MISSING, ASSUMED DEAD
Prejudice, murder, insanity, suicide: Every small town has its secrets.
When Kameron McBride receives notice she’s the last living relative of a missing man she’s never even heard of, the last thing she wants to do is head to some half-baked Oregon town to settle his affairs. But since she’s the only one available, she grudgingly agrees.
En route, she runs afoul of a couple of hillbillies and their pickup in an accident that doesn’t seem...accidental. Especially when they keep showing up wherever she goes. Lucky for her, gorgeous Deputy Mitch Caldwell lends her a hand, among other things. Her suspicions increase when the probate Judge tries a little too hard to buy the dead man’s worthless property.
Working on a hunch and trying to avoid the Judge’s henchmen, Kam probes deeper into the town’s secrets and finds almost no one she can trust. With Mitch’s help, she peels away the layers of prejudice, suicide, murder, and insanity. But someone in town doesn’t like her poking around, and when they show their intentions by shooting her through the police chief’s office window, the stakes are raised. Kam must find out what really happened to her dead relative before someone in this backward little town sends her to join him.
And she thought Oregon was going to be boring.
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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.”