Don't Look Down Read online

  He slung the Kid over one shoulder and with the other grabbed a bag of gear out of the cargo rack along with his sniper rifle. Then she kicked him, wriggling to get away, and he realized she'd been faking unconsciousness for a while. Fucking stupid kid.

  He ran forward in the darkness with her over his shoulder. He could hear the helicopter behind him, in the distance and coming closer, but ahead he could hear voices raised in argument.

  Fuck-ups. He halted less than fifty yards from the voices and knelt on the edge of the gravel road and dropped the Kid on the ground. The gag was tight around her mouth and her wide eyes were staring at him. He pulled out a long bayonet from his pack, held it high over his head as the Kid's eyes got even wider, and plunged it down.

  Wilder paused as they got to a point just before the boat. He heard a voice raised high in a whine and recognized it immediately from four days of filming: Bryce was complaining about something. There was a glow ahead, but it was still damn dark.

  Lucy bumped into him from behind.

  "Careful," he whispered.

  "Yeah, well, where's BMNT when you need it?"

  "About six hours away."

  Wilder nudged her and they drew closer to the boat. The glow was from a lantern of some sort, set next to Althea, who was sitting on the engine compartment, swinging her legs and looking into the cockpit. Nash was nowhere in sight, which wasn't good.

  Bryce was pulling another of the plastic cases out of the water and onto the berm, floundering in the canal, struggling to hoist the case up. Physical labor. Wilder shook his head as they silently moved closer. I hat was hostage work. Bryce should have kidnapped somebody without a manicure.

  They were less than ten feet away when Wilder called out, "Hey, Bryce."

  Althea spun around on the fantail, shifting her attention from the cockpit. "J.T.? Is that you?"

  "J.T.? J.T.'s here?" Bryce sounded delighted. He was waist deep in swamp water, and his face was turned up, searching the darkness blindly, while he slapped at mosquitoes.

  "J.T., have you come to save me?" Althea called.

  "Save you?" Bryce said, his whine turned up to eleven. "You're the one with the gun."

  Oh, crap, Wilder thought. "Where's Nash?"

  Both Althea and Bryce looked into the cockpit of the boat.

  "Come on out, Nash," Wilder called. "We're working a trade here."

  "Fuck you." Nash's head appeared above the windscreen. "I can't come out because the fucking bitch has got a gun on me."

  "Althea?" Lucy said from beside him.

  Well, it made more sense than Bryce, Wilder thought. Althea smiled innocently and Wilder could now see her right hand, a pistol in it pointed right at Nash.

  "Can we go now?" Bryce asked.

  "Poor puppy," Lucy said softly from behind Wilder. "Mary Vanity must be looking really good right about now."

  "All we want is Pepper," Wilder called. "Although we'll take Bryce with us while you two work out your… problems."

  Lucy's cell phone rang in Wilder's pocket, and he sensed Lucy's jump.

  "It's okay," he said, trying not to remember all the firepower she had with the safeties off. He answered the phone. "Where is she?"

  "East," the ghost said. "On the road."

  Wilder turned and the beam of a flashlight suddenly appeared, shooting up from the swamp to a small figure on the edge of the road: Pepper, crying, her hands cuffed in front of her, a rope going from the cuffs to something pinned in the ground.

  "Son of a bitch," Lucy hissed and started forward but Wilder grabbed the back of her shirt and stopped her.


  "She's crying." The rage ripped through Lucy's voice and Wilder felt the same, but he knew now was the time to be careful, very careful.

  "Trust me," Wilder said, holding the phone tight against his chest so the ghost couldn't hear.

  "I trust you," Lucy said, still staring at Pepper. "Now let me go get my kid."

  Wilder put the phone to his head. "Let her go, and I'll order the chopper in."

  "We had this conversation," the ghost said.

  "You know I'm not giving you the chopper before I get the girl," Wilder countered. "Do you have a plan?"

  "You're going to-"

  Bryce yelped and there was a loud crash as he dropped the box.

  Wilder turned to see Bryce, smeared with mud, lying on the top of the berm, the case he had been hauling up split open underneath him, its contents spilled out across the road, packing material and something bright green, which Wilder expected, and bright orange, which he did not.

  "That orange thing does nor look like jade," Althea said, moving along the edge of the boat to the berm, forgetting Nash behind her.

  "Oh, crap," Wilder said, and even Lucy was still.

  Althea had the gun in one hand, the lantern in the other. She reached Bryce and held the lantern up, looking down into the broken box.

  She became very still. "What the hell is that?"

  Bryce licked his lips, then clambered to his feet, picked up one of the shiny green things, and frowned at it. "I think it's a cucumber salt shaker. With a smiley face. See?" He turned it toward her, and when she didn't smile, he bent over and picked up one of the orange things. "Look. Carrots, too."

  We're done, Wilder thought.

  Althea let her gun hand drop. "Want to hear something funny about your jade, Nash?" she called back, her voice savage. "The fucking jade that was going to make all our fortunes? The jade you tried to kill me over1."

  Wilder lifted his rifle and touched Lucy's shoulder. "Go get Pepper."

  She nodded and was gone, and he was left to cover her, praying that the ghost wouldn't do anything stupid, and that Nash wouldn't take them all out when he realized he'd risked everything for comic cucumbers.

  "I think the carrot's the girl," Bryce said, looking down at the pair in his hands, and then Nash made his move.

  Lucy ran toward Pepper and the little girl saw her and said, "Aunt Lucy!" as Lucy stumbled and grabbed her, curling around her to shield her. "Almost there, honey."

  She tugged on the rope and then began to move the bayonet it was tied to back and forth, trying to work it out of the ground.

  "Aunt Lucy," Pepper said again, sobbing, leaning against her, "I'm scared," and Lucy thought, Fucking bastards, and kicked the bayonet with everything she had, and it came out of the dirt, wickedly sharp.

  And then all hell broke loose.

  As soon as Lucy was moving, Wilder had taken a quick glance over his shoulder, trying to locate Nash, but the stuntman had disappeared. Bad development, Wilder thought.

  Althea was still staring at the broken box, but it was clear from her face that she was thinking fast. She took a deep breath. "Okay. I give up." She threw the gun down and held up her hands. "Call the police. I surrender."

  "Doesn't work that way, you dumb bitch," Nash said, and Wilder saw him on the roadway behind her, a tall, lean silhouette with that goddamn fast-draw rig on his hip. "I don't give up."

  Althea put her hands down. "Well, I do. I'm not going to jail. I'll deal. I know where Letsky is. I got the coordinates from-"

  "Letsky's dead," Wilder said, not liking his current position with Nash in front and the ghost somewhere behind him, covering Nash. He looked east. Lucy had reached Pepper and was trying to work her free. He turned back, "It's over, Nash. The CIA blew Letsky and his boat up about twenty minutes ago."

  Wilder saw Bryce straighten up holding Althea's gun pointed at Nash, and yelled, "Get down. "

  Althea hit the dirt and Bryce jerked in surprise and fell over backward as Wilder spun away from the clusterfuck by the boat to face the swamp and the ghost, snapping his sniper rifle up as he saw a muzzle flash in the blackness fifty yards away, past Lucy and Pepper. He fired on instinct, sending his own round directly into the flash. A second muzzle flash split the darkness, but this one was long and upright, firing into the air, and Wilder knew he'd hit the ghost, who'd tumbled backward as he'd fired a sec