Truth or Die(2)
Author:James Patterson


    “Stephen.”

    Hellerman shook Eddie’s hand and watched as he emptied the Poland Spring into the radiator. He looked pretty young, thirtyish. Good shape, too. Hellerman, as an MD and a running fanatic, tended to notice such things. Anytime he first met someone, they were immediately classified as either “fit” or “unfit.” Eddie was fit.

    “Yeah, that oughta do it,” said Eddie, rescrewing the radiator cap.

    Meanwhile, Hellerman glanced at the side of the white van. There was no logo, no marking of any kind. Eddie, nonetheless, was dressed in matching gray shorts and a tucked-in polo, much like a driver for FedEx or UPS.

    “You mentioned having a route,” said Hellerman. “Are you a delivery man, Eddie?”

    Eddie smiled again. “Something like that,” he said before slamming the hood. “But my real specialty, Dr. Hellerman, is pickups.”

    Hellerman’s toes twitched inside his Flyknit Racers. Never mind that he hadn’t told Eddie his last name. Just the way the guy delivered the line—hell, the line itself—was enough to set off every warning bell in his head.

    My real specialty is pickups? That could only mean one thing, thought Hellerman.

    He was the package.

    The sound he heard next only confirmed it. It was the van’s side door sliding open. Eddie wasn’t alone.

    Out came a guy who could’ve been Eddie’s brother, if not his clone. Same age, just as fit. The one major difference? The gun he was holding.

    “You know,” said the guy, aiming at Hellerman’s chest, “one of the first things you learn in field training is that the only habit you should have is to have no habits. You never eat lunch at the same restaurant, you don’t have a favorite park bench … and for the love of stupidity, you never jog every day at the same time along the same route. But, of course, you’re not actually a field agent, Dr. Hellerman, are you? You’re just a civilian recruit.” He motioned to the van. “Get in.”

    It took Hellerman all of one second to consider his options. There weren’t any. None, at least, that didn’t end with his taking a bullet.

    So into the windowless van he went. It was empty in the back. Save now for him. “Where are we going?” he asked.

    “That depends,” said the one with the gun. “Can you keep a secret?”

    He let go with a loud laugh that immediately became the most annoying and terrifying noise Hellerman had ever heard in his life. Even after the sliding door was closed in his face, he could still hear it loud and clear. Until.

    Pop! Pop-pop!

    It sounded like firecrackers, but Hellerman knew that wasn’t what it was. Those were definitely gunshots. Three of them.

    What the hell …?





    THREE


    THE ONE with the gun wasn’t the only one with a gun.

    Before Hellerman could even begin to figure out what had happened outside the van, Eddie opened the driver’s side door and quickly climbed behind the wheel. He slid his Beretta M9 into one of the cup holders so casually it could’ve been a grande mocha from Starbucks.

    “You’re safe now,” he said, starting the engine. “But we need to get out of here. Fast.”

    “Eddie, who are you?” asked Hellerman.

    “My name’s not Eddie,” he said, shifting into drive and punching the gas simultaneously.

    The tires screeched, kicking up gravel from the side of the road, as Hellerman frantically grabbed the back of the shotgun seat to hold on. As he watched the speedometer hit forty, then fifty, then sixty, he waited for Not Eddie to elaborate, but nothing came.

    “In that case, who was that with you?” Hellerman asked.

    “He’s the guy who was going to kill you,” Not Eddie answered. “Right after he got what he wanted.”

    “Which is what?”

    “You tell me.”

    Oddly enough, Hellerman knew exactly what Not Eddie meant. This was all about his new secret, it had to be. “Are we talking about the kid?”

    “Yes, exactly … the kid. Where is he? We need to get to him before they do.”

    The speedometer was pushing seventy now. The posted speed limit on Route 9 was thirty-five.

    “Wait a second,” said Hellerman. He was back to full-blown confused. “Who’s they?”

    “The ones who developed the serum. That’s what the kid told you about, right? That’s what he uncovered. The serum.”

    “How do you know?”

    Finally, Not Eddie was ready to explain. “I’m FBI,” he said.

    Had Hellerman actually been sitting in a seat, he would’ve fallen out of it. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “You’re telling me the FBI has an agent working undercover in the CIA?”

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