Sunday, February 22, 2015

Seek and Hide by Amanda Stevens

Seek and Hide
David C. Cook (September 15, 2014)
Amanda Stevens

Chapter 1

Booze behind the wheel could turn a sports car into a … well, wreck. No other word for the blue Honda that had rammed halfway through Keith’s garage door before lodging there like a dud missile. Marcus pushed a shoulder to the door. It swayed a little, but the hole’s jagged edges stayed wedged against the car. Trying to back out might take the whole door down. Not that Marcus would trust the driver to try it.

Murmuring party guests lined the garage wall. Nobody was doing anything about this mess, other than gaping at it. If the driver had kept his foot on the gas a second longer, the car doors might have cleared the crater. Then again, he might also have run somebody over.

“Brenner, man, you can fix it, right?” Keith hovered over Marcus’s shoulder, and his beer breath wafted too close. “You can get Jason out of there, right?”

The driver hammered a fist against his door. “Keith, when I get out of this car, I’m going to kick your face in, you hear me? I’m going to—”

Marcus tapped on the car window. “Hey. Don’t. We’ll get you out.”

“You shut up. You get out of my face, you—”

“That’s no way to talk to the linebacker.” Across the hood of the car, a woman wearing less than a tank top blinked at Marcus. She leaned forward and stretched a bottle toward him, spilling cleavage and beer. He tried to stare at her blue eyes.

“You’re new. Best stuff that’s left, right here in this bottle.”

He could taste it. Yes. “No. Thanks.”

The woman pouted and splashed the car hood with the rest of her beer. She sidled closer to Marcus. “You’re so big.”

And you’re so drunk.

“Your eyes are like the sky.”

Well, not unless the sky had turned brown lately. Marcus gently pushed her away.

Keith rocked from one foot to the other, his gaze shifting from Marcus to the trapped, cussing driver and back again. “See why I called you, Brenner? You build stuff and fix stuff. And I thought you could fix this. Or build it. Or yeah.”

The garage door was beyond fixing. Marcus needed something to free the car. He let his eyes roam the four-car garage without resting too long on various available drinks. The half-finished side held a workbench in one corner. Garden tools hung from a dusty pegboard: rake and trowel and yeah, that was a pitchfork. But nothing helpful.

“Keith, got an axe?”

Fortunately, Keith only had one, or he probably would have tried to help. In the next ten minutes, Marcus widened the hole around the car. November rain blew inside, the kind that mocked fall jackets but sabotaged winter coats with cold, heavy saturation. The kind that Michiganders complained about until someone piped in, “Hey, it could be snowing.” Likely would be soon. Still, at the moment, Marcus wasn’t cold. Sweat dripped down his back and chest and dampened his shirt, then his jacket. He worked hard, not only to free the car but also to ignore Tank Top Girl’s offerings of her booze and her body.

Once Marcus had verified the designated drivers, the last of the partiers dispersed. He was left with Keith and Jason for company, the two of them periodically hollering at each other through the windshield. At least neither one of them was drinking anymore.

As long as his hands curled around the axe handle, the other guys couldn’t see his shaking. He angled his next swing, and the blade chomped into the garage door with a thunk. Splinters ricocheted off the arms of his jacket and rained to the garage floor. In another minute, he should be able to back the car out. Then he could get out of here and drive home and make coffee. He breathed through his mouth but could still smell the beer-washed garage. He tried to conjure the aroma of a fresh-ground roast.

A cooler stood open in the corner. Next to the keg.

The axe bit too hard, straight through the wood, and nicked the hood of the car. A silver gash appeared in the blue paint. Marcus winced, then shrugged. One more scratch in this paint job wasn’t a big deal. From the other side of the garage, Keith raised his arms like an athlete on the Olympic medal stand and whooped in approval of the door’s destruction. In the morning, the idiot would be sober. And ticked off. He hadn’t changed one bit since their high-school partying days.

“Good thing the neighbors aren’t home,” Keith said. “They might’ve called the cops.”

About time somebody besides Marcus had a sensible thought. He set down the axe. The car door should open wide enough for him to squeeze into the driver’s seat.

“Jason, move—”

The guy turned the key and hit the gas. Marcus leaped back. The car backed down the driveway several feet, then skidded to a stop.

Jason stepped out into the drizzle with a grin born of braces. His blond hair dripped as he ducked back through the hole his car had left. “Neighbors wouldn’t call the cops, because I don’t need the cops. Because I am the cops.”

Right. Of course he was.

Keith nodded. “Hey, Brenner, did you know Jason’s the cops?”

“Uh, no.”

“I’m MPC,” Jason said.

He was?

The acronym had never rooted itself into civilian vocabulary, but everyone knew its meaning. Michigan Philosophical Constabulary. Marcus stepped back from the guy. Short, lean—Marcus could knock him to the floor without trying. He breathed. Slowly. Flexed his hands, opened them, flexed them again. Had Jason waited in the shadows last night outside a church meeting, a church like Marcus’s? Had he handcuffed God’s people and driven them away to re-education?

Keith stared from Marcus to Jason and back again. “Whoa, how crazy’s that, for you to save the day for a con-cop? I mean, you don’t like them much. Obviously.”

“Keith, shut up.” If he went to jail today, he’d go because he chose to hit this guy. Hard. Not because Keith had a big mouth.

“Hey, no worries. He never remembers a thing past his third or fourth shot. You could read a Bible to him, an old one, I mean, and he—”

“Shut up. Now.”

“You guys aren’t making sense,” Jason said.

Marcus pointed at the car outside, still running. “I want the keys.”

Jason seemed to gain height as Marcus watched. His chin lifted, and his forehead twitched above the left eyebrow. “They’re my keys.”

“You don’t need them till tomorrow.”

“Three cheers for Brenner, Garage Door Chopper.” Keith hoisted Marcus’s arm over his head, slapping the air with beer breath.

Booze made people say the stupidest things at the stupidest times.

“I’m leaving now,” Marcus said to Keith. “And he’s spending the night.”

Confusion furrowed Keith’s forehead. “You’re not driving him home?”

Not a good idea. Marcus would end up wrapping his hands around Jason’s neck and squeezing until … Could a Constabulary agent arrest you for assault, or would he have to call the regular police? But that was the point—Jason wouldn’t be arresting anybody as long as he wasn’t breathing.

Right, because incapacitating one member of a government police force could make such a difference. Marcus might as well pull one scale off a rattlesnake.

“No,” he said. “He’s staying here.”

Jason threw a splay-fingered gesture at the car still running in the driveway. Its headlights cut through the drizzle, through the crater in the door. “Car’s still drivable. So I’m going to drive it.”

“You’re drunk, moron,” Keith said. “I’ll drive you.”

Marcus squeezed his eyes shut. If he left them here, one of them would get behind the wheel. Even if they promised not to.

God, do I have to do this?

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