Don't Look Down Read online

  "Are you out of your mind? Stephanie is hurt."

  "She's hurt because she stole my van." Nash began to punch numbers into his phone.

  Lucy went cold. "What kind of a monster are you? My God, you were always a liar, but you had feelings. What happened to you?"

  "You're being a little irrational, love," he told her as he listened to the phone ring.

  "Irrational?" Lucy took a deep breath. "Expecting one human being to care about another is not irrational. Expecting you to be kind to a woman who loves you is not irrational. Expecting you to put your fucking phone down when somebody needs you is not irrational. "

  He ignored her, and she ripped the phone out of his hand and slung it into the swamp, where it plopped and sank without a trace.

  "What the fuck?" Nash said, rounding on her.

  "That was irrational," Lucy said, and went back to J.T., who was talking softly to Stephanie.

  "The rescue squad will be here any minute now," he was saying when Lucy reached him. "Can you move your legs?"

  "They hurt," Stephanie sobbed.

  "That's good," J.T. said. "You've got feeling in them. They might have been hurt when you hit the bridge, but broken bones heal. You-"

  Lucy heard sirens, coming closer, coming faster, and J.T. smiled through the window at Stephanie.

  "Just a minute, now. You're going to be fine. Just a minute."

  Lucy leaned against the door, biting her lip, as Nash came around the van.

  "Jesus, you're a crazy bitch," he said, and Lucy wasn't sure whether he meant her or Stephanie, but J.T. straightened. "I need your cell phone," Nash said to Lucy. "Now. "

  "Fuck you," Lucy said and walked back to the Jeep as the ambulance pulled up.

  "Lucy, I'm not kidding," Nash said from behind her.

  Lucy got into the Jeep and looked back. J.T. was standing between her and Nash, blocking his way.

  "I can go around you or through you, mate," Nash said.

  "No, you really can't," J.T. said, and then the EMTs pushed past them, and Nash ran to close the back of the van.

  Lucy's cell phone rang, and when she answered it, Finnegan said "Lucy?"

  "What do you want?" she said, in no mood for his Irish brogue.

  "Would Connor be standing by?"

  "No," Lucy lied. She was not playing secretary for two sociopaths.

  "Can you tell me if he recovered his van?" Finnegan said.

  "Yes. It's smashed into a bridge, along with the woman who was driving it." She was shaking, she realized. She could feel the cell phone move against her cheek. There was blood on Stephanie's mouth. Did that mean internal injuries?

  "We've had an accident?"

  " We haven't," Lucy snapped. "We're not bleeding all over the pavement right now." Too many accidents, too much blood. "This stops now. I'm shutting down your damn movie. Fuck you and your four million dollars."

  "Wait," 'Finnegan said. "Don't-"

  "Forget it. Go play with your mole."

  "I'll meet you- "Finnegan said, and Lucy clicked off the phone and watched the EMTs work on getting Stephanie from the van.

  "I'll stay with her at the hospital," she told J.T. as he got into the driver's seat.

  "No, you won't." He turned on the engine. "Fair or not, she's blaming you, and if she sees you, she'll get upset again."

  He began to back the Jeep up, and Lucy said, "We should at least stay until-"

  "Let Nash handle it." J.T. pulled back onto the road. "He's the one she wants, and if we're not there, he'll have to answer the questions. He's the one with answers anyway."

  "What do you mean?"

  "I mean that when I came out of the camper, I heard the noise of the van leaving, and he was mad but he wasn't chasing Stephanie, he was on the phone."

  Lucy shook her head. "Still not following."

  "Nash called somebody to stop her," J.T. said. "And that somebody caused the wreck."

  Lucy swallowed. "He wouldn't do that. He wouldn't hurt…" I don't know that, she realized. I don't know him at all. He's not Connor anymore, he's some crazed bastard.

  "You okay?" J.T. said.

  "No," Lucy said. "Not even close."

  Five minutes later, Wilder pulled up in front of Lucy's camper, not sure what to do for her. "Look, Stephanie's going to be all right. She was talking, her mind was clear, the EMTs were fast-"

  "I know," Lucy said. "But there's something very wrong here and I don't know how to stop it."

  "Hey," he said, feeling guilty about the CIA, and she turned and smiled at him, rueful in the base-camp lights.

  "You, however, are very right. Thank you for everything, for being so good to Stephanie and for taking me there and for Pepper's gifts."

  He shrugged, not sure what to say.

  "Right. You're the strong, silent type." Lucy leaned forward and kissed him swiftly on the cheek. "You're the best, J. T. Wilder."

  Then she got out of the Jeep and went into the camper before he could get organized enough to say, "Wait."

  That was probably good. It was late. She'd had a tough night.

  She thought he was the best.

  Wilder started the Jeep and went down the dirt road that Pepper had taken into the swamp. He'd scouted the location earlier and found that the road ended a little farther past where he parked the Jeep, so he doubted anyone would be coming that way. Still, the woods were full of dangerous creatures.

  Of which he was one. Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil, for I am one of the baddest in the valley. He was tempted to go to the cache and recover his MP-5 submachine gun. When in doubt, bring in heavier firepower. And he had plenty of doubts because there were too many questions yet, starting with how the hell Finnegan thought investing four million dollars in a movie was going to get him fifty million in jade phallic symbols.

  I'm chasing a guy for the CIA who's chasing stone dicks, he thought. It'd be so much easier to just shoot somebody.

  Well, the hell with it for tonight. He had something better to think about.

  Lucy Armstrong. In WonderWear.

  He forgot about the MP-5 and grabbed his bedroll out of the back of the Jeep. He took a chem light and broke it, the green glow giving him a little bit of illumination as he headed into the forest. About twenty yards in was a one-foot-high earth-covered ring surrounding a twenty-foot-wide circle in the middle of the massive oak trees and palmettos. A shell circle where Native Americans had camped for centuries on end, depositing empty shells all around the site, which were eventually covered over with dirt and grass to form the ring.

  Wilder hooked the chem light over a palmetto frond. Then he pulled off the bungee strap and unrolled the self-inflating sleeping pad. It was only a quarter-inch thick, but enough to get him off the ground, which was the point. He'd slept on that thing all around the world, from minus sixty in the mountains of Afghanistan to plus one-twenty in a wadi in Iraq.

  Satisfied that it was full, he screwed shut the valve, then lay down on top of it on his back, grabbing the chem light and sticking it into a pocket, where its light was shuttered. He pulled the camouflage poncho liner over his body up to his chest and stared up at the sky. He kept his clothes and boots on. Just like on a mission. He pulled the Clock out and placed it on the pad near at hand. Just like on a mission. He thought of Lucy again. Not like on a mission.

  Good vibes. That's what had drawn Wilder to the spot. Good things had happened here. People had been happy here. He could see the stars overhead through the interlocking oak tree limbs. The smell of the swamp, rich and vibrant, carried on the slight breeze. More good things could happen here. Maybe would later, once the danger was gone, the stunt was over, the movie was finished. He turned on his side.

  He always slept well under the stars. But not tonight. Tonight there was Nash. Finnegan. Letsky. Lucy.

  Fuck the mission for a while. He focused on Lucy. Wilder smiled and relaxed for the first time in days.

  When Lucy stepped into the camper