I'm now a little under four weeks until the projected release date for Kill Switch (published by Oghma Creative Media), and I thought I'd post a little teaser for my readers to worry over until the Big Day arrives. So here's a bit to whet your appetite.
In this scene, the protagonist, Chris Franzia, has just taken off on a cross-country race against time, with people who are trying to kill him hot on his trail. He has no idea why, except that it's connected with some friends he went to college with thirty years earlier -- and most of whom have been killed in the last month. Chris is on Interstate 80, about to cross from Ohio into Indiana, when he has the following strange encounter.
He saw the sign saying "Pay Toll Ahead, and slowed down and pulled into the "Cash" lane to pay his fare. Ahead of him were a pickup truck and a minivan that seemed to be packed with luggage and children.
He couldn't hide forever. It had to end at some point, most likely by his getting caught and killed. What other outcome could there be?
I’m one guy, one naïve high school teacher from Nowheresville, upstate New York, he thought, against people who are capable of creating undetectable poisons that can kill you, sneaking into your house and tampering with beer in your fridge, executing a fatal hit-and-run, and impersonating electric workers to rig your house to explode, all without getting caught. How can I hope to get away from people that powerful?
The pickup pulled through, and Chris edged his car up a few feet.
A surge of determination rose in him. He might not have a chance, but he'd sure as hell evade them for as long as he could. Even if they caught him, he'd give them a good hard run.
He certainly wasn't going to lie down and give up just because he was alone.
The minivan pulled through, and Chris moved up to the tollbooth. The toll collector was a young man who already had a deep summer tan, and whose shaggy brown hair was streaked with obviously dyed blond highlights. He looked like he couldn’t be much beyond a teenager. A college student, possibly, with a summer job working for the Turnpike Commission.
Chris handed him the ticket through the open window. The boy took it, and said, "That’ll be ten dollars, sir."
Chris handed him a ten dollar bill.
The boy said, "Would you like a receipt?"
Chris said no.
"You might want to consider not getting on the Indiana Turnpike," the boy said.
Chris stared at him for a moment, and then said, "What?"
"I said," the boy replied, in a conversational tone, "you might want to consider not getting on the Indiana Turnpike. You are going to Indiana, aren’t you?"
"Yes," Chris said. "Why?"
The boy shrugged. "Whenever you go through one of these toll booths, there’s a camera that takes a photograph of your license plate. It automatically records where your car is. So, where you are."
Chris looked at him, his eyes wide, and said, "Oh."
"Just a thought," the boy said. "There are lots of ways to cross Indiana beside the Turnpike. Might be a little slower, but I wouldn’t let that influence the decision."
"No," Chris said, and swallowed.
The boy grinned at him, showing a row of perfectly even white teeth. "Have a nice day, sir."
Chris drove forward, feeling the sweat standing out on his skin, trying to breathe steadily and return his heart rate to normal.
He got a ticket at the Eastpoint Toll Barrier at the state line, but ten miles later got off on Exit 144 toward Angola, Indiana.
The sun headed toward the horizon in front of him.
Who was that kid? And why would he tell me that? He wasn't one of Them, apparently. Or maybe he was, and was trying to divert Chris onto a different path, one where he’d be easier to find, in small towns, on small roads, in unpopulated areas, instead of the teeming bustle of the interstate.
But Chris had said he was going to go on instinct. And his instinct is: trust him. If he was one of Them, why any warnings at all? Why tell him that his license plate was being photographed, and that they could keep track of his whereabouts that way?
My friends and my enemies look exactly the same, he thought. So I have to tell them apart a different way. Think about what they say, how they act. I’m smart enough to figure this out. And I’d better be.
My life depends on it.