Hunted by the Past

By: Jayne Evans

Chapter One

“You’re going to have to shoot me.”

Lucy couldn’t stop the short bark of laughter from escaping. She clapped a hand over her mouth anyway, hoping she’d only imagined the noise bouncing off the stark marble floors and high ceilings of the bank. The tall, dark haired man in front of her froze, his fingers poised on the last button of his shirt. Only his eyes moved, tracking behind her, before locking onto her own. He shook his head slightly and continued to strip, his movements smooth and unhurried, as though he regularly removed his clothes in public.

His lips barely moved as he spoke. “If you want to get out of here, you’re going to have to shoot me.” His lips twisted in a wry smile that disappeared almost before it landed. “Try to aim for the left side.” Scars covered that half of his torso, and she couldn’t stop herself from staring at the damaged skin.

She forced her attention back to his face. “I can’t shoot you.” Her voice was strangled and strange in her own ears. Nausea twisted her stomach, sending alternating waves of ice and heat down her back as she fought to keep herself under control. If only everything would stop for a moment so she could wrap her mind around how her appointment had gone so terribly wrong.

He unbuttoned his jeans, revealing boxer shorts covered in dancing jalapeno peppers, and muscled thighs marred by more stretches of shiny white scar tissue. Her breath faltered in her throat. So many scars. Maybe he really did go around stripping off his clothes and asking people to shoot him. She had a sudden, insane urge to laugh again.

“Be ready. Take the shot, then hit the floor.” His voice was quiet, but intense.

She shook her head.

He toed out of his boots, raised both hands and took a sideways step away from the pile of clothes. His badge slid free and clattered onto the tile floor next to his cell phone, but it was the empty holster that made blood pound in her ears. He’d popped open a snap with his thumb, lifted the gun, slowly, with just two fingers—just like the other man had said—then crouched, more slowly still, and slid it across the ground. She made herself glance at the gun at her feet and immediately looked back into his face, shaking her head again. She saw his gaze flick over her shoulder, and his lips tightened a split second before fetid breath whispered against her cheek.

“You pick up that gun and shoot the pig or I will cut this one’s head. Right. Off.”

A high-pitched noise of involuntary protest followed and the hair on Lucy’s arms stood up. She spun around so fast she nearly lost her balance and the world just kept spinning even once her eyes focused. Nathan. Oh God, Nathan.

The man skittered backward, pulling Nathan with him. A knife was pressed to the tender stalk of the boy’s throat. The man threw his head back and screeched, jerking Nathan to and fro as he shuffled and twitched.

“Do it! You hafta do it!” The bank robber’s words came out in an oddly sing-song rhythm, as though he was chanting to a tune only he could hear.

Nathan’s eyes were wide. Pleading. His toy truck clanged off the polished floor when he dropped it to wrap his tiny fingers around the man’s wrist, trying to stay upright and keep the knife from his skin. Lucy’s vision clouded and she concentrated on sucking air into her lungs. She could taste her own fear, heavy and thick on her tongue.

“Shoot the pig. You hafta shoot the pig!” The robber’s face contorted, shifting expressions faster than her mind could track. His hand started to shake. Nathan’s skin dented under the tip of the knife. A drop of blood welled in the hollow.

Lucy turned back to face the cop, picked up the gun, and fired.

Chapter Two

She tried to tuck the thin blanket around Nathan, but ended up pulling it around both of them when he wouldn’t release his hold on her waist. She had to tamp down a flare of annoyance when her shaking fingers fumbled with the fabric as the breeze tried to tease it away.

“You’re okay, honey. It’s over now.” She started to pat his back before remembering that was for babies and switched to a gentle rubbing motion. She was trying to comfort him, not burp him.

Nathan nodded but tightened his hold on her. He hadn’t said a word since they’d been ushered out of the bank with the rest of the hostages, but surely that was a normal response for a traumatized six-year-old. He’d be fine. The blanket drooped as she brushed her fingers through his hair and he slid around to her side, trying to remain hidden. She pulled the cover up again and hugged him close. But maybe an appointment with a child psychologist was in order.

She took a couple of deep breaths and gratefully accepted a take-out cup of coffee from a uniformed officer.