All at once, Sierra's world erupted into chaos. She saw a red light flicker on the paperwork in Detective Kincaid's hand as she heard Kahra barking aggressively. Jordan yelled something from the kitchen, but it was unintelligible over Kahra's barking and the crash as Deputy Jones bodyslammed the detective into her. A loud thump and screams came from near the doorway - Sierra peered out from under the two and saw Kahra had knocked Hannah to the floor from behind and kept her pinned, despite her cries.
"STAY DOWN!" Deputy Jones growled as he low-crawled to the window of the master bedroom; the red light danced around the room and blinked off. Sierra nodded as Detective Kincaid rolled off of her.
"Kahra, no bark," Sierra hissed, and the dog silenced. Looking Hannah in the eye, she continued,
"Hannah, are you hurt, or did Kahra just scare you? Whisper, okay?"
Eyes wide, Hannah whispered back, "I think I'm okay. She's so heavy!"
At 115 pounds, Kahra probably outweighed the girl, Sierra realized. "I'll tell her to get off, but you stay down and behind her, okay? She's doing her job right now, which is to help protect our family and friends. Let her do her job."
Hannah nodded as Sierra signaled Kahra to move off the child. Still alert, Kahra shifted her weight and let the girl slip out from under her. Hannah kept as still as she could, staying shoulder to shoulder with the large dog.
Detective Kincaid had unholstered her weapon and crawled over by the deputy. Whispering amongst themselves, they were clearly making a plan. Now that the barking had ceased, Sierra needed to communicate with her husband, and softly asked them, "Could you understand what Jordan yelled? I couldn't hear over Kahra and our commotion in here."
Deputy Jones shook his head. "I can try to get to them once we get a look out the window. Just hold on."
"I can call out, Deputy, just wanted to warn you before I do," Sierra explained. Jones nodded, so Sierra yelled, "CINCHouse plus four!"
From the other end of the house, Jordan hollered back, "CINC plus one!"
"They're okay," Sierra said, to puzzled looks. "I just told him I'm okay, as are you three and the dog; he and Luke are okay too. If anyone was injured, we'd do a different count. Now what, Deputy?"
Deputy Jones had taken that moment to pop up and take a look out the window. "I can't see anyone out front. Let's see if we can head into the hallway where we'll be a little better concealed, at least. Kincaid, why don't you go first, then Sierra, you and the girl with Kahra. I'll get the blinds down as much as I can and head up the rear. Whoever it is, if they are still out there, will know we're moving from the blinds closing, but it's better than them being able to see in that blasted mirror or something. Just stay low, okay? Wall board doesn't stop rounds."
Detective Kincaid made her way to Sierra, Hannah, and Kahra. "Will Kahra let me grab Hannah if need be?" she asked.
Sierra nodded. "She understands you're helping, Detective. We'll follow you."
As Jones grabbed the cord of the blinds, Kincaid grabbed Susie's paperwork off the bedroom floor and shoved it into her shirt. "Not pretty, but this will do for now. Hannah, I need you to pretend you're a snake. You're going to slither back out the door and into the hallway, right behind me. Kahra and Miss Sierra will follow us. Once we get into the hall, you can get onto your hands and knees a little, but stay low. More like a lizard, then, okay? Once you're where you can't be seen, Deputy Jones and I will go see what we can find outside."
They all looked to the deputy, who was speaking softly into the radio mic on his shoulder. He gave them a nod and they headed for the door as the blinds slapped and clattered down the window. "Moving!" Sierra called out, and heard "Move!" from Jordan.
As Sierra moved into the hallway, she was relieved to see Jordan's face across the large living room. He and Luke must have dashed from the kitchen and hit the floor there. The curtains across the back window and patio door from the dining room were closed, affording them a little better concealment than the uncovered kitchen and bedroom windows at the front of the house. A moment later, she heard Deputy Jones move up behind her. Jones tapped Sierra's foot and softly said he was going to move forward to Detective Kincaid. Sierra nodded and pressed against Kahra to let him pass.
"Backup's on the way," he said as he made his way forward. "Jordan, how are you guys? Wanna join us over here away from windows?"
Jordan nodded and motioned for Luke to follow him. Deputy Jones angled to watch the foyer area and Detective Kincaid watched the living space. Once the entire group was together, Jones gave them an update. "I've radioed in - we've got cars on the way. Jordan and Sierra, one of you should contact your kids. Kincaid, can you call the Liberty Heights gates and see who has come and gone, and if somebody can head to their house, and also here? Tell them not to approach if anybody's out there, just let us know what it looks like out there."
"Already on it," Detective Kincaid replied. "I'm texting Teddy right now - he's got Barrow on the way to the Fitzpatricks' and ... wait one."
As the detective read the incoming texts, Sierra called home. Caisson answered the phone and Sierra heard Ruger barking in the background.
"Mom? I was just about to call you guys! Ruger's going bonkers over here!" she hollered over the dog.
"Cass, has anyone been to the house?" Sierra asked.
"Nobody came up, but there was a black SUV that pulled partway into the driveway, then backed out again. They didn't stay out there or anything - they were turning around. Then Ruger started going berserk," Caisson replied. "He's going from door to door and then your bedroom."
"Okay, okay - he's not going to stop until he feels you guys are safe. Tell everybody to go to our room with him and lock the door. Go NOW," Sierra told her as Jordan nodded. Sierra listened as Caisson told her siblings the plan, and heard their movements and Caisson's breathing as they hustled to the master bedroom. She called for Ruger, who stopped barking and apparently joined them in the room. Cadence got on the line next.
"Cass is locking the door, Mom, and everyone else is in the closet. Should we call 911?" she asked. Unable to suppress a little giggle, she added, "I'm sorry, this is scary but too cute - Ruger's herding Cass into the closet with us now."
Jordan chuckled a little hearing that, head bowed next to Sierra's by her phone. "Don't call 911, Cadence - the police are already on their way. We had something happen over here and Deputy Jones already got them on his radio. You might hear somebody at the front door - Detective Kincaid says Mr. Barrow is coming over from one of the gates to watch the house until we can get back over. Don't worry about letting him in, just stay there for now, and let him focus on the outside of the house, okay? Cass said there was an SUV in the driveway - could any of you see the people in it or the license plate?"
"We couldn't see it from here very well, but... what?" Sierra heard someone talking in the background, then Cadence continued, "Ranger says his camera might have gotten something. We can check that on the computer later."
"Ranger and his technology," Sierra laughed, then stopped as she heard Ruger begin to bark again and Kahra alerted. Deputy Jones leaned his ear to his radio and said, "The cavalry's here. Nobody out front. Detective, it's your call - do you want to stay with these folks or head out there?"
Hannah made that decision for them, saying, "I want Miss Kincaid, please." Jones nodded and stood to join the other officers. Detective Kincaid turned to Sierra and Jordan and said, "Barrow's at your place, Teddy's en route from the General's, and Castile says they've seen the usual ton of black SUVs coming and going. It could've been anybody at your house."
Sierra relayed the pertinent information to Cadence, who told the other kids, then handed the phone to Jordan. Jordan said, "Cadence, hold the phone out by Ruger, please. Clearly he's so amped he's not listening to you guys well."
Jordan gave commands to Ruger to wait and listen, and guard the kids, then told Cadence they'd be home as soon as the deputies outside cleared everything up. After hanging up, he looked at Detective Kincaid. "So now what?"
The detective sighed. "No shots fired where we were. What did you guys see? What were you yelling?"
"Luke and I were talking, waiting for all of you, when I saw the red dot from a laser sight on Luke's chest. Then it blinked off again. I shoved him down and yelled for you guys. All I said was 'get down, get down' and then Kahra started barking and I heard all the crashing down there."
Luke rubbed his head a bit and nodded along. "Turns out my head will bounce really hard on that tile floor Mom picked. Yeesh. Detective, can I press charges on Jordan?"
Detective Kincaid snorted and responded, "That's not the first time a teenager almost broke a tile floor. I bet it wants to press charges too!" Then she continued, "So two of us were sighted in, but no shots were taken. Either we've got somebody really bumbling things or they are trying to scare the beejabbers out of anybody in this house. What the heck is going ON?"
Deputy Jones returned and said, "None of us could see anything. The police tape wasn't messed with - if anybody came into the driveway, they stayed on the other side of the curve from where Mrs. Smith was killed. We're clear to get you guys home, then I'll drop you at your place, Detective."
"Your place?" Jordan asked.
"Yes - my husband and I actually live here in Liberty Heights. We just moved in a week ago! My unmarked died at work today, and I was in the middle of arranging for a ride home from Deputy Jones when you folks called and asked about getting the kids their things," Detective Kincaid explained.
"I had no idea we're neighbors!" Sierra said. "That's awfully handy. Deputy Jones, don't tell me you live here too?"
Jones shook his head. "Naw, not me. That'd be way too much of a weird coincidence, wouldn't it? I live on a farm about fifteen miles west of here; it's been in our family for a hundred years now. My brother does the farming, I work the day job that pays the property taxes and all the stuff that needs fixing on a farm that old. I pass Liberty Heights on my way to work each morning - been watching this place grow since it was a twinkle in the General's eye."
Jordan and Sierra exchanged a look - now they finally had an answer to why Deputy Jones was only a mile away when Susie was shot. But who was the shooter - and what was in that paperwork Detective Kincaid now had? Sierra desperately wanted to get home to her children, her notebook, and Ranger's security camera footage.