This posting features Chapter 54 of my ongoing action novel, The Day of the Gun.
Dave Tremblor stood beneath a low-hanging willow tree, naked, behind the Demopolis, Alabama, Econo Lodge, with his hands hoisted in the air. “Now what?”
“Now, we turn ourselves in to the state police.”
“That doesn’t sound like much of a plan.”
“Well, it’s the only plan we’ve got.”
“You know,” Dave said, “it doesn’t have to be this way.”
Steve rolled his eyes. The man’s supreme self-confidence was audacious and, let’s face it, a bit unnerving. There he stood, utterly naked and vulnerable, and yet he spoke as though he held the gun and exerted ultimate control over events. It was a stunning, bravura performance.
“What way does it have to be, Dave?”
The big man stepped closer.
“That’s far enough.” He aimed the Glock lower. “I can take out your kneecap.” He raised the gun barrel a few inches. "Or something else.”
Dave grinned, shrugging his shoulders. “All right, my man. You’re the boss. You’re holding the gun.”
“That’s right. I am. Don’t you forget it.”
“We could come to an arrangement.”
“Live and let live.”
Steve felt himself growing angry, and maybe that was the point of this inane conversation. If he could be thrown off by chit-chat, Dave Tremblor might overpower him. The WITSEC man was well-trained; that much was clear.
“It could be a mutually beneficial arrangement.”
“A ‘mutually beneficial arrangement’? Where did they teach you that claptrap? It sounds like you’ve been hanging out with too many bankers — too many white collar criminals.”
“It could work.”
“Tell me something, Dave. Where was this ‘mutually beneficial arrangement’ when my family was killed? Where was it when you sent two thugs to shoot me?”
“Hey. Business is business.”
He snorted. “Business is business, huh?”
“You know how the game is played. You try the simple way. If that doesn’t work, you try something else.”
“Hence your attempt to carve out a ‘mutually beneficial arrangement.’”
The naked man shrugged. “It was worth a try.”
This fellow was pure evil; there was no way around such a judgment. He would do or say anything to get what he wanted. Steve had no doubt that the mutually beneficial arrangement would fail to live up to its billing. If he released his prisoner now, a day would come — perhaps not too far in the future — when he would receive a visit, probably in the middle of the night. Or perhaps it would be another daring mid-day raid, this time executed by professionals.
“Sumpin’ wrong there, sport?”
A bolt of sharp, white-hot, electric pain shot through Steve’s shoulder. Without his daily medication, his injuries threatened to render him unconscious. For a moment, he felt light-headed and woozy. He rubbed his eyes, careful to stay a safe distance from his prisoner. When he looked up, Dave was gone.
Incredible, he thought. I only relaxed my guard for an instant.
An instant was all it took. The WITSEC pro had done what he was trained to do — he had disappeared at his first opportunity.
Conscious of the rustling grass, the pockets in the landscape, the willow branches with their copious leaves, Steve slowly backed away from the lot. The fugitive was not armed, but he was still a deadly force. It paid to be cautious.
“I should have taken out your kneecap — or something else— when I have the chance,” he called out.
He heard no response.
Scanning the field, he looked for any sign of movement. Except for the rustling leaves and grass, all was quiet. If he had not known better, he would have sworn the area was empty, devoid of human life.
Grateful he had insisted that Dave remove his clothes, he inched over to the pants, shirt, and briefs. Collecting them in one hand, he backed toward the motel office, constantly shifting his eyes to glimpse any movement.
Swinging open the lobby door, he looked inside. The front desk was empty. No one was in sight.
“Hey,” he shouted, “I need some help out here!”
A moment later, a large, middle-aged, portly woman appeared from behind the counter. She was chewing something and wiping her mouth with a napkin. “I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t hear you come in.”
Glancing at his Glock, her eyes were round, her mouth dropped open.
“Dial 911,” he said, “and get the state police over here. Now!”
The clerk reached for the phone as she struggled to swallow her food. It wasn’t often that a gun-wielding stranger ordered the person on the wrong end of the weapon to call the police.