Friday, March 02, 2012


by Terri Blackstock

The Third and Final Book in the New York Times Best-Selling Intervention Series

Will Emily's dark past lead to her downfall?

Emily Covington has turned her life around after a drug addiction, but her family still has trouble trusting her. Though Emily has committed herself to a year-long treatment program and has been sober for almost a year beyond that, even her mother walks on egg shells around her, fearing she'll relapse. After her behavior during her drug years, Emily realizes she has a lot to prove. When police discover a home-made bomb under Emily's car, and she then learns the wife of one of her friends was murdered that same morning, she knows things are deadly serious.

But who wants Emily dead? And why? A conversation she had with two men, an Alfred Hitchcock movie, and a plan for a double-murder all conspire for one explosive ride … and Emily is the only one who can identify the killer and save the life of the next potential victim. As she frantically works to solve this ever more complicated puzzle, Emily finds herself playing right into the killer's hands.

The neighborhood was quiet at three a.m. Bugs flew in the yellow halo around the street lights, and the half moon gave a gray cast to the coveted homes along the Boulevard. It was the kind of home his mother had dreamed of having, the kind that had always been out of her reach.

The air reeked with greed and ambition. The Avenger, as he liked to call himself, walked in front of those houses, carrying his load in a backpack, thinking maybe he should double back just to blow up some of the BMWs parked in the driveways. Wouldn't it be a thrill to watch from somewhere on the street as businessmen came out of those houses, briefcases in hand, and slipped into their cars? If they all went up at the same time ... mushroom clouds of fire whooshing over each house in choreographed order ...

But that was a fantasy for another day. Today only one car would go up like that.

The Avenger strode around the corner to a street where smaller houses lined the road. Though they weren't as expensive and extravagant as those on the Boulevard, they were still out of his mother's reach. Destined to live in a rotting rat hole, she papered her moldy bathroom with pictures from Southern Living. These weren't mansions, but they were big and new. He was sure no mold grew on the attic walls. No cracks ripped the sheetrock in the living rooms. No paint peeled. No sounds of rats scratching through the walls. The people who lived here probably weren't business owners. They were the goons who worked for them, but they were still snotty and superior.

Steam fogged in front of the Avenger's face with every breath as he approached the Covington house. One lamp shone in a room on the side. Out of sight, he'd followed twenty-year-old Emily home a while ago. Now she probably lay tucked in her bed with some feather comforter that cost a mint, smug about her sobriety. Oblivious.

Like always, she hadn't pulled her car into the garage where her mother's car sat. Hers was on the driveway.

The Avenger set his package down beside her car.

Right here, under the wheel well ... that was the best place. He took the jar half-filled with gasoline and the roll of duct tape from his backpack and ripped off enough to tape the bottle under the car, careful not to cover the lamp cord coming from the hole he'd punched in the jar's lid. The gloves on his hands made it difficult work, but he didn't give up. When he'd gotten the bottle in place, he checked to make sure it wasn't leaking. The small amount of gasoline seemed stable. The bottle was angled so it wouldn't leak.

Now if he could just find the right place to connect the other end. He pulled the lamp cord out from under the front of the car, then quietly opened the hood. It made a clicking sound. He froze, looking from left to right. No one stirred at this hour. He shone his flashlight to the place where he needed to connect the cord.

He held the small flashlight in his teeth as he found the spot in the wiring that would ignite his bomb.

The Avenger chuckled to himself as he closed the hood as quietly as possible, pressing down until it engaged. He checked to make sure the cord coming from under the car into the motor wasn't noticeable. If someone knew to look for it, it might be. But he doubted Emily would see it walking out to her car.

If this worked the way it was supposed to, the bomb would explode when Emily started the car. She would probably escape, but hopefully, she'd be wounded or burned. And she and her family would be terrorized. He'd make them homeless by making them fear their home, and that would just be the beginning.

He chuckled as he gathered his equipment. Then he dropped his gloves into his bag and walked slowly back up the street to where he'd left his car. He reveled in the sense of power his actions had given him. He would never be powerless again.

Too bad he hadn't had an audience tonight. That would have made it so much sweeter. But manipulating victims like chess pieces was almost as good.

It was cold, but the thrill of victory warmed him. He thought about the stash he'd left in his glove compartment, his reward for carrying out his plan. He'd wait until he got home, to the privacy of his basement, and when he was high, he'd go back and carry out the rest of his plan. And what a genius plan it was.

Headlights turned onto the street, illuminating him like a stage star. He pulled up his hood and looked down at the sidewalk as the car slowly passed. As soon as darkness enveloped him again, he broke into a trot back to his car.

There was still so much to do. He had to go take care of Devon, put a gun to her head, watch her bleed. He'd planned it for weeks, waited for the right mixture of courage and cockiness. He'd found it tonight. Freedom had been birthed inside him with one act of will. Now he could set everything right. He'd continue exacting revenge on all those who'd messed with him. So much fallout. So many consequences.

He was the great Avenger.


Emily Covington had managed to slip into the house and down the hall to her bedroom without waking her mother, a major feat since her mom slept lightly when Emily was out. Emily hadn't meant to stay out so late tonight without calling, but one thing had led to another, and she'd wound up coming in at two a.m., tiptoeing like a high-school kid who'd broken curfew.

Now she had to cram for her test before she could go to bed. Why had she waited until the last minute?

"Emily? You're home?"

She turned to see her mother standing in her bedroom doorway, her hair tangled and disheveled from bed. "Hey. I didn't want to wake you up."

"Did you just come in?"

"A little while ago. Sorry I didn't call. I went to the show choir concert at school, and afterward some of us went to a movie. Then we hung out for a while in Ree's dorm room."

"Emily, it's three o'clock, and you have class tomorrow."

"I know. It'll be fine."

"Don't you have a test?"

"Yeah, but it's okay. Just go back to sleep."

Her mother just stood there for a moment. "Okay. Come give me a kiss."

Emily grinned. It was her mother's way of smelling her breath and her hair, to see if she'd been drinking or smoking dope. Emily went to her mom, kissed her cheek, and gave her a hug. "Get a good whiff," she said. "All you'll smell is popcorn and coffee."

Her mother let her go and stared into her eyes, as if checking her pupils for normalcy. "All right, but you're going to put me in an early grave with these long nights."

"Mom, if I lived on campus, you wouldn't even know when I came in."

"Well, you don't live on campus. You live here, and I worry. Go to bed soon, okay?"

"Okay." Emily went back to her bed where her books lay spread out, wishing she hadn't made her mother lose sleep, tonight of all nights. Her mom had a big presentation tomorrow at work, and she wanted her to do well. Her mother had been elated to have this job in Atlanta after they'd struggled so much in Jefferson City. Emily hoped her actions tonight hadn't messed her up.

She resolved to do better next time. The least she could do was call to let her mom know not to worry. But after all she'd put her family through, worry had become a way of life. Staying out so late only exacerbated old memories—and old fears.

But one day Emily would prove to her family that her life of addiction was behind her. Then maybe her mom could sleep better at night.

Downfall (Zondervan, 2012) ISBN-13 # 978-0310250685

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