A Secret in Conard County

By: Rachel Lee

Prologue

Two days had passed, but the bomber was still shaking. He hid out in the abandoned warehouse, in one tiny corner, and had built up an extra wall of empty crates to hide behind. He had plenty to fear.

Someone knew who he was. Someone had put him on a job that had caused him to shoot an FBI agent. Shooting people sickened him. Bombs were so much cleaner, and while he enjoyed reading about the aftermath, he didn’t want to see it. One bomb, poof, the person was gone, turned into a red mist that left little enough behind. Shooting...not so clean. It was close, it was personal and he’d never forget that agent’s face.

Plus, it was bad enough having the Feds after him even before he’d hurt one of their own.

Inevitably, his cell phone rang. Nobody should have his number, but someone had got it, and he knew what he’d hear on the other end: the mechanical voice that had given him this last job. Ordered him to complete it under threat of exposing him.

But he’d never dreamed he’d have to shoot that woman. Her face haunted him as no face ever had before. He needed to erase her, but was terrified of it. He needed to turn her into a red haze, and he didn’t want to see it happen. What if she remembered his face?

His hand was still shaking as he answered the phone. As expected, it was the mechanical voice, calling from a number he couldn’t locate or identify. Once the number had even changed.

“You fool,” said the mechanically distorted voice. “You shot her, you blew up her house and she’s still alive. I told you she was close to getting you.”

“I know.” His voice sounded thin to his own ears.

“You should never have called her to taunt her. You put her on guard. You made a mess of it. Now you’re going to have to clean up your mess.”

“I can’t do anything in a hospital. Too many people.” He never wanted to hurt a lot of people. Only his carefully chosen victims, women who had treated him badly. Not little kids. Not nurses and doctors. Not even FBI agents.

“Not now. She looks like she’s going to survive. Later, when she’s on leave, you’re going to blow her up.”

He could do that if he knew where to look. Some of his tremors faded. “Yes.”

“I’ll tell you when and where. And this time you’d better not screw it up, or I’ll turn you in. You’ll spend the rest of your life confined to a tiny cell. Maybe they’ll even kill you.”

Dealing death was one thing. Being killed was another. He said nothing.

“Do you understand me? You take her out and I won’t turn you in.”

“Yes,” he said. A new mission, a new target. His heart rate steadied. He could do this.

“For now lay low. I’ll tell you when it’s time.”

He looked at the bomb he’d been building, a pastime that soothed him, and felt a pang of disappointment. It would be ready soon, but now he couldn’t use it.

“Harry,” the voice said, reminding him it knew his name. “Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Then wait for my call tomorrow, ten in the morning.”

With a click, the line went dead, leaving only a hum. Slowly he turned off his own phone, removed the battery and turned back to the bomb. In some odd way the call had calmed him. He felt better now.

He went back to building his bomb.





Chapter 1

Erin Sanders opened her eyes. The flashing lights reflected from her rearview mirror straight into them. A cop was pulling up behind her in a tan SUV. She sighed, kissing off the hope of a brief nap, wondering why he was stopping. She’d pulled off the highway onto a dirt turnout just to take a little rest. Road hypnosis had begun to get to her, as well as fatigue, hardly surprising since she was still healing.

The day was bright and sunny, and being parked on the side of the road was hardly suspicious. As far as she could see, for miles around there wasn’t another soul. Drying summer grasses, punctuated by brush, fences and mountains. Practically the middle of nowhere.

Then again, her job had taught her to be suspicious of even the apparently ordinary, like a cop pulling up behind her on a nearly deserted highway. In the fifteen minutes she’d been parked here, she’d watched several trucks tear by at top speed, and a few pickups and cars. Now there was nothing in sight except the vehicle pulling up behind her.

Instinctively she slipped her hand into her suit jacket and gripped the butt of her service pistol, thumb on the safety. A few minutes passed and she knew what he was doing: checking her out-of-state plates. At last she saw the door open and its occupant climb out. Watching in her side-view mirror she took in the khaki uniform, the tan cowboy hat, the gun belt. As he walked closer, she noted that he was tall and strongly built. He had an easy stride, a comfortable bearing. Okay, he wasn’t looking for trouble.

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