Chapter Fifteen

Richard tried for normalcy as he cautiously scanned the next rest area, bringing his blue wagon into a spot. He didn’t see any other vehicles. It was just them … maybe. They were here to track a woman, probably on foot at this point, who knew enough about cars to make them disabled or worse–make them fall apart when they were at highway speeds on the interstate. He’d seen both in the last two days and the latter nearly took his heart which was why he was here. Looking to the woman who stepped out from the passenger seat, he saw all he needed to in order to justify his actions. Still stubbornly refusing and yet she needed his strength.

“Got your pepper spray?” he asked, coming to Denise’s side and recalling a time when she’d assured him she wasn’t traveling unprotected. The plan was terrible, but she was allowing him to go along making it his preferred plan. Though he didn’t know what she had planned for this woman, what she could do to help against such a crazed rampage, she was in pursuit for a personal reason. It couldn’t be anything less. She’d looked more wounded than when she’d told him about her husband dying. Was this the root cause of everything, somehow? He’d wanted Denise to let him in and now he was in … deep.

Frank, go easy on me. After all, it’s not like Frank hadn’t done anything crazy for a woman, police badge aside.

She dug in her pocket and then flashed him a brief glimpse of the metal tube accompanied with a look that said she wasn’t planning on using it but here it was to make him happy.

Satisfied, he stepped ahead. Yeah, he understood. A simple spray wouldn’t chase off the memories from which she’s been running. If she hadn’t had the courage to drop her old life and search for another, he’d never would have met her, the silent, fiery type which he never knew existed, rushed his blood as much as she warmed his body, not to mention the overwhelming need to keep her safe, instinct for protection gripping him hard.

They parted ways at the nearest foliage line. It was a silent agreement to start a wide search then move in to the central building. He moved slow and methodically; away from the parking lot and then returning to its edge over and again. On one of his trips back to the lot’s edge, he spotted a figure as it looked out from under a tree.

He crouched down. The skinny figure took a hesitant step out. The head turned left and right, flipping a short ponytail. Another foot forward brought the figure’s face into the revealing rays of sunlight.

Richard stood and approached. “That was fast. Any luck?”

The face whipped around, completely familiar but with a wide-eyed, non-recognizing stare. She turned, ready to dive back into the sheltering forest, but he grabbed her arm.

“Hey, what is it?”

The image left on the inside of his eyelids was a bark-covered cylinder, a thick branch, he guessed after the smack, as the ground rose up and crashed him.

He didn’t know what dazed meant until he couldn’t track the passage of time anymore. Trying to shake of the dying waves of concussive impact, the sound of ignition penetrated his star-raddled head. He reached the lot’s edge in time to see his blue wagon pull out, gravel flying from underneath its tires.

Then there was another Denise, stepping out of the forest, watching the car slip away, and her shoulders slumping. He came stumbling forward, and hearing, she turned, hurried to his side. She caught him as he started to topple again. He was far from seeing clearly or understanding anything because as he had seen it, Denise stole his car but was now wedging a shoulder under his arm and propping him up.

He squinted and shook the fog from his head, threw off his support, and she would have fallen if not for his catch. His hands grasped her arms.

“I want answers. Now,” he commanded.

Her irises disappeared in a landscape of white. She searched about her, probably trying to conjure up answers from the surroundings.

His muscles trembled as he held back from shaking her into attention on him. “She was you! I mean, she looked like you, practically identical. You stole my car!” He couldn’t make sense, but she understood. He watched ripples flow across the lenses of her eyes, felt the weight in his arms double as she released any support by her legs.

“No,” she whispered. “It is all my fault. All those people.”

He opted to break her swirling, draining nonsense. “How is it she’s…? She’s your sister. Isn’t she?”

Her stare stayed fixed past his shoulder.

His throbbing head with lingering fog boiled up under these rough clues. “Isn’t she!”

She closed her eyes and she faced his chest as she nodded.

Watching the top of her head, he summarized, “She’s been dismantling cars, letting them crash. She’s a killer.”

Her head flew up. “No, she’s not a murderer!”

He met her gaze and waited.

She dropped hers, blinking hard as she spoke. “She’s sick. A lot of times her emotions overcome her self-control, and sometimes, they’re not even her emotions.” She paused and gasped before continuing, but she whispered to herself like he was not there in front of her, holding her up. “Why couldn’t I see this? I’m so sorry, sis. You felt it, didn’t you? Every time I hated someone because they looked like him.

She sobbed and her hands came up to blanket her face and bucket her tears. Her body shook.

Finally, she lifted her head and allowed Richard back into the conversation, her eyes soft like a doe’s, pleading. “We have to find her, help her. We can’t let the police get to her. She needs me. I have to calm her down.”

Richard watched her face. He’d heard of twins sensing each other, sharing pain, but it didn’t justify what was going on here. They had to capture this reckless woman. Denise believes she can help, and they had to help, since the cops hadn’t a clue where to find her. He and Denise were hot on her trail. With Denise this desperate, would do anything for her sister, Richard would have to make the move fast. They had to stop this sister and he needed to protect Denise from her. They were far from identical. Only one had ever hit him with a tree, and Denise just wanted to get away from her past, not make others suffer for it. She was the victim as much as anyone, suffering for her own feelings. He would to be the one who ended this.

The crunch of gravel broke the silence. A red, high-performance coupe pulled into the rest stop.

“We’ll help her,” he said implicitly then, holding her gaze, gestured back toward the trees. “I need you to hide.”

Questioning but clearly at a loss; he’d offered what she wanted, she nodded then turned, heading for the shadows.

He stopped her briefly, “I need your long-sleeve.”

She removed it from over her t-shirt and he took it without a look. “Go. Now,” he said as he stepped out into the parking lot, wrapping the shirt around his neck.

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