Chapter 40

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Just about everyone knew smart phones could be tracked by law enforcement using the built-in GPS app. Howie Boy Collier had been wise to power off Pet's phone immediately after their conversation. What the man hadn't figured on was the active Find-my-iPhone app. Thanks to Barlow's foresight, the exact location now displayed on his screen.

He enlarged the scale and studied the image. The blue dot appeared on a Perry County mountainside in the middle of nowhere. "Where the heck was that location?" The nearest road was two miles away.

Had they hiked up a mountain? That made little sense. He guessed they had driven up a private access road not displayed on the map. Barlow realized he now had an advantage. Collier expected to meet him just after sunrise. He wasn't going to wait until then. He planned to use the cover of darkness to sneak to the location, hopefully find Pet, and get her away from danger.

As the evening wore on, the traffic became lighter and Barlow made good time. He arrived in Perry County just after eleven and drove slowly down the state road looking for an access leading up the mountain. In time, he realized he had driven too far and turned around. Overcast skies threatening snow left the night black, only the van's headlights illuminated the way.

After completing a second pass, Barlow grew despondent. Could he have been wrong? Could they have actually walked into the woods and up the mountain? Why would they do that? If so, wouldn't he find a parked vehicle somewhere along the road?

Then he wondered if an access road merged onto a different thoroughfare. Studying the display, he realized how unlikely that would be as the only other nearby road lay on the other side of the mountain.

Barlow turned around and tried a third time, crawling along at less than ten miles-per-hour. He didn't have to be concerned about obstructing anyone, because there was hardly any traffic on the rural road, especially at this hour. He almost missed it again. Tire tracks in the mud on the road's shoulder led to a nearly invisible cutoff. He eased onto the rough, unimproved road and stopped.

The blue dot blinked about two miles from his present location. Barlow had no idea if there was a direct line-of-sight from where Pet was being held. Collier and any other henchmen with him might detect his vehicle from far off. He also didn't know how far the sound from his motor would carry.

Knowing that the mountains were thick with trees—although the leaves were down—he decided to risk driving in halfway, about one mile. He'd find a place to park and then go on foot the rest of the way.

He drove at a snail's pace bouncing over every rocky bump. The construction van wasn't built for this kind of road, and he needed to be careful to not bottom out and puncture the oil pan. To Barlow's dismay, he realized the tree lined access road had no shoulder. There would be no place to park and no way to turn around.

For a moment, he experienced doubt. Barlow stopped driving. He was headed into unfamiliar territory at night with absolutely no weapon or even a solid plan. Pet needed him, so he could not screw this up. He wasn't going to allow anything bad happen to her. Barlow wished he had his Marine rifle. That reminder made him smile. He would rely on his training and his skills. Nobody was more adaptable to an unknown situation than a United States Marine.

Oorah!

He resumed driving, creeping along. Feeling tense as he drew ever-closer to the blue dot on his display, Barlow switched off his headlights.

He couldn't see a thing. That wasn't going to work. He didn't dare continue with his lights on. If there was any kind of security guard, he would be spotted. Barlow decided on his only other alternative. He pulled the van as far off the side of the lane as possible, his passenger door butting up against a tree trunk. Enough room remained that another vehicle might be able to squeeze by providing it wasn't too wide.

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