On to Chapter Five of my new thriller,THE LONELY MILE ($2.99 from StoneHouse Ink):
Bill approached the entrance to the restrooms, dodging left and right, avoiding masses of people, all seemingly oblivious to everyone and everything around them. A fat, middle-aged woman with thinning brown hair waddled straight at him, staring through him as she careened toward the food counters like she hadn’t eaten in weeks. He stepped nimbly aside and let her pass, shaking his head, half in frustration and half in amusement when it became clear she had had absolutely no intention of altering her course. The woman shot past, trailing a wake behind her like a big rig blowing by an economy car out on the interstate.
As he sidestepped the overweight woman hell-bent on her next meal, Bill bumped into a thin, wiry man in a billowing t-shirt who was apparently headed toward the restrooms as well, rocking him onto his heels. The man glared at Bill, who smiled and offered an apology.
“No problem,” the stranger mumbled unconvincingly, and turned away as if anxious to end the brief encounter. Bill stared in surprise at the man’s back for a moment before shrugging and turning again toward the restrooms. He advanced three steps before being forced to step aside again, this time to dodge a young woman exiting the ladies’ room. She was a teenager, tall and blonde, with hair streaming behind her in a ponytail protruding from the back of a New York Yankees baseball cap. Her head was raised and her searching eyes bypassed Bill. It was clear she was looking for someone.
Two more steps brought Bill to the men’s room entrance, a feeling of ill-defined unease nagging at him. He had served two terms on the ground in Iraq half a lifetime ago and learned very quickly that the fastest way to an early, sandy grave was to ignore what your senses were telling you, even if you couldn’t quite decipher the message.
Something was wrong.
He stopped and turned. A man bumped into him from behind and muttered, “Jerk,” then kept walking into the men’s room. Bill ignored him. The wiry guy he had nearly deposited on his butt over by the rack of t-shirts a moment ago was no longer there. Bill watched as that man walked away quickly, now approaching the blonde girl from behind.
When the man reached the girl, he moved to her right and raised his left arm as if to drape it over her shoulder. Bill’s first thought was that the man must be the girl’s father, but that didn’t make any sense. He was too young, and there was no way she could have missed seeing him as she came out of the ladies’ room if they were acquainted; they had to have passed within a foot of each other. The man was obviously unknown to her.
Bill’s internal alarm bells were jangling now, his sense of vague unease morphing quickly into full-blown dread. What happened next caused all the other people milling about to melt away from his consciousness until only the blonde girl and the strange, wiry man existed. The man continued to raise his arm, hooking it over her shoulder as if preparing to settle her neck into the crook of his elbow. With his right hand, he pulled a handgun out from under the back of his shirt and pressed it discreetly against her ribs while bending down and whispering in her ear, clearly warning her not to scream. Then, the man lead her rapidly toward the double doors and the intense heat of the parking lot. And a certain escape.
Bill did a double take, not sure his brain was correctly processing the information his eyes were sending it. He glanced quickly around the plaza. Everyone was still milling about, oblivious to the drama unfolding in their midst. He shifted his attention back toward the man and the girl. The man was hustling the girl out. They had nearly reached the exterior doors.
In a precious, few seconds they would be out of the building and crossing the parking lot to some waiting vehicle where he would spirit the young girl away. Bill made a snap decision, one which he would later question, and, in some ways, come to regret.
Bill Ferguson sprinted forward, dodging passers-by, closing the distance on the still-unsuspecting man and the teenage girl, unsnapping his Browning from its holster as he moved. He held it like a football, cradled in his arms against his chest, hopefully out of sight, but readily accessible. He would approach the kidnapper from behind, use the butt of the pistol to club him in the head, and pull the girl to safety. It wasn’t a perfect plan, but it would work, because the man still didn’t see him, and—
—A kid holding a gigantic iced coffee in his hands arms backed directly into him. The kid was having an animated conversation with his buddies in a booth, backing away from them, his attention diverted. The drink flew out of his hands and crashed to the floor, and a tidal wave of iced coffee splashed around his feet. The kidnapper turned for a split-second to see what was causing the commotion, and just like that, the advantage of surprise was lost.
Bill changed the plan on the fly, dropping into a shooter’s crouch and taking dead aim at the center of the man’s back. The guy’s head was turned but his body continued to face the door. Bill still had a clear, unobstructed shot.
He held the Browning in two hands, making a conscious effort to keep his grip loose and relaxed, and screamed, “Freeze!” at the top of his lungs. The man stopped instantly and stood stock-still. His gun remained firmly planted into the girl’s side, but at least he hadn’t pulled the trigger. Yet.
One full second of utter, monastic silence fell over the inside of the rest stop. No one spoke. No one moved. The clatter of plates and silverware stopped. Cash registers fell silent.
Then, all hell broke loose.
Chapter Six to follow tomorrow! If you like what you've read, please consider downloading a copy to your ereader for just $2.99 at one of the following purchase links.
My website: http://www.allanleverone.com/
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-lonley-mile-allan-leverone/1104328433