Authors: Harrison Drake
“Fuck,” he said after hanging up. “Where the hell are you?”
His next call was to the Luxembourg City detachment of the country’s police force - the Grand Ducal Police. The snow was still falling hard, the winds still whipping the freshly fallen snow into a blizzard that brought visibility down to only a few dozen metres. It would be a long drive to Kara’s apartment, and he hoped someone would get there before him.
“Yes, hello. This is Detective Yuri Shevchenko, INTERPOL. I need you to send an officer out for a check welfare. My partner did not respond to work and I am unable to reach her.”
“Understood. Go ahead with the address.”
Yuri provided the address and was reassured that they would have someone on the call immediately.
“We have a car about a couple of blocks away that’s about to go clear. Probably en route within five minutes.”
“Thank you. I am leaving Pétange now, but the roads are terrible.”
“Drive safe, detective. We’ll take care of it.”
Yuri got into the car and turned the key in the ignition. The engine struggled to start in the cold weather but with a second try and a little gas it turned over. He put the car into drive and left the neighbourhood headed for the highway.
The city limits sign came into view when Yuri took out his phone and put it on speaker. He voice-dialled headquarters and waited for the connection.
“Hello, it is Shevchenko. Can you patch me through to Lincoln Munroe?”
“He is on leave from the Lyon branch. Do you still have contact information for him? It is urgent.”
“Let me see,” said the female voice on the other side.
Yuri kept driving, his grip on the steering wheel tightening as he left the city limits. The winds picked up and the visibility dropped further, but he maintained a steady speed, straining to see the road ahead of him.
“I have the number. I’ll patch you through now.”
Yuri waited for a moment then heard ringing once more. After the third ring, he heard a man’s voice.
He sounded groggy. Yuri looked at the clock. It was past nine, but not everyone had to be up as early as he did.
“Not anymore. I’m on leave.”
“I am aware. My name is Yuri Shev…”
“Kara’s new partner. How’s she doing? Seemed pretty upset last night.”
“She did? What happened, if I can ask?”
“We found remains and thought it might have been Kat. I’m sure she’s filled you in on some of that.”
“She has. I’m sorry.”
“Thank you. I tried to call Kara later to let her know we got the results and that it wasn’t Kat, but there was no answer.”
“When was that?”
“About eleven last night or so. Is she alright?”
“We had another abduction. I called her around five this morning to tell her she was needed at the scene. She said she would meet me there, only about twenty kilometres away, but she never showed and I have not been able to reach her.”
“That’s not like her. Have you checked her apartment?”
“I know, and no. Not yet. But I have an officer on the way.”
“What about the weather? Do you think she might have been stranded?”
“Hard to say, but it is possible. I am just wondering why she, or someone else, has not called us yet.”
Lincoln swallowed hard. “Unless she can’t call.”
Yuri nodded to himself. “That is my concern as well.”
“I don’t know if I should say anything, but I’m pretty sure she was drinking when I was talking to her. I’m a little worried that it’s getting out of control. There’s not much I can do from here though.”
“She has me worried as well, Lincoln,” Yuri said. “I will keep an eye on it.”
“Let me know as soon as you find her, please,” Lincoln said.
The line went dead and Yuri kept driving, focusing only on the road ahead of him. He never saw the snow-covered car lying on its roof a short distance from the road.
ll she saw was snow.
The windows were covered by the time she regained consciousness, and snow had drifted in through the broken glass. It took a moment for Kara to realize that she was upside-down, dangling in the driver’s seat suspended only by her seatbelt. She steadied her thoughts and looked around the car.
I’m lucky to be alive.
The car was lying on its roof, the thin metal had caved almost enough for the interior ceiling to touch the headrests. The passenger side was pushed in, the front seat twisted at an odd angle. Pieces of safety glass lay beneath her. The windows had shattered, broken into thousands of tiny cubes. Their individual edges may still have been sharp, but they couldn’t do the damage a large shard could.
Kara put her hand against the ceiling and reached to undo her seatbelt. She arched her back to take the fall and pressed the seatbelt release.
Pain shot through her wrist and she yelled out.
Her right wrist was broken, badly by the looks of it. The dull pain that coursed through her entire body had masked it until she had tried to use her hand. If she wanted out of the seatbelt, there wouldn’t be a way to brace the fall. Kara tucked her right arm against her chest, arched her back and unclipped the seatbelt with her left hand.
The impact was harder than she had expected, even for a drop of only a few inches. It shook through her body and she felt as though someone had just kicked her in the chest. Kara took a couple of deep breaths and felt a sharp pain on the right side of her chest with each rise and fall.
Kara looked around for her phone and finally found it behind the headrest in the backseat, the glass screen shattered. Nothing happened when she pressed the power button. It looked broken, but there was a chance it was just dead. She opened the glove box and was startled as everything fell out. The charger was in there somewhere, but even still it wouldn’t do a thing if the car battery had died.
She found the charger in the glove box, shoved to the back and buried beneath the brick of an owner’s manual. She dug it out, wincing in pain as she reached out for it, then plugged one end into the lighter and the other into her phone.
Kara pressed the power button again. Nothing.
She pulled the phone from the cord and threw it into the backseat. It landed in a pile of fresh snow and sat there, the broken screen facing Kara.
“Ok,” she said aloud. “I need to figure out what to do.” It was nice to hear something, even if it was her own voice. She found it calming in an odd way.
It was stuffy inside the car and Kara realized that the snow that had built up around the vehicle was blocking the airflow. She looked around for her gloves and realized that she hadn’t been wearing them.
“It’s actually fairly warm in here, all things considered. If I start digging holes, I’m going to let the wind in.”
“Yeah, but you need to get out of here at some point.”
“Fuck… I don’t even know if it’s daytime though. I don’t want to start roaming around in the middle of nowhere at night in the middle of a snowstorm.”
“If it’s still snowing.”
Kara stopped for a minute.
Talking to yourself is bad enough. Having a conversation with yourself? How badly did you hit your head?
“Actually, that’s a good question. And whatever. I’m talking to myself to stave off boredom, not because I’m crazy.”
Kara gently ran the fingers of her left hand over her forehead, feeling the dried blood and the hair stuck in the wound. It had sealed over though, which meant the external injury wasn’t that bad. She wasn’t certain though if she had done any internal damage. Her head was pounding, but that could have been the result of the entirety of the situation.
The next step was to open her jacket and unbutton her blouse. Kara pulled the shirt aside, feeling the cold air against her stomach, and looked at the bruising on the right side of her chest.
“That explains the pain there. Probably broke a couple of ribs.” She looked at the center console in the vehicle, situated between the two front seats. It was large considering the size of the vehicle and gave her more than enough room to store her wallet, phone, makeup and anything else she didn’t want to worry about while driving.
It was also large enough to do some serious damage in an accident.
The only other injury she was aware of, aside from the numerous minor bumps, cuts and bruises she was sure she would find, was her wrist. It was something she didn’t want to look at. She had seen it when she had first felt the pain but looked away the moment she saw it. An unnatural bend and a large protrusion were enough to tell her she’d done a number on it.
Kara used her left hand and felt around her stomach. She pushed her hand into her abdomen feeling for any tenseness or rigidity – signs of internal bleeding.
“Nothing. Good. As long as someone finds you or you find someone you should survive this one.”
Kara wiggled her hand into one of the gloves, a difficult task without having a second hand to assist, and dug a small hole out through the snow that blocked the driver’s side window. She kept the hole straight and once she had reached the outside air Kara lowered her eye to the hole and looked through. It was daylight, but she couldn’t tell what time. The heavy storm clouds and still raging blizzard dimmed most of the light. It could have been noon, or it could have been almost sunset. She had no way of knowing.
“I guess I should’ve kept my watch. Stupid cell phone.”
The snowstorm was too strong for her to venture outside. Without proper gear, she might not last long enough to find anyone. And with the visibility the way it was, she knew that she may never be seen. There was no way of knowing how far the car had gone from the road, but from what she remembered of the accident, it felt like it had been quite a distance.
“I need to hold off, see if this storm will let up.”
She started to look around the vehicle, looking for anything she could use to keep herself warm and extend her survival. Eventually, she hoped, Yuri would come looking for her. They’d check the main road between Luxembourg City and Pétange and, with a little luck, would see her car. It was just a matter of time.
“Shit, I still have that bag in the back.”
Kara climbed into the backseat and found the release to drop the seats down for access to the trunk. The rear of the vehicle had taken the brunt of the rolls, the roof crushed against the top of the seats. The release triggered, but it was too tight to pull the seat forward. She braced herself as best she could and pulled with all the strength she had remaining.
The seat was moving, but it wasn’t enough. She braced herself again, wedged her left hand between the seats and began to pull. Pain tore through her chest and her head throbbed but she kept straining. She repositioned herself and pulled again, loosening the seat enough to begin pushing it back and forth. Each tug pushed the seat against the ceiling, forcing the dent back out. She yanked again and again until the seat came free. She wasn’t prepared and it struck her in the right side, knocking her back against the front seats.
“Shit,” she said, completely out of breath. She winced in pain. Kara stopped for a moment and waited - breathing the fresh air that was coming in through the hole she had dug.
A couple of minutes passed and Kara could feel her heart rate had slowed and her breathing had returned to normal. She crawled onto the folded down backseat and felt the car start to rock slightly. The vehicle had landed with the weight on the engine block, and the rear end was elevated. Kara envisioned the back of the car dangling over some mile-high precipice and carefully reached into the trunk to grab the duffel bag and blanket she had left there several weekends ago. When both were out of the trunk, she leaned back bit-by-bit until she felt that it was safe to relax. She knew that the rear end of the car was probably only a few inches off of the ground, but the slight possibility otherwise crippled her with fear.
The bag and blanket had been there since before the first abduction, before her transfer to Luxembourg. Kara had been in Lyon, still working on finding Kat and doing her best to pass off any case that came her way to other agents. Those junior to her were eager to take on anything they could, and it freed up more time for Kara to focus on the only case that was important to her.
The toll it was taking was obvious. There were a few in the office who were starting to notice. She was always the first one there and the last to leave, but in a department that generally only worked days and afternoons, no one was aware that she was spending a lot of nights in the office, working until she passed out at the computer.
When everyone left for the night, she took the image of Kat, a reprint of the Polaroid they had found in Crawford’s apartment, and put it in front of her on the desk. She would stare at it when she felt too exhausted to work anymore, her eyes focused on the image of Kat bound, gagged and helpless. It kept her going, kept her fighting.
Kat had gone missing in June of the previous year and Kara hadn’t been transferred until the beginning of January. For six months she had spent every waking hour trying to find Kat, and every hour of sleep she had was filled with nightmares.
By the third month, it took all of her strength to keep her hands from shaking.
By the fourth, even her own strength wasn’t enough. Not forever at least. She could hide it most of the day, keep it under wraps while there were others in the office, but once they left and she had a chance to relax, her body quit fighting against it and her hands began to shake again. It started as a shot, just enough to calm the nerves.
By the fifth, that one shot had been joined by another. She started going home at night again, bringing her work and the picture of Kat with her. A drink or two in the office and no one would notice. Several and she ran the risk of getting caught and pulled off the case. It was something she couldn’t let happen. It was the same reason she stayed away from doctors and hospitals, despite her growing depression. At home however, she was free to self-medicate.
She worked harder to find Kat and harder to keep the downward spiral she was on hidden from everyone else.
By Christmas, she was running on empty. Three weeks had gone by without a single solid lead, not one new development. There had been nowhere to look and no one to interview aside from those who were clearly fabricating stories in hopes of getting a shot at the reward money.
She had grown close to one of her colleagues, a young detective named Océane Lebeau who was the only one who knew the toll the case was taking. Océane knew Kara was going to be alone for Christmas and invited her to join her family in the south of France. It was only a three-hour drive, but Océane insisted Kara stay at least one night. Kara packed a bag of extra clothes, gloves and a hat in case the car broke down, a thick blanket for the same reason, and enough snacks to make the road trip bearable.
The trip had been brief, but it had been nice to spend time with people outside of work. Océane’s family had welcomed her into the fold with open arms, fed her, given her a room (which left Océane’s younger brother sleeping on the couch), and helped her to forget about the trials she was facing. The guilt was there; a feeling that she should’ve been in the office trying to find Kat instead of enjoying Christmas in Marseilles. Océane had seen that look in Kara’s face.
“You were no good to her like that. You need to take care of yourself first.”
Kara knew she was right, took the holiday to recharge and returned to the office a couple of days later ready to face the case with renewed vigour, and with a little luck, new ideas and new leads. A week after she returned to Lyon the transfer request came through. Kara saw it as a break, even if it meant turning her back on Kat. It pained her to think that way, but she knew that she could continue to focus on the case in her time off.
Of course, to call it a request was an understatement. The order had come from on high and could not be denied. Someone, she figured, had noticed that she was cracking under the pressure of Kat’s case and put in for her to be on the team searching for the missing boys, an investigation her conscience wouldn’t allow her to refuse.
She was sure it was her fault she had been transferred. And once again, she blamed herself for having failed Kat. If she had just been able to hide it a little better - maybe another layer of makeup to cover the dark circles, an extra cup of coffee to keep from dozing off at her desk - maybe it would have helped. Regardless, she had made copies of all of the documents she thought she would need and left for her new post.
Kara opened the bag and took an inventory of what she had. There was a change of clothes, some toiletries and makeup, a book, two bottles of water, some snacks she had packed for the road trip and a plastic bag Kara had completely forgotten about. In it were two bottles of orange juice, which like the water bottles were frozen solid, and a mickey of vodka.
She had brought it along with her thinking she would need it to get through her time at Océane’s, but the wine had been flowing as soon as she arrived and her spirits never fell low enough for her to break open the bottle she had packed.
Even the shakes were gone while she was there.
Kara opened the vodka and took a sip, feeling the familiar warmth works its way down her throat.
“Not too much,” Kara said aloud. She took another small sip and savoured the sensation. Then she opened each of the other bottles and poured as much vodka as she could into them. The bottles were filled and the contents frozen, but there was still enough room to pour in a little vodka. She capped each of the bottles and waited.
The alcohol began to do what she had expected and the ice began to melt, slowly but surely. The vodka was lowering the freezing point of the water and orange juice, like adding salt to a frozen driveway to melt the ice. With a little time there would be enough in the bottles to drink, which would make room for a little more vodka. If she rationed it out, she could thaw the liquid and keep herself hydrated without the alcohol impairing her judgment.
“That’s why I’m here now, isn’t it?”
She shook her head and felt the sting of regret. It had been stupid of her to think that she was okay to drive.
“No, I was fine. It had been several hours and I didn’t have that much. I was just tired. Relax. Stop being so goddamned hard on yourself all the time.”
“Like you know any other way of doing things.”
Kara wrapped herself in the blanket, ate a granola bar and a quarter of the pack of beef jerky she had found, and passed her time by talking to herself, working through her problems as both patient and psychiatrist.