Two strangers submerged in guilt, brought together by fate…
After a tragic car accident claims the lives of his wife, Jane, and son, Ryan, Marcus Taylor is immersed in grief. But his family isn’t the only thing he has lost. An addiction to painkillers has taken away his career as a paramedic. Working as a 911 operator is now the closest he gets to redemption—until he gets a call from a woman trapped in a car.
Rebecca Kingston yearns for a quiet weekend getaway, so she can think about her impending divorce from her abusive husband. When a mysterious truck runs her off the road, she is pinned behind the steering wheel, unable to help her two children in the back seat. Her only lifeline is a cell phone with a quickly depleting battery and a stranger’s calm voice on the other end telling her everything will be all right.
PrologueNear Cadomin, AB – Saturday, June 15, 2013 – 12:36 AM
You never grow accustomed to the stench of death. Marcus Taylor knew that smell intimately. He had inhaled burnt flesh, decayed flesh…diseased flesh. It lingered on him long after he was separated from the body.
The image of his wife and son’s gray faces and blue lips assaulted him.Jane…Ryan.
Mercifully, there were no bodies tonight. The only scent he recognized now was wet prairie and the dank residue left over from a rainstorm and the river.
“So what happened, Marcus?”
The question came from Detective John Zur, a cop Marcus knew from the old days. Back before he traded in his steady income and respected career for something that had poisoned him physically and mentally.
“Come on,” Zur prodded. “Start talking. And tell me the truth.”
Marcus was an expert at hiding things. Always had been. But there was no way in hell he could hide why he was soaked to the skin and standing at the edge of a river in the middle of nowhere.
He squinted at the river, trying to discern where the car had sunk. He only saw faint ripples on the surface. “You can see what happened, John.”
“You left your desk. Not a very rational decision to make, considering your past.”
Marcus shook his head, the taste of river water still in his throat. “Just because I do something unexpected doesn’t mean I’m back to old habits.”
Zur studied him but said nothing.
“I had to do something, John. I had to try to save them.”
“That’s what EMS is for. You’re not a paramedic anymore.”
Marcus let his gaze drift to the river. “I know. But you guys were all over the place and someone had to look for them. They were running out of time.”
Overhead, lightning forked and thunder reverberated.
“Dammit, Marcus, you went rogue!” Zur said. “You know how dangerous that is. We could’ve had four bodies.”
Marcus scowled. “Instead of merely three, you mean?”
“You know how this works. We work in teams for a reason. We all need backup. Even you.”
“All the rescue teams were otherwise engaged. I didn’t have a choice.”
Zur sighed. “We go back a long way. I know you did what you thought was right. But it could’ve cost them all their lives. And it’ll probably cost you your job. Why would you risk that for a complete stranger?”
“She wasn’t a stranger.”
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Marcus realized how true that statement seemed. He knew more about Rebecca Kingston than he did about any other woman. Besides Jane.
“You know her?” Zur asked, frowning.
“She told me things and I told her things. So, yeah, I know her.”
“I still do not get why you didn’t stay at the center and let us do our job.”
“She called me.” Marcus looked into his friend’s eyes. “Me. Not you.”
“I understand, but that’s your job. To listen and relay information.”
“You don’t understand a thing. Rebecca was terrified. For herself and her children. No one knew where they were for sure, and she was running out of time. If I didn’t at least try, what kind of person would I be, John?” He gritted his teeth. “I couldn’t live with that. Not again.”
Zur exhaled. “Sometimes we’re simply too late. It happens.”
“Well, I didn’t want it to happen this time.” Marcus thought of the vision he’d seen of Jane standing in the middle of the road. “I had a…hunch I was close. Then when Rebecca mentioned Colton had seen flying pigs, I remembered this place. Jane and I used to buy ribs and chops from the owner, before it closed down about seven years ago.”
“And that led you here to the farm.” Zur’s voice softened. “Good thing your hunch paid off. This time. Next time, you might not be so lucky.”
“There won’t be a next time, John.”
A smirk tugged at the corner of Zur’s mouth. “Uh-huh.”
Zur shrugged and headed for the ambulance.
Under a chaotic sky, Marcus stood at the edge of the river as tears cascaded from his eyes. The night’s events hit him hard, like a sucker punch to the gut. He was submerged in a wave of memories. The first call, Rebecca’s frantic voice, Colton crying in the background. He knew that kind of fear. He’d felt it before. But last time, it was a different road, different woman, different child.
He shook his head. He couldn’t think of Jane right now. Or Ryan. He couldn’t reflect on all he’d lost. He needed to focus on what he’d found, what he’d discovered in a faceless voice that had comforted him and expressed that it was okay to let go.
He glanced at his watch. It was after midnight. 12:39, to be exact. He couldn’t believe how his life had changed in not much more than two days.