Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The woman kept looking over. Jason wondered if she’d figured out he was a fugitive. His name and picture had infiltrated every television, computer, tablet, and phone screen across the state of Illinois. The reach probably extended to surrounding states, but his escape was not national news. This was part of why he’d gone west.
Perhaps he was subconsciously heading towards his boyhood home in northern Idaho, but whenever the thought surfaced, he pushed it away, refusing to let it stay.
“You from here?” The woman asked.
“Just passing through.”
“What happened to your car?”
“Don’t have one.”
“It die on you?”
He shook his head. “Didn’t start with one.”
“You’re an awful long way from anywhere without a vehicle. What brought you here?”
Jason hesitated. He was sure the woman was just friendly, but it was difficult for him to perceive these questions as anything other than threats.
Threats to a shaky existence.
“I’d rather not get into it.”
“Mysterious.” The woman flashed a smile to show she was joking.
Jason forced one to his lips but felt nothing inside.
“How about you?” He hoped to steer the conversation away from him.
“I’m just running into Billings. Need to pick up a few things.”
“You live out here?”
She hesitated. It was the first sign of reluctance she’d shown in answering his questions.
“I have a ranch.” She paused. “Brandy. That’s my name.”
She hadn’t given her last name, so he didn’t feel the need to provide his. He considered giving her an alias, but he was far enough from Illinois now that the name Jason should fit right in. It was a common name. As long as he didn’t give out his last name, he would be okay. Hopefully, she’d forget him the moment they parted.
“Why are you heading to Billings?”
“Just passing through.”
“Yellowstone, probably.” It had been years since his last visit. He wouldn’t mind going, but he didn’t know if he actually would.
“You ever been?”
“A few times. You?”
“My family has a cabin down that way. We get together every summer.”
“Six total?” Jason asked with an upraised eyebrow.
“They all live around here?”
She snorted. “They were the smart ones. They got out as soon as they could. That’s why it’s a yearly gathering.”
“I got to tell you—” Brandy cut off what she was going to say and frowned. “What is he doing here?”
A red Dodge truck was parked on the side of the road. A man leaned against it, looking their direction. He wore a hat that put his face in shadow.
“You know him?” Jason squinted. He couldn’t make out much about the man, so he figured Brandy recognized the truck.
She shook her head. “Husband.”
Jason frowned. He didn’t like the tone of her voice.
Something else told him the man was trouble. He couldn’t put his finger on why but didn’t doubt his instinct. He had developed a feel for such things while with the FBI. It had only been more finely honed while in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
“You gonna stop to see if he’s in trouble?”
“He’ll make do on his own.” She frowned, and Jason got the idea there was something more she almost said but held back.
“Why’d you break up?”
“You ask a lot of questions.”
Jason didn’t respond. The way she refused to answer confirmed this was not a man Jason wanted to meet.
They drove in silence while they approached the truck. The ex waved his hands.
It looked like he needed help.
Jason glanced at Brandy, wondering if she still felt something for the man.
Would that make her want to stop?
How would he react when he found a strange man traveling with his ex-wife?
He was tall, judging from his position by the truck. His arms and legs were thick, and he had a big gut. He looked the sort who grew up working on a farm. The man probably had an inch on Jason.
When it became obvious they would not stop, the man vigorously yelled and waved his arms.
Brandy hit the gas.
The man stepped onto the road, making Jason think he might jump into the path of the truck to make them stop. Brandy swerved without touching the brakes and floored it.
“He’s done this before,” Jason said flatly.
It was not a question.
“You can tell?”
“You knew what to do.”
Silence once again filled the truck cab. It was getting awkward. Jason regretted ever stepping into the truck.
He worried if he stayed with Brandy much longer that she might pull him into a domestic dispute.
He was also doing a poor job of remaining unmemorable. She’d asked too many questions. So had he. If Brandy ever looked at a fugitive list, she would undoubtedly remember and recognize him and probably turn him in.
It was time he did something about it.
“You can just let me out here.”
“Really?” Brandy looked around. “We’re still fifteen miles from Billings.”
“I’ll just keep walking. It’s a nice day.”
“What are you, a fugitive?”