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Kill Time

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NOWHERE TO RUN.

Nora McKee has never forgotten the terrible day her mother was abducted by government agents and "disappeared." Now, it's happening again. In a crowded caf‚ on an ordinary street, they've come for her husband, Jake, a man who knows too much. And the last thing he says to Nora before he vanishes is a chilling warning.Run, Nora, run.

NOWHERE TO HIDE.

Alone and hunted by a shadow organization that...

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2007 Paperback Grade: C Catalog: Fiction Suspense General Synopsis: 414 pages. NOWHERE TO RUN. Nora McKee has never forgotten the terrible day her mother was abducted by ... government agents and 'disappeared. ' Now, it's h... Read more Show Less

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Overview

NOWHERE TO RUN.

Nora McKee has never forgotten the terrible day her mother was abducted by government agents and "disappeared." Now, it's happening again. In a crowded caf‚ on an ordinary street, they've come for her husband, Jake, a man who knows too much. And the last thing he says to Nora before he vanishes is a chilling warning.Run, Nora, run.

NOWHERE TO HIDE.

Alone and hunted by a shadow organization that will stop at nothing to find her, Nora is in a fight for survival far more important than she knows. For she is a link to a discovery beyond all human imagining.a brilliant experiment that has suddenly crossed the line into uncontrollable nightmare.

NOWHERE IS SAFE.

"Plenty of suspense here."

-John Lutz

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786018321
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 10/1/2007
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 4.32 (w) x 7.04 (h) x 1.18 (d)

First Chapter

KILL TIME


By T. J. MacGREGOR

PINNACLE BOOKS

Copyright © 2007 T. J. MacGregor
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7860-1832-1


Chapter One

Her marriage had begun on the rebound and now it would end over a Caesar salad. It wasn't how Nora McKee had envisioned her life five years ago when she and Jake had stood barefoot on Marconi Beach and traded vows and rings. But there you had it.

She pushed her way through the lunch crowd of tourists that spread through downtown Blue River like some sort of colorful, toxic spill. They were everywhere, these tourists, as ubiquitous as gods. They bolstered the local coffers and the town probably would die without them. But they were in her way, flooding the sidewalk and side streets, illegally parking wherever there was space, their numbers so great that the good tables at the Lighthouse Pub would be gone before she arrived. And it wasn't even noon yet.

Maybe that was just as well. She could forgo lunch with Jake altogether and just drive home, move her stuff out of the apartment, and leave him a note. I'm outta here. An appealing possibility, but that was his MO, not hers.

Quite often during their marriage, he had accused her of being too confrontational, too blunt, too in-your-face. But when she countered that he was duplicitous, deceptive, and avoided any discussion about feelings, he invariably stormed out of the room. So therewas something very right about a restaurant as the punctuation at the end of their marriage, a public place where neither of them was likely to shout or to leave in a huff of self-righteousness.

She squeezed the bridge of her nose and struggled to shake off the feeling that she stood at the edge of some wide, steep abyss from which she would be required to leap, with her eyes shut, acting on nothing more than faith that she would land safely at the bottom. A Carlos Castaneda moment. Sure. Like she had whatever that took.

What does your life lack?

Thirty minutes ago, she had assigned this topic as an essay to her senior psych class. The lack, she had told them, couldn't be a material thing like money, a new car, the dream job, the dean's list. The lack had to be emotional, even spiritual. The irony was that her initial personal response to this question was material. My life lacks tenure, health insurance, better pay. But her bottom-line response, the deeper issue, the only one that counted, was that for twenty-three years, her life had lacked closure. And today she would begin to reverse that pattern by telling Jake she intended to file for divorce.

They didn't have kids or own joint property, just two cars and personal belongings. Divide the goods, one or the other would file, and that would be it.

Nora picked up her pace. The light breeze coming in off the ocean blew strands of her black hair across her eyes. It had an autumn bite to it, this breeze. She buttoned up her blazer and dug her hands in the pockets, glad she'd worn it and slacks. She wondered if, forevermore, she would associate these clothes with the end of her marriage. Wondered if, when she was eighty, she would conjure up these mental snapshots of herself moving through the crowd in a brown and black speckled wool jacket, a soft pumpkin-colored blouse, in dark slacks, her purse slung over her shoulder, lapis lazuli earrings swinging at the side of her face like miniature pendulums. Would she see it all as a bird's-eye view, the Lighthouse Pub at the end of the block, the lighthouse itself rising in the distance, a monolith of simpler times?

Jake had suggested the pub for lunch. Yet, he rarely suggested lunch away from campus and she didn't have any idea why he'd done so today. Maybe he intended to tell her that he wanted a divorce. She could almost see it, Jake leaning across the table, his handsome face skewed with his earnest intentions. I think we both would be happier if we separated, Nora.

That she could be so lucky.

"Hey, lady, what an amazing body you've got," said a husky voice behind her. Jake trotted up alongside her and hooked his arm through hers, grinning like a two-year-old who thought he'd done something clever. He bussed her on the cheek.

As if the last several months of problems hadn't happened. Jake, the great pretender. "I thought you'd be in the restaurant already," she said.

"Couldn't find a parking spot. I had to park along the river. Looks like Autumn Fest has begun already." He referred to a tradition that had begun in the fall of 1695, a celebration of a newly enacted law that made witch trials illegal. It had grown out of the execution that winter of several people accused of witchcraft, the darkest period of Blue River's past, an era about which she taught in her advanced psych courses. The festival drew tourists from all over the Northeast.

"People have been arriving all week," she pointed out.

"They ought to give residents one side of every street for parking. And herd tourists into the municipal lots. And why didn't the college just cancel classes yesterday for the rest of the week? I had more absentees today than I've had on any single day this year."

"Yeah, me, too."

She taught two classes on Wednesdays and Fridays, an introductory psych course for freshmen and a course on Jungian theory for juniors and seniors. Both classes were practically empty today. Except for her courses on the witch trials in Salem in 1692 and in Blue River in 1695, her classes rarely were well attended. She wasn't as popular an instructor as Jake. As the maverick chairman of the English department at Blue River College, his classes were unconventional, his grading system too easy, yet he made language and literature an intriguing adventure. In fact, the adventure was so intriguing for some of the sweet young things in his classes that it had broken the marriage irreparably.

"We may not get a table, you know," she remarked.

"I called from campus and made a reservation."

"What's the occasion?"

"No occasion." He flashed that impish smile and combed his fingers back through his hair, a boyish gesture that made him seem younger than his forty-three years.

But Jake had never looked his age and maybe that was part of the problem. He had a compact, sinewy body honed over decades as a runner, a quick, winning smile that made you feel you were special just because he had noticed you, and a full head of salt-and-pepper hair. He moved and spoke with the practiced impatience of a salesman pressed to make the day's quota and did it all with such charm that it had taken her years to accept that it was mostly smoke and mirrors.

People who knew them well-and there weren't many-remarked that they were like the sun and the moon. His hair was light and curly, hers was straight and dark. He was blue eyed, her eyes were the dark of freshly poured asphalt. But deeper than that, he was sociable, the life of any party, and she was very much a loner.

"We should go away this weekend," he said, which had nothing at all to do with their table reservation or anything else.

"We can't afford to go anywhere, Jake." Divorce is expensive. Why couldn't she just say it? Now, immediately, get it over with. "We can't afford this lunch, either."

"I found some cheap airfares south."

As if she hadn't spoken. I want a divorce, Jake. The words, perched at the tip of her tongue, tumbled into the air. "Jake, I want ..."

She suddenly collided with a tall cop and immediately realized he wasn't just a cop. He wore a uniform the color of rich, bitter chocolate that identified him as a fed with the Department of Freedom and Security-Freeze, to the ordinary guy on the street. She murmured an apology, but his gaze locked with hers-strange, dark, intense eyes that scared her. Even though she was six feet tall, he made her feel like a midget.

"Watch where you're going," he snapped.

Then they were past him, Nora nearly tripping over her own feet to put even more distance between them. The sight of him brought back all the horrifying memories of that evening twenty-three years ago, when she was ten. An ordinary evening on Valentine's Day, the TV news on in the background, her mother opening her gifts, bits of colorful wrapping paper strewn across the table like fallen stars. And suddenly, two Freeze officers, a man and a woman, burst in with a warrant for her mother's arrest-supposedly for funding terrorist groups-and hauled her off into the winter darkness.

Just like that, her mother was gone. Nora never saw her again.

Her father had hired attorneys, private investigators, people with connections. He'd had the money to do it. But within several years, his money had run out, he was forced to sell the house, the catering business, everything that had represented stability to her. Her brother, Tyler, had been in college when it had happened. He'd dropped out of school and worked for a year to finance his education. Eventually, his life and her father's had moved on. Her dad met another woman and married her when Nora was fourteen, pushing her into the land of fairy tales-wicked stepmother, nightmarish teen years, all the rest of it.

At least there had been no wicked stepsisters. She was grateful for that. But a part of her had gotten stuck back there in that winter evening more than two decades ago. She still didn't know what had happened to her mother, where she was, or the real reason for her arrest. Open-ended. No closure.

The only time she and her father had discussed it at any length, Nora was home from college for Christmas and demanded to know everything he knew about it. It's like she fell off the face of the goddamn earth, Dad. I need more than that.

Shadows seized his face; he looked utterly miserable. I've told you all I know, he'd whispered. I pushed and searched for answers and got nowhere. Four years, Nora, and by then I'd lost everything and I was tired.

Tired. Nope, sorry, tired didn't cut it.

It was like the stories of the disappeared in South America, parents and grandparents who vanished in the middle of the night and were never heard from again. Dissidents. Undesirables. Hauled off to torture chambers.

"Stop thinking like that," Jake said suddenly.

"Like what?"

"About your mom. It was a long time ago."

"And that means it's not worth thinking about?"

"I'm just saying to let it go, Nora. It's been twenty-three years."

"I can't. You can't just let something like that go."

"You have to."

"Don't tell me what I have to do, Jake," she snapped.

He started to say something, but by then the hostess was leading them to their table out on the balcony. The waitress came over shortly afterward, a chirpy little thing who was all smiles and dimples, with curves in the right places. Jake turned on the charm, the distinguished professor asking the sweet young thing for her opinion on the wines, everything in his body language suggesting that he found her attractive, desirable. Had he been like this when they'd met? She couldn't remember, probably because back then she had been the sweet young thing. Months ago, such a display would have humiliated Nora, left her feeling that she was somehow at fault, flawed. Now it just irritated her, increased her restlessness, her urgency to end the relationship.

Nora already knew what she wanted and ordered the Caesar salad. Jake said he hadn't made up his mind yet and seemed annoyed that Nora had violated etiquette protocol by ordering before they'd gotten their wine.

As soon as the woman hurried off, Nora leaned toward him. "Is that how it starts with your students, Jake? Seemingly harmless flirtations?"

A flush swept up his neck and through his face. "Jesus, Nora, you're so fixated on the past."

This was how he fought back, by turning things around, making it seem that she was the problem, that she had the issues. "Look, Jake. I've been thinking things over and I ..."

"I'm resigning," he interrupted. "That means I can withdraw my pension contributions."

Resigning? That was why he'd asked her to meet him for lunch? What she felt apparently showed in her expression because he rushed on, not giving her an opportunity to respond.

"They've been after me. For a year or longer."

Here we go again. For months now, Jake had been convinced that he was being watched, followed, that his online activities were being tracked. At first, she'd thought he was going through a midlife crisis or, worse, that he was bipolar. Eventually she got tired of listening to his paranoid litany and fired back with the obvious questions. Who was following him? Watching him? Tracking his online activities? Who would give a damn about a college professor?

The shadow government. A cabal. A brotherhood. Call it what you want. They may be the same people who arrested your mother.

And right then, she'd shut down. Her mother, like the disappeared in South America, hadn't disappeared because of some insidious conspiracy. It was the system-corrupt, cruel, wrapped in secrecy. Jake sounded like one of those Internet fruitcakes whose conspiracy blogs choked up the information highway-Roswell, UFOs, end times, the assassinations of JFK, RFK, MLK. Nearly every conspiracy seemed to share her bottom line-lack of closure due to secrecy, misinformation or not enough information, or flat-out lies. When she'd compared him to the conspiracy nuts, Jake had distanced himself from her, had found solace elsewhere, and had stopped talking about it.

"C'mon, Jake, we went through all this months ago."

"It got worse. I just stopped mentioning it. I think our phone is tapped, too."

The chirpy waitress returned with their wine and glasses, and asked Jake if he would like to taste it first. "No," he said curtly, all his charm gone. "I'd like the lobster bisque."

The bisque. With that and the wine, their lunch tab was soaring. Well, guess what? Instead of them splitting the tab as they often did, he could pay. The waitress quickly set the wine bottle and glasses on the table and left.

"Our home phone is tapped?" Nora asked.

"Yes. And maybe the work phones, too. They don't like me, Nora. They don't like what I teach, how I teach."

"Who? The shadow government?"

"Them and the other department heads and the chancellor."

"Right. That's why you have tenure."

"Tenure may be a big part of it." Whispering again, he leaned in closer to her. "Why should they pay my salary when they can hire someone new for half the price? If they fire me, I lose my pension. I can appeal the firing, but during the appeal process I don't get paid and I don't have access to my pension. But if I resign, I get everything in the pension plus a month's wages."

Me, me, me. It was all about Jake. It always had been all about Jake. She had no idea what she'd ever seen in him.

No, that wasn't correct. She knew exactly what she had seen in him-whispered sweet nothings on a windblown beach, a charm that she had mistaken for the genuine person, a man who had said and done all the right things at a time in her life when she was vulnerable. She'd been in her late twenties, still licking her wounds over a relationship that had gone south. She, too, was at fault. But five years of trying to make this work was long enough. "Frankly, I don't give a shit what you do. I'm filing for divorce, Jake. I'll move my things out as soon as I find my own place."

She couldn't tell if he was stunned, shocked, or simply incredulous that she would want to divorce him. "But ... I ... I thought we were doing better, Nora."

"Better than what? Better than when you were screwing the cute chiquita in your junior English class? We haven't slept together in months, we don't really have a relationship anymore, so let's just end the charade and call it quits, Jake."

His jaw tightened. "You're doing this because I'm resigning."

"Excuse me, but I'm doing this because fidelity is a foreign concept for you and I'm tired of pretending."

"My God, Nora, I can't believe you're ..."

The sudden shriek of tires against the pavement interrupted them. She glanced quickly toward the street, but the dozens of customers waiting along the patio wall for seats blocked her view. Then two Freeze officers marched onto the patio as though they owned the restaurant, the man moving with a macho swagger, the woman a few brisk steps ahead of him. Waiters and waitresses hurriedly stepped aside, customers slid their chairs out of the way, Nora's body went stiff, her eyes flashed dry, a pulse beat at her throat.

Like when they took Mom.

The male officer was the same guy with whom she had collided on the street and he looked much taller now, at least six feet four, with thick, muscular arms. She stole a look at Jake, to see if he recognized the man as well, but he was huddled in on himself, as if he hoped to vanish, his eyes glued to the menu, hands gripping it. He looked terrified.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from KILL TIME by T. J. MacGREGOR Copyright © 2007 by T. J. MacGregor. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2008

    Time Travel, Dissidents, Corruption and Decay

    TJ MacGregor's KILL TIME depicts the corruption of society as a mother is abducted by government agents and society's values turn extreme. Protection from outside threats and and medical maladies turn rogue as extremism and corruption enter the scene. Time travel heightens the suspense and characterization as the author reveals history and future influence. Nora's mother disappeared when she was a child. Now, as she prepares to tell her husband that she wants a divorce, her childhood fears come back to haunt her as her husband is taken away from her right in front of her in a restaurant by FREEZE (Freedom and Security). Labeled as a terrorist, there is no recourse and her attempts to find out the charge become much too similar to a Kafka novel. As she traces a trail of clues left by her husband, she uncovers medical research gone awry, disappearing dissidents, political corruption and power brokering, greed run rampant and an eerie connection to a television show from the past. The ending leaves some things unresolved but it works well here, giving a vision that makes the reader ponder. KILL TIME addresses issues of our current culture, indeed issues faced throughout history. By de-familiarizing them through time travel and a futuristic feel, TJ MacGregor gets down to timeless values, not specific political personalities or events, and in doing so, reaches beyond party politics into the heart of human values. I adore suspense that takes parts of culture perhaps good in the original intention and twists them, showing the underside when 'good' things become too absolute, too fanatical. TJ MacGregor reveals the dark underside of aspects of today's society without preaching and without moralizing, leaving the reader to form their own ideas. As homeland security and medical research cross the boundaries into corruption and fanaticism, TJ MacGregor provides an eerie portrait. The references to Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone and Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead are just downright fun. TJ MacGregor's thriller amuses with its look into 1968 culture and chills as time travel brings an all too real look at the influence of television albeit through the twisted and delightful vision of TJ MacGregor's time travel suspense hunt. KILL TIME is both an amusing and thought-provoking tale of suspense with its vision of the world in 1968 and today's or a future world riddled in extremism.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    exhilarating suspense thriller

    In Blue River, Massachusetts, college psychology professor Nora McKee knows her marriage of five years to the English Department Chair Jake is over. As she struggles with telling him so, two federal agents Curtis and Sargent from the Department of Freedom and Security grab Jake to take him into custody. Nora is stunned not just because he was snatched, but it reminds her of the pivotal incident of her childhood when twenty-three years ago Feds abducted her mom whom she never heard from again. Nora calls college librarian Alex Kincaid, her former lover and Jake¿s best friend. The Fed already told her to get a lawyer as she is guilty by association of violating Section 14 Code 3. No warrant is needed to snatch people off the street by this shadow top secret agency. With Alex at her side, Nora begins an odyssey through time as they learn of an experiment that crossed the line when all they seek is the truth of the ¿legal¿ kidnappings of her mom and her spouse while also remembering Jake¿s last words to her: ¿Run, Nora, run¿. --- From the beginning when the Feds snatch Jake until the climax, fans will be hooked to keep on reading to learn what Nora and Alex will learn next. The suspense never slows down as the lead couple dodges dangerous agents who legally can eliminate them without a judge or jury. As they uncover the truth about the kidnappings of her loved ones and other snatches as well as the experiment in which Nora is the link tying the abducted together, they struggle to survive. Thus the audience receives a cautionary tale to beware of out of control government agents using security issues to take people off the street as happened a few decades ago in Argentina while readers also receive a warning subplot on scientific experimenting going wrong. However, the bottom line is KILL TIME is an exhilarating suspense thriller. --- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 7, 2012

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