Classified K-9 Unit ChristmasBy: Lenora Worth & Terri Reed
A Killer Christmas_Yuletide Stalking
The full moon grinned down on her with a wintry smile. FBI Tactical K-9 Unit Agent Nina Atkins held on to the leash and kept an eye on the big dog running with her. Sam loved being outside, no matter the weather, no matter the crunch of snow underneath his paws. The three-year-old K-9 rottweiler, a smart but gentle giant that specialized in cadaver detection, had no idea that most humans were terrified of him. Especially the criminal kind.
Tonight, however, they weren’t looking for criminals. Nina was just out for a nice run and then home to a long, hot shower. Two weeks before Christmas, and after a harrowing year where one of their own had gone bad and lost his life, thankfully all was quiet around the Billings, Montana, FBI Tactical K-9 Unit headquarters. Special Agent in Charge Max West would be back before Christmas, but right now he was taking some time off with his bride, Katerina. Even tech wiz Dylan O’Leary had taken a few days away to spend some time with the parents of his wife, Zara. So many of her friends and fellow agents had fallen in love lately, Nina’s head was spinning. Which was probably why she’d felt the need for a quick run. She lived for her work. No time for romance. Okay, maybe she’d just given up on a love life since her last brief relationship had fizzled out like a mountain stream in a serious drought.
Nina lived about twenty miles from downtown Billings, in the quaint town of Iris Rock. Regardless of her single status, she loved going on these nightly runs through the quiet foothills near the Elk Basin.
“C’mon, Sam,” Nina said now, her nose cold. “Just around the bend and then we’ll cool down on the way home.”
Sam woofed in response, comfortable in his own rich brown fur. But instead of moving on, the big dog came to an abrupt halt that almost threw Nina right over his broad body.
The rottweiler glanced back at her with his work expression. What kind of scent had he picked up?
Then she heard something.
“I don’t know anything. Please, don’t do this.”
Female. Youngish voice. Scared and shaky.
Giving Sam a hand signal to stay quiet, Nina moved from the narrow gravel jogging path to the snow-covered woods, each footstep slow and calculated. Sam led the way, as quiet as a desert rat.
“I need the key. The senator said you’d give it to me.”
Nina and Sam hid behind a copse of trees and dead brambles and watched the two figures a few yards away, standing in an open spot.
A big, tall man was holding a gun on a young woman with long dark hair. The girl was sobbing and wringing her hands out, palms up. Nina recognized that defensive move.
Was he going to shoot her?
Then Nina noticed something else.
A shallow, open pit right behind the girl. Could that be a newly dug grave?
Nina didn’t stop to ponder that question, but she knew to be careful, too. Giving Sam another “quiet” signal, she called out, “Hey, everything okay here?”
The girl gasped and stared at her with fear-filled eyes, but stayed frozen to the spot.
The man turned to face her. Nina used a hand signal to allow Sam to bark, hoping to distract the man so the girl could run. The dog did his job, his ferocious bark echoing loudly out over the winter woods. Since she didn’t have her weapon, Sam was Nina’s only hope right now in stopping the girl from getting shot. That could give her time to call for help.
The man stared at Nina, giving her a good view of his face in the eerie white light from the moon. He shot at her and just missed, and then pivoted back toward the girl, weapon in hand. Sam kept barking. The man looked panicked, so Nina motioned the rottweiler forward, all the while taking in the assailant’s appearance.
The big dog growled, but stopped when she signaled him. “My dog is trained to attack,” she said. “You should drop that gun now.”
The man shook his head and raised the gun, but Nina signaled Sam again. The animal danced and barked, causing a panicked expression on the man’s face. He started backing away, but in a lightning-fast move, pivoted and took one quick shot at the girl.
She screamed, grabbed at her shoulder and fell into the open pit behind her as the gunman disappeared into the woods.
Sam kept barking, eager for some action.