Excerpt from Malevolent Intent

Rich waited until the sound of the truck’s engine could no longer be heard before moving toward the cabin. Instead of going inside the place, he went directly to the window and tried to peer inside the room. He had to have a justifiable reason for entering the place. Otherwise any evidence he discovered could be thrown out of court.

Follow the letter of the law, he told himself. Gut hunches don’t count when it comes to a jury.

He had to get up on tiptoe before he managed to get a decent look inside. Unfortunately, a pair of curtains blocked most of his view. Undeterred, he went around to the back of the building and tried another window. This one was blacked out, but he was able to see into the lit room just past the doorway. Squinting, he adjusted his position, hoping to tell what was in there, when something moved. A hand came into view. A hand propped up on an elbow. It moved slightly, and the arm turned enough to where he caught sight of a length of rope wrapped around the wrist.

Racing over to the back door, he tried to enter, but it was firmly locked. He tried the front door, but Huntsman had secured it, as well.

Rich glared at the row of windows facing the porch. He could break out one of them and try to crawl in, but he knew he’d have a better chance at busting through the doorway.

Steeling himself, he lowered his shoulder and rammed it into the wood. Was it wishful thinking, or did he feel a slight give? Backing away a few more steps, he threw himself against the door a second time. He was rewarded with a satisfying crunch as the lock broke out of the jamb. Lifting one leg, he slammed his foot directly above the doorknob, and the door popped open.

“Rose!” He hurried inside, using the pale illumination that was the only source of light in the place as his beacon.

He found her lying on the bed, semi-conscious. Both hands and legs had been tied to the bedposts. From the light coming from the shaded lamp sitting on the nightstand on the other side of the bed, he noticed a harsh red handprint covered one cheek. It looked fresh, too, and anger burned in his chest.

“Rose!”

Dropping to the mattress, Rich gently placed a hand to her undamaged cheek and turned her head to look at him. “Rose! Are you all right?”

She blinked up at him, but he could tell she wasn’t cognizant. She appeared to be drugged, but that had to be his secondary concern. Right now he had to get her out of this place as quickly as possible.

For a split second he debated whether or not to call in his discovery. There had to be a phone somewhere in the house, but that might take precious seconds he couldn’t afford to waste. He’d radio it in the moment he got her into his car to take her to Saint Joseph’s.

“Hold on, Rose. I’m getting you out of here.”

He examined the knots at her wrists. They were tight. Too tight for him to try and undo. Rich pulled his pocket knife from his pants and opened the little two-inch blade. It may be small, but he was fastidious about keeping the edge razor-sharp.

Holding the rope, he quickly sliced through the rough hemp. He didn’t try to remove the binding from her wrist altogether. He just needed to free her to where he could get her away from here. That, and the police photographer would need to take pictures of the cord binding her hands and feet before hospital officials had them removed.

Beside him, he could tell she was fighting to regain awareness. Once one hand was loose, he stopped at the foot of the bed to cut her feet free, then went to the opposite side of the bed for her other arm.

Hurrying around the bed, he folded and slid the knife back into his pants pocket, then bent down to pick her up. She managed to focus somewhat on his face as he lifted her into his arms.

“Rich?”

“Yeah, baby. It’s me. Don’t worry. I’m getting you out of here.”

She spoke his name again, as if not believing it was truly him. Her voice croaked, and she closed her eyes.

“Water.”

He paused. “What?”

She inhaled, letting it out with a whispery, “Water.”

She needed a drink of water. She was parched.

Leaning her against his shoulder, he grabbed the glass from the nightstand and held it to her lips. “Drink, Rose. Here’s some water for you.”

She drank thirstily, as if she hadn’t had any for the past several hours, which he bet was the truth. She emptied more than half the glass before she gasped.

“Rich.”

“Who did this to you, Rose? Who’s the son of a bitch who kidnapped you?”

“Nils,” she barely managed to murmur, when her face went slack, and her head rolled over to the side.