“Chris!” she shouted, desperately.
“I’m sorry, Laura,” he said, again. “They’re going to make you better. You’re going away until you get better.” He shut the door in her face as they dragged her backwards, away to the waiting ambulance that would take her to the hospital.
He thought she was crazy.
Chris thought she was crazy.
Laura struggled, but there was no way she could escape, the two men were holding her far too tightly. “Let go!” she shouted, but the only response was the ambulance’s siren coming on, sounding like a ringing phone instead of an alarm—sounding like her ringtone, actually—sounding just like—
Laura woke up, opening her eyes to the motel ceiling. There was a sound ringing out close to her head. Her cell phone. Her arm shot out to grab it and she fumbled, dropping it to the floor before cursing and managing to lean over and grab it.
“Agent Frost,” she said down the line, not having had even enough time or presence of mind to check the caller ID before answering.
“Agent, this is Sheriff Landyn,” he replied. “It looks as though we have another body.”
Laura sat straight upright in the bed, her brain already kicking into the mode she needed to get up and out of there fast. “Where?” she asked. The light of dawn was just starting to hit the curtains in her motel room. It was early, and she still felt tired. The quality of her sleep probably had something to do with that. But any chance for rest was gone now.
“Just on the hill above the town, there’s a nautical museum,” Landyn told her. “I’m there now with my men securing the scene.”
Laura swore mentally, wishing they had been called when the discovery was made and not when the Sheriff had arrived. “Sheriff? Whatever perimeter you were planning on setting up, do me a favor and double it,” she said, then hesitated as she thought about the scene at the docks. “No, triple it. I’ll be there as soon as physically possible with Agent Lavoie.”
She dropped the call and rose to rush to the other side of the room, banging on the thin wall between her room and Nate’s to wake him up.
Laura squinted out of the windshield as she drove up the road to the museum, leaning forward so she could see the whole building in one view. It was impressive, that was for sure—and she could see why it was connected to this case.
It just meant that everything she had been thinking so far was gone out of the window.
Laura parked with a churn of the tires against the gravel forecourt, pulling up the hire car between two cars from the Sheriff’s department. As she and Nate got out of the car, Sheriff Landyn was already walking toward them with his hand raised in greeting.
“Where is she?” Laura asked, looking at the obvious spot. But there was no body there—only some ropes hanging limply down from the front of a ship, as if they had been slashed open. She was baffled. She had assumed that they would at least have the sense to leave the crime scene intact.
“She’s been taken to the hospital,” the Sheriff said.
“What?” Laura frowned, looking at Nate. “Is she still alive?”
“Well, that’s kind of the question,” the Sheriff said.
“Explain,” Nate said impatiently, shaking his head in confusion. “Didn’t you tell Agent Frost on the phone that there was a new body?”
“We thought there was, but apparently, it’s too soon to say,” the Sheriff replied, apparently not done with speaking in riddles. “Well, a hell of a storm blew through here last night.”
Laura nodded. The wet ground told that story, even if she had been out like a light so much last night that she hadn’t heard any rain or thunder. “What difference does that make?” she asked, not seeing the connection yet.
“She was put up there last night sometime,” the Sheriff replied, gesturing upward and tilting his own chin to look up at the ropes. “She was the head curator here at the museum and was usually the last one to close up, so we think it would have been as she was leaving work here that she was strangled and tied up to the figurehead. Then the storm came. She was in the cold wind and rain all night long, drenched to the skin. The EMTs told us they can’t declare her dead until she’s been warmed up to normal body temperature.”
Laura stared at him. “You’re telling me that we can’t tell whether she’s alive or not?”
“With that level of hypothermia, it turns out you can’t make out vital signs too well,” the Sheriff said, scratching the back of his neck. “We’ll know more once they’ve treated her. It’s a long shot, though. She had the rope marks around her neck, same as the others.”
Laura rubbed her forehead. This was complicated. A victim who was dead but not dead.
“Is there a chance she might survive?” Nate asked, which was really the meat of the question they needed to answer. It was good luck that he was there with her, because Laura was having trouble getting around all the mental roadblocks this early in the morning.
“I suppose so,” the Sheriff said, although he looked completely confused about it himself.
“Right,” Nate sighed. “Then let’s get to this crime scene. Any cameras, witnesses?”