Run, Hide(3)

By: Carol Ericson

Jenna dabbed at a lone chocolate chip from Gavin’s plate and sucked it into her mouth, the sweetness replacing the metallic aftertaste of fear. “I told you never to ask me any questions, Marti. For your own safety.”

“A-are you in some kind of witness protection program? That’s what I always figured.”

“Sort of.” Her gaze wandered to the kitchen window, and a voice surfaced from her past.

If they ever find you, run.

“Can’t the authorities who put you here help?” Marti was talking again, but Jenna was only half listening.

“We have to leave.” She swept the cup and plate from the table and ran some water over them in the sink.

“Good idea.” Marti tugged her down jacket around her. “Let’s go to the police, and then maybe you can call the FBI or whoever put you in the program, and...”

Jenna grabbed Marti’s arm. “No. I mean we have to leave—leave Lovett Peak for good.”

Marti’s mouth gaped open. “Like forever? Like now?”

Tears pricked the back of Jenna’s eyes as she nodded. She’d miss Marti. She’d miss her adopted town of Lovett Peak, Utah. Just like all the other towns in all the other states.

“T-tell everyone I had a family emergency.” She grabbed her bag from the table and shoved the bundle of money inside. Holding her hand out to her son, she said, “Let’s go, honey bunny.”

“You mean now?” Marti gripped her shoulders and shook her. “What about all your stuff? What about your life?”

Jenna took in the sparse little house with no photos, no mementos, nothing personal, and a smile twisted her lips. “There’s not much stuff...not much life.”

A fat tear rolled down Marti’s cheek, smearing her makeup. “Can’t you tell me what’s happening, Jenna? Won’t you let me help you?”

Jenna hugged her friend, her best friend for the past ten months she’d lived in Lovett Peak. “Thanks for everything, friend. And keep that gun handy for the next twenty-four hours.

“Let’s go, Gavin.”

“I’m going to miss you. Contact me when you can.” Marti extended her arms for one last hug.

A crack split the air, and Marti froze. Her heavily lined eyes widened and her lipsticked mouth went slack. She toppled forward, the blood from the gaping wound in the back of her head spreading onto the battered linoleum floor.

Covering Gavin’s face with one hand, Jenna screamed. The front window shattered and she ducked at the same time she realized the window had fallen apart from the bullet that had taken Marti’s life.

Lifting her gaze to the snowy scene outside, she saw nothing—no gun, no gunman—but she knew they were out there somewhere.

Gavin whined and tried to peel her fingers from his face. “What’s wrong with Marti?”

“She’s sick, honey.” Jenna crouched, covering Gavin with her body, and hustled him out the back door. If the assassins had their high-powered weapons aimed at the back of the house, too, she didn’t stand a chance.

She jogged across her small backyard in a hunched-over position, her muscles tight, her breath coming out in short spurts visible in the frosty air. She waited for the next shot.

They’d aim for her. They wouldn’t want to hit Gavin.

They just wanted to take him.

Shoving Gavin in front of her, Jenna swung through a gate that led to her neighbor’s side yard...her other neighbor. The image of Marti slammed against her brain, and her gut rolled.

Focus. Transportation. With her car out of commission, she and Gavin had been taking the free shuttle buses around town. After a week, she had memorized their schedules.

Head down, she stumbled through her neighbor’s yard, her boots slushing through the snow, half dragging, half carrying a complaining Gavin. Poking her head into the street, she set her sights on the Mountain View Hotel one block down.

The free shuttles made a stop at the hotel’s side entrance to take the tourists to the ski resort and the downtown restaurants. Looking neither right nor left, Jenna scurried to the side of the hotel.

She flattened her body against the wall, clutching her purse with one hand and her son with the other. A couple of skiers gathered on the steps of the hotel, their skis and poles pointing skyward.

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