Today is the final day of my week-long introduction to my brand-new thriller, THE LONELY MILE ($2.99 from StoneHouse Ink). Here we go with Chapters Eight and Nine...
—Martin shoved the girl hard, directly at the guy. The pair went down instantly in a tangle of arms and legs, crashing to the tile floor with a thud.
The moment they fell, he turned and sprinted for the entrance, barely slowing as he raced through the glass double doors, smashing into them and rocking them back on their hinges. He burst into the brutal May heat radiating off acres of pavement and sprinted toward his truck, passing the confused sheep who had been lucky enough to rush out the plaza doors at the onset of the confrontation. They huddled in groups of two or three, staring dumbly at him, no one quick or daring enough to try and stop him.
Martin tumbled inside the cab, fumbling with the key, finally jamming it home and cranking the tired engine of the ancient vehicle. It grumbled and complained and eventually turned over, and Martin yanked the wheel to the left, heading toward the interstate and freedom. It was a shame to have to give up his trophy. He already knew this failure would rankle him for days, and he could expect a brutal dressing-down from his contact, a person who was never a model of patience, even when Martin delivered on time.
He had been incredibly lucky; he knew that. He had recognized immediately what the hero’s play was going to be; it was the only one he had when he didn’t pop Martin from behind in the first place.
And the guy had only made one, little mistake; a tiny one, really, which would not have made any difference at all were it not for Martin’s superior intelligence. When he was roughly four feet away, the wannabe hero removed his left hand from his weapon—a Browning Hi-Power, Martin had noticed—and, when he did, instead of lowering his gun closer to his body where he could use his bulk to protect his grip and keep it away from Martin, he left his arm straight out, holding it away from his body. The moment Martin shoved the girl, the gun became useless, taking the brunt of the collision, and the hero’s arm lifted toward the ceiling. Had he been holding the gun closer to his body, he might still have been able to squeeze off an accurate shot.
A pathetic rescue attempt by just another pathetic loser. Martin flashed a triumphant smile at no one, grinning easily despite the adrenaline-fueled tremors wracking his body, enjoying the moment before getting down to the business of completing his escape.
He had no doubt that someone, probably several people by now, had already punched 9-1-1 into their cell phones and reported something bad going down at the rest stop. Undoubtedly, even now the police were speeding toward this interstate exit, sirens wailing, blue lights flashing, the cavalry riding in on their white horses to save the day. Well, they were going to be disappointed, because they would be too late.
Before they even hit the floor, Bill knew he had blown it. Not majorly blown it, not dead-teenager-bleeding-out-on-the-floor blown it—after all, the girl was safe and sound, even now beginning to untangle her arms and legs from his as the kidnapper exited the scene like Usain Bolt running the hundred-meter dash—but still, there was no denying he had committed a huge error in judgment by getting close enough to the kidnapper to allow the guy the opportunity to make such an obvious play.
Still, what else could he have done? Maybe the guy hitting the bricks was the best thing that could have happened, all things considered. The alternative was unthinkable—a desperate man loose inside the building with a lethal weapon in his hands and several dozen potential victims just waiting to be slaughtered. Not a pretty picture.
The girl moaned as she rolled off him, and Bill pushed himself to a kneeling position. A sharp pain radiated from his left elbow, offering a convenient reminder of which body part had made impact with the floor first, although the back of his head had placed second in a photo finish. He could feel an egg-sized lump rising already.
He shook his head to clear some of the cobwebs and concentrated on the young girl lying next to him. “Are you all right?” he asked, and she shot him an incredulous look that would melt steel, a look only a teen can pull off.
Then she giggled nervously. It was probably a reaction to the pent-up stress caused by the terror of the attempted kidnapping, but the sound was incongruous and unexpected and reminded Bill of his own daughter, Carli, who was roughly the same age. He wondered where this girl was from and whether she might have been friends with Carli if they had grown up together.
They sat on the floor staring at each other, and, in a shaking voice, the girl said, “That was him, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah, you know, the I-90 Killer,” the girl said, with a heaving sob and a shudder that wracked her entire body.
Bill had no doubt that was who it was; the likelihood of some other lunatic haunting highway rest stops, stalking and kidnapping teenage girls using exactly the same methodology as the I-90 Killer was practically nil, and although Bill had foiled this kidnapping attempt, the pathetic dirt bag was going to get away while he sat here on the floor rubbing his sore elbow.
The girl seemed okay, at least physically. And her mother and father were even now running across the glass-littered floor of the plaza toward the two of them.
“Oh, God,” the girl whimpered, her chalk-white face crumbling as her parents drew near. Allie’s father lifted her from the floor, and her mother drew her into her arms, her father hovering protectively over both of them. Allie turned her face into her mother’s shoulder and started to cry.
Bill rose to his feet, staggered, and dropped to one knee, spitting out a curse. His head was swimming. He must have knocked it harder than he realized. He picked up his Browning off the floor where he had apparently dropped it in the violence of the collision—some hero, dropping his gun at the critical moment—and began moving in an unsteady gait toward the rest stop doors that the failed kidnapper had blasted through just moments before.
By the time Bill crossed the fifteen feet to the doors, he felt a little more like himself. He was suffering the beginnings of what he suspected was going to be a whopper of a headache, and lightning-bolts of pain radiated from his left elbow, but overall, he knew it could have been much worse. He was still alive and so was the girl.
He picked up the pace, hitting the doors at a dead run, jarring them violently backward for the second time in less than a minute, and was rewarded with a metallic screech that sounded like an accusation. The unseasonable heat and humidity descended on him like a wet blanket as he leapt the four steps from the plaza to the concrete walkway, staggering slightly upon landing and continuing forward into the parking lot. An elderly couple approaching the plaza did a double take. Bill wondered what he looked like to them and decided he was probably better off not knowing.
In a way, he supposed he must look like a freaking lunatic, chasing after a guy armed with a deadly weapon, who—if, in fact, he really was the legendary I-90 Killer—was rumored to have murdered at least ten people, probably more. And Bill had no doubt the guy would not mind adding one middle-aged fool to his tally.
By the time he had taken three running steps onto the hot pavement, Bill realized it was hopeless. There were probably over a hundred cars in the mammoth lot, and while it wasn’t even close to being full, the odds of picking the I-90 Killer’s vehicle out of all of the ones glittering in the bright May sunshine when he had no idea what it even looked like were stacked overwhelmingly against him. For all he knew, the guy had been parked in the first row and was already gone, even now speeding down the highway, anonymous and safe.
Bill slapped his hands together and screamed in frustration, and as he did, his headache spiked and the I-90 Killer roared past him, not twenty feet away, tearing along the parking lot access lane toward the on-ramp leading to the eastbound lane of the interstate. He was driving a battered, off-white box truck that trailed blue smoke as he made his escape. The vehicle had obviously been repainted, and not professionally, containing no apparent markings. Bill shuddered, thinking about what horrible fate might have awaited that young girl back inside the rest stop had the man gotten her into the back of that truck.
He peered at the rear of the vehicle in an attempt to decipher the license plate, but the heavy blue smoke pouring out of the exhaust made an effective screen. Bill could see the plate but could not make out any of the numbers or letters; he couldn’t even tell whether it was a New York or a Massachusetts tag, or maybe neither. He cursed again and wondered if the escaping kidnapper realized how lucky he was right now to be driving a vehicle that needed a ring job.
Bill began sprinting toward his vehicle to give chase. How hard could it be to catch that crappy truck?
Bestselling author Scott Nicholson says, "Allan Leverone delivers a taut crime drama full of twists and conspiracy," and acclaimed crime fiction author Dave Zeltserman says THE LONELY MILE "will carry readers along..."
If you like what you've read over the past seven days, please consider purchasing your own copy at one of the following links:
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-lonley-mile-allan-leverone/1104328433
My website: http://www.allanleverone.com/