Home > Four Live Rounds(10)

Four Live Rounds(10)
Blake Crouch

Will wrapped his arm around Devlin, caught her eyes, shook his head.

“What you must now do is anticipate that moment when I have you. What I’m offering is death. Not immediate. But considerably faster than it is currently scheduled to arrive, in light of the offense you’ve both given me.”

Kalyn said, “Hello?”

“Yes, I’m here.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, you faded out there for about fifteen seconds. Look, I’ll make this very easy. Our concern is Jonathan. Have you warned him we’re coming?”

Three seconds of dead air, then: “No.”

“That’s good, Javier. As you know, our meeting with him is set for tonight. We’ll handle the finessing of why you couldn’t be there, but I just need to make something clear. You listening?”

“I am.”

“If it goes well, if it’s obvious Jonathan has not been forewarned, someone will call you tomorrow, tell you where you can find your family.”

“That’s unacceptable.”

Kalyn pulled the BlackBerry back from her face, pressed END, set the device on the table.

“What are you doing?” Will said.

“Let him sweat. What do we stand to lose? Our meeting. What does he stand to—” The BlackBerry buzzed. Kalyn pressed TALK, said, “I don’t know what third-grade textbook you learned your negotiation skills from, but you aren’t in any spot to say what is and is not acceptable. We’ll call you back on this number tomorrow if it goes well with Jonathan. If it doesn’t, you’ll never hear from us again, and your wife and son will die of thirst within the next few days.”

He made no reply, though Will could hear him breathing.

“Acknowledge that you heard me, Javier.”

“I heard you.”

Kalyn pressed END.

“We have to change the meeting place,” Will said. “I’m not cool with Javier knowing where we’ll be. He may not warn Jonathan, but I could see him coming after us.”

“All right. I’ll text Jonathan, ask him to pick another spot.”

I-84 west through Idaho. Twin Falls. Gooding. Mountain Home. When they were within the Boise city limits, Kalyn spotted a shopping mall from the interstate, made the exit just in time.

It was midafternoon, and they rode under a brilliant autumn sky, leaves peaking, deep reds and blinding yellows along the riverbanks, the brown hills that rose up behind the skyline dusted with snow.

“Let’s shop,” Kalyn said, pulling into a parking space in front of the sprawling mall.

“For who?” Will asked.

Kalyn glanced back from the driver seat. “You. Look at yourself.”

Will glanced down at his two-day-old clothes—ancient pair of jeans, tennis shoes, faded flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up.

“She’s right, Dad,” Devlin said. “You need a serious makeover.”

“This is a style.”

Kalyn laughed. “What’s it called?”

“Colorado living. Outdoor man. You could chop some serious firewood in this getup.”

“That’s a selling point?”

“You’re telling me women don’t like the chiseled, frontier man look?”

“Yeah, well, you need a new outfit for tonight. We’re not out to impress the ladies, Will. We’re trying to pass you off for an Alpha.”

The mall was dead. They ate a late lunch in the food court, spread out on a bench beside a fountain whose bottom lay covered in green pennies and the occasional nickel.

As they rose to leave, the BlackBerry registered a new message.

Kalyn pulled it out of her purse, scanned the screen, sighed with relief. She said, “He wrote back, ‘Exit 64. Café at Big Al’s. OK.’ ”

Kalyn and Devlin were leading Will through the men’s section of the Gap.

“So what look are we like going for?” Devlin asked.

“I was thinking all black,” Kalyn said.

“I like these.” Devlin fingered a pair of leather pants, Will thinking, This is as happy as I’ve seen her in ages. “What’s your waist, Dad?”


Devlin thumbed quickly through the pants and finally slipped a pair off the rack, handed them to her father. “Tell you what would be rad with those,” Devlin said. She made for a rack of shirts, squealed with joy when she found what she was looking for, proudly holding up a black silk shirt with mother-of-pearl buttons.

“You go, girl,” Kalyn said as Will sighed.

. . .

He stepped out of the dressing room and stood before his audience.

Kalyn said, “Undo the top two buttons.” He did. “That’s perfect, Will.”

“Yeah, let’s go clubbing,” he said in his best Valley Girl voice.

“With that hair?” Kalyn said. “You gotta admit, Jav has style. But you’re getting there.”

Will stared at himself in the mirror as the stylist ran her fingers through his light brown hair.

Kalyn said, “I’m thinking keep it kind of long, like it is, and dye it black. I want him to be able to push it back with some pomade.”

“Kind of a greaser look you’re going for?”

“I’m not sure how to explain what I—”

Devlin came over with a huge book of male models sporting pretentiously trendy hairstyles, and said, “I think this is what we want.”

Kalyn smiled. “Yes. Good, Devi. This is it exactly.”

Will said, “These are the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen.”

“Okay, I partly agree, but it’s all we have to work with. No one will be able to tell they aren’t leather at night.”

He stared down at the pair of black suede, steel-tipped cowboy boots. “You guys are killing me. You know that, right?”

“It works, Dad. Trust me.”

“I don’t look like one of the Village People?”


They sprang for one room in a motel across from Big Al’s Truck Stop, caught a few winks on the pair of queen-size beds, figuring they had no way of knowing when they might have a chance to sleep again. When Will woke up, it was already dark outside and Kalyn was sitting on her bed, hunched over a laptop, the small black plastic case she’d borrowed from her PI friend in Sun City open beside her.

“What time is it?” Will whispered.

“We’ve got two hours.”

“God, it’s almost nine?” He slipped out of bed and pulled the covers back over Devlin, sighed against the first gut-prickling announcement of nerves.

He sat down beside Kalyn and stared at the computer screen.

“I’m just installing the software,” she said.

“For what?”

“TrimTrac GPS. That wireless vehicle-tracking system I was telling you about.”

Will lifted a black rectangular device the size of a whiteboard eraser. “Where does this go?”

“Anywhere on the truck, preferably underneath and out of sight. It’s weatherproof and has enhanced sensitivity, so it doesn’t have to be directly exposed to the sky.”

“How’s it attach?”

“There’s a magnet kit. All right, look at this. You a fast learn with computers?”

“I do design Web sites for a living.”

She punched in a URL on the keyboard. “I’ve opened a free account on SoniyaMobile’s Web site. You’re gonna be able to track the truck from this computer.”

“How does it work?”

“The TrimTrac device sends location updates through international SMS and GPS to a Soniya back-end server. The locations are saved and stored and you can access them on a Google map. You’re gonna be operating this thing, so here, you do it.” Kalyn set the computer in Will’s lap. “You’re in semiauto mode, and I think that’s what you’ll probably need to stay in. Go up here and click that. Okay, now enable the motion detector, since you only need the TrimTrac functional when the truck’s moving. That’ll save power. And you’re gonna want real-time tracking. Click here, set update intervals at five minutes.”

They spent another half hour, Will familiarizing himself with the program. While Kalyn installed the adapter, computer, and extra batteries in the Land Rover, Will mounted the magnets to the TrimTrac device.

When Kalyn returned to the motel room, her demeanor had changed. She looked pale, her eyes distracted and distant.

“Hey,” Will said, “come here.” She came and sat beside him on the bed. “You all right?”

She looked up, her eyes boring into his. “You up for this, Will?”

“I think so.”

“I need to know for sure.”


“I’ve tried to figure out some way to smuggle a gun into the trailer with me. Or that device or a cell. But it’d be too risky, so what I guess I need you to know is that my life is in your hands. Whatever truck I wind up in the back of, you cannot lose track of it.”

“Look at me, Kalyn. I won’t.”

She nodded. “I’m sorry. I’ll be fine here in a minute. Just pregame jitters, you know?”

“Yeah, I’ve got them, too. I keep thinking about what might happen. What if Jonathan freaks out when he sees me? What if he doesn’t buy it? Demands to speak to Javier? Asks some question I can’t answer? I’m guessing people in their line of work don’t like last-second curveballs.”

“It’s a risk,” she said.

“A big one.”

“I’ve been mulling it over, and I think we may need a different approach with this guy. The whole ‘Javier sent me instead and I’m sorry we didn’t let you know before’ is shit. I think he’d see straight through it. But you know what works with these kind of people?”



“I don’t understand where you’re going with—”

“Remember how Javier said there were two gringo Alphas?”


At 10:50 P.M., Will and Kalyn sat in the Land Rover under the seventy-foot BIG AL’S neon sign, the smell of diesel overpowering, even from inside the car. For the third time in the last minute, Will wiped his hands across his leather pants.

“You gotta quit that,” Kalyn said.


“You are cool and calm and in control.” She handed him her Glock. “It’s loaded.”

“Where’s the safety?”

“There isn’t one, and there’s a round in the chamber, but don’t get all Jack Bauer on me. That’s last resort right there. If you have to use it, things are seriously fucked-up.”

Will closed his eyes. “He’s gonna know the second he sees me that I’m—”

“It’s like acting, Will, okay? Ever do any high school theater?”


“Well, you were an attorney, right? Ever represent someone you knew was guilty?”


“Ever get them acquitted?”

“A few times.”

“Then you’ve acted. Convinced twelve people. Tonight, you only have to convince one.”

“The stakes aren’t even in the same league.”

“You know what to say?”


“Want to run through it again?”

“No, I don’t wanna sound rehearsed.” He held up the gun. “Where do I even put this thing?”

“Just slide it down the back of your waistband when you get out of the car. And make sure your shirt and leather jacket are pulled over it. Listen. If you have to use it, if it comes to that, you calm yourself down first. Center mass is what you aim for. That’s a forty-five-cal. Thing’s got plenty of stopping power.”

“Jesus.” Will looked at the clock: 10:54.

He opened the door, stepped outside.

“Good luck,” Kalyn said. He nodded, felt like he was going to be sick. “I know you can do this,” she said. “So quit doubting yourself.”

But he didn’t. He doubted himself as he shoved the Glock into his waistband, as he looked back across the interstate toward the motel where he’d left Devlin, as he shoved his hands into his leather jacket and started across the parking lot.

Will stepped into the convenience store that adjoined the café.

Big Al’s was bustling for almost eleven, and, no surprise, 80 percent of the customers had the look of truck drivers—bearded, bulging guts, bloodshot eyes bleary with loneliness.

He walked past the drink machines, saw a black man filling what must have been a gallon-size cup from every soda dispenser—shot of Sierra Mist, Coca-Cola, orange Fanta, lemonade, Dr Pepper—a potpourri of colored, carbonated sugar water.

He headed for the rest rooms, found an empty stall, and sat for a moment on the toilet, making himself breathe, holding the Glock, turning it over, trying to settle into the weight of it. As he washed his hands, he caught his reflection in the mirror. He studied his eyes, wondered if the man named Jonathan would see the cold, callous burning that he did not.

He walked back through the convenience store, heading toward the restaurant’s entrance.

A clock above the cash register read 11:02.

The hostess looked up, said, “Just one tonight, honey?”

“No, I’m meeting someone.” He strode past her, made a quick scan of the tables and booths, the stools at the counter. Soft drink signs and old license plates adorned the walls. A sign over the grill read KISS A TRUCKER. Breathe, Will. Breathe. The place was packed. Smell of fried things, onions, old coffee, bacon, body odor, eons of accumulated cigarette smoke. Long red hair, bushy beard, weighs over three hundred pounds. Aside from the long red hair, Javier’s description matches a third of the custom—There.

In the last booth, not far from the kitchen doors, an enormous man with braids of red hair and an unkempt beard occupied an entire bench seat. His back was to the wall, and he was staring at Will. You aren’t breathing. Will breathed, then moved carefully across the checkered floor to the booth, the man watching him with uncertainty.

The food on the table could have fed five, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all major fried-food groups represented.

Will slid into the booth.


“Who the f*ck are you?”

Breathe. Will’s lower lip ached to tremble. He bit his tongue, glared at the man, summoning all the hate in his arsenal. He had a hand in taking Rachael.

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