Home > Midnight Dunes (The Texas Murder Files #3)

Midnight Dunes (The Texas Murder Files #3)
Author: Laura Griffin

 

 

CHAPTER

 

 

   ONE

   Macey Burns drove through the drumming rain, gripping the wheel until her knuckles were white.

   “Are you here yet?” Josh asked.

   “I’m running late,” she told him over the phone. “I hit traffic leaving town and then it’s been pouring the last two hours. I just crossed the bridge.”

   “It’s—”

   Noise drowned out his words.

   “What?” she asked.

   “It’s a causeway. No one calls it a bridge here.”

   “I can barely hear you. Where are you?”

   “At that bar I told you about, the one with the pool tables,” he said. “You’re going to love it.”

   Macey tore her gaze away from the highway to check the clock. It was almost eleven, and what should have been a four-hour drive had taken more than five.

   “Sounds good, but not tonight. I haven’t even found the house yet, and I still need to unpack the car.”

   “That’s okay. I’m about to leave anyway. Where are you, exactly?”

   “I think I may have missed the turn,” she told him. “I just passed a sign that said, ‘White Dunes Park, five miles.’ ”

   “No, it should be coming up on your right. You’ll see it.”

   Josh had been on the island all week scouting locations and already knew his way around.

   “You need help unpacking?” he asked.

   “I’m good.”

   “So, hey, heads up. I just found out that Channel Six is down here.”

   “Channel Six from San Antonio?”

   “Yeah, Rayna and her crew. They’re reporting on that woman who went missing two weeks ago. She disappeared without a trace.”

   Macey had read an article about it online. It was the type of story that normally would have captivated her attention, but she’d managed to push it out of her mind.

   “We’re not here to do news,” she reminded him.

   “No kidding. I just thought you’d want to know. In case you see them in town.”

   Rayna had once been Macey’s fiercest rival, but that was months ago, before Macey walked away from her job and her life and the endless slog of the twenty-four-hour news cycle.

   Her tires hit a slick patch, and she clenched the wheel. She didn’t want to think about her old job right now. She just wanted to get to her destination. Her shoulders were in knots from the drive, and she wanted a glass of wine and a steamy shower.

   “So, are we still on for tomorrow?” she asked Josh. “Nine o’clock?”

   “Assuming the weather clears. No use scouting locations in the rain.”

   “It’s supposed to be beautiful,” she said. “Let’s start on the north end. We can meet at my beach house.”

   Beach house. She pictured the sun-drenched deck overlooking the surf. She’d been daydreaming about it since she first found the listing.

   “Sure you don’t need help with the equipment?” Josh asked.

   “I can handle it.”

   “Okay, well, see you tomorrow, then.”

   She ended the call and squinted through the swishing wipers at the sign up ahead: White Dunes Park, 2 Miles.

   A strobe of lightning lit the sky, revealing empty fields on either side of the two-lane highway. She was well past the tourist center of Lost Beach, past the hotels and restaurants and T-shirt shops.

   She hit a bump, and the car jerked right. Her heart skipped a beat as the Honda fishtailed and skidded. She clenched the wheel and tried to get control, but it careened onto the shoulder with a jaw-rattling thunk. She jabbed the brakes and slammed to a halt.

   Macey blinked at the windshield, shocked. Her heart raced as she tried to catch her breath. The car was tilted, and the headlights illuminated a patch of weeds and a gravelly strip of shoulder.

   Macey put the gearshift in park and shoved open the door. She started to get out, but the seat belt yanked her back. Unbuckling it, she slid out. Rain pelted her as she looked around in a daze.

   What the hell had happened? One second she’d been driving along and the next second it was like aliens had seized control of the car. And she’d definitely felt a bump. Had she hit something?

   Glancing at the road, she saw no other traffic. She retrieved her cell phone and slammed the door. Her wet flip-flops thwacked against the gravel as she walked around the front of the Honda and checked for damage. No dents. No sign of an animal.

   She stopped beside the front bumper. The right tire was flat.

   “Crap.”

   She switched on her cell phone’s flashlight and aimed it at the tire. Rain streamed down her face and neck. What now? She turned off the flashlight and called Josh, but he didn’t pick up, so she sent him a text:

        SOS! Flat tire. Call me.

 

   A car raced past and sprayed her with water. She yelped and whirled around, but the driver didn’t even slow. Cursing, she glanced up and down the highway. This end of the island was fairly desolate—mostly campgrounds and nature parks. She’d passed a marina, but that was a ways back.

   When she’d planned her trip down here, she had wanted seclusion. After weeks of scouring listings, she’d been ecstatic when a long-term rental popped up on the island’s north end, just footsteps from the beach. The idea of being away from town, surrounded by sand and waves and the soundtrack of nature, had been immensely appealing. But now she wasn’t sure. Maybe she should have followed Josh’s advice and rented an apartment in town for the summer.

   Macey shivered and rubbed her bare arms, chilled from the rain despite the warm temperature. Her tank top and jeans were already soaked through, and she was out here alone and stranded.

   I can handle it.

   Ha. Famous last words.

   She went back around the Honda and reached inside once again, this time to pop the trunk. It was a new-to-her car, and she didn’t know the spare tire situation, but surely there was something in back. Macey had helped a boyfriend change a tire in college once. Well, maybe not helped, but she’d watched, and it had seemed pretty straightforward.

   She tromped back to the trunk and slid aside the tripod and the suitcase filled with camera equipment. After finding the corner tab, she peeled back the layer of carpet.

   Score! A spare tire, along with a heavy metal tool—a lug wrench?—and what had to be a jack.

   But the spare seemed . . . off. She frowned down at the anemic-looking tire. Pressing her fingers against it, she confirmed her suspicion.

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