Page 61 of Starlit Skies

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The gunman made a rude noise. “Please. Don’t insult me. Police protection, my ass. I knew it’d only be a matter of time before you fucked up. All I had to do was bide my time. And slip that old drunk a few hundred to kick up a ruckus at the jail this morning.” The gunman sneered.

Nash wasn’t shocked to hear the diversion at the jail had been engineered. This guy was smart and determined. Pity he was on the wrong side of the law, he would’ve made a great cop.

“Did you know I was watching you?” the man continued in a thoughtful tone. “I think you might’ve felt it. I even followed you into town and saw you take your little woman, here, shopping. So attentive, you were.”

He knew it. Knew that something had been wrong that day in Main Street. Why hadn’t he listened to his gut?

“You didn’t heed my other little omen, either, did you?” the gunman asked with a smirk. “I left you a sign, but you ignored it. My pockets were full of those little rocks, after your girlfriend pushed me down the slope. I wondered if you’d see it, but once again you disappointed me.”

He’d been right, the pebbles had been left there as a warning. Nash resisted the urge to stand and get up in this guy’s face. He needed to let him think he had the upper hand. So, he remained sitting on the bed, Skylar’s leg warm beneath his hand.

“Look…” Nash hesitated, and then added. “What should I call you?” If they were going to have a conversation, a name would be good.

The other man leered at him. “I ain’t no fool. You don’t get my true identity.” The gunman took a step inside and then leaned against the wall, pistol casually held in his right hand. “Call me Jacko; that’ll do for now.”

Nash gritted his teeth. That name didn’t match any of the three brothers; it wasn’t even close. Nash wondered if it’d been a call sign from the army, or perhaps a childhood nickname.

“Right. Jacko, I’m Nash King and this is Skylar Williams.” Personal details were always good. They made a victim seem more human if a perpetrator knew their name, knew their story, and how much they stood to lose. “And we both—”

“I know who you are,” Jacko interrupted. “Do you think I’d accept a contract without knowing who my marks were? I know a lot more about both of you than you might think. I’ve done my research.” There was a deeply menacing quality to Jacko’s tone that sent a spike of fear down Nash’s spine. “And don’t try that psychobabble shit on me. When the time comes, I won’t have any qualms about killing you.”

Nash could no longer sit still. After a quick check to make sure Skylar was still breathing, he stood. “We know you’re working for Sanders. It’s only a matter of time before the noose closes around you. You should let us go. Why the hell are you keeping up this charade?” The shed seemed all the much smaller now he was standing, with Jacko looming in the doorway. Three steps would carry him over to the hateful man, and he could take him by the throat and push him up against the wall…

Nash took a deep breath and clenched his fists at his sides.

Jacko stood straighter and fixed Nash with a sinister gaze. “Because I’ve never, I repeat, never, left a contract unfulfilled. This is a matter of pride. You got away from me in the jungle. You won’t get away from me now.”

Nash took a step forward before he stopped himself and came to a halt in the middle of the room. He held his hands up, palms facing forward. “Look, if you agree to talk, to spill the beans on Sanders, we can make sure the judge goes easy on you. If you let us go free, they’ll see that as a sign of goodwill.” Would logic work on this guy? Probably not, but it was worth a try.

“Not going to happen,” Jacko sneered. “Oh, by the way. This one is payback for the knife to the shoulder, you bastard.” Before Nash could react, the commando spun around and landed a heavy kick in his guts. Nash double over, gasping in pain and shock.

Jacko landed another kick, this time to Nash’s wounded thigh, and he dropped like a sack of potatoes to the floor with a howl of agony.

“I’ve had enough of this conversation.” Jacko loomed over him.

Nash had no time to avoid the boot coming for his head. Pain exploded behind his eyes, and his world went dark.


SKYLAR STRETCHED HER arms and legs. What had happened to her bed? It wasn’t nearly as comfortable as she remembered. Or maybe she was in Nash’s bed. A secret smile stole over her lips. Was he lying next to her, asleep? She reached out a hand but found empty air. Where was he?

She rolled her head sideways on the pillow, and an agonizing pain shot through her temples. Her eyes flew open as she clutched at her head, but it was dark, and she couldn’t fathom where she was.

“Good evening, sleepyhead,” a voice came out of the darkness. Who was that? She thought she recognized that voice.

“Nash?” She dared not sit up, otherwise her head might split open. When no one answered, she said again, “Nash? Is that you?”

“Nah,” came the laconic reply. “Your boyfriend’s a little tied up at the moment.”

Then everything came flooding back in a blast of reality.

The gunman.

He’d found them.

And he’d hit her with his gun. She must’ve been knocked out.

She did try and sit up then, but slowly, cradling her head in her hands. She needed to see what was going on. Where was she? And where was Nash?

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