Too Far Gone: New Excerpt
By Allison Brennan
Too Far Gone is the next intense installment in Allison Brennan’s New York Times bestselling Lucy Kincaid series.
When a man who appears mentally unstable holds a group of people hostage and dies in a shootout with the FBI, Special Agent Lucy Kincaid is assigned to investigate what happened. Up until two months ago, McMahon was a respected scientist―then his wife left him, he lost his job, and was arrested for assaulting a former colleague. The one person who might have answers ― his research assistant ― has disappeared.
While Lucy is investigating this bizarre case, her husband Sean is on top of the world: his son Jesse is visiting for the summer. They are having a blast, until someone follows them. Sean is positive that the surveillance is connected to Jesse’s step-father―a man who had once laundered money for a violent drug cartel. But when Lucy and Jesse are run off the road, they begin to wonder if the attack is connected to Jesse … or Lucy’s current case.
Nothing is what it seems―not the McMahon investigation or the car accident. As Sean and Lucy dig deep into the lives of everyone involved, one thing becomes clear: If they don’t find the truth fast, everyone they care about is in danger.
Charlie McMahon sat in the corner of Java Antonio where he could see everyone who walked in. He held the cup of tea in front of him, hands shaking, hot liquid spurting out the top. He put the cup down, absently wiped his burned hand on his jacket. The one sip he’d risked made his stomach ache. Every voice, every clink of cups, every spray of steam from the espresso machine, scratched the inside of his brain until he felt as if his head would explode.
He reached into the pocket of his jacket and retrieved the nearly empty aspirin bottle. He poured four into his shaking hand. One fell to the floor. He watched it roll into the corner then stop amid the dust and dirt and an empty sugar wrapper.
The remaining three he popped into his mouth and chewed, the bitter taste making him scowl. He sipped the tea again, a larger gulp, and burned the roof of his mouth. He barely noticed the pain because his damn head wouldn’t stop pounding.
Paul was late. Two weeks ago Paul finally agreed to meet with him, but in a faraway place where there was no chance that anyone they knew would see them together. Paul refused to look Charlie in the eye, then told Charlie that he was paranoid.
“Maybe you should go on a vacation. Take a month and relax,” Paul had suggested. “Maybe you’re sick. You’re acting crazy, and you have to stop.”
Charlie knew that something was wrong with him. Physically, mentally. He knew what it was, it was on the fringe of his memory, but every damn time he tried to catch the thought it escaped. The more he chased the truth, the more his head ached and the thought, the memory, the truth faded away. Faded like he was fading.
He looked down at his hands. They seemed almost translucent. He could see them shake, but couldn’t feel them. It was as if he was disconnected from his body.
He closed his eyes, opened them. His hands were there, normal, bruised on the knuckles. A healing cut across the back of his right hand.
How did that happen?
Charlie had pushed Paul, and his friend didn’t push back. When Paul finally looked him in the eye, Charlie realized that Paul knew exactly what was wrong with him. Paul remembered what happened when Charlie couldn’t, yet he wouldn’t help him!
“What do you know, Paul? Dammit, I’m dying!”
“You’re not dying. Just … you need help. Leave San Antonio. And stop trying to remember.”
“What did I forget? You know, don’t you? Why won’t you tell me?”
He’d hit Paul. He remembered that … but that was nearly two weeks ago. Why were both of his hands bruised? And where was Paul?
Paul sent him a message late last night.
I found something. Can’t talk on the phone. I’ll meet you anywhere you want at 10:30 tomorrow morning.
Charlie picked Java Antonio because it was far from Clarke-Harrison. Far from home. Far from anyone who might know him or Paul. An anonymous coffee shop in the middle of the city. It felt safe … until now. Right now the walls were closing in on him and he couldn’t think!
Leave, Charlie. Walk away. Disappear.
Paul was late. Was he dead? Had they killed him? Or had he become one of them?
Who the fuck are they? You’ve lost your mind. No one is after you. Paul was placating you. He’s going to call the cops. Or a fucking mental institution. He didn’t believe you. The meeting is a setup. They’re going to lock you up and you’ll never know the truth.
The overwhelming sensation to run, to go far away, hit Charlie and he got up too quickly, knocking over his tea. But the lid stayed on and only a small stream of amber liquid dribbled out. He picked up the cup, stared at it.
All Charlie wanted to know was what had happened to him. Why he had a journal in his handwriting but didn’t understand what any of it said. Why he had the distinct feeling that he knew something important—something dangerous—but he couldn’t remember what. He’d studied his calendar and his phone and email and knew that whatever had happened to him had happened at work.
Maybe. Because you’re not really sure of anything, are you, Charlie?
That’s why he needed Paul. They’d worked together for eight years before Charlie was fired. Paul was the only one Charlie trusted.
He lied to you. He didn’t look you in the eye.
Charlie sat back down. He didn’t know who else to turn to, he didn’t know who he could trust. Memories scratched at him, trying to find a way to talk to him, to tell him the truth. But could he even trust them?
Every time he tried to listen, the whispers of truth disappeared in a wave of agony.
Voices drifted his way. He turned his head slowly, trying to figure out who was talking about him. Two teenage girls.
They’re not talking about you.
Why weren’t they in school?
It’s July. School’s out.
They laughed, both with their heads down looking at their phones. Something about that was familiar … was it the phone? The way the brunette girl was holding it? Something familiar …
Her face shifted, and she became someone else. She saw Charlie looking at her and quickly turned away and became a teenager again. She whispered to her friend. He’d scared her.
Charlie jumped, looked left and right. A man he’d never seen before stood in front of him. But he wasn’t looking at him. He was looking at a display. Had he spoken? Was it in Charlie’s head?
“Who are you?” he whispered.
“You need to stop asking questions, Charlie. You won’t like the answers.”
He’d spoken too loud. People glanced at him, then quickly turned away. The teenagers shifted away from him, their heads together.
Now they were talking about him. Now they sounded scared.
Charlie didn’t want to scare anyone. Especially kids. His daughter was fifteen. He hadn’t seen her in almost three months, because Lisa said he needed help. She was scared of him, that he would hurt her. Hurt the kids.
I would never hurt you, Lisa. I would never hurt the kids. I love you.
He’d tried to get help, but only felt worse. More paranoid. More … forgetful.
He wrote hundreds of pages in code and didn’t know what it meant. He’d showed Paul his journal two weeks ago and Paul knew. But he said he didn’t.
He lied to you. Why can’t you see that there is no one to trust?
“Where are your notes, Charlie?” the stranger asked him.
Charlie hadn’t seen his lips move. What if he wasn’t talking? What if Charlie was hearing things?
Again. Hearing voices again.
Everything was bright, too bright. His body and mind disconnected. Impossible.
Just a reaction to …
Charlie turned, chasing the memory. Reaction to what? What?
His head ached and the memory turned black.
This man had answers. This man knew what THE FUCK WAS GOING ON!
remember remember remember remember remember
It was so close … but he couldn’t grasp it.
Remember or you’ll be dead.
“Where’s Paul? Did you kill him?”
Silence fell around him. Was he still talking too loud? Shouting? He could barely hear himself. Everything inside was suppressed by cotton, as if he were speaking through a vacuum.
The girls got up and walked to the other side of the coffee shop. They were talking to someone behind the counter. Because of him? Had he scared them?
Forget the girls. This man has the answers you need. Make him talk!
Someone was walking toward him. Who? Who knew him?
Charlie hit his head with his palm. It hurt, but he had to remember!
Charlie looked up again. A young black kid stood there. He wore an apron. Charlie’s vision was blurry and he couldn’t make out his name tag. The kid looked nervous.
This kid is just a guy doing his job. Doing his job and you’re freaking out his customers.
“I’m sorry,” he mumbled.
“Can I help you? Would you like me to call someone for you?”
He wanted to talk to the police, but he didn’t remember what he needed to tell them. He had tried talking to his wife, but she wouldn’t let him in, wouldn’t let him see their children. He didn’t blame her. He’d yelled at her … He’d talked to Paul … Paul was supposed to be here!
Paul had answers.
They’d killed Paul.
Charlie looked at his watch.
“Are you waiting for someone?” the manager asked.
“Paul’s late,” he said. “I think he’s dead.”
The belief that Paul was dead hit him so hard he wondered if he really knew that his best friend, his former colleague, was in fact dead. Had he seen him dead? Had he … God, had he killed him?
You didn’t kill Paul. You haven’t seen him in two weeks.
But Charlie couldn’t remember where he’d been yesterday. Just flashes of images. Of alleys and hiding and a one-room apartment in the middle of nowhere.
And numbers. So many numbers and formulas …
“Sir, are you okay?”
“No!” Charlie jumped up and the table fell over. He didn’t care that the lid popped off his tea and it splattered everywhere. Several people walked briskly out of the coffee shop. Two more had their phones to their ears. What were they doing? What were they saying?
Charlie knew what he had to do. This might be the only way to figure out what was wrong with him, what he knew that he couldn’t remember, why his head felt like it was going to go off like a fucking Roman candle!
A gun was in his hand. How did it get there? He didn’t remember putting a gun—two guns?—in his jacket. Why was he wearing a jacket? It was July in San Antonio. No wonder people were looking at him strangely.
People were screaming. Several ran out of the coffee shop. No, no! This wasn’t happening.
He fired a bullet into the ceiling.
“Everyone down! You!” He grabbed the manager and held the gun to his head. “Do you have a cell phone?”
“You need to call Paul. Right now. Right the fuck now!”
He pulled the manager away from the windows. Self-preservation kicked in. He ordered one of the employees to lock the door. He held a gun on her, made her lock the door. She did.
“Down! Get down, everyone!”
People fell to the floor and froze. Someone was crying.
Stop, Charlie. Stop. This is insane.
“No else leaves until Paul gets here, understand? I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t want to hurt anyone. Okay? Okay?”
He was repeating himself. But he didn’t care. He would keep these people as long as necessary to get answers.
“Give me your cell phone,” he told the manager.
Charlie had stopped carrying a phone because he feared they—
who the fuck are they?
—were tracking him.
The manager reached into his apron and handed Charlie a phone. His hands were shaking.
“Put it on speaker. Call Paul.” Charlie recited his number by memory. He’d known Paul since college. Then eight years ago, Paul moved to San Antonio to work with Charlie. They were friends. Their wives were friends. They had barbecues and their sons were on the same baseball team. At least they had been before …
Before what? What, Charlie?
His head was about to explode.
The phone rang once.
A recording came on.
“This number is no longer in service. If you feel you’ve reached this recording in error, please check the number and try your call again.”
“You dialed wrong! Again!” Charlie repeated the number slowly.
The recording repeated.
Paul really was dead.
Copyright © 2018 Allison Brennan.