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Colder Than Ice
By Maggie Shayne
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedISBN: 0-7783-2094-4
Chapter OneArthur Stanton stood in the middle of the narrow, deserted road while the rain poured down on him. In the distance, sirens wailed. Bloodhounds bayed, their unmistakable yowk-yowk-yowks rubbing his nerves raw. Every few seconds a helicopter passed overhead, its searchlight sweeping the ground. Men's voices rose from far away. Too far away, though. Right now, it was just the two of them: Arthur Stanton and the man in prison grays who'd come stumbling out of the tree line only to stop in his tracks, thirty feet away.
The convict met his eyes; then his glance slid lower, toward the gun Arthur held. He didn't move, just held his breath, waiting.
Arthur's hand trembled, not with fear, nor with the symptoms of his age, but with the weight of the decision tearing at his soul. David Quentin Gray, Jr., white-collar criminal and former attorney to a madman, wasn't the offender Arthur lived to apprehend. But he could be the key to that criminal. If he were free. Imprisoned, he was useless.
Swallowing against the bile that rose in his throat, Arthur lowered his weapon.
The convict frowned at him, jerking convulsively in an almost-lunge, before going motionless again.
He thinks I'll shoot him in the back if he runs. Hell, maybe I should.
But Arthur didn't. Instead, he turned and trudged back to his car. It waited on the muddy shoulder, where he'd skidded to a halt when he'd spotted the scarecrow silhouette among the trees, picked out by his headlights as he rounded a curve.
After three steps, Arthur stopped and squeezed his eyes tight. I can't, I can't just let him walk. He's a criminal. I've spent the past forty years working against his kind.
He raised his gun as he turned again, unable, unwilling, to do something so contrary to everything he believed.
But David Quentin Gray, Jr. was gone. The decision was made.
Headlights found Arthur, as if to illuminate this newest stain on his soul. Tires skidded, and a car door slammed. It was done. He couldn't undo it. And now, he thought, the lies begin.
"Stanton? What's going on? Did you see something?"
Arthur recognized the voice and turned. "Thought I did. It was just a deer, though."
Assistant Warden Martin Phillips sighed deeply, came closer and clapped a hand to Arthur's shoulder. "Dammit, I'm sorry. I know what this prisoner meant to you, Stanton."
"We'll get him. He can't get far."
"Still..." Phillips sighed, looked around just in case, lowered his voice. "You'll probably have to move her now, right?"
Arthur lifted his head.
"Hell, only a handful of people even know she's alive," the assistant warden went on. "Much less where she's hiding out."
"You shouldn't even know."
"I wouldn't-if Gray's cellmate hadn't been so eager to earn a few brownie points. He was coming up for parole and thought telling me what he knew would help his case." He grinned. "By running his mouth, all he really did was force us to keep him inside, where he couldn't spread what he knew about Elizabeth Marcum. Poor stupid shit."
Arthur reacted instantly, gripping the man by his lapels and drawing him up onto his toes. "She's dead. As far as the world is concerned, she's dead. I hear you say her name again, I'll have to put you someplace where you can't spread it around."
"All right, all right. Damn." Arthur released the man, and Phillips smoothed his lapels. "You act like it's my fault Gray saw that news clipping of some small-town Blackberry Festival with her in the background. Hell, if it were up to me, they wouldn't have access to television, newspapers or anything else from the outside."
Arthur unclenched his fists. He was angry with himself, not Phillips. He'd fucked up. Again.
"So will you move her?" Phillips asked, apparently too stupid to know when to let it drop.
"No." He'd come this far, Arthur thought. He might as well see this through.
"But nothing. You've been keeping the prisoner under surveillance since you found out what he knew. Haven't you?"
"Well, yeah. We've watched him like a striptease."
"And he hasn't tried to get word out to anyone about the woman's whereabouts, has he?"
"No. But... all due respect, Arthur, that doesn't mean he won't run straight to Mordecai Young now that he's free."
I'm counting on it, Arthur thought. But aloud, he only said, "How about you do your own job, Phillips, and let me worry about mine?"
"Jesus, Arthur, if Young finds her, he'll kill her."
"I'm not going to let that happen." He couldn't let that happen. He couldn't have the blood of one more innocent staining his hands. He would see to it that Elizabeth Marcum-Beth Slocum, as she was currently known-remained safe. Not by moving her, but by being ready for the madman to strike. And then he could finally catch Mordecai Young and redeem himself. God knew he didn't have a lot more time to make amends. He was on the far side of sixty, and facing mandatory retirement.
He was using an innocent woman as bait to capture a madman. He knew that. And it was wrong. He knew that, too. He'd had to make a snap decision, and he'd made the wrong one. But it was made. Now he had to follow through. He could make it work out right; he knew he could. The key was in seeing to it that "Beth Slocum" had the best protection he could give her. Someone who would lay down his life before letting any more harm come to the woman.
And he knew there was only one man he could count on to do that.
A man who, like the rest of the world, believed she was dead. A man who had spent the past eighteen years convinced he was the one who had killed her.
Mordecai Young sat in his car with the wipers set on intermittent and the headlights turned off. An observer, had there been one, would have said he was alone in the car, yet Mordecai was never truly alone. He waited right where he had said he would. He could wait all night. But he wouldn't have to. He had it on pretty good authority that his old friend and former attorney, David Quentin Gray, Jr., would make it here unscathed.
It would be good to see David again. It had been a long time.
He really had picked the perfect spot-or rather, his guides had: a pull-off near a railroad crossing where no trains ran anymore. Back roads, no one around.
Oh, there would be roadblocks, but that didn't matter. He didn't know why yet, but he knew they were not going to be a problem. He knew it with a certainty that told him it was "given" knowledge. It came from beyond him.
Mordecai sat a little straighter in his seat when he spotted the man, hunched and shivering, near the edge of the woods. Gray was peering through the rain at the car, as if too wary to come any closer. Smiling to himself, Mordecai flashed his headlights on, then off, then on again. He left them on, because he couldn't believe his one-time attorney looked the way he did. Prison had apparently forced him to overcome his obsession with Italian suits and flawless grooming. David could have passed for a scrawny, half-drowned alley cat.
Excerpted from Colder Than Ice by Maggie Shayne Excerpted by permission.
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