Read The Wrong Hostage Online

Authors: Elizabeth Lowell

The Wrong Hostage

The Wrong Hostage
Elizabeth Lowell

T
O THE
M
EN AND
W
OMEN
W
HOSE
C
ONTRIBUTIONS
TO
T
HIS
N
OVEL
A
RE, AND
W
ILL
R
EMAIN,
A
NONYMOUS

Contents

Prologue

Lane Franklin told himself that he shouldn’t freak out.

1

The phone rang four times before Judge Grace Silva pulled…

2

Grace barely reached the border by the deadline. Traffic had…

3

Joe Faroe came out the front door of Tijuana Tuck…

4

The unexpected roadblock on the toll road had cost Grace…

5

The man walking next to Hector was a younger, more…

6

“What is it that can’t wait, Grace?” Stuart Sturgis asked.

7

Dwayne Taylor reached for one of the three landline phones…

8

Grace looked at the woman who was driving her to…

9

“Covertly removing Lane from Mexico is the most dangerous of…

10

Joe Faroe was head down in the bilge of the…

11

When Faroe stepped out onto the main deck of the…

12

Faroe led the way through the hatch into the stateroom.

13

Grace just stared at Faroe. “You think somebody might be…

14

Faroe punched in three digits and hit “send.” Then he…

15

Like everything else in Grace’s life, La Jolla had changed…

16

Dwayne picked up Steele’s private hotline. “Dwayne here.”

17

Carlos Calderón knocked at Lane’s door and went in without…

18

South of the Coronado Bridge, the muggy air began to…

19

“Good morning, Grace, this is James Steele.” The speaker gave…

20

Silently Grace watched Faroe from the corner of her eye.

21

The black Chevrolet Suburban had moved from the shoulder to…

22

Grace glanced quickly at Faroe, not knowing how much to…

23

Faroe stopped in front of the small chapel whose wooden…

24

The sun was hidden behind a seething silver mass of…

25

The drive to Ensenada wasn’t long, but by the time…

26

“Grace,” Faroe said in a low voice. “Smile at me…

27

When Faroe walked out of the hotel toward the restaurant…

28

Grace slept from Ensenada to Tijuana. The sound of traffic…

29

Silence grew, strangling Grace. Numbly she watched Faroe circle her…

30

Grace lay sprawled across Faroe’s chest, listening to the faint…

31

“Well?” Steele demanded.

32

Grace watched Faroe with the kind of intensity he often…

33

Dwayne shook his head. “Not answering.”

34

Faroe watched Grace walk down the steps beside the lobby…

35

“You work for Hector Rivas Osuna?” Faroe asked calmly.

36

Faroe held Grace for fifteen minutes before the Escalade turned…

37

Hector laughed rough and loud. “
Aiee,
a ball-breaker.”

38

Faroe followed Hector through a door leading to a short…

39

Steele sat in the part of the Learjet that had…

40

In darkness, Lane stared at the whitewashed ceiling. Sweat ran…

41

The silence in the Escalade was thick enough to slice…

42

“Got him!” Dwayne said triumphantly.

43

Faroe punched the end button and drove quickly, closing in…

44

Grace pulled the nozzle out of the gas tank, racked…

45

Motionless, Faroe recalculated the odds.

46

Faroe turned toward the officer in the camouflage coveralls. “Hey…

47

“I’d rather be called the best, Your Honor,” Sturgis said…

48

Grace sat with her head against the headrest, watching cars…

49

Cigarette smoke came into Lane’s room through open windows, along…

50

Another border patrol helicopter leaped from the tarmac of Brown…

51

Stroke after stroke of lightning raked across the sky, turning…

52

“So,” Steele said, summarizing the debriefing, “in less than forty-eight…

53

Lane swiped at his eyes, telling himself it was sweat…

54

Grace and Steele sat at the motor coach’s built-in dinette.

55

Images poured into Steele’s computer, bounced from the helicopter to…

56

The guard in the visitors’ parking lot carried a pistol…

57

When Grace walked through the prison alley again, she was…

58

Faroe and Grace crossed back over the line into San…

59

The motor coach was more crowded than it had been…

60

Lane heard the new guards arrive, heard just enough of…

61

Faroe stared at the handset. It took every bit of…

62

Father Magón was dressed for the soccer field rather than…

63

As soon as Faroe disconnected with Magón, Steele said, “Ascencio…

64

Faroe slipped the safety on Grace’s gun and pulled the…

65

The helicopter darted straight into a green-brown hillside bowl, then…

66

Beltrán’s cousin of a cousin of a cousin was a…

67

Harley touched the tiny electronic bud in his ear and…

68

The helicopter came in from the north and circled the…

69

“Nice of you to give us a ride to the…

70

Agent Cook opened the door while Faroe was still a…

71

Faroe grabbed a satellite phone in one hand and gestured…

72

Lane sat in a broom closet and thought about playing…

73

Faroe and Grace went back to the main salon in…

74

Faroe, Grace, and Steele sat in the shadows beside the…

75

Grace followed Faroe through the wind and stinging grit until…

76

Carlos Calderón held his scrambled cell phone like he expected…

77

Ted Franklin was coming down off his drunk, which meant…

78

Rain came down in drenching curtains blown apart by gusts…

79

Ignoring the rain, Faroe got out of the Mercedes, opened…

80

For what seemed like an eternity, Faroe, Grace, and Franklin…

81

By the time Faroe ran across the parking lot he…

82

Faroe slogged through the strawberries and leaped the shallow ditch…

83

“I don’t like this,” Franklin said.

84

Faroe grinned despite the blood dripping down his right arm…

85

Grace stood beside the door of the warehouse bathroom and…

86

Ignoring the pain that jolted through his arm every time…

87

Hector’s shove sent Lane stumbling back into the dirt wall…

88

Grace had just finished checking that Franklin was still hidden…

89

Lane looked at the sign on the heavy wooden door…

N
ORTH OF
E
NSENADA,
M
EXICO
A
UGUST
S
ATURDAY MORNING

PROLOGUE

L
ANE
F
RANKLIN TOLD HIMSELF
that he shouldn’t freak out.

Most fifteen-year-olds would be high-fiving all over the place if they got to spend the summer in Ensenada. Beaches, bims, beer. Life didn’t get any better.

Not that All Saints School was exactly in Ensenada’s fast lane. Despite the sultry summer heat, no girls wearing butt-floss bikinis were shaking it on the school’s beautiful, very private beach. But his cottage was first class and the soccer field was awesome, and with the window open he could hear the surf that broke on the western edge of the campus.

With its scattered four-bedroom cottages, apartments for teachers, dorms for less wealthy students, and a small library/recreation center, All Saints looked like a high-end resort.

It wasn’t.

It was a church school where spoiled kids learned how to take orders, how to sit up straight, how to study, and how to be respectful.

Booorrrring.

I had it coming. What I did was a crime
.

Even if it didn’t seem like it at the time.

Just a little finger time with his nifty new computer and his F’s turned into B’s in the school’s central computer. Too bad he got caught, and way
too bad that his father suddenly decided he’d hang around long enough to see Lane registered in a more structured international boarding school.

At least they hadn’t caught him when he’d hacked into a military computer, or that bank, and five or six other sacred cows. Once he got inside, he hadn’t done anything except enjoy getting away with it.

Then he’d had the bright idea of changing his grades so his mother wouldn’t be upset at a row of D’s and F’s.

Everything’s okay
.

I’ve done six months. I can do two more
.

So what if his roommates had all moved out three weeks ago. He liked the silence and he didn’t have to hide his computer.

So what if the school had enrolled some thugs to play soccer a few weeks ago. So what if the guys looked more like twenty-six than sixteen. So what if they targeted him every time he was on the field. He was quicker and a whole lot smarter than they were.

Lane looked at his watch. Soccer practice would begin in a few hours. Until then he’d do homework. Afterward he’d play games on the computer his mother had smuggled past the school’s tight-assed headmaster a few weeks ago.

He still didn’t know why they said he couldn’t have access to a computer. He hadn’t done anything wrong, but suddenly he didn’t have phone privileges and couldn’t use the library computer. All he could do was write letters.

Like snail mail isn’t really lame
.

At least Lane didn’t have to worry about anyone discovering the forbidden computer. Each student cleaned his own quarters and his own clothes and some even did dishes for the whole school.

It would have been awesome to have an Internet connection, but short of breaking into the school offices…

Don’t even think about it
.

Don’t give Dad another chance to push Mom into keeping me here. I haven’t had a single black mark in four months
.

After his roommates left, he didn’t have friends to talk to, but that was okay. He was used to being alone. When he’d first come to All Saints, the only Spanish he’d known had gotten him black marks for saying it aloud.
Some of the kids spoke English, some spoke Chinese or Japanese or French, but most spoke Spanish with various geographical accents he was beginning to be able to separate. He’d always been good with languages, but they bored him.

Now that he had a good reason to learn one, he was a whole lot more fluent than anyone guessed. But none of what he overheard made him feel better.

The last three weeks had really sucked. His telephone didn’t work. When he asked for someone to fix it, nothing happened. When he asked one of his teachers if he could use hers to call home, she backed away like he’d suggested sex on the desk.

That was the day the two badasses swaggered onto the soccer field and stared at him, silently telling him that he was number one on their hit list.

Something had happened three weeks ago.

Lane didn’t know what it was, he didn’t know what had caused it. All he knew was that he’d gone from being a student to something else.

Something that felt like a prisoner.

So what? I’ve held my own with those two
pendejos
for twenty-one days. I’m nailing my classes. My room is always clean and neat. The teachers like me
.

Or they did until three weeks ago
.

When Mom comes to visit, I’ll just casually ask her if Dad has changed his mind and maybe I could come home for a week. Or a few days
.

Even one day
.

Just a few hours
.

Because once I’m across that border, I’m never coming back. I’ll live on the streets if I have to
.

Lane listened to the relentless surf and told himself that the waves weren’t whispering,
prisoner…prisoner…prisoner…

But even that hissing chant was better than remembering the voices of the two thugs as they tripped him, elbowed him, kicked him:
You’re ours,
pato.
You’re dead meat. We’re going to sneak into your room, cut off your balls, and make you eat them
.

Lane shut out the sound of the surf and the voices in his memory.

I’m not a prisoner
.

I’m not scared
.

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