The voice of reason

“I don’t think so, no,” Grace said thoughtfully.

The gun in the hand of the man in front of her looked huge, but it couldn’t be as big as all that. It definitely wasn’t one of the long machine gun sorts of weapons that could fire bullet after bullet after bullet.

All of which would tear through her skin, rip apart her flesh, and leave her bleeding and dying, gibbered a tiny voice in the back of her brain.

But it’s not that kind of gun, she told the little voice firmly, keeping her knees stiff. It’s just a revolver. Six bullets, maybe.

And they’d hurt, too! The indignant voice retorted.

Shut up, she told herself.

“What?” The guy with the gun growled. He gestured with the gun again. “You heard me. Get in the car.”

Grace shook her head, letting her voice sound regretful when she repeated, “No.” If she didn’t need to hold her knees stiff to keep them from shaking, she might try running, but she didn’t imagine she’d get very far. And she didn’t want him to get his hands on her. Right now he was holding the gun, so his hands were busy, but he was a big guy, outweighing her by at least a hundred pounds.

Sixty or seventy, the little voice retorted. You’re not that skinny.

Not the point, she told herself. Bigger than me, perfectly capable of forcing me into the car if he grabs me. She took a tentative step backwards.

Her shoes were great. She loved them. Peek-a-boo pumps, black, with the tiniest, white with black polka-dots bow over the open toe. And, unfortunately, three-inch stiletto heels. They’d make a decent weapon if she slipped out of them and could bash him over the head with them, but for running, they were disastrous.

“Get in the car!” he ordered again, his voice growing louder.

She spread her hands, then brought them together, palm-to-palm. “Statistically speaking, once I get in that car, I’m dead. The odds aren’t good for me. So no, not getting in the car.” She took another furtive step away from him.

“We’re not going to kill you. The boss just wants to talk to you.”

She didn’t like the way he lifted the gun. He’d been holding it low, down by his waist, maybe to keep it hidden from anyone else in the parking lot, but now he raised it so that it was aimed at her chest. A bullet through her chest would hurt. A lot. She’d seen how much pain her sister had been in from the bullet that went through her chest a few months ago.

“Great, he can call and make an appointment. I’ll tell my assistant to schedule it promptly. What’s his name?”

She needed to get out of her shoes. Scooping them up and throwing them at him wasn’t going to work.

And it’s not exactly a rocket scientist idea to throw things at the guy holding a gun, dummy, the voice inside her head scolded. It might go off accidentally and you’d be just as dead as if he did it on purpose.

But she’d be able to run if she weren’t wearing her shoes, she continued the thought, ignoring her inner critic.

Outrun a bullet? Not likely! scoffed the voice.

She didn’t need to outrun a bullet, she told herself patiently. She just needed to get far enough away while he was deciding whether to shoot that his aim would be off if and when he finally made his decision.

“I’m not going to say this again. Get in the car or I will kill you.”

“Not going to schedule an appointment? Too bad,” Grace replied. The left shoe was looser. Her left foot was a little smaller. She stood up on her tiptoes, putting all her weight on the balls of her feet. If her heel would just slip out, she could kick the shoe off.

“The boss doesn’t do appointments.”

“Well, that’s fine,” she said soothingly.

No kicking, her inner critic said. No fast moves. Don’t startle the guy who’s going to kill us.

Good point, she told herself. Instead of kicking, she gently lifted her foot out of the shoe, keeping her eyes locked on the eyes of the man facing her and her posture absolutely straight. His eyes weren’t bad, a sort of pretty amber brown, but they held frustrated annoyance.

“But I don’t do car rides with strangers,” she continued. “Even strangers with guns.” She let her eyes flicker over his shoulder. When he gave a quick glance in that direction, she dropped to the flat of her bare foot and lifted the other foot.

He’s going to notice that, her inner critic told her.

Shut up, she told herself.

When his eyes returned to her, they narrowed. “Last chance.”

“Look,” she said quickly, spreading her hands again. “Worst-case scenario for me, I get in the car. Worst-case scenario for you, you have to kill me here.” She gestured to the chainlink fence around the parking lot, then pointed to the security cameras on the distant building. “This place has cameras. You will totally get caught. You’ll go to prison and for what? Nothing.”

The second shoe was not slipping off. One foot was bare, but the other felt trapped in the stiletto’s tight heel.

“Worst-case scenario for me, I don’t do the job I was hired to do.” His voice was grim.

Grace gave him a placating smile. “I bet your boss doesn’t pay you enough.”

“Lady, don’t even go there.” His eye roll was subtle but in the second that his gaze was off her, Grace took another step away from him. “Cut that out,” he snapped when he noticed. He poked the gun at her, a sharp, jabbing movement. “Get in the car.”

Now, her inner critic told her. Now!

Grace ducked, grabbed the one shoe that she’d freed, threw it at him and ran, not away from him but straight toward him. Toward him and past him and beyond him, one foot bare on the ground, feeling the hard asphalt and bite of pebbles digging into her skin, the other still encased in her high heel shoe.

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