Wow, thanks. The response to this story has been great. I really appreciate it. Since you've all been awesome, and since it's my birthday tomorrow, I'm giving y'all a present and posting today;)

In this chapter we get a little bit of an insight on what happened to Steph, along with a discovery:O

Disclaimer: The Plum universe belongs to JE.

I snuck in the vehicle before Ranger got in, brushing against his right side. I settled in the passenger seat, no longer trying to decipher how it was possible for me to 'sit'. Ranger angled inside, taking another moment to collect himself. He could definitely feel my presence and though I was likely scaring the crap out of him, it gave me a sense of relief. Maybe this isn't the end for me.

The drive was spent in silence. Ranger and the guys were communicating via radios, but the closer we got to the Pine Barrens the more interference there seemed to be.

Everyone knew their starting points and got to work, keeping in constant communication. Ranger's search origin was the spot of my last known location. He stopped on the side of the road and got out. I followed, barely squeezing by before the door slammed shut.

There was a blackened piece of land, marking the location of the explosion. The guys must have dealt with the removal of my charred POS of a car earlier. Ranger walked around the area, taking in every detail.

While I was watching Ranger inspecting the site, a shiver ran through me. For a second there I was the one who got spooked, remembering some of the stuff I've heard about these lands. Growing up, I heard legends about this place along with supposed recounts of strange encounters. I have to admit I've always been a sort of closet believer, having myself been dragged through here on more than one occasion during my bounty hunting years.

But this feeling, a sort of pull I was sensing, was something completely different. And it was frightening.

Ranger was ready to explore a different area, checking the surroundings on his handheld GPS device.


I have no idea how long it had been since the beginning of the search, but sunlight was quickly diminishing. But that didn't stop Ranger. He was prepared for the dark, having some heavy duty flashlights handy. I guess he wasn't about to give up until I turned up.

"Hey, man." Lester's voice came over the radio, informing Ranger that he and Hal found Bakerowski hiding in an abandoned shack a good distance from us.

And just like that I remembered the explosion. I'd been after Travis Bakerowski. He'd been pulled over for a traffic violation. The officer found explosives and weapons in the car and that was that. He's worth decent capture money and so my search began.

I'm hazy on the details, but I remember spotting him in lower Stark. I began a car pursuit, since I was made easily. I think he threw something my way during the chase and I got out of the car as soon as I saw fire. There was a boom and then I don't know what else happened.

I started feeling anxious, after having remembered a key part of the series of events.

Ranger frowned at the radio, listening to Lester inform that Bakerowski was my latest skip. I'm not surprised the guys found out about that, they're very well connected. When Lester was done talking, Ranger barked out some orders.

Ranger continued searching while Lester handled operation 'get Bakerowski talking'.


It got dark, but Ranger wasn't quitting. He was determined, a man on a mission and I was keeping close. With every step I felt dizzy, a wave of different emotions slamming against me with every passing second. There was a point where the sticky pressure like sensations intensified, becoming thicker somehow and slowing me down.

Ranger walked into a puddle, his combat boot glistening when it came out of the water. I grimaced when I felt the water on my feet.

Wait a minute? I looked down, again noting I was slightly hovering over the ground. If I wasn't standing on water, how could I feel that my feet were wet? I felt this lump in my throat, like when your heart starts racing with anxiety.

Water! I was by the water!

"Ranger!" I tried my hardest, yelling at the top of my lungs in hopes that Ranger would hear me. He stopped dead in his tracks. He had his GPS thingy out, marking his location. I looked to our left, where the GPS indicated there was a body of water. And judging by the strange, almost suffocating sensation, maybe my body was over there too.

Ranger took a step forward and I yelled again, telling him to go to the left. He stopped again, eyes scanning the trees around us. I got frustrated, realizing Ranger might just move away from me. Well, away from my body. I couldn't let that happened. This could be the only chance of finding me in time, I hoped.

I swatted the back of his head, intent on making contact with his cap. Of course, it didn't fall or even move an inch off his head. All my failed attempt accomplished was to raise the hairs on the back of Ranger's neck. I groaned, feeling desperate. Time was running out.

I tried to coax Ranger to follow me by grabbing his left arm, tugging with all the strength I could muster. There was an electrifying feeling, followed by a cold gush of wind. Ranger's cap went with the air, tumbling the way I wanted him to go.

Shit, what they'd said about these woods was right. Some seriously freaky stuff happens here.

Ranger caught his favorite cap quickly, his attention focused ahead of him. I don't know if it was divine intervention or some weird energy shift, but Ranger moved closer to the water.

"Babe!" The shine of his flashlight passed over a bulge, letting us spot a body. Ranger hurried to the embankment, where I was partially buried under a pile of branches and dirt. My feet were indeed in the water, causing another shiver to run through me.

Ranger brushed off branches, careful not to move me. He used his radio to call for backup, but couldn't communicate. No battery. He cursed, shrugging out of his jacket to throw it over my unmoving form.

Gosh, I looked horrible. There was blood on the side of my face and even under the flashlight I looked pale. He took out his phone, dialing a number. The call was answered, but there was a lot of interference. Ranger shouted his coordinates into the phone, looking at his flickering handheld GPS. The phone died before there was a response.

"Go. Get help." I said to him. He looked so vulnerable, and it was so unlike him. It's true he's come to my rescue more than once in the past, always being my kick-ass Ranger. I'd never seen him this scared, his emotions completely dominating his features. And it made me sad to think of the possibility that I was probably already dead. Or about to die. Not so much for me, but for him. If the state he's in right now, completely terrified and desperate, is any indication… I don't even want to think about the shape he would be in if I…

"Go!" I shouted, urging him to leave. If this is how I'm going to go, I'd rather he not be here watching helplessly as I waste away.

"No!" Ranger growled, saying he couldn't leave because he was the help.

Oh. My. God.

He heard me.