This is a spin-off from Finding Sarah, featuring Colleen McDonald, one of the secondary characters in that book.
It’s digital only at the moment.
by Terry Odell
In the steamy cocoon of the shower, Colleen’s fingers found the dimpled scar the bullet had left on her thigh and the long, straight one where they’d repaired her femoral artery. She knew they were no longer a garish red, but she refused to look at them. Thankfully, the exit wound on the back of her leg was out of sight unless she really worked at it. The ugly reminders that screamed ‘failure’ remained, long after the physical pain had gone.
She watched the sudsy water swirl down the drain, willing it to take her memories along.
Get a grip. It’s over. Forget Pine Hills. You made your choice, so get on with your life.
She declared yesterday a do-over. Hell, as long as she was changing the rules of time, the last three months never happened. But then, she’d still be a cop in Pine Hills, Oregon instead of a basket case in Orlando, Florida.
Wrapped in a towel, another turbaned around her head, Colleen padded into the living room of her new apartment and stared at the tiny suitcase she’d left in the middle of the floor last night. She rolled it into the bedroom and dumped the contents onto the bed, mumbling a quick thanks for her mother’s advice to pack a day’s worth of essentials into her carryon.
A distant rumbling, like an approaching thunderstorm, reverberated through the room. She pulled back a corner of the curtain and peered out at a cloudless blue sky. Not a leaf or tree branch moved. She had a lot to learn about Florida weather.
The doorbell rang and she grabbed her robe. Who came calling at seven in the morning? Surely not Mrs. Walters, her new landlady. Could the airlines have found her luggage already? Optimism surged. Another ring, followed by a determined knock.
She wriggled into her robe. “One minute.”
“Orange County Sheriff.”
Her pulse raced. She yanked the towel off her head, shook out her hair and went to the door. Tightening the belt on her robe, she peered through the peephole at a man in a dark green uniform.
Take it easy. Find out what he wants.
Colleen pulled the door open enough to talk, not enough to invite him in. Tall, with his eyes obscured behind mirrored sunglasses, he had Colleen fighting the urge to slam the door. “What do you want, Deputy?” She heard the raspy tone of her voice and cleared her throat. Her eyes automatically found the nametag pinned to his broad chest. Graham Harrigan.
God, had someone on the Pine Hills force called in a favor, asked the locals to check up on her? Hey, I’ve got a friend who’s close to the edge. Drop in, make sure she’s all right.
“I’m looking for Jeffrey Walters,” he said, removing his sunglasses.
Not for her. Exhaling with relief, she talked to his nametag. “I don’t know any Jeffrey Walters. Only Doris Walters, my landlady and I’ve never met her in person. Try the main house.”
“I did, but there was no answer.”
“Is there something wrong?” That low-pitched sound rumbled through the air again, but if the deputy heard, he gave no indication. She fixed her gaze on his chin and waited.
“Not that I can tell, but I still have to look into it. His daughter said he wasn’t returning her calls. Asked us to look in on him.” He pulled out a small notebook and pen. “Can I have your name, ma’am?”
His voice was more bored than belligerent, but he was a man, a cop and she wanted him out of here. She paused. Hell, he was doing his job. No need to piss him off.
His tone warmed up twenty degrees. “Good morning, Colleen McDonald. Scottish or Irish?” He gave her a broad smile.
“Scottish.” As if he could disarm her that easily. She pulled her robe tighter and put her hand to the doorknob. “Why don’t you leave me your card, Deputy Harrigan and I’ll tell Mrs. Walters, or this Jeffrey person-if I see him-to call you. I have things to do.”
He slipped his notebook into a pocket and handed her a business card. “Fine. Well, as one Celt to another, thanks. I’m sure it’s nothing.”
“Like I said, I’ll let you know if I see anything.” Colleen tucked the card into the pocket of her robe and started to close the door. Before she did, she heard the rumbling again. “Can I ask a question?”
“Sure.” His expression was guarded.
“What’s that noise? The one that sounds like Dorothy and Toto should be flying by?”
He grinned. “You are new around here. Roller coasters. Universal runs them empty for testing every morning at seven. If the atmospheric conditions are right, the sound carries. It’ll quiet down once the park opens and they run their normal schedule with passengers. But you’ll probably be able to hear some screaming if the wind is right.”
“Roller coasters. Screaming people. Right. Thanks.” She gave him what she hoped would pass for a smile.
“Yes, ma’am.” He nodded, slipped his sunglasses back on and headed up the driveway.
Colleen went to get dressed, working past her nervous reaction to finding a cop giving her the once over. Harrigan was doing his job and had no reason to know anything about her past. No reason to judge her.
Yet she suspected Harrigan had been studying her with those deep blue eyes. His face appeared before her, with its dark wavy hair, straight nose, cleft chin, light bronze skin.
Holy shit, where had that come from? She snorted. She’d reacted like a cop, automatically sizing up a person. Six-two, broad-shouldered, early thirties. A man in uniform. Exactly what she wanted to avoid, why she’d left Pine Hills. She’d ask Doris Walters about Jeffrey, have her call Harrigan and be done with him.