In an instant, his world collapsed, and no one knew it but him. The giddy chatter of students rushing to and from the cafeteria swirled about him as he felt blindly for something to lean against.
Eyes locked on the overhead television screen, Evan Markham backed slowly toward a post in the crowded student union. Just moments ago, he’d been one of them, a Florida State student preparing for exams and the long-awaited summer break. But what he’d just heard ended it all.
He had only glanced at the News at Noon anchorwoman with the glossy lips as he hurried to class. He caught something about a shootout in Tampa, but kept going. As he reached the door, though, he heard a name that stopped him cold.
“. . . Leo Francini.”
Evan turned suddenly and stared at the screen as the woman switched the broadcast to an on-the-scene reporter. A cold sweat sprang from his brow as he moved quickly toward others gathering before the monitor.
This quiet residential street in Tampa was the scene today of a bloody standoff between FBI agents and members of a drug cartel run by Miami racketeer Leo Francini,” the somber-faced young man announced. “Before the violence ended about nine o’clock this morning, two FBI agents and Francini’s son, Donnie Francini, were killed. It is believed that Leo Francini was in the area, though not involved in the shootout. An intense manhunt by the FBI and local police is now underway. A house-to-house search is being conducted in . . .”
Steadying himself against the post, Evan turned to see if anyone was watching him. How could they know? No one knows.
Then another name caught him.
“Florida Attorney General Tony Ryborg, visibly shaken by the deaths of the two FBI agents, just moments ago issued what he calls an iron-clad promise to the people of this state, saying, ‘Leo Francini will be brought to justice and pay the severest penalty for these deaths.’”
Two hours later, Evan was packed and ready to leave. For where, he didn’t yet know. He’d removed all his belongings from the apartment and left a note for his roommate, whom he hardly knew. He hadn’t allowed himself to get close to many people, switching roommates often during the three years he’d been enrolled. Still, the guy deserved an apology for the sudden departure.
Evan returned to the student union to close his checking account and put a hold on his mail, evading inquiries about why he would do so before final exams.
As he left the building, he saw her. As usual, she didn’t notice him. Andie Ryborg seemed as absorbed in a private world as he was. Only hers hadn’t just ended in a gunfight.
One last time, he hung back and watched her. Dark hair fell loosely about her face as she sketched beneath a tree, focused on the gurgling fountain in the center of the green.
They’ll find you. Get away!