Author’s note: This story is likely to gloss over the ‘police work’ involved in tracking the killer and finding Alex and Bobby, mainly because I function better working on a character driven story rather than one that has intricate ‘case-solving details’. I make no apologies for this. It’s just how I work. I will try to focus a little more heavily on the rest of the characters a little further along.
They travelled in silence, grasping each other’s hands when they could, and taking what courage and reassurance that they could from the belief that they had, at least for the moment, duped their pursuer. Alex knew they would not make it as far as they both hoped, though. Several times Bobby stumbled when there was no obvious cause for it, and Alex noted with growing fear the whiteness of his face as opposed to the ugly bruising on the side of his head. She guessed he was suffering a severe concussion at the very least, and that combined with the wound from that damned spiked ball…
They had been walking for nearly two hours, as near as Alex could figure, when Bobby stumbled and finally fell. She went back to him, suspecting with a sinking heart that he had gone as far as he could.
“I just need a minute,” he mumbled, flinching away from her when she tried to get a closer look at his head wound.
“Don’t pull away from me,” she ordered him. “And you need more than just a minute. This is getting worse.”
He looked at her, his normally bright eyes now dull with the pain of his injuries.
“We can’t stay here. Even if Mathers hasn’t worked out what happened yet, it’s starting to get late. Another hour or so, and it’ll get dark.”
She looked around, feeling helpless and hating it. He was right, and she knew it. Darkness came early in the mountains… and she was certain they were in a mountain range, she just didn’t know which one. Darkness came early, and with it would come freezing temperatures that they had little hope of surviving.
She crouched next to him, and gently guided him to look at her.
“Can you keep going for just a little longer? There must be somewhere around here where we can take shelter.”
“Yeah,” he mumbled and, to her quiet admiration, he got stubbornly to his feet. She favoured him with a reassuring smile.
“C’mon,” she murmured, trying to sound more confident than she really felt. “Not much further. Then we can both rest properly.”
She led the way on through the woods, going at a deliberately slower pace so that he could keep up.
They walked on for almost twenty minutes when Bobby suddenly stopped. She looked back at him, thinking that the pain was slowing him down again.
“Bobby? What is it?”
He pointed through the trees.
“Through there. I thought I saw something. I thought I saw a house.”
“A house?” she echoed doubtfully, but still turned and pushed her way through the trees.
“I’ll be damned,” she said softly as they came into a clearing to discover a small cabin. They stood watching for a long minute, observing the structure before Bobby suddenly moved, walking to the door and pushing it wide open.
“Bobby,” Alex hissed. He looked back at her.
“It’s empty. No one’s here.”
She walked over. Sure enough, the cabin appeared to be deserted.
They walked in slowly, taking in their surroundings with trained caution.
The cabin was modestly furnished. There was a bed in the far corner, a table and chairs, a waist high cupboard with a gas cooker on the top and a threadbare rug on the floor.
“No food in the cupboard,” Alex said glumly, looking purely out of hope. “Go figure.”
She looked around, her attention drawn by the sudden tension in his voice. He was crouching by the bed, and had pulled an old, battered suitcase out and opened it up.
“What…” Alex started to say, and then the words caught in her throat. “Oh god…”
She knelt down on the other side of the case, and reached for the contents with trembling hands. Inside, there were several articles of clothing. Two jackets, an undershirt, two pairs of shoes and two pairs of socks. Each and every item had been sliced to shreds.
“This place…” Alex whispered, panic audible in her voice. Bobby nodded, looking at her with genuine fear in his eyes.
“This is Mathers’ cabin.” He looked to a closed door at the end of the bed. “I bet I can guess what’s behind that door.”
Alex stood up slowly. Instinct screamed at her not to do what she was about to, but she had to see. She pushed the door open, and found herself standing on the threshold of a dark, empty room that did not have so much as a carpet to furnish it. The only light came through a single, dirty window.
Alex walked in, her stomach twisting into sick, painful knots. After a moment of her eyes adjusting to the dim light, she saw something that confirmed their suspicions. There was the stain of blood on the floor in the middle of the room, and four or five lengths of rope hung on a hook on the wall.
She shut her eyes quickly, desperately willing herself not to throw up.
“This is where he kept us,” she said, backing quickly out of the room and pulling the door closed. “This very cabin… Bobby, we can’t stay here. He’ll come back here for sure.”
Bobby looked thoughtful.
“I don’t think he will, Alex. Look at this place. It’s practically empty. Anything Mathers’ needs to survive the night he’s already got with him. He’s got no reason to come back here.”
“Yes he does,” she retorted. “Us.”
Bobby shoved the suitcase back under the bed, and got up.
“I think we should stay here. At least it’s shelter.”
She sighed softly, realising she had neither the will nor the inclination to argue with him.
“Okay,” she conceded. “But if he does come back, you are going to get one big, fat ‘I told you so’. You understand me?”
He smiled faintly and gave her a quick, fierce hug.
Ryan Wolfe paused at the end of the hallway that led into the Major Case Squad offices, looking around uncertainly. He hated being the new guy, especially when he was the new guy in totally foreign territory. One of the CSIs from the New York team had handed him some information on the man who they believed was their serial killer, and told him to get it upstairs to Captain Deakins and his detectives at Major Case. Never mind that he had never seen this Captain Deakins, and didn’t even know where to find the Major Case Squad. Only after asking half a dozen people and having to show his ID to every one of them had he finally learnt that the squad was based on the eleventh floor of the building.
Now he was there, he realised he didn’t have the faintest idea who to approach first.
“Got a problem, kid?”
Wolfe bristled at being called ‘kid’. He was twenty-seven years old, for god’s sake… He turned to the offending person, and found himself looking up at an older man sporting a detective’s badge. His ID read ‘Logan’, and Wolfe’s memory told him that one of the detectives on the case was called Logan.
He held up the envelope.
“Got some info here for Captain Deakins.”
Recognition lit up in the detective’s eyes.
“You’re with the Miami crew, aren’t you?”
“Yeah. Ryan Wolfe.”
“Mike Logan. Deakin’s office is right over there. Just go and knock. We’re glad you guys are here. We need all the help we can get.”
Wolfe watched in surprise as Logan sauntered off, then smiled, shook his head and headed for Deakins’ office.
Unwittingly, his stressed mind conjured an image of himself walking into the morgue and being confronted by the lifeless bodies of his two best detectives, cruelly mutilated by both the abuse meted out by their killer and the subsequent autopsies.
He shook the thought almost violently from his mind. He desperately wanted to keep a positive attitude about the situation, but it was steadily getting harder to do that.
“Have you had any sleep at all?”
Deakins looked up to find Ron Carver standing there, looking at him in concern.
“What do you think?” he asked, then immediately regretted his snappish tone. “I’m sorry, Ron, I just…”
“Don’t apologise, Jim,” Carver told him quietly as he sat down. “I understand. I’m afraid for them, too. But making yourself physically sick is not going to help them.”
Deakins pressed his face into his hands.
“I never would have imagined that anything like this could have happened, Ron. Goren and Eames go up against the worst of them every day… Both of them have been shot in the line of duty…”
Carver raised an eyebrow slightly, questioningly. Deakins smiled a little.
“I mean from before they both came to Major Case. I just never believed something like this might happen to them. They usually have everything so tightly under control…”
“That’s a grave misconception, Jim, and you know it. As brilliant a detective as Goren is, he is not omniscient. Neither is Detective Eames. You’ve heard of Murphy’s Law, haven’t you?”
Deakins groaned. “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Well, it sure did this time.”
“Tell me, have you learnt anything more from the CSI team from Miami?”
“Some,” Deakins admitted. “Whether it will help us find them, I don’t know. It’s been over forty-eight hours now since they disappeared, Ron. If our killer is they same man that got away in Miami, then we have to assume he’s already taken them to wherever he took his last five victims. Goren and Eames are probably on the run right now.”
“On the run…?” Carver echoed, feeling confused and disturbed. Deakins nodded grimly.
“One of the things we found out from the Miami crew. Apparently once this son of a bitch has a victim, he holds them for a couple of days before releasing them, generally in some remote wilderness area. With most of the Miami victims, he took them to the nearest national park. He’d set them loose, give them a couple of hours to run, and then he’d go after them and hunt them down.”
“Dear God in Heaven,” Carver whispered, horrified.
“As I said,” Deakins went on, “it’s been over forty-eight hours now, and we don’t have a clue as to where to start looking.”
“This just keeps getting better and better,” Carver said. “Although, it may be that Goren and Eames have an advantage that the other victims didn’t. They’re together. The other victims were alone.”
“Assuming the killer has kept them together,” Deakins retorted. “Why would he?”
“Why wouldn’t he?” Carver countered. “You say he turns his victims loose and then hunts them down. That would suggest he sets himself challenges. This man was bold enough to abduct two high ranking police detectives, Jim. I imagine he sees the detectives as a greater challenge than his past victims. To take those very officers who have been hunting him, and then turn the tables on them…”
“Turn the hunters into the hunted,” Deakins muttered. “It makes sense. Leaving Goren and Eames together… The bastard would probably see it as the ultimate challenge.” He shot Carver a wry look. “Sounds like some of Goren’s psychology is rubbing off on you.”
Carver smiled faintly. “It had to happen sooner or later. I’m sorry our little insights won’t take us any closer to finding them, though.”
There was a knock on his door at that moment, and both men looked up to see a young man standing there that neither of them recognised. Deakins stood up, unable to keep the frown completely off his face.
“What is it?”
If the young man was put out by Deakins’ abrupt tone, it didn’t show. Instead, he held an large yellow envelope out to the captain.
“Captain Deakins? I’m Ryan Wolfe. My boss, Lieutenant Caine, asked me to bring this straight up to you.”
Realisation dawned on Deakins’ face.
“You’re with the Miami team.”
“What’s this?” Deakins asked as he opened the envelope. “New information?”
Wolfe couldn’t help but notice the lack of enthusiasm in the older man’s voice. It didn’t surprise him terribly. He’d seen the way the New York contingent were rapidly losing hope that they would find their detectives alive.
“We ran a check on the name we had for The Hunter,” Wolfe explained.
“You mean Lucas Graham?” Carver asked, and Wolfe nodded.
“Yes. One of our group, Eric Delko, thought it might be worth running the name through your databases to see if anything came up. There was nothing in Aphis, but something else came up. There’s a property registered to a Lucas Graham, north-west of Saratoga, and just near the base of Gore Mountain. That’s in the Adirondack Mountains, in Adirondack Park.”
“That’s fairly remote territory,” Ron Carver said, looking intently at Deakins.
“And it sounds just like our boy’s MO,” Deakins said. He stepped past Wolfe, and hollered across the floor.
“Logan, Bishop! Over here now!”
The two detectives all but ran over to Deakins’ office. Deakins handed Bishop the envelope.
“Both of you, get everyone together. Find Ash and Oliver, and get ready to move. We may have just caught our first break.”
“Where?” Logan asked, peering over Bishop’s shoulder to look at the documents.
“The Adirondack Mountains,” Bishop read. She looked up, her brow creased with deep worry. “Sir, I don’t want to be negative, but if that’s where they are, we could search for a month, and not find them.”
“We at least have a starting point,” Deakins said. He looked to Carver. “Any chance of getting a warrant for the property?”
Carver looked bemused, to say the least.
“Well, that depends.”
“On what?” Deakins demanded to know, a dangerous look settling on his face. Carver didn’t flinch, though Wolfe did.
“On whether you’re taking long term considerations into account, such as whether you want to build a prosecutable case. Yes, I could probably get you a search warrant, but anything you find will more than likely be deemed inadmissible in court. I don’t like to say it, given the situation, but you hardly have probable cause here.”
Deakins advanced slowly on Carver, and the ADA retreated, looking as though he was suddenly aware of the danger of his position.
“I told you before, Ron,” Deakins said tensely. “Right now, I don’t give a damn about going by the book. Two of my people are in trouble, and we are running out of time to find them! So don’t lecture me on probable cause, because I don’t have the goddamned time for it!”
Carver held up his hands defensively.
“Okay, Jim. Calm down. I’ll get you your warrant. Excuse me…”
He slipped past Logan, Bishop and Wolfe, firing them a dark look as he went, silently warning them not to say a word. They watched him go, and then Logan spoke quietly.
“We’ll have everyone ready to move in thirty minutes, Captain.”
He took off at a run, with Bishop on his heels. Deakins turned then to Wolfe.
“Wolfe, get downstairs to CSU, and call Adirondacks Search and Rescue. Warn them that we’re coming.”
Wolfe all but bolted from the office. Deakins wasted no time, but grabbed his jacket and ran from his office.
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