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Authors: James Patterson

Tags: #Fiction, #Suspense, #Thriller

1st Case (22 page)

BOOK: 1st Case
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IN BOSTON, ANYTHING under three miles is faster on a bike than it is by car. For me, anyway. If I reached Condor Street first, I wouldn’t go rushing in like some kind of action hero, but at least I could keep whoever showed up from doing the same thing.

With any luck, I could still keep Eve alive.

I kept my eyes up for traffic and ground the pedals as fast as I could. What I needed
was another phone. And when I saw the business-suited gentleman standing just off the curb with his nose buried in his screen, I made a split-second decision.


I’d grabbed it out of his hand and was halfway through the next intersection before he even spotted me.

If this didn’t work, and maybe even if it did, I was going to end up in jail. Meanwhile, I should have stopped riding long
enough to call this in, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. No stopping now. No turning back. No nothing. I kept on pedaling as I checked the road ahead, looked down long enough to dial 911 for the second time in three days, and kept heading east.

“Nine one one. What is your emergency?”

“My name is Angela Hoot and I’m with the FBI,” I shouted into the phone. I was shooting up the narrow
space between the slow-moving traffic on my left and the sidewalk on my right, just hoping nobody threw open a car door without looking. “I need emergency responders to 147 Condor Street immediately. Tell them to call Agent William Keats at the FBI for instruction. They have to proceed with extreme caution. Do you understand?”

“I’ll do what I can, ma’am,” she said. “Please hold.”

But I couldn’t
even do that. My quickest route was through the Callahan Tunnel, which doesn’t allow bikes, much less have a bike lane. I needed both hands for this, and it was coming up fast. The dispatcher was going to have to get this done without any more input from me, I thought, and shoved the phone back into my pocket.

I hung a right onto New Chardon Street, then right again, down toward the tunnel entrance.
It was like a cattle chute at this point. The tunnel itself was a mile long, which meant three minutes at the speed I was going, and I’d already lost any wiggle room on the shoulder.

Bring it,
I thought. If I could ride six-inch-wide trails in the woods, I could thread this needle, too.

As I passed inside, daylight gave way to a sickly green glow from the electric fixtures, mixed with a red
blur of taillights ahead. I mostly kept my eyes on the cars, checking to the right every few seconds to keep from crashing into the side wall. There was a raised walkway above me, but I couldn’t get to it.

Drivers kept edging past my bike. A few yelled, and several of them blared their horns, which were amplified by the tunnel’s acoustics. It was an all-out war on my senses. I had no choice but
to gut it out.

Eventually, the road curved right, and I could see a tiny square of daylight several hundred yards ahead. I focused on my breathing, in and out with the rhythm of the pedals, counting as I went.

On the twenty-fourth breath, I broke free, into the daylight again. Thank God. Not that I could feel relieved for long. I was getting close now.

The traffic only got hairier outside of
the tunnel, with everyone suddenly changing lanes. I swerved right onto Porter Street to avoid getting shunted up to the expressway, where I would have
been screwed.

Then a quick left onto Chelsea for a couple of blocks, and another left, onto Brooks, for one last stretch before I reached the river.

The closer I got, the more my thoughts turned to what might happen next. The police were
on their way. Hopefully word had filtered over to someone at the Bureau as well.

I pulled the phone back out of my pocket to try Billy again, but it had locked up in the meantime. The only thing I could manage from the lock screen would be another emergency call, which was better than nothing—

But I never got that far. I didn’t even see the car coming until it was too late.

He’d pulled out
from between two buildings, both of us moving too fast. I swerved into the middle of the road to try to avoid him, but it didn’t do me any good. His bumper caught me from the side, full on.

An explosion of pain shot up my leg. I flew sideways, leaving the bike behind. My body was airborne just long enough for me to register that fact, before I came down hard on the cement. Ears ringing. Head
spinning. Vision blurred.

Game over.


I HEARD VOICES before anything else.

“Oh, my God!”

“I’ll call 911.”

“Is she okay?”

Someone came around the front of the car. I saw a pair of feet, then felt a hand on my shoulder.

“Can you stand?” he asked.

“I … I think so,” I said. I needed to get back on my bike. Some part of me knew that wasn’t going to happen, but I wasn’t letting go of it yet.

“Go slow. Let me help you.”

He put an arm around me and got me onto my feet. As soon as I put any weight on my right leg, the pain came screaming back, and doubled down on itself. Jesus, what had I done? My leg buckled, and he boosted me up again, all but carrying me toward his car. I felt like I was going to puke.

“I need to call someone,” I slurred.

“My phone’s in the car,” he said. “I’m taking you to the hospital right

“Ambulance is on the way,” someone else said from a distance.

“I’ve got her,” the guy said. “Can you open that passenger-side door for me? I think she’s going to pass out.”

“Got it.”


It was all happening without me. I couldn’t think straight. I vaguely caught sight of my bent and twisted bike in the middle of the street.

“Eve …” I croaked out.

“Yes, we’re leaving now.”

Eve …

“I’ve got you,” he said. And then from in close, right next to my ear, “Poor Angela. Did you really think you were going to pull this off?”

That’s when I looked up and saw his face clearly for the first time. It was the Brit. Or whoever he was. Strong nose, sandy-brown buzz cut, cleft chin. The one from the coffee shop, but there was no accent now.

Before I could even speak, I felt
a sharp stab under the arm. My scream didn’t even form. All I heard was a rasping sound from my throat, like air escaping a ruined tire.

I felt weak. And then weaker again.

“She’s losing consciousness,” he said.

“No,” I said. “Help …”

“Yes, we’re getting you help.”


“There she goes,” I heard him say. I knew he’d injected me with something, but it was the last thought I had before everything
slid sideways again. Daylight turned to a wash of gray, followed quickly by a descending blackness.

And then there was nothing at all.


I WOKE UP in the dark. There wasn’t anything to see, and I didn’t know where I was.

Then a bump. And another. Each one jolted my body, bringing me wide awake with a pain that seemed to be everywhere.

We were moving. I was in the back of a van of some kind.

And I wasn’t alone. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I realized someone else was there, sitting across from me.

Jesus! My panic
turned on like a switch. When I screamed, I realized my mouth had been taped. My wrists were taped, too, crisscrossed behind my back. I couldn’t stop myself from speaking, even though the words never made it past my gag.

“Eve? Eve!”

It was her, I could tell. I recognized the shape of her, filling in what I couldn’t see with what I knew from my gut.

She wasn’t stirring, and I realized all at
once that she might be dead. The possibility grabbed hold of me like an icy hand. I couldn’t reach her. I was lashed to some kind of brace or upright, holding me against the side wall of the van. I kicked
with my two bound feet, trying to nudge her awake, desperate to see her move.

And then she did, barely. I saw the rise and fall of a breath.
Thank God
. She was unconscious, but she was alive.
That was all that really mattered. Still, it opened up a whole cascade of other questions.

Where were we headed? How long had I been out? How many miles had we covered?

I remembered the Brit then. Or whatever he was. He hadn’t been driving a van when he hit me. That meant I’d been out long enough for him to change vehicles.

My bike was long gone. My stolen cell phone, too. I’d left both of
them lying broken in the street.

But the knife! It might still be there, I realized, tucked into the laces of my shoe.

I twisted around, pulling against the tape and the mesh straps that had me stuck in one position. I couldn’t lean forward enough to reach my feet, but with some effort, I bent at the knees and brought my feet toward my hands instead. It was just enough for me to feel around
the laces, where my fingers closed on the plastic hilt I was looking for.
Thank God.
The blade was bent but still usable.

With some more maneuvering, I got the knife wedged between the floor and the tape around my wrists. I had to rock back and forth to create a sawing motion. Each stroke sent up a throb from my leg, watering my eyes with the pain. I had no idea how mobile I was going to be even
if I could get out of these bonds. The pain was nearly overwhelming, but the adrenaline was doing its own bit to keep me conscious and focused. I’d drag myself through this if I had to, but there was no use even thinking about that until I’d gotten through the tape.

After a little more sawing, I heard a welcome ripping sound.
It was just enough. I pulled with both hands, and the rest of the tape
gave way.

I tore the gag off my mouth and sucked in a desperate lungful of air like I’d been drowning. Then I started sawing away at the mesh straps that still kept me lashed to the wall.

“Eve!” I tried again, in a hoarse whisper. She didn’t respond. Whatever they’d knocked her out with had clearly been more than I’d gotten.

The van was sealed. I could see some kind of molded industrial plastic
wall at the front. I had no idea if anyone could hear us or not, but it made sense to be careful. The one thing I might have left on my side was some element of surprise.

That, and the knife.

I sawed even harder at the straps around my torso now. They were far tougher than the tape, but with my hands unbound, I was making decent headway. I’d be free of them soon. I didn’t know how much longer
this drive was going to be, or where we were going, but whenever we got there, I intended to be ready.


THE RIDE WENT on for at least another hour. It’s hard to say how long. I lost track of time, but I eventually felt a change as the van went from the highway to some kind of lower-speed roads with several turns. After that, the hum of concrete disappeared completely and the bumps came harder and faster.

It was all the worst possible news. We had to be well outside the city by then.
I had no idea what kind of weapons they might be carrying, or even how many people were in the front of that van.

Finally, we came to a stop. I heard movement on the other side of the front wall for the first time. One door opened, then the other, followed by two slams. Then voices, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying.

Eve was still out. I’d left her bound up, since the alternative had
been to have her rolling around unconscious inside that moving van. It had been hard enough for me to manage myself, holding on and gritting my teeth against the nonstop throbbing in my leg.

This was all on me. I had to do whatever I could. The knife in my hand was my life now. Eve’s life. Marlena’s future. I tried to breathe slowly as I waited to see what would happen next.

More footsteps told
me that one of them had come around the back. I heard a jingle of keys. Then the sound of one key snugging into a lock.

One chance. That’s all I’d have. I positioned myself against the side wall of the van where they’d left me and arranged the straps as best I could to keep up some appearance that I was still tied. The knife was in my right hand, tucked behind my back, out of sight but ready
to swing.

As the door opened, I dropped my chin and rested it against my chest, my eyes closed. I felt a flashlight play over my face.

“She still out?” a voice said.

“Looks that way,” said another.

The second voice was the familiar one. I recognized it from our run-in at the coffee shop. It was the Brit—or whoever he was. The voice was the same, but the accent was gone. The whole thing had
been some kind of charade within a charade.

I heard one of them climb into the van. It was almost impossible to keep my eyes closed. I had to work by sense here. And pray for luck.

“I’m going to wake her up,” the familiar voice said. He was almost close enough to reach with my knife.

I held my breath and waited another beat, until he was bent over me. That’s when he seemed to notice that something
was wrong.

“What the—?” he said. And I moved.

My eyes popped open. My right hand came up fast, aiming the tip of the knife for the shadow of him. For the very center.

Let it find his heart,
I thought in that flash of a moment.

He moved fast, too, and deflected my swing with his arm. For
a second, I thought I had him, but all I caught was the fabric of his sleeve. I heard a ripping sound, and
he jumped back, stumbling over Eve’s legs. There was no room to maneuver in there.

The knife jerked in my hand, its bent blade caught on the cloth, but then it tore free. I lunged toward him and swung again. He was ready for me this time and took a swing of his own. His fist knocked the knife right out of my grip, and I heard it skitter across the metal floor of the van, toward the back.

I had
no choice but to keep trying. I dove after it. The blade glinted in the beam of the flashlight, and I half-expected him to get there first.

Instead, he reversed his tactic. He moved in the opposite direction, away from me. At the same moment that I got a grip on the knife again, I felt his hands on my ankles from behind. Before anything else could happen, he was dragging me straight out of the
van, past Eve, arms trailing.

He pulled me all the way out. I fell onto the ground on my stomach. By the time I’d flipped over, he already had a foot on my chest, pinning me to the dirt. I could just make out his stance against the last of the twilight and what looked like the gun he now had pointed at my face.

“Hello, Angela. Have a nice nap?” he asked. “Actually, don’t answer that. Just drop
the damn knife.”

I didn’t have a choice and loosened my grip, letting the knife fall out of my hand. Even as I did, the other guy was there, slapping a fresh piece of duct tape over my mouth.

“Smile,” he said. A camera flash popped, blinding me to what little I’d been able to see in the first place.

I’d blown it. I’d missed my chance. All I saw was shadows and bright spots as the flash ghosted
across my eyes.

But I’d seen enough to know that probability had turned
against me long before this moment. As soon as I’d laid eyes on the Engineer’s face, back at the coffee shop and again in the street that afternoon, I’d lost any chance I had of making it out of this place alive.

They had nothing to gain by letting me go anymore. And everything to gain by killing me.

BOOK: 1st Case
4.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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