Excerpt from Checkmate by Jean Hackensmith

Caryn’s gaze strayed to a small, unmarked cardboard box that sat in the recessed console area between the two bucket seats. “What’s in the box?”

“Nothing,” he returned vaguely. “Just something I picked up.”

A mischievous smile curved her lips. “Is it for me?”

He shook his head. “No, it is definitely not for you.”

Her brow furrowed. “What is it?” she repeated.

He sighed. “Promise you won’t freak out?”

“Why would I freak out?”

“Because it’s a gun.”

Caryn’s eyes widened in horror. “A gun! Zach, are you crazy!”

“No, Dan is crazy, Caryn. He knows where we live now, and I’m not going to take any chances.”

“Where—” she swallowed convulsively “—did you get it?”

“From a gun store, where do you think? The damn thing holds fifteen rounds.” He looked at her again. “Even I couldn’t miss my target with that many bullets, and I’ve never fired a gun.”


“Nope. My dad was never into hunting, so I’m not either.”

“Do you know how to use it?” she asked softly.

He nodded. “The basics, anyway; the salesman showed me how to load it and stuff. Brian’s going to come out this weekend and we’re going to go out to a firing range and practice.” He sent another glance in her direction and added pointedly, “All of us.”

Her eyes almost popped out of her head this time. “You want me to learn how to shoot that thing, too!”

“I want you to be able to defend yourself if the need ever arises, Caryn.”


Zach glanced in the rearview mirror just as a rusted Ford F150 pulled onto Hynds Boulevard off of Cattle Drive and barreled toward them. He let up on the accelerator to make it easier for the speed demon to pass. “Look, don’t argue with me, okay? You don’t have to like owning a gun anymore than I do, but—what in the hell is this guy doing?”

“Who?” The question bounced from Caryn’s lips when the SUV was rammed from behind.

Mika jumped up from her prone position on the back seat and began to bark wildly.

“Zach, what in the world—!”

“Hold on!” He floored the gas pedal and shifted the manual five-speed transmission down one more gear. The eight cylinder engine roared to life. The truck behind them did the same and, once again, a rear impact sent them flying back against the seat, then lunging forward again. Only their seatbelts kept them from hitting the dash. Mika wasn’t so lucky. The dog landed on the rear floorboards with a thump and a yelp.

“Mika!” Caryn cried. She started to undo the restraining harness so she could turn and check on the dog, but Zach’s next barked order halted her.

“Don’t undo your seatbelt! Grab the radio! Call dispatch!”

“Is it Dan?” Caryn cried.

“I don’t know. Just grab the damned radio!”

Caryn snatched the microphone from the dash. “How do I work it!”

“Just press the button—watch out! He’s going to ram us again!”

The words were barely out of Zach’s mouth before the other vehicle smashed into the rear side panel of the SUV. The collision was enough to make Caryn lose her grip on the mic. She scrambled to retrieve it from the floor of the vehicle.

“Tell them where we are and that we need the police!” Zach yelled as he swung the wheel to the right in an attempt to avoid another clash with the truck.

Caryn pressed the button and screamed into the microphone. “This is Caryn Deaver. I’m with Chief Riker. Someone’s trying to run us off the road! We’re on Hynds Boulevard—28th Street! We need the police…!”

“Get the gun, Caryn!”


“Get the damned gun! The clip is already loaded. All you have to do it slide it into the hand grip.”


“Just do it and give me the damned thing!”

Caryn dropped the microphone and scrambled to pull the box out of the console. She laid it on her lap and opened it just as a particularly fierce impact jarred the vehicle. Caryn’s head bounced to the left, then was flung right again. It bashed against the window, the box hit the floor, and she slumped in the seat. The Beretta, and the full clip, tumbled out onto the floorboards.


About Nyx

Podcaster, baker, zine reviewer and maker.

Posted on September 1, 2008, in Book Excerpt. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Excerpt from Checkmate by Jean Hackensmith.

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