Home>>read After Shock free online

After Shock(7)

By:CJ Lyons

Once they were safe, she could put her energy into finding her captor or captors and figuring out what the hell this was all about. She smiled at the thought, the fresh air and taste of freedom exhilarating. Man of his word, her ass. He dared threaten her family? When she got her hands on him …

Her fantasy was interrupted by barking. She spun, trying to place the sound, fantasizing for one brief moment that it was Megan's puppy, Zeke. Then another thought clicked. Zeke wasn't sick; he'd probably been poisoned by her captor. Clearing the way for the attack on her this morning.

The dog barked again. Dogs came with owners, and owners came with cell phones-or vehicles.

Hope fueled her pulse, and she ran faster. She'd escaped her prison, thwarted her captor, would save her family, and then catch the bastard. Be home for dinner early, if she was lucky.

The dog's barking faded into the distance before Lucy could pinpoint its location. It could have belonged to her captor, she knew that, but she was totally exposed and vulnerable here in the field, so she had no choice but to head to the barn.

Besides, if he had a dog keeping guard on her prison, wouldn't he have left it chained near the entrance to the septic tank? Prevent her from escaping in the first place?

Nothing her captor had done made sense. Despite Lucy's joy at escaping, that realization was an itch she couldn't scratch, irritating every nerve ending and leaving the hair at the back of her neck standing upright.

Or maybe that was the cold. Her entire body burned with it, her steps faltering despite her urgency. The barn waited patiently, its galvanized-steel surface a solid, dull presence that promised salvation.

She was only twenty yards from it, close enough to make out its large sliding door and the patches of rust hugging the curve of its roof. The wind was in her face, but she felt, more than heard, a rush coming from behind her.

Just as she turned to look over her shoulder, a large brown dog, mouth bared to reveal all of its teeth, pounced.



6:06 p.m.

Lucy was dying. It was taking much too long, this shredding of body and soul, pain ripping through her from every direction, tearing at her mind, raging through her limbs.

Should never have fought so hard to escape, a contrarian voice echoed through her brain. Drowning or hanging would have been much faster and less painful.

Something tugged at her mauled foot and ankle. Despite the blaze of pain, all she felt was cold.

That's what you get, the voice continued. Just because you can never take the easy way out. Now it's too late. Might as well just give up, let go …  stop fighting.

Cold, she was so cold. Letting go would be so easy …

Never quit the fight. Her father had lived by those words-died by them as well. Lucy remembered how his death had devastated her mother. The void it had left in her life-she'd been Megan's age.

Megan. Her brain stuttered for one infinite moment, putting a face to the name. More than a face, everything. The smell of No More Tears shampoo, the sting of being on the receiving end of a well-rehearsed adolescent eye roll, the pain of every scrape, bruise, illness, vaccine shot …  everything that was her daughter flooded through Lucy.

With Megan came Nick. God, Nick …  What had she done? He would approve, she knew, he would forgive her, but how could she have sent that monster after him?

What choice did she have? At least Nick had a fighting chance. More than Lucy's mother or Megan.

She'd killed one man, but who knew how many might still be out there? She had to help her family. Had to reach them. Or at least be at their side to fight. She couldn't abandon them, couldn't give up, had to save them.

Pain like lightning shot through the frozen numbness that gripped her body and mind. Lucy's eyes popped open as she flailed her arms, trying to lunge at an unseen force. Strong hands and stronger bands crisscrossing her chest held her down. Her foot and ankle raged with fire, pain so intense she struggled to hold onto consciousness, her vision blazing black and red and white. The wailing shriek of a wild animal howled in time with the pulses of agony.

"Stop!" she cried out, not knowing who or what she was fighting against. Her voice emerged fainter than a whisper. "How long?"

"Easy now," a man's voice, calm, authoritative, told her. A paramedic. Trying to help. "What's your name?"

"Phone. Get me a phone." Lucy strained to be heard.

"Don't worry, sweetheart. We'll take good care of you. Are you allergic to anything?"

Lucy shook her head, but large foam blocks held it still. The paramedic adjusted a stiff plastic collar around her neck. It held her chin up and rubbed against her already raw jaw. Time, what time was it?

"I need a phone."

He was close enough to hear that. "We'll get you one as soon as we can. Any medical problems?"

"No. Get me a phone."

He turned away, leaving her powerless, strapped to a board. "Splint in place?"

"Good to go."

"On three."

Lucy was jerked off the ground. The medic's face came into sight, then bounced away again. More men, two near her head, one at her feet. She tried to sit up, but the straps circled her chest and belly as well as her arms and legs. Trapped, she was trapped.

"Let me go, I need to go." She wanted to shout, thought she was shouting-how else to get their attention over the roar of pain and the beast howling in harmony? But instead her voice emerged thinner than the night wind. "Let me go."

A bump as they set her down, her foot jostling, releasing another lightning strike. A gasp tore from her.

"We'll get you something for that in just a minute, sweetheart," the man nearest her head assured her. "Just got to get you into the ambulance and call med control."

"Phone," she begged. "There's no time." Her voice barely reached her own ears.

The man gave no sign of hearing her. He was busy looking over his shoulder, talking to someone Lucy couldn't see. It was so hard to think with all this damn noise inside and outside her head. She had to focus. She needed to …  Someone needed her, she wasn't supposed to be here, she needed to …

"Give me a phone!" She mustered every bit of energy. "Now."

They bounced her into the back of an ambulance, one of the men jumping up inside with her, her words swallowed by the noise of the engine and a beeping by her side. One of the doors at her feet slammed shut. The other started to close, then swung open again, another man sticking his head inside.

"That's Lloyd Cramer's Jeep," he said, his voice loud enough to make Lucy close her eyes in an attempt to lessen the blow. "And one of his damn dogs in the back. Any sign of him?"

"Nope. Just her. No ID. Must be in the Jeep."

Lucy opened her eyes to tell them who she was. Her vision swam, and nausea made her swallow twice before she could find her voice. It still wasn't normal, every word scraped out in a harsh whisper. "I'm Lucy Guardino. FBI. I need a phone."

The door slammed shut before she could finish. The man beside her was leaning over, talking to the driver beyond her vision. If he'd heard her, he gave no sign of it.

Then they were moving, siren wailing, the man busy talking on a radio, reaching across Lucy, adjusting IV tubing running into her arm, inflating the blood-pressure cuff until it felt like a tourniquet, touching her foot and releasing another wave of pain, clamping an oxygen mask over her face, further muffling her attempts to make herself heard.

It was as if he were everywhere at once, the way he used the tight confines of the ambulance, moving with ease like a sailor accustomed to choppy waters. He never stopped, seemed to always have something more to attend to, even once brushing her hair out of her eyes so she could see.

Time, she had no time. How long had she been out? She couldn't move her eyes far enough to see if there was a clock, and the medic moved too fast for her to see his watch. How much time was left before her captor's deadline? Seven o'clock. She had to reach her family before seven.

Lucy fought to speak, to tell him about Nick and Megan and the man out there, hunting for them. She wanted to beg for his help, for a phone, for just one call to send help, but the toll of her injuries and the exhaustion that flowed through her now that adrenaline had evaporated made it impossible for her to form the words coherently in her mind, much less push them past her bruised vocal cords and out her lips.

No words escaped as she fought the pain and lost. Her eyes fluttered shut once more, her only cry for help the release of a single tear.


11:57 a.m.

The copper taste of terror filled Lucy's mouth as the world around her slowed into a multisensory freeze-frame. The air billowed with smoke from the dog's hot breath. This beast was nothing like Megan's playful puppy. This was a killer, its eyes wild and furious.

Snow crunched beneath its paws as it launched itself at her. Lucy's heart raced so fast the beats blurred into a blitz that thrummed through her entire body.

She pivoted to present a smaller target. Powered an elbow into the dog's rib cage. Their momentum threw them to the ground. The dog's teeth snapped in the air beside her ear as she ducked her head down, protecting her neck, relying on primal instincts to keep her alive. Saliva sprayed her as claws dug into her back, ripping through her jacket.


Survival lay in not giving the animal time to clamp its powerful jaws on her. Lucy twisted her body beneath the dog's weight, struggling to protect her head while also aiming blows at the dog's vulnerable spots. It shook off another elbow to its rib cage and snarled as her fingers impacted its eyes. Then she landed a hard knee to its genitals, followed by another kick as she threw the dog off her.