Home > Locked Doors (Andrew Z. Thomas/Luther Kite Series #2)(14)

Locked Doors (Andrew Z. Thomas/Luther Kite Series #2)(14)
Author: Blake Crouch

My hell is worse, Beth thought, because it’s real.

Her head ached terribly in this empty darkness and she possessed no recent memory. The faces of Jenna and John David flashed in her mind and as she pictured the three of them lounging on the pier, something shattered inside of her that could not be reassembled.

She sat up suddenly, smacked her forehead into the soundproofing, and fell back onto a limp hand.

“Who’s there?” she shrieked.

Nothing answered.

She located the hand in the dark and squeezed it.

“Do you hear me?” she whispered, thinking, If that’s a corpse I’ll f**king lose it.

A half-conscious female voice mumbled, then gasped, jerked away from Beth.

“My name is Beth. Who are you?”

A voice croaked back, “Karen.” It sounded as if she spoke through clenched teeth.

“Is this hell?” Beth whispered.

“It’s the trunk of that psychopath’s car.”

Everything came rushing back in a fury of consciousness.

“Where are my children?” Beth asked.

“Your children?”

“Did he hurt them?”

“I don’t know.”

Crying now, Beth tried to shove the fear down in her craw, into that calloused niche she’d found when her husband was murdered.

He only took me. That animal did not hurt my children. Please God You did not let that happen.

Lying on their sides, facing each other in absolute darkness, the women held hands. They could each feel the exhalations of the other—warm comforting breath in their faces.

The car was in motion again and the force of inertia tossed them about in the dark at the slightest change in speed or direction. As the pavement screamed along beneath them they snuggled closer. Karen stroked Beth’s hair and wiped her wet cheeks. She wished she’d just lied and said that her children were safe.

Hours later, the car came to a stop, the engine quit, and the driver side door opened and closed.

Karen strained to listen.

Footsteps faded.

As she held Beth she concentrated on the scarcely audible sounds beyond their black cage—the distant continuous slam of car doors, the starting of engines, crying children, and the unmistakable squeak of shopping cart wheels rolling across pavement.

“We’re in a parking lot,” Karen whispered.

Three doors slammed nearby.

A voice came through: “Shannon, quit primping, you look fine.”

“She doesn’t want to disappoint Chris,” another voice taunted.

“Fuck you and f**k you.”

“Help!” Beth screamed. She jerked away from Karen’s embrace and put her lips against the foam. “Help me! PLEASE!”

“Be quiet!” Karen hissed. “He’ll kill us if we—”


Karen wrapped her arms around Beth, put her hand over the woman’s mouth, and pulled her back onto the filthy carpet.

“It’s okay, sweetie. It’s all right,” she said, Beth shaking violently in her arms. “It’s gonna be all right. But you can’t—”

The voices passed through from outside again.

“There is nothing in that trunk, Shannon. You’re crazy, come on.”

“It sounded like a dog barking. What kind of sicko leaves his dog in the trunk?”

“Who cares? Chris is waiting.”

Beth elbowed Karen in the ribs, broke free, and screamed through the soundproofing until she thought her larynx would rupture.

When fatigue finally stopped her, all was silent again save her frenzied panting and the shudder of her heart.


LUTHER dislocates a buggy from a caterpillar-like row and rolls it past the enfeebled greeter of the Rocky Mount Wal-Mart.

“How are you today, sonny?” the blue-vested old man asks him.

“Pretty f**king great.” And he is. He adores Wal-Mart.

Luther heads first to the CANDY/SNACKS aisle where he places ten bags of Lemonheads into the buggy. Tearing open one of the bags he drops three yellow balls into his mouth and begins to suck. On average he consumes two to three bags per day. The way he eats the candy is to suck off the tart lemon coating and spit out the white pit.

His teeth are rotting out of his head.

The candy is all he really came for but it occurs to him that a digital camera might be a fun way to memorialize what he’s going to do with Karen. So Luther pushes the buggy into ELECTRONICS.

Against the back wall two dozen televisions of varying size show the same muted cartoon. He is overstimulated with a din of obnoxious sound: bland sedating elevator music pours throughout the store from speakers in the ceiling; a rap song blares from a nearby display stereo; explosions, machinegun fire, and screams of suffering emanate from a videogame.

Luther stops to examine the face of the small boy who holds the controller and stares at the images of gore and violence onscreen. The boy plays the game with rapt engagement and the glaze in his eyes reflects a mix of concentration and awe.

Leaving his buggy in the CD aisle, Luther walks over to the counter. He kneels down and peers through the glass at several digital cameras.

After a moment he rises, clears his throat.

The salesclerk sits on a stool, a telephone receiver held between his shoulder and ear. According to the nametag on the blue vest his name is Daniel. Daniel is tall and thin with short bleached-blond hair and slim black sideburns.

“I’d like to see the Sony Cybershot P51.”

Daniel closes his eyes and holds up one finger.

Luther waits.

He begins to count silently.

When he reaches sixty he says again, “I’d like to see the Sony Cybershot P51.”

“Megan, could you hold on a sec?” Now holding the phone against his chest: “Sir, could you just hold your horses there for a minute?”

“I’ve already held my horses for a minute, Daniel. I’d like to see that camera right now.”

Luther feels the blood of humiliation coloring his face. Daniel brings the receiver to his ear again, steps down off the stool, and turns his back to Luther.

“Megan, I’m gonna have to call you back. I’m sorry… Yes, I do think Jack is being unreasonable, but—” Daniel laughs. “I do, yes.”

Daniel continues to talk.

Luther again counts to sixty.

Then he returns to his buggy and pushes it out of ELECTRONICS. He rolls the buggy outside without paying through the chromed brilliance of the crowded parking lot to his gray Impala. He loads his bags of candy into the backseat and climbs behind the steering wheel. From a notebook in the passenger seat he tears out a clean sheet of paper, on which he scribbles OUT OF ORDER: DO NOT ENTER! Then he takes a roll of Scotch tape from the glove compartment, crams several handfuls of Lemonheads in his pocket, and walks back into Wal-Mart.

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