A few years ago, I participated in my local citizens' police academy as research for my stories. The 10-week course gave me an idea of the training Val Ryker and her coworkers went through as police officers. One of the things I got to experience was EVOC training.
The course included a backing test and a high-ish speed chase through an obstacle course. It was fun, but a lot more challenging than I expected. One thing I never mastered was calling in my location to the dispatcher while driving. Every time I tried, I automatically slowed down. Apparently talking and driving at the same time are beyond me.
I used this experience in FRANTIC, my new release from Small Town Secrets: Sins.
Small Town Secrets: Sins, Book 3
She shifted again and the car lurched backwards. Diana punched it. Tires spun on gravel. Caught. She bulleted in reverse, craning to see over her shoulder.
At sixteen, her adopted father had drilled her on backing and parallel parking before he’d allowed her to take her behind-the-wheel test. He’d insisted on slow and careful and perfect. He’d be rolling over in his grave if he saw this.
Bobby, on the other hand, would be impressed.
Please don’t let me crash.
The van kept coming, gaining.
Diana couldn’t keep this up. She had to turn the car around and fast, before the van caught up or she smashed into something.
She spotted an intersection behind her coming up fast. That was her chance.
Wait for it. Wait for it.
She yanked her foot off the gas. As the backward momentum died, she spun the wheel hard to the left. The car spun, tires sliding, gravel flying. Halfway through the spin, she shifted into neutral. And when the nose of the car faced the turn she wanted, she plunged it into drive, hit the gas, and shot ahead.
The van followed her around the turn, back end fishtailing, not even slowing down.
Diana couldn’t go back. She wasn’t sure if Bobby and Val had even survived the dump truck. And if they had, there wasn’t a chance she was going to lead the copycat killer back to finish the job.
She had to lead him away.
She had to get help.
Diana took another turn, way too fast, the van on her bumper. Then fingers shaking, she reached for the button on the radio. “Dispatch? Dispatch? Hello?”
A backhoe jutted out into the street in front of her.
She swerved, gravel skidding under her, then muscled the car back onto the road before she landed in the ditch.
Ohmygod. Ohmygod. Ohmygod.
Diana stole a glance into the rearview mirror. The van had made it around the backhoe and was back on her tail.
“Is anyone out there? Come in!” The street came to a T, and Diana took a right.
Here, only skeletons of houses dotted one side of the street. Less equipment to dodge. Fewer people. And yet, she was also more alone. “Hello? Hello? Please!”
“Who is this?” A woman’s voice finally answered, the sound turned low.
“Who? This is a police channel.”
Diana gasped for breath. Of course the woman wouldn’t know who she was. “I’m Bobby Vaughan’s fiancé… well, ex-fiancé, really.”
“Yes, yes, he’s a detective with the sheriff’s department.”
“I know who Vaughan is. Why’d you break up?”
“What?” Diana couldn’t have heard her right. She had no idea where the volume might be, but reflexively she reached for the radio anyway. Her fingers hit the handheld speaker and knocked it off its cradle. It hit the floor. “Damn it.”
“There’s no need for profanity.”
“You can still hear me?”
“I hear everything.”
Diana focused on negotiating a sharp bend in the road. When the pavement straightened out, there were no more houses, just forest on either side.
Now she was really isolated, racing into a wilderness she didn’t know. And back at the house…
“Bobby and Val… Val Ryker… they need help.”
“Val Ryker? My aunt used to work with her. She’s a legend around here. Why didn’t you say Val was in trouble?”
“I just did.”
“Where is she?”
Sunlight blared through the windshield, blinding Diana. She flipped the visor down. Ahead the straight road turned curvy, and Diana slalomed through trees and juts of purple rock. The van fell out of sight, lagging behind on the turns.
“Sorry. Can’t talk and drive.”
“You’re not chewing gum too, are you?”
“Thank the Lord.”
Diana frowned. She couldn’t be hearing this right. Was this woman making fun of her? “I’m serious.”
“What happened to Val and Bobby?”
“They were hit by a dump truck.”
“You said you were serious.”
“A dump truck?”
“They need help.”
“No kidding. Where?”
“In a new housing development off of…” She drew a blank.
“Uh… Forest Road. Forest Road.”
“Forest? You sure about that? I have you on Sunrise Ridge.”
“You can see me?”
“I can see the car.”
“You’ve heard of GPS?”
“Okay… Yeah… Right… Could you send help?”
“Already did. It was called in a moment ago. Police and ambulance on the way to Forest Road.”
“I mean out this way, too. The Copycat Killer is chasing me.”
“You’re kidding this time, right?”
“Not at all.”
“Why didn’t you lead with that? How close is he?”
“I… uh…” Diana navigated a switchback turn without a glimpse of van behind her. “I think I might be pulling away.”
“Good. You need to head back toward town.”
“I… I don’t know where I am.”
“Okay, okay, I’ll guide you back. Listen. You’re going to need to take the next left and go about…”
Out of the corner of her eye, Diana spotted a road sign and an opening in the trees. She stomped the brake and muscled the wheel to the left. The car skidded, righted itself, and she gunned it down the country road.
“What did you do?”
“You said take a left.”
“I said the next left. You just turned onto a dead-end.”
“You’ve got to be kidd—”
The trees opened up on one side and Diana caught a glimpse of sky and fields. A lake sparkled in the distance. A road ribboned the slope below.
The road she was supposed to have taken.
“Turn around!” The dispatcher yelled. “Get out of there!”
Diana slowed and did a U-turn.
A white spot appeared at the end of the road. Too late.
For a moment, she just stared at the van hurtling toward her. She had an idea, but it was risky. Dangerous. Oh, who was she kidding? It was entirely insane. But it was better than waiting. Letting him catch up to her, take her to some cabin in the woods…
She shifted into drive, let out a long breath, and stomped on the gas. The car surged forward, pushing her back against the head rest. She barreled toward the van.
It didn’t waver, just raced straight for her.