Mick bent over. The knife in his hand moved toward Hannah’s ankles.
She wobbled, making a show of awkwardly folding her feet under her body. When her boots were planted flat, she launched her body forward, head first. Her forehead struck Mick in the nose. Blood spurted.
“Fucking bitch.” He punched her and brought the knife up.
Brody rolled, taking Mick’s feet out from under him. Mick went over backward, his knife clattering to the metal floor. He flipped onto his belly and reached in his pocket. His hand came out with a gun. Brody crawled onto his back. Mick leveled the pistol and turned the barrel to aim at Hannah. Brody couldn’t move fast enough to disarm him. Instead, he snapped Mick’s neck. The body under him went limp.
The sudden movement sent agony rolling through Brody. He panted, unable to take a deep breath.
Hannah rubbed her jaw. With a head-clearing shake, she scooped the gun from the floor and pulled the clip out to check the load. Satisfied, she snapped it back in place.
Light-headed, Brody searched Mick’s pockets and cell phone. He pressed a button, and a lock screen displayed. Pass code–protected. No use to them.
Hannah nodded toward the door, no doubt thinking exactly what was on Brody’s mind. She whispered, “The brother is out there.”
The one who took a bat to Joleen’s face.
“We need to get out of here.” Brody rolled the dead man into the dark back corner of the truck. Then he peered out the door. Not trusting his vision in the dark, he waved Hannah forward. She nodded the all clear.
A cold wind hit them full force as they climbed down from the trunk. Next to him, Hannah shivered.
Knife in hand, Brody took in their surroundings. Trees in the distance. Large, bulky shapes all around. Where were they? A rectangular structure loomed ahead. There was another behind it. Clouds shifted, and moonlight brightened the landscape. A train.
They were in the rail yard. The same place where Joleen’s body had been dumped.
Brody called up a mental image of the area, but the yard comprised multiple acres. They had to move. Sam was out here somewhere, armed, dangerous, and ruthless. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem his bullet wound had slowed him down. Footsteps crunched on gravel. Brody pulled Hannah into the shadow of a freight car.
“Mick?” Boots clunked on the metal ladder of the van. “Fuck. No. Mick.” An inhuman roar echoed from the moving van. Remorse slid through Brody at the wounded sound.
Sam had found his dead brother.
But Brody would have to process taking another life later. Now, fear for Hannah’s life blotted out any other emotional reaction. Sam would be coming for them, and Brody could feel his pain and rage vibrating in the cold night air.
Boots hit the dirt and came toward them. “I’m going to kill you!”
Then Sam went into stealth mode. No more footsteps. No more words. Where was he?
Brody went down on one knee and looked under the freight car. No boots. Hannah turned and faced the other direction. Back to back, they waited. Nothing. Brody pointed ahead. They needed to get out of here.
Hannah inched forward. Brody moved in a crouch, watching the ground under the train, the bent-over position killing his ribs.
The air shifted. Brody sensed more than heard the movement. He turned just as a body dropped on top of him from inside the train.
“Brody!” Hannah lifted the gun. Brody and Sam went down and rolled under the train. She couldn’t shoot. She might hit Brody.
She ran ahead a few steps, dropped, and rolled under the next freight car. Turning, she ran back. The bodies had stilled. The figure on top flipped to his side. One arm flopped out into a patch of tall weeds.
Was that Brody or Sam? The grass was too high to see his face. Hannah pointed the gun forward. “Brody?”
“I’m here.” Wheezing, he sat up. One hand held his rib cage. “I think he’s dead.”
Hannah walked closer. She peered over the vegetation. Sam’s eyes stared sightlessly at the sky. A knife protruded from his belly.
“Hey, look!” Brody pointed behind her. Red and blue lights swirled in the distance.
Hannah helped him to his feet. Now that the threat was gone, he sagged.
“You need a hospital.”
“Need to find Chet,” he said.
They limped toward the lights.
Mac rode shotgun in Officer Dane’s patrol car. They were flying on the rural straightaway that led to the abandoned rail yard. Lights flickered around them, but the sirens were off. They didn’t want to spook the suspects.
She stared straight ahead. “You’re really a wildlife biologist?”
“What do you study?”
Her brow lifted. “Otters?”
“Interesting.” Her tone sounded more puzzled than curious. “How do you know the rail yard so well?”
“I spent considerable time out there as a teenager.”
The quick glance she cast in his direction was surprised. “Sex, drugs, or underage drinking?”
“Yes,” he said.
The cars pulled through the sagging-open gate. Cops spilled out. With Mac’s input, a quick and dirty search plan had already been agreed upon in the conference room of the police station.
“You stay here.” Dane pointed at him.
“But I know this place.”
“Do I need to handcuff you and put you in the back?”
“No.” Mac hung back, leaning on the car and crossing his arms. His memories of handcuffs and the backseats of patrol cars were not pleasant. Nor were the bad decisions that had put him there.
Dane hesitated, glancing back at him. “We’ll find her.”
Mac nodded. “You’d better.”
“Don’t you go running off into the dark the minute my back is turned,” she warned. “You’ll get shot.”
Hm. Mac wondered how the cop knew he was going to do just that.
“There they are!” someone shouted.
Two figures limped toward them. Mac ran past the cops. His sister was banged up but on her feet and walking. Relief nearly took him to his knees. He folded her into his chest. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here.”
“I’m all right, Mac,” Hannah said.
He took his first full breath in hours. What if she hadn’t been? He would have been too late yet again. He would have put work ahead of his family for the hundredth time. He hadn’t been around to help Lee. Hell, he hadn’t even known Lee was in trouble, which was totally inexcusable. Lee had saved Mac, and in return, Mac had abandoned him.
He tightened his grip on his sister.
Their childhood had been messed up, but what Mac did with his adult life was his responsibility.
Brody zipped up the winter jacket one of the patrol cops loaned him. Vehicles crowded the yard. Flashlight beams crisscrossed the ground. Every available body had been called in to search for Chet.
Hannah strode next to him. Mac was teamed up with Stella. His knowledge of the yard’s layout had proven useful. But two hours into the search of the rail yard, Chet hadn’t been found.
“Over here,” someone yelled. Brody picked up the pace. A black Dodge Charger was parked behind a rusted engine. A cop shone his light inside the vehicle. “Nothing.”
He opened the vehicle door and popped the trunk. Brody surged forward and peered inside. A hand protruded from under a tarp. No!
With a silent prayer, he reached down and moved the tarp. Please let him be alive. But it wasn’t Chet. The face was slender, young, and badly beaten. Shock paralyzed Brody for a second. “It’s a woman.”
Brody leaned in and pressed two fingers to her throat. A weak pulse tapped against his fingertips. “She’s alive.”
He tugged off his jacket and draped it over her. Her eyes opened, white-rimmed with fear.
“It’s all right. You’re safe. We’re the police.”
A tear ran from her eye.
An ambulance was already on-site, waiting. EMTs rushed in. Brody backed off and returned to the search. Hannah took his hand. “You shouldn’t be out here.”
“I’m all right.”
“You don’t look all right. You look terrible.” She took his hand. His devotion to his friend only deepened her feelings for him. Brody was the kind of man she’d been waiting for her whole life. However long he wanted to keep searching, she’d be here with him. “But let’s keep looking.”
“Found him!” A shout floated over the yard.
Brody’s breath fogged in front of him as he turned toward the voice.
They jogged toward the commotion in front of a freight car. A patrol cop handed Brody up. Chet was on his back, three navy-blue SFPD jackets draped across his body.
“Chet?” Brody knelt.
“He’s breathing, Brody,” a cop said over his shoulder.
Within minutes, the EMTs were in the car, starting an IV, draping Chet with blankets. One of Chet’s eyes opened. His fingers made a small motion, gesturing Brody closer.
He leaned over, putting his ear close to his friend’s mouth.
“There was an e-mail,” Chet rasped. “About Teresa. Follow up. Please. I don’t care what she wants. Promise. If I die, you’ll find her.”