Copyright © 2013 Blake Crouch
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Issued also in print format.
ISBN 9781459802544(pdf) -- ISBN 9781459802551 (epub)
I. Title. II. Series: Rapid reads (Online)
PS3603.R68S86 2013 813’.6 C2012-907308-3
First published in the United States, 2013
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Design by Teresa Bubela
Cover photography by Getty Images
About the Author
She had come twenty minutes early, but he was already there. He sat in a corner booth with a view of the street and the entrance. Watching her. She forced a smile and walked unsteadily down the aisle beside the counter. The points of her heels clicked on the nicotine-stained linoleum.
Sliding into the booth across from Javier, she nodded hello. He was Hispanic with short black hair and flawless brown skin. Every time they met, Letty thought of that saying, “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” Because Javier’s weren’t. They didn’t reveal anything—so clear and blue they seemed fake. Like a pair of rhinestones, with nothing human behind them.
An ancient waitress sidled up to their table with a notepad and a bad perm.
“Get ya’ll something?”
Letty looked at Javier and raised an eyebrow.
He said, “On me.”
“The farmer’s breakfast. Extra side of sausages. Egg whites. Can you make a red eye? And a side of yogurt.”
The waitress turned to Javier.
“And for you, sweetie?”
“What would you like to order, sir?”
“I’ll just eat her fumes. And a water.”
“Ice?” The way she said it, it sounded like
When the waitress had left, Javier studied Letty.
He said finally, “Your cheekbones look like they could cut glass. I thought you’d come into some money.”
“And what? You smoked it all?”
Letty looked at the table. She held her hands in her lap so he wouldn’t see the tremors.
“Let me see your teeth,” he said.
“Your teeth. Show me.”
She showed him.
“I’m clean now,” she whispered.
“For how long?”
“Don’t lie to me.”
“Because you ran out of money?”
She looked toward the open grill. She was so hungry she could barely stand it.
“Where are you staying?” Javier asked.
“Motel a few blocks away. It’s only paid for through tomorrow.”
“Then what? The streets?”
“You said you had something for me.”
“You’re in no condition.”
“For what, a beauty pageant? I will be.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Jav.” She reached across the table and grabbed his hand. He looked down at it and then up at her. Letty let go like she’d touched a burning stovetop. “I need this,” she whispered.
The waitress returned with Javier’s water and Letty’s coffee, said, “Food’ll be right up.”
“It’s only day four,” Letty said. “Another week, I’ll be as good as new. When’s the job?”
“It’s too big to risk on a strung-out
Anyone else, Letty would have fired back with some acid of her own.
Instead, she just repeated her question. “When is it?”
“I’ll be fine. Better than.”
He watched her through those unreadable eyes. Said finally, “Would you risk your life for a million-dollar payday? I’m not talking about getting caught. Or going to prison. I mean the real chance of being killed.”
Letty didn’t even hesitate. “Yes. Javier, have I ever let you down?”
“Would you be sitting here breathing if you had?”
Javier looked out the window. Across the street stood a row of storefronts. A pawnshop. A hair salon. A liquor store. Bars down all the windows. There was no one out under the gray winter sky. The roads had already been salted in advance of a rare southern ice storm.
“I like you, Letty. I’m not sure why.”
“You’re not going to ask me why I do this to myself—”
“I don’t care.” He looked back at her. She could see he’d made a decision. “Letty, if you fail me—”
“Trust me, I know.”
“May I finish?” He reached into his water and plucked out a cube of ice. Pushed it around on the table as it slowly melted. “I won’t even bother with you. I’ll go to Jacob first. And when you see me again, I’ll have a part of him to show you.”
She drew in a sudden breath. “How do you know about him?”
“Does it matter?”
The last two months of this crystal bender, she hadn’t allowed herself to think about her son. He’d been taken from her just prior to her last incarceration. He lived in Oregon with his father’s mother. Six years old. She pushed the thought of him into that heavy steel cage inside her chest where she carried more than a little hurt.
The food came. She wiped her eyes.
She tried not to eat too fast, but she had never been hungrier in her life. It was the first time she’d had real food in her stomach in days. Waves of nausea swept over her. Javier reached across the table and stole a strip of bacon.