David Becker stood in the deserted concourse and felt his legs go weak. He eyed the girl before him and knew his search was over. She had washed her hair and changed clothes‑maybe in hopes of having better luck selling the ring‑but she’d never boarded for New York.
Becker fought to keep his cool. His wild journey was about to end. He scanned her fingers. They were bare. He gazed down at her duffel. It’s in there, he thought. It’s got to be!
He smiled, barely containing his excitement. “This is going to sound crazy,” he said, “but I think you’ve got something I need.”
“Oh?” Megan seemed suddenly uncertain.
Becker reached for his wallet. “Of course I’d be happy to pay you.” He looked down and started sorting through the cash in his billfold.
As Megan watched him count out his money, she drew a startled gasp, apparently misunderstanding his intentions. She shot a frightened glance toward the revolving door . . . measuring the distance. It was fifty yards.
“I can give you enough to buy your ticket home if—”
“Don’t say it,” Megan blurted, offering a forced smile. “I think I know exactly what you need.” She bent down and started rifling through her duffel.
Becker felt a surge of hope. She’s got it! he told himself. She’s got the ring! He didn’t know how the hell she knew what it was he wanted, but he was too tired to care. Every muscle in his body relaxed. He pictured himself handing the ring to the beaming deputy director of the NSA. Then he and Susan would lie in the big canopy bed at Stone Manor and make up for lost time.
The girl finally found what she was looking for‑her PepperGuard‑the environmentally safe alternative to mace, made from a potent blend of cayenne and chili peppers. In one swift motion, she swung around and fired a direct stream into Becker’s eyes. She grabbed her duffel and dashed for the door. When she looked back, David Becker was on the floor, holding his face, writhing in agony.