Her Last Goodbye Page 52

“That’s an awfully big padlock,” Morgan said. “Is that a camera above the door?”

Lance nodded. “I see a motion detector too.”

“So how do we get a look inside?”

Lance scanned the structure. “The windows are covered.”

They circled around to view the trailer from the other side. Boards were nailed over both windows on this side as well.

“This doesn’t look anything like Chelsea’s description of where she was held,” Morgan said. “Do you see a hole in the roof?”

“Not from here.” But the trailer was setting off all Lance’s alarms. The trailer was more secure than the office and auto shop. “I’m going to get closer. Wait here.”

“I don’t want to wait here.”

“Someone needs to call the police if I get caught,” Lance argued. “Harold Burns is a violent man. If I’ve found his next victim, he’s not going to call the police on me. He’s going to bury me in a shallow grave in the state park.”

Morgan blew a hard breath out through her nose. “All right.”

Lance handed her the binoculars. “Watch my back?”

“Always.”

Lance jogged across the dirt. When he reached the trailer, he checked the padlock. It could be picked, but not quickly, and he’d rather not stand out in the open for any length of time. He’d look for an easier way in first. Then he went from window to window looking for a weakness but found none. The boards were nailed or screwed from the inside. He dropped to the ground and slid under the trailer but found no easy points of entry.

He was going to have to do this the hard way.

His options were to pick the lock or cut it off with the bolt cutters. Did he want to leave evidence of entry? Not really. He slid along the ground to get out from under the trailer. Bits of gravel rolled under his back, making more noise than he intended.

A scratching sound came from inside the trailer. He froze, straining his hearing.

There it was again. Scratching. Tapping. Crying?

And holy shit. Was that a sob?

“Is someone in there?” he called out.

“Yes,” a woman’s voice cried out. “Please help me.”

There was someone in the trailer, and they weren’t happy about it.

Lance scooted out from under the trailer. He’d get the bolt cutters from Morgan and be inside in a few seconds. He climbed to his feet. A long shadow fell over him. As he turned to confront the dark figure, a board swung toward his head.

Chapter Thirty-Seven

A scream sounded from the trailer. Morgan dialed 911 and gave the salvage yard address. She shoved the phone into her pocket and searched the clearing for Lance.

A man swung a board at Lance. He spun and ducked to evade it. The board struck him across the back of the shoulders. He fell to the ground, stunned, and lay still. His attacker dropped the board and jumped on top of him.

No!

Morgan pulled her gun from its holster and ran forward.

The attacker straddled Lance’s chest and threw a punch at his face. Lance wrapped his arm around his head to block the incoming fist.

Morgan stopped ten feet away and aimed the gun at the fighting men. “Freeze!”

The attacker ignored her and punched Lance in the ribs; Lance recoiled from the blow.

The man reached for the gun in Lance’s holster. Lance clamped both hands over his opponent’s, keeping the gun secure. They struggled for control of the weapon. Lance bucked and rolled.

And Morgan had no clear shot.

She changed her angle but still couldn’t shoot.

Damn it!

She had to do something. She couldn’t—wouldn’t—let Lance get hurt. Heart hammering, she scanned the ground, looking for a weapon.

The two-by-four!

Holstering her weapon, she raced forward and snatched it off the ground. The fighting men came to a stop, the attacker on top. Morgan rushed forward, desperation lending her strength. Two-handing it, she swung it like a baseball bat and hit him across the back.

He collapsed. Lance bucked hard and bridged over one shoulder, rolling his attacker onto his back and reversing their positions.

Morgan dropped the board. With Lance in control, relief surged through her, the rush of adrenaline making her light-headed.

He flipped the man onto his belly and twisted his arms behind his back. “Get some zip ties.”

Morgan ran back to retrieve the backpack. Returning to Lance’s side, she handed him a plastic tie, and he used it to secure the man’s hands.

Then he rolled the man to his back, and Morgan shone a flashlight on his face.

Harold Burns.

“You’re trespassing!” Harold spat.

“Then you should have called the police, Harold.” Lance climbed to his feet. “But I bet you didn’t.”

“I did,” Morgan said.

From inside the trailer, a woman cried. “Who’s out there? Please help me.”

The woman!

Morgan grabbed the bolt cutters from the backpack. While Lance secured Harold’s ankles with a second set of zip ties, Morgan cut the padlock, opened the trailer door, and shone her flashlight inside.

The trailer was one open space. The only furnishing was a filthy mattress in the center. A large, dark stain in the center of it turned Morgan’s stomach. A woman huddled on the edge of the mattress. She was chained to a ring bolted into the floor.

The space was warmer than outside, so the trailer must have heat. Morgan felt along the wall by the door for a light switch. Finding one, she flipped it.

A light bulb suspended from the center of the ceiling shone weakly on the woman. She huddled at the end of her chain. Handcuffs bound her wrists. She raised her hands in front of her face, shielding her eyes from the light.

In one sweeping glance, Morgan took in the woman’s shivering, naked body, the blood and bruises and battered face. Shaking off her shock, she lifted her foot to step through the doorway.

“Not so fast,” a man said behind her.

Morgan turned.

Jerry Burns stood fifteen feet away, a pistol in his hands pointed directly at Morgan.

Her stomach flipped.

“Get down here.” Jerry’s head jerked toward Lance, who knelt over Harold’s prone body. “You, cut my brother free or I will put a bullet in this bitch’s pretty face.”

This couldn’t happen. Morgan and Lance had to save this woman and themselves.

Morgan glanced at Lance. Harold was incapacitated. There was no way Lance was going to release him. He and Morgan would never survive against both of the Burns brothers. And neither would the woman chained in the trailer. If they were going to get out of this alive, they needed to act now. Allowing themselves to be taken prisoner by the Burns brothers would get them all killed. She weighed the bolt cutters in her hand. She was too far away to use the tool as a club. Jerry’s gun was pointed at her. She wouldn’t get closer before he reacted. Nor did she have time to drop the bolt cutters and draw the weapon under her jacket.

There was only one option.

Morgan would have to get out of the way and pray that Lance could take Jerry down before he could turn the gun on him.

She was fifteen feet away. Outside of television, handguns weren’t that accurate beyond eight to ten feet.

There were no options.

Her eyes met Lance’s. A silent agreement passed between them. From his position, kneeling on the small of Harold’s back, Lance extended three fingers on his thigh.

Two.

One.

Morgan dove through the doorway and covered her head with her arms. Her flashlight rolled across the floor. The bolt cutters landed with a thud. A gunshot rang out. Jerry’s shot went low, hitting the floor. Wood splintered. The thin walls of the trailer wouldn’t stop a bullet. A second shot boomed. Morgan drew her weapon and belly-crawled toward the open trailer door.

Her heart vibrated inside her chest. Had Lance shot Jerry or vice versa?

No.

Lance just had to be all right. He’d almost died by gunfire last year. He couldn’t—she shut down that thought. Her brain couldn’t go there and still function.

The woman in the trailer needed saving.

Inching forward, heart hammering, Morgan peered around the bottom of the door frame and took in the scene with profound and surreal shock.

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