Cherry Bomb

Cherry Bomb by J. A. Konrath

Book: Cherry Bomb by J. A. Konrath Read Free Book Online
Authors: J. A. Konrath
only one of the reasons why. Alex raises it, heavy with six D batteries, and brings it down on Officer Stark’s leg. Not hard enough to break it—that would cause a delay—but hard enough to hurt like hell.
    This produces a sound somewhere between a whimper and a howl. Alex repeats the question.
    “Val…Val Stark. Car Five Victor Seven.”
    “Good. Now on your hands and knees. Back to your ride.”
    Alex follows while hunched over, keeping out of sight of the occasional passing car. She helps Officer Stark into the backseat.
    “Be right back, cutie.”
    Alex winks and slams the door. Then she gathers up the items from the back of the Honda and transfers them into the passenger seat of the cop car, save for a fist-sized chunk of PENO, a pyrotechnic blasting cap, and four feet of pink thermalite fuse. She pushes in the Honda’s cigarette lighter, then spends a few dirty minutes crawling under the chassis. Alex hums as she works, sticking the PENO to the gas tank, and the combined fuse and cap into the plastic. The road, and the undercarriage, are still damp from the earlier rain, but the explosive sticks like peanut butter.
    Boom time.
    Alex pops out the lighter, admiring the orange glow. She hesitates, savoring the moment, letting some anticipation build.
    The fuse ignites, hissing and sparking and making Alex feel like she’s ten years old again, behind Father’s barn with Charles, lighting cherry bombs and blowing up tin cans.
    Four feet of pink thermalite equals eighty seconds. Alex pockets the lighter and strolls to the police car, no hurry, and climbs into the driver’s seat. Officer Stark has left her keys in the ignition, the car still running. The car computer—a laptop—is attached to the armrest, its white screen blinking. Alex shifts into reverse and backs up along the shoulder until she’s a good hundred feet away from the Honda. Then she chews her lower lip and watches, eyes wide. Waits for it…waits for it…
    Eighty seconds pass.
    Nothing happens.
    The radio squawks, making her jump.
    “Five Victor Seven, status on the 10-73. Over.”
    Alex locates the handset, picks it up.
    “This is Five Victor Seven.” Alex’s pitches her voice higher, to match Officer Stark’s. “Standby, Central.”
    “Ten-four, Five Victor Seven.”
    Still no explosion. Alex wonders if the wet road snuffed out the fuse. Or if she grabbed an electric blasting cap by mistake. There could be a dozen reasons why it didn’t go off, but going out and checking doesn’t seem like the brightest of ideas.
    “Check under the can, Alex. See if it’s lit.”
    “You check, Charles. I don’t have to know that bad.”
    But in this case, Alex has to know. Her prints are all over that car, and a quick peek at Officer Stark’s computer shows it has been reported stolen. If the Honda doesn’t explode, it will give Jack an unfair jump on Alex’s location, and let the lieutenant know she has plastic explosives. Not to mention alert the local cops that an escaped serial killer is prowling the area.
    Alex speaks into the radio, reading the call number off the screen.
    “Central, this is Five Victor Seven. Negative on that 10-73. It was the own er, spent a few days out of town, forgot to call home, over. I’m giving her a warning. Over.”
    “Roger that, Five Victor Seven.”
    Alex turns around, faces the cop in the backseat.
    “Officer Stark, I need you to check to see why my car hasn’t blown up.”
    Officer Stark doesn’t move, and her face reveals she isn’t pleased with the idea.
    “Chances are pretty good that it went out,” Alex says, soothing. “I don’t think it’s going to blow up in your face.”
    “Then you go check.”
    “I have the gun, so I don’t have to. Now, are you going to help a civilian out, or do I have to put two in your knees?”
    “You’re making it worse for yourself. You need to stop before this goes too far.”
    Alex considers this woman. She’s tall enough, but the eyes are

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