If i run, p.1

If I Run, page 1

 

If I Run


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If I Run


  PRAISE FOR TERRI BLACKSTOCK

  “Blackstock’s newest novel, If I Run, is the best suspense novel I’ve read in decades. Boiling with secrets, nail-biting suspense, and exquisitely developed characters, it’s a story that grabs hold and never lets go. Read this one. Run to get it! It’s that good.”

  —Colleen Coble, USA Today bestselling author of Mermaid Moon and the Hope Beach series

  “The exciting and heart-pounding conclusion to Blackstock’s Moonlighters trilogy is quite a thrill ride. The intrigue and danger come to a dramatic culmination as the villain gets backed into a corner.”

  —Romantic Times on Twisted Innocence

  “Blackstock fans will be drawn to this third novel in the Moonlighters series with its themes of forgiveness and second chances. While being able to be read as standalone fiction, readers will enjoy a richer character understanding having read the previous books.”

  —CBA Retailers + Resources on Twisted Innocence

  “The second book in Blackstock’s Moonlighters series starts off with a frightening incident and is filled with action from that point forward. A multilayered story of deception, greed, and secrets unravels at a perfect pace to keep readers interested and entertained.”

  —RT Book Reviews, 4 star review of Distortion

  “Blackstock has such a way with characters that they can get away with almost anything—like being part of a family with an unreasonably high body count—and still manage to be believable. Distortion is a good suspense novel but more than that it brings up a number of attitudes and actions that will have readers examining their own thought patterns and values.”

  —Crosswalk.com

  “Crisp prose, an engaging story, and brisk pacing make this thriller another home run for Blackstock. Recommend it to readers who enjoy material by Lynette Eason and Erin Healy.”

  —Library Journal, starred review of Downfall

  “A story rich with texture and suspense, this family murder mystery unfolds with fast pacing, a creepy clown murder suspect, and threatening blog visitor to boot.”

  —Publishers Weekly on Truth Stained Lies

  “The Restoration series comes to a dramatic end. Blackstock is absolutely masterful at bringing spiritual dilemmas to the surface and allowing readers to wrestle with them alongside her characters. This is a fitting conclusion to this unique series.”

  —RT Book Reviews, 4½ star review of Dawn’s Light

  “Good writing, well-honed descriptive details, compelling characters, and a conclusion that doesn’t succumb to pat answers keep the pages turning, making this an engaging novel for fans of Christian nail-biters.”

  —Publishers Weekly on Cape Refuge

  “Blackstock’s superior writing will keep readers turning pages late into the night to discover the identity of the culprit in this amazing mystery. The unique setting and peek into the Nashville music scene are fascinating. Suspense lovers are in for a delightful treat.”

  —RT Book Reviews, 4½ star review, TOP PICK! on Double Minds, 2009 Nomination for Best Inspirational Novel

  “Drawn in from the first line, my heart ached for Kara, Lizzie, and their moving story. The satisfying end didn’t stop the lingering sadness, as there’s so much more to this novel than just the life of two little girls and the wounds that should never have been. Ms. Blackstock tactfully and skillfully deals with the undesirable traits of her characters (promiscuity and subsequent abortion, which are briefly mentioned). The book is so well written it is hard to believe it’s just fiction!”

  —RT Book Reviews, 4 star review of Covenant Child

  “In a departure from her usual heart-stopping mysteries, Blackstock delves into the world of a con man who meets his match. This fast-paced novel doesn’t provide any astounding twists, but the story is incredibly well told and will keep the reader fascinated until the last page.”

  —RT Book Reviews, 4 star review of Shadow in Serenity

  BOOKS BY TERRI BLACKSTOCK

  THE MOONLIGHTERS SERIES

  1 Truth Stained Lies

  2 Distortion

  3 Twisted Innocence

  THE RESTORATION SERIES

  1 Last Light

  2 Night Light

  3 True Light

  4 Dawn’s Light

  THE INTERVENTION SERIES

  1 Intervention

  2 Vicious Cycle

  3 Downfall

  THE CAPE REFUGE SERIES

  1 Cape Refuge

  2 Southern Storm

  3 River’s Edge

  4 Breaker’s Reef

  NEWPOINTE 911

  1 Private Justice

  2 Shadow of Doubt

  3 Word of Honor

  4 Trial by Fire

  5 Line of Duty

  THE SUN COAST CHRONICLES

  1 Evidence of Mercy

  2 Justifiable Means

  3 Ulterior Motives

  4 Presumption of Guilt

  SECOND CHANCES

  1 Never Again Good-bye

  2 When Dreams Cross

  3 Blind Trust

  4 Broken Wings

  WITH BEVERLY LAHAYE

  1 Seasons Under Heaven

  2 Showers in Season

  3 Times and Seasons

  4 Season of Blessing

  NOVELLAS

  Seaside

  The Listener (formerly

  The Heart Reader)

  The Heart Reader of Franklin High

  The Gifted

  The Gifted Sophomores

  OTHER BOOKS

  Shadow in Serenity

  Predator

  Double Minds

  Soul Restoration: Hope

  for the Weary

  Emerald Windows

  Miracles (The Listener / The Gifted)

  Covenant Child

  Sweet Delights

  Chance of Loving You

  ZONDERVAN

  If I Run

  Copyright © 2016 by Terri Blackstock

  Requests for information should be addressed to:

  Zondervan, 3900 Sparks Dr. SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49546

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Blackstock, Terri, 1957-

  If I run / Terri Blackstock.

  pages; cm

  ISBN 978-0-310-33243-5 (paperback)

  I. Title.

  PS3552.L34285I3 2016

  813'.54--dc23

  2015032139

  ePub Edition © December 2015: ISBN 978-0-310-33246-6

  Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

  Publisher’s Note: This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. All characters are fictional, and any similarity to people living or dead is purely coincidental.

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher.

  Published in association with the literary agency of Alive Communications, Inc., 7680 Goddard Street, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80920, www.alivecommunications.com.

  Interior design: Lori Lynch

  16 17 18 19 20 RRD 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  This book is lovingly dedicated to the Nazarene.

  CONTENTS

  1. CASEY

  2. CASEY

  3. CASEY

  4. CASEY

  5. CASEY

  6. DYLAN

  7. CASEY

  8. DYLAN

  9
. CASEY

  10. DYLAN

  11. CASEY

  12. DYLAN

  13. CASEY

  14. DYLAN

  15. CASEY

  16. CASEY

  17. CASEY

  18. DYLAN

  19. DYLAN

  20. DYLAN

  21. CASEY

  22. DYLAN

  23. CASEY

  24. DYLAN

  25. CASEY

  26. DYLAN

  27. CASEY

  28. DYLAN

  29. DYLAN

  30. CASEY

  31. CASEY

  32. DYLAN

  33. CASEY

  34. CASEY

  35. CASEY

  36. DYLAN

  37. CASEY

  38. CASEY

  39. DYLAN

  40. DYLAN

  41. CASEY

  42. CASEY

  43. CASEY

  44. DYLAN

  45. CASEY

  46. DYLAN

  47. CASEY

  A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR

  DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  1

  CASEY

  There’s blood on the bottom of my shoes. I rinse the soles, knowing the police will trace the impression of the rubber pattern and determine that they’re Skechers. They’ll find the charge for the shoe store on my credit card, proving they’re mine.

  Blood runs down the drain. My heart races as though it’s my own draining away, but it’s not mine. My throat constricts as tears fill my eyes, but I push them away. There’s no time to feel.

  When the shoes seem clean enough, I blot them on a towel and slip them into my bag.

  They’ll see the traces of blood on the sink, in the footsteps at the door where I took the shoes off, on the towel. They’ll shine that luminol stuff all through my apartment and add it to the evidence list against me. There’s no point in wasting time cleaning it up. I just have to get out of here.

  It’s not easy to pack your life into a duffel bag, but I have no other options. I pack what I think I’ll need—a skirt, two pairs of jeans, some shirts, a pair of scissors for cutting my hair as soon as I’m in a safe place, underwear, mascara, toothpaste and toothbrush, contacts case and glasses. I go to my dresser and slide out the drawer, dig past my socks to the cigar box at the back. I open it. The stacks of hundred-dollar bills are still there. This is my rainy day, the emergency I need the cash for. I stuff the stacks into my bag’s pockets, then hurry into my tiny living room/kitchen combo and grab the framed pictures of my family from a shelf. I stuff them into the bag too.

  Quickly, I write a check for my rent, tear it out, and leave it on the counter with a note to the landlord that he can rent my apartment and donate what I’ve left to Goodwill. I don’t want him left holding the bag. I think of calling work and telling them I won’t be back in, but it’s better if I don’t.

  I slip my purse strap over my shoulder and carry the duffel out, then lock my apartment behind me, though I don’t know why.

  I see the blood on my car door handle as I get in. Ignoring it, I drive to a parking garage at a hotel downtown, leave it without looking back, and ride the elevator down to the hotel’s first floor. I slip into the ladies’ room and pull my hair up in a ponytail, then tie a bandana around my head. I take out my contacts, wash off my eye makeup, and shove on my glasses. Then I carry my purse and duffel bag through the hotel’s glass doors to the driveway, where cabs are waiting. I tip the bellman as he signals to one for me.

  I get in and tell the driver to take me to the bus station.

  They’re probably not looking for me yet. It will be a while before they discover Brent’s body. I give in to the temptation to pray, though I don’t know if anyone will hear. I have trouble believing in God, but when I’m in a mess, my mind often formulates quiet pleas. I don’t know what to ask for. Time? Distance? An escape path?

  Justice?

  Yeah, right.

  I ask for help in general, trusting that if there’s someone on the other end of those prayers, he’ll know what I need. Loneliness falls over me like a fog as we drive through my town, and I wonder what I’ll do without my friends. I love people. Always have. I don’t like being alone.

  And my family. My six-month-old niece who adds a new trick to her baby repertoire every week . . . will I ever see her again? The thought of never rocking her to sleep again is almost as brutal as the image of my best friend lying dead on the floor.

  I let my eyes linger on the town I’ve grown to love. Funny, I didn’t know I loved it until now.

  I struggle to keep my mind from going back to what happened earlier. An hour ago? Two hours? I force my thoughts from the terror of it.

  One step at a time. Get to the bus station. Then I can cry.

  2

  CASEY

  I’ve never been to the bus station before. It holds a dirty mystique—a sense of unknown that I dread—but I know I can’t use my car to get out of town. They will surely be looking for it. The airport is out of the question. Too many cameras and too much security. I hope I won’t be immediately identifiable if my face suddenly flashes on the security screens from the cameras overhead. I look at the faded marquee with destinations and times flashing by. I have no idea where to go.

  It has to be somewhere far enough away that my face won’t appear on their local news. Somewhere that has no connection to me and no reason to draw me. Someplace I would never go. And it needs to be one of the next buses out, wherever that will take me. I won’t go all the way. I’ll get off at one of the stops along the way.

  But first things first. I find the women’s restroom, glance under the stall doors to see if I’m alone. For now, I am. I stand in front of the dirty sinks and gaze into the mirror. Unzipping my bag, I pull out the scissors. I tug my blonde hair out of the bun, brush it out, and smooth my hand through it one last time.

  My hair has always been my best asset, and I hate seeing it go. But I can’t let vanity stop me. I scissor into it right at my jawline and watch the pieces of me fall to the floor. I don’t slow down to dwell on it. I quickly hack my way around the back to the other side.

  It looks like a home-cut bob, but it could be worse. It’s still too much like me. I sweep it behind my ears—some change, but not enough. Should I cut it shorter in some kind of pixie look? No, that would take too long, and the amateur quality of the cut might draw more attention. This will have to do until I can get someplace where I can dye it.

  I take a wad of cash out of my bag and shove it into my jeans pocket. I’ll need to keep it close.

  I squat and sweep up the discarded hair, take it to the toilet and flush it, then go back with a wet paper towel and wipe the floor, just to make sure no blonde dust is left there. I go back to the toilet and flush again, then stand for a moment watching the old Casey swirl around the bottom of the bowl before disappearing down the hole.

  I lean back on the stall door. I can do this. I’ve endured hard things before. All I need to do is the thing police least expect. My life will depend on it.

  I open my cell phone, remove the battery, and toss it into the trash. Then I break the phone and slip the pieces into my pocket to dispose of somewhere else along the way. I’m not sure whether it will work to keep police from locating me through the GPS on my phone, but I’ve seen criminals do it on TV shows.

  I step out of the bathroom, glance around the terminal, and find a ticket window that doesn’t have a line. My purse and duffel bag hanging from my shoulder, I step up to the clerk.

  “Where to?” she says without looking up.

  “Umm . . . what’s the bus that’s boarding right now?”

  The woman looks up now. Our eyes meet, but I don’t feel seen. “El Paso. Leaves in twenty minutes.”

  I don’t take time to think. “Perfect. El Paso is the one I wanted.”

  The woman seems sleepy as she prints out the ticket and takes my money. “Better hurry.”

 
; I thank her and rush out to the bus. I let the driver scan my ticket, and he reaches for my bag.

  “That’s okay,” I say. “I’ll keep it with me.”

  “Might be a full bus. Nowhere to put it.”

  I had no idea El Paso was such a popular destination from Shreveport. “I’ll stuff it under my feet. How long is this trip?”

  “Ten and a half hours, give or take.”

  That’s probably good. The longer I’m holed up on a bus, the better. If they don’t figure out how I got out of town, it could be a good place to be off the grid for a while.

  I climb onto the bus. It’s about half full so far. I walk down the aisle, avoiding the family with two preschoolers, and choose a window seat in an empty row. I drop my purse and bag into the seat next to me.

  But soon the seats are filling up. I try not to make eye contact with those getting on looking for a seat. A man with a limp who barely made it up the steps, a teenaged kid with dark circles under his eyes and earbuds in his ears, an older woman with a cane, a soldier in fatigues carrying an army-issue bag.

  The soldier checks me out and pauses at my seat. “Anybody sitting here?” he asks, pointing to my bag.

  I don’t like rejecting a soldier. We’ve asked so much of them, and they expect so little from us. I shake my head and move my bags to the space by my feet. He slips in, his broad shoulders brushing mine.

  “Going to El Paso?” he asks.

  “No, I’ll be getting off along the way. Are you from El Paso?”

  “Yeah,”hesays.“I’vebeengoneforoverayear.Afghanistan.”

  “They don’t fly you home?” I ask, astonished.

  “They flew me to where I deployed from, but that’s not where my family is. I didn’t want to go straight home,” he says. “I wanted to stop off and visit a buddy’s family. He didn’t make it home, so . . .”

  My heart swells. He must be a nice guy if he put his own homecoming second to the family of a dead friend.

  “It’s not that long on the bus.”

  “Who’s waiting for you there?” I ask.

  “My parents,” he says. “And a girlfriend. I’m really anxious to see all of them.”

  “I bet they’re dying to see you.”

 
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