FOURTH DAY

Charlie Fox book eight

Synopsis

'Randall Bane smiled, a little sadly, and asked in that utterly calm and reasonable voice, "Can you suggest one salient reason why I shouldn't follow my first instincts and rid myself of you at the earliest opportunity?"'

The cult calling itself Fourth Day appears well-funded and highly jealous of its privacy. Five years ago Thomas Witney went in to try and get the evidence that the cult’s charismatic leader, Randall Bane, was responsible for the death of Witney’s son, Liam. Witney never came out. Now, ex-Special Forces soldier turned bodyguard, Charlie Fox, and her partner, Sean Meyer, have been tasked to get Witney out, willing or not. But planning and executing a clean, surgical snatch is only the beginning.

"Zoë Sharp will keep you turning pages till dawn"

Jeffery Deaver

Five years is a long time to be on the inside and the man who comes out has changed beyond all recognition. Can Witney be trusted when he says he now believes Bane is innocent of the crime and, if he is, who was behind the boy’s demise? And what happened to Witney’s safety net − the people who were supposed to extract him, by force if necessary, after less than a year?

With the dead man’s ex-wife demanding answers, Charlie agrees to go undercover into Fourth Day’s California stronghold. A fast covert op. No real danger for someone with her mindset and training. But Charlie has her own secrets, even from Sean, and she’s not prepared for the lure of Randall Bane, or how easily he will pinpoint her weaknesses . . .
From the author's notebook

The title for FOURTH DAY was a lucky find. I knew the book was going to be set mainly in a cult in California, and I checked carefully to make sure the names I had in mind were not genuinely attached to any real religious sects. As well as something that sounded suitable for a cult, I needed a title that had ‘fourth’ in it somewhere, to satisfy the publisher’s request for sequenced titles. Then I found the following quote in the Book of Genesis (King James Bible) and thought it was perfect:

‘And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night . . . And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness . . . And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.’

Once again, I offered a character name in the charity auction at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in Baltimore in 2008. The winning bid came from BG Ritts, who asked that I use only parts of her name rather than the whole thing as is, so it would be more like a private joke. It was a challenge, but that’s all part of the fun. I also had an unusual request from someone who really wanted to be the villain of the piece. And if you want to find out who that is, you’ll just have to read the book!

Excerpt

ust before we hit the blind corner, I glanced back casually over my shoulder, as if checking for traffic. Three hundred metres behind us was a dusty Chevy Astro van in a self-consciously nondescript shade of beige. It hadn’t been there the last time I’d checked.

I couldn’t remember if it was a requirement to have a front licence plate in California but, if so, the van was in violation of the code. I caught a glimpse of two men in the front seat. They were wearing those hunting hats with a peak and ear flaps you can tie off under your chin. Technically, it might be winter but that was overkill unless your aim was concealment.

"Charlie has a personal secret . . . that adds raw, honest emotion to fast-paced action"

Jochem Vandersteen
Sons of Spade

Uh-oh.

‘Come on Chris, enough slacking,’ I said, keeping any alarm out of my voice. ‘Time to pick up the pace, hm?’ and lengthened my stride.

Sagar’s pride had him putting on a spurt alongside me, so we pounded through the turn in step. As soon as the van lost sight of us, I grabbed his elbow and flung him sideways towards the edge of the roadside. A sand-pitted steel crash barrier was all that separated us from the steeply sloping canyon side.

‘Hey!’ he yelped, balking. ‘What the−?’

I didn’t answer. One look over the precipice was enough to tell me there was no escape that way. The ground was made up of loose earth and landslide gravel. It was punctuated by tenacious spiky vegetation and rocks big enough to cause serious injury if you lost your footing, but no use as decent cover. It was a long way down.

Swearing under my breath, I checked the road ahead. It ran straight for probably another five hundred metres before the next winding corner. The gradient would slow and tire us before we reached it. If this really was an ambush, they’d picked their location well.

I felt the reassuring weight of the SIG in the small of my back, debated for maybe half a second then reached under my shirt and drew it. Below us, the van’s engine revved as the driver accelerated towards the corner, abandoning the stealthy approach.

Sagar yanked his arm free and stumbled to a halt, eyes on the gun a little wildly.

‘Charlie−’

"One of the most emotionally honest and yet adrenaline-pumping thrillers of the past few years"

Russel D McLean
Crime Scene Scotland

‘For God’s sake, Chris, keep moving!’ I jerked my head to the far side of the road. ‘If they make a run at us, get over the barrier there and back down onto the lower stretch of road.’ It might be just as treacherous but at least it wasn’t far to fall on that side, and from there the gradient was all down hill. It would take them time to turn the van around, or force them to continue the pursuit on foot. Anything to even up the game.

I swallowed down the shiver of tension invading my system. Everyone is afraid in a situation like this. Being afraid is normal. It’s what you do with that fear that defines you.

‘I’ll hold them as long as I can,’ I told him, hoping he’d get past the landed fish stage long enough to take action. The image of Thomas Witney’s tortured body bloomed large and ugly at the front of my mind. ‘Go!’ I snapped. ‘Run like hell and do not come back for me.’

He might have been about to argue but then the van lurched into view, leaning hard as it loaded up the suspension through the turn, and the time for talk was over. There was no doubt in my mind now, even before the nose dipped under heavy braking, the front doors already opening.

I brought the SIG up, doubled-handed, and took two quick sideways steps to put Sagar at my back. My finger curved around the trigger, beginning to take up the mechanism, but I held my fire. Contrary to popular belief, taking potshots at a moving vehicle is a very hit-and-miss affair, especially with something as small as a 9mm pistol, but our current threat assessment had come up minimal at best. A fact I now cursed silently.

I had thirteen rounds and no spare magazine.

"A fast-paced and suspenseful novel . . . Highly recommended "

Gloria Feit Spinetingler Magazine

When I glanced back, Sagar remained frozen to the spot for a moment longer, staring at the rapidly approaching vehicle with disconnected fascination. I shoved my shoulder against his, knocking him sideways and that finally broke him out of it. He gave a kind of strangled cry and bolted for the edge of the road, but the van driver swung across after him. Panicked by the pursuit, Sagar tripped over his own feet and went sprawling messily to his knees on the stony surface of the road.

I just had time to consider that, whatever his role had been inside Bane’s organisation, field agent wasn’t it.

The van jolted to a halt with its front corner about three metres away from us. I hesitated only long enough to identify my first target. Then the rear sliding door flew open, and the decision was made for me.