FamilyL E Fitzpatrick / Thrillers & Crime
A Reacher Companion Story
L E Fitzpatrick
By L E Fitzpatrick
Copyright © 2014 L E Fitzpatrick
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Other Titles by L E Fitzpatrick
The Reacher Series:
The Running Game
Reacher Short Stories:
The Dark Waters Series:
Flames and Blood
None of it mattered because they were alive, they were paid and they were getting out of S'aven together...
At the time, standing between a loaded gun and a life of hardship in S'aven, the Smith brothers seemed like a pretty good option. Rachel had looked to the two men who had come back for her, who had saved her life and figured it was the best choice she had. It was only later that she realised they were her only choice. She was a Reacher, a human with special powers that the world wanted to dissect, and her secret had been compromised. It was only a matter of time before someone discovered her again. She had no choice but to run. So she ran with them.
But the road ahead was dark and cold and dangerous. And the men she had thrown her lot in with were even darker, colder and infinitely more dangerous. They barely spoke. The pair of them so accustomed to life together they didn't need to chat. So Rachel sat in the back, suffering the silence and listening to the doubts in her head.
What did she really know about these men? The younger brother, John, was a ruthless killer, she had seen that with her own eyes. He'd dropped body after body with machine like efficiency and not once in the time since had he shown any remorse. And Charlie, well Charlie was even more broken; an addict sliding down a pitiful spiral of his own making. He was a Reacher like Rachel, but his dependency on painkillers had rendered him close to useless. They came to her rescue but they weren't heroes. So what kind of men were they really?
They were a day out of S'aven, cruising the back roads of the South of England, trying to lose any tails that might have followed them out of the shanty town. They had left a lot of bodies in their wake. Even Rachel had blood on her hands and as the night started to break she felt the ghosts of aging gangsters and dirty cops watching them from the open road. The Running Game, that's what her father had called it.
Now civilisation was behind them and the surrounding countryside was desolate, made even emptier by the impending winter breathing its icy threat from the North. The temperature had dropped, green turning to grey, the sun hovering so far away it barely pierced the white sky. Occasionally another car would drift past, usually a local car – heavy-duty vehicles were the only ones that lasted out of the city. At the sight of each set of headlights Rachel watched the brothers tense and had grown accustomed to doing it herself too. There were rumours about the country-folk and she was from the Red Forest in the North, she'd seen isolation turn reasonable folk into raving lunatics.
In the back of their cramped car, Rachel huddled up as best she could. She was cold and hungry. A bag full of money occupied the space beside her. She had a third share of the cash, more than she had ever owned in her life, but she would have traded it all in for a thicker jacket and a protein bar.
"Service station in fifteen," John suddenly said. "Car needs fuel."
"So do we," Rachel accidentally let slip.
Charlie turned around in the front passenger seat. "You hungry?"
She could have lied to be polite, but her stomach interjected. It growled loudly and Charlie smiled. He may have been a manic druggie but at least he had a sense of humour.
"We need to stock up anyway. Might as well do it in one trip."
Rachel looked outside as the faint rays of pink touched the barren landscape. She couldn't imagine where they would find food and fuel in a place like this. Then slowly the small road widened. They passed another car and hit a crossroad. John took an immediate right, clenching the steering wheel as they hit an even larger stretch of tarmac. The scenery opened up, scarred by the stretch of road running into the horizon. There were more cars in the distance, all moving at a fast constant speed.
John's head lashed around, taking in everything around him. He thought like a computer, recording every detail and calculating every possibility. He slowed the car, hitting a steady 50 rather than matching the vehicles around him.
"What's wrong?" Rachel asked, feeling the air in the car tighten.
"Nothing, John's just being over cautious," Charlie assured her.
"Are you going to say that when we get jumped by some inbred cannibal waving a machete?" John replied.
Charlie thumped his brother in the arm. "Thanks, way to put her at ease asshole." He turned back to Rachel, forcing a reassuring smile. "Sometimes the motorways can be dangerous, especially the further away from London you go. There are police check points ever fifty or so miles but in between you get gangs and local authorities hijacking cars. Don't worry we're only jumping on to get to the services and they're pretty well protected. It'll be fine."
"That's what you said last time," John murmured.
"Jesus Christ, will you shut up. And it was alright. We're still here aren't we?"
"Give her a gun."
Charlie threw his hands in the air. "John, she doesn't need a gun."
"I'm not sure I want a gun," Rachel added.
But John wasn't about to budge. Maybe, Rachel thought, he knows I've killed one man he thinks I can do it again. Maybe I can, she realised.
Charlie conceded and handed her a small black snub nose from the glove box. She took it gingerly and then stuffed it into her jacket pocket. It felt too heavy for her.
"She needs lessons first," Charlie grumbled.
"Lesson one," John said. "Point the barrel at whatever you want to die and then pull the trigger." He pressed his foot down on the accelerator and started to match the speed of the cars ahead.
"Lesson two, keep it clean and functioning. There, what more do you need?"
"You're in a great mood today," Charlie snapped.
John sneered, which was usually a sign they wouldn't talk for a while.
Rachel settled back in her chair and looked out of the window. In the distance smoke billowed from the hard shoulder. The air smelt acrid and sickly sweet. As they neared she could make out a vehicle smouldering on the sidelines of the road. The contents of the car had been ripped out and spread over the dusty tarmac. Clothes hung from the braches of the surrounding trees. Underwear. Jeans. A dress. Children's clothes. Rachel tried to look away but she couldn't. She stared at the black lump of metal as they went past. The driver's body smoked alone in his motor coffin. She gasped and turned away. Her fingers seeking comfort in the snub nose in her pocket.
"Nearly there," Charlie said, his voice barely able to hold any confidence after what they had just seen. They didn't talk about it. What was there to say when they all knew what dangers stalked the bushes around them?