"If it was your relatives, what were they looking for?" the officer asked Allison.
"Money," she answered, "or uncashed checks. That’s all they would be interested in."
Officer Watts finished making notes and then said he would inspect the building for any other break-ins. He’d get back to her if he needed any other information.
Before Stamos left he told her the manager had been alerted and promised the damaged lock on her door would be replaced within the hour.
Allison needed a shower, but she wasn’t going to take one until she had a new lock. While she waited she heated a frozen Hungry-Man dinner and ate a banana and blueberries. An hour later the lock had been repaired, and she was showered and dressed. She was ready to curl up on her sofa and read her e-mails.
Unfortunately, she didn’t have time to relax because she got another dreaded call from the unit. This time one of the assistants called and insisted the matter was urgent, but then it always was, wasn’t it? She was also told it wouldn’t take long, which made her laugh. Her laptop and purse went into her backpack, phone and keys in her hand, and she was on her way. She had just pulled onto the highway when a car came barreling up behind her. Had she not floored the engine and gotten out of his way, he would have rear-ended her. Traffic was congested as usual, and it wasn’t until she turned onto another highway that she noticed the car again. She couldn’t tell what the make or model was. It looked like a dark-colored SUV with tinted windows. The highway was four lanes, and there was plenty of room for him, but she still moved to the far lane to get away from him. She glanced in the rearview mirror several times and couldn’t see him and assumed he had sped on.
Suddenly he was there, right behind her, riding her bumper, and as she was turning onto the exit ramp, he tapped the side of her car. She barely had time to react before he hit her again, harder this time. Why was this happening? Was it road rage? And, if so, how had she incited the driver? As she swerved to avoid a third hit, her phone flew across the car seat. She grabbed it and pushed speed dial to get Phillips. Careering on two wheels, her car turned onto the gravel road leading to the cyber unit. The crazy car was still right behind her.
Phillips answered on the first ring, and she could tell from the echo he had it on speaker. He sounded as impatient as ever.
"It’s Allison. I need help. Someone’s trying to run me off the road. He’s hit me twice . . . no, three times now."
"Where are you?" Liam asked the question.
She was so shocked to hear his voice, she didn’t answer.
"Where are you?" he demanded again.
"About a mile and a half out. I just turned onto the gravel road." It was the perfect place for a carjacking, scrub trees on both sides of the road, not a house in sight. She was all alone. "Oh God, here he comes again."
"Try to stay ahead of him," Phillips said.
"Liam . . ."
"He’s on his way to you," Phillips told her. "Keep your head low. Don’t be a target. Help is coming." His voice was calming, and that freaked her out almost as much as being hit.
Don’t be a target? Did he think the maniac driver might have a gun? She didn’t have a chance to ask him what he meant. She got hit again, and this time it was spot-on. The angle was perfect. She lost control of her car and started spinning around and around. She couldn’t get the car to stop and made the mistake of hitting the brakes hard. That error sent her flying down a hill. The dead bushes didn’t impede her fall. The fat tree stump did. It was only a couple of feet high, but the car hit it full on and flipped over again and again. She felt as though she were in a barrel, rolling down a hill. Her backpack landed on her chest just a second before her airbag deployed. It took most of the impact and protected her.
She became a firm believer in miracles at that very moment. The car landed upright. Both sides were caved in; glass from the shattered windshield was all over the bucket seats; the tires were blown . . . and she didn’t have a scratch on her. Her laptop had fallen out of the bag and, crushed by the imploding car door, lay in pieces on the floor. She thought she might be dead and just didn’t know it yet. She whispered a prayer and tried to calm her racing heartbeat. She realized then she was perfectly fine except for one little thing. She couldn’t seem to let go of the steering wheel.
When she looked up through the broken windshield, she could see headlights on the hill. They quickly retreated and she could hear the car zoom away. The sky went black, and it was eerily quiet. Then suddenly there were spotlights shining down on her. She heard Liam calling her name. He sounded frantic. If she hadn’t heard his voice, she would have panicked. She was already thinking about the gas tank blowing up. That usually happened in movies with car chases, didn’t it? Of course the driver was usually killed, and here she sat, as fit as ever.