The road was dark, the moon hidden behind the clouds. Alex glanced at the man seated next to her. His profile was chiseled in stone and she couldn’t read his expression in the shadows. It had been an incredibly disturbing journey. Not the first of its kind they had taken together by any means, still, it had been a long and depressing two days.
Walker was investigating a serial killer who stalked and killed young couples. There had been four attacks with seven deaths, one young woman had survived. When he told her that he was driving down to the small town near San Antonio to interview the witness, she had offered to come with him. Not so much in her role as ADA, but more as a victim’s counselor. From what they had been able to learn from the local police, the young woman had not uttered a sound since being found. Her boyfriend had been mutilated and she herself had been raped repeatedly before being stabbed. It was the killer’s misfortune that a passing patrol car had happened on the crime scene before the killer had completed his ritual of mutilating his victim until she bled to death.
The man’s M.O. was to kidnap young couples traveling on the back roads between San Antonio and Dallas. He de-sexed the male until he bled to death and raped the female before performing a sadistic version of a hysterectomy, causing her to also bleed to death. Three couples had been found at various turnouts along the back roads and the police had increased their patrol of all of the roads between San Antonio and Dallas. That was a lot of ground to cover and not nearly enough manpower to cover it. They had turned to the Texas Rangers for assistance.
When the police cruiser had spotted the Volkswagen Jetta parked on the shoulder of the road with a flat tire and no one present, they got out to investigate. They discovered that another car had stopped and there were signs that the couple had gotten into the second car. The hair on the back of their necks rose as they slowly cruised on down the road looking for anywhere the car could have pulled off. They found a likely spot and then spotted a partially hidden dark four door sedan. They got out to canvas the area. The two officers shown their flashlights into the surrounding brush and that’s when they discovered the lifeless corpse of Brian Corwin. They drew their weapons and searched more thoroughly until discovering Sarah James.
Sarah had been lucky, if you could call it that. The police had arrived just as her attacker was preparing to slice open her abdomen to remove her uterus as he had his other female victims. He plunged the knife into her and she screamed in pain, bringing the two officers crashing through the foliage. Upon hearing their approach, the man fled into the surrounding wooded area. The police found Sarah and their pursuit of the attacker was halted by their need to seek immediate medical attention for her. Despite a call to dispatch to have a search team canvas the area, the man had yet again escaped their net.
Sarah had undergone surgery and once again had been lucky, if you could call being stabbed lucky. No major organs were damaged and after transfusions to replace the blood she had lost and rest to recuperate, she had been questioned by various police, nurses, and psychologists, with no success. Walker knew that the chances of her speaking to him were slim, but he felt compelled to try. The case had been turned over to the Rangers after the second couple had been found. It was assigned to the Dallas office as the first killings had taken place just outside of Dallas. Walker and his partner, Trivette, had caught the case and had been working it for just over two weeks. The third crime scene had been as unrevealing as the first two and this fourth had only one new possibility of a lead ― Sarah.
Walker had left Trivette in Dallas to continue his efforts to track the killer working with profilers and forensic pathologists. He was mapping out the crime scenes, trying to correlate them to some obvious pattern. To date, the killings had all happened on the stretch of roads between San Antonio and Dallas. They believed that they were looking for some type of salesman or possibly a driver/delivery person of some type who drove that route routinely. Trivette had contacted trucking companies, delivery companies, distribution companies… It was a huge task and Walker saw no reason to pull him from it.
The killer had been more methodical in his second and third killings. His first had been more hurried and sloppy, still, not sloppy enough to leave enough forensic evidence to identify him. The last crime scene had displayed a careless cockiness. He hadn’t even attempted to hide the Jetta when he kidnapped Brian and Sarah. The car had alerted the police to his whereabouts and now, according to the psychologists Trivette spoke to, it was anybody’s guess as to what his reaction would be. The theories ranged from him taking a break in his killing spree to becoming more careful and cautious to him becoming careless and making bigger mistakes. Trivette had his hands full trying to sort it all out.
Alex had jumped into the picture when she heard that Walker was heading down to San Antonio to interview Sarah. She was chomping at the bit to prosecute this case should it go to trial, but her interest in Sarah was that of a woman who empathized with victims. It wasn’t so long ago that Victor LaRue had tied her to a bed and tried to kill Walker with scorpions only to come back to rape and kill her. Yes, she could empathize with Sarah.
The first day had been unsuccessful as Sarah had remained mute. The next day was better, she began to trust Alex, whether it was the compassion and understanding in her eyes or simply her unwavering determination, something had gotten through to Sarah. Haltingly, Sarah painted a horrific picture of depravity. She and Brian were traveling back from visiting his parents to announce their engagement when their car suffered a flat tire. Another car had pulled up behind them as Brian struggled with the jack, trying to change the tire in the dark.
They never saw the man’s face, but he maneuvered himself behind Sarah and grabbed her from behind, pressing a knife against her throat. After that, he had forced them into his car, a dark four door sedan and made Brian drive to a turnout a mile down the road. Sarah’s hands had been bound behind her back and he had tied Brian to a tree and forced him to watch as he raped Sarah. He then went to Brian and taunted him with his deeds while he opened his fly and used his knife to cut off his penis. Sarah had barely been able to speak as she related the horror of watching the man she loved die in excruciating pain. He had screamed until he grew too weak from blood loss. The attacker had been turned on by Brian’s cries and violated her again as Brian’s life slipped from him. He then walked back to Brian and cut him from the tree and laid him out on the ground. He ceremoniously propped the severed penis near Sarah and after raping her a final time, drew the knife toward her abdomen.
Sarah remembered the pain as the knife speared her, she heard herself cry out, but after that, her memories blurred. Alex questioned her about specifics, but she couldn’t describe the man’s face. She described him as being tall and wiry with dark hair. He had a deep gravelly voice and that was all she remembered. Alex had sat with her and cried with her until she had finally fallen into an exhausted sleep.
Walker had been listening to the interview out of Sarah’s sight. A stenographer had recorded her statement and after she had woken up, Alex had read it back to her, asking her to clarify certain points and then asking her to sign the statement. Once all of this was completed, Alex spent time speaking with Sarah without anyone else listening. This wasn’t for the purpose of testimony, but merely to show human kindness and to try to ease her into accepting counseling from the professionals waiting to help her. Her family was grateful to Alex for her kindness and thanked her for what she had been able to accomplish, breaking down the protective walls Sarah had built up to allow the grief to come pouring out.
The emotional drain had exhausted Alex, but she remained stoic throughout. She wanted nothing more than to climb into the arms of the big tough Ranger who sat beside her and cry on his shoulder. She wouldn’t do that though, she couldn’t. ADA Alex Cahill had a reputation to maintain. Walker was one of the few men who had been allowed to see her inner self. The scared, damaged person who lay protected behind the façade of her ADA persona. Still, even though he’d been allowed in, she tried to limit the number of times he saw how affected she was by the situations her job thrust her into. And this time, she had volunteered to be involved. Heck, she’d begged him to let her come. Walker had gone all protective on her and didn’t want her to come. He knew that the LaRue incident was still fresh in her mind and that she was in counseling to help her heal from the trauma. He hadn’t wanted to involve her in this, but that was exactly why she had to come. She had to prove to him that she could handle it. That she was strong enough to help others in their hour of need. Otherwise, what was the use of going through the process of healing and getting her life back? So, she put on her brave face and forged ahead. Now she couldn’t take it off and climb into his arms, something she wanted to do more than she wanted to breathe; talk about your Catch-22.
Walker wasn’t completely unaware of the war being waged beside him. He wanted nothing more than to pull over and pull Alex into his arms, but he knew she’d never allow it and he had to respect that. She’d been through so much and yet she opened herself up to help others. He thought that helping Sarah had probably been cathartic for her and that in a twisted way it had helped her in her own healing. He knew that Alex needed to turn what had been done to her into something positive. If she let LaRue rule her nightmares, in some small way, he would have won. So he allowed the battle to be fought on her terms, but he still ached to pull her against his chest and help her carry the burden she bore.
They were nearing Austin where they would pick up I-35 on into Dallas. Walker hated stopping at crowded rest stops and thought they should go ahead and get gas before picking up the interstate. They were just outside of one of those tiny towns that consisted of a gas station on each side of the street, a diner and a fast food restaurant. “You getting hungry?” he asked breaking the silence.
“I wouldn’t mind eating,” she answered, just glad to have her attention diverted from her own thoughts.
“I need to gas up, let’s stop in the next town,” he suggested.
Alex nodded her agreement, not that he could see the motion on this dark night, but still, he sensed it.
It was just a few more minutes until they came upon the town. Walker pulled into the gas station and filled up his truck while Alex waited in the car. He didn’t ask her where she preferred to eat; he knew that she wasn’t a fan of fast food. He got back in the truck and drove across the two lane highway to the diner’s parking lot. Despite the darkness, it was only 7:30 and several other travelers had stopped to eat as well.
Alex and Walker were escorted to a booth where they sat and perused the menus. “They have chili, should we dare?” Alex asked with the first hint of a smile.
“Well, we could report to C.D. that the chili was better than his, just to get his goat, but I don’t think I’m brave enough to actually eat it,” Walker confessed.
This brought a true grin from Alex and they settled on country fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy and a side salad. Neither of them spent a great deal of time worrying about their cholesterol ― that was Trivette’s job. The meal came and it was what C.D. referred to as ‘rib stickin’ food’. After finishing, they each visited the restroom, paid the bill and headed back out to the Ram. Neither of them saw the man who sat alone in a booth next to the window sipping a cup of coffee and watching them. As soon as he saw which direction the Ram was headed, he plopped down money for the coffee and headed out, turning his dark four door sedan in the same direction.
‘A Texas Ranger, I never killed a cop before. God, those long legs and the way the denim hugged her ass. He has a gun, it could be dangerous. That silky blond hair. I’ll have to trick them to stop, catch them off guard. God, that whore was all over him; giving him ‘come hither looks.’ He’s not so tough, he’s already been emasculated by that bitch, I’ll finish the job. She wants it; she’s the type who wants it hard and fast, the rougher the better. He’ll see what a fool she’s made of him, he’ll be glad to see her get what’s coming to her. He’ll be grateful when I finish the job she’s started and remove his manhood once and for all. I can already hear her scream as I teach her once and for all that her womanhood can’t be used against men. I’ll take from her what she takes from men without even trying. Those eyes, god those, blue eyes…’
Walker continued the journey to Dallas with the radio on a country station that played slow love ballads after eight at night. Alex listened to the music and began to get cozy and relaxed. The heater was on and she felt her eyelids get heavy as she gave into the fatigue. Leaning her head against the window, she was just drifting off when Walker spoke. “Damn fools, after all the publicity this case is getting.”
Alex sat up to look at what had aggravated Walker. There was a car parked on the side of the road with the hood lifted. The person looking at the engine was hidden from view, but Alex could see that there was a woman passenger seated in the front seat. “People have car trouble, Walker, I’m sure they didn’t plan for it.”
“My point exactly,” he said and then added, “stay here.”
Alex’s feathers got a little ruffled at the order, but it was early January and it was cold. The clouds threatened rain, but with the temperature dropping since sundown, it was more likely to end up being snow if it decided to fall. Deciding to stay warm and dry, she heeded his warning and stayed put.
Walker stepped out of the truck letting the cold air in and Alex shivered. It had really gotten cold or she was just spoiled by the truck’s heater. She was glad that Walker had grabbed his sheep’s skin jacket from the back as he got out. She didn’t want to sound like his mother and remind him to take it, but he was going to need it.
Walker approached the vehicle from the driver’s side. The person in the front didn’t move when he walked by, which he thought was strange, but it was too dark to see anything distinct. He was planning to just offer the couple a ride to a safe place. It was too cold to attempt repairs on the car tonight. “Hello there, engine trouble?” he asked the man hunched over the engine.
“Yeah,” was the grunted response.
“Look, it’s cold and it’s dark. Why don’t I just give you and your passenger a lift to a safe place and you can get a tow truck to come out in the morning. You know there’s been killings along this stretch of road and it’s not safe out here.”
“I just gotta get this wire attached, but my fingers are too numb,” the man said.
“Let me try,” Walker offered, thinking that his fingers would be more nimble as he had only been in the cold a short while.
“Thanks,” the man said as he backed away, his head still down and the hooded jacket he wore covering his face.
Walker leaned into the engine to see what exactly he’d been trying to do, the little pen flashlight the man had been using not giving off much light. The blow was sudden and unexpected. The man used a tire iron to strike him on the back of the head, which had been left exposed by the position he was in. Walker slumped forward onto the car’s engine.
The man chortled in glee, “Easy, too easy, that bitch has taken away everything that makes you a man. Almost everything, I’m going to finish it!”
Alex sat in the Ram and began to wonder what could possibly be taking so long. ‘Just invite the couple to get in the truck to go somewhere safe and warm for heaven’s sake,’ she thought to herself in irritation. The cab was getting chilly without the engine running. From her vantage point, all she could see was the hood of the car. The two men on the other side were blocked from her view. She sat for another five minutes and then got out to investigate.
When Alex rounded the hood of the car, she gasped in horror to see Walker lying slumped over on the engine, another man holding his gun pointed at her. She had brought the high powered flash light that Walker kept clipped under the front seat on the passenger’s side. She shown it up into the man’s face and gasped again. It took a moment for her brain to process what her eyes were telling her. It seemed as if the man had no face, no features, but after her shocked brain began to process, she realized that he wore a featureless mask. It was a pale color and his eyes were visible, but the rest of his face was covered. When he spoke, she couldn’t even see his mouth move.
“Lower the light,” he told her in a deep gravelly voice.
Alex lowered the light to shine it back on Walker. There was a dark patch on the back of his head and she was fairly certain it was caused by blood. She waited to see if he was breathing and sighed her relief when she determined that he was.
“Put the flashlight down and your hands behind your back,” he ordered her as he waived the gun at her. She lowered the flashlight further, but didn’t drop it. As he approached her, she swung her arm, knocking the man across the side of the face with the flashlight. “You bitch!” he swore at her and shoved her roughly against the car, pushing her face into the engine. He shoved the gun in his pocket and put Walker’s handcuffs on her. He liked the handcuffs and wondered why he hadn’t thought of it sooner.
Alex was yanked up and manhandled into the back of the sedan. It wasn’t until the door was open and the interior light came on that she realized the ‘passenger’ was nothing more than a dummy with a wig on. After being forced into the back seat, she struggled to sit up while the man went back to the front for Walker. She waited until he was around the hood before maneuvering herself to open the back door of the car. She managed to get it open and then rolled out, coming to her feet and fleeing into the roadside brush as quickly as she could.
It was mere moments before the man was after her and with her hands behind her back, he had the distinct advantage. She heard him lumbering behind her and had to clamp down on the scream that threatened to erupt from her throat as he caught her and jerked her arms roughly back.
“Damn you, I’m gonna enjoy making you scream while I pump inside of you. You’ve never had it so hard as you’re gonna get it from me, whore.”
Alex wanted to respond, but her throat had closed up and she couldn’t utter a sound; she was paralyzed by fear. She was brought back to the car and shoved inside once again. This time, he used a piece of rope to tie her ankles together.
The man returned to the front of the car and finally managed to lift Walker. He was dead weight and he was huffing and puffing by the time he’d managed to shove him into the back seat to lay sprawled on Alex.
Alex could do little but try to cushion his head in her lap, as the man went back to the front and slammed down the hood. He then rounded the car once more and got into the driver’s seat. Starting the engine, he peeled away. Two miles down the road, there was a dirt track that meandered into the woods. The killer drove down it until he found a spot he considered perfect for his purposes. It was several miles in, but he wasn’t going to take the chance of being caught this time. He parked his car and pulled the man from the back seat and dragged his dead weight into the woods. Standing the man against a tree, he wrapped rope around his chest, binding his arms down along his sides. Once he was secure, his head lolling forward, he went back for the woman. She had again gotten out of the car, but this time, she hadn’t been able to get far.
“You’re anxious for it, aren’t you?” he taunted her. Untying her ankles, he pushed her into the brush to the clearing just in front of where he’d tied the man. “I need to go hide your truck, but I’ll be back. It’s no fun until he wakes up anyway,” he said and then once again bound her ankles together and tied the cuffs and her ankles together behind her back as if she was a steer in a roping class at a rodeo. “You can scoot all you want, but come daylight; you won’t have moved more than an inch. Don’t worry though; I’ll be back long before that.” The man turned and went back to the road. Alex listened as she heard the car start and waited until he’d driven away.
“Walker! Walker!” she cried, trying in vain to wake him. Undulating her body like a snake lying on its side, she managed to maneuver herself over to where Walker was tied to the tree. “Please dear god,” she prayed as she turned her back to him and reached her fingers under the hem of his pant leg.
It took precious minutes, but she finally managed to inch her fingers high enough into his pant leg to reach the top of his boot. Tucked inside and bound to his calf by a strap was a knife. Alex tried three times to push it up high enough to get it out of the boot before she finally managed it. Her movements were restricted by his pants, the cuffs and the rope that tied her hands to her feet. It was the most concentrated effort she could ever remember making and all the while, she knew that the killer would be returning.
Once she had the knife in her hands, she managed to turn it and saw it through the rope that bound her hands and legs together. Still, her ankles were bound and the knife wasn’t going to help her undo the cuffs. Getting onto her knees, she tried to stand, but realized she would have to try a new approach. She sat with her back against the tree that supported Walker and placed her feet in front of her. This time, she inched her entire body up his until she was standing with her back to him. Now she took the knife and sawed it through the rope that held Walker bound to the tree.
Slowly the coils unwound until his body weight pulled him free of the tree. She was standing in front of him and as he fell forward, he took her with him so that he landed on top of her and she ended up kissing the dirt. Once again, she inched herself into a better position, turning onto her back so that she was facing Walker. “Walker, Walker, please wake up, oh please,” she pleaded with him.
Something penetrated the fog that surrounded his brain and Walker responded to the desperation in her voice. “Alex?” he mumbled.
“Oh, thank god! Yes, Walker, it’s Alex. You have to wake up now. Please darling, you have to wake up!”
‘Darling?’ his muddled mind thought. He must be dreaming he decided.
“Cordell Walker, you wake up right now!” Alex said in her most matronly voice.
Walker’s eyes snapped open and then he moaned. “What? What happened?” he asked still very disoriented.
“We’ve been kidnapped by the serial killer you’ve been tracking. He went to hide the cars. Please Walker, we have to get out of here before he returns. He has your gun!” Alex informed him.
Walker still wasn’t processing much, but he recognized the urgency in Alex’s voice and gave it his best effort to get up. Alex was at once relieved as his weight was shifted off of her and despondent over the loss of his comforting warmth. She was glad she’d pulled on her own sheepskin jacket as she’d left the Ram, but her teeth were chattering none the less.
The man in the mask drove his car to the end of the dirt road and parked it out of sight of the road. He then jogged the two miles up the road to the Ram and got in. Driving the Ram back to the place he’d left his own car, he drove it far into the brush so that no one would see it even from the one-lane dirt track. He was glad it had four-wheel drive; his car never would have made it into the deep undergrowth. After he’d satisfied himself that it was out of sight, he got out and made his way back to his own car. He’d never had to work so hard before and was getting irritated by the effort he was forced to expend. ‘It’s all that bitch’s fault. She’ll pay, I’m going to do things to her that I’ve never even thought of doing to the other whores. And that man, he deserves to die very slowly and in great pain for letting that woman take away his manhood.’
Alex managed to sit up as Walker made it to his knees. “You don’t by any chance have the keys to these cuffs, do you?” she asked.
It was the first Walker realized that her hands were cuffed. The moon was still hidden and the trees added to the darkness surrounding them. He fumbled in his pocket and came up with the keys. “Yeah, they’re right here, turn around.”
“Oh thank god,” she muttered as she twirled herself around so he could unlock the cuffs. They wasted precious moments as they struggled to accomplish the task. Walker’s movements were that of a drunken man and he dropped the keys twice, having to feel for them on the leaf covered ground. He finally succeeded in his task and Alex cried with relief as she was able to move her hands to the front of her body. Next she searched the ground for the knife she’d dropped and undid her ankles. Gathering up the few supplies, not knowing what may come in handy; she stood and helped Walker to his feet. “We have to get out of here; he’ll be back any minute.”
“Now that we’re free, why don’t we just wait for him?”
“And do what? You can barely stand, let alone use your martial arts on the man and don’t forget; he has your gun.”
Walker couldn’t argue with her logic. He wanted to, but his head hurt too much. Alex slipped under Walker’s arm and balanced him with an arm around his waist and her hand against his chest. They began the slow arduous journey deeper into the woods. Alex used all of her strength to keep Walker upright and he barreled his way through the undergrowth like a bear in a china shop. The sound of an approaching car had Alex biting her tongue to stifle the scream that rose in her throat. “Walker, we have to hide. He’s going to hear us!” she whispered to him.
Walker was using all of his effort to remain mobile and didn’t have anything left to think of a clever plan to hide them. “Where, Alex? There’s just more trees!”
Alex scanned the area and knew that she couldn’t see well enough to find them a decent hiding place. The only good thing about that was that the killer would have as much trouble seeing them. She thought that for all of two seconds until she remembered the high powered flashlight she’d dropped by the car. She’d seen the man toss it into the dummy’s lap in the front seat of his car. Nearly overcome with fright, she stumbled over a large root and both she and Walker went down with a thud. She lay there panting and knew that she didn’t have the strength to get Walker up on his feet again. A tear rolled down her cheek as she lay quietly and listened to the sounds of the killer’s rantings. He’d returned and found them gone and by the sound of it, he wasn’t happy.
Alex crawled on her hands and knees; she’d heard the trickle of water. They were near a creek bed, nearly dry this time of year. She peered over the side and saw that there was a ridge that had been hollowed out during the torrential rainfall and flooding they’d had the spring before. She crawled back to Walker and helped him roll as if he were a barrel until he rolled off the side of the creek bed wall and landed with a thud at the bottom. She then rolled him under the ridge and returned to the top to gather leaves and brush.
Joining Walker in their makeshift hideout, Alex spread leaves over him and herself and pulled the larger branches and bushes around to make it look as natural as possible. She was certain it wouldn’t hold up in daylight, but with luck and the grace of god, it would hide them for the duration of the night.
Walker had slipped back into unconsciousness. He’d tried to help Alex, but for once, he was forced to rely on her survival skill to keep them alive. Alex was lying spooned against his stomach in the cramped quarters and tried to get warm. The smell of rotting leaves was revolting, but the warmth of Walker’s body and the leaves she’d piled on them made her relax, despite the consuming fear. She didn’t fall asleep, but she was able to rest her exhausted body. As she listened to their stalker crashing through the woods, cursing her as he went.
It was about three in the morning when Alex awoke from a light doze to the sound of ragged breathing. A light swept down the bank and Alex held her breath as she realized the man was standing right above them, virtually on top of them.
“I am going to make you pay. You women, you whores! You think you can tell men what to do! You are women, you are subservient! Men rule the earth and it’s time you knew it! That weak man you have panting after you is a disgrace to the male species. He will soon know what a real man does to a woman. He will soon learn what it’s like to become a woman. And I will rip your womb from your body with my bare hands! You will die you bitch! You will die in pain!”
The vile invectives that poured from his mouth became increasingly mad. This was a man with some severe mental health issues, but she’d be damned if she’d let him off on a plea of mental defect. This man deserved the death penalty and she only hoped that she had the opportunity to help him get it.
The sound of him retreating as he crashed through the woods didn’t bring a sigh of relief. She just wasn’t sure how long they could continue to hide from the man. Walker was seriously injured, they were ill prepared for a hike through the woods and she just didn’t know how much strength she had left. She felt like she had when she was chained to the bed at Walker’s ranch while LaRue played his Italian opera and told her what he planned to do to Walker. He too was a madman, but he was another madman she was determined to see pay for his crimes.
How LaRue knew she was in love with Walker when Walker himself hadn’t even figured it out was beyond her. She was in love with Walker, but she wasn’t going to act on it. At least, not until he showed that he was ready to forgive her for the Dalton episode. Damn! She’d promised herself she wasn’t going to think about that again. What’s done is done. She couldn’t change the past and she didn’t know if it would have made a difference in her relationship with Walker anyway. He was hiding something, some hurt he’d yet to share with her. She knew it, but she couldn’t force it out of him. What the hell was she doing thinking about this stuff for anyway? She didn’t even know if they would be alive come morning. She hoped that Walker would wake up able to think more clearly. She didn’t know how much longer she could carry the ball; she needed to hand it off.
Dawn crept upon them the next morning with little change in the light level. Alex rolled out from the hiding spot and scanned the area. The sky was dark and gray, nearly black. Those clouds were filled with snow, she was certain of it. They had to find help or shelter before the storm hit or there just wasn’t going to be any chance of surviving.
Alex climbed up the bank and relieved herself and then scanned the area. The creek ran up into the hillside or down into the valley toward the road. She wanted to head to the road, but she was afraid that the killer would be there waiting. Instinct told her that while Walker was wounded, it was best to stay in hiding. She climbed back down the bank and tried to rouse Walker. He opened his eyes and she sighed her relief as she saw recognition in them.
“Alex?” he asked hoarsely.
“Yes, it’s me. Do you think you can walk? We really need to get moving.”
Walker looked around as he tried to piece together where they were and what was happening. Alex saw the moment he remembered their circumstance. He tried to get up, but was nearly felled by a wave of nausea. His face turned a frightening ashen white and Alex pulled the kerchief from around his neck and went down to the stream to wet it. The water was too stagnant to risk drinking, but she wet the kerchief and brought it back to dab against Walker’s forehead and cheeks.
They didn’t speak as she tended to him and he struggled with all of his might to first sit and then stand. They both knew that he was suffering from a concussion. Alex knew that she should have kept him awake during the night or at least woken him regularly, but she’d decided there was no point to it. It wasn’t as if she could call 911 and get him rushed to a hospital. If only she could! Besides, having him asleep kept him quiet and that had been key to keeping them alive. She was eternally grateful that he didn’t snore.
Alex helped to steady Walker and then with much of his weight resting against her, they began a slow tortuous walk into the woods. Walker didn’t even question the direction she was leading him and she knew that rather than being a vote of confidence, it showed just how incapacitated he was. They hiked up the creek bed for a half mile when Walker insisted he had to rest. Alex helped to lean him against a large rock.
“Alex, I need you to go further up the creek,” he said.
“What? Why?” she asked in concern. She wasn’t going to leave him and if that was what he was thinking, he could just damn well think again.
“Please Alex; I just need a little privacy.”
Alex’s cheeks colored as she realized what he was asking. He needed to relieve himself and he didn’t want an audience. She wasn’t about to go far though. She turned and walked a short distance up the creek and waited a few minutes. It was lucky Walker was a man and could take care of his business by just unzipping. He was perched precariously on the rock and if he’d had to do more than unzip, he was certain he would have ended up face first in the stream.
Alex returned while he fumbled with the zip, trying to get it back up. He finally gave up, he simply had no fine motor skills and his fingers felt like sausages. Without a word, Alex finished the job for him. She remained business like, but he couldn’t help the tingling sensation that coursed through him as her fingers slid up the length of his crotch. Her cheeks the color of apples, Alex helped him to stand and they continued on another half mile.
Walker was feeling slightly more clearheaded and he looked around him and saw that they were leaving footprints in the soft dirt of the creek bed. “Alex, we’re too easy to track here. We need to get out of this creek bed.”
Alex looked down and saw what he meant. “I’m not sure which way to head, Walker. We’re going away from the road. That may sound crazy, but I just felt we would be too exposed if we headed down.”
“No, I think it was a good decision. Chances are he went back to the road to keep an eye out for us. When was the last time you heard him?”
“Last night about three in the morning, he was right on top of us. After that, it sounded like he was headed back toward the place he tied us up, but I couldn’t be sure the way the sound carries in these thick woods. Do you think maybe he’ll give up and go on?”
“Do you?” he asked.
“No, he’s mad, Walker. I mean stark raving mad. He has some kind of complex against women and the way they emasculate men or some such nonsense.”
“I wonder how we got picked. Do you think he thought you’d emasculated me?” There was a slight upturn of Walker’s lips. It hurt his face to smile, but he found the notion amusing. If there was one man completely confident about his masculinity, it was Cordell Walker.
“He must have, but that just goes to show you how crazy the man is.”
“So, we have to assume that he will be stalking us. We need to find some shelter, it’s warming up a bit and if those clouds open up, they’re going to be dumping freezing rain on top of us.”
“Okay, so we need to head into the woods. Should we make a false path to throw him off?”
“You have been listening to my lessons on surviving in the woods,” Walker acknowledged with a sense of pride.
“I’ve managed to get us this far haven’t I?”
Walker tried to nod his head, but quickly thought better of it. He had the worst headache of his life and the slightest movement brought pain and nausea. “Which direction?” he asked her.
“Well, I was thinking. He’s going to think that we’ll head back in the direction we left the Ram in. But, what if we made a false trail in that direction and then doubled back and crossed the dirt track so that we’re in the woods on the other side of it. Then, after we head in a ways, we could begin to make our way back to the road.”
“You’re brilliant,” Walker told her with another attempt at a smile. It was just what he would have suggested, if he’d had the brain function to think of it.
Alex once again braced herself to help support Walker’s weight as they climbed up and out of the creek bed. They headed through the brush a short distance, intentionally breaking branches and leaving footprints. Then Alex turned them and guided Walker through a clearing avoiding breaking off any foliage and using a leafy branch to cover all traces of their footprints. They found a rocky part of the creek bed and crossed back over it and headed on toward the dirt track. Once they were at the edge of it, they paused while Alex checked for any sign on the killer.
“I don’t see anything, but keep your fingers crossed,” she told Walker as she hurried him across the exposed track until she had him safely hidden amongst the brush. She then went back and took another leafy branch to erase the prints their shoes had made in the powdery dirt. She jumped down and hid when she heard a car and her heart jumped into her throat when she realized it was the killer. He was driving very slowly up the road with the windows open looking for any sign of them. She was afraid to even breathe as she saw his eyes scanning the spot she was hiding in. She wished more than anything that Walker was there beside her, but he wasn’t, he was further in and she was all alone.
Once the man had rounded the bend in the road, she hopped up and ran to Walker as quickly as she could. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take,” she sobbed into his chest as his arms closed around her in an effort to comfort her. She was terrified and with good reason.
“Let’s get further into the woods before he turns around and heads back down,” Walker suggested, deciding not to comment on her fear. He didn’t have any words of comfort to offer. Their lives were in mortal danger and they both knew it. They were being hunted and he was injured, putting them at a distinct disadvantage.
Once again, Alex helped Walker to balance as she led him into the thick brush. She made a zigzag pattern, partly because of obstacles and partly because of the effort it took to balance his weight. Noon came and went and Alex was beginning to pray for rain so that she could quench her parched throat. She was incredibly thirsty and breathing in the freezing dry air with an open mouth was becoming downright painful. She couldn’t get enough oxygen through her nose though, she was very nearly panting.
Walker wanted to be able to bear his own weight and to allow Alex to lean on him, but he simply could not. It was all he could do to put one foot in front of the other. He had needed a break for over thirty minutes, but hadn’t said anything because he was afraid to stop for fear he wouldn’t be able to muster the strength to start again.
“Walker!” Alex suddenly exclaimed causing him to shift his focus from walking to what she was saying.
“Yeah?” he asked as his knees gave out and he sank down to them, pulling Alex down with him.
“There’s a shack of some kind, look!”
Walker slowly lifted his head, his vision was blurred and all he saw were trees and bushes. “Where?”
“It’s right over there, come on!” Alex tugged and pulled him until he finally managed to stand again. She was all but carrying him, but she had renewed strength now that she had a destination.
What she had found couldn’t really even be classified as a shack. It was more of a ‘hunter's blind.’ It had been constructed between the trunks of three large trees. The sides were made of plywood that was covered by vines and branches. The roof too was a tangle of branches and vines. Alex got Walker to it and then leaned him against a tree while she figured out how to get in. On the rear side, there was a board that pushed over to allow a person to squeeze in. Alex opened it as wide as she could and then slipped inside.
Her new home definitely lacked the decorator’s touch, but she couldn’t have been happier if it had been a mansion. There was a cot alongside the wall and a stack of blankets zipped up in a waterproof bag. The only other thing inside was a small side table made from two tree stumps and a board across it and a chair, the kind campers took with them that folded into a tube. On the makeshift table were survival rations of food and water, as well as a small sterno stove and a first aid kit. Alex nearly wept with relief. The walls were lined on the inside with a waterproof tent and there were ‘window flaps’ on each side for the hunter to peer out while awaiting his prey.
“Walker, give me a second to get this place fixed up and I’ll bring you right in,” she called out to him. She opened the bag of blankets and used one thick one to form a mattress on the cot. She then piled the other three blankets up one on top of the other and folded them back. Squeezing back out through the opening, she went to get Walker.
Walker had rested and took the opportunity to answer nature’s call while he remained propped against the tree. He was very cold and knew that the rain was about to fall very soon. He hoped that the shelter Alex had found would prove to be waterproof. Alex returned to where he stood and helped him into the tight access way into the shelter. She guided him over to the cot and had him sit down. She then opened a pouch of water and held it to his lips so he could drink it. “Let’s get you out of your clothes,” she suggested, trying to make him as comfortable as possible.
“Leave it and go outside to check that we didn’t leave any prints around here. Then seal this place up tight, it’s about to dump freezing rain on our heads.”
Alex didn’t demure, but instead, she went out to do as he bid. She first took his boots off though and placed two thick branches into them. She ran back about a half mile and made another false trail, this one leading down toward the main road. Once she felt the first rain drop, she took off her own shoes and ran back up to the point she had begun the false trail in her sock feet. She took a tree branch and swept all traces of their path away as best she could. It was raining by the time she got back to the shelter, an icy rain that was like a fine hail storm.
Alex circled the shelter, looking for any weaknesses in its camouflage. She used Walker’s knife to cut thick brush to jam into the sides to cover any exposed wood which was how she had spotted it. When she was finished and surveyed her work, she felt that they would be safely hidden at least for awhile. The lack of light and the storm would be on their side. She then squeezed back inside and pulled the final board tightly closed behind her and draped the tent flap over it to make it waterproof and to cut down on the draft.
Walker had managed to undress down to his t-shirt and underwear and pulled himself into the cot. He was using his jacket as a headrest and lay on his side so that the sore spot on the back of his head didn’t have anything pressing against it. “Alex, you’re soaked,” he said as she came over to the cot to check on him. “Take off your wet clothes and climb in here to warm up.”
“You don’t have to tell me twice,” Alex stated as she hurriedly stripped off down to her under things and slipped into the cot with Walker. She scooted as close to him as she could and rested her wet head on his chest.
“My god, you’re freezing,” Walker exclaimed as he tried to share his body heat to warm her up. His fingers played with the tangled strands of her hair, lifting and separating it as best he could to speed up the drying process.
As the warmth from Walker’s body penetrated the iciness of hers, she began to relax and the two fell into an exhausted sleep that lasted until hunger woke them around midnight. They hadn’t eaten since that diner nearly thirty hours before.
“I’m going to fix dinner,” Alex announced. “Any requests?” she joked.
“Yes, I’ll have the filet mignon with shrimp scampi, the baked potato with everything and steamed vegetables.”
“Coming right up, sir,” Alex teased as she darted from the bed to grab two survival packets of food and two packets of water. She didn’t know what the food packets contained; only that she was freezing and in the dark, she was willing to try anything.
When she got back to the bed, Walker had managed to sit up, leaning against the plywood wall as if it was a headboard. Alex dove back under the covers and he flipped the blankets over her to try and warm her back up. Sometime during the night, the freezing rain had turned into a heavy snow fall. The sounds from outside were muted, but they both felt that their stalker was most likely holed up somewhere for the night and it was safe for the moment.
Alex ripped open one pack with her teeth and handed it to Walker. It contained a dry soup mix and he added the water and waited for it to re-hydrate. She did the same to hers. They would be eating it cold, she just couldn’t face waiting for it to heat on the sterno stove when her clothes were still too wet to put on. They sipped their soup and then Alex did the dishes; she tossed the bags across the room.
“That was delicious, as good as any four star restaurant I’ve ever eaten in. The next time someone teases you about your cooking, I’ll be sure and defend you,” Walker teased.
“You better,” she growled at him.
The killer was more furious than he could ever remember being. ‘Where the hell are they? They have to be close!’ He himself had followed the dirt track back up to the end where he found a cabin occupied by an older retired man and his wife. Out of pure anger, he had killed both of them. He hadn’t made it a ritualized murder; this was a murder of convenience. He needed their cabin. He’d thrown the bodies of the couple into the compost heap they had behind their house and settled in for the night. Clearly the man was a hunter and the killer went through the various weapons in the house. He planned to go hunting himself as soon as this storm let him.
Alex sat snuggled against Walker and felt afraid, but knew that there was nothing he could do, so kept it to herself; at least for as long as she could. “Do you think he’s out there? In the storm?”
“I imagine he’s found a place to stay warm and wait it out.”
“Oh,” she said and then sat there quietly.
“We’ll be okay. Thank god this storm hit. It’ll give us time to rest and for me to heal. We’ll come out from here fighting.”
Alex didn’t respond and Walker knew that she wasn’t convinced. He really was quite injured; the concussion made him clumsy and awkward, but the sleep helped a great deal. He wasn’t sure how to distract her and thought about telling her a story, she always liked his stories, but his head hurt and he didn’t have the energy to think of one. Time for plan B. Walker shifted so that he was hovering over Alex and he began to kiss her. For some reason, his head didn’t hurt so much. It had been awhile since he had kissed Alex, really kissed her, and he found that he enjoyed it even more than he remembered.
Alex was beginning to feel warm and fuzzy all over. Walker’s lips blocked out everything else and when she opened her mouth and his tongue invaded it, she felt a rush of warmth way down low. She moaned lightly and shifted a bit to face him better.
Walker’s hand began a journey of exploration. He touched her abdomen and felt it quiver in response. He liked the feeling, so he lightly touched it again and again. He followed that touch up with a trail of kisses that left her mouth and explored the contours of her face. His hand came up to cup her breast and he felt the nipple peak beneath his touch. He wanted the barrier of her bra gone and was glad to find the clasp was conveniently placed in front. His fingers fumbled, trying to undo it, but they just weren’t nimble enough. Alex came to his rescue and undid the clasp for him, leaning forward to slide it down her shoulders and off.
The cold air hit her aroused nipples and she gasped, but Walker’s mouth soon covered the peaks and they were once again warm. She slid down into the cot and he slid down with her. His pelvis pressed against her thigh in the confined space and there was no doubt as to whether or not he wanted her. She felt the hard ridge straining against her.
Walker’s hand went back to her abdomen and returned to the light touches. His finger darted in and out of her navel and circled lower to the edge of her panties. Alex lifted her hips up to encourage him and he slid his hand down to cup her mound. Alex’s head flung back and she moaned as his touch stoked the fire within her. Her own hand gave up its place on his chest and traveled down between their bodies until she found the pulsing shaft. When she encountered it, she stroked down it, causing him to answer her moan with one of his own.
Walker impatiently tugged at her panties and Alex lifted her hips allowing him to pull them down so that she could kick them off. His fingers plunged into her moist core and his mouth returned to hers, swallowing her cries. He shifted so that he loomed over her and she took advantage of the situation to slide his underwear down far enough for him to kick his off to join hers at the bottom of the cot.
Alex spread her legs wide, allowing him to settle against the core of her. Her hands stroked up and down his muscled back, down to cup his tight buttocks. His shaft pressed intimately against her, but he didn’t enter her, he continued the assault with his mouth. Alternately kissing her lips and then down to her breasts and back up again.
At one point, when he was pleasuring her breasts, Alex managed to ask a question on a pant. “Are you trying to distract me?”
“Is it working?” he asked as he pushed up away from her and slid his thick length deeply into her.
“Ohhhh….. Yes!!!” she screamed as he pushed to the bottom of her moist cavern and bucked his hips tightly against her over stimulated mound.
Intelligible words were no longer possible as the only sounds were the grunts and moans of two people in the throes of passion. The slide of Walker’s length in and out of her core had Alex quickly at the point of climax. “Yes, again, deeper, oh god, Walker!” she cried as she plunged over and free fell into ecstasy. Walker stayed deeply in her while she convulsed around him and then began the rhythm again… one… two… three… four more pumps and he moaned a guttural sound as he spilled deeply into her and then collapsed down onto her.
Alex lay there marveling at the sensations he was able to wring from her body. It was incredible, this perfect matching of their sensual natures and bodies. She was quite convinced that God had designed them to fit perfectly together. She could take a thousand lovers and never find one who would fit her as well. Not that she wanted any other lovers. Once she had tasted the heights Walker could take her to, she was spoiled for all other men for all time.
Walker didn’t know how he’d managed to perform given his condition, but he found that his whole body felt better now that he had joined with Alex. He felt renewed, refreshed, revitalized. He was exhausted, but if she continued to wriggle beneath him, he was certain that he could provide a repeat performance.
It was Alex who finally broke the silence of the afterglow. “Why is it that every time we get into the woods, we make love?”
“Opportunity?” he answered glibly.
“Uh uh, we have that plenty times in the city.”
“I guess when we’re out, just the two of us; we can’t deny the attraction like we can when we let our lives intervene.”
“Maybe,” she agreed. Her hand stroked up his back and into his hair, accidentally coming into contact with the wound there. An exclamation left his lips and she instantly apologized. “I’m sorry, I forgot you were injured. Why don’t you turn on your side so we can get some sleep?” she suggested.
“Because, I don’t think I can move,” he admitted.
“Well, I can’t breathe, so we’re going to have to figure out something.”
They shifted slowly so that they were lying with Walker on his side facing her and she on hers, her head once again pillowed on his chest. Their warm nude bodies, pressed together in comfort and sleep claimed them.
The next morning, Alex slipped out from the covers and pulled on Walker’s shirt that was dry. Her jeans were still quite wet and she didn’t know if her socks would ever dry, but she noted that her shirt was merely damp; her jacket had protected most of it. She slipped her feet into her shoes and went outside of the shelter to relieve herself. The ground was covered in between two and three inches of snow. She stayed close to the shelter as she didn’t want to leave footprints around. She ducked back in and found Walker awake and watching her.
“How are you feeling?” he asked.
“Shouldn’t I be asking YOU that?” she countered.
“I still have a headache, but I feel stronger. Now answer MY question.”
“I’m fine, a bit sore… but I’m fine.” Alex watched as Walker’s face failed to mask his male pride. She couldn’t resist, she had to bring him down a peg or two. “It’s mostly my shoulders. I guess walking all that way with you leaning on me…” She had to turn her back to him to hide the amused gleam in her eye at his crestfallen expression.
Alex lit the sterno stove and fixed them both some more re-hydrated soup, but this time, it was hot. She also fixed packets of hot cocoa. After bringing it over to the bed, she slipped her shoes off and slid in next to Walker.
He sat there quietly, not attempting to eat and then said, “I’m sorry about your shoulders.”
Alex felt a twinge of guilt. She knew that he didn’t like having to lean on her, either figuratively or literally. “I was teasing you, I’m fine, really. Anyway, it was my turn to play hero, you always get the role.”
He looked up and what he saw in her eyes apparently satisfied him, because he smiled at her and began to drink his soup. “I have to fault you on the combination,” he told her, “soup and hot chocolate?”
“Hey, be glad we have anything. I found a pack of sealed Saltines too,” she offered as she held them out to him.
He struggled to open them, but in the end, handed them back to her. “Would you mind playing hero again?” he asked.
Alex chuckled, but obliged. “Here you are my wounded knight. I’ll do whatever it takes to nurse you back to health.” She waggled her eyes at him suggestively.
“Speaking of that, we were… protected last night weren’t we?”
“Protected? If you recall, we have a madman bent on mutilating and killing us out there stalking us.”
“That’s not what I meant,” he told her, knowing she had intentionally misunderstood.
“Well, I didn’t see any condoms in the survival kit,” she answered.
“Alex,” he said in a voice that let her know she had pushed far enough.
“Walker, I’ve been taking the pill, but I haven’t taken it since the morning before yesterday, so I can’t make any promises.”
“So I may be forced to marry you to make an honest woman out of you, huh?” he said playing at her game of teasing.
He’d said the wrong thing. “I would never ‘force’ you to marry me and I AM an honest woman and I would make a damn good single parent.”
“Yes, you are going to be a great parent, but there’s no way I’d let you raise our child alone.”
The two sat there glaring at each other until the absurdity of the argument started to sink in. “Do you think we should wait until the test strip turns blue before we start arguing about custody?” Alex asked with a self deprecating grin.
“I’ve never known a woman who could get under my skin the way you do. I’m sorry; I shouldn’t have teased you about that.”
Alex sighed, “I started it. Hey, there’s a first aid kit. Why don’t you let me see if I can clean up that wound on your head?”
Alex busied herself with the task. There was a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and she used it to pour directly onto the wound, cleaning out the dried blood with the four by four gauze pads. After she had cleaned it, she applied an antibiotic ointment and placed a gauze pad to cover it, securing it in place by wrapping his head in gauze. She sat back to admire her handiwork, “You look like you were attacked by a mummy?” she said with a smile.
“A mummy or a mommy?” he asked, referring to their earlier conversation.
“Oh… hush!” she told him with a light smack on his arm.
The two spent the day talking and sleeping. They had agreed that if it didn’t snow again, they would head out before dawn the next day. Walker agreed with Alex’s assessment that the snow was going to lead the killer right to them as soon as he picked up their tracks. There was just no way they could hide them.
Back in Dallas, Trivette had gone from concerned to downright worried. There had been no contact from Walker since just before he and Alex left the suburb of San Antonio to make the four hour plus drive back and that had been two days ago. He’d put out an all points bulletin and a waitress at the diner they had eaten at was able to confirm that they had at least gotten that far. Trivette and C.D. had driven down to the diner themselves after the phone call from the waitress who had seen the bulletin on the evening news. They had all the local law enforcement out scouring the area. Trivette couldn’t be certain just where they had disappeared, but he knew they would have joined up with the I-35 near Austin, so he was focusing his search between the diner and the interstate. They’d been at it for a full day now, having arrived that morning, and still there was no sign of the Ram or Alex and Walker.
Walker and Alex refrained from making love that second night. They were going to be hiking through the woods as quickly as they could and they needed all the energy they could get. It was a tough decision to stick by though ― for both of them. At three in the morning, Walker shook Alex awake and she lit the sterno stove one last time to heat up a meal for them. They quickly consumed it and pulled on their clothes. Alex’s were still wet, but she had nothing else to wear, so she tugged them on quietly without a word of complaint. She fashioned socks from the thinner of the blankets with Walker’s knife. She knew that if her feet were cold, she wouldn’t be able to make it for long. After she was dressed, Walker slit an opening in the middle of one of the blankets and draped it over her head like a poncho; anything to try and keep her warm. He felt guilty knowing that her clothes were still damp, not being able to dry in the cold air. He couldn’t build a fire without alerting their stalker and their choices were limited.
After removing Walker’s dressing and reapplying some ointment, Alex packed away the rest of the water in the ‘game bag’ the hunter had left in the shed and slung it over her shoulder. “Let me carry that,” Walker told her.
“I’ll take the first leg and you can take the second,” she answered.
They started out around four in the morning. It was slow going in the dark, but they wanted to put as much distance between them and the shelter as they possibly could before daylight. They knew that the killer would be out searching for them by morning and they didn’t want to be around. They headed down toward the road at an angle. They didn’t try to hide their path, they simply tried to hurry. They wanted to come out on the road a ways down from where the dirt track they had been taken up was.
At seven, Alex was so cold she could barely move. Her pants had frozen to her legs and it took tremendous effort to lift each leg in succession. Walker had taken the water from her and was doing fairly well on his own having gotten over the dizziness and loss of balance, but he was still nowhere near his normal fitness level. The sun came out and as it rose higher in the sky, the snow began to melt.
They were near enough to the road to hear traffic when a shot rang out behind them. Walker tackled Alex to the ground and lay on top of her. He checked around to determine the trajectory of the bullet and then slid on his stomach, pulling Alex along, until they were behind some trees for cover.
“I’m gonna make you pay bitch. You got your man to take care of you all this time. If he was a real man, he would have come after me, but no, instead, he stays with you. I saw the ‘hunter’s blind’ where you stayed; it reeked of sex. Even when your life is in danger, you still bend him to your will using your womanhood. You damn cunt! I’ll show you just what you’re good for. You hear that Ranger? I’ll let you watch! I don’t want to kill you, not yet, not like this. I shot that hunter and his wife and I got no satisfaction from it. But you, I want you to know your place, whore!”
“Alex, slide down the hill on your belly to the gully. The road is just on the other side.”
“No, Walker, I’m not going to leave you!”
“And I’m not going to let him rape you. Now slide down, really slow.”
Alex had tears streaming down her face, but she did as Walker told her. If anyone could get them out of this alive, she knew it was Walker. Once she was behind the brush, she dropped down into the gully. The killer was advancing and Walker moved over to the side so that he wouldn’t be able to see him. He found a tree with low enough branches and began to climb. He could hear the man’s feet crunching the snow as he got closer.
Alex scurried up the other side of the gully and found herself on the road. She ran into the street and began flailing her arms up and down wildly, praying a car would pass. She ran up the road a ways and continued trying to attract attention from anyone who might be able to see her. A shot rang out and she dropped down onto the street.
Walker leapt from the tree onto the back of the man, knocking the gun from his grasp. The two men rolled in the snow, both landing with a thud in the gully. Walker fought with all of his might, but the man was strong and Walker still wasn’t a hundred percent. They rolled over and over again, Walker landing blows wherever he could. The man pulled a knife and Walker grabbed his wrist, trying to fend off what could be a fatal blow.
Trivette and C.D. had been on the road since just before dawn. They were going down the road at a snail’s pace, looking for any sign of Walker and Alex. It surprised them both to see a blanket lying in the middle of the road. It surprised them further to see the blonde hair streaming from the middle of it. “Oh god, C.D.! I think it’s Alex!” Trivette shouted as he pulled the car up next to her and braked in the middle of the road.
“Well of course it is!” C.D. shouted as he got out to find out what was wrong with her.
Trivette heard the scuffle going on in the gully and left the road to investigate. When he cleared the brush along the road, he saw Walker lying on his back with a man on top of him poised to plunge a knife into him. Trivette didn’t hesitate; he pulled his service revolver and fired twice. The first bullet hit the man’s hand and as he jerked back in pain, the second penetrated his chest.
The masked man slumped forward, bleeding and gasping for air. Walker shoved him off of him and turned him on his back. He pulled the expressionless mask from his face and found a very effeminate looking man beneath. The man was nearly pretty, with a long aquiline nose, fair skin, and beautifully formed lips. Walker wasn’t even going to try and figure out this man’s mental issues.
Trivette jumped down in the gully and pulled Walker up into a standing position. Walker was gasping for air, but said, “Thanks partner, your timing is definitely on the upswing.”
“No problem, man, but Alex…”
Walker looked instantly alarmed and with Trivette’s help, he scrambled up the gully to the road. C.D. sat in the road with Alex cradled in his arms. He was stroking the hair back from her face and crying.
“Oh god, no!” Walker cried as he sank down onto his knees next to her.
Alex’s eyes fluttered open and she looked at Walker, “Did you get him?” she asked.
“Yes, darling, we got him,” he answered, using the same endearment she had used to him at the beginning of this ordeal.
Trivette pushed his way through Walker and C.D. and squatted down to assess her injuries. Alex had slipped back into a state of unconsciousness and he lifted the blanket to see what was wrong. It didn’t take him long to find the bullet wound in the front of her thigh. The blood was pumping from it. “The bullet hit her femoral artery, we have to stop the bleeding,” he said with urgency.
“C.D., give me your kerchief,” Walker ordered. “Trivette, find a stick!”
C.D. obliged by pulling his kerchief off and Trivette ran to the woods to find a stick. He was back in moments, but Walker had already wrapped the kerchief around Alex’s leg up near her crotch. He tied the stick onto the kerchief and then twisted it, causing the kerchief to get tighter and tighter as he made a makeshift tourniquet. He wanted to lift her up into the car, but he simply didn’t have the strength. He looked up at Trivette and no words were spoken, none were needed.
Trivette lifted Alex into the back of C.D.’s SUV. Walker got in beside her and held her head in his lap as he kept steady pressure on the tourniquet. “C.D., stay with the body,” Trivette ordered.
C.D. nodded and headed over to the gully to await the local police. Trivette called in the location and got them to send out the crime scene investigators and a coroner’s wagon as well as direct him to the nearest hospital. The emergency room was ready for them and they drove right into the ambulance bay. A doctor was waiting with a nurse and an orderly. They lifted Alex onto the gurney and rushed her into the treatment room. X-rays showed the bullet lodged in her femur and after clamping the artery, they sent her up to surgery.
While Walker waited for Alex, a nurse convinced him to let her take a look at his head laceration. She shaved the immediate area and decided that he needed stitches. She called the doctor in to look at his wound and he ordered a CT scan to diagnose a concussion. The results were positive and they confirmed what Walker had known for two days, he had a concussion. They used local anesthetic to debride the wound, trimming the edges of the cut to expose viable tissue and then they stitched him up. The nurse dressed the wound and then found a set of surgical scrubs for him to change into. She showed him the dressing room and showers and he went in to wash away the dirt and grime three days on the run had left. When he came out, he definitely felt better, but he wouldn’t feel good until he was certain that Alex was going to be all right.
Trivette left Walker and Alex in the capable hands of the doctors and nurses and headed back out to find C.D. The local police had arrived and they were processing the crime scene when Trivette returned. He and C.D. drove up the dirt track a couple miles from where they found Alex and Walker and they found the Ram back in the bushes. Trivette managed to climb into it and back it out. It was scratched and banged up a bit, but it wasn’t going to need any major repairs. Trivette decided that it had faired better than Alex and Walker. They continued up and found the cabin at the top of the hill and the place where the killer had dumped the bodies of Jonah and Harriet Sunderland.
“This was one sick son of a gun,” C.D. said as he looked at the bodies being removed from the compost pile with all the care and respect possible.
“Rangers, I found the path he took in search of the other Ranger and his lady,” a young officer announced. After looking at the steep terrain, Trivette suggested that C.D. remain with the car and the officers at the house. C.D. didn’t argue with him.
Trivette followed the trail along with the bloodhound they had brought along to speed up the search. They found the shelter where Walker and Alex had spent the night within two hours and then continued on; ending at the gully where the final struggle had ensued. A car picked them up and drove them up to meet C.D. at the spot where the man had tied Walker to the tree.
A detective had gone to the hospital and got Walker to tell him the story in as much detail as he was able. They had found the place on the road where they were ambushed and then the stand of trees where they were tied up. They gathered forensic evidence to support the story Walker had told, knowing there were more details that only Alex knew.
After nearly four hours of investigating, C.D. and Trivette headed back to the hospital to check on Alex. They had heard that she had come out of surgery, but wanted to see for themselves.
Alex had lost a large quantity of blood. Her leg hadn’t been broken by the bullet, but it had lodged into the bone, splintering fragments that had been removed from the surrounding tissue. The bullet too had been removed and sent to the forensic lab to be matched to the gun the killer had stolen from the Jonah Sunderland. The soft tissue had been repaired and stitched and she was now in ICU recovering from the surgery.
Walker sat next to her, holding her hand as the blood dripped into her from the IV bag. The doctor decided that she needed a transfusion because her hematocrit had been so low. The surgeon had told him that if she hadn’t been so cold and her blood flow restricted to her leg due to the hypothermia, she would have bled to death. It was a sobering thought and he appreciated the people who had donated the blood that was used to replace hers.
C.D. and Trivette came in quietly with permission from the charge nurse. “Hey partner, how is she?”
“She’s going to be sore and weak, but she’s going to recover fully,” Walker told them.
“That’s damn good news son, damn good news. When I saw her lyin’ out there on that road… Well, I can’t tell you how my heart just broke into pieces.”
“I know, my own heart missed a few beats too, C.D.,” Walker answered as he rubbed her hand in his own large ones.
“Is there anything we can do?” Trivette asked.
“They won’t let me donate blood with this head wound, but she’s had several pints, so if you want to help replace it…”
“We’d be happy to. We’ll head down to the blood bank next,” C.D. volunteered.
Walker nodded his thanks. They may both have different types of blood than Alex, but it was a fact that there was a constant need and if another victim could be aided by their act, then it was worth the effort.
Walker stayed by her side for another two hours before she began to stir. “Walker?” she asked, still groggy from the anesthetic.
“I’m right here,” he answered her, giving her hand a squeeze.
Alex blinked a few times and concentrated on focusing on his rough hewn features. “Are you… are you all right?”
“Yes, I’m fine and you will be too.”
“Trivette shot him. He won’t hurt anyone else.”
“Oh, good.” Alex shifted slightly in the bed and grimaced as she moved her left leg. She didn’t ask the question, but looked at Walker, waiting for an explanation.
“He shot you in the thigh. The bullet lodged in the bone and you lost a lot of blood. They did surgery and removed the bullet and some bone fragments. You’re going to be sore for a bit, but you’ll heal completely.”
“Will it leave a scar?” she asked.
“Nothing could mar your gorgeous legs,” he reassured her with a grin.
Alex frowned at him and shifted her head to look at the nurse who came to check on the waking patient.
“Ms. Cahill, how are you feeling?”
“I’m a little out of it, but I’m okay.”
The nurse busied herself checking all of Alex’s vitals. The transfusion was complete and she changed to a bag of ringers’ solution. After she finished all of her checks and added the data on the chart, she spoke to Alex once again. “Dr. Loomis will be in to speak with you in a few more minutes. He’ll give you instructions for your postoperative recovery.” She smiled and looked at Walker with a flirtatious grin and then headed out.
Alex looked at Walker and frowned. “Have you been flirting with the nursing staff while I’ve been out?”
“I sure have, got several phone numbers too,” he told her shamelessly.
“Burn them,” she ordered him with a glare.
Walker laughed at her and lifted her hand to place a kiss in the palm. “You have nothing to worry about. You’re still the most gorgeous woman in Texas, even without makeup or bathing for three days and after getting shot and undergoing surgery. Even though you’re as pale as the bed sheet from the blood loss…”
“Enough already! Don’t ever volunteer to be morale officer, the suicide rate would definitely increase drastically.”
Walker chuckled, knowing that the more Alex fought with him, the more she was fighting to get better. The anesthetic induced cobwebs were clearing rapidly as she struggled to keep up the battle of words.
Dr. Loomis walked in and turned out to be a man who could have been a GQ model if he hadn’t been such a gifted surgeon. He lifted Alex’s hand and felt the pulse point in her wrist. He smiled at her and picked up her chart to read the nurse’s notations. “Well, Alex, may I call you Alex?” he asked with a disarming smile.
“Please do,” Alex answered, bowled over by this man’s looks and air of confidence.
“Well, Alex, you’ve had a close call. The bullet punctured your femoral artery and if you hadn’t been so hypothermic, you would have bled to death. Your jeans were frozen so stiff, we had trouble cutting them off of you, but they slowed the blood flow and gave us precious seconds to replace the blood you’d lost. You’re going to be weak for several days until your body begins making new blood cells to replace what you’ve lost. We transfused you and the IV solution will further increase your blood volume, but your blood pressure is still low and you’ll be lightheaded. You’ll get winded easily because your blood isn’t carrying as much oxygen as it normally would and you’ll find that you’ll get dizzy if you stand too quickly.”
“What about scarring?” Alex asked, still concerned that she wouldn’t be able to wear shorts in the summer time.
“Minimal if at all, hey, I’m good,” he bragged. He noted that she wasn’t convinced, so he gave her more details. “I closed the wound better than any plastic surgeon could. There was no way I was going to let a bullet wound ruin a great pair of legs like yours.”
Walker sat absorbing the flirtatious conversation and wondered if Alex was even aware of the effect she had on men. For someone as self assured in the courtroom as this lady was, she’d always had doubts about her ability to have a meaningful relationship with a man. A few bad choices had undermined her confidence, but it was clear that men dropped like flies when she was around; even after all she’d been through.
C.D. and Trivette came to the rescue as they entered the room after donating blood. “Hey partner, you’re looking a bit pale,” Walker teased Trivette.
“Very funny, Walker, but it wasn’t me who needed his hand held by the nurse taking the blood.”
“You’re just jealous son,” C.D. claimed.
“C.D. told her that he was feeling dizzy and he got a second doughnut,” Trivette reported, clearly offended that such an injustice had been done.
Alex smiled at C.D., “So you got the girl and the doughnut, no wonder Jimmy’s in such a bad mood.”
“How are you little lady? You’re lookin’ better than when I left here, earlier.”
“I’ve had all sorts of people taking real good care of me,” she told him.
“And now she needs to get settled in a room and get some rest. You all are going to have to find other accommodations for the night,” Dr. Loomis told them.
Walker shook his head, although he regretted the impulse as soon as he did so, his head laceration was even more sore since being stitched. The local anesthetic had worn off. “I’m not leaving her tonight. You can get me a cot or a chair, but I’ll be staying in the room.”
The doctor was about to protest, but one look at Walker made him change his mind. Dr. Loomis was a man who was used to giving orders and having them obeyed, but he was smart enough to know when he’d met his match. He just nodded, smiled at Alex and headed out to get the nurse.
Trivette and C.D. took the opportunity to tell Alex goodbye. They were planning to check in with the local police one last time and see if there was anything they could do to help finish up the case and then find a motel for the night.
Walker went to the waiting room while the orderlies moved Alex to a room with two beds. After Alex was settled, the nurse waved him in and told him, “I understand you’ll be staying, Ranger. Feel free to use the bed,” she offered with a nod to it. She’d been instructed by the chief of surgery to make the gesture and was more than amazed at his generosity. It was possible though that he’d watched the news update that told of his patient’s ordeal with the serial killer. The Ranger and the lady were true heroes having survived the kidnapping and attempted murder. She couldn’t imagine just what they’d been through and she had an inkling that the Ranger wasn’t willing to leave the woman alone for the night because of her psychological state more than her physical state. She could only imagine what type of torment she’d suffered. She’d been following the story and with each new killing, was more and more horrified by this murder’s acts. She wasn’t one bit sad that he had been killed instead of captured. Save the state a ton of money keeping his sorry ass alive on death row for years while he appealed as many times as the law would allow.
Walker waited until the nurse left before pulling up a chair next to Alex. He could tell that she was exhausted. The move to the new room had used up whatever reserves she had. He sat next to her and began to stroke her hair back from her forehead. Alex struggled for a bit to remain awake, but she finally drifted off. Walker too rested his head on the edge of the bed and took a nap until the sound of the dinner cart woke them both.
After a meal of bland hospital food, Alex asked Walker to leave so that the nurse could help her use the restroom and get ready for the night. She wanted desperately to shower, but was simply too weak. The nurse helped to bathe her with a sponge and used ‘waterless shampoo’ on her hair. It wasn’t the same as a bath, but it was better than before, so she thanked her and told her she could send Walker back in.
Alex insisted that Walker stretch out on the other bed to get some proper sleep. The scrubs he was wearing were as comfortable as pajamas, so he left them on and lay on the bed. Both fell asleep, but Alex woke calling his name late in the night. He got up and went to her and found that she had been having a nightmare.
“Alex, what is it?” he asked her as he gently sat on the side of her bed and gathered her close.
“Oh Walker, it was so awful,” she said as she clung to him.
“What was? Tell me about it.”
Alex woke up enough to realize where she was and the circumstance and decided that she didn’t want to reveal her dream to him. She was still working with her friend Sharon to try and overcome the nightmares she’d been having about LaRue. She hadn’t had one in nearly two weeks, but recent events had obviously had her mind dwelling on the torment the madman had made her endure when he chained her to a bed and told her with glee how he was going to kill Walker and then come back to rape her. She was closer to Walker than to anyone, but there were some things she simply wasn’t willing to share with him. “No, it’s gone, it was just a dream.”
“Do you think you can go back to sleep?” Walker asked, deciding not to press the matter just yet.
“Don’t leave,” she pleaded, suddenly panicked about falling back into the same nightmare as soon as sleep claimed her.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he said as he once again stroked her hair rhythmically.
Alex felt guilty, knowing that he was exhausted and injured too. She shifted over to the left side of the bed and lifted the covers on the right. “Come on in and keep me company,” she offered.
“Alex, there’s not enough room for both of us,” he protested.
“It’s at least as big as that cot we slept in,” she argued.
“But your leg…”
“Is on the other side, please…”
Walker shrugged, he knew when he’d lost an argument and truth be told, he wanted to lose this one. He carefully slipped in beside her and wrapped his limbs around her, careful not to bump her leg or her arm with the IV. Once he was settled against her, they both sighed deeply and fell almost instantly asleep.
The nurse came in about an hour later to check on her patient only to find that she was being kept company. She smiled a slightly envious smile and quietly walked out.
The next morning, Trivette and C.D. entered the hospital room to find the two still asleep. Trivette elbowed C.D. and they shared a smile and then quietly went out to get breakfast in the cafeteria.
When they returned an hour later, Walker had gotten up and Alex was sitting up eating her breakfast. The four friends talked about the events of the previous day and Trivette filled them in on what the local police had been able to find out about the killer’s identity.
“Rafael Martin was born in June of 1971. His mother apparently ran the household and his father let her. Rafael was beaten repeatedly by his abusive mother and grew up a shy introverted boy. His father died when he was seventeen and he continued to live with his mother until she died six months ago. He worked as a sales rep for a pharmaceutical company and his area included from San Antonio up through Austin to just below Dallas. There’s a long psychological profile, if you’re interested.”
Alex looked up from her breakfast, “We’re not.”
Trivette smiled, knowing that Alex could have written the profile herself with all of her experience with the lowlife’s in the world. It wouldn’t change her opinion though, nor his, he got what he deserved. He wondered if Alex would have liked to prosecute him, but decided that it was a moot point as she was a victim and therefore would not have been allowed to.
The men left Alex while the physical therapist came in to fit her with crutches that she was to use for the next two weeks; according to Dr. Loomis. He too made a visit to examine her and release her from the hospital. He gave it one more try to see if she was at all interested, but she quickly let him know that she had eyes for only one man and he was a red headed Texas Ranger.
The foursome drove back to Dallas in CD’s SUV while Walker’s truck was being repaired. There was some damage to the undercarriage and Walker was advised not to risk driving back to Dallas. There was some discussion on the trip back as to how Alex would get around and the men thought that someone should stay with her, at least at first. Walker didn’t want to seem too anxious, but he finally found a way of staying without letting C.D. and Trivette know.
“Why don’t you guys drop me off with Alex and I’ll make sure she has everything she needs and then I can borrow her car to drive back to the ranch,” he offered.
No one bought it for a minute, his logic was too transparent, but it was a way for them to ‘know’ without knowing that Walker would be staying with Alex.
After the two friends had helped bring up Alex’s belongings and C.D. had done a run to the grocery store for her, they left, Trivette unable to resist a wink to Walker. He received a glare in return.
Alex’s first mission was to shower. She wasn’t supposed to get her wound wet and had to wrap it in cellophane wrap. Walker helped her and she had trouble keeping a straight face. “You’re into some pretty kinky stuff, Cowboy,” she told him.
“Don’t go there,” Walker said, already aroused by the entire situation. He tested the water for her and then helped her to get in and stand. Alex had to hold onto the towel bar to balance on one leg and that left her with no way to soap herself. Seeing her dilemma, Walker stripped and joined her, soaping and rinsing her body and then shampooing her hair. It was a first for them and Alex was a little inhibited by the intimacy. She decided to go with it though and found that the feeling of being pampered and cared for was rather enjoyable. She’d never before let a man bathe her and began to wonder why, if it was this much fun.
Walker was enjoying his role of caretaker for a change. He’d felt so helpless and dependant while they were on the run and he was unable to focus with the concussion. He showered Alex and then wrapped her in a large bath towel and scooped her up to set her on the end of her bed. He returned to the bathroom to dry himself and pull on a pair of clean shorts from his bag that Trivette had carried up.
When he went back into the bedroom, he found Alex still perched on the end of the bed, trying to balance with one hand and dry her hair with the other. He walked over and said, “Here, let me.” She relinquished the towel to him and then he gently smoothed it over her hair to get most of the water out. He walked to her dresser and found a comb and, starting at the bottom of her hair, combed out the tangles, working his way up until her hair was smoothed down to her shoulders.
“You’ve done this before haven’t you?”
“Do you really want to know?”
Alex sat and thought about it for a bit. Did she want to know? It would mean him admitting that he’d shared this level of intimacy with another woman. It was weird; she knew that he’d had other lovers, but then, so had she. For some inexplicable reason, this seemed even more intimate. “No, I guess not,” she finally said.
He smiled behind her and then leaned into her ear and whispered, “I have, hundreds of times.”
“It’s okay; you don’t have to tell me.”
“But I want to… I’ve had the same fantasy for years. It always starts with me washing your hair and then drying it and then combing it out. Then…”
“Wait! You mean you’ve only fantasized about doing this? You’ve never actually done this with another woman?”
“Alex! What kind of a man do you think I am?!!!”
“Oh… YOU!!!” she tried to swat at him, but she overbalanced and tumbled back onto to the bed, pinning him beneath her. His hands came up around her waist to pin her to him with a vice grip. “Now, Ms. Cahill, I have you right where I want you. Have you been peeking in on my fantasies?”
“Walker, my leg,” she said urgently.
He gently slid out from under her and stood up next to the bed, looking down at her. “Are you all right?” he asked.
Alex chuckled, scoring another point. “Me? Sure, I’m fine.”
Walker glared at her and then began to unwrap the cellophane, letting his fingers stray up under the towel that covered her nude form. He ‘accidentally’ brushed the inside of her thigh several times as he completed his task. He had trouble keeping a straight face when she gasped in air as he grazed her intimate place. His hand strayed long enough that he felt the moistness of the fluids her body released in response to his touch. “I’ll get you out something to wear and you should be able to dress yourself while I fix us some dinner, right?”
Alex lay there fuming. If they had been keeping score, he would definitely be winning by now. He tossed some clothes her way and then walked out, his back to her to try and hide both his smile and his own arousal. He’d paid the price of that little game as well.
Alex came out wearing the nightshirt he’d tossed her, but she hadn’t bothered with panties. She was going to get him to finish what he’d started if it took all night and all of her feminine wiles.
They enjoyed a late supper of ham and eggs, Walker’s culinary skills were limited. Afterwards, Alex sat on the couch and watched the news while Walker did dishes. The story of her and Walker’s ordeal with the serial killer and the ‘in depth’ discussion about his background and motive, were nauseating. She clicked off the TV and then put down the remote to find the one for her stereo. The music was smooth and romantic and she laid her head back onto the back of the couch.
She was just beginning to doze when she felt something cool pressed against her cheek. She lifted her head slowly to find that Walker stood behind her with a wine glass. “Mmm… just what the doctor ordered,” she said.
“Actually, I only poured one glass, these are for you,” he held out two pills in his other hand.
“Uh uh, I prefer the wine.”
Walker nodded and handed her the glass while he went to put the pain pills back into the bottle. He returned to join Alex on the couch and made her share the glass of wine, just in case she later needed the pills, he didn’t want her to have too much wine in her system.
“You’re not supposed to be drinking this either,” she reminded him of his concussion.
“We’re just rebels without a cause tonight,” he agreed as he took a sip.
Alex smiled at him and then yawned.
“Time for bed,” Walker decided. He swallowed down the remaining wine and then scooped her up and carried her into the bed. Crawling in beside her, he pulled her back to him and spooned her, preparing for sleep.
“Walker,” she complained.
“What?” he asked.
“Aren’t you even going to TRY to get lucky?”
She felt the rumble of his chuckle in his chest. “Don’t think for a moment that I don’t want to, but I can’t figure out how to with you injured where you’re injured.”
“Oh,” she said, not having thought of that. She pondered the situation for a bit and then suggested, “What about the position we’re in now?”
Walker didn’t agree verbally, but he did let his arm move down from her waist to the bottom of her nightshirt and then trail it back up again until he was cupping and fondling her breasts from behind.
Alex sighed and leaned back against him to allow him freer access. She lifted herself up a bit to let the nightshirt be drawn up and over her head. When his mouth drew on her breast, she cried out in triumph. He was going to finish what he’d started!
Walker was very gentle and very slow, not wanting to cause Alex any pain, but needing to bring her pleasure. He nudged her top leg and she slowly moved it forward, allowing him access to her core. Sliding into her from behind, he found himself pushing deeper into her until he was fully imbedded. His hand reached for her and his fingers fondled her bringing her close to completion without ever moving his hips.
Alex couldn’t believe the sensations that rocketed through her. She felt his thick arousal applying pressure on her silken walls while his fingers stroked the tiny nub causing new found delights. She shifted forward, rolling her weight onto her hand to brace herself and then waited for Walker to do the work. He complied with a smooth thrusting motion that withdrew from her and then returned to fill her over and over again until she cried out her release. He soon followed her and gave into his own climax. Without leaving her body, he pulled her back against him and laid his palm onto her belly to hold her close, burying his face into her silky hair. The two drifted off to sleep in the afterglow of lovemaking and Alex was certain that there would be no monsters awaiting her in her dreams. Instead, they would be filled with one amazingly sexy Cowboy and with any luck; she’d wake up screaming…