Home > Cut and Run(11)

Cut and Run(11)
Author: Mary Burton

“What brings you to Austin?” he asked.

“I didn’t come for conversation.”

He laughed. “Ouch. Tough crowd. My name is—”

“I don’t want to know.” With her new friend sitting here, she’d have no opportunity to really ask Garnet anything and decided her visit was officially a bust. She pulled a twenty from her pocket and laid it on the bar, knowing she didn’t want anything for free from Garnet.

She took one last long pull from her beer and slid off her barstool.

“Leaving so soon?” the man asked.

“I have an early flight in the morning.”

“Back to?”

“An enchanted land far, far away.”

He scooped up another handful of nuts. “It’s a small world. My Spider-Man sense says we’ll see each other again.” He tossed several in his mouth. Crunch. Crunch.

She rose and left the bar. After crossing the street, she decided to cut down the side street as she fished her phone from her pocket and ordered another car. The driver promised to meet her on the street that ran parallel to this one near the park. When she wondered why, she then realized this section was one-way.

As she walked, she saw another poster of Paige Sheldon. This one was torn and weather-beaten, and someone had written a mustache over her smiling lips. When did a missing girl become a damned joke?

Without thinking she snapped a picture of it with her phone. Might mean nothing, but better to have the reference at her fingertips.

Walking away from the bar down Third Street, she searched her phone for Mitchell Hayden’s phone number. Unlike Spider-Man’s sense, she did trust her own, and it was telling her that the morning was going to be too late to call the Rangers.

Just outside the arched entrance of Comal Pocket Park, she saw a homeless man. He was wearing an army-issue jacket and when he looked up, their gazes locked. For a quick instant he reminded her of Jack, and she wondered where Jack would have ended up without the salvage yard. Knowing she’d given her last twenty to the bartender, she crossed the street to an ATM, pulled out sixty bucks, and returned to him. She gave him twenty.

“Thanks, pretty lady,” he said.

“Don’t drink it. Get something to eat.”

“I will.” He crumpled the bill up into a tight fist. “I was just dreaming about a hamburger.”

“Now is the time to get one.” She thought about the poster of the girl and pulled it up on her phone. “Have you been around here long?”

“Years. This is my home.”

She showed him the picture. “Did you ever see this girl?”

“The missing girl.”

“That’s right. She vanished in May.”

“I saw her around. She wasn’t here long, though.”

“Where do you think she went?”

He shrugged. “People come and go. That’s the way it is.”

“Did the cops ever talk to you?” Macy asked.

His eyes narrowed. “Are you a cop?”

“No, man,” she lied. “Just a girl wondering if I’m even playing with the right puzzle pieces.”

He laughed. “That happens to me.”

She smiled as she studied the doodles made on the picture on the poster. “Seems like people have forgotten her. Like it’s all a joke.”

“People forget, but I don’t.”

“What do you remember?”

“She was nice. She was scared. She shouldn’t have been on the street.”

No kid should have. “When did you see her last?”

“I don’t remember.” He dropped his gaze and wrapped his arms around his folded knees.

Why the hell she was talking to a homeless guy in the middle of East Austin about this girl was beyond her.

“Okay, well, thanks anyway.”

He didn’t respond, and she figured the chances of him eating a hamburger were slim, but she kept moving down with her sights set on the car’s location and her attention on the search for the Ranger’s number.

What happened next came so fast.

Headlights flicked on and tires spun over the pavement, kicking up gravel. An engine revved and had her turning. She saw the headlights moving, the truck quickly picking up speed and aimed directly toward her. She started running and took a hard left onto Comal Street, pumping her arms, knowing the truck was gaining on her.

In the next instant, she felt metal crashing into the back of her left hip with such force it sent her flying to the right onto the pavement like she were no heavier than a rag doll. Her backpack flew into the shadows seconds before her head, back, and torso hit the ground hard. Brakes skidded and the tires kicked up rocks as the truck turned around.

Headlights glared on her broken body, and she knew one arm was bent at a sharp right angle and a femur bone jutted out of her thigh. A deep gash on her forehead oozed blood that dripped into her eyes, blurring her vision. Adrenaline rocketed through her body, but she knew it wouldn’t last much longer. She’d been careless, and it was going to cost her her life.

In the distance, she heard the homeless dude screaming as pain shot through her body. She raised her head slightly and saw that he was waving his arms as she struggled to hang on to consciousness. She tried to drag herself away, but pain paralyzed her.

Truck wheels screeched in reverse, away from the approach of the flashing blue lights of a cop car. Agony hammered her body as she looked up at the stars, heard the man yelling now for an ambulance.

Macy thought about Jack, her mother, Faith, and the stones she’d seen on that barren stretch of land. She thought about the poster of the missing girl. Would she also die like that lost girl and just be forgotten?

As much as Macy wanted to say something, she couldn’t form the words to whoever was now pressing two fingers to her throat.

“Hold on for me,” the woman said.

But Macy’s grip on consciousness was slipping fast as the darkness rose up around her, pried her fingers free, and sucked her under to what she accepted as death.

CHAPTER SEVEN

Tuesday, June 26, 4:00 a.m.

The early-morning air was humid and thick as Hayden pulled up to the flashing lights of three Austin cop cars parked on the perimeter of Comal Pocket Park. His partner’s black SUV was parked across the street, and a collection of news vans had already gathered down the block on the other side of the yellow crime scene tape.

Out of his vehicle, he drew in a deep breath and took a moment to settle his hat on his head before he strode down the side street toward the crime scene and the female uniformed officer. “I’m Captain Hayden with the Texas Rangers.”

“Yes, sir. Officer Holcombe. Ranger Mike Brogan is over at the impact site.”

He’d worked with Brogan a few times. The tall, lean Texan, though only in his early thirties, was sharp and worked harder than any two men. He kept his brown hair cut short, his shirts starched, and his boots polished. The guy was all business.

As Hayden pulled on black latex gloves, he ducked under the tape, and his weathered boots crunched on the uneven paved sidewalk that ran along the park’s chain-link fence. A series of yellow numbered cones marked several sets of skid marks. Preserving them would help tell the story later in court.

Brogan squatted by a large patch of blood and an ankle boot, a collection of used gauze pads, IV bags, and discarded syringes close by. Hayden gave his name to the forensic technician, whose job was to record every visitor to the crime scene. No one came in or out of a crime scene without leaving something behind, and all the comings and goings could be an issue at trial.

Hayden moved closer for a better look. “I was told it was a hit-and-run.”

Brogan stood. “That’s right.”

“Is the victim dead or alive?”

“Alive, barely. But she’s in bad shape, and there’s a good chance she won’t make it. Head injuries, broken leg, and a mangled arm.”

“Where is the victim now?”

“She has been transported and is in surgery.”

“Witnesses?” Hayden asked.

“A homeless man flagged down a patrol car. As the cop rolled up, the hit-and-run vehicle sped off. The officer saw the woman’s condition and opted not to chase but give first aid.” He glanced at his notebook and flipped through pages filled with precise notes.

“Do we know who the victim is?” Hayden asked.

“You’re going to love this.”

“Somehow, I doubt it.”

“We found her backpack on the sidewalk. It must have flown off of her when she was hit. Her name is Macy Crow. She’s an FBI agent.”

“What?”

“Yeah. Card-carrying, gun-toting FBI agent. Do you know of any FBI operations in Austin? I know a few bank-fraud cases, but I doubt there’s much bank fraud happening in this park at night.” He handed Hayden the agent’s badge.

“Macy Crow?”

“That’s right.”

“We had another victim of the same surname in the medical examiner’s office late yesterday. His name was Jack Crow. I spoke to Macy Crow yesterday on the phone.”

Hayden studied the picture for several moments. He could feel his expression hardening. Macy Crow had blond hair, a narrow face, and sharp blue eyes, but what seized his attention was her stunning likeness to Faith McIntyre. “Is this some kind of joke, Brogan?”

The Ranger looked at him as if he were a little insulted. “Why would you think it’s a joke, Captain?”

Hayden studied the woman’s picture again. The resemblance was too close to ignore. He knew enough about Faith to know she was the only child of parents now deceased. “She looks like our medical examiner, Faith McIntyre.”

“I thought the same,” Brogan said, shaking his head. “What do you make of that?”

“I don’t know. When was Ms. Crow struck by the vehicle?”

“Two hours ago.”

Hayden had left Faith not long before that. She’d been leaving the Driskill, and he’d seen her get into the car from his hotel window. Of all nights, he’d opted to splurge on a view, thinking she’d enjoy it. But the sudden jolt of concern had him reaching for his phone. “And you’re sure the victim wasn’t Dr. McIntyre?”

   
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