Mark had just swung around the corner at the Surf Hotel onto Dodge Street when the radio call came through, “All cars in sector four, we have trouble at the High View Hotel. Report availability.”
Burnside hit the lights. Mark grabbed the radio, “Sheridan responding to High View.”
They were less than a minute from the hotel. The chief brought the vehicle to a screeching stop in the parking lot. A crowd stood around a young boy lying in the midst of crushed food and broken glass. Mark pushed through the crowd with Burnside close behind. A stocky man with black hair leaned over the boy, reassuring him in gentle tones.
Mark knelt on the wet pavement next to the boy. He pulled the radio from his belt, “Sheridan here. Make sure the Rescue Squad’s on the way with an ambulance. Arrange for a Med-Evac to the mainland. And dispatch the FBI forensics team to the High View right away.”
The chief replaced the radio on his belt and wondered how far Kessler had run. Mark would certainly appreciate a chance to find out. He turned to one of the waitresses. “Which way did the attacker go?”
She was soaking wet and frightened but pointed to the bushes at the edge of the lot. “He took off through there.”
Mark turned to Ken, “Wait for your forensics guys and the ambulance.”
“Where are you going?”
“Hunting.” Mark chased after Kessler before Burnside could object. He went through the bushes, pulling his Beretta from its holster and creeping over a wooden fence. He could hear Burnside shouting his name but continued in the direction where the girl had pointed. He had barely stepped into the yard when he saw something lunge toward him. Mark swung around fast, bringing the pistol to bear on his attacker: a large mutt straining at the end of its chain. It was barking ferociously, standing on its back paws, clawing the air with its front paws. If that dog weren’t chained, he thought, I’d be in a world of hurt.
“Down, Fido,” he said and hurried to the security of the far side of the opposite fence. A stand of pines was just ahead, and Mark spotted a small patch of red on a tree, protected from the rain by the overhanging boughs.
Mark glanced back at the yard and whispered, “Good dog, Fido.” He continued into the trees, weapon at the ready. The only sound was the steady patter of the rain.
* * *
The sirens penetrated the woods to Kessler. It had only been a minute or two since he’d attacked the busboy at the hotel. His arm was throbbing with pain. Blood seeped through the tear in his jacket. He peeled back the torn fabric to check the wound: ugly but not deep.He’d been wounded before, much worse than this.
Kessler unsheathed a spring-loaded knife strapped to his forearm. He leaned over and cut off the tops of his socks and used them to form a bandage for his arm.
He was about to resheath the knife when he heard a noise. Was it the rain, or the sound of a branch scraping over cloth? Was someone tracking him—possibly well-armed policemen? This was not the fight he wanted.
Kessler kept the knife in hand and hurried through the woods. He paused frequently to see if he could spot his pursuit. The rain-sodden branches of the trees hung low, and ground mist clouded his view. He couldn’t see anyone, but instinct told him he was being followed.
* * *
Mark found more blood farther into the woods. The ground was scuffed, as if someone had sat or stood there. The blood was being washed into the ground by the rain. Kessler couldn’t have been here too long ago, Mark thought, or the blood would be gone.
He walked deeper into the pines, looking in every direction, scanning for Kessler. The knot in his stomach told him that even wounded, Kessler was a very dangerous foe, maybe, like the old cliché about a wounded animal, more dangerous. And Mark knew that if Kessler were even half as fast as the dog had been, he would be too fast for Mark to handle. The two dead men at the Block Island Club were proof of how fast and deadly Kessler was.
Mark wiped rain water from his face, knowing it was futile to do so. The pistol in his hand was slippery. He wished he had brought the Remington shotgun; accuracy was unnecessary with it. Just point in the general vicinity of a serial killer and pull the trigger. Still, as demanding of accuracy as his Beretta was, it was comforting.
And . . . he realized that he hoped he would have the opportunity to use the pistol. He was surprised at himself for thinking that, but he had to admit that he didn’t want to see Kessler on trial. He wanted Kessler to die as his victims had. Mark hoped that he could be the one to send Kessler to his well-deserved end.
* * *
Kessler knew he needed to evade the pursuit. He had no idea how many policemen were behind him or what their tracking abilities were. And he wasn’t sure that other cops weren’t closing in on him from other directions. Fighting his way out was iffy. That left hiding and allowing the pursuit to pass over him.
He slowed down to give himself a chance to check out the area. He could climb a tree, but, unless he found a very large one that provided ample cover, all his pursuers would have to do is look up to find him. If he was discovered up a tree, he’d be finished. In a hiding place on the ground, he would still have a chance to fight his way out.
There was a slight ravine to his left, hardly more than a deep trough, probably no more than a couple of feet deep. And most of it was filled with pine needles and fallen leaves. If he could burrow under the needles—
There was a dull thud of footsteps somewhere behind him. His pursuit was still out of sight but very close. It was time to run or hide. His heart was pounding, and he remembered nights on patrol in the jungles with rain so thick it seemed he would drown . . . hearing a noise and thinking it was the enemy . . . finding cover barely seconds ahead of the enemy's arrival . . . emerging from hiding to kill. Kessler lunged for the ravine and began wriggling under a thick clump of leaves. The footfalls of his pursuit were growing louder as they came closer.
He stopped wriggling, able to see through his leaf cover with his right eye. A man’s legs had come into view. The man was wearing blue jeans and carrying a pistol. Kessler guessed it was Sheridan—he appeared to be alone. There were no sounds of other pursuers.
What an opportunity, Kessler thought. But he knew that while he might wound Sheridan, it was unlikely the chief would miss at close range. Kessler’s only choice was to continue to lay low.
The chief was walking very slowly, scanning the area thoroughly. Kessler hoped he hadn’t left any signs of his passage. Was he still losing blood? From his restricted position, he checked as much of the area as he could.
There was blood on a tree root that trailed down into the ravine. He must have brushed against it when he wriggled into his cover. The rain was washing it away, but the red stain was disappearing slowly. Sheridan was only a few feet away now, his body twisting as he scouted the woods. The blood was dissolving but still visible. Another step closer and Sheridan would practically be on top of him. Kessler tightened his grip on the knife; he would have to take his chances with the chief.
The blood was all but gone when Sheridan took another step closer. Kessler could see nothing but the chief’s shoes. He would have to attack in another second.
Sheridan stepped away, out of sight, toward the island airport. Kessler allowed himself to take a deep breath. He couldn’t head back to the High View, and sneaking around the woods would increase the odds of his running into Sheridan. He would stay where he was for the moment. If necessary, he would stay until nightfall.
* * *
Mark reached a hill where the woods ened. About halfway up the slope was a fence. I don't know where the hell am I, he admitted to himself. His pursuit of Kessler through the pines had gotten him completely mixed up. A deep rumbling filled the air. Something big erupted into the air just above him—he twisted quickly to see what it was—desperately hoping that it wasn’t Kessler attacking under cover of the noise.
It was a small plane, probably a four-seater, climbing into the sky from the top of the hill.
Gee, he thought, I guess I’m at the airport. Where do I go now? Is Kessler in front of me, or did he go to ground behind me? Wherever he is, he’s going to attack again very soon. He’s feeling his oats after killing two armed men this morning.
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