Sequel to Surviving the Apocalypse: Pandemic
Dark deeds are being done, and Jenn Canaday, a special agent with the FBI, has been assigned to look into them. This takes her to New Mexico, where cattle are being rustled and people are going missing -- one of them the niece of the state’s governor.
Meg Parkinson is a sheriff’s deputy in the small town of Laurel Hill. She and Jenn had once spent a steamy week together, but then Jenn had sent her away, something Meg hasn’t gotten over, as reluctant as she is to admit it.
When Meg notices that the homeless camp on the edge of her town has become deserted, Jenn is brought into her vicinity to aid in the investigation. Will the former lovers be able to work together? Can they rekindle the flame that had once burned so brightly? And will they learn what’s behind all the disappearances without disappearing themselves?
Jenn preferred the moderate temps of the east coast, but she’d been ordered to the southwest, so that’s where she was, in the Chihuahuan Desert in New Mexico, crouched down, and studying the strange print in the dust. “Do you have any idea what this is, Greg?” She brushed an arm over her forehead, catching the sweat that dripped from the ends of her cap of black hair.
“No clue, boss.” Greg glanced up at the sky, where dark clouds were rolling in. “I’d better get this done.”
“I’ll leave you to it.” She straightened and watched as her investigator began pouring casting material into the depression, then turned to walk back to her rental car. This had started as a simple case of a missing person, but then the missing person turned out to be the governor’s niece, and Jenn had been sent out to investigate. The woman had recently divorced her husband, and she’d taken her two preschool children camping. According to her parents, she’d called every few days to touch base. When she missed a check-in, her parents hadn’t been too concerned, but when no trace of her had been found by local law enforcement after more than a week, the governor had stepped in and raised hell. He had enough pull to get the FBI involved, hence Jenn’s presence.
The entire family was worried, especially the ex-husband, who seemed frantic about the whereabouts of his children. Jenn had sent some of her men to question him. She’d known men who wept and pleaded with the public for help in finding their wives or children, only to have it turn out that they’d been the ones who’d killed them.
As it turned out, the ex-husband had had nothing to do with the disappearance.
They’d caught a possible break earlier in the day. Local law enforcement received word from a rancher flying his private plane in search of a dozen or so head of cattle that had gone missing and he assumed had been rustled. According to the sheriff’s department, the rancher had spotted something from the air, and since whatever it was shouldn’t have been on his land, he’d notified them. Because of the situation with the missing woman, the information had been passed on to the FBI, and Jenn had requested a pair of deputies who were familiar with the territory be sent out to investigate.
Jenn hated cases like this and just hoped they were able to turn up something.
She paused at the call. A man in a dark blue uniform jogged toward her. Unlike the stereotypical sheriff’s deputy, whose fat ass tested the limits of his pants and whose gut draped over his belt, he was in good shape, his waist trim and his shoulders and biceps lovingly contained by his uniform shirt. If she wasn’t a card-carrying lesbian, she might have been interested. “Yes?”
“I’m Deputy Weldon of the sheriff’s department. My partner and I went to check out that tip we received.”
“What did you find?”
“We came across a campsite about fifteen miles from here.”
“From what we could make out, the tent pretty much matches the description the governor gave us. And going by what was scattered around -- some picture books, a stuffed animal, a --” He swallowed. “-- a tiny pair of hiking boots, little kids had been there.”
“From what you could make out?” The situation was giving her the heebie-jeebies -- the occasional susurration of the wind, the strange silence when it stopped. She ran a hand through her sweat-damp hair. Not even insect sounds disturbed the heavy atmosphere. “Mind explaining yourself?”
He nodded, and this time when he swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbed almost painfully. “The tent was collapsed on itself, and when we raised it, one side was completely shredded. The blowup mattress inside had been deflated by some kind of puncture. My partner found this in the glovebox of the pickup that was parked nearby.” He handed her the truck’s registration, which had the governor’s niece listed as the owner.
She sighed. “Any sign of Ms. Stuart or her children?”
“Not yet.” He shifted. “Drake -- my partner -- stayed behind to look for them. I’ve gotta get back.”
“What’s bothering you?” Not that she blamed him for his obvious tension. Every law enforcement agency she knew of hated when kids were involved.
He held up his hand, and for the first time she got a good look at what he carried -- the stuffed animal, its head missing and its stuffing leaking out.