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Clayton Chapel loomed out of the darkness, caught in the spear of the patrol cruiser’s headlights. Deputy Alec Wimberly left the engine running per protocol and got out to do his obligatory night check walk-around, eyes open for stray teenagers. Clayton Chapel’s reputation drew them like magnets. He ran the flashlight’s beam around the dark windows of the second floor. And froze. For just a moment.
He raced hell bent for leather back to the car and scrambled in. The cruiser careened down the country road in a flurry of squealing wheels and flying gravel. He didn’t look back. If he looked back, he’d see it. He knew he would. The silhouette of a little girl in banana curls, backlit in the window. Pounding organ music still rang in his ears.
He slowed just enough to negotiate a wide turn onto Highway 96. Back on the asphalt, he could pretend it never happened. He checked the speedometer and eased off the gas. Or tried to. For a moment his foot, lead on the pedal, wouldn’t obey. He reached to his shoulder and hit the send button on his radio phone.
“Rockland 19, back on patrol from property check at Clayton Chapel.”
“Ten-four Rockland 19.” Dispatcher Aileen Sanders hesitated. “You okay, Nineteen? You sound kinda funny.”