Today I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Deep Dirty Truth, the third book in the Lori Anderson series. I’ve got an extract to share today so read on and enjoy!
A price on her head, and just 48 hours to expose the truth, and save her family…
Single-mother bounty hunter Lori Anderson has finally got her family back together, but her new-found happiness is shattered when she’s snatched by the Miami Mob, who they want her dead. But rather than a bullet, they offer her a job: find the Mob’s ‘numbers man’ – Carlton North – who’s in protective custody after being forced to turn federal witness against them. If Lori succeeds, they’ll wipe the slate clean and the price on her head – and those of her family – will be removed. If she fails, they die.
With only 48 hours before North is due to appear in court, Lori sets across Florida, racing against the clock to find him, and save her family…
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19th, 12:54
We take a right turn off the highway. The wheels judder across the uneven track. The muffler rattles louder. I wince as my ribs bash against the van floor. The men up front are talking in low voices. I figure we’ve reached our destination.
Minutes later we brake to a halt. Doors open. Heat floods the vehicle. There’s shouting, new voices, then I feel hands grip my ankles and I’m yanked across the floor of the van and dumped onto the dirt outside.
They cut the hogtie but keep my wrists and ankles bound. As they haul me to my feet I feel sensation start to return to my limbs. Pins and needles stab at my muscles, waking the nerves that went numb hours ago. My mouth’s as parched as a storm drain in the dry season. I could really use a drink.
Doesn’t happen. My captors keep me gagged and hooded. Powerless. Disoriented. That tells me that they’re still being careful, not taking chances. The hood blinds me to my surroundings, and if I can’t see where I am, I can’t figure out the best escape route.
‘Barn two,’ a man says. His accent has a hint of New York about it. I search my memory, but I come up empty. ‘Get yourselves to the house when it’s done.’
I inhale sharply. When it’s done – what does that mean? The hands grasping my arms lift me off my feet and drag me across the dirt. I want to fight back, but that’s not the smart play here. I have to conserve my energy, pick my moment real careful. So I go limp, make them work harder at moving me. Tell myself to bide my time and hope to hell I have time to bide.
The guy on my right mutters under his breath about me being heavier than I look, and the one on my left grunts in agreement. Even through the hood I can smell his cheap cologne; it’s vinegary and applied overzealously. The scent of a low-rank foot soldier aspiring towards a style they know nothing about.
They continue dragging me across the dirt. I hear the distant clank of machinery. The sun’s high and hot. This morning, in my hurry to get Dakota to class, I forgot to put on sun- screen, and now the rays burn my skin. The air is still, no hint of a breeze. I figure it must be near on lunchtime, and I wonder if JT is worried yet.
‘Here?’ the cologne-wearer says. ‘Yeah.’ I smell them before I hear them. Way stronger than the cologne, and a whole lot nastier. Then I hear the stampede of cloven feet across baked earth, and the grunts and snuffles getting louder.
Pigs. I tense. Dig my heels into the dirt and swallow hard. If they toss me into the pigpen I’m a goner for sure. Hooded, with my arms and legs bound, I’ll stand no kind of chance against a herd of hungry swine, and, from the noise they’re making, they sure sound hungry.
The guy to my right laughs and jabs me in the ribs with his elbow. ‘You can smell ’em then, our little pets?’
I try to get my heart rate under control and think logically. It makes no sense to snatch me and drive all those hours just to feed me to these beasts. If they wanted to get me dead right off the bat then a bullet in the head would’ve done the job real nice. They’re messing with me, but I don’t think they’re going to kill me, not at this moment anyways. So I force my body to relax, release my heels from the dirt and wait to see what happens.
We keep going, past the pigs and a few hundred yards further. Moments later, even through the material of the hood, I can tell from the change in light that we’ve passed from sunshine to shade. The stench of the pigs is replaced with sweet meadow hay. I figure we’re inside barn two.
Seventeen steps later the men spin me around and push me back- wards against a pillar. The wood is rough and splinters rub raw against my skin. Cologne guy holds me upright, as close to the pillar as he can make me, while the other one ties me. They use rope this time. I feel him loop it tight, around my neck, my waist and my legs. My wrists and ankles are still bound with the tape. They leave the hood on.
The one with the growly voice slaps me on the shoulder. ‘See y’all later, blondie.’
‘If you’re lucky,’ cologne guy adds. I say nothing; the tape over my mouth is keeping me silent. I hear their footsteps retreat, and the bang of a door slamming shut. Then I’m alone.
It doesn’t take long for the discomfort to set in. My muscles ache right from the get-go and before long they’re burning from the forced immobility. My head throbs like a bitch. My mouth’s dry and I feel nauseous – a sure sign of dehydration.
They’ve tied me real snug. I feel along the rope where it’s closest to my hands, but there are no knots for me to try to loosen, and the tape around my wrists is too high for me to get a finger through. I bend my knees and try to slide down the pillar, but I’m stuck; the noose around my throat won’t shift.
I’m all out of options. All I can do is wait. Time passes. The fire in my muscles intensifies. The temperature rises and I sweat rivers, my clothes turning damp against my skin. I need the bathroom bad.
No one comes. I withdraw inwards, using memories to distance myself from the pain. I think of how my morning began, and it seems like a world, a lifetime, away: waking snuggled against JT with the light streaming in through the window; his lopsided smile as I kiss him awake; the feel of him inside me as we make love in the shower – getting clean and being dirty all at once; then later JT, Dakota and me having breakfast – bagels, juice and coffee – JT and Dakota chattering about Tropi-cana Field, me smiling at the easy way they banter with each other. The concentration on JT’s face as he tries to braid Dakota’s hair for school; the way she thanks him even though his best effort is a clumsy, half- assed job. Me laughing and telling him practice makes perfect. Him looking at me all serious with those old blues of his and telling me he’ll keep on practising; and how in that moment I knew he was talking about more than just the braids.
In the couple of months we’ve been playing house we’ve never made each other any promises. I’ve said before, a promise is just a disappointment bought on credit, but that don’t mean I’m not curious, maybe even a touch hopeful, to see how things play out. I want to give us a chance. After everything we’ve been through, we owe ourselves that.
I clench my fingers together. Grit my teeth. So, whatever else happens, there’s one thing I’m sure about. I refuse to die here.
About the author:
Steph Broadribb was born in Birmingham and grew up in Buckinghamshire. Most
of her working life has been spent between the UK and USA. As her alter ego – Crime Thriller Girl – she indulges her love of all things crime fiction by blogging at crimethrillergirl.com, where she interviews authors and reviews the latest releases. She is also a member of the crime-themed girl band The Splice Girls.
Steph is an alumni of the MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at City University
London, and she trained as a bounty hunter in California, which inspired her Lori
Anderson thrillers. She lives in Buckinghamshire surrounded by horses, cows and
chickens. Her debut thriller, Deep Down Dead, was shortlisted for the Dead Good Reader Awards in two categories, and hit number one on the UK and AU kindle charts. My Little Eye, her first novel under her pseudonym Stephanie Marland was published by Trapeze Books in April 2018.