The telephone invaded their conversation at just that moment. April turned and looked at the detective. He nodded his head and gave her the go ahead. Visibly quivering she took a deep breath in and picked up the receiver. "Hello?" she questioned the caller in a whisper. Gil jumped up from his seated position and said anxiously, "April!" She heard Gil let out a heavy breath. "Thank God you answered; I was wondering what was taking so long for you to call. Let me speak to Renee!" "Gil..." O'Keefe pulled the handset out of her hand. "Mr. Thompson?" Hesitantly Gil answered. "Yes. Who is this?" "I'm Detective O'Keefe with the Santa Fe PD," Gil heard the name and froze. "Who? Why are you in my house? What's wrong? Put April back on the phone." "Mr. Thompson. Ms. Hunter is here by me. I need you to listen to me. I need to inform you-" Gil didn't hear what came next. His conscious self detached from his body and he floated. Inform. He felt weak, faint, what now. He didn't comprehend the policeman's words. "Mr. Thompson, are you there, sir?" "What? I'm sorry I didn't hear you. What happened?" "It's your wife, sir..." http://wreckagebook.tripod.com
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Read an Excerpt
By Kim Stafford
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Kim Stafford
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJune 10
Barlow left the main hub and merged with the crowds, entering the new pavilion. He moved to the right and paused to watch a few children splashing in the fountain at the entrance to The Egyptian Kingdom.
Continuing on, his nostrils immediately picked up the scent of freshly cooked burgers, wafting in the breeze and his stomach groaned, reminding him that he hadn't eaten since early morning. A tall brunette interrupted his food fantasies as she crossed his path with a whispered "Excuse me," accompanied by a welcoming smile. This allowed the much-disciplined Barlow just a moment to be tempted off the task at hand. He slowed his pace and looked around the crowd, capturing the eyes of his partner, Jeb, walking a few feet away. A stunning, milk chocolate beauty passed between them, wearing just enough to cover her strategically and both men showed their appreciation by staring.
"Damn, I love summertime!" Jeb bellowed. "I'm with you partner!" Barlow stated as they shared a smirk. "But we have a job to do, so let's get to it."
Barlow turned his head in the direction of the uneven sounds. He couldn't see the noisemaker but he heard it. He stood 6 feet tall, however he couldn't see over the crowd.
Measuring in at 6'5", Jeb could.
"Where's the music coming from?" Barlow asked.
"There's a float turning the corner ahead. It's carrying a band in the back and it's being pulled by a nice-looking vintage Thunderbird."
Barlow's emerald green eyes narrowed as he scanned the thick horde of park patrons. He needed a clue. Anything. He wanted the one bit of data that could stop the devastation promised by Luke.
The float inched its way through the massive opening day crowd as the quartet sitting on the back played jazzy tunes. The crowd surged behind the float and followed in its wake.
"Be ready!" Barlow whispered into his collar.
To the untrained, he would look a little nuts talking into his shirt, but to his officers dispersed amongst the crowd, they would know he had a transmitter under his collar.
"Are the dogs ready to go, Vargas?" Barlow heard the reply in his earpiece.
"Yes, boss. You just give the signal."
"Jeb and I are going to move out in front of the float. Everyone else hold your positions in this mob." Barlow and Jeb pushed their way through the crowd and got in front of the float.
Barlow looked ahead of him and Jeb. There were approximately five hundred yards remaining before the float would come to a stop. He knew they would have better control of the situation at that time. They walked the remaining yards and stopped at the rope barrier. Behind the velvet rope, the crowd's excitement grew as the float approached.
"Janie! Read me the message again. There has to be a clue!" He screamed over the raucous crowd noise into his collar.
"Okay, here goes. Can you hear me, Barlow?"
"Yes. Go ahead," he said anxiously as he watched the float cover the last two hundred yards.
"Here is the next stop in our game. After this one, you'll be shamed. Listen for the music it will be low; but this thing is going to blow. Opening day will be a blast; better clear the crowds out fast. Egyptian Kingdom has the fun; all because it has the sun. Sixteen people will no longer cry; why Barlow? Because they're going to die. They will wish it never stopped; for their bodies you may find in a shop. I will watch you on this day; wondering when again we can play. You can't catch me, I'll tell you why; because you've been looking for a guy!"
"Okay, people," he yelled into his collar. "We're in the Egyptian Kingdom. I need you to start clearing the people back from the float and get the personnel out of the stores on the perimeter. All we know is that something is going to blow-something with music. Get that quartet off the float and move them out of the vicinity. Remember, we might be looking for a woman, a transvestite, something besides a man according to the note."
He focused on the crowd and asked, "Does anyone have any ideas? We have a matter of minutes."
"What does the sun reference mean? We have sun almost year round." Vargas crackled.
"I'm not sure, Vargas. I'm not sure."
The group behind the rope launched into multiple screams of excitement as they were allowed into the new ride, 'RA'.
Barlow turned to watch them as they stood poised to enter. He gazed upward at the large figure that encompassed the entrance. It depicted a human with the head of a falcon and one of its eyes shone like an orb of gold. The velvet rope dropped and the crowd under the statue ran up the boarding ramps.
His receiver crackled in his ear and he heard, "The float has stopped."
Barlow watched his men dash, rushing the float and the quartet. The rest of his people were pushing the crowd back and the K-9 squads were brought in from the hidden alleyway.
He jumped as the first car of 'RA' whizzed far above the ground over his head.
The K-9 handlers moved quickly and efficiently over the float. So far, the dogs were getting no hits. Nothing. The dogs completed the search and the handlers flashed him the all-clear signal. He closed his eyes and pleaded with God for help.
The first car from the ride passed near him as it entered the braking system, and that's when his ears picked up the sound. Amongst the screams of fear and delight from the riders, he discerned music. It was low but it wasn't meant for him-for his ears. The coaster sailed by and he counted eight separate compartments. Those eight compartments held two people, sixteen in total.
"Janie, do you have the park map?" he yelled.
"Yes, I have it. What do you need?"
"This new ride ... 'RA'. What's the description?"
The air between them went silent until he heard in the receiver a frantic whisper, "Oh, God, Barlow! 'RA' is the God of the Sun!"
He yelled into his collar for everyone to converge on 'RA'. He rushed up the exit ramp, pushing the excited initial riders out of the way as they departed. The next car, yellow in color with a falcon on the front, was just leaving the boarding platform. The one flying over the tracks was blue with clouds on the front. Then he spotted it; an orange car and on the front of it-the sun. The passengers were being loaded into the compartments.
He saw Jeb enter the passenger area and yelled, "Jeb, get them out of there! The orange car is the target!"
Jeb ran to the almost full car. He was trying to pull up on the restraining bars but they were locked down.
One of the costumed ride operators mistook Barlow for a line jumper and barred his way.
Barlow flashed his badge and yelled, "Police! Get out of the way!"
"Yeah, right! I bet you are." The attendant laughed in Barlow's face.
The attendant, bulkier than Barlow, was out to prove his superiority in front of the girls in line. When Barlow tried to move past him, the younger man put his hand on Barlow's shoulder. While pushing Barlow back through the self-closing gate, the attendant suddenly came face to face with a 9-mm extending from Barlow's hand. He put his hands up and moved out of Barlow's way. Barlow rushed forward towards another attendant. This worker controlled the car on the platform. The attendant's eyes went wild as he saw Jeb and Barlow charging towards him with their weapons drawn. His reflexes fired and he pushed the 'Go'button, dropping the orange car onto the track.
Jeb spotted the main computer for 'RA' across the platform and jumped over the tracks, as Barlow dealt with the attendant at the platform controls.
"Stop the orange car, there's a bomb on board. Stop the car!"
"I can't. I can only stop it when it comes to another braking station."
"Then do it!"
The shocked controller remained at a standstill.
"Now!" Barlow yelled.
The controller programmed something into the podium's computer.
"Okay, they'll be stopped on the bottom of hill two in the pyramid."
Barlow turned around to the crowd, flashing his badge.
"Everybody out! Get out! We have a situation and need you to clear out."
The gathered crowd moaned. Some of them flashed him the bird as they exited slowly. Barlow pointed his firearm into the sky and fired off a single round. The molasses like crowd screamed and hit the ground.
The crowd moved down the entrance ramp like sprinters at the start of a race.
Satisfied, Barlow turned back to the controller.
"How do we get them out of the car?"
"I'm able to lock the brakes from here. On the outside of each compartment is a release mechanism."
"Then you're coming with us. How do we get up there?"
All three men looked up as the tail end of the orange car came to a halt at the bottom of the pyramid.
"There's a gangway along the track."
Into the transmitter Barlow said, "Mitch, get some people up here and clear the crowds out. Jeb and I are going up to get these passengers out of the roller coaster. Remember, Luke is watching us, so be on your toes."
"What if Luke can detonate remotely?" Jeb asked.
Barlow turned to look at him as the controller with them fell back after hearing that remark.
"I don't care! We're getting these people out of there." He reassessed his answer and said, "At least as many as we can."
The whole evacuation operation took forty-five minutes, without injury or explosion.
"Vargas, bring the dogs up. Let's see where this damn bomb is located."
Vargas ran the dogs up the gangway to the coaster car. Immediately, one of the dogs got a hit and sat.
Barlow searched the undercarriage of the coaster car as Vargas and Jeb searched the passenger compartments. Under compartment number four, Barlow spotted a small case with lead wires coming out, strapped to the bottom of the compartment.
The two policemen stopped their search and moved to Barlow.
"I think I found it. It's under compartment four. Jeb, get the bomb squad up here immediately. Vargas, move the dogs out. Good work."
"No problem, boss."
Within moments, two members of the bomb squad arrived at Barlow's side. Barlow explained the situation and location of the device and let them pass.
"You need to move to a clear area, Barlow."
"No, I'm staying," Barlow, answered in such a steely tone that it didn't invite any argument.
Outfitted in extraterrestrial-like gear, the bomb squad maneuvered around passenger compartment four. It seemed like hours to Barlow as the two conferred, checked connections and searched for a way to disarm the mechanism. One of the squad members removed his headgear as he approached Barlow.
"We can't reach it, Barlow. It had to be installed on the coaster while it was in the maintenance bay. It's impossible to get to it from here. If you can safely get the coaster in the loading dock, we can remove it. The detonation mechanism doesn't look sophisticated. We just can't reach it. Not here."
"Will the car blow if it's restarted?" Barlow questioned.
"I can't answer that. It might be triggered by something on the track ... or if Luke has a remote trigger, then whatever we do won't matter."
After ordering his team to totally clear the Egyptian Kingdom of patrons, Barlow gave the secondary order for his remaining team members to fall back. Once assured that everyone had fallen back out of 'RA's vicinity, Barlow called the park's underground main computer center and had them release the orange car.
A hush blanketed the crowd as the coaster continued once again on its course. Twisting, turning, and smoothly going upside down, the car entered the last leg of its trip, and the gathered police drew in a collective breath. The orange car made its last turns, entering the final braking station and cruised into the loading platform as the final notes of cheerful music came to an end. Everyone exhaled and looked at Barlow. Barlow whispered a curse under his breath and accompanied the bomb squad back to 'RA'.
Squatting down by the coaster, Barlow watched the two men remove the device from its compartment and slowly take it apart.
"It's inert, Barlow. It was never going to blow."
Addressing his team through the transmitter Barlow said, "All right, everyone. Great job today-I guess I've been shamed." He sat on the wrought iron bench and looked up at 'RA'.
He asked himself a question out loud, "What game are you playing, Luke? Last week you kill twenty-four; this week you play a joke. What do you want?"
Barlow felt the hand on his shoulder and looked up into caring eyes.
"Can I sit?" the woman questioned softly.
"You followed the clues and did what you needed to do. That's your job and you're good at it. Your team loves and admires you. You've been right on so many occasions; don't let this one incident get you down. It's a game to Luke."
Sgt. Garcia McDarren turned Barlow's face towards her and gave him a tentative kiss. When he didn't refuse her, she claimed his lips with a little more passion.
Across the pedestrian walk, in one of the vacated souvenir stores, Luke stood watching Barlow and Garcia together on the bench. So predictable in every move they made. They had evacuated everyone to just the spot he wanted. He smiled wickedly as he pulled the remote out of his pocket and pushed the button.
Barlow and Garcia were just pulling apart when they felt the pressure of the concussion blast. They were thrown to the ground from the force as the bench crumpled beneath them.
Barlow automatically looked up at the coaster but it still stood like a leviathan before him. He swung around and saw people scurrying but he couldn't hear them through the cacophony of sounds in his ears. He reached down to help Garcia up, and noticed the trail of blood leading from her body. Turning her over, Barlow saw the piece of metal protruding from her thigh.
"I need to pull this out, Garcia."
He looked into her eyes, reached down and pulled the small shaft of metal out. She let out a wail. Barlow tore a piece of his shirt hem off and wrapped it around her leg like a bandage.
Sitting her against the wall he said, "Stay here. I'll be back." The William Tell overture was finally concluding and normal sounds were returning to Barlow's ears. That's if you consider unnatural screams and howls of pain normal. He turned to see Jeb and a few others running his direction.
Everywhere he looked there was a disarray of confusion, broken glass, purses and souvenirs littering the street.
Jeb looked past him at Garcia.
"... The fountain, Barlow. Do you remember the fountain at the entrance to the Egyptian Kingdom? The shape of it was a sun. Air and music were piped in beneath it, timed to create dancing water. We had pulled everyone back to that spot. We thought it was far enough back from 'RA'."
Jeb looked up at 'RA' as Barlow concentrated on Jeb's lacerated face. Barlow asked solemnly, "How many, Jeb?"
Jeb turned his focus from the coaster, back to Barlow.
"So far, eighteen."
"How many from our team?"
"Five from our team."
An anguished look came over Barlow's face.
"You're cut up pretty bad, Jeb. Get that cut looked at immediately."
Luke, utilizing the cover of the parks hidden alleyways, traveled behind the empty shops and came up behind Garcia.
"Are you all right, ma'am?"
Garcia opened her eyes and looked into the overly made-up face of a woman. She tried to smile when she answered.
"My leg is hurt. Can you tell me what happened down the street?"
"Someone blew up the fountain."
"Is anyone hurt?"
"Yes. Lots of people, even some cops."
"Oh, shit!" Garcia said as she struggled to get up. "Can you help me?"
The woman leaned over, placing her hands under Garcia's armpits, easily bringing her to her feet.
Garcia felt the tension in the woman's arms and pulled back as much as she could.
"I warned him not to play with me."
Garcia noticed the pronounced Adam's apple and looked up into the malevolent eyes of the woman as she whispered, "Luke."
"Yes. Barlow has a smart one in you. Or should I say ... had."
A knife flashed in his hand as he stabbed Garcia in the ribs. Hugging Garcia to him, he stifled any cries. Garcia's body went slack and Luke placed her back against the wall, just the way Barlow had left her. Luke retraced his steps and went back through the shops.
Barlow escorted the EMS team down the street to look at Garcia's leg. He could see her in the distance, still against the wall. Thankful that for once she wasn't playing superwoman, he let out a sigh of relief.
The EMS team quickened their step and made it to Garcia. The emergency technician at Garcia's side noticed the amount of blood pooled around her and quickly took her pulse. He looked up at the other technician and mouthed, "No pulse."
The technician analyzed the blood trail, discovering that it wasn't coming from her leg. Leaning her forward he saw the wound near her back.
He stood and yelled, "Barlow!"
Barlow focused on his team down at the end of the street, turned and walked toward him.
"I'm sorry. She's dead."
Barlow looked from the technician to Garcia slumped against the wall.
"How can she be dead from a leg wound? I tied it off!" Barlow raged.
Excerpted from Damage by Kim Stafford Copyright © 2010 by Kim Stafford. Excerpted by permission.
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