A priest is in the midst of a personal crisis when a killer lures him into a twisted world of moral corruption, cover-ups and revenge.
The truck rammed itself into the back end of the patrol car, roared past and disappeared.
Instead of smashing into the bridge head-on, the front end of Jana's car grazed its surface as it sailed out over the river. Stopping in mid-air, it began to spin. Four dark, roiling masses seemed to be controlling the speed.
"We gotta do something," Aaron offered without enthusiasm.
"Wait," Matthew ordered. He pointed to where a blazing sword appeared in the sky above the car. His voice dropped to a whisper, "How is that possible?"
The sword came down, seeming to split the car in two. In its wake, a net of shimmering gold spread out to enfold the car in a protective light. The black spheres dashed themselves against the net over and over, but with every assault it only became brighter. Finally, on a wave of raucious screeching, they coalesced and shot straight up.With their departure, the car levitated to a field on the other side of the river, landing with a gentle thud. The net lifted as if blown by a breath, and winked out.
Matthew Buell steeled himself for the probability of injury as he rushed toward the downed patrol car. The car faced the river, its front tires pressed into the soft earth. There was no obvious external damage, but he'd seen it spinning and doubted its occupants were as lucky. Do I want to wait around for help to arrive and risk losing my chance to get to that bastard Pearce? If I stay, how do I explain what just happened?
Detective Jana Burke was unfolding herself from the car's interior when Matthew arrived. He observed her swing her legs outward, twist to grab the roof and pull herself upright. She pressed a fist against her lower spine, raising suspicion she'd injured her back. He was about to ask her condition, when Aaron Noff stumbled into him, pushing him forward.
Intent on regaining his footing, Matthew didn't see Jana raise her service weapon. He was surprised by her action and threw up his hands in response. He kept his voice calm, “We saw what happened back there, Detective. You wouldn't shoot good Samaritans?”
“If you're here to help, why is there a gun trained on me?"
Matthew turned on his P.I. and seeing Aaron's colt, he ordered, “Put it away.”
Aaron kept his hand on the gun, looking from his boss to Jana and back again. “Hey, I didn't know what to expect. That shit going down back there was insane. Just taking precautions, is all.”
Matthew's voice rose. “I swear I'm gonna kick your ass, here and now, if you don't put that gun back in your pocket.”
“I'd suggest you listen to your friend,” Jana said over the top of her drawn weapon.
Aaron cursed under his breath, then shoved the colt back into his jacket. Looking only at Matthew, he said, “Happy now?”
Father Brian's voice floated out from inside the patrol car, penetrating the exterior tension.
“Can you help me untangle my seat belt, Jana? It's cutting into my arm.”
“Stay where you are, Father. You may be injured and not realize it. Let me take a look first.”
Matthew watched her clear a path through weeds and over soft, uneven ground. She pulled the driver's side door open and dipped her head below his line of sight. Positioning himself on the driver's side seat, he readied himself to offer help. Except for a tangled seat belt, the car's interior was undisturbed. Strange, the airbags didn't deploy.
Jana asked the priest,"Do you feel any pain?"
“I'm not hurt. The Lord has sent an angel to save us. Don't you see it's a sign?” He grabbed Matthew's wrist and pleaded, "Your father was a good man.. a good Catholic. You were raised Catholic, too, and can attest to these things. Tell Jana what you saw!”
Matthew wavered. The joy in the priest's eyes drew him in, calling him to speak of a miracle he'd witnessed. But the hatred he'd nursed for weeks won in the end. He nodded in Jana's direction and said, “She was driving too fast and lost control of the car. That's what I saw.”
He backed out and stood facing Jana across the roof. “It looks like all you need is a tow truck. Your car hasn't sustained any damage, so I'm sure you can radio for help. I've got urgent business to attend to, so I'll be leaving you now.”
“I'm commandeering your car,” she said.
“The fuck you are.”
“I have the right to commandeer any vehicle in order to apprehend a suspect. Isn't that what you're doing out here on the Reservation, Mr. Buel -- trying to get to Edward Pearce first?”
“You people have botched this case from the beginning.” His eyes bulged with hatred. “The only justice my father is going to get will have to come through me.” He reached into his back pocket and, quicker than the twitch of a cat's whisker, tossed his car keys into Aaron's waiting hands. “You know what to do.”
Aaron's progress was aborted by one hundred and eighty pounds of muscle and determination hitting him in the chest, knocking him flat. He was then rolled onto his stomach and a firm knee shoved against his kidney. “Don't move, asshole,” ordered a male voice.
Jana's voice wavered, "Rick, where'd you come from?"
"Sheriff Oleson asked me to head out to your Uncle Tony's house in advance of the team and see what you were up to. He was concerned that you hadn't checked in with him. I saw a car abandoned by the side of the road and decided to check."
With a firm hold on Aaron's arms, Rick pulled him to a kneeling position. "Good thing I came along when I did," he added. "Should I cuff him?”
“Arrest my employee,” Matthew warned, “and you'll be looking at a lawsuit. I've got the money and influence to do major damage to your Sheriff's re-election plans.”
Father Brian leaned across the seat and begged, “Please, everyone. Stop this arguing. Don't you understand the devil knows I'm coming? Tony will bear the brunt of its anger.”
“You're right.” Jana reached down for his hand and helped him from the car.
Matthew glared at the two of them as they passed. His fists were balled and his neck rigid. This isn't happening. I will not be stopped.
He watched Jana stop in front of the Mexican cop, who still had a solid grip on his employee. She whisked the gun from Aaron's pocket and scooped up the keys from the ground where they'd dropped during the scuffle. “You can't do this,” Matthew bellowed.
“Oh, but I can, Mr. Buell. You've demonstrated a determination to interfere with a murder investigation, even suggesting that you will kill the suspect before he can be taken into custody. Father Brian can attest to your statements, right Father?”
“That is correct, Detective.”
Rick released Aaron's arms and gave him a shove in the direction of Matthew. The two men watched as Jana and Rick discussed her next move. Matthew heard Rick's voice rise and guessed he wasn't happy with the plan. Jana put up her hands to signal the discussion was done and headed up the slope with Father Brian in tow.
“Five minutes, Jana, then I'm calling it in,” Rick yelled as she disappeared over the rise.
Matthew crossed his arms and leaned into the car, waiting for Rick to approach. He took in the flushed face and aggressive stance.
“Your 50K is hanging on a slim thread right now, Morales,” he warned. “Get me wheels or you can kiss your career, and the money, Adios.”
“Let me think.” Rick snapped. He rubbed the back of his neck while his eyes darted from side to side, working up a plan of action.
“Noff, hot wires your car after roughing me up to make it look like I was taken off guard.” He stabbed the area with is finger. “Once you're gone, I'll call it in over the scanner. It's the best we've got right now.”
Matthew neither spoke nor moved for a full minute. His lips formed a wicked grin.
“You heard the man, Aaron.”
Jana spoke into her cell phone, “Ty, I'm using an unmarked. There's been a... complication. I'll fill you in later.”
“Jake and I have narrowed down Tony's location. He's at the family's hunting lodge. I'm going to head over there right now. You've got Father Brian with you?”
“Affirmative. We're approximately fifteen minutes out.” She heard his breath release. "We have to bring the Feds into this. You know the rules.”
“Understood. You gonna make the call or should it come through me?"
“One of the agents is a friend. I'll make the call."
Jana dialed the personal number of FBI profiler, Agent Dresden Stredwick. Waiting for the call to connect, she went over the statement of her long-time partner, Rick Morales. He claimed Derek sent him ahead of our department Task Force Team. But Derek wouldn't do that knowing the FBI has the lead in crimes committed on a reservation. Why would Rick lie to me? Her heartbeat pounded in her ears. Are you the Department's traitor?