Chapter 48

The tan Land Rover stayed on side roads. Grace had no idea where they were headed. Jack was lying on the floor of the backseat. He had passed out. His legs were duct-taped together. His hands were cuffed behind him. Grace's hands were still bound in front of her. Her captor, she figured, had seen no reason to make her put them back.

In the backseat Jack groaned like a wounded animal. Grace looked at their captor, his placid face, one hand on the wheel like a father taking the family out for a Sunday drive. She ached. Every breath was a reminder of what he'd done to her ribs. Her knee felt as if it'd been ripped apart by shrapnel.

"What did you do to him?" she asked.

She tensed, awaiting the blow. She almost didn't care. She was beyond that. But the man did not lash out. He did not stay silent either. He pointed with his thumb toward Jack.

"Not as much," he said, "as he did to you."

She stiffened. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

Now, for the first time, she saw a genuine smile. "I think you know."

"I don't have the slightest idea," she said.

He still smiled, and maybe, somewhere deep inside of her, the gnawing started to grow. She tried to cast it off, tried to concentrate on getting out of this, on saving Jack. She asked, "Where are you taking us?"

He did not reply.

"I said-"

"You're brave," he interrupted.

She said nothing.

"Your husband loves you. You love him. It makes this easier."

"Makes what easier?"

He glanced toward her. "You both may be willing to risk pain. But are you willing to let me hurt your husband?"

She did not reply.

"The same thing I said to him: If you talk again, I won't hurt you. I'll hurt him."

The man was right. It worked. She kept silent. She gazed out the window and let the trees blur. They veered onto a two-lane highway. Grace had no idea where. The area was rural. She could see that. They took two more roads and now Grace knew where they were-the Palisades Parkway heading south, back down toward New Jersey.

The Glock was still in the ankle holster.

The feel of it was constant now. The weapon seemed to be calling to her, mocking her, so close and yet out of reach.

Grace would have to figure a way to get to it. There was no other choice. This man was going to kill them. She was sure of that. He wanted some information first-the origin of that photograph, for one thing-but once he had it, once he realized that she was telling the truth on that score, he would kill them both.

She had to go for the gun.

The man kept sneaking glances at her. There was no opening. She thought about it. Wait until he stopped the car? She had tried that before-it hadn't worked. Just go for it? Just pull it out and take her chances? A possibility but she really did not think she'd be fast enough. Pulling up the leg cuff, unsnapping that safety strap, getting her hand around the gun, withdrawing it... all before he reacted?

No way.

She debated the slow approach. Lower her hands a little to the side. Try to work her cuff up a bit at a time. Pretend like she had an itch.

Grace shifted in her seat and looked down at her leg. And that was when she felt her heart slam into her throat...

Her cuff had ridden up.

The ankle holster. It was visible now.

Panic spread through her. She cut a glance at her captor, hoping that he hadn't seen it. But he had. His eyes suddenly widened. He was looking right at her leg.

Now or never.

But even as she reached, Grace could see that she had no chance. There was simply no way to get there in time. Her captor put his hand on her knee again and squeezed. Pain blasted violently through her, nearly knocking her unconscious. She screamed. Her body went rigid. Her hands dropped, useless now.

He had her.

She turned toward him, looked into his eyes, saw nothing. Then, without warning, there was movement coming from behind him. Grace gasped.

It was Jack.

Somehow he had risen up from the backseat like an apparition. The man turned, more curious than concerned. After all, Jack's hands and legs were bound. He was totally spent. What harm could he do?

Wild-eyed and looking something like an animal, Jack reared back his head and whipped it forward. The surprise caught the man off guard. Jack's forehead connected with the man's right cheek. The sound was a deep, hollow clunk. The car shrieked to a stop. The man let go of Grace's knee.

"Run, Grace!"

It was Jack's voice. Grace fumbled for the gun. She unsnapped the safety strap. But the man was back up again. He used one hand to grab Jack's neck. With the other he went after her knee again. She pulled away. He tried again.

Grace knew that there was no time to get the gun. Jack could no longer help. He had used up everything, sacrificed himself, for that one blow.

It would all be for nothing.

The man punched Grace in the ribs again. Hot knives blasted through her. Nausea swam through her stomach and head. She felt consciousness start ebbing away.

She couldn't hang on...

Jack tried to thrash away, but he was little more than a nuisance. The man squeezed Jack's neck. Jack made a sound and went still.

The man reached for her again. Grace grabbed the door handle.

His hand clasped her arm.

She could not move.

Jack's lifeless head slid down the man's shoulder. It stopped on the forearm. And there, with his eyes closed, Jack opened his mouth and bit down hard.

The man howled and released his grip. He started shaking his arm, trying to get Jack off. Jack clenched his jaw and hung on like a bulldog. The man slammed his free palm into Jack's head. Jack slumped off.

Grace pulled the door handle, leaned her body against it.

She fell out of the car and landed on the pavement. She rolled away, anything to get farther away from her captor. She actually rolled into the other lane of the highway. A car swerved past her.

Get the gun!

She reached down again. The safety strap was off. She turned toward the car. The man was getting out. He pulled up his shirt. Grace saw his gun. She saw him reaching for it. Grace's own gun came loose.

There was no question now. There was no ethical dilemma. There was no thought about maybe yelling out a warning, telling him to freeze, asking him to put his hands on his head. There was no moral outrage. There was no culture, no humanity, no years of civilization or breeding.

Grace pulled the trigger. The gun went off. She pulled it again. And again. The man staggered. She pulled it again. The sound of sirens grew. And Grace fired again.