Hazard ran. His left arm flopped painfully at his side, phone in his fingers, and his right hand held the .38. He tried to dial, but those fingers were slow and less responsive, and even when Somers’s name came on the screen, the signal was too weak, and the call wouldn’t go through. Swearing, Hazard dove into the darkness. That was what it was like: diving. He would reach the edge of the light, granular, sabulous, like land meeting water, and then he was beyond it, in the darkness, his legs churning to carry him towards that next buoy of light.
Where would the cops drop their guard? Where would they feel a renewed spurt of energy and determination? At the end of the building. At the exit. Where the shooter would linger just long enough to be spotted.
Somers was faster than Hazard.
At the end of the corridor, Hazard was running too fast. He tried to slide into the turn, taking the corner as fast as he could, but he was moving too damn fast. He didn’t fall, and his brain whispered a brief thank you to fate, but he crashed into the far wall, his full weight pinning his bad arm against the drywall. Pain went up like a signal flare. Gasping, Hazard pushed himself off the wall and down the hall.
He could see the exit ahead. The door was propped open, and silver daylight framed the opening. In front of that illuminated backdrop, a silhouette moved, fumbling with the door. That was part of the act; an unspoken justification, in case the cops wondered how they’d been lucky enough to catch up with the shooter. Here was the answer, being pantomimed for them: the idiot got stuck at the door.
Only he wasn’t stuck. He was stalling. And as he caught sight of Hazard, he pushed the door open.
Another figure came around the corner at the far end of the hall. He was running. He was moving at full speed. He had the perfect, loping grace that Hazard would recognize anywhere. He had memorized every inch of this man, pieced him together in his mind a thousand times, ten thousand times, over the last twenty years.
“Somers,” Hazard screamed, barely recognizing his own voice. “Stop!”
After that, everything happened at once. A muzzle flashed. The light painted Somers in a hundred different shades of red. It picked out every detail, splashing light and shadow, highlighting the perfect lines of his face, the confusion, the surprise, and underneath it all, etching itself into the skin, fear. A boom echoed down the corridor. Somers tumbled over sideways.
Then the shooter shoved open the emergency exit door, and summer light flooded into the Haverford’s fetid darkness, and Hazard could pick out the gleam of that sunlight on the tension wire running six inches in front of his own shin.
Hazard cleared the wire. Ten yards to Somers. Eight.
Somers smiling at him in the park.
Somers swinging Evie and laughing.
Somers naked on the bed, one hand tracing the dark calligraphy across his chest, and wearing that damn smirk he always wore when he knew he was about to get what he wanted.
Three yards. Three.
And then, to Hazard’s surprise, he heard Somers voice. “Go get him. Go get him, Ree. I’m fine. Go after him.”
Again, intuition and instinct took over when emotion fried the rational centers of Hazard’s brain. He swerved towards the exit door, caught it on his bad shoulder, and howled. He didn’t care about the noise at this point. All he cared about was catching this bastard.
The shooter was twenty yards ahead, sprinting full speed down the alley behind the Haverford. In full daylight, seen directly instead of at a distance through a windshield, the man looked different than what Hazard had expected. In spite of the heat, he wore a balaclava, gloves and long-sleeved pants and a shirt. Hazard had already seen in him all that gear, but still, something was different. The difference wasn’t anything Hazard could put his finger on, but he was suddenly less certain about his earlier guess. Was the man older? Younger? Was he not even a man at all? The eyes—from this distance, Hazard could make them out more clearly. Electric green. Like cat eyes.
Hazard put on speed. A fresh wave of adrenaline burned through him, incinerating every thought, and the last one, the one that floated up like a cinder caught on a draft of emotion, was simply: Somers is all right. And then Hazard was moving like a truck.
He hit the shooter at full speed. Hazard meant it to be a tackle, but his bad arm refused to respond, and when they hit the ground, the shooter rolled free instead of staying trapped by Hazard’s mass. Hazard scrambled after the man. He caught an ankle, dragging the shooter back, and the shooter’s other foot shot out and caught Hazard in the chin. Hazard’s head snapped back. Black stars spun in his vision.
But he hadn’t let go, and he hauled on the ankle again. A second kick connected with his head, but this time, Hazard had been expecting it, and he turned so that the blow glanced along the contour of his skull instead of meeting straight on. With as much strength as he could muster, Hazard hauled, and the shooter skidded three feet back over the gravel. Hazard reared back, trying to get enough weight on the bastard to pin him until Somers got there.
This time, though, the shooter reared back and twisted into a punch. Hazard took it as best he could, ducking, but it landed solidly above his ear, and Hazard saw those black stars again. Could feel them, even, prickly against his face. He took another punch, and the third one he managed to knock aside, batting it out of the air like he was Babe fucking Ruth. He just had to hold on. Twenty seconds. Thirty. Somers would be here. Somers was coming.
The next punch was strange; even addled by the blows to the head, Hazard knew something was wrong because the shooter telegraphed the punch loud and clear, and it was obvious that he had changed his target. Instead of throwing another fist or elbow at Hazard’s head, the shooter was aiming down.
At his arm, Hazard realized a moment too late. At his bad arm. The punch was clear as newsprint. If he’d been thinking clearly, if he’d had even an extra second, Hazard could have avoided it. But he was rattled from the earlier blows, and waves of adrenaline battered him, and he hated that arm, that was the bottom of it, he hated that fucking arm because it was useless, and so he didn’t think about it.
The punch landed perfectly, right where a long, jagged cut was still healing, and Hazard’s world went white.
CRIMINAL PAST Blurb:
It all starts to go wrong at the shooting gallery. Emery Hazard and his boyfriend, John-Henry Somerset, just want to enjoy the day at the Dore County Independence Fair. At the shooting gallery, though, Hazard comes face to face with one of his old bullies: Mikey Grames. Even as a drugged-out wreck, Mikey is a reminder of all the ugliness in Hazard’s past. Worse, Mikey seems to know something Hazard doesn’t—something about the fresh tension brewing in town.
When the Chief of Police interrupts Hazard’s day at the fair, she has a strange request. She doesn’t want Hazard and Somers to solve a murder. She wants them to prevent one. The future victim? Mayor Sherman Newton—a man who has tried to have Hazard and Somers killed at least once.
Hazard and Somers try to work out the motive of the man threatening Newton, and the trail leads them into a conspiracy of corrupt law enforcement, white supremacists, and local politicians. As Hazard and Somers dig into the case, their search takes them into the past, where secrets have lain buried for twenty years.
Determined to get to the truth, Hazard finds himself racing for answers, but he discovers that sometimes the past isn’t buried very deep. Sometimes, it isn’t dead. Sometimes, it isn’t even past. And almost always, it’s better left alone.
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