Hemlock Bay Page 1

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Near the Plum River, Maryland

It was a chilly day in late October. A stiff wind whipped the last colorful leaves off the trees. The sun was shining down hard and bright on the dilapidated red barn that hadn’t been painted in forty years. Streaks of washed-out red were all that was left of the last paint job. There was no charm left, at all.

FBI Special Agent Dillon Savich eased around the side of the barn, his SIG Sauer in his right hand. It had taken discipline and practice, but he’d learned to move so quietly that he could sneak up on a mouse. Three agents, one of them his wife, were some twenty feet behind him, covering him, ready to fan out in any direction necessary, all of them wearing Kevlar vests. A dozen more agents were slowly working their way up the other side of the barn, their orders to wait for a signal from Savich. Sheriff Dade of Jedbrough County and three deputies were stationed in the thick stand of maple trees just thirty feet behind them. One of the deputies, a sharpshooter, had his sights trained on the barn.

So far the operation was going smoothly, which, Savich supposed, surprised everyone, although no one spoke of it. He just hoped it would continue the way it had been planned, but chances were things would get screwed up. He’d deal with it; there was no choice.

The barn was bigger than Savich liked—there was a big hayloft, and too many shadowy corners for this sort of operation. Too many nooks and crannies for an ambush, just plain too many places from which to fire a storm of bullets.

A perfect place for Tommy and Timmy Tuttle, dubbed “the Warlocks” by the media, to hole up. They’d hopscotched across the country, but had dropped out of sight here, in Maryland, with their two latest young teenage boys taken right out of the gym where they’d been playing basketball after school, in Stewartville, some forty miles away. Savich had believed that Maryland was their destination, no sound reason really, but in his gut he just felt it. The profilers hadn’t said much about that, just that Maryland was, after all, on the Atlantic coast, so they really couldn’t go much farther east.

Then MAX, Savich’s laptop, had dived into land registry files in Maryland and found that Marilyn Warluski, a first cousin to the Tuttle brothers, and who, MAX had also discovered, had had a baby at the age of seventeen fathered by Tommy Tuttle, just happened to own a narrow strip of land near a good-sized maple forest that wasn’t far from the serpentine Plum River. And on that sliver of property was a barn, a big ancient barn that had been abandoned for years. Savich had nearly clicked his heels together in excitement.

And now, four hours later, here they were. There’d been no sign of a car, but Savich wasn’t worried. The old Honda was probably stashed in the barn. He quieted his breathing and listened. The birds had gone still. The silence was heavy, oppressive, as if even the animals were expecting something to happen and knew instinctively that it wouldn’t be good.

Savich was afraid the Tuttle brothers were long gone. All they would find, despite the silence, would be their victims: teenage boys—Donny and Rob Arthur—dead, horribly mutilated, their bodies circumscribed by a large, black circle.

Savich didn’t want to smell any more blood. He didn’t want to see any more death. Not today. Not ever.

He looked down at his Mickey Mouse watch. It was time to see if the bad guys were in the barn. It was time to go into harm’s way. It was time to get the show on the road.

MAX had found a crude interior plan of the barn, drawn some fifty years before, documented in a computerized county record as having been physically saved and filed. Kept where? was the question. They’d finally turned up the drawing in an old file cabinet in the basement of the county planning building. But the drawing was clear enough. There was a small, narrow entry, down low, here on the west side. He found it behind a straggly naked bush. It was cracked open, wide enough for him to squeeze through.

He looked back, waved his SIG Sauer at the three agents peering around the corner of the barn, a signal to hold their positions, and went in on his belly. He pushed the narrow door open an inch at a time. Filth everywhere, some rat carcasses strewn around. He nudged his way in on his elbows, feeling bones crunch beneath him, his SIG Sauer steady in his hand.

There was a strange half-light in the barn. Dust motes filled the narrow spears of light coming through the upper windows, only shards of glass sticking up in some of the frames. He lay there quietly a moment, his eyes adjusting. He saw bales of hay so old they looked petrified, stacked haphazardly, rusted machinery—mainly odd parts—and two ancient wooden troughs.

Then he noticed it. In the far corner was another door not more than twenty feet to the right of the front double barn doors. A tack room, he thought, and it hadn’t been shown on the drawing. Then he made out the outline of the Honda, tucked in the shadows at the far end of the barn. The two brothers were in the tack room, no doubt about it. And Donny and Rob Arthur? Please, God, let them still be alive.

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