“Hopefully, the press conference will clear the media from our street.” The chief waved at the windows. Outside, media vans lined the street. Using the police station as a backdrop, reporters stood on the sidewalk and spoke into cameras.
Brody waited for the chief to leave. He turned to Hannah. “You can come with me.”
“He didn’t say that.”
“There is no safer place for you to be than a building full of cops. I don’t want you to be alone until the guy who kidnapped Chet is apprehended. His brother won’t say why he came to New York, but I assume he came for you. Plus, my gut is telling me Mick and his brother killed those two women and shot Lance.”
Hannah put a hand on his arm. Her eyes were bleak. “I’m so sorry. This is my fault. I brought this man here. I should have just gone with Mick Arnette. Maybe he would have released Chet.”
“I didn’t mean it was your fault. Going with him would have been crazy. He would have killed you both.” Brody covered her hand with his. “Every available member of law enforcement will be out there looking for Chet. We’ll find him.”
But would it be too late?
Mick sat in the back of the police car. In the front seat, on the other side of the metal barrier that separated him from the cops, sat two sheriff’s deputies.
He was fucked. He and Sam hadn’t discussed a contingency plan in case one of them was caught. But Mick would never give up on his brother. Sam was around here somewhere, waiting.
The cops turned onto a rural highway. Traffic was light. They approached a bridge. Mick stared out the side window. How was he going to get out of this? That damned blond hadn’t done what he’d expected. He’d assumed she’d do as he said to save her friend, but no, the selfish bitch had called the cops.
Didn’t she understand she was signing her friend’s death warrant?
Not that the old guy was going to survive no matter what she did. Once Sam had an idea in his head . . .
The car approached an overpass. A moving van barreled toward them in the other lane, its high-mounted headlights glaring through the windshield. Just as they hit the end of the bridge, the van swerved toward the police car. With a crash and a groan of metal, the police car slid off the embankment. Mick’s body slammed against the seat belt. The deputy grabbed the radio, but the car jerked, and he dropped the receiver.
The car bounced. Mick lost perspective as the world slammed. The vehicle came to a stop. He hung forward, his weight shifted, the seat belt digging into his chest and collarbone. With his hands cuffed behind his back, he hung helpless. The pressure of the strap across his chest forced him to take shallow breaths.
The deputy grabbed the mic on his uniform and called for assistance.
“Shit. You all right, Steve?” the deputy in the passenger seat asked.
“I’m good.” The driver unsnapped his seat belt. Turning on the interior light, he glanced in the back. “You alive, Arnette?”
Mick didn’t answer. Fuck that cop. Let him crawl back here and find out.
A figure appeared next to Mick’s head. A man leaned down to look into the window. With the light in the vehicle and the darkness outside, it took Mick a second to realize it was his brother. A long-sleeve jacket covered his tatted arms and the bandage on his bicep where he’d been grazed by the cop’s bullet. Combined with a pair of khaki pants, his new look was electronic-store salesman.
“Hey, are you guys OK?” he asked the cops, then pointed a gun through the broken passenger window. Two gunshots echoed in the car as he put a bullet into each cop’s head. Mick flinched. Blood splattered the interior. Sam fired two more shots. Making sure the cops were dead, or just for fun?
His brother leaned into the rear compartment, a knife in his hand. He flicked his wrist and cut the seat belt.
Mick fell forward. “I’m glad to see you.”
“You didn’t think I’d let them take you away?” Sam caught him, his hands gentle.
“Of course not.” Mick should have known his brother would come after him.
Sam leaned into the front of the vehicle and searched the cops until he found a handcuff key. The back door wouldn’t open, so he released Mick’s hands and helped him wriggle out the broken window.
“Did they radio for help?”
“Tried.” Mick coughed. “Not sure if they got through.”
“Let’s get out of here.” Sam grabbed his arm, hauled him to his feet, and half carried him up the embankment. The moving van sat on the shoulder of the road. Other than a dented front fender, the vehicle wasn’t damaged. Sam shoved Mick into the passenger seat. Rounding the vehicle, he climbed behind the wheel.
Mick looked back. At the bottom of the hill, the cop car was still. From a distance, there was no sign that the two deputies had been shot.
“How’s the arm?”
“I’ve had worse.” Sam’s wound had been shallow. He accelerated, putting the scene behind them. A mile up the road he turned onto a dirt road. They drove a few hundred yards and turned again. Trees cropped up around the lane. Sam stopped the vehicle behind a half-collapsed, abandoned outbuilding. The Charger was parked behind the building.
Mick rubbed his shoulder. The seat belt had done a number on him. “How did you know where I was?”
“News report.” Sam held up a different prepaid smartphone than he’d been using before. “I destroyed the old phone in case the cops got into yours.” He rooted in a bag on the bench seat between them and pulled out another phone, which he handed to Mick. “I stole the van and waited down the road. On TV, they showed you being driven away.”
Mick shoved the new phone in his pocket. “Did you know that old dude we snatched was a cop?”
“What did you do with him?”
“I got him stashed where we spent the night. Nobody’s gonna find him.” Sam got out of the van.
They’d parked in an isolated spot overnight. It wasn’t the first time they’d slept in the car, but it had been damned cold. They’d had to start the car engine every hour.
Mick followed his brother. His whole body hurt.
Sam opened the driver’s door of the Charger. He reached in and pulled out a plastic bag. He tossed it to Mick. “Here. Change your clothes. There’s a razor in there, too. Your picture was all over the news.”
Shivering, Mick stripped off his jeans and T-shirt and tugged on the cheap khakis and blue polo shirt. Appearance aside, he was glad to don the fleece jacket. “I look like an idiot.”
“You look like you want to sell me a data plan. Now shut up and shave.” Sam tossed him a bottle of water.
Mick used the water and shaving cream to remove his goatee. He nicked himself multiple times in the cold.
Sam squinted at him. “I don’t think it’s enough.”
“Turn on the dome light.” Tilting the side mirror out, Mick lathered his head and shaved it bald. The night air froze his bare scalp.
“Better,” Sam said. “Do you still want the blond?” His eyes shone as if he was hoping Mick said yes.
“More than ever.” Anger surged in Mick’s chest. She’d defied him. She’d beaten him. She needed to suffer. He wanted her on her knees and begging. He’d never thought she would best him. How did a woman take him out twice? “She needs to pay.”
“All right, but then we’re wiping out all the loose ends here and heading south. Imagine how much money we’ll make when we don’t have to share our take with someone like Mr. K.”
“We’re going to make a killing.”
“Fucking A.” Sam grinned. “I have a plan.”
“Have to find the woman first. She was with that cop at the police station.” Mick rubbed his oddly smooth head in frustration. The cop’s body language with the lawyer was all possessive. He’d keep her close.
“I know.” Sam grinned. “I GPSed his car.”
“You did what?”
Sam shrugged. “Was easy. It was getting dark, and there were so many reporters and cameramen wandering around the parking lot, I just walked right through the crowd and slid it under the fender. Dressed like this”—he gestured toward his torso—“nobody looked at me twice.”
He opened an app on his phone. “Look. Here they are.” Handing the phone to Mick, Sam hurried to the driver’s door. “There’s gonna be a press conference over here.” He pointed to another point on the map. “I’ll bet that’s where they’re headed. I scoped out a few excellent places along the route for an ambush. Let’s go get her.”
Mick shivered in the leather seat. Was that a snowflake? Fuck. This. State. “We could just run. Forget about the woman. Forget about the cop. Head somewhere warm.”
“Hell, no.” Sam’s black eyes snapped. “You want the blond, and I want her, too. You promised. I broke you out of jail! You can’t go back on your word.”
Sam in a rage was way more dangerous than the police. The only way to calm him down was to give him what he wanted.
“You’re right. I promised.” Mick took the device and got into the passenger seat. He buckled up. The crash had given him new appreciation for seat belts. A small green dot moved on a map. “The GPS was ballsy.”
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