Now that the pressing need for action had passed, he wondered. Why had Chewie run toward this guy? Wade stared closer at the face and while something tugged at him, he couldn’t place where he’d seen the guy before.
Sunny’s hand fell to rest on his shoulder, jolting him. He clasped her hand before turning.
He stared up, into her horrified eyes. “Sunny?”
“The deputy who shot at us”—she pointed toward the lifeless body on the road—“on the mountain. It’s him.”
The deputy? What the hell? They were hundreds of miles away—and an airplane ride to boot—from where they’d seen him last on the mountain. Why would he be here, across the street from where Sunny just happened to be staying, unless he was tracking her?
Wade’s gaze zipped to the lifeless man who shouldn’t even be in this region at all, much less hanging out a few yards away from Sunny. “We need to get to base and talk to the OSI, now. Remember the thing I said you needed to know?”
He certainly couldn’t tell her about the newly discovered icy graveyard now, in public. Soon though. Because something bad was going on, something big and far-reaching, for this guy to come all the way here after them.
“Of course”—she clasped his hand—“you’re right. Let’s get Chewie and go.” She paused, then shot to her feet again. “Chewie? What’s the matter boy? Chewie!”
The rising panic in her voice alerted him a second before he looked back over his shoulder to find the massive dog limping toward Sunny with determined, loyal—painful steps.
With a killing field of faces to identify, a dead body in front of them, and now an injured pet to care for, Sunny wouldn’t be leaving for the Aleutian Islands anytime soon.
This day had gone from bad to insane.
An untasted mug of coffee clutched in her hands, Sunny sat in a sterile interrogation room at the military base’s Office of Special Investigation with her interrogator—Special Agent Steve Lasky. In his fifties, the agent had a shaved bald head, piercing eyes, and nicotine-stained fingertips. As best she could tell, the Office of Special Investigations—OSI—was an air force branch of military intelligence. Since Wade had become involved in the incident on the mountain, the OSI entered the ongoing investigation.
Along with how many other law enforcement branches?
Jotting notes on an old-school steno pad, he sat across the table from her, his black suit coat sliding open to reveal his gun in a shoulder harness. From what she’d seen, it seemed to be a fifty-fifty split in the OSI of uniforms and civilian clothes.
He caught her shift in attention to his weapon and eased his jacket back over the gleaming silver gun. “And you were chosen to escort the couple”—he referred to his notes on the steel table—“Ted and Madison for what reason?”
“I’m the town’s guide. I also offer survival and fitness training.” This tiny room with no windows and recycled air threatened to choke her. “Hiking, trekking, mountain climbing, riding snow machines… It’s what I do.”
“Right…” He made a note, absently patting his jacket as if looking for a pack of cigarettes. “And all of the other people, you were their trail guide as well?”
“Some, not all. Depends on the weather. I do the walking and snow machine escorts. When the weather permits, the Everett brothers drive their snowplow down the trail.”
“Everett brothers?” He glanced up.
“Twins. Flynn and Ryker.” Big blond lugs with smiles as wide as the Alaska landscape. “Their father heads the town council.” With every word she felt like a Judas sharing all their names, exposing their town, but good God, who could ever have imagined such a large-scale horror?
Lasky nodded toward the TV screen bolted to the ceiling. The screen, now blank, had scrolled morgue shot after morgue shot earlier, each one a horrifyingly familiar face. “I need to know exactly which ones you escorted and which ones they drove out.”
She weighed his request and decided that much she could do. Hopefully, the more she complied, the less he would delve into other areas of their lives.
Image after image of frozen, lifeless faces reappeared on the screen until all eleven plus Ted and Madison were lined up together like a page in a tragic school yearbook. “Ted, Madison, Cheryl, Gregory, Lee, Hope went with me. June, Rose, Marvin, George, and the three O’Brien brothers rode with one of the Everett twins.”
And others had left, close to as many as filled the screen now, their faces unaccounted for. Were they frozen out there too? What else would the National Guard uncover?
The coffee mug rattled against the metal table as her hands trembled harder.
Agent Lasky shoved his chair back. “That’ll do for now, Miss Foster. If you’ll sit tight, I’ll be back in ten minutes or so.” He started for the door.
“Am I under arrest?”
He glanced back over his shoulder. “Why would you ask that?”
“Because it feels like I’m being held prisoner here.”
Those too-perceptive piercing eyes had her fighting the urge to fidget in her seat.
“We ruled you out as a suspect early on. Your survival knife doesn’t match the wounds. And all the cuts were made by a right-handed person.” He nodded to her hold on her mug of coffee. “You’re obviously very left-handed, something we determined the second we had you sign in.”
His words reassured her and chilled her at the same time. Everything he’d said and done had been an interrogation technique. What else had he ferreted out of her without her realizing it? “Thank you. I think.”
“You’re welcome. You’re free to go. With Deputy Smith out of the picture, there’s nothing to fear. Is there?”
God, she was beginning to really hate those open-ended probing questions of his. “I appreciate your help, Agent Lasky.”
Scratching over his cigarette pocket again, he nodded brusquely. He opened the sealed metal door with a sinister hiss, leaving her completely alone in the freaky small room.
Could the deputy really have been a serial killer as Agent Lasky seemed to believe? If so, how had he figured out where she was, much less followed her all the way to Wade’s so quickly?
The car crash appeared to have been an accident at least. The driver of the car shouldn’t even have been behind the wheel at fifteen years old. He’d said Chewie running out in the road freaked him, then he’d lost control of his car and hit the deputy.
The deputy, someone in uniform she should have been able to trust, had pretended to be her ally for the past two years as she passed over dear friends into his care. God, was there anyone she could she trust anymore? Certainly not some slick-suited agent she didn’t even know.
Acid frothed in her stomach as she thought about how close her sister had come to being among those dead faces. What if Misty tried to strike out on her own before she could get back? Sunny pushed aside her coffee. She couldn’t risk putting anything in her stomach anytime soon. At least the deputy had been stopped, and their friends would receive a proper burial. If he’d acted alone as the authorities seemed to believe, her sister was safe.
However, the longer she sat here, the more she feared there could be something more, some terrible threat still lurking in their closed-off community. Sure, those dead bodies, the retrieval, the questions, would eventually lead authorities to investigate her village.
But she was more concerned with the here and now.
Lasky had requested she stay silent about everything for forty-eight hours while they looked into the matter further with the Alaska police and National Guard searching the area. They wanted to keep a lid on things so as not to create widespread panic and miscommunication of details.
Where did that leave her?
No way in hell could she just sit around on her hands waiting, hoping nothing bad would happen. She was a woman of action. Yes, she could email her brother a warning, but she couldn’t simply hope that email arrived in a timely fashion. How often had she seen a post come in three days after it had been sent? At least she knew email was working somewhat, since he’d sent word about the money transfer and a contact number for a flight home.
Her eyes darted nervously toward the one-way window. In the spooky bowels of a military intelligence unit, it felt as if they could hear her thoughts as well as watch her every move. Were there body language experts on the other side of that pane of glass, reading her nerves, sensing her need to run?
Was Wade there?
Everything had happened so quickly once he’d told her they needed to go to the base—ASAP. He’d scooped up her dog so carefully, so tenderly, her heart squeezed in her chest. She’d raced after him, half expecting police to tell them to stop, but apparently the injured pet had provided enough reason for people not to question their leaving.
On the drive over, Wade had called the base. From the one-sided conversation, she could tell he’d phoned his friend McCabe, the one who’d cracked jokes in the helicopter the day they’d been rescued. Wade had asked McCabe to arrange for the base veterinarian to meet them and attend to Chewie while he and Sunny spoke with OSI Special Agent Lasky.
She hadn’t wanted to leave her dog for even a second. But now she understood all eleven reasons why.
Her eyes shot back up to the screen, filled again with rows of small images, all the dead faces together. Right now, this was bigger than her brother. She couldn’t risk just trusting on faith that the deputy was a random serial killer who only targeted people from her community. This had become life and death important.
Not only could her community be in danger, but they wouldn’t even see the threat coming. They’d grown so comfortable in their utopia, thinking they could live alone and free of the rest of the world, peacefully close to nature. But they had been targeted like fish in a barrel and the local police had just let it happen.
She had such warm memories of growing up off-the-grid, but they were souring in a hurry now that she could see they’d never really been as isolated as she’d imagined.
The fairy tale was over. Going it alone hadn’t worked for her thus far.
And there was only one person she could even consider trusting to help with her single chance at warning the community—warning her sister—before everything blew up in their faces. She needed Wade to go with her. She’d never seen anyone navigate the harsh Aleutian terrain as skillfully as he did. She was smart enough to know she’d need help getting back in, and Wade was just the man to offer it.
Afterward, they could go their separate ways.
Staring at Sunny through the one-way mirror felt like an invasion of her privacy. But Wade couldn’t force himself to look away.
Special Agent Lasky—a guy with a shaved bald head and spooky, all knowing eyes—had gone to verify the names she’d supplied for each of the bodies, her skin turning paler with each person identified. People from her community. It had taken all his restraint not to burst through that door and cover her eyes against his shoulder, to shield her from the horror no one should have to see.
“I’m so screwed,” he muttered under his breath.
Liam McCabe leaned into view. “And not in a good way, I take it?”
The major tugged his uniform, obviously having rushed over on the weekend in a hurry. A host of dead bodies buried in ice would speed up any morning ritual. At least the slower weekend pace afforded them some privacy in the tiled hallway.
“Not funny.” Not even the best-delivered punch line could pierce his dark mood today. Too much danger was skating too close to Sunny. “What if her dog hadn’t taken off at that moment? What if that bastard Rand Smith had gotten his hands on Sunny while I was backing the truck out of the garage? Damn it”—he thumped the wall beside the mirror, the framed photo of the base commander rattling—“I should have seen something like this coming. I should have protected her.”