Table of Contents
ALSO BY RIDLEY PEARSON
Cut and Run
The Art of Deception
The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer
(writing as Joyce Reardon)
The Pied Piper
BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS
Peter and the Starcatchers series
(with Dave Barry)
The Kingdom Keepers series
Steel Trapp series
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
In harm’s way / Ridley Pearson.
eISBN : 978-1-101-18905-4
1. Fleming, Walt (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Sheriffs—Fiction. 3. Sun Valley (Idaho)—Fiction. I. Title.
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 actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
For Louise Marsh
Special thanks to Sheriff Walt Femling, his wife, Jenny, and their family. And to the residents of the Wood River Valley.
lancing out the windshield and beyond the four-lane concrete bridge, Fiona spotted a log with flailing arms. Human arms. A child’s arms, struggling up through the river’s rushing water, held down by a tangle of branches.
Fiona instinctively reached out to block her passenger from hitting the dash while simultaneously slamming on the brakes. Her Subaru skidded, drifting into the breakdown lane just past the bridge. She set the emergency brake and released her seat belt in a single motion, her feet already on the asphalt. She crossed four lanes of busy traffic amid a flurry of horns and the high-pitched cries of biting rubber.
Over it all, she heard her passenger, Kira, calling out her name and she glanced back to see Kira hoisting her camera bag high in the air. Fiona gestured her back, but Kira ignored it and pressed forward, darting through gaps in the traffic. More tire squeals. A man crudely cursed from his black pickup as he avoided Kira by inches, careening off the roadway and onto the dirt shoulder, throwing up twin rooster tails.
Fiona ignored him, scampering down the bank, and waded into the shallow, painfully cold water at the river’s edge. The fist-sized, slippery round stones of the river bottom made her look drunk as she charged into the more swiftly moving, knee-deep water. She glanced left, timing the approach of the floating logs, preparing to dive.
The limbs of the first of four logs struck her, knocking her off balance, and she fell. They scraped across her back, tearing her shirt and dragging her down under. She struggled out of the grasp of the tangled branches and gasped for air as she resurfaced. Finding her balance, she dodged the next log. And the next.
Barreling toward her came the final tree: the one with the human arms she’d seen upstream. It bore down on her, a tongue of torn wood aimed like a lance.
She no longer saw the arms thrashing. For an instant, she wondered if she’d seen them at all.
The approaching tree was well over a foot thick and likely weighed hundreds of pounds. Driven by the force of June runoff, it would hit her like a battering ram.
Kira, now at river’s edge, again screamed, “F-i-o-n-a! No!”
From the same direction, Fiona heard a splash—the driver of the pickup now thundering out toward her.
The wide spread of pine boughs seemed aimed to sweep her off her feet once again. Distracted, she’d lost her chance to move out of the way. She counted down in her head . . .
Ten yards . . . five yards . . .
She drew a lungful of air and dove the four feet to the river bottom. Reached out and white-knuckled a mossy, large flat rock, keeping herself down. The limbs broomed over her, snagging her hair and yanking her head up and back. A chunk of hair tore loose. She screamed bubbles. Most of her shirt was torn off. She one-handed the rock, protecting her face as the remaining limbs scraped raw the flesh of her forearm.
In her blurred vision appeared a child’s pale bare foot. Fiona let go of the rock, grabbed the ankle with both hands and followed up the leg to the child’s waist, planting her feet in the maze of rocks on the river bottom and propelling herself up out of the water and into the snarl of tree branches. The tree limbs whipped and dug into her arms and face, demanding she release the child, but she would not let go.
At last, the tree passed and Fiona opened her eyes to see a little girl’s terrified eyes gazing back at her. The girl blinked and coughed and Fiona felt tears spring to her eyes.
The driver of the pickup appeared, lunging through the coursing water and extending an arm to Fiona, who held on to the crying child like life itself.
A smattering of applause arose from a small gathering of onlookers, camera phones extended, all of whom had pulled to the side of the road to help. Behind them towered the greening mountains that surrounded Ketchum and Sun Valley, above them the azure sky that had helped name this place.
Fiona held the child high in an effort to screen her own face, hoping to keep herself out of sight of the cameras.
The girl’s crying was steady now—a joyous sound. As Fiona briefly lost her balance to the uneven river bottom, the girl clutched her with an unexpected force.
“I won’t let go,” Fiona promised.
In the distance a siren wailed, an ambulance from St. Luke’s Hospital less than a mile away. Someone had called 911. More applause as the pickup driver led her to dry ground and Fiona dropped to her knees, never relaxing her embrace of the child, who in turn pressed herself closer to her rescuer.
“You’re okay. You’re okay,” Fiona whispered into the matted hair, as a dozen people rushed down the embankment and the pickup driver called out to give them room.
More cameras fired off shots, including her own, currently in Kira’s hands. Too many cameras to ever control. She could imagine the images already being sent over the Internet. One moment, anonymous in a sleepy Idaho town. The next . . . out there.
Helpless to do anything about it, she understood that this moment represented the saving of one life and quite possibly the loss of another: her own.
alt Fleming entered St. Luke’s emergency room to the stares his sheriff’s uniform typically provoked. Reaction was never neutral, and it affected him, to varying degrees. People were both afraid of and impressed by police. Everyone was guilty of some infraction, no matter how minor; it came down to how much of it they wore on their sleeves.
“Kenshaw!” he barked at the nurse behind the registration desk, never slowing a step. Despite his concern for the well-being of the child fished from the Big Wood River, he was impatient and tense about the condition of the child’s rescuer.