"Jesus Christ," Joe said through clenched teeth. He turned over his forearm and glanced at his watch. He wore it on the inside of his wrist so that Margaret couldn't see the time.
"I think I'm going to be sick," she said.
"Again?" He punched a number into the BMW's cell phone. As he waited for an answer, he muttered, "I do believe this has been the worst twenty-four hours of my life to date. And that includes our little party."
"Hey," he said into the phone. "You in your spot?...Okay. Wait about a minute, then do it."
Margaret jerked erect, her eyes wide, searching the nearby cars. "Oh my God. Peter! Peter!"
Joe picked up the gun and jammed the barrel into her neck. "You've come this far, Maggie. Don't blow it now. You remember what we talked about?"
She closed her eyes and nodded.
"I didn't hear you."
Tears rolled down her cheeks. "I remember."
A hundred yards from Margaret McDill's BMW, Peter McDill sat in an old green pickup truck, his eyes shut tight. The truck smelled funny. Good and bad at the same time, like just-cut grass and old motor oil, and really old fast food.
"You can open your eyes now."
Peter opened his eyes.
The first thing he saw was a McDonald's restaurant. It reassured him after his night of isolation. The McDonald's stood in the middle of a suburban strip mall parking lot. As Peter panned his eyes around the mall, he recognized the stores: Office Depot, Barnes & Noble, the Gateway 2000 store. He'd spent hours in that store. It was only a few miles from his house. He looked down at his wrists, which were bound with duct tape.
"Can you take this off now?"
He asked without looking up. The man behind the wheel of the truck was hard for him to look at. Peter had never seen or heard of Huey before yesterday, but for the last twenty-four hours, he had seen no one else. Huey was six inches taller than his father, and weighed at least three hundred pounds. He wore dirty mechanic's coveralls and heavy plastic glasses of a type Peter had seen in old movies, with thick lenses that distorted his eyes. He reminded Peter of a character in a movie he'd seen on the satellite one night, when he sneaked into the home theater room. A movie his parents wouldn't let him watch. The character's name was Carl, and the boy who was Carl's friend in the movie said he sounded like a motorboat. Carl was nice, but he killed people, too. Peter thought Huey was probably like that.
"When I was a little boy," Huey said, peering thoughtfully through the windshield of the pickup, "those golden arches went all the way over the top of the restaurant. The whole place looked like a spaceship." He looked back at Peter, his too-big eyes apologetic behind the thick glasses. "I'm sorry I had to tape you up. But you shouldn't of run. I told you not to run."
Peter's eyes welled with tears. "Where's my mom? You said she was going to be here."
"She's gonna be here. She's probably here already."
Through the heat shimmering off the asphalt, Peter scanned the sea of parked cars, his eyes darting everywhere, searching for his mother's BMW. "I don't see her car."
Huey dug down into his front coverall pocket.
Peter instinctively slid against the door of the pickup truck.
"Look, boy," Huey said in his deep but childlike voice. "I made you something."
The giant hand emerged from the pocket and opened to reveal a carved locomotive. Peter had watched Huey whittling for much of the previous afternoon, but he hadn't been able to tell what Huey was working on. The little train in the massive palm looked like a toy from an expensive store. Huey put the carving into Peter's bound hands.
Reprinted from 24 Hours by Greg Iles by permission of Putnam Books, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 Greg Iles. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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