She had nothing more to lose.

More chapters from ToxiCity

A VG Serial: ToxiCity

Episode 96

A powerfully built young man in jeans and fatigue jacket appeared from the bedroom. A police riot gun was slung across his shoulder. It looked like a twelve gauge, maybe a Remington. Probably held about four rounds. He trained it on Stone. Stone walked to Ricki, aware that two guns were dogging him. He felt for a pulse, found it. Placing his hands on her belly, he started a makeshift physical exam. Champlain stopped him.

“That’s enough. Back off.” She gestured to Dusty, who fished out a vial of what looked like clear fluid from a backpack on the floor. Dusty pulled out a syringe. They were going to shoot her up.

Stone had to do something. He watched as Dusty plunged the cannula into the vial with his thumb and drew back. The syringe filled with fluid. Then he noticed something. Dusty wasn’t wearing gloves. That was crazy. Ricin, or whatever she was using, was fatal on contact. Was this some macho thing he’d learned as a survivalist? Dusty handed the syringe to his mother. Her hands were encased in thin plastic gloves. Dusty pointed the shotgun at Stone.

Stone looked at Ricki. Her arms and legs were tightly bound, but a faint tremor seemed to pass through her. “What did you do to her?”

Champlain smiled. “Does it matter? All you need to know is that she’s not dead. You’ll have the pleasure of watching that happen.”

Stone calculated what would happen if he rushed her. He wouldn’t make it, but the men behind him might have a shot before she splattered the poison on them. Dusty pumped a round into the chamber. Stone needed more time. Get her talking, he thought. He had to get her talking.

“You killed that dog and put it on the Feldman site, didn’t you?”

The woman narrowed her eyes, as if surprised.

“It was a good move. You caught us off-guard.”

“That was my intention.”

“Were you responsible for the dog shit too?”

She frowned. “What dog shit?”

Stone raised an eyebrow. That had been CEASE after all.

She saw through him. “Shut the fuck up. You’re trying to distract me.”

“No, Maggie, I’m just trying—” He stopped, turned and faced Dusty. “I met a friend of yours the other day, Dusty.”

Suspicion flared in Dusty’s eyes.

“Mira Peckinpah. In Joliet.”

Dusty blinked.

“I know you haven’t seen her in a while so you might not know.” Use his name as much as possible. “She’s got a son, Dusty. His name’s Brandon. “

Dusty’s eyes filled with doubt. And something else. Curiosity.

“He’s about four years old, Dusty.”

“I said shut the fuck up,” Maggie barked.

Stone ignored her. “You know what Mira told me? She said you’re Brandon’s father, Dusty.”

Dusty shook his head.

Champlain cut in. “He’s lying.” Her voice was harsh. “They do that. They tell cunning, vicious lies. Don’t believe him.”

Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, Stone saw a flash of color race across the bedroom window. He made himself stay calm. “You never knew, did you Dusty? You never came down to see her after she got pregnant. But Mira knows. It’s your child, Dusty.”

Champlain swung her gaze from Stone to her son. “Dusty, don’t listen. These men are your enemy. Their purpose is to make you weak. Make you doubt yourself. Be strong.”

Stone turned to the woman. “You might be right, Maggie. I could be lying. But there’s always the chance I’m not. There could be a little boy out there… a little boy like TJ.”

“You’re lying.”

“Dusty’s child, Maggie. Your grandson.”

For an instant, Champlain’s eyes wavered, and uncertainty washed over her. A faint groan came from the couch. Ricki was coming to. Champlain’s eyes caught fire. “Keep the gun on him, Dusty.” She slipped the Beretta into her waistband and held up the vial of ricin.

“I understand what you’ve been through, Maggie,” Stone said. “I know you want revenge on Stuart Feldman.” He tried to keep his voice calm. “But not this way. If you stop now, I’ll—I’ll try to help you.”

Maggie’s eyes grew bright, and for a split second Stone thought he had her. Then, “Hey, Dusty, what do you think? An officer of the court says he’ll help us get justice. I reckon maybe we should just give up.”

Stone glanced at Dusty. His lips were glued into a grim line, as if he was struggling not to say something. Stone looked into Champlain’s eyes. His heart sank. She had nothing more to lose.

Then everything happened at once. A shattering noise came from the bedroom. Dusty spun around and fired. Stone saw the orange flash of the muzzle, heard the boom of the shotgun. Dusty twisted around, a crimson flower blossoming on his chest and crumpled to the floor. Filling the space he had occupied was Matt, a Smith and Wesson leveled at Champlain.

She watched her son fall. Still clutching the syringe, she sank down on the couch beside Ricki. Stone’s jaw went slack. Where had Matt come from? How did he get through the window? Before he could think about it, Matt brandished the Smith and Wesson.

“Get away from her,” he shouted to Champlain. “Now.”

Champlain didn’t move, but a muscle in her jaw twitched. She held the syringe up.

Episodes in the novel will be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Please click the following title,ToxiCity, to read more about Libby Fischer Hellman’s books on Amazon.

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