“What is your name and your address?”
“It’s Cassie, Cassie Kramer, and the address? Oh . . . crap, I don’t know . . . it’s on Benning Road . . . about, about a mile from . . . the Cougar Mountain turnoff. Trent Kittle’s farm. Please just send someone.” She was shaking all over, her fears congealed.
“Are you injured?”
“No! No! I’m fine, but my husband. He could be hurt! I don’t know!” She was panicking, but thought of Trent and how much she loved him and how, oh, God, he couldn’t be injured or worse. No, no, no! She wouldn’t go there. “The address . . . Oh, Jesus. Wait. Hold on.” She scrambled to her feet and ran through the dark hallway, phone to her ear, ankle twinging. Hadn’t she seen a stack of mail on the table, a bill with an address on the kitchen counter? She flipped a switch. Light flooded the kitchen and she picked up the top envelope. “Okay, okay. . . . Here it is.” She read the damn address to the operator and repeated it, all the while hearing the click of computer keys as the woman typed. “Please send someone now.”
“I’ve already dispatched officers,” the officer said calmly, as if the situation weren’t life and death. “They’re on their way. If you’ll just stay on the line.”
“No . . . no, I have to go. I have to find Trent.” Images of him, bleeding, in pain, battling for his life, flared behind her eyes. Didn’t this calm woman on the other end of the line realize that time was running out, that even now . . . She squeezed her eyes shut to fight the fear.
“No, ma’am,” the operator was saying. “Stay on the line. Officers will be there soon.”
“Soon’s not good enough. They need to be here now!” Cassie was having none of it. This operator didn’t understand. “This is an ongoing case. Call Detective Rhonda Nash of the Portland PD, her and her partner, whatever his name is. Detective Thomas, no, that’s not right.” She was starting to lose it. “Thompson. That’s it! Detective Thompson. Tell them to get out here now!” Before the operator could break in, Cassie added, “Just tell them Cassie Kramer called and it’s urgent, that there’s gunfire at the ranch.” She didn’t wait for a response, just clicked off, then flipped the light switch so that the kitchen was again blanketed in darkness.
Quickly she made her way to the back door. She only paused long enough to call her stepfather’s cell phone. She should have called Shane first. One ring. Two. “Hurry up,” she said, and then as the phone rang a third time, his groggy voice came over the connection.
“Yes! I need help. Trent’s in the barn and there’s been gunshots. Well, just one. But there was a scream and—”
“Yeah. Maybe an animal. Maybe human, I don’t know. It was awful. Trent was already outside and then I heard a gunshot. I texted him and he hasn’t gotten back to me. Oh, God, I’m so worried. I called nine-one-one, but you’re closer.”
“On my way,” he replied. “I’ll be there in five.”
That could be too long.
Shane said, “Stay put.”
She clicked off, slid the phone in her pocket, held the pistol firmly. Her stepfather’s advice rang in her ears as she opened the door and stepped into the rainy night.
Lying on the barn floor, breathing the scents of dust and horses and urine, Trent sucked in his breath and cursed himself a dozen times over. Pain screamed up his leg and he dragged himself to one of the empty stalls while the horses in boxes all around him neighed in terror. Blood stained his jeans and he hoped to God his femoral artery hadn’t been hit by the damned shot.
He’d entered the barn carefully and seen nothing. Still, cautious, he hadn’t snapped on a light.
Hud, however, had been agitated and the minute they’d stepped into the barn, had taken off like a streak, running down the corridor, toenails clicking, racing past the stalls where horses were shifting nervously in their stalls.
That was odd. The hackles on the back of Trent’s neck had raised and he’d lifted his rifle, though he’d been loath to fire it in the tight confines of the barn. He’d reached for the light switch.
A shrill, blood-curdling scream rose to the rafters.
What the hell?
He’d started jogging. Toward the sound. Toward the silo. Ignoring the pain. Heading to the area the damned dog had disappeared. The interior was dark, what little light there was coming through the tiny windows, the security lamp providing the barest of illumination, but he knew every timber and rafter inside, had repaired all the walls and feed bins and stalls, remembered where each tool was hung.
Still he’d moved cautiously, squinting into the darkness, listening hard for any sounds over the rapid beating of his pulse drumming in his ears, and the nervous whinnies of the horses pacing and pawing in their boxes.