51 ~ Ryan

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The radio receiver rode on the dashboard of the SUV as Ryan and Bronson barreled down the highway toward Belt. Ryan knew Felix was safe and in the hands of the Montana State Police, but she had slipped away from him before and he wouldn't believe it until he saw her with his own eyes. Apparently, she had succumbed to her hunger and eaten the chicken sandwich she'd turned down earlier, removing the transmitter to enjoy her meal. When she put the transmitter back in, she took the opportunity to talk to Ryan directly.

"Hi, Ryan, and hi to anyone else listening to this transmission. I'm sitting in The Quiet Lark Motel in Belt, Montana with a couple of officers from the Montana State Police. The others have taken Jordy to jail, but you probably already know that. I'm sorry he won't be here so you can kick him in the groin, Ryan, but it's just as well. He looked miserable sitting there with no one to point his gun at. I hope your leg isn't giving you too much trouble. I figure you're on your way here even though you should be at home resting. You're a credit to your profession."

Ryan smiled, ignoring Bronson's head shake.

"Anyway, I've been doing some research on my laptop and I was able to tap into a bank account Donovan has been using based in Great Falls. After some trial and error that got me locked out of a local utility company's database, I came up with an address to a home that might belong to him. Seven twenty-five Crooked Branch Road, about six miles northwest of here. The officers know exactly where it is and they're rounding up a posse to head there shortly. If my suspicions are correct, he'll be there all night. I'm looking forward to seeing Donovan dressed in orange. I just hope I'm not wearing the same color when I face him in court. Shit, I'm starting to depress myself. Get here soon. All this fresh air is messing with my head."

It wasn't more than fifteen minutes after Felix's last transmission that Ryan and Bronson pulled up to The Quiet Lark Motel. Clearly, the place had been there as long as the mountains had, and despite the lack of streetlights, Ryan had no trouble hobbling to the motel room as the door swung open. Felix stood in a pool of yellow light, her silhouette illuminated like an angel who had traded her wings for tattoos. He much preferred the tattoos. She acknowledged Bronson with a nod before greeting Ryan with a full-on smile.

"You didn't have to come all the way to Montana to rescue me, but I'm glad you did." She gave his hand a squeeze then quickly let go as she glanced around for witnesses.

"I promised to protect you, Felix, and I never go back on a promise. Besides, I wanted to be the one to tell you the good news."

"Good news? I could really use some of that right now."

Ryan closed the door and sat on the end of the bed, tugging her down next to him. The warmth from her body felt like a salve, immediately soothing him. It was the first time he'd relaxed since she'd been snatched out from under him. Actually, he'd been under her the last time they were together, which was the memory he'd been revisiting ever since.

"Your ex Andy was singing like a canary after one night behind bars. He threw your mutual friend, Shane, under the bus, absolving you of any wrongdoing. And we uncovered something about Dr. Florence. He lost his license to practice a few years ago for ethical misconduct. We believe Donovan capitalized on this and instructed him to use drugs and coercion to plant false memories in your head, keeping you confused about your involvement in the crimes. There is nothing concrete implicating you in either murder, so there's a high probability you won't be wearing prison orange when you face your former associates in court. You can put it all behind you and start focusing on your future."

"That's the best news I've heard in nearly three years." Felix hugged herself as she shivered, and Ryan leaned in, brushing her hair off her shoulder and letting his knuckles subtly graze the curve of her chin, although he wanted to do so much more. "There's something I don't quite get, though," she went on. "Why would Donovan need me to do his dirty deeds when he had a whole troop of henchmen?"

"I think he was using you as an experiment. You were already seeing a hypnotherapist, and you were susceptible to suggestion when you were under. Why not add the drug component and completely fuck with your memories? Based on Andy's testimony, you were a witness to both murders. You were even instructed to put your hands on the victims, both of whom were sedated at the time of their death. But it was Shane who ultimately did the deed. I'm guessing they were warming you up to the idea. Who knows what their plans were after that."

"That's twisted and sick, and I won't feel any guilt when Donovan is caught and strung up by his balls. Until then, I still have to worry about my family's safety."

"You shouldn't have to worry much longer. We've got local agents and officers following up the lead you gave us. Bronson and I will only be called in if the situation gets hairy. All we have to do is sit tight and wait for confirmation that your nemesis has been apprehended. The only flaw in the plan is if Donovan calls and Jordy is not around to answer the phone."

He gestured to Jordy's cellphone sitting on the table just as the damn thing rang, and everyone in the room looked at the name 'Donovan' light up the screen.

Felix groaned. "Well, isn't that fucking peachy."

PLAYLIST SONG: American Money by BORNS

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