The New York Times
Cut and Runby Ridley Pearson, Dick Hill (Read by)
Six years ago, witness protection marshal Roland Larson did the unthinkable: he fell in love with a protected witness, Hope Stevens, whose testimony was to put away prominent members of the Romero crime family. When Hope's plan to “cut and run” is interrupted by both the government and the mob, she disappears into a new identity, taking with her not
Six years ago, witness protection marshal Roland Larson did the unthinkable: he fell in love with a protected witness, Hope Stevens, whose testimony was to put away prominent members of the Romero crime family. When Hope's plan to “cut and run” is interrupted by both the government and the mob, she disappears into a new identity, taking with her not only her testimony but a secret never shared with Larson.
Larson, who has been looking for her ever since, is put back on her trail when the Romeros intercept the master WITSEC list from the Justice Department and Hope is believed among the first protected witnesses to be targeted for execution.
In a series of terrifying encounters, Larson matches wits with a brutally ingenious killer whose sole target is Hope Stevens. For Larson, the stakes couldn’t be higher—he must find Hope in order to protect her, and simultaneously prevent the mob from auctioning off the master witness protection list—an act that will put seven thousand innocent, and not-so-innocent, lives in jeopardy.
Taut and edge-of-the-seat compelling, Cut and Run is a unique thriller that skillfully blends romance and suspense—Ridley Pearson at his heart-pounding best.
The New York Times
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Read an Excerpt
SIX YEARS EARLIER
The forty-first day was their last together.
Roland Larson was holed up in a truck stop's pay phone, half-mad from guarding her round-the-clock while denied any privacy with her whatsoever. He resorted to calling her on the phone. He'd slipped her his cell phone, and now dialed his own number to find her breathless as she whispered from her hardened bedroom, the aft cabin of the bus, not thirty yards away.
"I can't stand this," she said.
He found himself aroused by the hoarse, coarse sound of her. Forty-one days, under every conceivable pressure, and this the first complaint he'd heard from her.
"Us, or the situation?" he asked.
Hope Stevens had been moved on three separate occasions: first, to a wilderness cabin in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the kind of place Larson could see himself retiring to someday, a lethargic life so different from the one he lived; then she'd been moved to a nearly abandoned Air Force base in Montana, the desolation reminding him of a penitentiary, a place he knew well; and finally, into a private coach, a customized diesel bus that Treasury had confiscated from a forgotten rock band, its interior complete with neon-trim lighting and mirrored tables. Painted on three sides as a purple and black sunrise, the coach comfortably slept six and converted to club seating by day. Three deputies, including Larson, two drivers, and the witness traveled together-one of only a handful of times in the U.S. Marshals Service's long history of witness protection that a "moving target" policy had been adopted. The last had been aboard a sleeper train in the mid-'70s.
Ironically, the more attempts made upon her life, the more importance and significance Hope Stevens gained in the eyes of her government. It wasn't for her keen understanding of computers that they guarded her, nor for her fine looks or sharp tongue (when she did bother to speak); it was instead for a few cells and chemicals inside her skull and the memory trapped there, living now like a dog under the front porch, cowering with a bone of truth in its jaws.
The problem for Roland Larson was that the longer he guarded her, the more he cared for her-cared intensely-a situation unforgivable and intolerable in the eyes of his superiors and one that, if discovered, could have him transferred to some far outpost of government service, like North Dakota or Buffalo. But the few private moments shared with her overwhelmed any sensibility in Larson.
After just seventeen days of protection, the Michigan cabin had gone up in flames-arson; in the resulting firefight, a shadowy ballet in the flashes of orange light from the mighty blaze, two deputy marshals had been injured.
When, at the Montana Air Force base, mention of "persons unknown" had been intercepted by some geek in an NSA cubicle, the marshals had been instructed to move Hope yet again. Larson wasn't much for running away from a faceless enemy, but he knew well enough to follow orders and so he did.
As a former technical consultant to an industry probe of fraudulent insurance practices, Hope had connected a string of assisted-care facilities to millions of dollars in wrongful charges. The names she'd eventually given Justice-Donny and Pop Romero and, by inference, the young scion of the crime family, Ricardo Romero-were well known to federal law enforcement's Organized Crime Unit. The Romeros, notorious for inventive white collar crime on an enormous scale, also played rough and dirty when required, the arson and the shoot-out at the lake a case in point. Hope's value to Justice was not only her initial discovery of insurance fraud-a scheme involving billing Medicare long after the patient was dead-but, more important, her interception of a series of e-mails sent to and from the Romeros that proved to be murder-for-hire contracts. Five executives of the same health care consortium that had called for the probe, all referred to in the correspondence as whistle-blowers whose actions threatened the Romeros, had later been found brutally murdered, the victims of so-called Serbian Spas-laundry bleach enemas that burned the victim from the inside out over a period of several hours, their families tied up and forced to watch their prolonged deaths.
Intended perhaps to implicate the Russian mob, these horrific tactics did nothing of the sort. The FBI had immediately placed the Romeros onto their Most Wanted list and their two remaining witnesses, Hope Stevens and an unnamed accountant, had been placed in protective custody.
The e-mails had been electronically destroyed; they existed now only in Hope's memory. Government prosecutors believed a jury would convict based primarily on her testimony. And so they sequestered her on the garish bus, never allowing her off, never risking her being seen in public, and never stopping the bus for more than fuel or supplies. The strategy had kept her alive for the past ten days and left everyone on board with a bad case of cabin fever. Discussions had begun to once again relocate her, this time to a "static," or fixed, location, probably a federal facility, quite possibly a short stint inside an unused wing at a federal penitentiary, or in an ICU at a city hospital. They had myriad tricks up their sleeves if left to their own devices. They seldom were.
"Isn't there something you can do?" Hope asked. "Order us to stop at a motel, and arrange for you to guard my room? There has to be something."
"I'm only guessing here," Larson answered, "but I think a few of the guys might see through that tactic." He caught his reflection in the polished metal surrounding the pay phone's keypad. No one was going to call him pretty, although they had as a child. He'd grown into something too big for pretty, too hard for handsome, like a puppy growing into its feet. Pedigree be damned.
She sputtered on the other end, not quite her trademark laugh but a valiant effort.
He said, "You could make like a heart attack, and I could give you mouth-to-mouth."
A little more authentic this time.
At the cabin, and then again at the Air Force base, they'd managed to find moments together, though not the moment both of them longed for, one he repeatedly daydreamed about. But once onto the bus, they'd barely shared a glance. A phone call was as much as they were going to get.
"It's probably better this way," she said. "Right?"
"No. It's decidedly worse."
"As soon as I testify . . . as soon as that's over with . . . they'll put me into the program and that will be that. Right? We should have never started this, Lars."
Her testimony against Donny Romero-the fraud case-would come first. The capital murder charges were likely still a long way from prosecution-a year or two-but he knew better than to mention it. One didn't talk about the future with a protected witness, the reality far harsher, the adjustment far more difficult than they understood. In practice, breaking off all contact with one's former life proved traumatic, invariably more difficult than the witness imagined.
"Seriously?" he asked. "Because I don't see it that way at all. I wouldn't trade one minute with you for something else."
"I'm hopeful," he said, an intentional play on her name that he immediately congratulated himself for, though no doubt one she'd heard before.
His feeling for her had come on like a force of nature, as unavoidable and inexplicable. Together, they communicated well; she accepted teasing in the face of all the madness; they fit. And when you found that, you held on to it.
Meet the Author
Ridley Pearson is the author of more than two dozen novels, including the New York Times bestsellers Killer Summer, Killer View and Killer Weekend, the bestselling Lou Boldt crime series, and many books for young readers. He lives with his wife and two daughters, dividing his time between St. Louis, Missouri, and Hailey, Idaho.
- St. Louis, Missouri
- Date of Birth:
- March 13, 1953
- Place of Birth:
- Glen Cove, New York
- Kansas University, B.A., Brown University
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