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On Sale: May 10, 2005
Pages: 304 | ISBN: 978-0-553-90141-2
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Synopsis

When it reaches zero, you die.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Iris Johansen sets her readers’ pulses racing once again in this relentless psychological thriller of a young woman caught in a maze of secrets and stalked by a merciless killer. The countdown begins the moment you open this riveting novel that only grows more electrifying as the pages turn, more exciting as time runs out. . . .

“Don’t kill her. She’s no good to us dead.” These words haunt Jane MacGuire after a shocking attack shatters her world in an instant. Was it a random kidnapping attempt–or the countdown to something far more sinister?

Who is after her–and what do they want so badly they’ll kill anyone in their way? That’s what Jane is determined to find out, without the help of the police, the FBI, or her adoptive parents, forensic sculptor Eve Duncan and her husband, Joe Quinn, of the Atlanta PD–because whoever is after her won’t hesitate to hurt those she loves the most. Now Jane will go on the run with the only man who may be more dangerous than those who are pursuing her. A smuggler, a con man, and who knew what else, Mark Trevor had his own mysterious reasons for wanting to keep Jane safe and out of the hands of a killer obsessed with a two-thousand-year-old mystery that could rock the modern-day world.

Orphaned at an early age, Jane grew up the hard way, but she was given a new life, a loving family, and a chance to pursue her interest in one of the greatest archaeological finds ever unearthed. Now someone was trying to destroy that new life before it could even get started. The past is returning with the kind of vengeance that knows no mercy. The countdown has already begun, and it’s approaching zero faster than anyone thinks.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

Chapter One
Aberdeen, Scotland


Find the key.

The hotel room was dark but he didn’t dare turn on a light.
Leonard had told him that Trevor and Bartlett were usually in the restaurant for an hour, but he couldn’t count on it. Grozak had experience with that son of a bitch over the years and he knew Trevor’s instincts were still as keen as they had been when he was a mercenary in Colombia.

So he’d give himself ten minutes tops and get out of here. His penlight flashed around the room. As sterile and impersonal as most hotel rooms. Take the bureau drawers first. He moved quickly across to the bureau and started going through them.

Nothing.

He went to the closet and dragged out the duffel and searched through it hurriedly.

Nothing.

Five minutes to go.

He went to the bedside table and opened the drawer. A notepad and pen.

Find the key, the Achilles’ heel. Everyone had one.

Try the bathroom.

Nothing in the drawers.

The grooming kit.

Pay dirt!

Maybe.

Yes.
At the bottom of the kit was a small, worn leather folder.

Photos of a woman. Notes. Newspaper clippings with photos of the same woman. Disappointment surged through him. Nothing about MacDuff’s Run. Nothing about the gold. Nothing here to really help him. Hell, he’d hoped it was–

Wait. The woman’s face was damn familiar. . . .

No time to read them.

He pulled out his digital camera and began to take the pictures.
Send the prints to Reilly and show him that he might have the ammunition that he needed to control Trevor.

But this might not be enough for him. One more search of the bedroom and that duffel . . .

The worn, dog-eared sketchbook was under the protective board at the bottom of the duffel.

Probably nothing of value. He quickly flipped through the pages.
Faces. Nothing but faces. He shouldn’t have taken the extra time.
Trevor would be here any minute. Nothing but a bunch of sketches of kids and old people and that bastard–

My God.

Jackpot!

He tucked the sketchbook under his arm and headed for the door, filled with heady exultation. He almost wished that he’d run into Trevor in the hall so that he’d have the chance to kill the son of a bitch. No, that would spoil everything.

I’ve got you, Trevor.

* * *

The alarm in Trevor’s pocket was vibrating.

Trevor tensed. “Son of a bitch.”

“What’s wrong?” Bartlett asked.

“Maybe nothing. There’s someone in my hotel room.” He threw some money down on the table and stood up. “It could be the maid turning down my bed.”

“But you don’t think so.” Bartlett followed him from the room to the elevator. “Grozak?”

“We’ll see.”

“A trap?”

“Not likely. He wants me dead but he wants the gold more. He’s probably trying to find a map or any other info he can get his hands on.”

“But you’d never leave anything of value there.”

“He can’t be sure of that.” He stopped outside the door and drew his gun. “Stay here.”

“No problem. If you get killed, someone has to yell for the police, and I’ll accept that duty. But if it is the maid, we may be asked to leave this domicile.”

“It’s not the maid. The room’s dark.”

“Then perhaps I should–”

Trevor kicked the door open, darted to one side, and hit the floor.

No shot. No movement.

He crawled behind the couch and waited for his eyes to become accustomed to the darkness.

Nothing.

He reached up and turned on the lamp on the end table by the couch.

The room was empty.

“May I join you?” Bartlett called from the hall. “I’m a bit lonely out here.”

“Stay there for a minute. I want to make sure . . .” He checked the closet and then the bathroom. “Come in.”

“Good. It was interesting watching you tear through that door like Clint Eastwood in a Dirty Harry movie.” Bartlett cautiously entered the room. “But I really don’t know why I risk my valuable neck with you when I could be safe in London.” He looked around. “Everything looks fine to me. Are you becoming paranoid, Trevor? Perhaps that gadget you carry has a short circuit.”

“Perhaps.” He glanced through the drawers. “No, some of the clothes have been moved.”

“How can you tell? It looks neat to me.”

“I can tell.” He moved toward the bathroom. The grooming kit was in almost the same position as he’d left it. Almost.

Shit.

He unzipped the kit. The leather case was still there. It was the same black as the bottom of the kit and might not have been noticed.

“Trevor?”

“I’ll be with you in a minute.” He slowly opened the case and looked down at the articles and then the photo. She was looking up at him from the photo with the challenging stare he knew so well. Perhaps Grozak hadn’t seen it. Perhaps he wouldn’t think it important even if he had.

But could he afford to risk her life on that chance?

He moved quickly to the closet and jerked out the duffel and tore up the support board.

It was gone.

Shit!

* * *

Harvard University

Hey, I thought you were going to study for that final.”

Jane glanced up from her sketchbook to see her roommate, Pat Hershey, bounding into the room. “I had to take a break. I was getting too intense to keep a clear head. Sketching relaxes me.”

“So would sleep.” Pat smiled. “And you wouldn’t have had to study so hard if you hadn’t been out half of last night playing nursemaid.”

“Mike needed someone to talk to.” Jane made a face. “He’s scared to death that he’s going to flunk out and disappoint everyone.”

“Then he should be studying instead of crying on your shoulder.”

Jane knew Pat was right, and she’d had moments of exasperation and impatience last night. “He’s used to coming to me with problems.

We’ve known each other since we were kids.”

“And you’re too soft to send him away now.”

“I’m not soft.”

“Except about people you care about. Look at me. You’ve gotten me out of quite a few jams since we started to room together.”

“Nothing serious.”

“They were serious to me.” She strolled over and glanced at the sketch. “Good God, you’re drawing him again.”

Jane ignored the comment. “Did you have a good run?”

“Upped my distance a mile.” Pat flopped down in the chair and began untying her running shoes. “You should have come with me. It’s no fun for me running alone. I wanted the satisfaction of leaving you in the dust.”

“No time.” Jane finished the sketch in three bold strokes. “I told you, I had to study for my chemistry final.”

“Yeah, that’s what you told me.” Pat grinned as she kicked off her shoes. “But here you are drawing Mr. Wonderful again.”

“Believe me, he’s not wonderful.” She snapped the sketchbook shut. “And he’s definitely not the type of man you’d take home to meet your mom and dad.”

“A black sheep? Exciting.”

“Only on soap operas. In real life they’re big trouble.”

Pat made a face. “You sound like a jaded woman of the world.
You’re twenty-one, for God’s sake.”

“I’m not jaded. Jaded is for people who don’t have enough imagination to keep life interesting. But I’ve learned to tell the difference between intriguing and troublesome.”

“I could learn to live with that kind of trouble when it’s packaged so nicely. He’s gorgeous. Sort of a cross between Brad Pitt and Russell Crowe. You must think so too or you wouldn’t keep drawing his face.”

Jane shrugged. “He’s interesting. I find something new in his face
every time I draw it. That’s why I use him as a distraction.”

“You know, I really like those sketches. I don’t know why you haven’t done a full portrait of him. It would be much better than the one you did of the old lady that won that prize.”

Jane smiled. “I don’t believe the judges would have agreed with you.”

“Oh, I’m not knocking you. The other portrait was brilliant. But then, you’re always brilliant. You’ll be famous someday.”

Jane made a rude sound. “Maybe if I live to be as old as Grandma
Moses. I’m far too practical. I have no artistic temperament.”

“You always make fun of yourself, but I’ve seen you when you’re working. You get lost. . . .” She tilted her head. “I’ve been wondering why you won’t admit you have a fantastic future in store for you. It took me a while but I finally figured it out.”

“Indeed? I can’t wait to hear your take on this.”

“Don’t be sarcastic. I can be perceptive on occasion. I’ve decided for some reason you’re afraid to reach out and grab the brass ring. Maybe you don’t think you deserve it.”

“What?”

“I’m not saying you’re not confident. I just think you’re not as sure of your talent as you should be. Good God, you won one of the most prestigious competitions in the country. That should tell you something.”

“It told me the judges liked my style. Art is subjective. If there had been another set of judges, I might not have fared so well.” She shrugged. “And that would have been okay. I paint what and who I want. It gives me pleasure. I don’t have to be first with anyone else.”

“Don’t you?”

“No, I don’t, Miss Freud. So back off.”

“Whatever you say.” Pat was still staring at the sketch. “You said he was an old friend?”

Friend? No way. Their relationship had been too volatile to involve friendship. “No, I said I knew him years ago. Hadn’t you better take your shower?”

Pat chuckled. “Am I treading on private ground again? Sorry, it’s my busybody nature. It comes from living in a small town all my life.” She got to her feet and stretched. “You have to admit I restrain myself most of the time.”

Jane smiled as she shook her head. “When you’re sleeping.”

“Well, you must not mind too much. You’ve roomed with me for two years and you’ve never put arsenic in my coffee.”

“It could still happen.”

“Nah, you’re used to me now. Actually, we complement each other. You’re guarded, hardworking, responsible, and intense. I’m open, lazy, spoiled, and a social butterfly.”

“That’s why you have a 4.0 average.”

“Well, I’m also competitive and you spur me on. That’s why I don’t find a roommate who’s a party girl like me.” She pulled her T-shirt over her head. “Besides, I’m hoping Mr. Wonderful is going to show up so that I can seduce him.”

“You’ll be disappointed. He’s not going to show up. He probably doesn’t remember I’m alive, and now he’s just an interesting face to me.”

“I’d make sure he remembered me. What did you say his name was?”

Jane smiled teasingly. “Mr. Wonderful. What else?”

“No, really. I know you told me but I–”

“Trevor. Mark Trevor.”

“That’s right.” Pat headed for the bathroom. “Trevor . . .”

Jane glanced down at the sketch pad. It was curious that Pat had suddenly zeroed in on Trevor again. In spite of what she’d said, she generally respected Jane’s privacy, and she’d backed off before when she’d seen Jane withdraw after she’d questioned her about him.

“Stop analyzing.” Pat stuck her head out of the bathroom. “I can hear the wheels turning even over the sound of the shower. I’ve just decided I need to take you in hand and find a hunk to screw you and release all that pent-up tension you’re storing. You’ve been living like a nun lately. This Trevor seems a good candidate.”

Jane shook her head.

Pat made a face. “Stubborn. Well, then I’ll skip him and go on to the local talent.” She disappeared back into the bathroom.

Skip Trevor? Not likely, Jane thought. She’d been trying to ignore him for the past four years, and succeeded at times. Yet he was always in the background, waiting to push into her consciousness. That was the reason she’d started sketching his face three years ago. Once the sketch was finished she could forget him again for a while and get on with her life.

And it was a good life, full and busy and definitely not empty. She didn’t need him. She was accomplishing her goals, and the only reason his memory still lingered was that their time together had taken place under such dramatic circumstances. Black sheep might be intriguing to Pat, but she’d led a sheltered life and didn’t realize how much–

Her cell phone rang.

She was being followed.

Jane glanced over her shoulder.

No one.

At least, no one suspicious. A couple college guys out for a good time were strolling across the street and eyeing a girl who had just gotten off the bus. No one else. No one interested in her. She must be getting paranoid.

The hell she was. She still had her street kid’s instincts and she trusted them. Someone had been following her.

Okay, it could be anyone. This neighborhood had bars on every block catering to college kids who streamed in from the surrounding campuses. Maybe someone had noticed that she was alone, zeroed in on her for a few minutes as a prospective lay, and then lost interest and ducked into a bar.

As she was going to do.

She glanced up at the neon light on the building ahead. The Red
Rooster? Oh, for God’s sake, Mike. If he was going to get soused, he could have at least picked a bar whose owner had a little originality.

That was too much to expect. Even when Mike wasn’t in a panic, he was neither selective nor critical. Tonight he evidently wouldn’t care if the place was called Dew Drop Inn if they’d serve him enough beer. Ordinarily, she would have opted to let him make his own mistakes and learn from them, but she’d promised Sandra she’d help him settle in.

And the kid was only eighteen, dammit. So get him out, get him back to his dorm, and get him sober enough to talk sense into him.

She opened the door and was immediately assaulted by noise, the smell of beer, and a crush of people. Her gaze searched the room and she finally spotted Mike and his roommate, Paul Donnell, at a table across the bar. She moved quickly toward them. From this distance Paul seemed sober, but Mike was obviously royally smashed. He could hardly sit up in his chair.

“Jane.” Paul rose to his feet. “This is a surprise. I didn’t think you hit the bars.”

“I don’t.” And it wasn’t a surprise to Paul. He’d phoned her thirty minutes ago to tell her Mike was depressed and in the process of getting plastered. But if he wanted to protect his relationship with Mike by pretending he hadn’t let her know, that was okay with her. She’d never cared much for Paul. He was too slick, too cool for her taste, but he evidently was worried about Mike. “Except when Mike is making an idiot of himself. Come on, Mike, we’re getting out of here.”

Mike looked blearily up at her. “Can’t. I’m still sober enough to think.”

“Barely.” She glanced at Paul. “You pay the tab and I’ll meet you at the door.”

“Not going,” Mike said. “Happy here. If I get one more beer down, Paul promised to crow like a rooster. A red rooster . . .”

Paul raised his brows and shook his head at Jane. “Sorry to put you through this. Since we’ve only been rooming together for a few months, he wouldn’t listen to me. But he’s always talking about you; I didn’t think you’d mind if–”

“It’s okay. I’m used to it. We grew up together and I’ve been taking care of him since he was six years old.”

“You’re not related?”

She shook her head. “He was adopted by the mother of the woman who took me in and raised me. He’s a sweet kid when he’s not being so damn insecure, but there are times when I want to shake him.”

“Go easy on him. He’s got a major case of nerves.” He headed for the bar. “I’ll pay the tab.”

Go easy on him? If Ron and Sandra Fitzgerald hadn’t been so easy on Mike, he wouldn’t have forgotten what he’d learned on Luther Street and would be better able to cope in the real world, she thought in exasperation.

“Are you mad at me?” Mike asked morosely. “Don’t be mad at me,
Jane.”

“Of course I’m mad at–” He was looking up at her like a kicked puppy and she couldn’t finish. “Mike, why are you doing this to yourself?”

“Mad at me. Disappointed.”

“Listen to me. I’m not disappointed. Because I know you’re going to do fine once you work your way through this. Come on, we’ll get out of here and go someplace where we can talk.”

“Talk here. I’ll buy you a drink.”

“Mike. I don’t want–” It was no use. Persuasion was striking out.
Just get him out of here any way she could. “On your feet.” Jane took a step closer to the table. “Now. Or I’ll carry you in a fireman’s lift and tote you out of here on my shoulder. You know I can do it, Mike.”

Mike gazed up at her in horror. “You wouldn’t do that. Everyone would laugh at me.”

“I don’t care if these losers laugh at you. They should be studying for their exams instead of pickling their brains. And so should you.”

“Doesn’t matter.” He shook his head mournfully. “I’ll flunk it anyway.
I should never have come here. Ron and Sandra were wrong. I can never make it in an Ivy League school.”

“The school would never have accepted you if they didn’t think you could make it. You did fine in high school. This is no different if you work hard enough.” She sighed as she realized she wasn’t getting to him through that haze of alcohol. “We’ll talk later. On your feet.”

“No.”

“Mike.” She bent so that she could stare him directly in the eyes.
“I promised Sandra that I’d take care of you. That means not letting you start off your first year like a drunken sot or get thrown in jail for underage drinking. Do I keep my promises?”

He nodded. “But you shouldn’t have promised–I’m not a kid anymore.”

“Then act like it. You have two more minutes before I make you look like the asshole you’re being.”

His eyes widened in alarm and he jerked to his feet. “Damn you,
Jane. I’m not–”

“Shut up.” She took his arm and propelled him toward the door.

“I’m not feeling very warm toward you right now. I have a final tomorrow and I’ll have to stay up till dawn to make up for this trip to town.”

“Why?” he asked gloomily. “You’d ace it anyway. Some people have it. Some people don’t.”

“That’s bull. And a pretty pitiful excuse for being lazy.”

He shook his head. “Paul and I talked about it. It’s not fair. You’ve got it all. In a few months you’ll graduate with honors and make Eve and Joe proud. I’ll be lucky to make it through at the bottom of my class.”

“Stop blubbering.” She opened the door and pushed him out of the bar. “You won’t even make it through the first term if you don’t shape up.”

“That’s what Paul said.”

“Then you should have paid more attention.” She saw Paul standing on the sidewalk and asked, “Where’s his car parked?”

“Around the corner in the alley. All the parking spots were filled when we got here. Do you need help with him?”

“Not if he can walk,” she said grimly. “I hope you took his car keys away from him.”

“What kind of friend would I be if I didn’t?” He reached in his pocket and handed her the keys. “Do you want me to drive your car back to school?”

She nodded, took her keys out of her purse, and gave them to him.
“It’s two blocks down. A tan Toyota Corolla.”

“She worked two jobs and bought it herself.” Mike shook his head. “Amazing, brilliant Jane. She’s the star. Did I tell you that, Paul? Everyone’s proud of Jane. . . .”

“Come on.” She grabbed his arm. “I’ll show you amazing. You’ll be lucky if I don’t deck you before I get you back to the dorm. I’ll see you back at your room, Paul.”

“Right.” He turned on his heel and set off down the street.

“Wonderful Jane . . .”

“Be quiet. I’m not going to let you blame your lack of purpose on me. I’ll help you, but you’re responsible for your life, just as I am for mine.”

“I know that.”

“You don’t know zilch right now. Listen, Mike, we both grew up on the streets, but we were lucky. We’ve been given a chance to climb out.”

“Not smart enough. Paul’s right. . . .”

“You’re all muddled.” The alley was yawning just ahead. Her hand tightened on the key as she pressed the unlock button and pushed him toward his Saturn. “You can’t even remember what–”

Shadow. Leaping forward. Arm raised.

She instinctively pushed Mike aside and ducked.

Pain!

In her shoulder, not her head, where the blow was aimed.

She whirled and kicked him in the belly.

He grunted and bent double.

She kicked him in the groin and listened with fierce satisfaction as he howled in agony. “Bastard.” She took a step toward him.

“Can’t you–”

A bullet whistled by her ear.

Mike cried out.

Dear God. She hadn’t seen any gun.

No, her attacker was still doubled over, groaning in pain. Someone else was in the alley.

And Mike was falling to his knees.

Get him out of here.

She opened the door of the Saturn and pushed him onto the passenger seat.

Another shadow running toward her from the end of the alley as she ran around to the driver’s seat.

Another shot.

“Don’t kill her, you fool. She’s no good to us dead.”

“The kid may already be dead. I’m not leaving a witness.”

The voice came from right in front of her.

Blind him.

She turned the lights on high as she started the car.

And ducked as a bullet shattered the windshield.

The tires screeched as she stomped on the accelerator and backed out of the alley.

“Jane . . .”

She looked down at Mike and her heart sank. His chest . . .Blood. So much blood.

“It’s okay, Mike. You’re going to be fine.”

“I . . . don’t want to die.”

“I’m taking you to the emergency room right now. You’re not going to die.”

“Scared.”

“I’m not.” Christ, she was lying. She was terrified, but she couldn’t let him see it. “Because there’s no reason to be. You’re going to get through this.”

“Why?” he whispered. “Why did they– Money? You should have given it to them. I don’t want to die.”

“They didn’t ask me for money.” She swallowed. Don’t cry now.
Pull over and try to stop that bleeding and then get him to the emergency room. “Just hold on, Mike. Trust me. You’re going to be all right.”

“Promise . . . me.” He was slumping forward in the seat. “Don’t want to . . .”



Ms. MacGuire?”

A doctor?

Jane looked up quickly at the tall, fortyish man standing in the doorway of the waiting room. “How is he?”

“Sorry. I’m not a doctor. I’m Detective Lee Manning. I need to ask you a few questions.”

“Later,” she said curtly. She wished she could stop shaking. Dear
God, she was scared. “I’m waiting for–”

“The doctors are working on your friend. It’s a difficult operation. They won’t be out to talk to you for a while.”

“That’s what they told me, but it’s been over four hours, dammit.
No one’s said a word to me since they took him away.”

“Operating rooms are busy places.” He came toward her. “And
I’m afraid we have to get a statement from you. You showed up here with a victim suffering a gunshot wound and we have to find out what happened. The longer we wait, the greater chance we have of losing the perpetrator.”

“I told them what happened when I checked Mike in to the hospital.”

“Tell me again. You say robbery didn’t appear to be the motive?”

“They didn’t ask for money. They wanted–I don’t know what they wanted. They said something about the girl not being any good to them dead. That’s me, I guess.”

“Rape?”

“I don’t know.”

“It’s possible. A kidnapping? Do your parents have a good deal of money?”

“I’m an orphan, but I’ve lived with Eve Duncan and Joe Quinn since I was a kid. Joe’s a cop like you but he has private money. Eve is a forensic sculptor and she does more charity work than professional.”

“Eve Duncan . . . I’ve heard of her.” He turned as another man came into the room carrying a Styrofoam cup filled with steaming coffee.

“This is Sergeant Ken Fox. He thought you’d need a pick-me up.”

“I’m glad to meet you, ma’am.” Fox offered her the cup with a polite smile. “It’s black, but I’ll be glad to get you another one with cream if you like.”

“Are you playing good cop, bad cop with me? It won’t work.” But she took the cup of coffee. She needed it. “Like I said, I was brought up by a cop.”

“That must have come in handy tonight,” Manning said. “It’s hard to believe you were able to fight your way out of that alley.”

“Believe what you like.” She sipped the coffee. “But find out from the doctors if Mike’s going to live. Those nurses gave me all kinds of soothing noncommittal assurances, but I don’t know whether to believe them. They’ll talk to you.”

“They think he has a good chance.”

“Just a chance?”

“He was shot in the chest and he lost a good deal of blood.”

“I know.” She moistened her lips. “I tried to stop it.”

“You did a good job. The doctors say you may have saved his life.
How did you know what to do?”

“I took EMT training three years ago. It comes in handy. I sometimes go to disaster sites with my friend Sarah Logan, who does canine rescue work.”

“You seem to have all kinds of talents.”

She stiffened. “Are you being sarcastic? I don’t need that kind of hassle right now. I know you have a job to do, but back off.”

“I wasn’t trying to intimidate you.” Manning grimaced. “Lord, you’re defensive.”

“My friend has just been shot. I think I have a right to be defensive.”

“Hey, we’re the good guys.”

“Sometimes it’s hard to tell.” She gave him a cool glance. “And you haven’t shown me your ID yet. Let’s see it.”

“Sorry.” He reached in his pocket and pulled out his badge. “My error. Show her your ID, Fox.”

She examined both IDs closely before handing them back.

“Okay. Let’s get this over quickly. I’ll make a formal statement later but here’s what you need to know right now. It was too dark in that alley for me to be able to ID the first man who attacked us. But when I turned on the headlights I got a glimpse of the man who shot Mike.”

“You’ll be able to recognize him?”

“Oh, yes.” Her lips twisted. “No problem. I’m not going to forget him. Not ever. Give me a few hours after I get through this hell and I’ll give you a sketch of him.”

“You’re an artist?”

“It’s my major. And I’ve got a knack for portraiture. I’ve done sketches for the Atlanta PD before and they haven’t complained.”
She took another sip of coffee. “Check with them if you don’t believe me.”

“I believe you,” Fox said. “That will be a great help. But you only saw him for a moment. It would be hard to remember enough to–”

“I’ll remember.” She leaned wearily back in the chair. “Look, I’ll do everything I can to help. I want to get this bastard. I don’t know what the hell this is all about, but Mike didn’t deserve this to happen to him. I’ve met a few people who did deserve to be shot.” She shivered. “But not Mike. Will you go check and see if there’s any–”

“No news.” Joe Quinn’s face was grim as he came into the waiting room. “I checked as soon as I got here.”

“Joe.” She jumped to her feet and ran across the room toward him. “Thank God you’re here. Those nurses were practically patting my head. They won’t tell me anything. They’re treating me like a kid.”

“Heaven forbid. Don’t they know you’re twenty-one going on a hundred?” He hugged her and then turned to the two detectives. “Detective Joe Quinn. The head nurse tells me you’re local police?”

Manning nodded. “Manning, and this is Sergeant Fox. Naturally, we have a few questions to ask the young lady. You understand.”

“I understand that you’re to leave her alone right now. She’s not under suspicion, is she?”

Manning shook his head. “If she shot him, then she did a hell of a lot to keep him alive afterward.”

“She’s protected him all her life. There’s no way she would have shot him. Give her a chance to get herself together and she’ll cooperate later.”

“So she told us,” Manning said. “I was just about to leave when you came. Just doing our job.”

Jane was tired of dealing with them. “Where’s Eve, Joe? And how did you get here so quickly?”

“I hired a jet as soon as you called, and Eve and I came ahead.
Sandra is flying in from New Orleans, where she was vacationing.
Eve stayed at the airport to meet her flight and bring her here. Sandra’s almost falling apart.”

“I promised her I’d take care of him.” She could feel the tears sting her eyes. “I didn’t do it, Joe. I don’t know what happened. Everything went wrong.”

“You did your best.”

“Don’t tell me that. I didn’t do it.”

“Okay, but Sandra had no right to saddle you with that kind of responsibility.”

“She’s Eve’s mother. She loves Mike. Hell, I love Mike. I’d have done it anyway.”

“We’ll wait in the hall,” Sergeant Fox said. “Whenever you’re ready to make a statement, Ms. MacGuire.”

“Wait a minute. I’ll go with you,” Joe said. “I want to talk to you about the investigation.” He turned to Jane. “I’ll be right back. I want an update and then I’ll go back to the nurse’s desk and see if I can get more info about Mike.”

“I’ll go with you.”

He shook his head. “You’re upset and it shows. They’ll be walking on eggshells around you. Let me do it. I’ll get right back to you.”

“I don’t want to sit–” She stopped. He was right. She wiped her wet cheeks on the back of her hand. She couldn’t stop crying, dammit. “Hurry, Joe.”

“I’ll hurry.” He brushed his lips on her forehead. “You did nothing wrong, Jane.”

“That’s not true,” she said shakily. “I didn’t save him. Nothing could be more wrong than that.”
Iris Johansen

About Iris Johansen

Iris Johansen - Countdown

Photo © Bernard Vidal

Iris Johansen is the New York Times bestselling author of many novels, including Killer Dreams, On the Run, Countdown, Firestorm, Fatal Tide, Dead Aim, and No One to Trust. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia.
Praise

Praise

"[A] thrill ride.... Action, romance, castles, bomb plots and a booby-trapped hideaway in snowbound Idaho—what more could Johansen fans want?"—Publishers Weekly


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