Deliver us from evil, p.42
Deliver Us From Evil, p.42Part #2 of A. Shaw series by David Baldacci
ALAN RICE screamed and grabbed his leg where the heavy-caliber round had ripped into his flesh and shattered his femur. He fell hard, rolled, and came to a stop against a small boulder. Shaw grabbed Katie and threw her facedown behind an elevated stretch of ground. Whit and Reggie took cover too. Shaw peered over the top of the mound.
“Anybody see the muzzle flash?” he called out.
“Rice,” he shouted. “Get behind that chunk of rock.”
“My damn leg is broken,” he screamed back.
“You’ll have more broken if you don’t get behind that rock.”
Crawling on his belly, Rice had almost made it to the rock when another round slammed into his shoulder.
“Shit!” Shaw jumped up and ran in zigzags to Rice and pulled him behind the rock. The man was bleeding heavily from both wounds and drifting in and out of consciousness from the pain. The break was a compound one, the pale snapped bone sticking out of his thigh. If it had ripped the femoral artery on the way out, Rice was dead, Shaw knew. Using his knife he tore a length of cloth off his jumpsuit and made a crude tourniquet for Rice’s leg, cranking it down just above the thigh. The blood flow ebbed a bit. But only a bit.
“Am I going to die?” gasped Rice as he came to.
“Look, I’m going to try and get you out of here. Can you stand?”
“He’ll just shoot us,” yelled Rice. “He’ll just shoot us both dead.”
Shaw looked down at him. The man was going into shock and there was nothing he could do to stop it. He froze with the sound of the dogs. Only this time it wasn’t baying. It was snarls and paralyzing growls that made every hair on the back of Shaw’s neck go vertical. He eased his head over the top of the boulder to see.
“Shaw!” screamed Katie and Reggie together.
Two of the largest, fiercest dogs Shaw had ever seen were bearing down on his location at speed. They bounded over the rough terrain like it was level high-pile carpet.
“Shaw, run!” yelled Reggie.
Shaw held his knife tightly, processing through the possible scenarios as fast as he could. He stood but kept in a squat because he didn’t know if the dogs were a ploy to get him in range for a killing round. He looked over the rock again in time to see the first dog leap. Shaw slashed with the knife, catching the two-hundred-pound beast across its massive chest and opening a gaping but unfortunately largely superficial wound. He used his free hand to lever the airborne animal into a tight arc, and it hit the ground hard, but didn’t stay down.
With a speed and agility that no human could match, the dog rolled, gained purchase on the rocky dirt, turned in a split second, accelerated on its four legs, and collided with Shaw, chest to chest. He went down, his own blood from one of the dog’s canines ripping into his arm mingled with the blood from the dog’s chest wound. Shaw was up again in an instant because lying on the ground he had no chance. His fist collided with the animal’s snout once and then twice, momentarily stunning it. The impacts sent stingers all the way up Shaw’s arm and into the tight mass of muscles on his shoulder. He cut with the knife one more time, the beast let out a whine, and then Shaw jumped over the boulder and ran, his feet slipping in the loose dirt.
He tensed for the rifle round hitting him in the back or else the dog attacking him from behind. In his mind he saw it pulling him down, the jaws, the stench of breath in his face as the dog bit into his neck, following an ages-old instinctual tactic it knew would rip the big blood vessels and kill the prey. None of it would be less than a nightmare.
But it didn’t happen. He understood a second later why.
Rice screamed louder than Shaw had ever heard anyone do before. It was like he had ripped his lungs from his chest and inflated them with a ton of oxygen, producing a sound that froze Shaw to his core. He looked back and wished he hadn’t. Shaw had seen a lot of violence in his life, more than most people. But he had never seen anything like this.
One dog had Rice’s arm in its mouth. The other had just torn through most of the doomed man’s chest as freed blood sprayed everywhere. Shaw had a fleeting image of the Goya painting he’d seen of the monster eating the man. Nothing as feeble as oils and canvas, even powered by the imagination of a genius, could match the horror of the real spectacle. It was only at this point, his body perhaps more gone than not, that Alan Rice finally died.
Shaw reached the others and they ran as fast and as far as they could. Shaw half-carried Katie as they slipped and slid and rolled across ground that, at best, should have been traveled over at a measured, cautious pace.
Two miles later they collapsed, flat on the ground, their breaths coming so hard that it sounded like they were sucking on their last bits of oxygen.
“How?” Whit finally said as he sat up, his chest still heaving.
“I don’t know how,” answered Shaw. “He outmaneuvered us.”
Reggie slowly sat up. “We have to keep going. If we have to jump in the Belle Strait and swim to a boat, that’s what we have to do. We stay here we die.”
Whit punched his knife into the dirt. “Get a clue. We are dead. It’ll be the dogs on us next. We’ve got no chance, Reggie.”
Shaw stood, helping Katie up with him. “Reggie’s right. We have to keep moving.”
Whit looked up at him. “You really think that will make any difference?”
“No, but I’m going to make that son of a bitch work a little bit more for it. How about you?”
Reinvigorated, Whit slipped the knife in his pocket and jumped to his feet. They ran as hard as they could to the water.
WHAT WAS LEFT of Alan Rice was swept into plastic trash bags and carried off. The gorged dogs, blood running down their jowls, were corralled with the long metal control poles and their muzzles were once more attached. Sitting on his haunches, his rifle lying across his thighs, Kuchin watched this work even as he muddled over his next maneuver.
He looked off into the distance. Water. It was a requirement of life. They would be heading there now. It was logical. Indeed, it was their only option. He could kill them all easily right now, but that wasn’t the point. Kuchin could have shot Shaw when he went to Rice’s aid or after Shaw fled the dogs. Yet again, it wasn’t when they were going to die. It was how. And he would dictate those terms. And they had done one thing that he assumed they would. He rose, and as he did so he smiled. They would not understand the significance of their action now, of course. But he intended to point it out moments before it was all going to end.
One down, three to go. Well, two down if he counted the man back at the house, but Kuchin didn’t really care about that. He already had the order of deaths planned out. The woman would go last. Kuchin had not forgotten his earlier desire. He would possess her and then finish her. He could think of no better revenge. And her death would be by far the most painful of any of them. In his backpack he had his skin peeler. He would see if he could beat his record of under one hour. He felt that he could. He could already hear her screams in his mind.
“Pascal?” he said, and the small man appeared next to him almost immediately.
“Yes, Mr. Waller?”
“It is time to move on, I think.” He looked to the sky. The darkest moment of night had come and gone. Above him now was the very earliest appearance of the tipping point of night passing to dawn. “They will be heading to the strait. The ships.”
Pascal nodded in agreement. “The channel is wider than they probably think. And there was an ice floe reported there yesterday, hugging the Labrador side. All the ships will stay well to the south of that. They will see no ships.”
“I believe they will realize that when they arrive there. It will be lighter then. They will wait and they will try to signal in the hope that there is something out there. The gun safe was intact?”
“Yes sir. We checked after they left. We’d emptied it of all the weapons and ammo just in case
Kuchin stroked the barrel of his custom-built rifle. “A knife. A poor weapon against this.”
“I can take the shortcut and turn them back towards you. Tactically, they will have nowhere else to go except into the strait.”
“Do that, Pascal. Drive them to me.” He pulled out a pocket map and Pascal shone a light on it. “Drive them there.” He indicated a spot on the map.
“It’s a good choice,” said Pascal, nodding his head approvingly. He looked back at one of the trucks where they were loading the trash bags with the remains of Alan Rice.
“He was a stupid man.”
“He was actually a very smart man, which can make someone do very stupid things. In intelligence there is ambition. And in ambition there is peril.”
“If you say so, Mr. Waller.”
“Drive them to me, Pascal.”
THERE WAS nothing. No ships visible certainly, but not even a light on the water that would indicate one was close by. And to impede matters more, a fog was rolling in from off the strait. Shaw stood and looked over at the others and then at the rocks below. “We can climb down there, hide until something comes along.”
The other three looked wearily up at him. “Postpone the inevitable?” said Whit.
“I like to think of it as securing a defensive position. At least then he has to come down and try and take us.”
“Or stand up here on the high ground and pick us off one by one,” pointed out Reggie. “We never even saw from where he shot Rice. But it was a hell of a long way away.”
“You have a better idea?” asked Katie.
Reggie toed the rock with her sneaker. “Not really, no.”
Shaw looked back at where they had come from. “What are you thinking?” asked Reggie.
“He outmaneuvered us once. I’d like to return the favor this time.”
“How? He has every tactical and strategic advantage.”
Whit added, “And he has guns and dogs that would make the Hound of the Baskervilles seem like a bleeding Pekinese.”
Shaw squatted down, thought about this. He looked at the lightening sky. “The fog could help us hide.”
Reggie nodded. “It could, but chances are pretty good the sun will burn it off and then we’re exposed again. And while we can probably make our way down those rocks, I don’t see us making our way back up. And there’s not a lot of cover down there. We could be halfway down and he could stand up here and pick us off.”
“Only good thing about that,” said Whit, “is that the dogs won’t be able to get down there to have a nice dinner.”
Katie stood. “Jesus, people, Shaw is trying to think of a way to get us out of here and all you can do is—”
Shaw put a hand over her mouth and looked around. They all heard it. Something was moving to the right and above them. Shaw motioned to the others to follow him. They set off to the left, away from the noise.
“Look, Shaw!” said Reggie, pointing back.
They all stood still, watching as it snaked down the cliff. A rope with a bag attached. It reached the bottom and the rope went slack, the plastic bag fell over on its side.
“Take it,” said a voice.
They all looked up.
Pascal was standing at the top of the cliff.
Shaw and Whit automatically held up their knives.
Pascal grinned and shook his head. The fog was rolling in faster now, almost obscuring him. “Take it. It will help you.”
Watching him closely, Shaw moved cautiously toward the bag. When he reached it and saw what was inside it, his jaw slackened in amazement. He pulled out the gun and the cell phone.
Pascal said, “The phone is fully juiced. You have full bars. There is a cell tower that Mr. Waller had put in a mile from here. Call whoever you need to. And its GPS chip is activated.”
“Why are you doing this?” Shaw asked.
“He wants me to drive you that way,” said Pascal, pointing back the way they had come. “About a mile from here where the two trails converge. There is high ground to the west. If I had to guess, he will be there waiting.”
“You haven’t answered my question.” Shaw automatically checked the gun to make sure the mag was loaded and all critical elements were in working order.
Surprisingly, Pascal looked over at Reggie and Whit. “I hoped you would’ve killed him in Gordes. The information I passed on to your colleagues I thought was sufficient. But Rice got in the way. He followed you,” Pascal said, pointing at Reggie. “To the church.”
“You were our inside contact?” asked Reggie in amazement.
“Damn,” added Whit, shaking his head in disbelief.
“I didn’t know what Rice had discovered until it was too late. I went with him to the church thinking I might be able to help you somehow.” He looked at Shaw. “Then he showed up and you no longer needed help from me.”
“You wanted Waller dead?” asked Reggie.
“He was Fedir Kuchin when my mother knew him. I’m Greek and he visited us there on holiday from Ukraine when I was little.”
“You knew him when you were a boy?” asked Katie.
“You could say that. He was my father, though he was never much of a father. And he left my mother to die with nothing. We Greeks do not forgive or forget that. He believes I do not know who he really is. He does not think I am smart enough to figure it all out. He thinks I believe he simply came to Greece and rescued a poor orphaned boy. It’s true he gave me food and shelter and trained me. But he still is the reason my mother died, and so nothing he did could ever make up for that.”
Shaw looked down at the gun. “What is this for?”
“So you will have a chance.”
Whit called out, “Why don’t you just kill him yourself?”
“I have my reasons. And he is my father. I will take care of the others. And the dogs too. You take care of him. Good luck,” he added curtly.
The next moment Pascal was gone.
They all eyed each other.
“What do you think?” said Katie. “Do you believe this is legit?”
Shaw fingered the gun. “Legit enough for him to give us a real weapon and a communication line. And let’s just take care of that right now.” He punched in a number. Frank’s sleepy voice answered.
“I’ve got one minute to explain, Frank, and then I need you to move like you’ve never moved in your whole damn life.”
Shaw told Frank what he needed to hear and then clicked off. He fingered the gun and glanced at Katie. “You and Reggie stay here with Whit. I’ll take the gun and kill the guy. Then I’ll come back for you.”
“It’s not just him, Shaw, he has other people,” said Reggie. “You may need help.”
“You heard Pascal, he’ll take care of the others.”
Whit shook his head. “Yeah, but he’s only one guy. They might kill him. And then there’s the bleeding dogs. I can go with you. The ladies can stay here and wait for us to come back.”
Reggie said, “We’ve been together this whole time. I don’t see any reason to break us up now.”
“I agree,” said Katie. “All or none.”
“Tactically, that makes no sense,” retorted Shaw. “If we’re all together it just makes his job that much easier.”
“Or harder,” said Reggie. “Depending on your perspective.”
“Okay, why can’t we all stay here and wait for Frank to come?” asked Whit.
“Because if we do Kuchin will just come to us. Even by plane or chopper it’ll take Frank awhile to get here.”
“We can ambush him here.”
“The ground here is not good. We’re sitting ducks. Look how easily that guy snuck up on us. If I go back there where he’s expecting us, but hit it from a different angle, I may be able to get the jump on him. And he’s not expecting me to have a gun.”<
“We’re not staying behind, Shaw,” said Katie. “I finally found you, so I’m not letting you go that easily.”
Reggie looked at Shaw and added, “I’m coming too.”
Shaw eyed Whit for support, but the Irishman merely shrugged
Deliver Us From Evil by David Baldacci / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 5.4 out of 5 / Based on49 votes