It was almost time to make the call. She’d already moved Ewan’s car to the end of the drive at the bottom of the hill, and she’d parked her car behind his. It had to be out of harms way when the house blew, and she’d be able to tell the police that Ewan blocked the drive and she couldn’t get any closer. There was so much detail to the planning. Nothing could be overlooked.
It was ironic that she really did fall down when she was just a few feet away from her car door. She even bumped her forehead on the fender.
She got the door open and slid into the driver’s seat. Her gaze locked on her watch as the seconds ticked by. Less than three minutes remained. Perfect timing. She glanced up at the old Victorian brick mansion at the top of the hill and laughed to herself. To think that she’d ever want such a monstrosity was ludicrous. The old man hadn’t done anything in thirty years to update or maintain it. It was just a huge, ugly monument to his mean and selfish life.
She knew she was supposed to wait until after the explosion to make the call, but she thought it would be more convincing if she were on the line pleading for help when the house exploded.
Two minutes to go. Now, she thought. She pushed 9-1-1.
An operator answered on the first ring.
“What is your emergency?”
“Please, please help me,” she cried out. “He’s got a bomb, and he’s going to kill her. I got out, but she’s still inside the house with him, and I can’t . . . oh, please . . .”
“What is your address?” the calm operator asked.
“Four-seventeen Barkley Road. Please hurry,” she screamed.
“We have two cars in your area, ma’am. They’re on their way. Just stay on the line with me until they get there. What is your name?”
Vanessa was sobbing and panting for breath and hoped she sounded hysterical. “Vanessa MacKenna. They’ve got to get here now. Don’t you understand? He’s going to kill her.”
“Who, ma’am? Who are you talking about?”
“Kate MacKenna. My brother-in-law Ewan has her.”
Less than a minute to go.
The operator continued to ask questions.
“Where are you now, ma’am? Are you away from the house?”
“Yes. He looked the other way, and I ran. I’m at the gate at the end of the driveway—by my car. Oh, I hear sirens. They’re coming.”
“Just stay with me until they get to you, okay?”
“Yes, I will. Oh, please, they have to stop him.” She took the phone from her ear and turned it toward the house.
Five . . . four . . . three . . . two . . . one.
Time ran out . . . and nothing happened.
Dylan’s heart dropped to the pit of his stomach. How could he have let this happen? Kate . . . oh, God, Kate . . . .
No sooner had he absorbed the news that she had disappeared than he heard a car screech to a stop in front of the building. Agent Kline had told him he would meet him at Smith and Wesson, but he didn’t get out of his car. He pounded on the horn.
The security guard who had left his post leaped out of the way in the nick of time, or Dylan would have plowed over him as he bolted out the door. His brain was on automatic now.
Kline had the window down and was shouting, “Get in! Let’s go, let’s go.” He leaned across the seat and pushed the passenger door open.
Dylan jumped inside. He was pulling the door closed when Kline hit the gas pedal. The car rocketed forward.
“Kate’s gone,” Dylan roared.
“I know,” Kline answered. “I heard it from dispatch. I know where she is,” Kline said, hoping to God he was right. “A call was patched through from Savannah PD. Vanessa left the hospital, said it was an emergency. She was meeting Ewan at Compton’s house. She’s been staying there, and I’m guessing Kate’s with her. Process of elimination,” he rushed on.
He ran a red light, turned left, and shot down the street.
“Vanessa told people where she was going? It could be a setup,” Kline said.
“Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking,” Dylan said, trying to make sense of it all.
They both knew Kate could already be dead, but neither voiced the fear.
“Kate has to be there with Vanessa,” Dylan said. “And if she isn’t, I don’t know where they could have taken her. I never should have left her. I should have stayed.”
“We’re close,” Kline said. “And every available unit is on the way. We’ll get to her in time.” He took another corner on two wheels, straightened, and, tires squealing, sped on.
Dylan pulled his gun out of the holster, popped the magazine out, checked it, and then snapped it back in with the heel of his hand. “If anyone hurts Kate, I’ll kill them. And it’s not going to be quick or clean.”
Dylan’s tirade made Kline nervous. “Try to remember I’m a federal agent, okay? Don’t tell me you’re going to kill someone. That’s called premeditated murder. You’re a detective. You know that.”
Dylan shoved the gun back in the holster. “Can’t you drive faster?”
The radio in the police car Kline had commandeered crackled to life as dispatch relayed the 911 call from Vanessa.
Dylan heard the word “bomb.” It felt like a crushing blow hit him in the gut.
The dispatcher was routing police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks to the neighborhood. Kline got on the radio and gave the operator his approximate ETA.
They turned onto a four-lane, heavily congested street flying past other vehicles. Most drivers pulled over when they heard the siren, but there were a few who either hadn’t heard the noise or had heard it and didn’t care. Kline swung the car in and out with the efficiency of a NASCAR driver.
Dylan still thought he could do better, go faster.
“Vanessa’s saying Ewan’s got a bomb, right?” Kline asked.
“It’s not Ewan,” Dylan shouted.
“I know, I know,” Kline said. “You convinced me, but what I’m trying to say is that I don’t think it’s been detonated yet. If it’s anything like the other two bombs, we’d have heard about it by now.”
“Yeah, that’s right.” Dylan actually felt a kernel of hope. “I never told her . . .”
“Told her what?”
He didn’t answer. “You’re slowing down.”
“The hell I am. We’re closing in. Bomb squad should be right behind us. Damn, another bomb. Third time’s the charm? We’ve got to get this prick.”
Kline spotted an ambulance in his rearview mirror weaving in and out of traffic. “One more turn up ahead and straight about a mile,” he said. “In this ritzy neighborhood, the estates are spread out—that’s good because I hate to think—” He stopped, but not in time.
Dylan finished the thought. “If the houses are crammed together and a bomb goes off, the number of casualties escalates. You think I don’t know the problems?” he snapped.
Kline shouted back. “I don’t want you to become my problem, got that? You’re involved with Kate, aren’t you? I can hear it in your voice and see it in your face. Emotional involvement makes you a risk. You’ve got to keep it together, or you’ll be no help at all.”
Kline didn’t slow down enough when he turned the corner, nearly putting the car into a spin. Quickly compensating, he regained control.
“When this is over, Kline, you need to take driver’s ed. You drive like an old lady.”
“I’m going sixty down a residential street.”
Ahead there was a four-way stop. Two police cars raced toward the intersection from opposite directions. Kline fishtailed around the stop signs, narrowly missing both cars.
Cars rushed at the MacKenna mansion from every direction. Two police cars blocked the street, and the uniforms were cordoning off the area. One signaled Kline to stop, but he ignored the directive, driving over the curb toward the iron gates. Through the trees, Dylan glimpsed the house. An ambulance was parked next to another car which obstructed his view of the people clustered together.
Kline had a better vantage point. “Hallinger’s here. That’s his car, isn’t it?”
“I don’t see Kate. Do you see Kate?” Dylan asked, reaching for the door handle.
“Hold on! Let me get inside the gate. Keep looking,” Kline urged. “Ah, there’s Vanessa. Over on the right. You let me handle her, you hear me?”
“I don’t see Kate. I don’t see her.”
“Bomb squad’s here. They’re getting ready now. Dylan, what the hell are you—”
Kline slammed on the brakes, but Dylan was already out of the car and running flat out toward the gates. Cursing, Kline put the car in park, jumped out, and chased him.
“Dylan, hold on, hold on,” Kline shouted.
Dylan wasn’t listening. He was frantically seaching for Kate while Kline was frantically trying to get to him before he did anything crazy.
Dylan veered around the bomb squad van. Two policemen stood with Vanessa, who was sobbing and pointing to the house. One of them spotted Dylan coming toward them and ran to intercept him.
“Have you seen Kate MacKenna?” Dylan demanded.
“We just got here, and were the first on the scene. An ambulance followed us in, and a Detective Nate Hallinger pulled in behind us.”
Kline caught up, panting for breath.
The policeman continued, “Vanessa MacKenna told us there are people inside. Detective Hallinger just took off, the crazy idiot. He’s going to try to get them out before the bomb goes off. I couldn’t stop him.”
Dylan was already gone. He crossed the drive, vaulting over the hood of a car that was in his way, and sprinted up the hill.
Kate was still inside . . . if the bomb exploded . . . something must have gone wrong because the house was still standing. Maybe Vanessa hadn’t timed it right . . . maybe she called it in too soon. What the hell was the plan? His thoughts raced. There had to be a backup plan.
He’d just reached the mansion’s entryway when he heard a gunshot.
He pulled his gun, flipped off the safety, and stealthily moved inside the house. There was no one in sight.
Nate stood at the library door at the back of the house. He had jammed the lock in his hurry to get inside and had been forced to shoot it and kick the door to get in. He took the entire room in at once. Ewan was on the floor, face up, eyes closed. Nate searched for Kate, but couldn’t find her. He saw the basket of flowers on the desk and rocked back on his heels, knowing that it could go off any second. He opened his mouth to call for Kate, but only a strangled sound escaped. He felt the barrel of a gun against the back of his head.
“Drop the gun or you’re dead.”
Dylan stood behind him.
Nate flinched. “What are you doing? Are you crazy? Get your gun away from me! I’m trying to get Kate and Ewan out before—”
“Drop the gun, you son of a bitch.”
“What the hell’s wrong with you?” Nate roared.
“I don’t know. I’m trying to save her,” he said.
“Don’t you mean ‘kill her’? Were you going to use Ewan’s gun or your own? Nice and tidy, right? Make it look like Ewan shot her. Then you’re the hero if you take him down.”
“That’s nuts. Why would I—”
Dylan cut him off. “You made a big mistake. You knew about the money, and you hadn’t even talked to the attorney yet.” Dylan pushed the barrel harder against Nate’s skull and shouted, “Where is she?”
“I’m telling you, you’ve got this all—”
“I’m here.” The library door behind them edged forward, and Kate stepped around it, a pair of scissors raised in her right hand. She lowered her arm and in a stunned voice, she said, “I thought Vanessa was coming back, I—”
Nate’s gun had been pointed at Ewan, but he inched the barrel up toward the basket on the desk. “I’m not going down for this, Dylan. I pull this trigger, and we all die. Hand over your gun and nobody gets hurt. Kate’s gonna be my insurance. She’ll walk out with me, and everyone stays alive. I’ve got nothing to lose. Now hurry up and decide. This bomb could go at any second.”
Dylan didn’t lower his gun. “Kate, get out of here. Run.”
Kate didn’t budge. “Dylan—”
The door in the front of the house burst open. Nate’s head turned for a split second. Like lightning, Dylan’s free hand chopped Nate’s arm and sent his gun flying. In one motion, Dylan kicked his feet out and threw him to the floor, holding him with his foot, his gun still pointed at Nate’s head.
The bomb squad rushed toward the library in their full protective gear, and Dylan shouted to them as he pulled Nate to his knees. “Get Kate out first. And take Ewan. Hurry!”
Kate was finally able to speak. As the team stepped toward her, she put her hand up. “It’s not necessary, I—”
Dylan had Nate on his feet now and gave him a shove toward the door.
“Now, Kate!” Dylan ordered.
“You don’t understand—” Kate went to the desk and put the scissors down, then she opened her other hand. A blue wire just a few inches long lay in her palm. “The bomb isn’t going to explode.”
“But how do you know . . . ?” Dylan began.
She gave a relieved smile and said. “You’ll never guess who called me.”
Leaning against the side of a squad car, too weary to move, Kate quietly watched all the commotion.
Dylan was talking to a lieutenant with Savannah PD, but he kept glancing over at her—probably making sure she didn’t disappear again.
The paramedics carried Ewan out of the house on a stretcher. He was still unconscious, but she heard one of the policemen say that Ewan was expected to recover. Whenever he did open his eyes, he’d find himself handcuffed to a hospital bed. There were several charges pending against him. Supplying his brother with a stolen gun that had been used in a crime was going to top the list of offenses.
By now, reporters and cameramen from all the television stations that had been monitoring the 911 calls had arrived, but they were being kept outside the gates.
Most of the cameramen focused on the house, expectantly waiting for the suspect to step outside, but Vanessa was getting some attention, too. She was hysterical, and this time it wasn’t an act.