Chapter 36

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The disabling punch Howie Boy Collier had delivered to her torso incapacitated Petronia. The sharp pain in her liver wasn't a good sign, and she worried about internal injuries. She recovered enough during the helicopter flight to recognize the Harrisburg skyline and Harrisburg International Airport.

A Ford Explorer waited for the helicopter near a private terminal. Howie Boy helped her from the chopper. She groaned, barely able to breathe much less walk.

"Behave yourself, and I promise not to hit you again," Howie Boy told her.

She had no choice but to play along. One thing in her favor, this was her home turf and she knew the territory. As soon as he settled her into the backseat of the Explorer, Howie Boy pulled a black scarf from the glove box.

You'll need to wear this, doll." He tied the scarf around her eyes. "Don't take it off until I say so."

"Don't call me, doll." She wouldn't be able to take it off anyway. Her hands were still tied behind her back.

Pet heard the helicopter power up, likely on a return trip to the office tower in Philadelphia. She wondered if the pilot would report her abduction. Probably not. She heard the front door slam shut. Howie Boy started the engine.

"We're going to my family hunting lodge," he said. "I know you patrol Perry County, but I doubt if you've ever been to our lodge. It's very remote, way up in the mountains. The blindfold is precautionary. In the unlikely event you escape after we get there, you won't know which way to go."

Follow the water downstream, she thought. It would eventually lead to civilization. Apparently, Howie Boy hadn't been listening when she told him that back at his office. She found it encouraging, him making sure she wouldn't see where he was taking her. It meant he might not kill her right away.

"Only reason you're still breathing," he said, as if reading her mind, "you need to tell me who your witness is."

Petronia said nothing.

They drove for over an hour, the last ten minutes over a bumpy, rough road. She figured it was a dirt road or two-track up into the mountains. When the vehicle stopped, he let her out and unmasked her.

From the angle of the setting sun Petronia could determine they were on the north facing side of a mountain. The view was spectacular, if you liked seeing nothing but barren trees. They had shed their leaves weeks ago. Behind her stood a grove of pines. In the middle of the grove, a large log home with a green metal roof and stone chimney. A covered porch wrapped around the front and sides.

"Nice place," she uttered through her pain.

"Glad you like it," Howie Boy said. "You'll likely be here a while."

He led her up a wide staircase, unlocked a massive front door with a skeleton key, and motioned for her to enter. He flicked on the lights. They stood in a great room, a stone fireplace on the interior of the wall opposite the stone chimney she had seen from the outside. The furniture was mostly made of polished wood covered with cushions; the motif of the place decidedly rustic.

It reminded her a lot of the Inn of the Dancing Bear.

"Can you untie me?" she asked. "I really need to use a bathroom."

He unfastened the electric cord that bound her. She rubbed her wrists to get the blood flowing.

"Bathroom is that way." He pointed.

Pet found herself in a small, windowless, powder room. She locked the door and removed her blazer and blouse. Her belly was painted dark purple, almost black. Not good. After relieving herself, she checked for blood in her urine and felt a small measure of relief when she found none. Still, the pain she was experiencing meant serious trouble. She redressed and left the powder room.

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