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Authors: Jerry Ahern

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BOOK: Assassin's Express
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Jessica Pace commented drily, “I take it you've driven a sportscar before—I'm glad you can do something.”

Frost didn't say a word.

Chapter Thirteen

Frost had stopped earlier and cut the covers off an adventure novel he'd been reading to use as backing for the new license plates. Using small wire cutters carried in his pack and practically ruining the M-16 bayonet carried there as well, he had taken the Volvo's plates and cut out the numbers and letters as neatly as possible. Then he rearranged them, using a tube of glue he'd gotten Jessica to pick up at a convenience store to secure them to the book covers, and reassembling the “new” numbers to the exterior diameters of the plates. They didn't look perfect and close inspection would have revealed they were homemade, but from a distance he definitely thought the plates would pass—and with the different numbers, there was a greater chance of evading a casual pickup by a highway patrol car.

Now he opened his eye and looked around him. Rain was still streaming down over the Volvo's windshield.

“Hi—you slept. You needed it, I think.”

Frost looked around, saw Jessica Pace's face in the shadow in the front passenger seat. “The rest area, right?” Frost's mouth tasted bad and he didn't really feel like waking up yet. “How long was I asleep?”

“Four hours.”

“You get any—”

“No—I figured somebody should sort of keep the watch, stand guard—you know.”

Frost stretched as best he could in the bucket seat, yawned, asking half through the yawn, “Did the rain let up at all while I was asleep?” His clothes felt damp and he shivered a little.

“Not a bit—you gonna try driving again or do you want me to do it some more?”

“No—that stretch in the afternoon where you took it for a few hours helped. And I guess the sleep helped too. I'll try the wheel again. You gotta go to the bathroom or anything before I get going?” He started to sit up, stretching again.

“No—I'm fine. No facilities here anyway—we can hit the next gas station, maybe.”

“Yeah.” Frost grunted. He decided he'd wait too, sat up straight, pulled the choke on the Volvo, and then turned the key; the engine roared to life.

“How come you drove so badly with the trailer? You're doin' fine with this.”

“Well,” Frost told her, throwing the car into first and releasing the emergency brake, “I like full-sized cars and I like sportscars—not much in between. The trailer threw me. I kind of miss it, though. Maybe I'll buy one sometime.”

“What would you do with it, Frost?” she asked, her voice sounding almost sad. “I mean where would you go with it?”

“Ohh—maybe get a Ford Bronco with four-wheel drive, take the trailer up into the mountains, and just unwind for a while.”

“You got a girl, Frost?—I mean not just somebody you flop down with—”

“You put things so nicely.” Frost smiled, glancing into the water-droplet side-view mirror, then turning on the lights and the windshield wipers. “I had a girl—we were gonna get married.”

“For real—I mean, you're not puttin' me on?”

“Why don't we just skip it?” Frost snorted, looking over his right shoulder then starting to pull out of the parking space. The rest area was lit up like something for Christmas, he thought. The trucks parked there had their running lights on, some of them forming elaborate shapes, even faces. He pased several as he started for the rest-area exit.

“If you don't want to tell me, don't tell me—but what happened?”

“I don't want to tell you,” Frost said; then, “She died. We were in London, just picked up the ring I'd gotten for her. Old ring I had, got it cut down and a diamond set in it. There was a bombing—terrorists, maybe the IRA, maybe somebody else. The whole side of the first floor where she was was destroyed—didn't even find any identifiable remains. Last I checked they weren't even a hundred percent certain what the remains totaled up to in terms of numbers of dead.”

“I'm sorry,” the girl said after a long moment, her voice sounding hoarse. “I really am. I bet she, ahh—bet she loved you a lot, huh?”

“Yeah—loved me a lot,” Frost said, feeling his throat getting tight as it did every time he thought of her.

“What are you going to do after you get rid of me?”

“Go after the guys that got her—find 'em, kill 'em, keep 'em from killing anybody else the way they killed Bess.”

“That was her name?” Jessica Pace asked softly. “Bess?”

“Yeah.” Frost grunted as he watched the traffic, its lights blindingly bright through the rain, moving slowly in the opposite direction. “Bess—that was her name. Bess,” he said letting the word out slowly like a breath. “Bess.” He realized he was gritting his teeth.

“I'm sorry, Hank—I am.”

“About her?” Frost asked.

“Yeah—but for a lot of other things, too.”

“You think you'll really make it after your thing with the President?”

She was silent for a long time before she answered, her voice sounding almost as though she felt relieved when she said the word, “No.”

They drove on, Frost listening to the weather bulletins on the radio, hearing them talking about heavy rainfalls, flash-flood watches, and washed-out roads. He didn't say anything to Jessica Pace, let her sleep instead, heard her muttering—again half the words in Russian. She figured she was going to get killed after she spilled her list, Frost thought. She figured that no place would be good enough to hide from the people she fingered or from the Russians. She was an odd girl, Frost thought. He'd slept with her, but didn't know her. She was changeable—from tough to almost childishly innocent. Her mouth probably made her more enemies than she realized—it wasn't frankness, or thoughtlessness either. It was almost desperation, as though she didn't have the time to phrase something better—had to say it while she could. He'd lived on the edge of things—sometimes thought he was going to die—but never on a daily basis years on end. It was a mental problem and he didn't know the right words to describe it. The troubled sleep, the attitude when she was awake. He half-wondered if, after she recited her list, all the reason for clinging to her sanity would be gone and she'd have a breakdown. And would he be around for it? He hoped not, but wouldn't just run off if he saw it coming on. Frost laughed at himself. The girl needed a friend. “Old friendly Frost,” he muttered to the rain-streaming windshield and the lights that half-blinded him. He yawned, settling back and trying to keep awake.

 

Frost yawned, trying to stretch and at the same time push himself up in the seat; his shoulder and neck ached with stiffness. He stared into the oncoming tanes—somebody really had brights, he thought. The light coming toward him looked like aircraft landing lights. He muttered to himself. “Probably going to be abducted by a UFO now—I was waiting for that to happen. Everything else has.”

He tried to look away from the light, but it seemed to be coming across the median strip toward him. “Motorcycle?” he rasped to himself. “Out of control!” he shouted, cutting the wheel hard right to avoid it, reaching out with his right hand, shaking the sleeping Jessica violently, then moving his hand to the stick, down-shifting, cutting the wheel left again, hearing the gravel crunching under his tires. The light was still coming at him—too fast, he realized and he cut the wheel right, down-shifting into first. The tachometer was red-lining, the engine roaring, the Volvo shaking under him.

“Frost!”

“Look out!” the one-eyed man shouted. He saw the trees beyond the shoulder, saw them coming at him; the light seemed to come down at him. What the—”

Frost threw his hands in front of his face and dove down across the drive shaft and over Jessica Pace huddled there in the passenger seat, hearing the crunching of metal, the tearing sound, the shattering of the glass, the roar, then the silence of the engine. There was a hissing sound and he looked up; steam shot up toward the windshield—the windshield was intact. “Get out,” Frost shouted to Jessica Pace.

“What?”

“Out of the car!” He reached into the jump seat, found his pack and her purse. “Come on!”

He looked skyward—the light was bright, over them. And the whirring sound suddenly hit him. “What is it?” Jessica screamed.

“A damned helicopter—run!”

Rolling out on her side after her, his knees in the mud, Frost pushed the woman from the car. The Browning High Power flashed into his right fist, its hammer jacked back under his thumb. “Run!” He shoved the purse at her; she grabbed it and started into the trees. Frost, the pack in his left hand, started after her as the ripping sound of an automatic weapon came at him over the whirring of the rotor blades overhead. Rain lashed down at his face; the spotlight still half-blinded him. There was more automatic-weapons fire. The car behind him exploded as he turned and looked up at the helicopter. The orange fireball blinded him; the impact of the exploding gas tank knocked him to the ground.

He heard Jessica Pace screaming something that sounded dirty. Frost squinted against the light, saw the Walther in her right hand. “Run!” he shouted again. He saw her face in the light from the chopper, shouted at her again, “Run!” Frost, still on the ground, thrust the Browning High Power up, the Metalifed finish gleaming in the bright light. His trigger finger twitched once, then once more. The light was coming closer to him. He could hear the automatic-weapons fire again. He kept pumping the Browning's trigger as fast as he could, the 9-mm bucking in his hands as the 115-grain gilding metal-jacketed hollow points shattered the spotlight and there was suddenly almost total darkness except for the orange glow from the burning automobile. Frost pushed himself to his feet, slipping in the mud, half-stumbling forward as he started to run.

He could see Jessica Pace just ahead of him, see her making it into the trees. Frost hit the tree line and dropped to his knees in the mud, swapping to a fresh magazine for the Browning High Power, then ramming the gun back into the Alessi rig under his left shoulder. He worked the zipper on the backpack, finding the vinyl case by feel, opening it and feeling the butt of the Interdynamics KG-9 in his fist. He fished a loaded magazine from the vinyl case and rammed it up the magazine well of the semiautomatic assault pistol; then he fished into the pack, found his two spare thirty-round magazines, by feel verifying their loaded condition, and rammed the spare sticks into his belt under his jacket—he'd gotten rid of the sweater he'd worn earlier. He closed the pack, opened the bolt on the KG-9, and started to run again; the helicopter was coming back, its running lights visible in the darkness.

“Jessica! Where are you?” Frost shouted.

“Here—Hank!” Frost heard the voice off to his right, still in the trees, and started running toward it, half-stumbling over the girl but keeping his balance.

“What are we going to do?” she shouted beside him over the noise of the chopper.

“Run—fight if we have to—come on!” Frost had the pack on his back now, his left hand free. He grabbed her right hand and started deeper into the trees, the 9-mm assault pistol locked in his right fist.

He could hear the helicopter now, but couldn't see it for the tree cover overhead. He realized, too, that the men in the helicopter couldn't see him either. There was a burst of automatic-weapons fire; a tree limb about twenty yards to their right crashed down. “Come on,” he rasped to the girl, starting to run faster, dodging a deadfall tree, almost tripping over a stump from a sapling. He could see a brighter spot ahead, guessing it was the far edge of the tree line. “There—hurry,” he told the girl. If they could make it out of the trees while the chopper crew still thought they were below them in the woods, Frost figured, he and the girl might have a chance.

The pouring-down rain was less intense under the canopy of trees, but as they approached the far edge of the wooded area, the tree cover overhead thinned and he could feel the rain more. His hair dripped and felt plastered to his forehead; his clothes were sodden.

Beyond the trees was an open field and past that a road. Frost let go of the girl's hand, checked that the bolt was all the way back on the KG-9, and looked at her. “I want you to run and keep running—if they come on us, I'll hold them off with this.”

“That a subgun?”

“No—they invented it while you were away. It's semiautomatic only, but reliable and accurate—it's the best I've got. Right now I wouldn't mind a LAWS rocket for that chopper. Now run!”

Frost half-pushed the girl, letting her get a dozen or so yards out before he started running, making less of a target, he hoped. And if he fired at the helicopter, he'd draw any return fire, giving her the chance to get away.

Frost could see her ahead of him, a darker shadow moving against the night. The rain was coming down so heavily he repeatedly blinked his eye to see. Over the driving of the rain he heard it now, the sounds of the helicopter getting louder behind him.

Almost across the field, he could see the girl, waiting for him by a ditch. He shouted to her, then realized that with the rain and the noise of the rotor blades she couldn't hear him.

His arms out at his sides, the weight of the pack suddenly heavy to him, the KG-9 ready to fire, Frost threw his head back and made a dead run for the ditch. The automatic-weapons fire was already starting. He could see Jessica Pace diving down into the ditch, see a flash from her gun as she returned fire.

BOOK: Assassin's Express
10.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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