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They’re willing to kill me for my billion-dollar inheritance.
I try not to… at first.
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What kind of guests come to the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night?
As a pair of headlights pierce the darkness outside, I get off the leather couch and take a peek through the curtains.
Chevy. Tahoe. Maroon.
Nope. I don’t recognize it. Should I?
Maybe they’re some lost campers. Better yet, they may be some lost female campers – just the kind of company I need to make this spacious log cabin cozy after three bottles of beer.
Three and a half.
Lifting the bottle in my hand to my lips, I take a few gulps then pause to lower the volume of the speakers on my way to the front door.
I open it, finding a man in a black shirt and dark jeans standing a few feet away. Two hundred pounds. Bald head. Thin beard. Expensive watch. Probably not as expensive as the sunglasses.
Who wears sunglasses at midnight?
He’s not alone. There are two more men behind him, one wearing silver earrings and a leather jacket and the other with long hair and the tattoo of a snake crawling around his arm, its head peeking out of the neckline of his shirt, also black. And I can see another man behind the wheel of the Tahoe.
Four men all in black and all more or less the same build.
Definitely not lost campers, unless there’s a camp for wrestling trainees or ex-CIA’s nearby. And something tells me they’re not in a rock band, either.
I take another gulp of beer to smooth the lump that’s suddenly formed in my throat.
“Gentlemen, what can I do for you? If you’re here for the party, I’m afraid you’re a bit early. It isn’t until Friday. You’re welcome to come then if you like.”
“We’re not here for the party,” the man with sunglasses answers.
I thought as much.
I lean on the door post and pull on the collar of my shirt. “Well, then, what can I do for you?”
“Are you Chester Donahue?”
I frown. I don’t like being called that name.
“I believe that’s my grandfather,” I answer. “Sorry, guys, but he’s dead.”
The man in the leather jacket scoffs.
“Well, that’s funny,” Mr. Sunglasses says with a grin as he takes a step forward.
I instinctively reach for the doorknob behind me, my pulse racing.
“Because we’re looking for someone dead, too. At least, he soon will be.”
I drop the bottle, which breaks into a hundred fragments as it hits the front step, as I quickly try to go back inside. But I’m not sober enough or quick enough. A hand grabs my wrist and, as I turn my head, a fist crushes my jaw, sending my body reeling to the floor and my mind into a dark abyss.
When my eyes open again, I find myself staring at a moving trail of leaves. At least, at first, I think the leaves are the ones moving until I realize it’s me.
I’m upside down, bent over someone’s shoulder, my hair and arms dangling. I recognize the smell of worn-out leather beneath me.
I lift my head slightly, seeing a pair of silver Nikes. Probably size 10. Moving my gaze up a little more, I see something else shiny – a Colt Python in a belt holster glinting in the moonlight.
Seeing an opportunity, I push myself up, thrusting my elbow into the nape of the man carrying me. As his grip around my waist loosens, I try to jump off him, aiming to grab the gun of the man behind him before I hit the ground. But I fall clumsily, and by the time I hit the ground, the revolver is out of its holster and aimed at my head.
“Try anything else and I’ll shoot,” Mr. Nike says.
I raise my hands. “Who–?”
I don’t finish, a foot flipping me to the side and then kicking me in the stomach. I curl up, clutching my abdomen, which feels like it’s been dislodged, smashed, and shattered all at the same time, as I fight to suck air back into my lungs and keep my stomach contents from spilling out. I fail at the latter, lifting my head to throw up a puddle of beer before lying on my back, my chest still heaving as I stare at the night sky through the tree branches.
“That’s what you get for hitting me,” Mr. Leather Jacket says, his lips forming a snarl as he rubs his nape.
Beside him, the man with the tattoo laughs as he shines his flashlight right on my face.
“Why are you doing this?” I ask them as I squint against the bright light, my voice still strained.
“Sorry, pretty boy,” Mr. Sunglasses answers as he takes the flashlight and stands over me. “But no questions allowed.”
He gestures to Mr. Tattoo, who pulls me to my feet. I’m still unsteady so I hunch over, my hands on my rattling knees. The cold barrel of the gun presses against the back of my head.