Today we’re meeting two of the central characters from Marva’s book, Missing, Assumed Dead, which is a Top Ten Winner of the Preditor/Editor Readers Poll in Mysteries, 2012
My name is Mitch Caldwell and I’m a deputy Sheriff in Malheur County, Oregon. There are only two us stationed in the Jordan Valley office, so it’s lucky not much happens out here. We do have a lot of territory to cover. Our usual business isn’t crime fighting, but hauling in drunk cowboys, ticketing speeders, and helping the occasional lost hunter.
That’s how I found Kameron McBride. I doubted a Chrysler 300 parked on the side of the road belonged to any hunter, so I guessed a tourist. I pulled up behind the car and ran the plates. Turned out to be a rental. I had a hunch the lady behind the wheel was lost, so I moseyed up and asked for the usual license and rental agreement.
She acted pretty nervous, and had a smart mouth to boot, but I kept my cool until she reached for her purse and something flew out of her hand and bounced off the windshield. Following procedure, I drew my weapon, told her to put her hands up, and drop the object out the window.
I covered her while I squatted down to pick up the canister. I nearly cracked up. The lady was threatening me with a travel sized can of hairspray!
I let her know she shouldn’t be traipsing around in the desert or she’d end up a pile of bones being picked over by the buzzards. I couldn’t help teasing her just a little. Something about those eyes… Yeah, I thought that she looked pretty good even all sweaty with her hair plastered on her face. I liked her spirit. She was ready to defend herself, even if her only weapon was a can of hairspray. I gotta admire that.
I led her to Rosewood, the town she’d been trying to find. I figured she might like something cold to wet her whistle, so asked her to join me at Jack and Jill’s cafe, the diner run by Ray. I’ll admit I wasn’t in any hurry to go back on patrol.
There was something else that made me want to stay by her side. My half-sister was full-blood Paiute, training as a medicine woman when she became ill. I was in Iraq, but had just run up on an IED, so I took the leave offered to take care of Janet. Just before she died, she’d told me I’d find a woman lost in the desert. Well, when I did just that, I knew I had to stick around with Kam. Funny thing, I didn’t believe any of the dream vision stuff, but when I found the woman, I knew I had to protect her. After that, I started to take it seriously.
Ignoring the sharp bits of rock that gouged her bare skin, she scuttled on hands and knees using a couple of dried up shrubs for cover. It took her a few seconds to reach the Expedition. She sat up and leaned against the flat tire for a moment breathing in gasps. Her legs stuck out in front of her quivering. She slapped her knees. “Stop it, you chickenshits!” She closed her eyes and relaxed her muscles as best she could, forcing herself to crawl to the back end. Mitch had stopped the rig with its tail angled away from the main road. Kam examined the key fob and pushed the hatch lock button. There was a mechanical clunk, and the back cracked open an inch.
Kam stuck her head around the side to check on the pickup. She couldn’t spot the men and wondered what they had in mind. Shrugging, she ducked back behind the SUV, stuck her fingers in the opening and pushed upward. The back door was heavy, and she had to force her whole hand into the crack until the hydraulic lifts took over. The door swung up, barely missing her head.
Leaning over the bumper, she pulled out Bubba’s rifle. She eyed the shotgun hooked on a rack. Mitch hadn’t said to bring it. For all she knew, it wasn’t even loaded. At least, she had used a shotgun before on one disastrous bird-hunting trip with her father. She cried all the way home after she killed a quail.
She jerked at the shotgun, but it stayed firmly in its holder. “Forget it,” she muttered. She pulled down on the hatch until it clicked closed. Just as she turned to leave, a movement drew her attention. The Native American woman stood a few feet away. Again, the woman’s lips moved but Kam couldn’t hear her voice. “I don’t know what you’re saying.” The woman pointed at the road. Kam peered in the same direction but saw nothing except Hanson’s white pickup. When she looked back, the woman was gone. “For cripe’s sakes, use sign language next time,” Kam muttered.
Dropping back to the dirt, she crawled commando style from the back of the SUV to the rocks with the rifle cradled in the crooks of her elbows.
“I’m impressed,” Mitch said, taking the rifle from Kam. “Here’s the nine mil. Just point in the general direction of those guys if they come for us and pull the trigger until it doesn’t go bang anymore.”
“I can figure out that much myself.” Kam took the gun reluctantly. Mitch adjusted her grip and placed her finger on the trigger. “Don’t worry. It’s easy.”
She nodded, but didn’t feel convinced. “What are they doing?”
“They’re on the move.”
Kam craned her neck to peer over the rock. The white pickup was slowly driving past the dirt trail. “Why don’t they just split?”
Mitch shook his head. “They know I’ll have every cop in this state and Idaho searching for them. They’ve dug themselves a hole. The only way they think they can get away is to not leave any witnesses.”
She nodded shortly and swallowed a lump in her throat as big as the rock they hid behind. “What will they do?”
He stretched to take a quick glance over the rock. “They’re trying to flank us, looking for a way to reach us without bogging down in the dirt.”
Kam glanced behind them. The outcropping of rock ran to the west and rose higher until it blended into Duck Pond Ridge, where she had first met Mitch.
“You’re right. They stopped a couple hundred yards up the road. Can you hit them with the rifle?” Kam noticed Mitch’s worried face.
“Maybe, but I’ve got to get higher. I can’t see them from here without going out in the open.” Mitch gestured at the highest point of rock. “If I can climb up there, I might have a clear shot at them.”
“All right, but if…if it doesn’t go well, what do you want me to do?”
“Don’t wait. Jump in the SUV and scram as soon as you hear shooting. I’ll keep their attention while you escape.”
“With a flat tire?”
“Just drive as fast as you can on the rim. The rubber will shed off fast.” Mitch leaned toward her and kissed her forehead. “Drive on the side, not on the road. The rim will last longer. There’s a ranch a couple miles past the turnoff to Salvadore’s.”
“I can’t leave you here by yourself!” Kam threw her arms around his shoulders. He hugged her tightly, before gently extricating himself from her grip.
“Careful with that gun. When you reach the ranch, call 911. That goes to the Sheriff’s Dispatch Center in Vale.” Mitch checked the rifle. “Not many rounds left. I guess I’d better take the nine mil as well.”
Kam handed over the pistol, relieved to be rid of it. “Keep your head down. I’ll come back with the cavalry as soon as I can.” She kissed him. “Don’t get yourself killed.”
MISSING, ASSUMED DEAD
Prejudice, murder, insanity, suicide: Every small town has its secrets.
by Marva Dasef http://marvadasef.com
Amazon Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005EN73FI
Amazon Author Page: http://amazon.com/author/marvadasef
MuseItUp Buy Link: http://tinyurl.com/Missing-Dasef
Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZI_8LgOIb4
First Place Cover Win: http://yougottareadcovers.blogspot.com/2011/08/and-winners-are.html