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Fannon, Sheriff of Dade County, had laid belly down in the middle of the living room for half a minute scanning the dark, empty room, his heart pounding like a pile-driver, wondering which would come first, his vision or Russell. Finally, as images in the room began to form he rose and moved to the stairs.

The first two steps let out only light whispers, but the third gave a whine that to Fannon seemed louder than the siren of his cruiser. He stopped dead, heard no reply to the cry, then hurried up the remaining stairs, keeping his feet close to the rail, lessening any further complaints from the dried-out wood. At the top of the flight he gripped his service revolver tightly as he moved along the short run of wall toward the hall that led to the back of the house. He knew where Russell was, or where he had been ten minutes ago when he’d seen the man peering through the shades of one of the back rooms. Fannon again prayed that he was not too late.

It had been Zacery Boyea who had alerted him to young Angela Sheridan’s possible abduction. He’d seen Russell carry the woman from the alley to his car. Unfortunately old Zac’s head had still been trying to shake off the effects of a bottle of Mogan David when he saw what he saw. It had taken him several hours to chase out the ghost and convince himself of what he’d actually seen. And it had taken a couple more hours for Zac to convince Deputy Dufraneau that he wasn’t just spinning another of his colorful yarns.

From somewhere down the dark hall Sheriff Fannon heard the squeal of a door hinge. He bent low and stuck an eye around the corner. At the end of the hall a crack of light squeezed through the door of the room where he’d seen Russell. Fannon rounded the corner and inched his way toward the light, cursing the squeaks beneath his every step.

Halfway to the back bedroom he came to another door, this one closed. He eased past it, ready. A moment later he continued his advance.

When he reached the door he stole a quick peek through the crack then glued his back against the wall and thought about what he’d seen. She was on the bed, naked, her arms and legs spread wide. Had there been blood? He thought so, but wasn’t sure. And where was Russell? He couldn’t have missed the breaking of the front door. So where was he? Behind the door, most probably. Only a few inches away, waiting. Fannon twisted to his left and took another look.

Yeah, there was blood alright. But he couldn’t tell if she was still alive or not. And Russell definitely wasn’t in view. He had to be behind the door.

Fannon moved his body directly in front of the door, crouched, squared his shoulder, took a deep breath and lunged himself into the wooden plane.

The door slammed freely against the wall. Fannon stumbled several steps. He’d expected Russell’s body to be there, obstructing the door’s path. Then Angela caught Fannon’s attention. He stared at her in horror, at the long, seeping wound down the front of her body.

Behind him the floor cried. Fannon instinctively jumped to his right. The axe swished past his left ear, missing its target, instead burying deep into his arm. Muscle, tendon, and vains popped two inches below his elbow,

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