Stolen omnibus small t.., p.9

Stolen Omnibus – Small Town Abduction, страница 9

 

Stolen Omnibus – Small Town Abduction
 

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  After a few minutes, and a box of tissues, Gwen had settled down. She wiped the makeup from her face, which revealed the red, puffy flesh under her eyes. Lena kissed her forehead. “You hungry?”

  Gwen clutched her stomach. “I’ve been starving since I was at the police station.”

  “Yeah, weed will do that to you.” They both chuckled, and Lena took Gwen by the hand and led her into the kitchen. She pulled out some leftovers from the day before and warmed the spaghetti in the microwave.

  Mark emerged from the hallway and stopped at the kitchen table, where Gwen sat. “How are you doing?” The question was asked to Gwen, but Lena caught his eyes wandering to her before he said it.

  “I’m okay.”

  He kissed the top of her head. “I’m glad you’re home.” Lena kept her attention on the dwindling time of the microwave as Mark moved closer. She saw his reflection in the microwave’s glass. “And how are you doing?” he asked.

  “Better.” The microwave timer ticked below thirty seconds. She felt his arms slide around her waist and the weight of his head as he pressed his cheek on top of her shoulder. She closed her eyes and allowed him to help her hold the weight of the day, which had tried to crush her since it started.

  The timer on the microwave beeped, and Lena saw four pairs of headlights through the front window, speeding down the dirt path from the highway to their house. “Who is that?”

  Both Mark and Gwen turned at her comment. The deputy stationed outside stepped into their field of vision, and Lena watched him place his hand on the grip of his pistol. But it wasn’t until the first gunshot that broke through the front living room window that she realized what was happening.

  ***

  Jake watched Becky Foreman storm out of the precinct with her eldest daughter in tow. The deputy that took their statements had informed him that the girl was clearly under the influence and underage, but given the circumstances Jake had told his man to let it slide. The daughter was the least of his concerns.

  Both in his professional and personal life, Jake could tell when a person had pushed themselves beyond the realm of reason. And he was sure that Becky Foreman had just reached that point.

  “Jackie?” Jake removed his finger from the intercom button and waited for a reply.

  “Yes, Sheriff?”

  “Have a unit keep an eye on Becky Foreman and her movements. But I want it to be one of ours, not the National Guard or one of the loaners from another county.”

  “Will do, Sheriff.”

  Jake gnawed the nail on his thumb and then took a seat at his desk. His pocket buzzed, and he pulled out his cell phone. It was his contact in Bismarck. “Tell me you’ve got some good news, Wheelan.”

  “Depends on what you consider good news.” Wheelan’s voice had always sounded as if he’d just finished taking a long, hard cough after smoking a pack of cigarettes, even though the man hadn’t smoked a day in his life.

  “Then let’s just start with news, and I’ll make my own assumptions.”

  Papers shuffled over the receiver, and Wheelan cleared his throat. “We traced the bullets to a store in Bismarck. Small place—the owner doesn’t even do any online sales. Strictly local and only takes cash. If there was anywhere to buy bullets to kill someone, that would be the place to do it.”

  Jake reached for a pen and paper and started jotting notes down. “What’s the name?”

  “Pete Wurstshed, and the name of the business is Pete’s Guns.”

  “Not very original. Did you get any security footage?”

  Dave laughed. “I just told you this guy doesn’t do any online sales and only takes cash. You think he’s going to let me take a look at any security footage he has lying around? You want something from him, then you’re going to have to provide a warrant. And since I’ve been doing this out of the kindness of my heart—”

  “What’d you find on Scott Ambers?” If Jake didn’t stop him now, the man would go on for another hour.

  “Scott Ambers is an individual who gets around. And his name has been associated with some pretty heavy hitters all over the country.”

  “You talking mafia?”

  “More legitimate. Apparently, Mr. Ambers has done some consulting work for major corporations both domestic and overseas. Anytime I try to pull up the specifics of what his ‘consulting’ expertise entailed everybody said the same thing. Sales.”

  “What about more recently? Who did he work for before being hired by New Energy?”

  “That’s where our friend starts to delve into more murky waters, and one of the reasons I was able to find anything on him at all. He moved to Bismarck six months ago and started working for Hugo Reginald.”

  The name sparked a memory that stirred the back of Jake’s mind. “I saw him on the news a few years ago. Didn’t he run some sort of gambling ring?”

  “The biggest gambling ring across the Midwest. Dabbled in the distribution of narcotics too.”

  “What does that have to do with Scott Ambers? Did he work as muscle for the guy?” It wasn’t a stretch as far as Jake was concerned. He’d seen the man, and he’d arrested enough drunkards in town to know the difference between a mean drunk and someone who could really provide a thrashing. And Scott Ambers looked as if he had some scars on his knuckles.

  “I’m afraid that’s where our trail ends. My sources over at the FBI say that Ambers only did one job, and they don’t know what it was. After that, he started work at the New Energy headquarters in Bismarck. From what my guy told me there wasn’t any more communication between the two. But whatever ‘consulting’ Scott Ambers has done for these conglomerates has nothing to do with their actual business.”

  “Yeah. Okay. Thanks, Dave. I’ll be in touch.” Jake hung up and examined his scribbled notes. Just before his finger pressed the button on his intercom to Jackie, Longwood burst through the office door.

  “Sheriff, there’s something happening at Lena’s house.”

  Chapter 10 – 25 Hours Left

  Lena, Mark, and Gwen all ducked behind the kitchen island with their hands over their heads. The continuous thunder of gunshots out front had sent all three of them to the tile. Gwen was screaming, and Mark had thrown himself over both of them.

  When Lena lifted her head to look at Mark he was screaming something at her, but she couldn’t understand what he was trying to say. It wasn’t until there was a lull in the gunfire that she finally managed to make out “get to the back of the house.”

  Glass shattered, and when Lena craned her neck around the side of the kitchen’s island she saw the door fling open and the deputy jump inside. The truck headlights blinded her, and she ducked back behind her cover and grabbed Gwen’s wrist then looked to Mark. “The deputy’s hurt.”

  Mark poked his head out. “Is it bad?”

  Bullets thumped into the front of the house, and each gunshot echoed in Lena’s chest like a base drum. “You get Gwen to our room and grab the weapons. I’ll check on the deputy. Ready?” Shaky nods answered. “Go!”

  All three kept low, Mark steering Gwen around the corner down the hall, and Lena sliding over glass shards on the floor. The deputy had managed to drag himself over by the couch and collapsed on his right side, clutching his stomach. Lena cradled the deputy’s face. “Are you all right?”

  “My Kevlar,” he groaned. “I think one went through.”

  Lena peeled the deputy’s hand back and saw the red blotches on his palm. She placed his had back over the wound and added her own hand for pressure. “Did you call for backup?” He nodded, and another window shattered, spilling glass shards over the couch. Lena ducked, and the deputy winced, but when she lifted her head the shooting had stopped.

  “Hayes!” The voice boomed outside, though with the ringing in Lena’s ears he sounded farther away. “I want my daughter!”

  It took a second for her to realize who it was, but once it sank in she understood. “I didn’t take your daughter, Foreman!” Her voice cracked, and sh
e made sure to keep her head below the window. She spied Mark creeping back down the hallway, staying low, on all fours, the shotgun and pistol clutched in his hands.

  “Bullshit!” The curse was capped by another round of gunshots, and Lena held out her hand and reached for the stock of the shotgun and box of bullets that Mark extended. The pops and cracks from the gunfire out front rattled Lena’s nerves, and she couldn’t stop shaking as she fed the bullets into the weapon.

  A brief lull in fire let the three of them speak. Lena tried to keep her voice low, but with the ringing in her ears she wasn’t sure if she accomplished it. “How long until backup comes?”

  The deputy groaned. “Five minutes.” With his free hand he removed his pistol from its holster. “Help me up on the couch.”

  Lena and Mark obliged, and luckily he wasn’t a big man. Once he was rested against the cushions and able to shoot, Lena and Mark spread to the corners of the house. Lena set up by the recliner, keeping below the windowsill, and curled her fingers around the shotgun’s stock.

  “Where is she, Hayes?” Foreman’s voice cracked as loud as the gunshots. “I’m not fucking around!”

  There wasn’t anything Lena could say to convince him that she was innocent. All they could do now was stay alive until backup arrived. Lena spotted Mark on the other side of the house in the dining room, where another window had been shot out. It was hard to see him in the harsh shadows, but after a few seconds her eyes adjusted, and she watched him aim out the window.

  This was what they had been pushed into. The past week—hell, the past two years of harassment and struggle that she faced transformed into frustration that tickled the rage just below her surface. If this was how they wanted to fight, then so be it. She jumped up from her crouched position and squeezed the trigger.

  The kickback from the twelve-gauge was stronger than she remembered from the last time she fired it. The quick smack into her shoulder nearly caused her to drop the weapon from her hands. But the training she’d gone through with Jake all those years ago came back quickly enough. Two more quick strikes into the blinding light, and she ducked back below the couch, escaping the retaliation.

  The hot shells ejected and left quick burns on her arms and legs before rolling to the rug underneath the coffee table. The shotgun could only handle three rounds at a time, and Lena shoved an adrenaline-laced hand into the box of shells and reloaded, spilling some of the shells on the floor in the process.

  Lena peeked over the window and was again blinded by the vehicle lights. When she ducked back down she cupped her hands over her mouth and shouted to the deputy and Mark. “Aim for the headlights!”

  The headlights shattered, and the front yard and the house were slowly cast back into darkness. Foreman’s people had retreated behind their vehicles, and the next time Lena popped her head up, she had a better view of her targets. From her count there were at least seven.

  It wasn’t long before the front of the house was covered with empty brass casings, and when the deputy slid back to the floor with a thud and set his gun aside, Lena knew they were getting low on ammunition. Lena reached into the box of shells once more, this time feeling the bottom of the box before she managed to grab one and reload. If Jake didn’t show up soon, he’d be handling a hostage situation instead of a rescue mission. She had to stall them, and she waved for Mark to stop shooting. The next lull in gunfire, she yelled out to them. “Jim, listen to me. Whatever happened to your daughter, whatever you were told, I didn’t have anything to do with it. No one in my family had anything to do with it.”

  “Your older daughter was at my place when it happened. You call that a coincidence?”

  “It wasn’t Gwen’s fault.”

  “Fuck you!” Bullets followed, and the coordinated strike thundered like a freight train roaring through the middle of the house. Vibrations from the bullets rattled the walls, and Lena pushed herself away from the wall and deeper into the living room. She crawled on her hands and knees, the shotgun scraping against the wooden floorboards. When she looked over to Mark he was in the same position, and just to his left near the kitchen was a window, and Lena saw a figure dart to the back of the house.

  With the crossfire of bullets still ripping through the air, Lena jumped to her feet, turning around to fire wildly into the front yard as she sprinted to the back door. Once she was in the bedrooms’ hallway the harsh bark of gunfire lessened, and Lena didn’t break stride as she shut the bedroom door where Mark had placed Gwen.

  The entrance to the small utility room where the washer, dryer, and water heater were kept was flimsy, and both she and Mark had been meaning to replace it for the past year but never got around to it. Lena saw the knob shake and the door buckle inward from the weight of a body behind it. Lena raised the shotgun to her shoulder, aimed, and pulled the trigger.

  The spread of the shot from the metal balls tore through the old piece of wood with ease, leaving tiny holes in its path. Lena’s pulse raced, and she felt herself choking for air, out of breath from the run. But just when she thought she’d killed whoever it was behind the door, the frame splintered, and a man burst inside. He crashed to the floor with a thud, and Lena saw his bloodied arm try and lift the rifle at his side.

  Lena aimed the shotgun at the man and squeezed the trigger, but the harsh recoil of the blast was replaced by the empty click of the firing pin, and she glanced back at the box of shells she’d left in the living room. She raised the butt of the rifle and swung down hard toward the man’s face, but he lifted his head in time to see the strike coming and rolled to his side, barking from either anger, pain, or both.

  He grabbed hold of Lena’s shotgun and pulled her down to the floor with him. The two grappled across the tile, smacking into the wall, then banged the side of the washer. Twice Lena felt a harsh jab into her stomach. Another quick strike stung her cheek, but with the flurry of fists, elbows, and knees the adrenaline of the moment blocked the pain.

  The man shoved her off of him and then reached for his rifle on the floor. Lena saw and lunged a half second later. “Let go, bitch!” He snarled through foaming teeth and swung his arms every which way to get her to drop the weapon, but Lena didn’t relent.

  The muscles along her arms and shoulders burned with every yank. She felt her grip loosen, and the man gave one last vicious jerk and ripped it from her hands. The force of the momentum sent him rolling to his side, and Lena seized the opportunity and jumped on his back, wrapping her hands around his throat. Her fingers slipped over the sweaty flesh of his neck, and she felt the stubble from his beard as she squeezed.

  The man thrashed back and forth then backpedaled and slammed Lena into the wall to try and shake her. The wind was knocked from her lungs, and a nasty pop reverberated through her back, but she held on. The man flung his head back, and a blinding-hot pain seared through her forehead. The crack of their two skulls dropped Lena to the floor. Her vision doubled as she looked up and saw two barrels aimed at her face, as well as two of the same man that attacked her.

  “You get what you deserve, bitch.”

  The gunshot sounded, and Lena shut her eyes. She waited for the pain to sink in, but when she still only felt the ache in her forehead she thought maybe she was in shock. It wasn’t until she felt hands on her that she finally opened her eyes.

  Mark’s sweaty face examined hers, and he put his left hand against her cheek where she felt the cool metal of his wedding ring. “Are you all right?”

  Lena looked down to the man he’d shot and watched the red blotch in his chest grow against the cloth of his shirt. At first she thought she’d lost her hearing, but when she turned around to the hallway and saw the flashing red and blue lights splash into the front of the house she realized the gunfire had stopped.

  “Don’t move!”

  Both Lena and Mark thrust their hands in the air as three soldiers in full combat gear flooded through the back door. Two shoved both Lena and Mark to their knees while the other checked the pu
lse of the man Mark had shot.

  “We have one fatality in the rear of the house. Requesting medical team.”

  They stayed on their knees until Jake sprinted through the house and ordered the soldiers to let them go. She knew Jake was trying to tell her something, but she couldn’t take her eyes off the dead body.

  With Jake’s help Lena pushed herself to her feet and hobbled down the hallway, where one of the soldiers had already pulled Gwen from the closet. She wrapped her daughter tight in her arms, and Mark wasn’t far behind as he embraced the two of them as well. In that moment Lena realized that whatever they would face, they’d do it together. No matter what happened, they were a family.

  ***

  Ken waited until he watched Scott get in his car, who was again on the phone without saying a word, before he climbed out of his own vehicle. His body felt heavy as he pushed himself out of the seat and up the short flight of steps into the portable unit that was his office.

  Once inside he collapsed into his chair, which squeaked from the sudden weight that was thrust upon it. Ken sat there in the dark for a moment, and his eyes adjusted to the lack of light. When he examined his hands he saw they were shaking. He reached for the light on his desk and flicked it on, illuminating the stacks of papers that had been the source of his stress for the past year.

  The medical bills for his son’s condition had nearly left him broke. Doctor visits, experimental treatments, home care, medicine—all of it had stacked higher than his assets. He’d turned his house upside down, cashed out his stocks, emptied his savings account, and his son was still sick. But he wasn’t going to let his boy die. Not when there was still a chance for him to live.

  Ken reached for the picture of his family, holding it gingerly in his hands. He felt the first tear roll from the corner of his eye down the narrow crevice between his nose and cheek, over his lips, and off his chin, where it landed on his wife’s shirt. He didn’t feel the next several that fell. He wiped the liquid off the glass and returned the picture to its spot next to the lamp.

 
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