11:42 a.m. EDT
The gunshots threw the surrounding tourists into a panic; people scrambled in all directions in search of safety. Steve hit both Amy and Jason with his flying tackle, and all three fell in a heap to the right of the van. Steve realized with a sickening certainty that he hadn’t been shot, although his ears were ringing from the gun’s report. He turned to Amy and yelled, “Are you two okay?”
Amy rolled over and looked gratefully at Steve. “She missed, thanks to you. Jason, I take back everything I ever said to you about how brutal tackle football is. Jason? Jason!” She turned to her boyfriend and her face went white.
Jason’s chest was punctured by three bullet holes, and there was a spreading pool of blood beneath him. He was struggling to speak, but there was red foamy blood in his mouth. He looked at Amy, confused and scared, as she knelt down by him.
Steve stood up and spotted Regina at the edge of the crowd. He waved and got her attention. “Call an ambulance!” As he turned back, he locked eyes with Bennett, who had calmly put the gun back in the van, pulled her hair back and put on a ball cap. When she did so, Steve noticed a white scar above her eyebrow. Then she turned and a pair of cold, gray eyes looked directly at him.
Unbidden, his talent kicked in as he stared at the woman. Suddenly, as Nassau froze around him, the world went dark, and he was back five years earlier, seeing another face he’d committed to memory—the angular lines of her nose and cheeks, the small white crescent-shaped scar just above her right eyebrow, the smirking curl upward of her mouth on one side…
The realization hit him like a punch to his gut. She’s not Bennett! She’s the woman who murdered my family!
And then, in his mind, Steve matched it with a third image of this woman—a glimpse of this face and a black bikini on a luxury yacht, earlier today, at the end of the cruise pier.
Steve snapped back again to real time to see those eyes start to drive past. The woman smiled at him as she drove into the panicked crowd, making her getaway as calmly as if she was just another ordinary tourist taxi van. It was a predator’s smile—all teeth below cold, gray eyes.
Steve watched her for a moment, his fists clenched. He looked back at Amy, who was cradling Jason’s head in her lap, stroking his hair, begging him to hold on. “Please, Jason, stay with me! Please. I love you! Oh, God, please don’t leave me, Jason. Please!”
Jason breathing struggled, then slowed and a moment later stopped completely. The light in his eyes dimmed, and Steve swore to himself. This murdering bitch had claimed another victim right in front of him again.
In that moment, Steve knew he had no choice. He had to act. He wasn’t going to let her get away this time. But he knew how he was going to do it was going to change his life forever.
Steve knelt down next to Amy. “I’m sorry, but I have to go. I think they’re headed back to the cruise terminal—they have a way to escape down there.” He touched her shoulder. “I’ll find them and stop them, Amy. I promise you that.”
Steve stood up and closed his eyes for a moment. He clenched his fists, and for the first time in his life, willed his talent to work at full capacity. In an instant, everything around him froze completely solid. The world went silent, except for the sound of his breathing and his heartbeat.
From his vantage point atop the hill, Steve could see much of downtown Nassau. Everything was in sharp contrast, and he could see minute details and zoom in on individual areas at will. It took him a moment to adapt to this, but he quickly did so, even as the world remained frozen around him.
Now he called forth in his mind a map, showing the streets and buildings, and overlaid it on his view. Next, he calculated the most likely path of the kidnappers, and finally, a dozen different paths through the city for himself. Deciding on the most efficient one, he collapsed the map. Steve closed his eyes and concentrated again.
Time resumed its normal speed. Without hesitation, Steve took off running toward the Queen’s Staircase. He threaded his way through panicked tourists, milling about as sirens wailed closer to the scene. Behind him, a confused Good Samaritan yelled out, “There goes the gunman! Grab him!”
Ahead of him, a pair of burly men wearing University of Miami T-shirts turned and decided to try to tackle him.
Great, just what I need. He glanced at the vendors ahead of him, calculated on the fly the closing rate and size of his tacklers, the angle of the slope, his speed and probable paths of the contents on each vendor’s cart. Using his free-running skills, he saw four possible scenarios, decided his optimal choice, and went into action without breaking stride. He planted and pushed off with his left foot, launching into a tumbling run of one-handed back flips, finishing the last with a twist that landed him in a crouch balanced on the front tongue of a fruit vendor’s cart.
The trailer tipped forward suddenly with the weight as Steve ducked, launching all the fruit over him and directly at the would-be tacklers. The jock on the left was hit full on by a trio of high-velocity melons and went down. The one on the right bobbed and weaved through the hail of produce. Although he now looked like an ambulatory fruit salad, he kept coming.
Sheesh, all I did was make him madder, Steve thought as he ducked and rolled forward under Mr. Fruit Salad’s lunge, making him miss and smash headfirst into the front panel of the cart. Steve sprang out of the roll into a run and danced his way along the curb, weaving through the crowd. The sirens were getting closer, while behind him, he heard the first jock, who had gotten back up and was yelling for people to get out of his way.
Time for a little misdirection. Steve pushed off his right foot and sprang with a set of free-running leaps onto a spare tire on a vendor’s cart and then atop an outcropping of weathered limestone. He ran along the top above the crowd for 30 yards, and then somersaulted off it, landing squarely on the running board of an old pickup truck parked along the curb. As people in the crowd reached for him, Steve grabbed the truck cab’s window frame, swung himself sideways in front of the windshield and vaulted across the hood. He hit the ground by the left fender, rolled forward and started sprinting downhill past the last vendor. Off this table, he grabbed a long wooden carving, about two feet in length, smooth on the back, the front shaped like a mask from a witch doctor. Steve glanced at it—hmmm, voodoo fertility god—and then tucked it under his right arm like a football as he covered the last few yards to the Queen’s Staircase.
He dropped into slow-time again as he evaluated the scene. There was a large group of senior citizens making their way down the upper section of stairs, a pair of couples on the lower section waiting for the seniors to finish their descent, and a half-dozen small clusters of schoolchildren in uniforms along the walkway below. He flashed on the most efficient path and committed himself to it. Time snapped back to normal as he stepped up onto the stones at the right edge of the staircase and placed the flat side of the carving down onto the handrail. He jumped up onto the voodoo idol’s face, said a small prayer to the universe, asking forgiveness for any insult he’d just committed, then leaned forward and balancing precariously, did a boardslide down the upper section of the staircase.
He quickly dropped past the senior citizens and at the base of the first railing section, launched into a front flip walkover, holding onto the board with his right hand. He landed on the left side of the mid-stair landing and ran down the next few steps, passing one couple to the left. He had started to cut back to the right to pass the other couple, when three of the small groups of schoolchildren came running up the stairs. Steve made a quick decision and did a free-running leap directly over to the handrail, balancing over the pool of water. He swung back and forth, trying to find his center of gravity as he slid downhill.
He had made it to within four steps of the bottom, struggling to control his balance, when it happened. Something was on the railing, and the surface wasn’t smooth. When his foot hit it, he was launched forward. Quickly, he brought his arms and legs in close, spotted where his arc would land him and went with it. At the last moment, he swung his hands down and rolled through the impact, coming up in a low crouch. His left knee and hand touched the ground and his right arm extended out to the side, holding the board, ready to strike or defend with it.
The kids on the lower steps stared at him in awe. The senior citizens on the upper steps broke out into applause. But the police at the top were less appreciative. They blew their whistles and yelled at him to stop. Steve looked at the path behind him, then turned and started sprinting north, seeing in his mind’s eye the shifting diagram of the optimal path to take. He covered the length in less than twenty seconds, dodging and weaving through the small crowd, and emerged into the sunlight of the parking lot off Sands Street.
He heard more police sirens; based on the change in pitch, they were closing rapidly. Steve knew he’d be stopped if he continued on foot. At that moment, a tourist couple on a rented motor scooter pulled into the parking lot. As they headed for a parking space, Steve modified his plan. He sprinted across the lot at a run, climbed onto the spare tire and then the roof of a Range Rover parked across from the scooter. He launched himself into another somersault, landing squarely in the saddle of the scooter.
The driver turned around. “What are you—argh!” Steve didn’t take time to explain; instead, he pushed the driver off the still running scooter, right in front of his girlfriend. He jammed the idol carving into the basket in front of him, grabbed the handlebars and opened up the throttle.
It was a top of the line scooter—250 cc motor, capable of speeds up to 70 miles per hour. It shot easily over the berm and toward the Elizabeth Street entrance, but a police cruiser slid into the opening directly ahead of him. Steve put his left foot down, leaned hard, and pivoted his ride into a 180-degree turn. He opened the throttle, and in a spray of gravel, shot away from the police cruiser.
A second cruiser started to pull into the lot from Sands Street entrance and stopped, blocking that driveway. Steve aimed the scooter into a small gap on the driver’s side. The policeman spotted him and started to open his door, trying to trap him. Steve sped into the gap and kicked out with his left foot, connecting with the door and slamming it back shut. He swerved left as he crossed the street to avoid an oncoming van full of tourists, then shot up a driveway across the road and onto the grounds of a private manor.
The manor was hosting a wedding, and valets were parking the guests’ vehicles. Steve weaved through the line of cars, jumping the curb at the end of the parking lot and onto the large lawn to the east of the manor house. A large tent had been set up for the wedding reception. At first, he tried to calculate a way around it, but he saw private security people were closing in.
A lot of private security people.
Uh-oh. Just whose party did I crash here?
Steve looked around, saw no other option and made his choice. He gunned the throttle and aimed for the tent opening.
In a moment, the scooter was inside, filling the space with the noise of its engine. He snapped into slow-time and looked around. The tent was packed with tables and chairs laid out for a wedding reception. Not good, he thought. No way through. Steve snapped back into real time and felt an arm brush against his back as someone yelled, ‘Freeze!’
Someone is not going to get their damage deposit back, Steve thought, as he gunned the engine and made straight for the exit on the north side of the tent. Tables overturned and glass crashed in his wake as he plowed through the scene of chaos.
Emerging from the tent, he looked rapidly left and right, trying to see any pursuers. He spotted the faint traces of a footpath heading along the lawn into the trees beyond, and opened the throttle, speeding across the lawn as the astonished guests stood and stared at the commotion. Security men ran after him as he drove the scooter into the trees and down the slope.
The path down the hill was narrow and rocky, and he had to wrestle the ride to keep it from getting stuck, but kept it always moving downhill. After a couple of tense moments, he crashed through the brush at the bottom of the slope and out into a vacant lot. A fence gate across the way was open, and he sped toward it.
Steve dropped again into slow time just as he was about to enter Shirley Street. Now Shirley is a one-way going east, while Bay heads west. I’m northwest of the wharf, and the van is somewhere west of me. Shirley’s going to take me the wrong way. Got to change directions. Steve let go of time and as it snapped back, steered the bike to the right without slowing, merging into the traffic flow on Shirley. He cut off one car, and then weaved precariously across two other lanes of traffic. At the next intersection, he again planted his left foot and twisted the scooter through another 180-degree turn, this time moving up onto the sidewalk. He opened the throttle and gunned it down the covered walkway. Tourists spotted him and dove either on top of cars or into shops to get out of his way.
When he arrived at the intersection of Shirley and East Street, he stopped, looking for the van with the hostages. Steve hoped he’d beaten the van here, but if not, he’d have to try his luck at the wharf. That would be a much tougher fight.
A few moments later, the kidnappers’ van careened onto Shirley from a block west, and wove across all lanes of traffic and onto East Street. As it sped past him, he could see Bennett gripping the wheel and the two kidnappers inside pointing their pistols out the back. The rear window had been shattered.
Shooting at someone? But who else could be pursuing them?
Steve was puzzling over that when a blur shot past him—a human figure, moving much too fast for any normal person. It reached the back of the van and leapt onto the roof. Steve dropped into slow-time to get a glimpse of what was pursuing the van, but what he saw didn’t make any sense.
Amy Rogers? But…how?
A moment later, it occurred to Steve that his own chance to head off the kidnappers was slipping away. Snapping back into real-time, he opened the throttle and turned in pursuit down East Street. As he closed in, Remy spotted him and fired through the shattered window. Steve’s talent kicked him again into slow-time, showed him the path of each bullet in advance and how fast he needed to travel to avoid being hit. Steve ducked low, and gunned the throttle. The shots missed and he raced past the van on its right.
Steve decided he’d make his stand at the intersection ahead—the corner of East and Bay Streets. He was three cars lengths ahead of the van as he started across the traffic on Bay Street. He dropped into slow-time and examined all the vehicles around him, his mind registering their relative velocities and closing rates. He ran through a half dozen different scenarios, predicted their outcomes and found one that he really liked. Preparing for a few physically rough moments, he took a deep breath, braced himself, and dropped his hold on time.
Grabbing the idol from the basket, Steve dove off the scooter and rolled to his left. As he came out of the roll, he turned and flung the idol with his right arm in a flat spin back along East Street.
Without him on it, the scooter wobbled and crashed into the traffic officer’s shelter in the middle of the intersection, knocking it over into the path of an oncoming truck. That driver panicked and swerved left to avoid the crashed traffic box, causing him to plow into a series of parked cars, effectively blocking East Street.
Behind Steve, the fertility idol spun through the air down East Street like a helicopter blade, and without warning, buried itself in the passenger side windshield of the kidnappers’ van. The windshield became obscured with a spider web of cracks.
When the idol hit the windshield, Bennett slammed on the brakes. Amy Rogers was thrown forward off the roof and into the street in front of the van. She hit the pavement, rolling and bouncing until she slammed into the side of one of the parked cars the truck had relocated into the intersection.
Steve watched Bennett jam the steering wheel left and drive up onto the sidewalk, trying to bypass the accident. She rounded the corner past Parliament House, and then angled across Bay Street toward Rawson Square. As she came down off the curb, the front left tire on the van popped. Bennett struggled to control the van, trying to stop it as it crashed through a line of rental scooters and into a planter in the square.
Steve’s shirt was tattered. He had a road rash on his right arm from his landing and his left knee was throbbing, but he wasn’t thinking about that now. He looked back to where Amy Rogers had landed against the parked car, but she wasn’t there. Steve filed that for consideration later, then turned and ran as best he could across the road, making a beeline for Rawson Square.
The van had come to rest against a wrought iron fence built to protect the landscaping. Inside, the two kidnappers were scrambling to open the doors. As Steve ran up next to a street vendor, the right passenger door slid open and Remy emerged. He was bleeding from a head wound and had his right arm pressed against his side, but when he spotted Steve, he didn’t hesitate to raise his pistol with his good arm, aiming it directly at him.
Without thinking, Steve grabbed three CDs of steel drum music from a vendors table at the edge of the square. A quick moment of slow-time and he saw the angles the CDs needed to move at. He threw them like shuriken, ninja stars, one after the other. The first caught the kidnapper on the gun hand, causing Remy to howl in pain and drop the pistol. The howl was short-lived, as the second and third CDs struck him; one on the face, the other on the right temple. Remy looked dazed for a moment, then his eyes rolled back and he crumpled to the ground, unconscious.
When Steve looked up again, Amy Rogers was somehow on the other side of the van, yanking open the side door. He was shocked as she almost ripped the door from its track. How the heck did she do that? Francois yelled and lunged at her from inside the van, but Amy grabbed his collar and pulled him forward, using his own momentum against him. He almost flew out of the van, and before he could stop, slammed face-first into the base of the statue of Sir Milo Butler, about twenty yards away, and slid down to the ground, out cold.
Amy looked back and spotted Steve through the open van. “Get the Naziris!” she yelled. “Bennett’s mine!” Steve nodded and moved to the van as Amy ran north toward the wharf.
The Naziris were huddled down on the back seat, the father shielding his daughter as well as he could. They looked relatively unhurt. Steve pulled the duct tape from their mouths. “Can you walk?” They nodded in reply, too shocked to speak. “Then follow me. Quickly now!” Steve pushed down the middle seat and helped the pair out of the van. He hurried them over to the tourist center on the east side of the square and had them huddle down in the doorway. “You two stay here, no matter what!”
Steve went back into the square, quickly surveying the area. He spotted Amy and Bennett fighting at the north edge of the square, and moved toward them.
11:51 a.m. EDT
When Amy caught up with Bennett, she saw that she now had a cut above her right eye, that white scar pulsing red from the fresh injury. Amy’s own clothes were torn, and she was covered with blood. She wasn’t sure if it was her own or Jason’s. At this point, it didn’t exactly matter to her.
Bennett sneered at Amy, her voice thick with contempt, as if she was goading her. “Just walk away, Princess, and I promise you, no one else gets hurt.”
“You’re a murderer! I’m not letting you get away!”
She chuckled, even as she circled around, trying to find a way out. Amy kept cutting her off. Bennett shook her head. “What’s the matter, Princess? Did I break one of your toys? Serves you right. Your kind never knows when to wake up and stop playing hero. I think it’s a design flaw, myself.”
Amy’s face contorted in rage as she moved to her right, trying to force the woman back toward the square. Bennett kept backing up, trying to keep some distance between the two of them. It was as if Bennett was wary of physical contact with her. Does she suspect something about me? It’s as if she knows me—
Wait a minute! She’s the bitch from the yacht! The realization hit Amy and she stumbled. Bennett took advantage and started to run past her. As she went by, Amy reached out and attacked with a series of arm sweeps and fists, followed by a low leg sweep.
Bennett’s reactions were good—really good. She doesn’t fight like a middle-aged housewife, Amy thought. She’s been trained in hand-to-hand combat, and is at least a 2nd degree black belt. But let’s see if she knows this move. Amy flipped backward out of her leg sweep and added a handstand spin with leg extension. The spin caught Bennett unaware and she caught a foot directly across the jaw. She went flying backward from the impact and landed in the street. She lay there, face down in shock, as Amy walked over, fists ready.
“Jason was no toy! He was the man I loved. Now get up—I’m not through with you yet!”
Bennett got up on her elbows and wiped away the blood from a cut lip, then chuckled. “Maybe you’re not, Princess. But I am. Fighting you is not on the agenda today.” She reached into her breast pocket and pulled out a small black stick with a red button atop. As she rolled over, Bennett looked up at Amy.
“Consider this a rain check. Another time, Princess.”
11:54 a.m. EDT
Steve ran up in time to see Amy standing over a prone Bennett. As Bennett rolled over, he saw a device in her hand—a small black stick with a red button. A cold chill ran down his spine. He knew a trigger when he saw one, and he realized the one place she could have put the bomb.
Steve turned back toward the square and yelled. “Get away from the van! It’s rigged to explode!” He then turned and took off at a sprint toward Bennett, ignoring the pain in his left leg.
He was five steps away from Bennett when she hit the switch.
The bomb she’d planted inside the taxi van went off with a terrific blast, shattering windows in Rawson Square and in Government House across the street. The concussion wave hit Steve first, sending him flying sideways. He hit a lamppost and crumpled in a daze. Amy took the brunt of the explosion head-on and was thrown back across the walkway toward the wharf, ending up in the shrubs by the market.
Steve came to after the explosion at the base of the lamppost, groggy and disoriented. His ears were ringing badly as he looked around, trying to shake off the effects of the blast. He tried to focus, and for a moment, thought he saw his family’s murderer being helped up off the ground. Steve rolled over, nauseous for a moment, and then looked again. He shook his head. He couldn’t be sure, but he must have been seeing double. It looked like there were two Bennetts, both helping each other make their way to a yacht.
No, I’ve got to stop her. I can’t let her get away again.
Steve somehow forced his way to his feet and started stumbling after the women. “You! Stop!”
The women glanced back at him, and then one of them stopped. She turned around, took off her sunglasses and stared at Steve.
Steve saw her gray eyes, and suddenly it was as if nothing else in the area existed—no explosions, no pain—just that pair of eyes. He suddenly felt eerily empty as his own talent started slipping away, the constant whisper of data silenced. Then the eyes faded into a darkening haze…
Steve came to after the explosion halfway down the wharf, groggy and disoriented. The blast must have thrown me farther than I thought. He tried to focus, but his head rang like a Chinese gong was being played inside it. As he looked around groggily, he saw at the end of the wharf the Bennett woman stepping onto the back of one of the luxury yachts.
Damn it, she’s getting away!
Steve started to get up to try to follow, but stumbled. The yacht pulled away from the dock, joining the legion of anonymous vessels in the harbor.
Steve shook his head again. Uh, that…that must have been some crack on the head. I must have been seeing things. For a second, I could have sworn I saw two Bennetts on the back of that yacht. No…there’s something…something about that I’m supposed to remember. Steve glanced around again, spotting Amy across the walkway and limped over to her.
Amy was struggling to get to her feet, looking around, her face contorting with rage. “Where is she? Did you see her?”
Steve put his hands on her shoulders. “She…she ran down the pier and got onto a yacht.”
“We have to go after her! She can’t get away!” Amy started to lurch toward the wharf, and then stumbled to the ground. Steve bent down beside her.
“You’re hurt and in no shape to follow her. I’m sorry, Amy. She got away.”
She looked at him, incredulous. “You’re sorry? Sorry?” Amy started shaking and sobbing. Steve, unsure of what else to do, put his arms around her in an attempt to comfort her. She let out a scream of pure primal rage, and collapsed, unconscious.
Triangle: False Mirror
the exciting new thriller by D. G. Speirs
Published September, 2012 by Perfect Impressions Books
Available as a Trade Paperback and Kindle e-book.
Purchase it here on Amazon.