Home > High Stakes (High Mountain Trackers #2)

High Stakes (High Mountain Trackers #2)
Author: Freya Barker







“How can I help you?”

The woman behind the desk has a friendly smile, but her eyes are cautious.

“I have a reservation. Antonella Freling.”

I picked the Sandman Motel because I can park right in front of my unit, which I prefer.

“Ah, yes. I have you here. Four nights?”


“You requested the end unit with a kitchenette?”

“That’s correct.”

I’m not here to see the sights or waste money and time on eating out. Much cheaper and faster to pick up some groceries and fend for myself. I keep a small cooler in my van for drinks and something to eat in case I’m out all day.

She slides a form across the desk and I quickly fill it out before handing it back to her.

“I’ll need a credit card, please.”

I look around the small front office and shudder at the pictures of proud hunters with their prize kills. My dislike must’ve shown on my face.

“Not here for hunting, I gather?” she inquires, a little smirk on her face.

“No. Not a fan,” I admit.

I’m the biggest hypocrite on two legs because I won’t say no to a good steak from a poor anonymous cow, who never had a chance to start with, but I can’t bring myself to try game meat from an animal at least able to live its life free. Somebody offers me venison and all I can envision is Bambi with those big brown eyes.

My meat comes shrink-wrapped in plastic so I can keep my emotional detachment. I tried a vegetarian lifestyle for a little over a year but found it a challenge living in a small mountain town in British Columbia, Canada. My first juicy burger after that episode was a purely orgasmic experience.

She smiles, a sparkle in her eyes. “We cater to a lot of hunters, but they won’t be coming in until next week when the season opens. Until the fifteenth only bowhunting is allowed and there aren’t that many of those. Mostly locals anyway.”

I mock-wipe my brow and smile back as she hands me the key card.

“Unit twenty-three is yours.”

“Thank you. Oh, where can I find the closest grocery store?”

“Just down the road. It’ll be on your right-hand side as you get into town. Rosauers, you can’t miss it. If you need anything else, my name is Martha.”

“Thanks so much, Martha.”

I’m almost out the door when I think of the more important question.

“The police station, is it easy to find?”

After shooting me a curious look, she gives me directions. The station is only a few minutes from the grocery store, so I’ll head there first and pick up supplies after.

My unit is nothing special. A generic motel room with an art-by-numbers painting on the wall over two double beds, a dresser holding a TV, a functional—and thankfully clean—bathroom, and beside it a tiny kitchenette with microwave, hotplate, coffee maker, and a bar-size fridge. It’ll do.

I spend twenty minutes putting my stuff away, toiletries lined up on the small vanity in the bathroom, some things in the dresser, and the rest of my clothes on hangers in the narrow closet. It does little to give the room more personality. I don’t own much aside from work clothes and those are all rather drab in grays, blacks, and some muted tans. No color other than the single pair of jeans I own.

Hiding my light under a bushel, that’s what Pippa always tells me. She’s my opposite in every way: colorful, exuberant, and adventurous. I’m a strictly inside-the-lines person, while she breaks every conventional rule she can.

I went to the University of British Columbia studying library and information sciences, while she went to trade school to become a mechanic.

As different as we are—coming from the same nest—we’ve always been close. Especially after our parents died in a house fire eighteen years ago. We’re all the other has, which is why I can’t simply sit around and wait to hear something. I need to find her.

The Libby Police Station is a nondescript red brick building and I snag a parking spot when a vehicle backs out.

“Yes?” The not so friendly officer behind the desk looks at me like I’m here to confess a crime.

I automatically feel guilty, even though I’m pretty sure I haven’t broken any rules in the past few decades.

“Is Officer Franklin available? I spoke with him on the phone the day before yesterday. My name is Antonella Freling.”

“He’s on patrol. What is it regarding?”

“I filed a missing person report on my sister, Fillippa Freling, with him.”

He types the name into her computer.

“Right. I have it here. It says she drives a motorhome?”


“And you haven’t heard from her since August twenty-sixth.”

“Correct. I was hoping perhaps you’d found out something more?”

“Doesn’t look like it. We’ll continue to keep an eye out for the vehicle.”

His tone is dismissive, much like Officer Franklin had been when I filed the report. I don’t know why I thought a visit here would have a different result. Maybe a bit more urgency, but it doesn’t look like that’ll be the case.

I get it, my sister is a bit of a nomad, roaming the continent, often staying off the grid but she would always let me know where she’d be and for how long. Exactly what she did this time. Except she was coming home, she said she’d be there on Monday. Only two-and-a-half hours to get from Libby to Cranbrook, British Columbia, it’s not like she had a long way to go.

I know my sister. If she had run into any trouble causing a delay, or even in the unlikely event something changed her mind about visiting, she would’ve let me know.

Unfortunately, my gut feeling Pippa is in trouble doesn’t go very far with law enforcement. I can’t really blame them, from what I understand quite a few people go missing in these mountains, exposed to the elements, so they’re not going to waste resources on a woman who travels in her home. Not unless I have something more concrete to give them, which is why I’m here.

My boss wasn’t happy with the short notice I’d be taking time off, but that can’t be helped.

My bread and butter is research so I’m not entirely unprepared. I know what to look for, I have every camping app downloaded on my phone, and I have the name of someone who might be able to help me.

If only he’d call me back, I’ve already left a couple of messages. If I haven’t heard anything by tomorrow, I’ll chase him down.

I’ll do what I have to do, to find Pippa.





“Who the fuck do you think you are?”

I don’t bother answering.

The punk is squirming, but I have my knee in the middle of his back with my full weight on it. I pull a few zip ties from my pack and strap his wrists together.

Then I sit him up, right next to the young bear he shot with his goddamn hunting rifle. I prop the rifle up against the bear as well. Next, I pull out my phone and take a bunch of pictures while the kid is swearing at me. Every time he tries to get up, I kick his feet back out from under him.

It’s easy for me to tune him out, I’ve had lots of practice. My hearing has gotten very selective after years of living in virtual silence. The only thing that penetrated it was the rifle shot earlier. Startled me so bad I fucking dove right for the dirt. It took me a few seconds to register what I heard, then I was on my feet and aiming straight for the excited laughing I heard down the trail.

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