees buckled, and her head swam as she tried to stand. Her muscles felt weak and shaky. Her heart pumped triple time.
Mick swirled a finger in the air. “Turn around and put your hands behind your back.”
She pivoted, curling her fingers into fists. He bound her wrists with a plastic zip tie. Then he patted her pockets, his hand lingering on her butt. “This ass is mine.” He slid his hand between her legs and squeezed hard. Tears poured down Hannah’s cheeks.
How would she and Brody get out of this?
Mick’s brother hauled Brody out of the car and pulled him over his shoulder fireman style.
“How come I get to carry the man?” the brother complained. “And why can’t I just kill him?”
“You’re stronger than me,” Mick said. “And I want to hold on to him in case we run into trouble and need more leverage.”
They climbed the bank to the road. Without her hands to stabilize her climb, Hannah tripped twice on rubbery legs. A moving van was parked on the road next to the demolished bridge. Mick rolled the back door up. The interior was a black void.
Sam heaved Brody into the back. He hoisted himself into the truck, rolled Brody onto his face, and zip-tied his hands behind his back. Another plastic tie went around Brody’s ankles.
“Your turn.” Mick gestured toward the van.
Hannah climbed up the metal steps into the back.
“Stop,” Mick commanded, his gun pointed at Brody’s temple. “Get her ankles. Bitch can be tricky.”
Sam bound her feet together.
The door slammed down. The van went dark. A metallic click signaled the slide lock closing. A few seconds later, an engine started, and the truck moved. Hannah nearly fell over.