David Morrell, author of The Protector
"A tightly wound spring of suspense and terror."
No Way Back
San Francisco crime reporter Tom Reed is burned out. On the day he decides to finally quit the news business, a sensational story breaks. A heart-stopping robbery-homicide at a jewelry store. The suspects have shot and killed a police officer before fleeing with a female hostage. Reed rushes to the scene, his passion resurrected for one last big story.
Arriving at the chaos, Reed is stunned to learn from a staff member, still clutching a receipt, that the hostage is his wife, Ann Reed.
Horrified, Reed confronts San Francisco Homicide Inspector Walt Sydowski and other detectives on the case. All know the odds.
Reed is paralyzed with anguish but his son, Zach, refuses to give up hope of finding his mother, despite the grisly trail left by the killers. Now the clock is ticking down as Reed battles his demons and Sydowski in a life and death search for Ann.
The register at the San Francisco Deluxe Jewelry Store whirred as sales clerk Vanessa Jordan slid the credit card receipt to the woman admiring the custom order she had bought.
“Your husband is going to adore it,” Vanessa said.
“I hope so.” Her eyes glistened. “I wanted something special for our anniversary.”
Vanessa thought her customer was beautiful. She was wearing a tailored mauve suit, had lovely brunette hair, pearl studs, a matching two-row necklace.
“Trust me, he’s going to love this. I’d be happy to gift-wrap it for you.”
Studying the exquisite craftsmanship the woman considered the offer when the store’s front door chime sounded, diverting Vanessa’s attention to the security monitor under the counter. The video screen showed two people waiting at the entrance. A big woman in a long beige coat standing behind a man in a wheelchair. Access through the front door required staff to activate a remote lock. The store’s guard had just left for his usual fifteen-minute break to get a bagel at the corner bakery. Vanessa followed the security procedure, scanned the other monitors and inventoried the store: She had her customer at the cash. Across the floor, a man in his sixties was alone looking at watches. There was a couple in their late twenties near the engagement diamonds, cooing at rings. Through the window to the street she saw nothing unusual. Everything was fine.
Vanessa glanced over her shoulder down the hall at the manager, a kind soft-spoken man who wore frameless glasses. He was working in the back office which had the same closed circuit monitors and a speaker for the front chime. Upon hearing it, he left his desk to help, nodding an `okay’ for Vanessa to open the door. She pressed the button under the counter. The woman and the man in the wheelchair entered.
At that moment, the customer at the counter had reached a decision. “Yes, I would like it gift-wrapped. Will it take long?”
Vanessa didn’t answer.
“Excuse me, Miss? I’d like it gift wrapped.”
Vanessa was staring at the front door. The manager had arrived behind her, adjusting his jacket, stopping dead in his tracks.
Once inside the store, the old man leapt from the wheelchair. The woman pushing him folded it, wedging it so the automatic door could not lock behind them. She was over six feet tall, wearing a kerchief over her thick blond hair. She had large dark glasses. Her face was smeared with layers of freakish white make-up which no longer disguised the Adam’s apple of a man as his long coat snapped open and he produced an automatic assault rifle.
“This is a hold up! Everyone on the floor!”
Someone screamed. The gun came alive, exploding with rapid fire destroying every security camera including those hidden in the store’s custom-made grandfather clock and the overhead light fixtures. The smell of cordite, the clinking of debris and spent shells filled the air. The wheelchair man stepped forward, silver talons of hair reached from his fedora, huge dark glasses hid much of his face which resembled fiery red plaster. He opened his coat to a kevlar vest with a hand grenade clipped to each side of his chest.
“Don’t touch any alarms,” he said to the manager who ceased inching toward the counter.
The shooter replaced his empty magazine, let go a staccato burst above the manager’s head, rounds ripped into the wall, smashing an array of expensive Swiss and Austrian clocks. Then he directed gunfire at every display case, glass rained everywhere. The engaged woman screamed, her boyfriend shielded her with his body under a table. The old watch shopper lay face down on the carpet, his hands trembling above his white hair. The red-faced man came around the counter, pressed the muzzle of a handgun to Vanessa’s head while shoving a canvass bag in her face.
“Fill this with everything from the displays now,” he said, then turned his gun on the manager, thrusting a bag at him. “I know your vault’s open. I know what you have. And I want all your videotapes. Let’s go!” They disappeared into the back.
In front Vanessa hurried from display to display, her fingers bleeding as she swept rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, watches, into the bag.
In seconds the manager returned, hands above his head. The wheelchair man was behind him, pressing his gun to the manager’s neck, clutching the canvas bag laden from the vault and security tapes. One of the grenades was missing from his vest.
“Please don’t hurt anyone,” the manager said. “You have what you want. Just go.” The gun’s grip thudded into his lower neck, dropping him to the floor. Vanessa cried out as everyone’s attention was jerked to the front.
Outside, a loudspeaker had sounded the word, `Police’.
The red-faced man hurried from the manager to the side of the entrance window, cursing at what he saw down the street.
“What is it!” said the shooter, darting to the window, eyeballing the problem. “Dammit!” He tightened his grip on his automatic rifle, scanned the customers and staff, assessing their situation. “What the hell are we going to do? How do we get out of this!”
The red-faced man went to Vanessa, seizing the bag from her. “You’re done. Get on the floor.”
He then squatted to appraise the female customer near counter. In her thirties, well-dressed, nice figure, brown hair. Flawless skin that smelled real good as he leaned into her face to push his gun against her head.
“Did you drive here, lady?”
“Is your car near?”
She hesitated, blinking at the black lenses that hid his eyes. The muzzle drilled hard into her skull.
“Please don’t hurt me.”
“Do you want to live?”
“Is your car near?”
The woman felt herself being hoisted to her feet, felt the gun jabbing into her back, rushing her to the door where the man opened the wheelchair then forced her into it as she pleaded in vain. At gunpoint, he ordered her to produce her keys from her purse, then her driver’s license, registration and insurance information identifying her car, the make, model, year, color, plate number. He snatched her wallet, surprised as he fanned her cash. More than he expected. He flipped through personal items, credit cards, bank cards, pausing at the color snapshot of a boy. He looked about ten or twelve, brown hair like hers.
“This your kid?”
Tears came. She squeezed her eyes shut, nodding.
“Where’s your car parked?”
“Where?” He thrust his gun against her neck.
“To the left at the end of the block. This side of the street.”
He drew his face within inches of hers. She stared into his dark glasses, seeing nothing in the blackness but the reflection of her fear.
“Make a sound and I’ll go to your home and kill your kid. Understand?”
He threw a blanket across her lap, the bags under the seat, then handcuffed her wrists to the armrests.
Feeling the metal clamping hard against her skin, her mind reeled. Did she kiss her son this morning? Her husband? Tell them how much she loved them? She saw their faces. Heard their voices. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She couldn’t move her hands to brush them. This isn’t happening. It’s not real, I’m dreaming. Wake me. God please wake me now.
The shooter’s head shook, his blond curls jiggling. “This is all messed up, man. Don’t be a fool. We’re not taking her.”
The handgun flew into his face, scraping his make-up caked chin. “You’re with me. Or you’re dead. Right here. Right now. That clear?”
“Okay, okay, it’s cool. It’s your party.”
The red-faced man whirled, plucking the remaining grenade from his vest, holding it up. “Just like the one I left at the back.” He affixed a magnet and tripwire mechanism to it at the front door’s inside handle. “The trip retractor sets automatically when I close this door. Open it from either side, it detonates, killing anyone within twenty-five feet.”
The heist took less than three minutes. The victims remained inside the jewelry store. Glass tinkled in the aftermath. Vanessa wept softly. The old watch shopper’s hands were still trembling above his white hair. The manager’s mind blurred with worry for his customers. Grenades on the doors. Lord help us. They took that lady. She was just buying her husband a special anniversary gift, now she was a hostage. Oh god please help her. Struggling to make sense of it all the manager heard the engaged woman murmuring to her fiancÚ under the ruins of a display case, her words growing audible.
“Our Father, who art in heaven -”
They all flinched at the sudden pop of gunfire coming from the street.