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Critical Error 53

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“Yes, it’s me.” Listening to the scrape of the deadbolt against metal, the door was barely opened when he pushed inside.  “Are the kids back yet?”

“No.”

“Come with me.  We’re going to round them up and get them back here.”

“Why, what’s going on?”

“The officer assigned to this case has disappeared.  We put out an APB and we’re expecting word any minute.  Until then, I want everyone together.”

“Do you think his disappearance is connected?”

“I don’t know yet.  I hope not.  Where is that flashlight I left with you?”

Eilea retrieved the light and handed it to him.  They headed out the door; Eilea’s hands shook so badly she was having trouble getting the key in the lock.  “Here, let me.”  Paul took the keys from her trembling hands and locked the door.  They jogged down the beach, looking for the kids.

They weren’t anywhere to be seen.  “Christina, Theresa, Andrew,” they called.  A few minutes past and they repeated their chant but changed the names to include Brandon and Cliff.  Jogging on, shining their flashlight into every nook and cranny as they went, they called out again.  No answer.  Paul said, “Listen!”

He heard something coming from the bushes.  “Christina, Andrew?”  Nothing.  “Stay here.  I’m going to check it out.”  Taking the flashlight Paul approached cautiously.  He heard moaning. “Who’s there?”  He moved forward.  “I said, who’s there?”  Hearing another moan, he inched forward.

To his amazement, a man pitched forward and landed at his feet.  Paul bent down and turned him over.  It seemed he’d found Officer Murdock, the missing cop.

“Officer Murdock, can you hear me?”  He was pretty badly beaten.  Damn!

“Eilea, do you see the kids yet?”

“It looks like they might be coming down the beach, there’s a group coming this way, but they’re still too far away to identify.”

“Here, wave the flashlight at them.”  When she did, three lights flashed in response.

“It must be, they’re waving flashlights now too.”

“I want you to take them back to the cabin with you and call an ambulance.  This officer needs help.  Then get back here, all of you!”

“Yep, it’s them and they’re running this way.”

“What’s up?”  Theresa asked.

“Come with me, we have to get help, this man has been injured.”

“I’ll stay here!”  Andrew suggested

“No, Andrew, I want you all together.  If the person that did this is still here, he’ll only have one target to go after and that’s me.  Now go, hurry!”  Paul’s words brooked no argument for they weren’t a statement but more of a command.

Without any further bidding, they moved swiftly and did as Paul suggested.  Turning his attention back to the man that lay on the ground and took his pulse, which although acceptable wasn’t nearly as strong as he would have liked.  He rolled him onto his side to prevent choking.  Harold’s face was cut and bruised.  A quick examination told him little else.  It would have taken a lot to bring him down.  He was every bit as muscled as his serg. had suggested.  The only way anyone could have inflicted those kinds of injuries on Murdock was if he hadn’t seen it coming and they’d used something substantial to strike him with.

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