Have you ever made a mistake in love? Did that mistake almost kill you?
M.C. ('Mac') Shefflington thought she finally escaped Tom Donaldson and her terrible past. She started to relax at her new home in Minnesota when the hang-up calls and tailgating started again, the same things that Tom used to do. Mac knows he's come back into her life.
Retired Sheriff Harry Mortonson is willing to help her because that might alleviate the guilt he feels about his own past and a woman he didn’t help, years ago. But when he meets Mac, he gets far more than he bargained for, including falling in love with her and protecting her from the crazy man who's stalking her.
In the end, it's up to Mac to lure Tom into a trap on one of Minnesota's frozen lakes where she, Harry, and Tom have one final confrontation. If she can succeed, she’ll save Harry and they’ll have a chance for a new life together. But if she fails, Tom wins and Mac will have to live her past—again.
Next to his bed, Harry’s land-line phone rang. He peered at the illuminated face of his bedside clock. Midnight. He threw back the covers and raced downstairs to the den. He got to the phone on the fourth ring, pressing record on the old tape machine as he picked up.
“Listen, Barney Fife. I meant it. Stay away.”
Harry sat down behind the desk, tucking his feet up on the wheels of his chair and away from the cold floor. “Why should I? For all I know, you’ve gone into hiding again. Why should I be afraid of you?”
“I know you’re not an idiot, so why are you doing this?”
“Maybe I like Mac.”
Donaldson made a dismissive noise. “You just met her. I don’t believe that.”
“Maybe I remember ’Nam, too.”
There was a pause. “You weren’t in the same war I was.”
“You weren’t captured and tortured. You weren’t held in a cage for months. You weren’t—” The voice stopped, then resumed in a calmer tone. “Stay out of it. I don’t plan to hurt Mac. I just want to finish what I started.”
Harry pulled over his Happy Bunny memo book. Donaldson? POW? “What does that mean? If you finish what you started, she’ll be dead.”
“That was an accident. It wasn’t supposed to get out of hand. It was a mistake. I was doing some serious drugs then and it got out of hand. No, I just want what’s coming to me, then I can go back. My pawns are in place, the rooks are dead and the knights are hamstrung. Stay out of the way and you won’t get hurt.”
Pawns? Rooks? Knights? Damn. It had been years since Harry played chess. He remembered Mac’s words—Tom was a math genius. It would make sense the bastard played chess. Harry struggled to remember the pieces and their allowed movements. “What about the bishops? I suppose Mac is the Queen?”
Donaldson laughed. “Sure, she’s the Queen. You can’t have a King without a Queen, right? And I suppose you could say the bishops are wandering around, mostly blocked.”
“King?” Harry was writing frantically, scribbling notes as Donaldson talked.
“It’s all up to Mac. Once she puts him into play, we can wrap this up. But she has to move him out of hiding. So stay out of the way and you won’t get hurt.”
“Who am I?” Harry looked down at his notes. “Looks like all the pieces are accounted for.”
“You’re just another pawn, Mortonson. And you know what happens to them.” He hung up.
Harry touched the stop button and the old answering machine shut off. He went to the bookcase next to the window and peered up at the shelves, touching various book spines before pulling down a tattered copy of his old Boy Scout Handbook. He carried it back upstairs and tucked in under Order the cat’s warm bulk, finally finding what he was looking for.
Pawns could change roles during the course of a match.
Maybe not all of Mac’s knights were hamstrung.
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