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Trade Secrets [MultiFormat]
eBook by Ray Garton

eBook Category: Suspense/Thriller
eBook Description: One rainy night, Gerry Brady discovers a beautiful woman with heartbreaking eyes hiding in his garage. The moment he sees her, he is struck by an involuntary thought he does not understand: I've found you. She is a woman in danger. He does not understand why he feels so powerfully drawn to her, but he feels compelled to help her, even though doing so puts his life and the lives of his friends in jeopardy. Gerry's relationship with Kendra draws him into a conspiracy too horrifying to believe...a conspiracy rooted in his own past. As he falls in love with a woman he doesn't know, he learns more about himself than he ever suspected. TRADE SECRETS is a riveting, emotional thriller that features the most memorable and terrifying villain Ray Garton has ever created.

eBook Publisher: E-Reads/E-Reads, Published: 1990
Fictionwise Release Date: May 2011

3 Reader Ratings:
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* * * *

The big man's hand grips her upper arm with the strength of a steel vice as he leads her down the winding path toward the long silver limousine idling in the drive.

This one is named Timmy--she knows because when he arrived earlier he introduced himself to the very irate Dr. Lawrence Thorogood who had summoned him--but he is just like all the others. Big. Very big, with broad shoulders and huge arms that firmly fill out his black leather overcoat. Also like the others, he knows exactly how to move so that, should someone see them, someone who is not supposed to know otherwise, it would seem that Timmy were escorting her to the limousine in a gentlemanly fashion, without force, without malice. It is dark, but she can see that there is no expression on his chiseled face. His blond hair is cropped short and does not blow in the cold wind that is slapping the hem of her fur coat around her legs.

The struggle that took place not forty-five minutes ago has left her with a fiery pain that shoots through her lower back with each step. She stands straight as she walks, however, just as she has been taught. Not because that or any of the other things she has been taught are important to her, but because they have been taught her for so long.

And because she is so afraid. She is desperately afraid.

Timmy opens the door of the limousine and, barely wincing at the fire that burns above her hips, she slides inside.

The sound of the door slamming is like dynamite in her ears. Solid. Final. She knows that this time, unlike before, it is among the last sounds she will ever hear.

Unless she fights.

She slips her hand into the pocket of her coat and fingers the knife she has brought with her. Her hand trembled when she took it, unseen, from a kitchen drawer earlier, before Timmy arrived. There is no trembling now, however. Her fingers are steady as they slide along the flat edge of the blade.

Timmy gets behind the wheel and puts the limo in gear. It glides around the U-shaped drive, pauses as the front gate swings open, then hums onto the dark, tree-lined road.

She can see her spectral reflection in the thick glass partition that separates her from the front seat. She is pleased to see that there is no fear in her face.

The interior of the limousine is plush and, if she were to speak, her voice would be hushed, absorbed by the leather and carpet around her. She has no intention of doing so, though. Not yet.

Before her is a telephone/intercom. To the left of that is a small television set with a drawer below that contains a compact video cassette player and a selection of movies, some of which won't be available to the public for several months. Farther to the left is another drawer, this one filled with bottles of expensive liquor and sparkling crystal glasses.

How many people, she wonders, are driven to their death in such style?

She knows that is what awaits her at the end of this trip. She is not sure how it will be done, but she knows it will be efficient and ... creative. That is how they work. Perhaps an injection of some sort. A slow killing poison.

They will not, even for a moment, consider letting her live after tonight's outburst. It was her second. It would be her last. They never let anything happen a third time.

This time there will be no warning, no second chance. They will interrogate her, find out who she's talked to and what she's told them.

Then they will kill her ... if she lets them. She does not intend to do that.

She lays her head back and closes her eyes, sucking her lips between her teeth and taking a big, deep breath. She remains that way for a long moment, then exhales slowly.

Sick, she thinks to herself. Sick, sick, sick-sick-sicksickSICK!

Without fully realizing it, she brings her hands together over her stomach, digging her fingers into the soft fur of her coat, twisting her face into a mask of slowly growing misery. She pulls her lips back over her teeth and tilts her head forward. Her body slides slowly to her right until she is leaning on the door and her breath is spreading a small cloud of mist over the thick, tinted window.

Opening her eyes for a moment, she looks at the rearview mirror and sees Timmy glancing at her sternly.

Except for the beams of the headlights before them, there is darkness all around the long whispering car.

Raindrops begin to speckle the windshield.

She forces herself to retch and slaps a palm over her mouth.

Timmy's eyes shoot into the mirror again.

Folding her arms in her lap, she leans far forward, as if cramped. She stares at her knees for several seconds, then raises a hand and knocks on the partition. Her knuckles make an underwater thunking sound.

Timmy ignores her.

She punches the intercom button with her thumb and says, in a tremulous voice, "I'm sick. I'm going ... to throw ... up. Can we ... pull over? Just for a minute?"

He looks at her in the mirror for a moment, then tosses a glance over his shoulder.

She wills her face to look drawn and pale, praying it will work.

He won't want to me to be sick in here, she hopes, not on this upholstery. He'll get into trouble.

The rain is falling harder now, hitting the car with the sound of enthusiastic applause. The wipers are sweeping over the windshield with a hypnotic rhythm.

She focuses her eyes on the amber-glowing console below the dashboard, specifically on the right blinker. It is dark. Dead. The digital clock blinks ahead a minute to eight fifty-one.

She punches the button again.

"Please ... I don't want to do it in here."

Pressing her palm to the glass, she leans forward weakly, letting her hair fall down around her face.

The limousine slows and when she lifts her head, the blinker is flashing.

She feels gravel crunch beneath the tires as Timmy pulls onto the shoulder.

The limousine stops. Timmy shifts to PARK.

The wipers make a thickly muffled thump-skree, thump-skree, thump-skree. They cannot keep up with the trip-hammer pounding of her heart as Timmy gets out of the car. He hunches his shoulders against the wind and turns his face down from the rain as he walks through the headlight beams.

There are no handles inside the door, so she has to wait for him to open it for her.

She puts her right hand over her mouth as if trying hard to hold down her gorge, at the same time slipping her left hand into her coat pocket and wrapping her fingers around the wooden handle of the knife. She clutches it as hard as she can, making it an extension of her fingers and palm, thinking, I'm going to kill him, I'm going to have to kill him!

The door clunks softly as Timmy opens it and she quickly swings her legs out, making a vomiting sound as she bends forward. She tries so hard that she almost actually throws up. Instead, she clenches her teeth, sucks air into her lungs and makes a nearly inaudible growling sound deep in her throat as she swings her arm upward with all her strength, burying the knife to the hilt in Timmy's hard, flat belly.

The sound he makes is a nonsensical sort of word, a garbled exclamation of shock and pain: "Gunnuff!" He stumbles backward clumsily, arms spread, eyes and mouth wide as he gawks at the blade sliding out of his abdomen, darkly streaked with his blood.

He drops hard into a sitting position in the wet gravel, the rain sputtering onto his coat, his fingers locked together over his stomach. As he looks down at the blood running over his hands, he slowly topples over to his right, muttering a hollow and confused "Ooohh ... " Propped up on one elbow, he turns his face to her. His mouth draws back, revealing bloodied teeth. His eyes are buried in shadow now, and deep lines are etched across his forehead. Blood bubbles between his lips.

She stands quickly and starts to hurry away, wincing at her pain.

Timmy grabs her left ankle, making a pig-like squeal of protest.

Lifting the knife smoothly, she brings it down in a wide arc and drives it in just above his shoulder blade. It enters him with a small chitch, like a trowel going into untitled soil.

He tries to speak but his words are lost in a gurgle of rising blood.

Timmy does not let go of her ankle and she falls forward over his legs. The knife is still stuck in his back.

She rolls away from him and gets up on her hands and knees, looking over to see him trying to sit up. He is slipping a convulsive hand inside his coat.

For a gun.

"No," she grunts, crawling to him, " No! Not this time!" On her knees, she grips the knife handle with both hands and pulls it out of him. She lifts it over her head and brings it down with all her weight behind it, slamming the blade into him and hissing, "Die!" As she pulls it out again, she whispers, "Bastard," then drives it in a third time.

Timmy growls wetly as he falls forward, his face in the gravel. He kicks the ground desperately as lightning turns the night corpse-white for an instant.

The rain is pouring with a vengeance now and her hair is clinging to her face in wet strings as she struggles to her feet. Her chest feels cold inside, as if it has opened up and let in an icy draft. The sound of her teeth grinding together blends in her head with the thunder that is beginning to rumble above.

"Oh, god," she breathes, feeling sick now, really sick. She watches him as she backs away, waiting for him to move.

His arm moves first, too fast for her to duck the fist-sized stone that shoots from his hand like a missile. It strikes her just above her right eyebrow with a dull crack, knocking her to the ground. Flashbulbs go off in her skull for a moment and she feels the blood trickling over her closed and swelling eye, down her cheek and into her mouth. When she sits up clumsily, her mouth hanging open loosely, her grip still tight on the knife, Timmy is pulling himself up by the limousine's open door. She crawls painfully toward him, lifts herself to her knees, straddles him and gropes for a handful of his short hair, finding barely enough to hold. Faint with pain, she pulls his head back with her left hand, her mind swimming with dizziness and frantic thoughts--

--I'll be arrested and put in prison for murder and all of this, the truth behind all of this, will be covered up, they always cover it up, and I'll be in prison but that's okay, that's okay, because prison is freedom compared to what they'll do to me, freedom!--

--and slowly, painfully reaches around his neck with her knife, not wanting to know how it will feel, knowing she will relive it again and again in her nightmares.

She jerks the blade across his throat, feeling it slice through his flesh, feeling the warm gush of his blood over her hand.

Timmy's strong body becomes stiff; his arm pushes the car door shut; his legs begin to kick as if swimming and he thrashes back and forth, desperately trying to scream, but only able to gurgle, drowning in his own blood.

He won't live now, she thinks, crying. He can't

She stumbles away from him, dropping the bloody knife back into her coat pocket and looking around her.

The road is barren and disappears into the rainy darkness in both directions. But worse than the road is what borders it: black dense woods.

Her fists bunch at her sides and she groans. The taste of fear is on her tongue, trickling down her throat like the trail left by a bitter pill. The thundering storm in her skull competes with the one in the sky.

"Oh, Jesus god," she rasps, limping to the road until she feels the hard pavement beneath her feet. Then she begins to walk, then run for a few moments, then walk, until the road curves and she can no longer see the limousine's lights.

She doesn't know how long she has been running and walking when she hears the car coming. Its tires are hissing over the wet road, getting louder and louder behind her. She spins around and begins walking backward, waving her arms before the car has even come around the bend in the road. Pain explodes in her head like fireworks.

Its square headlights are on high beam.

And there's light inside the cab, as if a door is open.

She sees that the passenger door in front is indeed open and swinging back and forth as the car speeds closer to her. The face beneath the glowing dome light is grinning through dark, glistening smears of blood, grinning twice, actually -- just below the nose, and another, long and curved, black and jagged, just below the chin.

He is pale and has pain burning in his eyes. But Timmy is not dead.

She throws herself out of the road, swinging her arms up around her head protectively, rolling over the gravel.

The tires hiss and squeal over the road, then into the gravel, then the horn begins to wail an instant before the long silver limousine slams with an electric blue flash and KUH-WHUMP into two thick-trunked trees.

Before she lifts her head to look at the damage, she hears, then feels, the flames. Smoke like dirty floating cotton rises over the torn metal and broken glass and bleeding, burning flesh.

She laughs. It comes without warning. It is a laugh of relief and joy.

She is still laughing and sobbing and gasping as she runs on down the dark, deserted road....

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