We are excited to share the next installment of Glazed Suspicion by Allison Pearl, the first book in the Love and Danger in St. Claire series. Follow along with us each week for new chapters!
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<< Chapter 23 | Chapter 25 >>
Glazed Suspicion by Allison Pearl
JOSH BARRELED DOWN THE SQUEAKY tile hallway to Janeen Trumple’s hospital room. Vaughn stood outside the door, arms crossed over his chest. His face went white when he saw Josh’s approach.
“I heard what happened.” The young deputy stammered. “I’m so sorry, Josh. This is all my fault. I thought I had him one minute, and then the next I was on the ground.”
“It’s okay. I’m not here to relive it. Finding Nikki is all that matters now. I want to talk to Andy’s mom.”
“You’re not on this case, either. I can’t just let you question people.”
“I only want to know if she has any idea where he would take her.”
The other deputy looked pained, like he really wanted to help. “If the sheriff finds out I let you talk to her, I could get in a lot of trouble.”
Josh drove a hand into his hair. Vaughn was right. He would get in trouble if Gary thought he was colluding with Josh. And maybe worse. Maybe this man would be dragged into the mess, too. Maybe he’d be the next victim.
“However… ” Vaughn glanced down the empty hall. “I could ask the questions while you happened to be standing nearby.”
Now that was an idea. Technically, no rules would be broken. Josh nodded to the door. “Lead the way.”
“Mrs. Trumple?” Vaughn said as Josh softly shut the door behind them. Janeen faced away and he worried she was asleep, but then she shifted.
He swallowed a gasp when he saw her swollen and bruised face. There was even a red line on her cheek where her skin had split.
“What do you want?” She scooted backwards on the bed.
Vaughn held up his hands. “We’re just here to talk. I promise. We just want to know where Nikki is.”
She scowled. “If I didn’t say anything to the sheriff or those men in suits, why do you think I’d say anything to you?”
Josh took a step forward. He couldn’t help himself. “Because everything Nikki did was to help Andy. I know that you don’t want anyone tearing apart your family, but Nikki just wanted to keep Andy safe. Don’t you want to keep him safe, too?”
“Y-Yes.” Tears filled her eyes. “I always stepped between him and Bill when he got rough. I saved him as much as I could. I really did.”
“I know.” Josh stepped up to her hospital bed. “I know. And right now, I need you to protect him again. Andy is a sweet kid and I know he’s gonna feel terrible about what’s happening to Nikki even though none of this is his fault. But if you tell me where Bill would take her, I can save her. And save Andy the worry. Please Janeen, tell me where he would take her.”
“His hunting cabin. It’s like four hours away by the lake.” She sobbed. “That’s where he goes when he wants to hide out. The cops don’t know about it. I guess she could be there.”
“Thank you.” His voice cracked in relief and he patted Vaughn on the shoulder. “And thank you.”
The moment he was on the other side of the hospital room door, Josh pulled out his phone and jogged down the hallway. Seconds later, the ringing stopped. “Perry?”
“It’s Josh. I know where she is.”
The only thing worse than the pain in her body was the chill. There was a fire burning in the small fireplace, but she was far away from it, tossed onto a cot in the corner, her arms and feet bound with some kind of plastic ties. He hadn’t even given her a blanket. Her teeth chattered, making a relentless clacking sound. She had passed the hours by in a fitful sleep as she tried to ignore the pain of having her arms behind her back. She had no idea what time it was. A small red clock hung on the wall nearby, but the second hand was missing and the hour hand never moved off the number seven. While she knew morning had come from the light bleeding through the black curtains on the small windows, she still drifted in and out of sleep only to wake up shivering.
Bill gave no clue as to what he had in store for her. Was he planning to kill her or maybe just leave her here where no one would ever find her? The gruff and burly man didn’t even speak to her anymore. Not directly anyway. He’d only mumble things like, “This is all your fault,” but he never looked at her when he said them, instead looking around aimlessly like he didn’t even know she was there anymore.
Early on, she had tried to talk to him, thinking that she could reason with him, but once he’d charged with wild eyes and said he would hit her if she said another word, she’d known he meant what he said. And she’d seen enough bruises on his son to know she couldn’t take that amount of punishment and survive.
Therefore, she did the only thing she could; she kept silent and prayed. How had she ever survived without a relationship with God before? To have someone listening to her. To know that she wasn’t alone was the greatest comfort she had. That and the thought of Josh. She knew that he was looking for her right now like she knew God heard her prayers. He wouldn’t give up. He would do everything in his power to find her. She just hoped he wouldn’t be too late.
At the sound of stomping feet, she opened her eyes. The dusty wooden planks quivered as Bill stalked towards her. Nikki tried to shrink back farther into the corner like she could disappear into the paneled wall, but the madman’s rough, hairy hands grabbed her by the shoulders and jerked her to a sitting position.
She fell forward, unable to sit straight with her hands behind her back. He reached over her. His stench gagged her. Enclosing his hand over her bound wrists, he pulled her across the floor. She whimpered in pain but he didn’t relent, dragging her all the way to the bathroom.
Pushing her down so that she was lying between the small, porcelain toilet and sink, Bill positioned her wrists by the water pipe protruding from the floor and another tie was pulled tight around her hands anchoring her firmly to it.
The man grunted and then disappeared.
She strained her ears as his footfalls faded away followed by the slamming of a door. Then, silence. Nikki waited as long as she dared, praying that he wouldn’t come back, and then started jerking at her restraints. If he was out of the house, this was her chance to get away.
Straining, she tried once again to loosen her hands from the plastic looped around them, but all she managed to do was scrape her skin raw. It was no use. They were just too tight. Tears filled her eyes for about the thousandth time since Bill had kidnapped her beside her trash can. She fought back the sense of hopelessness with a prayer. God, help me. Raising her head, she caught sight of a grimy and smudged drinking glass on the edge of the dingy pedestal sink.
She swung her body around, shifting so that she could lift her legs. Pointing her toes, she stretched, trying to knock the glass onto the ground but her legs weren’t long enough and the cup remained just out of reach.
Crying out in frustration, she pounded her feet against the floor. It was hopeless. Except her angry kicks did more than she bargained for. The force of her heels on the old floor shook the whole room and the glass started to wobble.
Please, please, please. She watched it rock and then let out a joyful scream when it came crashing down, splitting into shards all around her. Now she just had to get one of them.
Spotting one large shard near her face, she craned her neck forward, grabbing it with her teeth. She was afraid she would cut herself, but even more terrified that the opportunity would slip away. Swallowing the fear of pain, she twisted her neck until she could drop the glass down her back into her hands.
A sharp corner pierced her palm when it landed and she winced, but then she took the glass in her fingers and started sawing at the plastic. She wanted to move quickly but she was afraid it would crack in her hands or slice open her wrist, so she paced herself, slowly counting one, two, three…until, at last, the tie holding her to the pipe snapped. The next one came easier since she could now sit up. Once her hands were free, it took only seconds to free her feet and then she was up and on the run.
Josh’s heart rate sped up as they closed in on the cabin. Perry had let him join the raid. Not that Josh had any intention of staying away. Gary didn’t even put up a fight about it, quickly giving in to the marshal’s request that he be allowed to join them. The thought made Josh crazy with suspicion. It was possible that it was all an act, but Gary seemed concerned about Nikki’s safety. But why would he care about finding her if he was the one trying to kill her? Wouldn’t he be trying to stop them from saving her?
Shaking his head and the pesky thoughts away, he concentrated on the mission. He crept between the trees, eyes open for any sign of movement, a pistol on loan from the marshals pointed ahead. The marshals and the local police they were collaborating with had the cabin surrounded. There was no way Bill Trumple was getting out of this in anything but handcuffs. If only he knew Nikki wouldn’t be caught in the crossfire.
Back in the Army, Josh had been in hostage situations before and the weight of them was crushing. One wrong move, one bad decision, and the innocent could end up dead. Nikki could end up dead.
Please, God, be with her. Josh caught his breath at a noise ahead of him. Then another one. It was the sound of leaves moving. Of branches snapping. The telltale signs that someone was coming. Fast.
Josh ducked behind a tree and pulled the slide on the top of the pistol, readying it to fire. Then he listened. Listened and counted. Calculating speed and distance, Josh waited until he knew the runner was just upon him and then darted out from behind the tree, weapon raised. “Stop!”
A high-pitched voice shrieked and a body fell to the ground.
“Nikki?” Josh dropped to the ground beside her.
She clawed at the dirt and scrambled away, raw instinct still driving her to flee.
“It’s me. It’s Josh. You’re safe, honey. I’m here now.”
Realization found its way into her wild and fearful eyes. “Josh?” She sobbed as he pulled her into his arms.
“Thank God I found you.” He murmured into her hair as he held her. “I was so scared I lost you.”
“I knew you’d find me.” She pushed herself away enough so that she could reach up and take his face in her blood and dirt smudged hands. “I knew you would.”
“How did you escape?” Josh inspected her, noting puffy spots and the cuts on her hands. “Where’s Bill?”
“I don’t know where he is. He was in the cabin and then he tied me to a pipe and left.”
Josh grabbed the radio hooked to his belt and pushed the talk button. “I have Nikki. “Suspect is out of the cabin in an unknown location. Keep a look out. I repeat keep a look—”
“You!” A gravelly voice behind him had Josh dropping his radio as he spun around to find Bill Trumple bearing down on them. He held a fishing pole and three fish strung on a line as if he’d gone to the lake for his dinner.
Josh pushed Nikki behind him and lifted his weapon. Bill’s eyes were crazed and yet determined. The man wasn’t planning on stopping and Josh knew he would likely have to shoot. Still, he had to give the man a chance.
“Get down on the ground.”
But Andy’s dad ignored his command and just kept on coming.
Josh took his finger off the trigger guard and wrapped it around the trigger, aiming for the man’s leg. But right as he was about to squeeze, a body flew through the trees, tackling Bill to the ground.
Perry was on top of the man, fighting to pin him to the ground. Quick to action, Josh flipped the safety on his gun and jumped into the struggle. In seconds, they had cuffs on the man’s hands—both of them this time—and Perry was reading him his rights. Soon, the rest of Perry’s men and the local police arrived on the scene.
Bill was still screaming at Nikki as they drug him away, blaming her for his troubles. Josh turned his back on the others, taking Nikki in his arms and lifting her off the ground. She was shaking and her skin was cold to the touch, but she was alive. God, thank you. “Come on, honey. I’m taking you home.”
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About Allison Pearl
Allison Pearl is a small-town girl who’s lived just about everywhere. She loves books,tea, chocolate, and watching old movies with her husband and black lab, Sal. To keep in touch and get updates on new releases follow her Facebook page ‘Books by Pearl’ at http://www.facebook.com/allisonnicolepearl/ or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonPearl5 andInstagram at @allisonnicolepearl