War and Peace: Chapter 50

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Chapter 50

When August called to warn Richard Kirkpatrick that dangerous allies were on their way, his reply made her gut churn sickeningly.

"Ms. Evans, you'd best hurry. It appears a million lives are at stake." He paused almost imperceptibly. "And one of them is my idiot son."

August wanted to ask for details, but her windpipe closed and all she could do was croak, "Coming," and hang up. She needed both hands on the wheel.

Her Cadillac was a good car. It had a powerful engine, some huge amount of horsepower, a lot of ccs and valves or whatever. But the engine was only so much use in January on the back roads of the state. It took every ounce of concentration not to fly off the shoulder in the turns, drifting like a rally racer while knowing the car and tires weren't made for it.

You're no good if you're dead. You're no good if you're dead.

But her foot wouldn't let up on the gas.

It took two hours and forty minutes to reach the Kirkpatrick mansion—incredibly fast but far too slow. The dark and the freezing chill were appropriate. They were inside her chest as well, squeezing.

When August pulled to a stop in the driveway, she wondered if she had somehow beaten Imran's security force. There were no vehicles, no perimeter, no scary guys with guns. She walked up to the door, but before she could think of knocking, it swung open.

"Ms. Evans," Imran said. "You surpassed our expectations of speed." He was dressed all in black from head to foot, a caricature of a covert operative.

"Bloody hell. How'd you get here so quick?"

"One moment," Imran said, raising a ruggedized walkie-talkie. "Ms. Evans is safely inside. Please close the perimeter."

"Understood," came the slightly distorted reply.

"My apologies," Imran said, addressing August again. "We came by helicopter."

"By helicopter?"

"Indeed."

"How on earth?"

"An acquaintance is a collector of vehicles and rather a wealthy person."

It was impossible not to be impressed. "Is he here?"

"In a tree, observing through the scope of a rifle."

"Of course." Then August remembered what was at stake. "I need to see Richard Kirkpatrick."

"Please follow me."

They ascended the spiral staircase—familiar from previous visits, but the escort quite different this time. "Where's Angela?"

"The master of the house deemed it prudent for her to take shelter at a cabin in the mountains."

"She's hugely preggers..."

"Richard Kirkpatrick's current wife has accompanied her, and I believe a great aunt is on the way from New Jersey."

The fully-in-control sensation radiated by Imran, and even somehow by the mansion itself, served to bring August's heart rate from cardiac arrest levels down to something like twice normal. It had been almost an hour since she could actually count the beats.

Just breathe.

Imran led her to Richard's study and turned away. "I will monitor the premises with my associates."

"You won't be helping in here?"

"It has been explained to me in no uncertain terms," Imran began, a faint smile cracking the surface, "that I will be of no use in the coming ordeal, except as a shield."

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