Split second, p.1
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       Split Second, p.1

         Part #15 of FBI Thriller series by Catherine Coulter
 
Split Second


  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  Dedication

  CHAPTER 1

  CHAPTER 2

  CHAPTER 3

  CHAPTER 4

  CHAPTER 5

  CHAPTER 6

  CHAPTER 7

  CHAPTER 8

  CHAPTER 9

  CHAPTER 10

  CHAPTER 11

  CHAPTER 12

  CHAPTER 13

  CHAPTER 14

  CHAPTER 15

  CHAPTER 16

  CHAPTER 17

  CHAPTER 18

  CHAPTER 19

  CHAPTER 20

  CHAPTER 21

  CHAPTER 22

  CHAPTER 23

  CHAPTER 24

  CHAPTER 25

  CHAPTER 26

  CHAPTER 27

  CHAPTER 28

  CHAPTER 29

  CHAPTER 30

  CHAPTER 31

  CHAPTER 32

  CHAPTER 33

  CHAPTER 34

  CHAPTER 35

  CHAPTER 36

  CHAPTER 37

  CHAPTER 38

  CHAPTER 39

  CHAPTER 40

  CHAPTER 41

  CHAPTER 42

  CHAPTER 43

  CHAPTER 44

  CHAPTER 45

  CHAPTER 46

  CHAPTER 47

  CHAPTER 48

  CHAPTER 49

  CHAPTER 50

  CHAPTER 51

  CHAPTER 52

  CHAPTER 53

  CHAPTER 54

  CHAPTER 55

  CHAPTER 56

  CHAPTER 57

  CHAPTER 58

  CHAPTER 59

  CHAPTER 60

  CHAPTER 61

  CHAPTER 62

  CHAPTER 63

  CHAPTER 64

  CHAPTER 65

  CHAPTER 66

  CHAPTER 67

  CHAPTER 68

  CHAPTER 69

  CHAPTER 70

  CHAPTER 71

  CHAPTER 72

  CHAPTER 73

  CHAPTER 74

  CHAPTER 75

  CHAPTER 76

  CHAPTER 77

  CHAPTER 78

  CHAPTER 79

  CHAPTER 80

  CHAPTER 81

  EPILOGUE

  Also by Catherine Coulter

  Also by Catherine Coulter

  THE FBI THRILLERS

  Twice Dead: Riptide and Hemlock Bay (2011)

  Whiplash (2010)

  KnockOut (2009)

  TailSpin (2008)

  Double Jeopardy: The Target and The Edge (2008)

  Double Take (2007)

  The Beginning: The Cove and The Maze (2005)

  Point Blank (2005)

  Blowout (2004)

  Blindside (2003)

  Eleventh Hour (2002)

  Hemlock Bay (2001)

  Riptide (2000)

  The Edge (1999)

  The Target (1998)

  The Maze (1997)

  The Cove (1996)

  G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS

  Publishers Since 1838

  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA • Penguin Group

  (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada

  (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London

  WC2R 0RL, England • Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland

  (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) • Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road,

  Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) •

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  New Delhi–110 017, India • Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale,

  North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) •

  Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank,

  Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  Copyright © 2011 by Catherine Coulter All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

  Published simultaneously in Canada

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Coulter, Catherine.

  Split second / Catherine Coulter.

  p. cm.

  ISBN : 978-1-101-52920-1

  1. United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation—Fiction. 2. Savich, Dillon (Fictitious character)—

  Fiction. 3. Sherlock, Lacey (Fictitious character)—Fiction. I. Title.

  PS3553.O843S

  813’.54—dc22

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

  http://us.penguingroup.com

  To Anton,

  my favorite guy in the whole universe.

  A big thank-you, as always.

  C.C.

  CHAPTER 1

  Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

  Tuesday night

  Nonfat milk, Fritos, and bananas, Savich repeated to himself as he pulled into the parking lot of Mr. Patil’s Shop ’n Go. It was after eight o’clock, and Savich was on his way home from a hard workout at the gym. He felt good, his muscles relaxed and warm, and he looked forward to playing with Sean, maybe with his new video game, Wonky Wizards. He breathed in deeply, enjoying the bite of fall in the air. He looked up at the low-lying clouds that promised to bring a shower in the next couple of hours. Nonfat milk and Fritos and—what else?

  There was only one car in the parking lot, which wasn’t unusual at this time of the evening. A strange play of rapid movement behind the store’s large glass window caught his eye. He pulled the Porsche to the far side of the parking lot, out of the line of sight, got out, quietly closed the car door, and walked to the edge of the window. He could see a man inside, his face flattened in a leg of panty hose, standing in front of the counter, pointing a Saturday night special at Mr. Patil’s chest. Mr. Patil, who wasn’t more than five-five with lifts in his shoes and was at least seventy-five years old, looked petrified. Savich watched his hands shoot into the air above his head. He could hear the man yelling at him, but couldn’t make out what he was saying. Then he saw a customer. At the end of the counter stood a man about his own age, wearing a bright red Redskins sweatshirt, jeans, and glasses.

  Savich felt his heart seize.

  Pressed against the man’s legs were two small children, a boy and a girl. His hands were wrapped around their shoulders, hugging them tightly against him. Each child held an ice-cream bar, now forgotten.

  Keep it together. He couldn’t call 911, and take the chance of sirens freaking the guy out, not with the kids still in the line of fire. He quickly ran around to the back of the Shop ’n Go and heard the engine running before he saw the Chevy Impala, tucked in the shadows off the parking asphalt. He saw a woman in the driver’s seat, lea
ning in toward the passenger’s side to get a partial view inside the store. Since she wasn’t wearing panty hose on her head, she obviously wasn’t slated to join the actual robbery; she was just there to drive the man in the store out of here. Savich couldn’t see the license plate. No matter. She hadn’t seen him. Good.

  Forget her, let her get away. He crouched down and ran back around to the front of the store. He held his SIG at his side and began whistling. He opened the door and called out, “Good evening, Mr. Patil,” and the man in the panty hose whirled around, his gun leading, as the little girl yelled, “He’ll hurt you!”

  The man froze for the longest instant of time in Savich’s memory. Savich saw the father grab the children and hurl them to the floor, and then he fell over them while Mr. Patil hefted a six-pack of beer the man had brought to the counter. Then Savich’s SIG was up, and he fired. The rule was always to fire only when you intended to kill, but the bullet didn’t go into the man’s chest, it went into his shoulder. The man screamed, fell hard to his knees, clutching his shoulder, and the .22 went flying.

  Savich listened for the Impala’s engine to rev, for the car to roar out of there, but he didn’t hear anything except a car door slamming shut. He yelled, “Mr. Patil, get down!” Savich dropped to the floor and was rolling when the door burst open and a submachine gun started blasting bullets. He heard Mr. Patil scream from behind the counter, knew he hadn’t been fast enough and she’d hit him. He heard the kids screaming, heard the father’s deep voice, hazed over with fear, saying, “It’s all right, it will be all right.” He came up and fired, hit the woman square between the eyes as she swung the gun around toward him. The submachine gun hit the linoleum floor and fetched hard against the counter.

  Savich saw Mr. Patil leaning heavily on the counter, a bloom of red on his right arm. He jumped up and quickly checked the gunman, pulled the stocking off his face. He was white, about forty, heavyset, his light brown hair seriously thinning. He moaned, holding his shoulder, the bullet still in him. He was lucky the bullet hadn’t hit an artery. He’d survive. Savich picked up the .22 and said, “Keep pressing down on that,” and then he went down on his knees beside the woman. Like the man, she was white, fortyish, but she was dead. Her dark eyes were open. A dribble of blood came out of her mouth, and the hole between her eyes was a perfect red dot. Blood haloed her head.

  Please keep their eyes covered.

  He quickly pulled off his leather jacket and covered the woman’s face. He ran back to Mr. Patil and examined the bullet wound. Through and through, thank God. “You did great, sir. You’re going to be okay.” Savich grabbed a wad of paper towels from next to the coffee machine and pressed them against Mr. Patil’s arm. “Press as hard as you can, sir.”

  He called 911 and asked for two ambulances and the police. He looked over at the father, still covering his children on the floor. Both children were quiet now, their father murmuring against their heads, “It’s okay, kids, everything’s okay now—”

  Savich looked back at the wounded man, saw he wasn’t moving or making a sound. He came down on his haunches, laid his hand lightly on the man’s shoulder. He was a big guy, pretty fit, his face less ashen now that he realized they’d all survived. “Don’t worry, I’m FBI. You did great; you kept your kids safe. Everything’s under control now. The police will be here soon. You’re a very brave man; it’s a pleasure to meet you,” and Savich stuck out his hand. “I’m Dillon Savich.”

  The man slowly stood, bringing the children with him, still pressed against his legs. He straightened his glasses and gave Savich a shaky grin. He started to say something, then lost the words, the wild adrenaline rush choking them off. He took Savich’s hand, shook it really hard, and at last he managed to say, “I can hear my own heart beating so heavy, it’s like it’s going to fly out of my chest.”

  “It’s the adrenaline. Believe me, in a couple of minutes you’re going to crash.”

  “No, I can’t do that, not with the kids here. Hey, I’m Dave Raditch. Thank you for coming in like that, so sharp and fast. I don’t know what the guy was going to do; he might have shot all of us. It sure looked like he was going to kill Mr. Patil. Hush, Michael, everything’s okay. Hold Crissy’s hand, okay?”

  Savich prayed Dave wouldn’t bottom out completely after the adrenaline snapped out of him and fall over. He’d seen it before. He looked closely at Dave Raditch, saw he was occupied with stroking those small shuddering bodies, keeping them very close. Savich smiled at him. “You’ll do fine,” he said, and smiled down at Michael. Then, because it could have been Sean, Savich hugged him. As Savich pressed Michael’s face against him, he thought, how would he deal with this violent terror? With the shock of sudden bloody death? As he rubbed his big hands up and down Michael’s back, he said, “Michael, I really need your help. The police will be here soon, and I’ll have to speak with them. I want you to hunker down with your dad and sister and talk about what happened, because the police will want to speak with you, too. Do you think you can keep them calm? Can you do that for me?”

  Michael hiccuped, wiped the back of his hand over his running nose, and slowly pulled back in Savich’s arms. He looked over at the man moaning on the floor, holding his shoulder, his blood everywhere. Then Michael looked at the woman Mr. Savich had covered with his leather jacket. Michael knew she was dead, knew dead meant she wouldn’t wake up. And there was Mr. Patil, and he was hurt, too, that woman had shot him, but because he’d heard Mr. Savich tell Mr. Patil he was going to be okay, Michael didn’t think he’d have to worry about him. He tried to straighten his shoulders and said, “I can do that, sir,” in the most convincing imitation adult voice Savich had ever heard. What was he? Five years old? Sean’s age. Thank God Sean hadn’t been with him.

  “Crissy, it’s okay now,” Michael said as he patted his sister’s back. “Dad, Mr. Savich said the police are coming and we’ve got to get our stories straight.”

  Well, close enough. Savich smiled.

  Dave Raditch’s left eyebrow shot up above his glasses. He didn’t know where it came from, but when he met Savich’s eyes, he grinned, nodded, but only for an instant, because Crissy’s face was leached of color and she was shuddering like she had a fever. He cleared his throat. “Okay, Crissy, Michael’s right, we’ve gotta tell the police exactly what happened before Mr. Savich came in. How about the three of us go over there by the potato chips and talk about how this went down, okay?”

  Crissy Raditch turned to stare at the woman, and then licked her lips. “Did Mr. Savich shoot her dead?”

  This is the big one. Savich said, “Yes, I had to, Crissy. I couldn’t take the chance she would hurt any of us. Now go with your dad and Michael and work this all out.”

  Savich watched Dave Raditch herd his children behind the chip stand, out of sight of the devastation.

  He looked at the dead woman, at the trail of blood seeping from beneath his leather jacket. Had she ever considered she might die at 8:27 on a Tuesday night?

  He heard sirens.

  He looked over at the kids’ two ice-cream bars melting on the floor, and then at the big round clock behind Mr. Patil’s counter. He watched the minute hand reach 8:28. Only a couple of minutes had passed, a couple of minutes that determined who would live and who would die.

  CHAPTER 2

  Cleveland, Ohio

  Nielson’s Bar & Grill

  Tuesday night

  He said his name was Thaddeus, and he was sort of shy when he asked her if he could buy her a Burning River Pale Ale. He really liked it, he said, and it was brewed by Great Lakes Brewing Co., so she would be helping the local economy. While they sipped their ale, they ate the really salty peanuts set in bowls on the length of the bar. Alana Rafferty thought he was pretty cool with that white face of his and longish black hair topped with a black beret. She’d swear he even used a black eyebrow pencil. His clothes looked arty—black T-shirt and baggy black jeans—and hung on him, since he was so thin. Turned out he was als
o really nice and funny, one-liners popping out of his mouth. He was a nice change from her younger brother, the jerk, who’d stolen two hundred dollars from her wallet that morning when she’d visited her mother, then laughed at her when she accused him of it, because, the fact was, she always let him off the hook, just like her mother who always excused her loser father.

  Thaddeus asked her questions about her job, and she opened up to him, even told him how she wanted to write a movie script for a new superhero she’d created. They drank two more Burning Rivers, and then he asked her if she’d like to drop in and see what was going on at Club Mephisto on Bradley Street, only two blocks over. Alana looked at his fine-boned face and long, thin fingers, those darkened eyebrows, the clever smile of his mouth. He seemed okay. She said yes, but she couldn’t stay for long, she had to work tomorrow.

  He helped her into her lightweight corduroy jacket, a gift from her mother on her birthday two weeks ago. She gave the bartender a big smile and a little half wave, and they walked out into the cool evening. It was clear, a half-moon overhead. She had a slight buzz going. Club Mephisto—it was a good place for dancing the calories off, but she really shouldn’t go since it was a work night. She smiled at him and tried out his name. “Okay, Thaddeus, who stuck you with that name? Your mom or your dad?”

  “My dad. He loved Thaddeus Klondike, you know, that old Wild West hero from Charles Haver’s books?”

  “Sorry, I’ve never heard of this Klondike or Haver. I remember eating Klondike bars. They’re yummy. What else did Haver write?”

  “I don’t know. I’ve never read him.”

  “So here you are, stuck with Thaddeus and no context. No nickname? Like Thad or maybe Deus?” She was feeling more buzzed now than before, and that didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Buzzed on three bottles of Burning River Pale Ale she’d nursed for more than two hours?

  “Nope, it’s always been Thaddeus.” He stuck out his hand to wave down the taxi cruising by. “I kind of like it that way. With me, Alana, what you see is what you get.”

 
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