Empty barrels thundered around Ryan and Dani as they sped as fast as they could down the alley. There were no exits and Ryan’s frustration blazed. A twelve-foot chain-link fence topped with razor wire on one side, a ten-foot-tall cinder block wall on the other. Enough running, he screamed internally. But it was impossible to turn and fight an oncoming SUV.
The opening to the alley approached. Ryan pushed his legs even harder and felt Dani keeping pace at his shoulder. His awareness reached out to every corner of their surroundings, searching for something that might slow the SUV, or a secret escape route that could get Dani to safety.
There was no safety.
Even though they made it out of the alley a couple yards ahead of the SUV, the vehicle screeched in a hard turn and continued its pursuit. Another figure ran along an oncoming street two blocks away. Harris. With his gun drawn and a phone to his ear.
“I see him,” Dani growled with hate.
“They must’ve guessed you were headed to Manzana and had this other car ready.” His lungs burned and his muscles ached. Stopping now meant they would die.
Harris spotted Ryan and Dani and changed course to intercept. The SUV was relentless behind them. Dani tugged on Ryan’s arm and hurried the two of them into a narrow space between two businesses.
The SUV’s spotlight cut Dani into harsh fragments as she clambered over empty milk crates and damp cardboard boxes. But the car couldn’t pursue them here. At the rate Harris was running, he must’ve been a block away.
Moving close behind Dani, Ryan took out his phone and dialed 911 again. As soon as the operator answered he released a string of words. “Ryan Kimura again, we’re on the move. There’s a black SUV pursuing, and the armed man…”
The operator maintained her professional poise. “We have a unit approaching your old location. Where are you now?”
“Unknown.” Ryan followed Dani out of the small space and started running in the opposite direction from where he thought Harris would be coming. “Just get someone into the north side of town. Everyone. Get everyone out here.”
“Captain Sarah Gold,” Dani added between ragged breaths. “We need her.”
Ryan repeated the order to the operator and hung up so he could have both hands free. “Police lights.” He pointed for Dani toward an electrical transformer high on a pole at least four blocks away. Red and blue flashed against it to reveal the position of a police car.
“Finally.” Dani headed that way. Ryan checked over his shoulder as he sped with her. No sign of the SUV or Harris. No movement at all in this industrial side of town.
The damned SUV had appeared just as he and Dani had been growing closer in a quiet moment, leaving him without a resolution as to what the heat between them still meant. But he did understand that he wasn’t ready to leave her side. Not just because of the danger, but because of how well they fit together. If they could just figure out how to narrow the gap between their lives.
“Now where?” Dani’s steps faltered. The glow of the police lights disappeared from the high transformer and there was nothing to indicate where they’d gone.
“We keep heading in that general direction.” Distant sirens wailed from deeper in town. “Sounds like they’ve got every emergency vehicle on the move.”
“They’re not going to let one of their own down.” Weariness showed on Dani’s face, but her eyes remained bright.
“You’re one of theirs, too,” he told her. “Hometown girl, kicking butt in the courtroom.”
“Haven’t been in the courtroom for months.” Her mouth twisted into a frown. “Usually just to file motions.”
“No matter what you’re doing, I’m sure you’ve got opposing counsel running scared.” He’d seen how tenacious she was while prepping a case.
The two of them turned onto an empty street with no sidewalks, jogged along the edge, then reached another intersection.
“But I’m the one running now…” She started off with an ironic laugh, but it choked off quickly when she staggered to a halt.
Harris stood in the middle of the street, blocking their path. The dirt of the forest clung to the fortysomething man’s black coat and the bottoms of his jeans were just as muddy as Ryan’s and Dani’s. But Harris was the only one holding a gun. His face was grim with victory as he lowered the phone from his ear.
“It’s over,” he snarled from less than ten feet away. Sweat plastered dirty blond hair to his forehead.
Dani straightened, shoulders back, posture straight and imposing, and took a step toward him. The pistol remained eerily steady in his hand. Ryan angled himself to stand between her and the barrel, his heart pounding.
“Your boss,” Dani said with an even, authoritative voice, “will go down and drag you under with him.”
“The evidence dies with you.” Harris shook his head.
Ryan stepped more fully in front of Harris, his muscles taut and ready to attack. But the trigger would be quicker than him. Dani’s hand pressed against the small of Ryan’s back and her fingers squeezed.
“I’m going to give it to him,” she told Ryan. Her fingers dug firmly into him, showing she was ready to do something.
“Of course you are.” Harris’s impatience grew. “You—”
Dani made the motion of tossing Harris the briefcase, but it was still strapped to her and rebounded quickly into her grip. Harris was expecting it, though, and shifted to catch it, moving the gun just enough for Ryan to attack.
Ryan leaped forward and grabbed Harris’s wrist, forcing the pistol farther away. Just in time. The gun went off with a blast that concussed the air, but the bullet dug harmlessly into a brick wall. Ryan could see Dani diving under the line of fire as he twisted with Harris for control of the gun.
A brutal knee crashed into Ryan’s ribs, stealing his air and making him wince to one side. He rallied as much strength as he could and slammed his shoulder into Harris’s chest. The man wheezed and stumbled back. Ryan pulled out his knife, flicked it open and drove it into the front of Harris’s shoulder.
The pistol fell to the ground and skipped away under a parked car. Harris’s eyes were deadly hard as he clawed at Ryan’s throat with his good hand. Ryan cocked a fist back and swung into Harris’s jaw. The blow spun them both to the ground.
Ryan got to his feet first and backed to Dani while Harris stared at them both with murderous intent. The sirens grew closer. Ryan took a long breath against the growing bruise in his side and flexed his aching hand. But Dani was unhurt, and the evidence was still in her grip.
Harris choked a laugh and slid his left hand behind his back. He produced a smaller pistol and aimed it directly at Dani. The SUV prowled up the street and stopped next to him, the searchlight nearly blinding.
“I told you.” The blurry image of Harris shook his head with disappointment. “I’m a professional.”
Ryan faced the man with the gun, raging to finally put an end to this killer’s threat to Dani. But they were cornered, and he didn’t see any way out.
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