Chapter 38

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Philadelphia rush hour traffic on Friday afternoon was a nightmare. Barlow inched his way north toward the PA turnpike. The traffic wasn't his only frustration. The Find-My-iPhone app for Pet's phone continued to display: Offline.

"Why did you turn off your phone?" After mulling over in his head what to do, Barlow concluded the most likely scenario was Pet had been on the helicopter. If she had gone willingly, she would have called him. That meant Uriah Collier had taken her. But where? What had gone wrong during the meeting?

After inspecting Collier's office, Barlow figured he had three choices. He could call the police, he could sit in the van and wait, or he could return to Pet's mother's house. Calling the police didn't seem to be a good option yet. He would have to divulge everything. Could he trust word wouldn't somehow get back to the people responsible for shutting down the case? That could make things worse for Pet.

Sitting in the van was also out. No way could he remain idle, hoping that Pet would contact him.

He decided to drive. The helicopter had taken a flight path due west, the same direction as Perry County. He hoped that sooner or later Pet would call or text. When that happened, he wanted to be out of the city and closer to her location.

Then there was the issue of Mrs. Henning, Pet's mother. If he arrived back at the house without her, how could he explain it? He might be able to get away with not returning until the morning. She would assume the two of them had stayed over somewhere, but wouldn't it be out of character for Pet to not call and tell her?

Maybe not. Barlow got the vibe that Mrs. Henning had been secretly hoping he and her daughter would become a couple again. Maybe she would interpret Pet's silence as progress being made in that direction. It might give her second thoughts about calling Pet's phone, because she wouldn't want to interrupt what might possibly be happening. Maybe if she did call and it went to voice mail, Mrs. Henning would think Pet didn't want to be disturbed while with him.

Maybe pigs would someday fly.

Barlow squeezed the steering wheel. The uncertainty of it all made his gut churn. Traffic crept along. How could anybody deal with a commute like this every day?

By the time he reached the turnpike entrance, the last rays of afternoon sun were fading. The traffic had thinned, so Barlow could finally make time. He hated the idea of stopping, but about half way back to Perry County he needed a rest room. He pulled into a service plaza for a quick pit stop and decided to also order a large coffee. It could end up being a long night.

Getting back into his van, Barlow set the coffee in the console cup holder and closed his eyes. While in the Marines, he hadn't been involved in many combat situations. Being stationed in a hostile country, though, always left him feeling edgy. Not scared, just anxious. What Barlow felt now was fear. If something happened to Pet, he wouldn't know how to go on. He would never get over the guilt of allowing her to enter that office building alone, even though she had insisted on doing so.

When his phone chimed, Barlow opened his eyes and stopped breathing. Pet's phone had come back online. The Find-My-iPhone app displayed a remote area of Perry County, the flashing blue dot showing the location of Pet's phone.

His phone rang. The caller ID showed Pet, and Barlow never felt more relieved.

He accepted the call. "Hello, Pet?"

From the other end of the line, he was greeted with silence.

From the other end of the line, he was greeted with silence

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