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THE CIRCLE TRILOGY
Featuring Complete Texts of: BLACK, RED, and WHITE
By TED DEKKER Thomas Nelson
Copyright © 2008 Ted Dekker
All right reserved.
It all started one day earlier with a single silenced bullet out of nowhere.
Thomas Hunter was walking down the same dimly lit alley he always took on his way home after locking up the small Java Hut on Colfax and Ninth, when a smack! punctuated the hum of distant traffic. Red brick dribbled from a one-inch hole two feet away from his face. He stopped midstride.
This time he saw the bullet plow into the brick. This time he felt a sting on his cheek as tiny bits of shattered brick burst from the impact. This time every muscle in his body ceased.
Someone had just shot at him!
Was shooting at him.
Tom recoiled to a crouch and instinctively spread his arms. He couldn't seem to tear his eyes off those two holes in the brick, dead ahead. They had to be some mistake. Figments of his overactive imagination. His aspirations to write novels had finally ruptured the line between fantasy and reality with these two empty eye sockets staring at him from the red brick.
That wasn't his imagination, was it? No, that was his name, and it was echoing down the alley. A third bullet crashed into the brick wall.
He bolted to his left, still crouching. Onelong step, drop the right shoulder, roll. Again the air split above his head. This bullet clanged into a steel ladder and rang down the alley.
Tom came to his feet and chased the sound in a full sprint, pushed by instinct as much as by terror. He'd been here before, in the back alleys of Manila. He'd been a teenager then, and the Filipino gangs were armed with knives and machetes rather than guns, but at the moment, tearing down the alley behind Ninth and Colfax, Tom's mind wasn't drawing any distinction.
"You're a dead man!" the voice yelled.
Now he knew who they were. They were from New York.
This alley led to another thirty yards ahead, on his left. A mere shadow in the dim light, but he knew the cutaway.
Two more bullets whipped by, one so close he could feel its wind on his left ear. Feet pounded the concrete behind him. Two, maybe three pairs.
Tom dived into the shadow.
"Cut him off in the back. Radio."
Tom rolled to the balls of his feet then sprinted, mind spinning.
The problem with adrenaline, Makatsu's thin voice whispered, is that it makes your head weak. His karate instructor would point to his head and wink. You have plenty of muscle to fight, but no muscle to think.
If they had radios and could cut off the street ahead, he would have a very serious problem.
He looked frantically for cover. One access to the roof halfway down the alley. One large garbage bin too far away. Scattered boxes to his left. No real cover. He had to make his move before they entered the alley.
Fingers of panic stabbed into his mind. Adrenaline dulls reason; panic kills it. Makatsu again. Tom had once been beaten to a pulp by a gang of Filipinos who'd taken a pledge to kill any Americano brat who entered their turf. They made the streets around the army base their turf. His instructor had scolded him, insisting that he was good enough to have escaped their attack that afternoon. His panic had cost him dearly. His brain had been turned to rice pudding, and he deserved the bruises that swelled his eyes shut.
This time it was bullets, not feet and clubs, and bullets would leave more than bruises. Time was out.
Short on ideas and long on desperation, Tom dived for the gutter. Rough concrete tore at his skin. He rolled quickly to his left, bumped into the brick wall, and lay facedown in the deep shadow.
Feet pounded around the corner and ran straight toward him. One man. How they had found him in Denver, four years after the fact, he had no clue. But if they'd gone to this trouble, they wouldn't just walk away.
The man ran on light feet, hardly winded. Tom's nose was buried in the musty corner. Noisy blasts of air from his nostrils buffeted his face. He clamped down on his breathing; immediately his lungs began to burn.
The slapping feet approached, ran past.
A slight tremor lit through his bones. He fought another round of panic. It had been six years since his last fight. He didn't stand a chance against a man with a gun. He desperately willed the feet to move on. Walk. Just walk!
But the feet didn't walk.
They scraped quietly.
Tom nearly cried out in his hopelessness. He had to move now, while he still had the advantage of surprise.
He threw himself to his left, rolled once to gain momentum. Then twice, rising first to his knees then to his feet. His attacker was facing him, gun extended, frozen.
Tom's momentum carried him laterally, directly toward the opposite wall. The gun's muzzle-flash momentarily lit the dark alley and spit a bullet past him. But now instinct had replaced panic.
What shoes am I wearing?
The question flashed through Tom's mind as he hurdled for the brick wall, left foot leading. A critical question.
His answer came when his foot planted on the wall. Rubber soles. One more step up the wall with traction to spare. He threw his head back, arched hard, pushed himself off the brick, then twisted to his right halfway through his rotation. The move was simply an inverted bicycle kick, but he hadn't executed it in half a dozen years, and this time his eyes weren't on a soccer ball tossed up by one of his Filipino friends in Manila.
This time it was a gun.
The man managed one shot before Tom's left foot smashed into his hand, sending the pistol clattering down the alley. The bullet tugged at his collar.
Tom didn't land lightly on his feet as he'd hoped. He sprawled to his hands, rolled once, and sprang into the seventh fighting position opposite a well-muscled man with short-cropped black hair. Not exactly a perfectly executed maneuver. Not terrible for someone who hadn't fought in six years.
The man's eyes were round with shock. His experience in the martial arts obviously didn't extend beyond The Matrix. Tom was briefly tempted to shout for joy, but, if anything, he had to shut this man up before he could call out.
The man's astonishment suddenly changed to a snarl, and Tom saw the knife in his right hand. Okay, so maybe the man knew more about street-fighting than was at first apparent.
He charged Tom.
The fury that flooded Tom's veins felt all too welcome. How dare this man shoot at him! How dare he not fall to his knees after such a brilliant kick!
Tom ducked the knife's first swipe. Came up with his palm to the man's chin. Bone cracked.
It wasn't enough. This man was twice his weight, with twice his muscle, and ten times his bad blood.
Tom launched himself vertically and spun into a full roundhouse kick, screaming despite his better judgment. His foot had to be doing a good eighty miles an hour when it struck the man's jaw.
They both hit the concrete at precisely the same time-Tom on his feet, ready to deliver another blow; his assailant on his back, breathing hard, ready for the grave. Figuratively speaking.
The man's silver pistol lay near the wall. Tom took a step for it, then rejected the notion. What was he going to do? Shoot back? Kill the guy? Incriminate himself? Not smart. He turned and ran back in the direction they'd come.
The main alley was empty. He ducked into it, edged along the wall, grabbed the rails to a steel fire escape, and quickly ascended. The building's roof was flat and shouldered another taller building to the south. He swung up to the second building, ran in a crouch, and halted by a large vent, nearly a full block from the alley where he'd laid out the New Yorker.
He dropped to his knees, pressed back into the shadows, and listened past the thumping of his heart.
The hum of a million tires rolling over asphalt. The distant roar of a jet overhead. The faint sound of idle talk. The sizzling of food frying in a pan, or of water being poured from a window. The former, considering they were in Denver, not the Philippines. No sounds from New York.
He leaned back and closed his eyes, catching his breath.
Crazy! Fights in Manila as a teenager were one thing, but here in the States at the ripe age of twenty-five? The whole sequence struck him as surreal. It was hard to believe this had just happened to him.
Or, more accurately, was happening to him. He still had to figure a way out of this mess. Did they know where he lived? No one had followed him to the roof.
Tom crept to the ledge. Another alley ran directly below, adjoining busy streets on either side. Denver's brilliant skyline glimmered on the horizon directly ahead. An odd odor met his nose, sweet like cotton candy but mixed with rubber or something burning.
Déjà vu. He'd been here before, hadn't he? No, of course not. Lights shimmered in the hot summer air, reds and yellows and blues, like jewels sprinkled from heaven. He could swear he'd been-
Tom's head suddenly snapped to the left. He threw out his arms, but his world spun impossibly and he knew that he was in trouble.
Something had hit him. Something like a sledgehammer. Something like a bullet.
He felt himself topple, but he wasn't sure if he was really falling or if he was losing consciousness. Something was horribly wrong with his head.
He landed hard on his back, in a pillow of black that swallowed his mind whole.
Excerpted from THE CIRCLE TRILOGY by TED DEKKER Copyright © 2008 by Ted Dekker. Excerpted by permission.
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