Authors: Amanda Mackey
By Amanda Mackey
Copyright © 2014 by Amanda Mackey. All rights reserved.
First Print Edition: October 2014
Limitless Publishing, LLC
Kailua, HI 96734
Formatting: Limitless Publishing
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
Table of Contents
Jake listened intently to the conversation, thrilled with himself for thinking of something ingenious to get Robert’s attention and grateful that Rob was finally taking action.
“Gladiator? It’s Robert. I think we’ve found Kate. I’ll explain it all later but I’ve just had a tip off. She’s on a ledge overlooking the ocean. She fell. We need to get our asses out there and check right along the coast of Vernazza. Yeah… I know… meet me at the Doria Castle in five minutes.”
Jake wished he could take Robert straight to Kate’s body and it frustrated the hell out of him that he couldn’t. He’d only visited the ledge by transporting straight to it. He wouldn’t be able to find it on foot. All he could do was tag along like a lost puppy, hoping that Robert found his daughter in the next hour because Jake feared that Kate wouldn’t be able to hold on any longer than that.
Not wanting to leave anything to chance, Robert dialed another number and again Jake could only hear one side of the conversation.
“Gary. Rob. I’ve got a lead and I’m on my way there as we speak. How soon can you organize a chopper to The Doria Castle here in Vernazza?”
“I don’t have much at this stage but we need to be prepared for the worst. Apparently she’s fallen so I don’t know what the hell we’re going to find, Gary. I need that chopper here as of yesterday… Yeah, I guess that will have to do. I owe you big time, buddy. Okay… talk soon.”
After checking the ammo in his gun, Robert nearly ran down the stairs, taking them two at a time. Jake flew behind him, just above the ground, easing out the door. He hoped they’d make it in time.
Robert was powering east towards The Doria Castle, adrenalin steaming through him. He wasn’t quite sure what had happened in Kate’s apartment but it was the only lead he’d had so far and he wasn’t going to ignore it. He tried to push the thought from his mind that he could be retrieving his daughter’s dead body. It was unbearable to think of. No. It just couldn’t be. Not his Katie. No way. She may have a few broken bones, bruises and scrapes. It may not even be happening. He may be asleep, dreaming. Hell, it could all have been a trick of the lighting in Kate’s apartment. He suddenly questioned it all. Was he acting in haste? Sending out a search party that was costing the taxpayers money only to find that it was for nothing? Gary would have his hide if it was a false alarm.
He repeated a mantra in his head all the way to the stone structure. This is real. This is real. I’m not going crazy.
Gary had said he could have a loaded chopper to Vernazza in an hour. It would have to do. First he had to find Katie—if there was a Katie to find.
A ledge facing the ocean? Hell. That could be anywhere on the southern side. She will be injured if she’s fallen, so time is of the essence. I can’t afford to squander any un-necessary minutes. So many hours have been wasted already, not knowing what to search for. Maybe it’s already too late. Stop it! Don’t overthink it. Find her and then deal with the outcome.
He had to force his mind to stay positive or he was going to literally lose it.
His phone buzzed. “Robert.”
“Hey, Rob. I’m on the chopper. We’re around forty minutes away. I’ve got two medics on hand ready to assist with injuries and to help get her on board. I figured it was best to have her transferred to Rome.”
“Is there anywhere closer?”
“There is the Alma Mater in La Spezia.”
“Call and book ahead. Rome is too far away, Gary. She can’t wait that long.” Desperation was in his voice.
“Done. I’m Googling the number now. I’ll see you when we arrive.”
Robert didn’t bother with a formal goodbye. He pressed ‘end’ as he made his way to the northwestern side of town to meet The Gladiator, picking up the pace and entering into a jog. The town was starting to come to life as early as it was, with patrons needing their early morning coffees. Robert noted the time on his watch read 6:45 a.m.
A voice from behind had Robert jump just as he reached the castle.
The Gladiator moved in looking a darn sight more chipper than Robert did after so little sleep. The large soldier had changed his black tee to a white one, looking only slightly less menacing. He was ready for business as always, regardless of what was thrown his way.
The two men shook hands and Robert filled his man in on what was happening.
“I think we need to split up. I’ll start here and then work my way up to the top. You start at the top and work your way down. We’ll meet in the middle. We’ll then both make our way down towards the piazza. Go in between buildings and check over the edge. She’s lying somewhere on a ledge and we don’t have much time.”
“Understood, sir.” With that The Gladiator was off, not wasting another second with small talk.
The sound of Robert’s black lace up shoes hitting the concrete seemed to echo loudly in his ears like a steady beating heart.
He ran towards the edge of the concrete platform surrounding the ancient stone structure, looking at the cliff below, searching for something. Anything. His eyes scoured the sheer drop, trying to seek out a ledge that may have broken his daughter’s fall. Without sunglasses, the sun caught his eyes, causing him to squint as he scanned the rocks below.
After a couple of minutes, Robert decided he’d scoured the rocks well enough and started walking in the direction The Gladiator had gone, praying that he’d find something.
Up more steps, through narrow alleys. Always through narrow alleys. The whole town was woven with them. Robert wasn’t claustrophobic but he hated being in such confined spaces. He’d couldn’t imagine living practically on top of one’s neighbor, as pretty as the town itself was. It just wasn’t his thing. He needed space. When he retired he was going to sell up his suburban home and move to the country.
Upon passing a break in between a row of villas, he back-tracked and went down the narrow aperture, finding himself on a stony landing close to the edge of what looked to be a sheer drop to the ocean. His gut tightened.
Robert looked left and then right along the ledge, looking for the best place to lean down and look over without putting himself at risk. He took a step closer and went down on his knees to further investigate, running his fingers over the disheveled earth.
Within a second Robert was leaning over the cliff looking at Kate’s lifeless, twisted form, helpless, only able to look on from afar.
He let out an agonized roar, stretching his arm down towards Kate, as if by some miracle he could touch her. “No. No. No. Noooooo! Katie! Dear God! Hang on, darling. Help is coming!”
With that he was on his cell phone dialing The Gladiator. No hello, just forced words on auto-pilot.
“I’ve found her. Get down here now! I’ll be waiting on Via San Giovanni Battista. Hurry.” He hung up without delay and leaned over the edge again, making sure Katie was still there, as if the first time he’d seen her it had all been a horrible illusion. There she lay. It was no illusion. She was as real as the ground he lay upon. His heart shredded. Was she alive?
“What the fuck happened, Katie? How could you have fallen and what the hell were you doing here? Jesus Christ! Honey, I’m here. I’ll do everything in my power to help you, darling.”
Getting up again he walked out to meet The Gladiator and dialed Gary’s number.
“Hi, Rob. We’re about ten minutes away.”
“Gary, I’ve found her. It doesn’t look good. She’s taken a huge fall and isn’t moving. Get the chopper pilot to step on it. I don’t know if she’s—” He couldn’t even say the word.
“I’m sorry, Rob. I know how hard this must be for you. I pray that she’ll be okay. I know how much she means to you. We’re doing everything we can to get there quickly. Just hang on, buddy.’
Rob knew Gary did know. He had two kids of his own. Younger than Kate. A teenage boy and girl. If anything were to happen to either of them, his friend would never get over it.
“Rob, we’ve got the winch on board. Rather than waste valuable time landing at The Doria Castle, we’ll lower one of the medics onto the winch and hook Kate up with him. It’s the quickest way. She’ll be perfectly safe, I promise you. How wide is the ledge?”
“It’s about seven foot, I think. I’m not sure how close the chopper is going to get but I guess we can only try.”
“Five minutes now, Rob. You should be able to see us any minute, coming from the north. Go to the ledge and wave so we can see you. Hang in there. We’ll see you soon.”
Gary hung up just as The Gladiator arrived. Not offering any small talk, the soldier nodded and offered his customary, “Sir.”
“The chopper is about five minutes away. They’re going to try for a winch rescue, depending on how close to the ledge they can get.”
“Where is she?”
Robert turned and The Gladiator followed, bending down and looking over the ledge at Robert’s instruction.
The Gladiator looked at the splayed human carcass with detachment. “Do we know if any other parties were involved, sir?”
Robert hadn’t had time to think about that. His fists clenched at the mention of anyone else being involved. Had she been pushed? Where the fuck was Carlos Santini? His blood started to boil at the thought of that name and he had to fight to simmer his emotions until Kate was safe. He’d downplay the scene to The Gladiator for now until details were uncovered.
“Negative. The only evidence available that I can see is displaced gravel. There appear to be no footprints at all.” He would discuss the details with Gary at a later hour.
In the distance a quiet, whirring noise sounded and both men looked to the north at the same time. A tiny black speck appeared out of nowhere and grew bigger with each passing second. It still wasn’t fast enough for Robert. He couldn’t be sure how long Kate had been exposed to the elements. He did know that it was days and not hours, though. That frightened him immensely. They weren’t looking at fresh injuries here. Critical time had been lost. As a cop, he knew that the sooner injuries were treated, the better the chance of survival. He was becoming a slave to his own doubt, knowing that the odds weren’t good. In fact, they were pretty damn dismal. It was going to take a miracle for a happy outcome.
Robert and The Gladiator waved furiously and kept on doing so until they were sure they had been noticed. The helicopter banked and moved closer to the shore.
As the dark grey HH-139A Air Force chopper neared, Robert could make out a man standing in the open doorway, swathed in safety gear and harnesses. He was ready to go at a moment’s notice. It was up to the pilot to navigate the chopper skillfully to the correct position, taking into account the nearby houses and the width of the ledge where Kate lay.
The medic’s voice could be heard, raised above the sound of the rotor, calling out directions to the pilot. Robert and The Gladiator watched on, diligently, praying that there would be no hiccups.
Once the chopper was in place and hovering, very slowly the medic turned around with his back facing outwards and let his feet leave the safety of the helicopter, letting himself be lowered down. It was a slow process, allowing for no unexpected accidents, precision the key.
As the medic hung precariously, reaching Robert and The Gladiator, Robert couldn’t help but call out, “Please be careful with my daughter!”
The medic smiled and answered confidently, “Just another day at the office, sir.”
Robert’s cell rang. It was Gary.
“Rob, when the winch is complete I want you to meet us at The Doria Castle. We’ll collect you there so you can travel with Kate to the hospital.”
“Roger that, Gary.” His friend had really come through for him this time. He’d pulled so many strings to make all this happen and no amount of words could describe how much Robert appreciated it. He would never forget it. It helped to have a friend who had contacts in high places, although it was a big ask by anyone’s standards.
“I’ve also called the local police and informed them that the search is over. They’re on their way to the castle to clear any tourists away so we have unhindered access to land.”
“I couldn’t have done it without you, Gary.”
“Well, let’s call it even now, shall we? I’m glad we’ve found her. It’s not over yet, though. Let’s just get her on board and take one step at a time. I’ll see you shortly, Rob.”
The medic had reached the ledge and was unhooking the other harness, ready for Kate. He knelt down at her side and placed his hand on the carotid artery pulse in her neck, a grim look on his face as he then opened her mouth and put his cheek over it to feel for any breath. Robert’s heart stopped as he saw the medic shake his head.
Robert stumbled against The Gladiator as his legs gave way. The hulk of a soldier grabbed his boss with both hands, pulling him away from the edge and sitting him down.