Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Kill Box by Nichole Christoff

About the Book
Title: The Kill Box (A Jamie Sinclair Novel)
Author: Nichole Christoff
Genre: Thriller / Mystery
In an intense thriller that’s perfect for fans of Lee Child or Lisa Gardner, security specialist and PI Jamie Sinclair tackles a cold case that could cost her the one person who means the most to her.

Hardworking Jamie Sinclair can’t wait for the weekend. She plans to be off the clock and on the road to wine country with handsome military police officer Adam Barrett. But when a strung-out soldier takes an innocent woman hostage and forces his way into Jamie’s bedroom, everything changes. Jamie’s never seen the soldier before. But he’s no stranger to Barrett—and with one word he persuades Barrett to pack a duffel and leave Jamie in the lurch.

Jamie cannot fathom why Barrett would abandon her without explanation. But as the consequences of an unsolved crime threaten to catch up with him, a late-night phone call sends Jamie racing to Barrett’s hometown in upstate New York. In a tinderbox of shattered trust and long-buried secrets, Jamie must fight to uncover the truth about what really occurred one terrible night twenty years ago. And the secrets she discovers deep in Barrett’s past not only threaten their future together—they just might get her killed.

Marc and I turned. And there, on one of the electronic screens, was Stan Liedecker, strutting through the parking structure like he’d just won the lottery. I shoved my nerdy, square-rimmed glasses up the bridge of my nose, grabbed the handle of the ordinary leatherette briefcase Marc had had filled for me, and strode out to meet him.
Reagan National Airport is a long string of terminals, linked one to another like beads on a bracelet. Sandwich shops and newspaper stands hug the curving walls, trying to tempt travelers into spending their cash before boarding their planes. In front of an establishment called Capitol Coffee, I found Liedecker sitting at a little bistro table, sipping something steamy from a paper cup.
In a maroon sweater, worsted wool pants, and penny loafers, he was dressed like every other late-middle-aged Washington stuffed shirt on his day off. He’d brought an overnight bag with him. It rested on the chrome chair beside him. I supposed he had his toothbrush in it—and his bankbook for his offshore account, too. I could make out his round-trip ticket to the Cayman Islands protruding from the bag’s end pocket like a feather in a hat.
But I had what Stan Liedecker really wanted.
He grinned like a fat cat who’d swallowed too much cream when he caught sight of me approaching his table.
I slid into the seat across from him, stood the briefcase upright on my lap.
“I’d buy you a cup of coffee,” he said, “but I’m about to board my plane.”
“That’s all right.” I patted the side of the leatherette case. “I’ve brought you a parting gift.”
Marc had made sure the case was full of the well-worn fifty-dollar bills Liedecker had demanded. Altogether they weighed close to twenty pounds. And were worth half a million dollars.
“Payment in full,” I said, though I knew guys like Liedecker always came back for another touch. “You’ll stick to your end of the bargain?”
“Of course.” He nodded. And he smiled.
But I needed him to spell it out. I needed him to say I was buying his influence at the FDA with this money. And I needed him to admit he was willfully breaking the law so the wire I wore could transmit his confession to the authorities.
Instead, Stan Liedecker slid a little plastic baggie across the table to me. “This is for you.”
A baker’s dozen of waxy pink-and-white capsules gleamed inside the bag.
“What are they?”
“Just a recreational indulgence someone at another company cooked up.”
I didn’t touch the packet.
Liedecker chuckled. “Don’t worry. They’re on the house. I can get you more if you like. And tell your boss I’m still willing to fix his clinical trial problem. For another half mill, of course.”
Liedecker grinned at me. I wanted to slam the heel of my hand into his nose and feel the satisfying crunch of his splintered cartilage beneath my pulse, but I made nice and smiled at him in return. After all, he’d just said the words that would sound so good in front of a federal judge.
“Well,” he said, glancing at his Rolex. “Mustn’t be late.”
He rose from his seat, reached for the briefcase.
I stood and gladly offered it to him. Because the second the man’s liver-spotted hand curled around the handle, Marc would move in. He’d arrest Liedecker. The scumbag would face jail time for illegally lining his pockets. And for offering to approve untested drugs that could kill people.
But things didn’t happen that way.
A lady with a tight perm and a loose cardigan paused as she passed our table. She let out an ear-piercing squeal, dropped her orange plastic Capitol Coffee tray as if it had bitten her. Hot liquid splashed everywhere. Liedecker and I looked down to see fat drops of coffee bead on his shiny shoes. We looked up and followed the woman’s pointing finger.
Halfway across the open expanse of the terminal, Marc was on the move, closing in like a bird of prey. His helmeted agents zoomed toward us like a swarm of hornets. Their flat-black assault rifles were nocked to their shoulders—and each one aimed at Liedecker.
“Guns!” the woman shrieked.
Heads turned. Travelers screamed. Men and women ran every which way. Some cowered on the floor. Panicked parents dragged their children behind the cover of trash cans or concrete planters full of ficus—just in case bullets began to fly.
But none of this fazed Stan Liedecker.
With a snarl, he shoved the briefcase into my chest. My arms locked around it as the impact knocked me back a step. That’s when Liedecker grabbed me by the shoulders.
“You sold me out!”
I gritted my teeth, twisted up and out, and slammed the edge of the briefcase into Liedecker’s wrist. But I couldn’t break his grip. He jerked me to him, spun me around—and wedged his arm across my throat in a fierce headlock.
Marc’s eyes locked with mine. His hand dove beneath his suit coat. It came up with his service weapon.
“Stand back!” Liedecker shouted at him. “Everyone just stand back or I’ll break this woman’s neck!”
He’d do it, too. I knew he would. Especially when his groping hand plunged beneath my jacket. It closed over the transmitter clipped to my trousers. Liedecker ripped it free of its wire, threw the thing to shatter on the floor.
At my back, his body quivered with rage. And the pressure he applied to the point of my chin strained the muscles in my neck. I was certain he’d carry out his threat.
I was certain he’d snap my spine.
Marc and his agents were certain, too. They froze where they stood. But they didn’t lower their weapons.
Adrenaline shivered through me like a sickness. But so did fear. And I refused to give in to it.
I swallowed against the pressure at my throat, dredged up all the authority I could muster, and made my voice strong with it. “Think it through, Stan. You hurt me, I fall. And all those agents get a clear shot at your center mass.”
“Then you’re coming with me,” he snapped, “because I’m getting on that plane. And you’re holding my bankroll.”
He was right.
I still cradled the briefcase to my chest.
He jerked me backward, forced me to keep in step with him. We weren’t far from his gate. Or from his plane.
“You’ll never get on board,” I warned.
“Who’s going to stop me? The TSA?”
“No. I will.”
Liedecker snorted and his arm drew tighter. “That’s big talk for one of Pharmathon’s pretty little technocrats. What are you really? A federal marshal?”
“I’m mad as hell,” I lied, “so be smart and let me go.”
But Liedecker had other ideas. He shoved my chin high and hard. Pain lanced my brain box—and my fingers flicked the clasps on the top of the briefcase.
The lid of the little valise dropped open.
And all of Stan Liedecker’s glorious cash slipped from inside.
Stan gasped as an avalanche of fifty-dollar bills tumbled to his feet and streamed across the floor. Like the greedy bastard he was, he let go of me to grab them. And when he bent to rake at his money, I didn’t hesitate.
I slammed the blade of my hand into the base of his skull. Muscle and bone met the soft spot at the top of his neck. Stan Liedecker gurgled. He dropped to his knees. And when he fell face-first onto the floor, his head went thump against the hard surface—just like a rotten melon.
Of course, from where I stood, it sounded rather like justice.

Author Bio
Nichole Christoff is a writer, broadcaster, and military spouse who has worked on air and behind the scenes producing and promoting content for radio, television news, and the public relations industry across the United States and Canada.

Nic's first manuscript won the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart®. Her second won the Helen McCloy-Mystery Writers of America Scholarship. Nic has also been named as a finalist for the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense and Killer Nashville's Claymore Dagger.

Nic has sipped champagne at the birthday celebration of His Majesty, the King of Thailand, played party games at the residence of the British High Commissioner, and learned to make sushi from the chef to His Excellency, the Ambassador of Japan. When she isn't penning her latest novel, Nic teaches Creative Writing at a small, private university.

Her debut thriller, The Kill List: A Jamie Sinclair Novel, was a December 2, 2014 release from Random House's Alibi.

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