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Sixty-five

The orange glow of Zumech's SAR jumpsuit was way ahead of April as Peachy reversed direction again, and turned northwest back toward the lake. The air was heavy and the grass was wet. The temperature had dropped a few more degrees and the mist had turned into a fine drizzle. April was in pretty good shape, but hadn't hunted at night for a long time. Ten years ago this would have been nothing. Her first job had been in Bed Stuy, where she'd been on the streets day and night for eighteen difficult months in a really rough neighborhood where she'd felt small and defenseless, but had never bothered much about her physical comfort in the heat, wet, or paralyzing cold.

Now she was no longer used to running at night with her gun at her waist and her extra equipment slamming against her side with every step. She perspired in the vest and waterproof windbreaker, hampered by her own precautions. This night maneuver was coming to nothing, and she was sorry that she'd worn the vest. It was one of the new ones, cost nearly four hundred dollars, and fit her small frame nicely. It was supposed to breathe and be cooler than the older models but still be strong enough to stop any bullet out on the street. The first two claims were proving false. She hoped she'd never be a test for the third.

She was winded and discouraged as the dog changed direction yet again and the weather worsened. Mike was ahead of her, and it annoyed her that he was moving faster now than she was. Woody straggled along at her side. She felt horrible. She'd made another tactical error, trying this search at night. They were idiots, out in a storm with all four people they were looking for way off their radar screen, somewhere in the wind.

Trotting northwest after the dog, she was furious at herself. Suddenly Woody's light went off beside her. The fog closed in to a tighter circle. Lightning hit, cracking the sky. A boom of thunder followed.

"Shit." Woody stumbled and swore as the sky opened up and the rain hit with full fury, almost knocking them over with its force.

Monsoon time in Manhattan; it always happened in summer and early fall. Dry in her jacket, April's head and feet were drenched in seconds. Their search party was over. The park was empty, the sky as dark as deepest night. The dog was moving west.

Ahead, Mike stopped to zip his jacket. Then he moved on, his flashlight pointed down at the path. April kept a slower but steady pace, her eye on Peachy's orange necklace and John's jumpsuit just visible and still moving west, now at a run. April checked her watch. They'd been out an hour and forty-five minutes.

The dog and trainer raced on in the rain. And April ran after them, panting and exhausted. She was certain that the dog was heading back to the haven of the red Jeep Cherokee. They were rained out. No dog could smell through a hurricane. She was deeply disappointed at their failure, and she was also ashamed because she, too, yearned for rest and warmth and praise from her boyfriend. Peachy would get her treats whether she'd lost the scent or not. But April had messed up, she'd lost all three of her suspects and was in big trouble. Big.

In six minutes, they were back almost to where they'd started. But Peachy did not stop at the cars. April saw Peachy's orange necklace as she skirted the water's edge on the east side of the lake, traveling north along the patch of water until it became shallows and finally grass. Water poured down on their heads, muting John's excited cry of victory as Peachy hurled herself into the grass and disappeared.


Sixty-four | Tracking Time | Sixty-six