(narrated by Melissa Moran).
As I approached the ranch from the west, I kept my eyes trained on the abandoned buildings, looking for signs of Angie, or the girls, or…something. The closer I got, the less inhabited it appeared.
The ancient windmill spun lethargic circles in the light breeze, keeping an even more aged barn company, its roof collapsed inward like an old man’s rheumatic chest. Dark shadows marked the buildings closest to me, giving the place an even bleaker appearance. I turned into the weed-choked driveway, hyper-alert, my hand closing around the gun.
I circled the weathered structure in search of the entrance. A derelict wooden porch slid into view with shadowy, glass-starved windows and mismatched shutters, hanging on by a disconsolate nail. The front door leaned against the jamb, jutting halfway out of the building, as though being associated might not be worth the effort.
This is where he’s keeping the kids? I stopped the car and put it in park, opened the door and got out.
The breeze ruffled my hair as I walked slowly toward the house. No signs of life were evident except the frantic fluttering of my heart.
“Hello?” I called, unable to contain my anxiety. “Angie? Let’s get this over with.”
My nerves frayed, I stopped and waited, hearing only the wind through the gaps in the side boards and the occasional, uneven screech of the metal windmill.
A faint sound, like that of a distressed animal, came from behind me and I whirled around. I held my breath and waited until I heard it again.
Tired of the game Angie was playing and determined to finish, I slid the gun out and threaded my way through waist-high weeds. Near the barn I heard the noise again. I edged closer and peered in.
My eyes took their time adjusting as I gazed through the gaping hole that used to be the barn doors but couldn’t make out much in the dim light. Dust motes danced in the sparse sunbeams blazing through gaps in the walls. Alert for movement, I stepped through the opening—and froze.
At the far end of the barn a sliver of sunlight streamed through a fissure in the roof, illuminating a disemboweled coyote and three bloody jackrabbits.
I stared at the gory scene before me, dread pooling in my stomach. Each of the bloodstained animals hung by a rope tied to a crossbeam. All four had a handwritten note attached: one rabbit was labeled Abby, another said Lauren, and the last one read FBI. The coyote’s moniker read Kate.
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