Run, Hide - By Carol Ericson Page 0,1

across the floor, and Jenna drew in a breath and held it.

The footsteps shuffled to the next room, the bedroom, and someone slid open the mirrored closet door. The intruder wandered into the second bedroom and the bathroom before returning to the living room.

The floor creaked to the right of Jenna’s ear and she heard a voice. “Jenna? Are you here? It’s okay. They’re gone.”

“Marti.” Jenna sobbed with relief and knocked the heel of her hand against the floorboards. One slat shifted, weak daylight filtering through the space.

Marti gasped. “Are you under the floor?”

Jenna pushed against the second floorboard and blinked against the light that spilled onto her face. She gripped Gavin under the arms and hoisted him out first.

Marti’s waiting arms pulled him up and against her chest. “Hey, buddy. Having some fun playing hide-and-seek?”

Shifting Gavin to her hip, Marti widened her eyes at Jenna clambering from the hiding place, clutching her purse against one side of her body and the bundle of cash against the other.

“Who were they, Jenna?”

“I’m not sure.” Jenna dropped her purse and the stacks of money on a table. She brushed a few cobwebs from her arms and shook out her short hair. “What happened out here?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Marti swept her arm around the room at the upended tables and tossed cushions. “Those guys were looking for something.”

“I mean, what happened with you? How did you get them out?”

“I saw the door ajar and heard noises, so I pushed open the door and asked them what the hell they were doing.”

“You didn’t!” Jenna clapped her hands over her mouth. “Were you trying to get yourself killed?”

“I had this baby.” Marti dipped into the pocket of her jacket and drew out a gun, just far enough for Jenna to see before shoving it back inside. “I brandished it and told them to get lost.”

Jenna threw her arms around Marti and Gavin. “Just one more reason I’m glad you’re my next-door neighbor.” Her gaze darted to the window. “But they’ll be back.”

“Then let’s call the cops. I told them that’s what I was going to do.”

“No!” Jenna held out her arms for Gavin and he slid from Marti’s embrace to hers. She dragged in a shuddering breath and injected a cheery tone into her voice for Gavin’s sake. “Do you want a cookie? You did such a great job with the game this time.”

As Gavin nodded, Jenna carried him into the kitchen with Marti’s eyeballs burning a hole in her back. She settled him on a chair at the kitchen table, rummaged through the cupboard and the fridge and placed a plate with two cookies and a glass of milk in front of him.

Marti came up behind Gavin and ruffled his hair. “What just happened, Jenna? Who were those guys?”

“I’m telling you the truth, Marti. I don’t know.”

“But you do know why you hid under the floorboards when they got here, and apparently it’s not the first time you and Gavin have been under there.”

Jenna dabbed at a lone chocolate chip from Gavin’s plate and sucked it into her mouth, the sweetness replacing the metallic aftertaste of fear. “I told you never to ask me any questions, Marti. For your own safety.”

“A-are you in some kind of witness protection program? That’s what I always figured.”

“Sort of.” Her gaze wandered to the kitchen window, and a voice surfaced from her past.

If they ever find you, run.

“Can’t the authorities who put you here help?” Marti was talking again, but Jenna was only half listening.

“We have to leave.” She swept the cup and plate from the table and ran some water over them in the sink.

“Good idea.” Marti tugged her down jacket around her. “Let’s go to the police, and then maybe you can call the FBI or whoever put you in the program, and...”

Jenna grabbed Marti’s arm. “No. I mean we have to leave—leave Lovett Peak for good.”

Marti’s mouth gaped open. “Like forever? Like now?”

Tears pricked the back of Jenna’s eyes as she nodded. She’d miss Marti. She’d miss her adopted town of Lovett Peak, Utah. Just like all the other towns in all the other states.

“T-tell everyone I had a family emergency.” She grabbed her bag from the table and shoved the bundle of money inside. Holding her hand out to her son, she said, “Let’s go, honey bunny.”

“You mean now?” Marti gripped her shoulders and shook her. “What about all your stuff? What about your life?”

Jenna took in the sparse little house with no photos,