Andrew Lanning was happy when they shut down the family search and rescue business. He hated it because it was rarely ever a rescue, just bodies and that was too depressing. But now he had to find something else to do. Being a man of leisure left him too much time to get into trouble, so he purchased a floundering cable company to occupy his time. But when he started poking around the business, the things he found made no sense. The sales, all of them, stemmed from one computer and there were over a hundred employees….
Laci Wintermute was caught in the middle of what she thought was a grocery store robbery, but found out quickly that she was the target of the would be robbers all along. What she couldn’t figure out was why. And those idiots weren’t the only ones after her either, they didn’t seem to stop coming. So she did the only thing she knew to do―she ran. She ran until she ran out of money, acquired an assumed name and took a job at a small cable company….
The fate, Sonya, was determined to destroy the Lanning family, even from the grave….
18 Months Ago
Laci looked in her rearview mirror and let out a long sigh. Finally, her aunt was asleep. She wasn’t sure how much more she could take of her maiden aunt traveling with her, but she’d not been able to leave her behind and Laci wasn’t sure that either of them would have survived had they not had each other to depend on. Not that her aunt was all that helpful, but she was her responsibility.
The trip—it had really only started out as a small trip—had been to go to the market. It had turned into a nightmarish run across the states. That had been eleven days ago. Much longer than she wanted to think about moving so far from her job, her home, and everything she’d left behind. But there wasn’t any way for her to stay there when people were trying to kill her.
Laci had arrived home that day to see her aunt sitting outside of the house in her wheelchair with her pocket book on her lap. Not a purse but a pocket book. She needed to run into town for a bit. Just to pick up her prescription, she’d told Laci, and a gallon of milk. Laci had no idea how her aunt drank so much milk, but every day her aunt would either have her pick some up on her way home or she would meet her, as she had that day, ready to go get it. More often than not, even if she called home to see if there was anything her aunt Jeanie needed, they’d end up making a trip out of the house to get milk and just one or two other things.
The store had been crowded. The holidays were over, but it was the first of the month. Never a good time to go to a store, and certainly not a good time to be out and about for any reason. Her aunt Jeanie never cared if Laci had to park in the far lot. Her chair was her throne, and she didn’t care how far Laci had to cart the groceries.
Laci remembered thinking that she was glad then that she’d cashed her check. Aunt Jeanie got her pension each month, but as far as Laci knew she never spent any of it. Certainly not around the house for things so mundane as food and power, anyway. Laci was paying for everything, including her aunt’s medical bills that her insurance didn’t cover, as well as any personal things that she needed. Laci was making it each month, but it had been getting harder and harder to make ends meet. Then they’d gone to the store.
The cart was being pushed around by her aunt in one of those electric chairs. Aunt Jeanie loved it, Laci knew. Riding around without having to struggle with her wheels on her own put her in a particularly good mood that day. Laci also thought that her aunt used the time at the store as a social thing, being that she pretty much stayed at the house while Laci worked all the time. They were just rounding the canned vegetable aisle when the cart stopped moving.
“Is it the battery?” Laci had no idea and said that to her. “Perhaps that’s it. The battery. Go and find me someone that can change it out, or you can go out and get my own chair. I need to be here for a bit longer…to get the things that we need. You’ll have to push me if you do that. We only need a few things.”
“I’ll find someone.” As she eyed the cart with over a dozen un-needed items in it, Laci wondered how the hell this had happened every time. Each time they only needed milk, the grocery bill would amount to right around fifty bucks. It would be more if there were only a few items in addition to the milk.
Laci only wanted to go home, put her feet up, and take a short nap before she had to go back to her other job. Life was decidedly harder since her parents had died and she’d taken over the care of Aunt Jeanie. Laci made her way to the front of the store when she realized how quiet it was.
She was nearly halfway up the aisle to the front desk when she saw the two men. One of them had a mask on; the other was standing with his back to her. But he wasn’t covering his face. It took her several seconds of just standing there to realize that he was holding someone in front of him and he had a gun to their head. Moving to the back of the aisle again, she never turned but backed up one step at a time, keeping her eyes on the two men. She needed to get to her purse and her phone where her aunt was to call the police.
“Going somewhere?” The blunt end of something touching the back of her neck had her stilling. The man, because there was no doubt it was a man, laughed. “Come on now. You want to join the party, don’t you?”
“Not particularly.” He hit her with the gun but only hard enough to make her see stars and not knock her out. Moving when he gave her a shove, Laci tried to think. “If you’re robbing the place, you’d be better off just leaving the customers alone. The only reason that most of them are here is because it’s the first of the month.”
“We don’t really care about the money. There is something more here that we’re to pick up. A bigger pay off.” She nodded and stopped when they reached the offices. “Stand still and I won’t kill you right now.”
The office, really just an open area that sat about two feet higher off the floor than the rest of the store, was full of people when she was shoved into it. There was a wraparound desk in it, a safe that was currently closed, as well as four people standing and three sitting with their hands on their heads. Two were bleeding out on the floor, and Laci could see that they weren’t going to make it. Laci looked around for her aunt. Thankfully, she wasn’t anywhere near here.
Laci took a quick inventory of the men holding guns. Two had handguns, one a rifle, and the other one was behind her still, and she knew that he had a gun but nothing more. The odds were too great for her to get brave, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to jump if the opportunity presented itself. She’d been trained in hand-to-hand combat, how to use a gun, and to know when to stand back and let the chips fall.
One of Laci’s jobs was that of a security officer. The other two—one an antique buyer, the other a sales associate that sold grave plots to people—did not help her as well right now as the first one did. She knew the make and model of the gun, the kind of ammo it held, as well as how many shots it would fire before it would need a new clip. She also knew that it would do a world of hurt on anyone that was on the receiving end of it. Death would be about the only option should it hit you in any major part of the body. The man behind her spoke finally, and they all turned toward her.
“Found this one wandering around the store. I thought we put them all in the freezer. But here she is, right here just out in the open for us. This is her, right?” That explained the quietness of the store, Laci thought. But she had no idea what he meant by singling her out. “We got what we came for, so we can leave now, right?”
“I have a suggestion.” She was hit in the head again. “That fucking hurt. Stop doing that and I won’t have to hurt you.”
He laughed again, which she figured he was justified in doing since he had the gun. Laci was tall, lanky, and looked like a good wind would blow her over. But she was strong, agile, as well as trained to take on the bad guys when necessary. When he hit her again, she’d had enough.
Grabbing his arm, she flipped him over her head and then used the momentum to jerk his arm around and snap it. As he was screaming at her, she used his own finger to shoot and kill the mask wearing guy and then hit the other one before he had a chance to fire back. As she ran for cover, shooting the man on the floor once in the head, she made her way to the back again.
Her aunt was just where she’d left her, sitting in the aisle with a broken chair. But she had a man holding a gun to her head when Laci slid to a stop at the end of the aisle. Laci had started for her when a bullet whizzing by her had her ducking for cover again. It more than likely had been the injured man from the front offices. Laci dove behind the meat counter just as the man with her aunt came after her.
Laci sat here, her back to the counter, and thought about what the fuck had just happened. Robbery. That was clear, but why wait until now, when the store was over crowded with people to pull it off? And what had they meant when they said that they’d gotten what they came for? Checking the clip in her gun, she’d nearly wet herself when one of the men laughed close to her.
“Laci? Where are you? Come on out now. We just wanna talk to you.” Laci had thought her grandmother had given them her name when the man continued and wondered why she’d do that. “Come on now, don’t make it harder on yourself. We know that you’re her. Someone told us you were gonna be here, and damned if they weren’t right this time. We kept missing you before. But I have to tell you, the lure of making some extra cash on this by robbing the place is gonna work out so much better for us. This way they’ll think it a simple job, and the fact that you were our intended prize won’t ever come out.”
She had wanted to ask them what the hell they wanted her for, but she heard the sirens at the front of the store again. The men started cursing, and she waited there. One of them surely was going to finish the job. And when he’d come through the swinging doors at her, she fired four times before she saw him fall back. The police were the next to talk to her, telling her to drop her weapon.
“You should have stayed there and let them talk to you. Those men weren’t gonna hurt you none.” Her aunt was awake apparently and still fussing with her over things. “What harm could it have done you to talk to the police either? Then I’d not be sitting here with my ass hurting like it is.”
“I’m sure that had they killed you, you’d be bitching about that too.” Aunt Jeanie huffed at her. “The police were not who they said they were. I’ve told you that like fifty times already. They weren’t cops.”
“So you keep telling me. He was in a uniform, wasn’t he? What else was he supposed to be?” Laci said nothing, the story too old for her to care to repeat herself now. “And now they’re all looking for you and you’re gonna drag me along with you.”
“Thanks, Aunt Jeanie. I’m so glad that you care so very little about what happens to me. And I’ve told you, several times now, that I can drop you off anywhere you want. Just say the word.” Another huff. “No? Then I would suggest, since you made me go to the store in the first place, that you keep your mouth shut.”
It really wasn’t her aunt’s fault that those men were chasing her. But blaming her would keep her off her back for a little while, and Laci wanted the quiet time. There had been little to none of that as they’d set out on this mad dash for safety.
When she’d traveled as far as she could for one night, Laci pulled into a rest stop and parked the car. She was broke. All the money she’d had on her was now gone. Her credit cards weren’t safe, not that she could use them with them all maxed out like they were. And Laci had watched enough television to know that not just the good guys could track that, but the bad ones as well. Until she could figure out what the hell was going on, she wasn’t trusting anyone.
Closing her eyes, Laci tried to relax enough that she could sleep for a little bit before moving again. But almost as soon as she drifted off, she saw the face of the “cop” when he’d told her to kick her gun to him.
“I’m not going to hurt you, Laci.” It had taken her almost too long to realize that there wasn’t any way for him to know her name. “Come on, miss. Just toss the gun this way and we’ll get you out of here before those men return.”
“Will they?” He nodded and looked to his right. She couldn’t have seen what was behind him, but she had a feeling that she might not want to know anyway. “Did you have back up coming? If so, I’d really like to wait for them.”
“They’re dead.” He grinned at her when she asked him who. “You are too smart and that might get you hurt. Why can’t you just do as you’re told and come out of there and let us get on with the day?”
“I think you’re not an officer, are you?” He shook his head and moved into the room, pointing the gun at her. “What is going on? Why are you looking for me?”
“I was just told to find you, kill you, and then bring your dead carcass to them.” She asked him who again. “Don’t know his name. But you’re too valuable, he told us, to leave running around like you are. Come on now, you can’t kill me. I’ve done not one thing to hurt you.”
Laci had had a feeling that there might have been a “yet” at the end of his statement, but a sound behind him had him turning and her firing at the same time. The bullet had caught him in the shoulder, and he fired twice before she managed to kill him.
Laci opened her eyes when she saw the man’s face in her memories, the neat little hole in the center of his forehead where she’d hit him. Calming her heart down again, she wondered what kind of prison terms she’d get for killing three people, all of them bad
guys. She sat there, staring off into the dark, and tried to think what had made anyone want to kill her. Shifting on the seat so she could lie down, Laci felt the overwhelming urge to cry. Not that it had done her any good so far, but that didn’t lessen her need to do it.