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Fourth Day excerpt

Excerpt from Chapter 16
Just 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.

“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.


“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.

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.

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