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Authors: Patricia H. Rushford

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Deadfall

PATRICIA H. RUSHFORD
        HARRISON JAMES

DEADFALL

Copyright © 2004 by Patricia H. Rushford and Harrison James.

Published by Integrity Publishers, a division of Integrity Media, Inc.,
5250 Virginia Way, Suite 110, Brentwood, TN 37027.

HELPING PEOPLE WORLDWIDE EXPERIENCE
the
MANIFEST PRESENCE
of
GOD.

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version, copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

This novel is a work of fiction. Any references to real events, businesses, organizations, and locales are intended only to give the fiction a sense of reality and authenticity. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Published in association with the literary agency of Alive Communications, Inc., 7680 Goddard Street, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80920.

Cover Design: Brand Navigation, LLC |
www.brandnavigation.com
Cover Image: Veer
Interior: Inside Out Design & Typesetting

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Rushford, Patricia H.
Deadfall / by Patricia H. Rushford and Harrison James.
    p. cm.

ISBN 1-59145-150-7

1. Police—Oregon—Fiction. 2. Oregon—Fiction. I. James, Harrison. II. Title. PS3568.U7274D385 2004 813'.54—dc22

2004005458

Printed in the United States of America

04 05 06 07 08 PHX 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

To the families of violent crime victims nationwide,
who find the strength to carry on.

To the finest Southern belles Texas ever produced,
my grandmothers Mary Lou and Clora May.
—HARRISON JAMES

Contents

Acknowledgments

1

2

3

4

5

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9

10

11

12

13

14

15

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17

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19

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23

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26

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28

29

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31

32

33

34

Acknowledgments

Thanks to our agent, Chip MacGregor.

To our editors, especially Jennifer Stair and Kris Bearss.

To Integrity Publishers for believing in us.

And a special thanks to our Lord God,
in whom we place our trust.

1

S
OMETIMES DEATH
is the only option.

Brad Gaynes stood on the precipice overlooking Wah-kella Falls, in the Columbia River Gorge. He jammed his clenched hands deep into his pockets, willing himself to calm down. Anger wasn't going to solve anything. How many times had his dad said that?

Brad thought about his girlfriend's comment again—about death being the only option. Why would Jessica say something like that? She could be weird at times. What had she meant? Had she been talking about herself and how life was no longer worth living if they couldn't be together? Was she thinking about a suicide pact?

“Nah.” Brad watched his warm breath turn white as it hit the cold November air. Jessica didn't seem like the suicidal type. More likely, she made the comment to manipulate him. She did that often and well. He probably should have stayed with her and talked things out, but he couldn't stand it anymore. He needed to get away before he did or said something they'd both regret.

He breathed in the fresh, earthy smell of rotting leaves, rain, and rich, woodsy soil. He'd stopped at the top of the falls to catch his breath after practically running up the mile-long trail. As he stood tall, face into the wind, he let his gaze roam across the Columbia River and up the cliffs and hills on the Washington State side. Even now, with fog and rain, the spot offered one of the most spectacular views in Oregon, made even more beautiful by the gold and red maple leaves and the setting sun. The clouds had just opened to the west as if offering a gift of vibrant colors to make up for the persistent rain. The climb and the view calmed his anger and helped him to think through his dilemma. He knew now what he needed to do to make things right. Still, something about Jessica just didn't sit well with him.

Brad emerged from his deep thoughts and heard an odd guttural sound along with the rustling of brush in the woods behind him. Had Jessica followed him? Or maybe that trucker had come back to make good on his threat. Brad had been in a fighting mood when the trucker tried to intervene in his and Jessica's argument. She'd assured the trucker she was okay and he'd gone back to his truck, but not without promising to get even.

The thrashing grew louder.

“Who's there?” Brad's heart accelerated again, and this time it wasn't from exertion. He called out again, “Jess? Is that you?”

No one answered.

It had to be Jessica. “Come on. What are you doing? Quit playing games.”

Something told him to get out of there—to hit the trail running and not look back. But Brad's curiosity overcame his intuition. He drew back from the edge of the falls and headed into the woods to investigate.

2

V
ICTORIA GAYNES YAWNED AND STRETCHED. Nine o'clock and she was exhausted. No surprise there, as she'd been up since five. “I think I'll go to bed early and read.” She leaned down to kiss her husband's balding head.

The phone rang before he could respond.

Vicki frowned, suddenly hit with an odd premonition.

“Want me to get it?” Todd started to get up.

“No; stay put.” She hurried to the kitchen and picked up the portable phone. “Hello.”

“Mrs. Gaynes, it's Jessica. Brad is missing and—”

“What did you say?” Vicki's throat closed, nearly trapping the words inside. “What do you mean ‘missing'?”

Todd got out of his chair. “What's wrong?”

Covering the mouthpiece, she whispered, “It's Jessica. She's crying, and I'm having a hard time understanding her.”

“I don't know where he is,” Jessica sobbed.

“What do you mean?” Vicki all but yelled at her. “Jessica, for heaven's sake, calm down and tell me what happened.”

“Brad's missing.”

Vicki forced back the bile rising to her throat. “All right.” She deliberately slowed her breathing. Jessica wasn't making any sense.

“Why do you think he's missing?”

“He went hiking alone, and he didn't come back. I waited and waited, but he never came and I didn't know what to do. I tried to call from the cell, but the battery is dead.”

“Where are you?”

“At the cabin.” The cabin was situated near Mount Hood.

“You said he went hiking. Where?”

Jessica explained that she and Brad had been parked at the base of Wah-kella Falls that afternoon. “We got into an argument, and he got really mad. He said he was going for a walk—only he didn't come back. Brad had been drinking, and he said he needed some air. He got out of the car, slammed the door, and started walking up the trail.”

“When did he leave?” Vicki glanced at her watch.

“I don't know, around four-thirty or so. It was almost dark.”

“And you're just now calling us?”

“I'm sorry—I . . .”

“Let me get this straight. You left my son in the woods in the dark with no way to get home?”

“I didn't know what else to do.”

“You could have stopped somewhere to use a pay phone.”

“Everything up there was closed. I couldn't think straight. I just . . .” Jessica's voice broke.

“All right.” Vicki rubbed her forehead, wondering what had really happened. “Have you called the police?”

“Yes, I just did. I'm supposed to meet them at the falls in the parking lot.”

“Then get up there.” Vicki sounded as annoyed as she felt, and she didn't care. “We'll meet you there as well.”

She hung up the phone and found Todd in the bedroom.

Vicki's heart was beating so hard she could hardly hear herself talk. “We have to go.”

“I gathered that.”Todd, being his efficient self, had already put on his shoes and began gathering stuff for the drive.

“Brad's missing. Jessica said he went off for a hike at Wah-kella Falls and didn't come back.” Vicki pulled off her lounging pants and got into her jeans, nearly falling as she tried to stuff two feet down the same pant leg.

“What's he doing walking up there at night?” Todd raked the car keys off the dresser.

“He knows that place like the back of his hand.” Vicki frantically pulled her blonde hair into a ponytail. “Besides, it was still light when he left.”

“Honey.” Todd stilled Vicki's hands and wrapped his arms around her. “Take it easy. At the rate you're going, we'll never get out of here. Besides, it's too soon to panic.”

Vicki sucked in a frustrated breath. He was right; she needed to keep her wits about her. “I'm trying, but our son is out there and . . .” Tears faded his image.

“I know, and I'm just as concerned as you are.”Todd caught her tears with his knuckles and kissed her forehead. “Now take a deep breath and get your shoes on. I'll grab some water, snacks, blankets, our jackets, and some rain gear.”

Minutes later the couple braved the rainslicked streets as they made the forty-mile trek east on I-84, the wiper blades taking up the lament of Vicki's heart.
Let Brad be all right. Let Brad be all right.

OREGON STATE POLICE TROOPER Dana Bennett was about to head home when the call came in over her radio: “Eleven-twenty-three.”

“Go ahead,” she responded.

The dispatch operator gave her the details. A missing person in the Columbia River gorge—a twenty-five-year-old white male, last seen around dusk at the Wah-kella Falls trailhead.

Dana knew the area well. The Eagle Creek trail system was one of her favorite places to hike, and she didn't mind working patrol out there either. The gorge offered such awesome views, glimpses of nature at its finest; she couldn't help but feel good out there. But the area could be as treacherous as it was beautiful.

“I'm on my way. I'll be working overtime, if you could advise the on-call sergeant.” She'd be working with no pay if overtime wasn't approved, but Dana didn't mind. She was trying to get as much experience under her belt as possible in preparation for the day she made detective. She thought for a moment about calling Mac, a detective with the Oregon State Police and a good friend, but Mac was probably either hanging out with his fiancée or working on a case. Mac had been mentoring Dana of late, giving her advice on making detective.

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