Out of Range: A Novel

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Authors: Hank Steinberg
Tags: Fiction, General, Suspense, Thrillers
turning on some—”
    Charlie’s request was interrupted by a nasty zapping sound from behind him.
    He felt a jolt of electricity course through his entire body and everything went to black.
    W hen the veil of pain had parted sufficiently for Charlie to be aware of his surroundings again, he found himself seated and restrained, his body still buzzing from whatever it was they’d done to him. He would have asked what they wanted but there was a rolled-up sock in his mouth.
    The lights were on now, which was of very little comfort. He was in his own basement—cheesy Formica wet bar (inherited from the previous owner), paneled dark brown walls, baseball bats, hockey sticks and football helmets strewn around, the last vestiges of his days as a star athlete.
    To Charlie’s left stood two very large men wearing leather jackets. But from the deferential way they eyed him, it was clear the guy in the photographer’s vest was in charge. He looked to be about fifty, a bull of a man, with hard eyes and a bald head. As Bull pulled one of the signed bats off the wall, his vest gapped open, revealing a shoulder holster underneath. He slapped the bat in his palm and nodded at one of the goons, who took out Charlie’s gag.
    “Before you do anything stupid,” Bull began, “just recognize that if you scream and fuss and freak out the neighbors, I’ll have no choice but to kill you and your children.”
    Charlie’s heart was pounding, but he needed to maintain control.
    “You have my wife?”
    Bull took a couple of practice swings, the bat passing so close to Charlie that he could feel the wind of it on his face.
    “I think I’ll be asking the questions,” Bull said.
    “Who are you?”
    Bull aimed his cold smile at one of his men, then shrugged—“I guess he didn’t hear me”—and drove the knob of the bat into Charlie’s solar plexus.
    Charlie’s body tried unsuccessfully to wretch, but his diaphragm was so paralyzed that all he could do was double over in his chair and gasp. When he finally managed to sit up, Bull asked, “Who does your wife work for?”
    “She doesn’t work for anybody,” Charlie gasped. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
    Bull walked to the wet bar, set down the bat and picked up a small plastic first-aid kit, white with a red cross on top. He made a show of opening it, inviting Charlie to have a peek. Inside the kit lay a row of syringes on a bed of foam egg-crate material. Bull rolled up the sleeves of his button-down shirt and Charlie noticed a tattoo on his forearm—five stars on a blue field surrounding a red diamond with the Marine Corps logo in the middle.
    Bull pulled out two syringes and held them up, one in each hand. “You have two choices. Red. Or green.” He held up the syringes in turn, then approached Charlie. “Red?”
    But before Charlie could even begin to respond, Bull slammed the syringe into his neck. He felt a brief impact then a burning sensation running up the side of his face and head. Sweat poured from him, his heart began racing and his entire body began to tremble.
    “Your heart should be clocking about 250 beats per minute right now. That’s the norepinephrine. Pretty potent stimulant, don’t you think?”
    “I don’t know anything,” Charlie said, gritting his teeth.
    Bull just stared at him. Convinced he was going to die, Charlie thrashed wildly, trying to free himself from the chair.
    “You ever drop acid, Charlie? We got a new substance now—salvinoran A—it’s like acid on steroids if you can forgive the mixed metaphor. The thing we found is, if you mix it with norepinephrine, man, the whole cocktail’s like a giant fear amplifier. You got the fight or flight impulse combined with the hallucinogen, all I have to do now is mention your kids and boom! The thoughts you’re going to have about what I might do to them . . . Did you ever see that movie Saw ?”
    Images flitted through Charlie’s mind, graphic and horrible. He clawed at

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