Thank you all for reading, and thank you to Sir Scott for your continual support of the story! Happy reading!
Travis looked down the road for the trail marker that indicated where he needed to guide his horse, Millie, back towards the stables. He hadn't planned to be out as long as he had, but he knew had to distance himself from the cabin. He needed to clear his head as everything had begun to spiral beyond his control. He wasn't sure why he was risking even going anywhere near the spot he had let his emotions overtake his rational thinking. The whispering voice that told him to just leave it and go had grown louder. Yet, there he was, headed back; his curiosity overwhelmed him.
He shivered slightly as the sun dipped further behind the towering mountainside. The dense trees began to darken and resemble towering giants. Their shadows grew long, stretching out across the rocks and pine needles preparing to merge together. Soon they would converge into a giant blanket of blackness that would blot out all visibility. He had only about twenty minutes before he would be riding in total darkness.
A car whipping around the curve abruptly interrupted his peaceful ride. The noise and violent movement cracked through the silent evening, spooking Millie. He cursed the reckless driver but turned his attention to soothing her. He stroked her neck and spoke gently to her. Reaching the trial head he blew out a breath of relief that they would not have to deal with any more careless drivers. He carefully guided Millie off the road. He preferred this particular path back to the stable. It brought him through the back and he could remain unseen. He didn't know if there was still police activity up at the cabin and needed to remain vigilant.
When he saw the barn that was at the end of the property come into view, he took the time to look around. There was no visible activity beyond the tall grass of the pasture swaying in the evening's breeze. He directed Millie to circle around the vacant corrals towards the narrow building of the stables. He was specifically on the lookout for Danny. He needed to see where his head was at and more than anything he needed to get him on the same page again. It was bad enough Danny had followed him to the cabin, but his attack on Abigail had put more than just a kink in his plans. He wasn't ready to kill her or Avery yet. He needed to get answers from the twins, and it was evident that Danny wasn't cued into all that he wanted.
Movement coming from the entrance of the stables had him sitting up taller. When Travis realized who it was, his heart began to beat faster, and felt the flush of anger wash through him. There was Sydney Garrett, walking with what appeared to him as unnecessary arrogance. She was escorting a cuffed and defeated Danny. The smug look on her face lit the fire of rage within him more. Beyond his burning hatred for the Lieutenant, Danny was clearly compromised. Reluctantly, Travis realized what he had to do.
As silently as he could, Travis slid off his horse and grabbed her reins. As he anticipated, his presence brought their attention around. Danny refused to make eye contact and Travis had a few guesses as to why. He had failed to do one thing to make up for his rash actions at the cabin, and that was to create distractions and give fake leads to keep them busy.
He patted Millie's neck and forced a smile in Sydney's direction. "Everything okay?"
"We're good, thank you," she responded in a matter of fact almost annoyed tone.
She had no clue what was about to happen and it gave him more confidence as he stepped away from the horse and closer to them.
"Danny, do you need anything? Want me to call anyone?" he asked not really caring what Danny needed.
Danny only shrugged and dropped his eyes again.
"I'll make sure this place is closed up for you and call Tina." He lied.
Sydney halted their movement and looked him over. His attempt to insert himself in their business was met with a pause and scrutinizing stare. Though she tried to silently understand his motive, it was clear she remembered him and their earlier interaction. Her eyes spoke that she still saw him as the kind resident that bought her and Avery their coffee and breakfast. He planned on using the cover to get closer. He had to just get close enough.
"You work here?" she asked with slight confusion.
"Nope," he answered keeping his tone light even though he was almost bursting with rage. "I rent a stall here for Mille." He pointed towards his copper mare.
"Ah, gotcha." Sydney nodded her understanding and began to push Danny forward to continue their trek to her vehicle.
He didn't move any further to give away any of his intentions, and she continued to show no sign that she felt he was a threat. He was going to play on that.
His hastily put together plan was to take out Sydney in a swift move and then Danny after he got information to what he's disclosed. He knew he only had one chance and needed to get to them just after they cleared the office. It was only a short distance and the building was nothing more than an enclosed booth with what looked like a ticket window from a fair or old-timey theatre. At that point, they would have to separate slightly to maneuver around the gate and chest high corral fence made up of large interlocking logs.
He began to step forward and smoothly slid his arm behind his back to the sheath that held his hunting knife to his belt. The bare bulbs that lined the buildings began to flicker on in response to their darkening surrounding. He took the cover of night as his final cue and propelled himself forward.
His intention to grab Sydney first failed as his approach had them turning and Danny was suddenly sandwiched between them. Adjusting to the unexpected change he didn't hesitate to grab Danny, efficiently bringing the blade across his throat. Not caring the result, he spun Danny's flailing body away from him and brought his weight around to fully face Sydney. Sydney faltered by his abrupt and unexpected attack and he used that to extend the blade towards her. The shock to his action only lasted momentarily and she skillfully reacted to his advancement. She danced to the right while circling her hand around his wrist and violently twisted. With her movement came the immediate and excruciating pain. He couldn't help but release his hold on the knife. He bit down to fight past the sharp throbs radiating from his wrist or the tight grip she still had on him.
He refocused to keep on the attack; he forced his mind to remain on the offensive. He threw his left arm up to block the right hook she sent hurtling towards his head. He pulled back and twisted to free her grip from him. With his newfound freedom, Travis used his forward motion to send an upward jab that caught her cleanly under her jaw. The impact snapped Sydney's head back and caused her to lose her balance slightly, but to his surprise, it didn't stop her. She shook it off and returned to a balanced and staggered stance. She swiftly removed her gun from its holster, but before she could raise it towards him he reacted with a roundhouse kick that connected with her wrist and sent the gun disappearing into the brush. She didn't acknowledge the loss of the weapon and wasted no time to step forward and with a strong front kick caught him in his midsection. His footing faltered but it was the blow to his head that had him swirling with dizziness and swaying sideways. He found himself on one knee leaning against the fence post grabbing his head. He clenched his jaw and tried to focus on his one task, killing her. He hadn't considered she'd have such an effective counter-attack. He needed to shake off the feeling that she had now shifted the momentum into her favor.
She didn't relent and continued her charge. In one last effort, Travis reached down and scooped up a handful of dirt and needles. When she was within range he hurled the debris at her.
Sydney tried to block her face and close her eyes but not before the particles assaulted her. She blinked and sputtered as the dirt and sharp needles blinded her. He laughed as she helplessly tried to rub the grim from her eyes and regain her breath. He used her struggle to leap up and lunge towards her. Their bodies collided and landed violently onto the hard-packed dirt. He heard and felt the air that was forced from her lungs upon impact. She coughed and blinked rapidly trying to fight the pain of the grit that he imagined was scraping her eyes.
In response to his position over her, Sydney began to buck and twist in an attempt to free herself, but he wasted no time to wrap his hands around her neck. He felt the power inside him grow as the fight in her eyes began to wane. She proved to be strong, but he was stronger. In a few minutes, he'd be back in charge, and have one less pest in his way.
"You should have just stayed out of it, Sydney," he hissed and squeezed tighter.
A roar of an engine and headlights cutting through the darkness interrupted and exposed his actions. The blinding light kept him from making out the type of car or who would be pulling into the lot. He ducked his head back down in hopes not to be identified, but they were in clear view of the oncoming vehicle. With the distraction, he hadn't realized Sydney's arms had threaded through his. Her hands found his face and with what strength she had left she pressed her thumbs into his eyes. The agonizing pain had him breaking his hold and pulling back. Sydney was back on the attack and the sound of Avery's voice made him realize his window to act had closed. Retreating was his only option. Before he fled he sent a balled fist across Sydney's temple. He used the seconds she would be unconscious to rise and run.
He darted along the building's shadows and towards the barn. His only chance of escape was his motorcycle that he had hidden within the haystacks.
He glanced back as he pried the door open. He caught sight of Mike covering the area with his flashlight. It was a vain attempt to locate him. Travis moved quickly and grabbed the handlebars and tugged the cycle free of the straw. With a squeeze of the clutch, he began to sprint both he and the bike from the building. Mike's light caught him just as jumped on the bike and released the clutch. When the engine fired up he twisted the throttle. The back wheel spit up rocks before he fishtailed his way to freedom.
It would only be a matter of minutes before the road was flooded with Sheriff's vehicles. He cranked the throttle again and the bike screamed down the main road. The high pitched whine of his dirt bike's engine was unmistakable as it echoed in all directions and undoubtedly gave his location away. He scolded himself once again for letting his rash decisions take over. Even though he knew he was identified, with Danny dead he had a minimal amount of time until they made the real connection to his actual motive. The only option he felt he had left was to accelerate his timeline. That would mean fully engaging the twins.
Having an objective, he slowed and broke just enough to make a sharp turn. As he swerved off the road a plume of dust kicked up behind him. A narrow trial lay ahead of him, and Travis accelerated forward knowing the path so well. He had followed it so many times. He weaved around blind turns that rose and fell over steep hills. His light gave minimal clarity to what was in front of him, but the nimble cycle cut through the brush and trees with ease.
His destination was just on the other side of the hill. A normal twenty-minute drive following the main roads was really nothing more than a five minute one if you cut through the hills. A sudden thumping reverberated in his chest. When he realized it wasn't his motor or the undulating trail he stopped and focused on his surroundings. Recognizing that it was an oncoming helicopter he cut the light on his bike and killed the engine. He listened intently. He was waiting for its actual location, but the mountain walls and deep drops gave him no clarity. When he didn't actually see the helicopter, he decided not to take the chance and ditched the bike. He instead climbed the rest of the way to the top of the small peak. Once there he saw the warm light that emanated from the window of the small two-bedroom cabin below. Without the lights, it could almost be lost within the trees as it was built around the towering redwoods. He sidestepped down the hill and made his way to the back of the property. He paused to take in the activity that was occurring in the front drive.
There huddled tightly were the two Deputies charged with guarding Abigail. He imagined they spoke about their annoyance of having to be stuck babysitting the Chief's sister when they could be out hunting him. He waited patiently for them to make their rounds around the property. He paid no attention to their half ass border check but instead watched Abigail. She sat in her oversized recliner, staring blankly to a spot in front of her. Her hand mindlessly stirred contents in a mug, while an unopened book sat in her lap.
Once the Deputies were back in their car engaged and distracted by their phones, he silently stepped to the back and onto the small wood deck. He had done his research months earlier and knew the window to the side room didn't latch and how to enter the room without knocking into any furniture. He expertly jimmied it open and carefully slid into the darkroom.
He maneuvered through the room and pressed himself between the door and wall. There he waited patiently and listened. He heard Abigail get up and envisioned how she was moving around. He could imagine her state of mind. Cooped up in her home yet feeling exposed and threatened. It was the perfect mixture for him to take control. She paced around the kitchen. Her mug rattled as she set it in the sink. The fridge was open and closed for the third time, a clear indication that she wasn't hungry but her nervous energy caused her to cycle through mindless habits.
It was only a matter of time before Avery would show up. She wouldn't trust that two Deputies bored in the front were enough to protect her sister. Avery would pause her pursuit of him to make sure Abigail was okay. It was the exact thing he was counting on. The sound of shuffling of feet coming down the hall had him readjusting in preparation. Abigail walked past the room, distracted and unaware of his presence. He smiled at the timing and stepped out. The creaking door had her spinning but she had no chance to make a sound or fight him. With her, in his grasps, he felt the tilting of the game back into his favor.
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