Truth Be ToldBy: Kendra Elliot
(Rogue Justice Novella Book 2)
As rain pounded on her police hat, Stevie Duncan swallowed hard at the sight of blood and brains splattered across the inside of the SUV’s cracked windshield.
The two victims slumped in the front seats, held in place by their seat belts, bullet entry wounds in the backs of their heads. The fronts of their heads lacked crucial parts due to the destruction of the exiting bullets.
They never saw it coming.
They were well dressed in suits and decent shoes. Completely inappropriate for the storm that’d been raging over southwest Oregon for the last several days. From what she could see of it, both men wore their hair neat and short. A leather strap caught her eye, and she carefully lifted the lapel of the driver’s coat out of the way with a pen. He wore an empty shoulder holster.
“Know them?” she asked Walter, a Solitude senior citizen, as he peered over her shoulder.
“Nope. Never seen them before in my life. Clearly they’re not from around these parts.” Walter’s vomit-scented breath blocked out the metallic and sewage smells from the car. The man had called the Solitude Police Department to report that an SUV had blocked the road at the submerged west bridge. And that there were two dead people inside.
Solitude was in a state of emergency. Days of heavy rain had washed out roads and raised the Rogue River to an alarming level. Even at the police station, water had backed up through the drains and into their single holding cell. Neighborhoods had been cut off by water flowing over the roads, and now the river had blocked the last exit out of town. Two feet of a rushing, muddy-colored wash flowed over the bridge, and a large portion of the guardrail had vanished.
Driving over the bridge would be suicide.
Feeling like she had a target on her back, Stevie scanned the area, her hand on her weapon, knowing the shooter could still be near. The two-lane bridge was in the middle of nowhere. To her right was a national forest, and to the left was a swampy pasture that backed up to a curve of the Rogue River. They were two miles out of Solitude.
Where’d our killer go?
“No one wears suits around here unless they’re goin’ to church,” stated Walter solemnly. “And I don’t think that’s where they were headed.” He crossed himself. “Poor buggers.”
A Solitude Police Department SUV parked by her cruiser, and the police chief got out. Zane Duncan was tall, well over six feet. His usual slow smile was missing, but his eyes lit up when he met her gaze.
Four months of marriage.
How long before the butterflies in her stomach stopped having a party every time she saw him?
“How are you, Walter?” Zane shook the older man’s hand. “Tell me what happened.”
Walter launched into the same story he’d told Stevie. He’d been headed to Hannon when he drove up behind the SUV stopped at the bridge. He realized there was no crossing the bridge, and one of the SUV’s back doors was wide open. Being a neighborly sort, he went to check on the occupants and promptly threw up his chicken fried steak from breakfast.
“Run the plate?” Zane asked Stevie.
“Not yet. I checked to see if anything could be done first.” She looked away. “I confirmed there wasn’t a pulse on either of them. As you’ll see, there was no hope. They were already cold. And Zane”—she paused—“the driver is missing a weapon from his shoulder holster. I didn’t check the passenger.”
Zane scowled and nodded. “Run the plate while I take a look.”
Stevie slipped into her cruiser and tapped some keys. She blinked at the results. The SUV was a federal government vehicle. “Oh no.” Could it be . . .
She jogged back to the SUV, brushing the rain out of her eyes, and saw Zane take something from one of the bodies. He straightened, a wallet in his hand.
“Zane. The SUV belongs to the government.”
Zane glanced back at Walter, who’d stepped away a respectful distance, his back to the officers, pretending to take interest in the river’s rising water but not quite out of hearing distance. Zane flipped open the wallet and held it up for her to see the ID and badge. “FBI agents. They must be the ones who were taking Liam Pierce home,” he said in a hushed voice.