I paused for a moment to rest. The area around my injury had become numb and the bleeding had stopped, yet I kept the snow pressed over it just the same.
Again I searched for Testen. I couldn’t see him, but I doubted he had given up the chase. It wasn’t about money, or anger, or even survival with him. That’s not why he killed Elizabeth and shot Mallinger. Coach killed for pride. He would never quit.
Dammit, you can never find a cop when you need one.
After a few moments, I continued walking, keeping low. I began to lose sense of both time and distance. I had no idea where I was. I halted, crouched in the snow. I was positive that the park must end just ahead with a street and houses beyond, except I had nothing on which to base that assertion except my own natural confidence. Or was it merely wishful thinking?
Where in hell was Testen?
I marched forward. Suddenly, I was out of the woods. Only it wasn’t a street I had found, just a wide path. The path had appeared so abruptly that I was several yards deep into it before I shied like a startled horse and retreated back along my trail. I squatted behind a stand of spruce and examined the path. It must lead to the street, my inner voice told me, but that was just a guess. Still, it must lead somewhere. My concern was the light. In winter it’s never entirely dark. The snow and ice always find one source or another of illumination to magnify and reflect, like the hundreds of stars in the night sky. The path seemed inordinately bright. I would be terribly exposed.
I watched the path for what seemed like a long time. Nothing moved on it except a few grains of ice and snow propelled by the wind. I could wait, I told myself. Go to ground. If Testen used the path, I’d be in perfect position to bushwhack him. Otherwise, the police and sheriff deputies were bound to arrive sometime—maybe after the high school basketball game. Except I really couldn’t tell how serious the wound was. My hand holding the snow over the wound had become numb. So had my feet. My exposed ears and cheeks had become so cold they ached. Waiting didn’t seem like an option.
I gave myself a slow count to three and dashed forward.
It was a mistake.
Testen had been waiting for me. Apparently he possessed greater patience.
He saw me, called out my name, and demanded that I stop.
I continued running along the path toward wherever it led. My legs ached and my lungs burned—you try sprinting through a foot of snow. I tripped, fell, skidded across the path, regained my feet and kept running.
Testen was shooting.
A bullet exploded snow at my feet; another whistled past my ear.
The snow was so deep.
I had no speed.
I tripped and fell against the trunk of the tree. I couldn’t run anymore. Not in the snow.
Testen was behind me, waving his gun. I turned to face him. He was as winded as I was. Worse. Yes, much worse. His breath came hard and fast and he was holding his side. There was a look of pain on his face.
He had the gun. I had only a branch hidden between my body and the tree. I gripped it tightly.
“Don’t move,” Testen shouted.
He was closer now.
Let him come.
If I could hit him and get past him, I could outrun him. Seeing him the way he was, I knew I could escape. If he came closer.
“It didn’t have to be this way,” he said.
He could barely get the words out.
He extended his arm, pointing the gun.
I brought the branch out from behind me and struck down hard at Testen’s wrist.
He yanked his arm out of the way.
Testen was startled by my weapon and took a step backward.
I swung again.
Testen brought his gun up.
I lunged at him.
He pivoted away and my momentum took me past him. I tripped and fell headlong into the snow. I dropped the branch.
Testen was there.
I attempted to crawl through the snow on hands and knees, trying to escape into the woods, knowing there was no escape.
Testen followed me easily, the gun leading the way. He seemed amused by my efforts.
A shout. From behind us.
A silly thing to say given the circumstances, I thought.
Testen turned toward the voice.
Mallinger was staggering forward along the path, her left arm pressed hard against her side, her right hand holding the Glock, her face twisted with pain and effort. She brought the Glock up, pointed it more or less at Testen.
Testen stood straight. He held his own gun at his side and watched the Chief approach.
He might have surrendered, who knows? Except Mallinger collapsed. She pitched forward into the snow. The Glock slipped from her grasp and was lost. Mallinger was still alive, still trying to make headway, only it was like a woman thrashing in her sleep. Testen watched the Chief for a moment before turning toward me.
“This is your fault,” he said. “None of this would have happened except for you.”