Misty tendrils snaked between Rayanna and the officer as they crept down the mountain’s inky, tangled face. Clouds mauled the full moon to further darken their forest swamped trail. They crept after the officer’s bobbing flashlight ray, though low, murky fog swallowed its edges.
Despite a void of words, the forbidden wood refused to leave them in silence. Branches clawed at their shoulders. Leaves stirred whispers into their ears. Just beyond the trunks guarding the path, underbrush snapped in titters and hisses to dog their steps. Things unspoken burned in Rayanna’s ears.
The officer’s voice startled a shudder into her spine. She then sighed, grateful he disrupted the noises of quietude. Until she heard his question.
“So if you were camping out here, where’s your vehicle? I didn’t see any cars on the roadside.” He flicked a glance over his shoulder at her. “At least none that should’ve belonged to you.”
Gory images flashed through her mind. Of the blood-drenched SUV in which she’d awoken. And the police cruiser which had brought her to wreck against this mountainside. Had he seen the inside of the flipped patrol car, where the severed hand of its driver lay in a puddle of ditch water?
“Like I said, I don’t remember anything before hitting my head. Not even sure of my name. Believe me, I wish I could tell you where I came from.” A frigid spell seized the air. The night’s icy breath prickled through her tattered blouse and burrowed deep into her flesh.
“I’ll make a search for your car in the morning.” He stomped on a dead branch and the crack resounded. “Should offer clues to your identity, too.”
Not likely, since I removed the paperwork from the glove box.
“Oh, you don’t need to go to all that trouble.”
A crisp edge laced his tone, but shadows hid his face as he looked back at her. “Why not?”
She drew in a sharp breath. “I should really look myself. It would help me to retrace things without the bias of others’ impressions. Would you mind waiting until I get these burns treated?”
“Hmm.” He paused to flash the beam at her squinting, shielded eyes. Then he continued on the trail. “I’ll consider it.”
“Thanks.” She folded her arms against her stomach and resisted the shivers clambering up her spine into her jaw.
“I do have other questions.” He hurdled over a fallen grandfather oak which blocked their path. Pests streamed through its half-buried carcass. “No one camps out here. I doubt anyone would’ve come here alone. Who was with you? And more importantly, where are they now?”
She forced a hoarse whisper through her lips. “I don’t know.”
And she wasn’t sure she wanted to. Rayanna’s breath froze at even more sinister questions. Who spilled the missing corpses’ blood? Could it have been her?
*** TO BE CONTINUED ***