If I Run, page 21
When Keegan arrives a couple of hours later, I sit through a debriefing, telling him every detail of what happened up to Casey getting away. While he curses and rails about my incompetence, I stare at him, wondering how I will find enough evidence to bring him to justice for his crimes. I won’t let them be covered up. When they come out, they will come out in a way that is impossible for him to escape. He will pay for his sins.
And I’ll make sure he never gets his hands on Casey Cox.
I’m soaking wet and shaking. I’m an hour out of town before I can take in a normal breath. They’re not following me. I stop and go into a truck stop, buy a T-shirt and some sweatpants, then change into dry clothes. I buy another prepaid phone. Back in my car, I use the old one and punch in the number I’ve been longing to call.
It rings four times.
I watch the dark road through the blur of tears.
My mother’s breath hitches. “Casey, is that you? Thank God, you’re alive!”
“Yes,” I say as tears pull at my face. “Mom, I miss you.”
“I miss you too, honey. Where are you?”
“That doesn’t matter,” I say. “I just wanted you to know it’s gonna be okay.”
“Casey, let me come get you.”
If only. “No, Mom. I hope you know I didn’t do what they’re saying.”
“Honey, I know that!” I hear her whisper as she repeats her words.
“I know, but . . . I don’t want you to have any doubts.”
“How could I doubt you?”
I squeeze my eyes shut, and my face stretches across my grief. “Be careful, Mom.”
“They’re looking for you. That Dylan guy. He’s been here asking all about you.”
“I know. It’s okay.” Silence as I hear her sniffs. “Mom? Are you taking your medication?”
“Yes,” she says. “I just . . . I don’t want you to be caught. Honey, what if you just came back and turned yourself in, and we could get you a lawyer and work it all out?”
I know I’d never survive until a trial could clear me. Keegan would see to that. But I’m glad my mother said that, in case they’re listening. “Can’t do that, Mom. But I’ll be okay. I’ll try to call you again soon.”
“Casey, promise me you’ll come home if things get too dangerous. Promise me!”
“Mom, I’m doing my best.” I hang on the line for a moment, absorbing comfort from her presence. “Mom, do you pray?”
She lets out a breath into the phone. “I do now.” Her voice is broken, high-pitched. “I pray for you constantly.”
“Those prayers are being answered,” I say. “There is a God, and he listens.” I hear her whisper the words back to me.
I don’t want to hang up, but they’re probably tracing my call, maybe even dispatching police to whatever town I’m in, rushing to pick me up. “I won’t be able to call again for a while, but I love you, Mom. I have to go now.”
“I love you too, sweetheart.”
I click the phone off, roll down my window, and toss it out into a field.
By morning I can be in North Carolina or Virginia or Tennessee. I can buy another new phone and start over. Trade my car. Until then, the tag I took off a car in the Kroger parking lot will have to do.
Grace Newland is really dead now. I’ll find another identity, another job, another place in this world where I can try to belong. I’ll keep my head low until I have the courage to lift it.
As I drive north, I comfort myself with the fact that Frank Dotson didn’t win. This time, evil was conquered.
Keegan and his cohorts didn’t win either.
Freedom will have to console me for now.
A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR
As I’ve finished the last few steps of getting this book ready for publication, things have happened that have changed the United States drastically. The news about Christians being run out of business for their religious beliefs and baby parts being sold off after abortions, among other things, not only trouble me deeply but turn my stomach. It’s difficult to sleep when these things run through our minds.
In the United States, Christians don’t face the persecution that our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world face. Some of them are being beheaded because they won’t renounce their faith, and schoolgirls are being kidnapped and murdered if they won’t renounce, and even if they do, they’re married off to evil men. In America, we do still have freedom, yet many of us suffer personal issues—family issues, wayward children, health problems—things that drain the life out of us and make us feel persecuted. Part of that is due to the fallen world we live in (Christians are not immune), and part is due to spiritual attacks against us. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
With all that weighing heavily on me, my husband and I took a cruise to Alaska. I’ve seen some beautiful places, but I’ve never seen anything as beautiful as the mountain peaks in Juneau, Alaska, or the constantly moving and changing glaciers in Glacier Bay. We took a helicopter ride over those mountains on a rare sunny day, and every time we crested a mountain peak, I gasped audibly at the stunning majesty of what I saw. Then we landed on the Mendenhall Glacier, suited up and booted up, and walked around on that blue ice for an hour.
As I beheld the creativity of our Creator, I wondered how anyone can see such natural art and not understand the existence and power of God. Seriously, you think all this came from some cosmic explosion? Or evolution? The idea that there are so many beautiful and magnificent things working and fitting together in such a precise and elegant way flies in the face of Darwin’s theories. There is a God, and he is the most powerful force in the universe. He created those beautiful mountains and glaciers, untouched by human hands, and he created you and me. And though he controls the movement of glaciers and the forest fires that allow new growth and the earthquakes that push mountains up from the ground so that the landscape is ever-changing, he loves us enough to personally guide us if we’ll let him, enough to make a way for us to be with him in his home forever. As beautiful as our planet is now, it’s going to be even more glorious when he creates a new heaven and a new earth (see Revelation 21 and 22). He has told us in the Bible how this world is going to end, and as frightening—and familiar—as it is, we know that the end times are only the beginning of the great things God has planned for his people.
I admit I was a little depressed when I came back home after such an experience. Bad news is still being reported, and personal issues loom. But as discouragement began to sink back in, I read a prophecy about Jesus from Isaiah 42.
Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold;
My chosen one in whom My soul delights.
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry out or raise His voice,
Nor make His voice heard in the street.
A bruised reed He will not break
And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish;
He will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not be disheartened or crushed
Until He has established justice in the earth.
Knowing that Jesus will not be disheartened or crushed, that he won’t feel the need to shout in the streets or rail against anything, that he will bring forth justice in the twinkle of an eye, encourages me. Things look grim, but God is still in control. Sometimes terrible things happen in our culture. Logic seems upside down, and the masses march to the drumbeat of political correctness. Our job is to stand up for our beliefs, cling to them no matter what, and wait for our redemption. Jesus will not let us down.
I hope this encourages you today.
2. Would you rather be in prison for something you didn’t do or hide out alone for the rest of your life?
What would starting over with a new identity in a new place—alone—be like for you?
3. How has Casey’s faith (or lack thereof) impacted her choices? Would she have seen things differently if she’d believed in God?
4. How did Casey’s view of God change during this book?
5. How has Brent’s PTSD impacted his search for Casey?
6. Why would Casey feel comfortable being a hero for Laura, but not for herself?
7. Do you think Casey is brave or cowardly? Why?
8. How does Dylan’s faith impact his choices? Did he make the right choice at the end?
9. Casey thinks she’s cowardly. Do you agree with her?
10. There are two more books coming in this trilogy. Discuss what you would like to see happen.
Years ago a friend had a dream. In the dream, my husband, Ken, was standing on the ground, and I was flying around in the sky. He had the distinct impression that my husband was somehow anchoring me while I soared. Years have passed since that dream, and in so many ways, it has been fulfilled. Without Ken tethering me, I probably would have sped off like a deflating balloon and crashed, unnoticed. He is always steadfast in my life, always inspires me, always makes me laugh, always encourages me to keep flying, and always points me to the One who is the true anchor for both of us. Ken often takes flight himself to do the things he’s been called to do, but he never lets go of me. He’s one of the greatest gifts God has given me.
I also want to take a moment to thank some crucial people in my publishing process, because they’re the behind-the-scenes heroes who make sure my books are ready for my readers. I don’t know if most people understand how much work goes into my books. Though writing is a labor of love, it’s something that gets harder with each new story. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to let my readers down and I’m so focused on offering a fresh new read.
Whatever the reason, I’m so grateful for the editors who work tirelessly to help me take my books to the next level. They point out what changes need to be made, and I take those suggestions and rewrite so many times that I almost have the book memorized by the time it’s on the shelves. I’m especially grateful to Dave Lambert, who’s edited almost all of my books for the last twenty years. I’m also very thankful for Amanda Bostic, Ellen Tarver, and Jodi Hughes, all of whom worked on If I Run. Without these amazing people, I would be a very insecure writer.
Beyond editorial, I’m grateful for Daisy Hutton, Fiction Publisher of HarperCollins Christian Publishing. She has been a joy to work with and a bright spot in my life. I’m also grateful for Katie Bond, the amazing marketing director who creatively finds ways to help readers discover my books. I’m thankful to Sue Brower, who started out as my marketing director twenty years ago, then was one of my editors, then became my agent. Kristen Ingebretson, who creates my cover designs, is also crucial to the process. So many others are instrumental in the publishing and marketing of my books. The thought of all the details they handle so seamlessly just overwhelms me. I thank all of them.
And to my loyal readers, thank you for hanging in there with me all these years. Without your word of mouth and your enthusiasm for my books, I wouldn’t be able to continue doing what I love.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Photo by Deryll Stegall
Terri Blackstock has sold over seven million books worldwide and is a New York Times bestselling author. She is the award-winning author of Intervention, Vicious Cycle, and Downfall, as well as the Moonlighters, Cape Refuge, Newpointe 911, SunCoast Chronicles, and Restoration series.
Terri Blackstock, If I Run
Other author's books:
- Smoke ScreenSecond Chance - 05 - Never Again Good-ByeMiraclesBroken Wingsthe Cape Refuge (Cape Refuge Series Book 1)Shadow in SerenitySecond Chance - 02 - When Dreams CrossPrivate Justice
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