Crossfire Creek by Melissa F. Miller (An Aroostine Higgins Novel Book 5)
English | 2019 | Mystery & Thriller | ePUB | 3.1MB
USA Today bestselling author Melissa F. Miller was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Although life and love led her to Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and, ultimately, South Central Pennsylvania, she secretly still considers Pittsburgh home.
A mother and her eleven-year-old daughter vanish from their Crossfire Creek home. The girl is vulnerable. The mother, impulsive. Tracker Aroostine Higgins is called in to find them, fast, before they’re hurt … or worse.
Aroostine assumes her Rue Jackman alias, packs up her truck, and hits the road with her dog Rufus by her side to do what she does best: Find the missing.
Unofficially, under the radar, and not necessarily entirely legally.
Meanwhile, Special Agent Patton Banks of the National Park Services Investigative Services Branch is tasked with solving the execution-style murder of a low-level criminal.
Officially, entirely legally, and as quickly as possible.
When Aroostine’s search gets tangled up with Patton’s investigation, the collision sets off a barrage … and she’s caught in the crossfire.
When Joy-Lynn heard the first yelp, she lifted her head from her sketchbook and squinted into the woods. She waited, the expensive double-sided marker she’d saved up for months to buy hovering over the page, suspended in the air. Maybe it was an animal in distress.
After two long beats, she heard nothing more, so she exhaled and returned to the landscape she was drawing. She smiled, admiring how she’d captured the way the sun filtered through the branches of the towering old-growth trees. Mr. Pine, the middle school art teacher, who also gave weekend lessons on the Qualla, would be impressed. Shoot, even she was impressed, and Mama, Mr. Pine, and Mr. Caine always said she was her own worst critic.
A second yelp broke into her thoughts, louder and way more desperate than the first. No, that was a person, a person in pain. She bit down hard on her lower lip. She’d promised her mom she wouldn’t go anywhere other than the grove and wouldn’t talk to anyone except the rangers. That was the deal if she wanted to go to the forest by herself.
But what if someone was hurt? The ground here was rocky and uneven. A hiker could have stumbled and sprained an ankle. Or worse.
She didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t ignore the sound. There were wild animals out there. If somebody was stuck and couldn’t move, they were in real trouble.
“This is why I should have a cell phone, Mom,” she said aloud to no one.
But she knew most phones didn’t get a signal in this part of the forest. And Mom couldn’t afford to give her a phone anyway, even though her excuse was Joy-Lynn was too young. Maybe next year, when she was twelve.
Okay, think, Joy-Lynn. Think.
She was allowed to talk to the rangers. She could go see if there was a person in trouble, not even talk to whoever it was, just peek through the trees to see. And if someone needed to be rescued, she could hop on her bicycle and ride to the ranger station for help. All without breaking mom’s rules.
She packed up her art supplies in a hurry, cocking an ear toward the clearing where the cries seemed to be coming from. She heard another shout, filled with fear and pain. She zipped up her backpack, flung the straps over her arms, jumped on her bike, and pedaled as fast as she could toward the sound.
When the path crested behind a stand of trees, she slowed and coasted to a stop. She rested her bike against a tall pine tree and crept forward to peer down into the clearing. Beyond the trees, the ground sloped down and flattened into a bowl. A picnic table and a fire ring were centered in the clearing. She scanned the area, looking for a fallen hiker.