The glint off the Russian’s wide knife glistened in Hamilton’s eyes. Gabby’s nerdy friend shook like a dead leaf in a winter breeze as the determined foreigner’s hardened glare threatened to crumble him into a million pieces. The sharpened edge of the blade pointed at Hamilton’s skinny neck, and Gabby could see his blood pulsing through his jugulars to the beat of a frenetic metronome.
The perspiring Russian leaned into Hamilton, his brow dripping globs of sweat. “You hack now, yes?” he asked.
“Like bull,” Hamilton agreed with an aggressive nod. “Or calf. Or cow. Or any sort of bovine you’d like.”
“You can do this, Ham,” Gabby said, twisting the ropes behind her, trying to stretch them. His eyes met hers and she glared at him with more than just comfort, but orders. “You can do this,” she repeated.
He offered a lackluster nod and his fingers punched the keys in time with his pulse, the code speeding across the screen with surprising fluidity. While his fingers conducted a symphony of cryptograms, Hamilton’s gaze kept drifting back to the bully’s thick, round face.
With each glance, the Russian grew more aggravated. “You trying to memorize my face? Is that it, hacker bull?”
“No,” Hamilton said. “You just… you look so familiar.”
“Perhaps you visit your CIA’s top criminal list?”
“What? You’re on that?”
“Maybe. It is hard to keep track. It is much like the New York Times bestseller list. Who really knows how to make such list?”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Russian.” Hamilton’s head dipped, and he buried himself in the task at hand. “I get easily distracted in a crisis. Just ask Gabby.”
“It’s true,” Gabby said, her fingers deftly pulling at the weakened rope. “While in the middle of a suicide situation, all he cared about was his brother’s old car.”
“Which you made me steal, by the way,” Hamilton said.
“To save someone.”
“Yeah, an idiot,” he said.
“You have interesting life, you two,” the Russian said. “Weave great tales, yes? Together?”
“Depends on how this one ends, Boris,” Gabby said. “Don’t worry. Hamilton won’t remember anything important. We’re harmless.”
“Harmless? Him, maybe. You, not so much. Besides, name not Boris either. Uncle named Boris. Smart. Crooked teeth.”
“My point is that you don’t have to worry about Hamilton. He’s a good kid. He’s just in way over his head.”
The Russian nodded. “Yes, it appears so.”
“But he’ll do what you need. Then you can leave Safety Harbor and go back home, to the cold, hot, or where ever.”
“Safety Harbor. Is that name of this place? Funny, yes? When you not so safe?”
“Yeah. It’s a hoot, Nikoli.”
“What is hoot?” he asked.
“May be hard to believe, but I thought about going to big city and be comedian? What you think?”
“I think you’re taking a very odd route to stardom. The CIA may not be your biggest fan.”
He dropped his head. “True. Sad when life gets in way of dreams, no?”
“Tragic,” she said.
This was the moment. Hamilton’s chance. With the Russian’s eyes averted, David could slay Goliath. Gabby’s eyes implored telepathic pleas to the hunched Hamilton, praying her silent screams would travel the short distance between them and alert him to take the hefty metal suitcase and crush it against the Russian’s head.
Seconds passed. Gabby grumbled a throat-clearing cough.
Hamilton looked up with curious eyes and stiffened at her pressing gaze. He cocked his head in question.
With an overt nod, she pointed toward the distracted Russian. “Now!” she mouthed.
“Now?” His mouth formed the word as his eyes widened with fear.
“Yes!” she nodded.
His head shook from side to side.
“Now,” she nearly whispered.
This was Hamilton’s chance to rise to the challenge and be a hero, but, instead, he froze like a frightened deer staring into the headlights of an oncoming semi.
Gabby slumped in disappointment.
He could have twisted the hands of fate and saved her from the threats of an international thug. They would have had a story that lived on for generations, sharing a crisis where he came to her rescue wearing the proverbial cape. It would have been something only the two of them experienced and, maybe, just maybe, steered his affections toward her.
But he wasn’t going to save her after all. He wasn’t going to do anything. She should have expected it. Maybe, deep down, she did.
She had read about the ways people responded to crisis. Most of them ignored the calamity unfolding around them, unable to comprehend their impending doom, like those who went back to work in the towers during 9/11, even after a jetliner plowed into the floors above them. Others under intense stress froze, like Hamilton, their minds locked with fear. A few, very few actually, were clear-headed and fought back with strategic clarity. Like Gabby.
Maybe that was why everyone thought she was so heroic, even though her actions were more akin to carpet-bombing than surgical strikes. There was always collateral damage when she was done, often to herself, but that never stopped her from trying. In a weird way, the destruction invigorated her. She blazed new paths like a steamroller, determined to make things better, no matter what she flattened along the way.
Getting out of their current predicament could only mean one thing if Gabby’s history and Hamilton’s mental state were considered. Fan blades and fecal matter were about to collide.
Gabby jerked her arms in quick succession until the rope rubbed her skin bloody, the warm lubricant allowing her to slip her hands free. Before the Russian could regain his focus, she leapt onto his clammy back and wrapped her arms under his chin, his salty sweat burning into her wounds as she pulled against his muscular neck with a hefty tug.
“Ha, you play games,” he said. “You like gnat.”
“Gnat bull,” she clarified with a grunt.
“Time to swat gnat like bug, yes?”
Unfazed by her attack, he shuffled backward, Gabby desperately trying to hold on, bouncing against his body with each step until he crushed her against the pole.
The impact forced a loud groan out of her as her lungs jettisoned their air. The Russian swayed back and slammed her against the metal once again. With a painful whimper, Gabby slipped off the hulking body and landed onto the cement floor with an uncomfortable thud.
“Hamilton…” she gasped through the pain. “Hamilton, get up!”
He looked up as if awakened from a daydream.
“Do something,” she said.
Jarred from his stupor, Hamilton snapped up and grabbed the opened briefcase. He swung it wildly, dislodging the laptop from its case. It spun through the air, missing the irritated Russian by at least two bulls, and crashed above Gabby’s head, sending pieces of plastic across the room.
No longer amused by their antics, the Russian turned his growing rage toward Hamilton. Gabby lunged forward, wrapping her arms around his legs like a toddler, but he continued lumbering forward.
Hamilton stared at the approaching CIA’s potential most wanted. With the gusto of a frightened child, he bellowed a high-pitched scream and ran toward the exit, unlocking the door and disappearing into the hallway, his shriek fading like a passing ambulance.
Unhappy with this new twist to his plans, the Russian clutched his fists, looked down at Gabby, and snarled
Tomorrow – Chapter Three
This novel follows up almost immediately after the events which unfolded in Kneel & Prey, Lost & Found. and Sins & Suicide,. If you haven’t read the first novel, download it for free. I hope you’ve enjoyed this free sample and let me know what you think in the comments.