Carnage. When my eyes adjusted to the sudden bright spring sun all I could see was carnage. The foundation of a house lay in ruins, pieces of a life scattered about the yard. I took a step out the door and stepped on a commemorative Elvis plate. My next step was over a basket, its edges blackened with heat.
The bodies started closer to the house.
The police must have been at the house, close enough to be looking for us, anyway, when the explosives went off. The garage was behind the property, far back. They would have taken the house first, it made sense. they would not have heard me being tortured. But why were they there at all?
I had not time to wonder. Natalie had no time for me to wonder. The dust still hung in the air that the black pickup had kicked up when it passed.
“We need a car,” I told Cassidy.
She was ahead of me. She turned to a small jog toward several vehicles to our south. I limped behind her,
A shot rang out and we both stopped. A figure ducked behind one of the police cars.
“Hold it right there,” a voice said.
“We can’t really do that,” I said, and took another step forward.
Another shot rang out. It must have been high in the air because I did not hear the slug land.
“Listen, if you're friendly you gotta help us. My name is Evan Banned and that truck that just-”
“Oh, hell. Not you.” I stepped forward and looked at the figure with the gun as he came out of cover. Detective Gerald Parker’s face looked like someone had just splashed him with lemon juice.
“Parker, we need your help. Please. They’ve got Natalie in that black truck.”
Another head popped up beside Parker’s, “Natalie? Where?”
Cassidy pointed in the direction of town, “He’s headed into town, we have to go now. He’s gonna kill her and blow up the library. Probably all at the same time.”
I looked at the man beside Parker. He looked familiar. Brown hair, about five ten in clothes that were not police issue. If anything, it looked like he had just woken up. His nose bent like he had been a fighter but his eyes looked sad and distant with no fire. He was worried.
“I gotta stay here and secure the scene,” Parker said, looking around at the debris field, “I mean.. Jesus, they’re all dead.”
We reached the detective and the other man. I held out my hand.
“Give me your keys. Call ahead. We have to stop him.”
Parker shook his head, “No keys. After New Year’s I’m still on backup. Just command here. Uniform drove me.”
“Then give me someone’s keys, Parker,” I said. His eyes started to drift.
My head hurt. My ankle hurt. Hell, I hurt, all of me, complete and total. I did not have patience left. I turned to the stranger.
“You gotta car?”
He shook his head.
“Jesus. Cass, you wouldn’t be up for hot wiring a cop car, huh?”
She smiled and looked at the closest blue sedan of the Bannville Police Department and Bowling Center. Children’s librarians. Crazy.
“No, don’t even think about it, Banned,” Parker said, “You don’t ge... You don't’ have the right...”
I almost punched the man. My teeth groaned as I clenched my jaw and walked over to the man. I towered over him, and he flinched when I put my hand on his shoulder. I kept my hand with the gun by my side.
“Gerald, shut the fuck up. I’m going to save her and you are wasting our time. Now either help us or don’t. Either way, stop this shit. Just. Stop.”
“We can argue later. The keys are in this one. Com’on,” Cassidy said.
I limped away from the stunned detective and got in the passenger seat of the patrol car. The stranger got in the back seat as Cassidy gunned the engine and sent us tearing down the dusty road away from the death and disaster of the farm.
I turned around in the seat and looked through the metal cage of the squad car at the stranger.
“So, who the hell are you?” I asked.
Cassidy laughed, “Oh, you don’t know? Natalie’s ex, meet Natalie’s current boyfriend, Max Fletcher.”