One to Go
Barnes & Noble
Published by: Oceanview Publishing
Release Date: December 2, 2014
Tom Booker is a new an attorney at a powerful Washington law firm. Texting while driving across Memorial Bridge, he loses control and crashes into an oncoming minivan carrying his own daughter and three of her friends. The minivan pops up on two wheels, about to flip over into the Potomac. Time freezes, he’s alone on the bridge. A young couple approaches and offers him a re-wind. The crash would be averted, the children saved. All he must do is kill someone every two weeks—anyone—a “soul exchange.” A moment later, Tom is back in his spinning car, but averts the deadly crash. He laughs about the hallucination, attributing it to bumping his head on the steering wheel when his car came to an abrupt stop. But his encounter wasn’t a hallucination. Two weeks later, the minivan driver is brutally murdered. Tom receives a text: one down, four to go. He has never shot—much less owned—a gun in his life, and now must turn himself into a serial killer or his daughter and her friends will die.
“One To Go by Mike Pace spins out a fascinating premise— what if a hideous mistake in life could be rewound?—into a ripping good novel, with a mix of tight plotting, explosive excitement, and vivid characters."
—Douglas Preston, New York Times best-selling author of The Kraken Project
"A terrific mix of murder and mayhem, with a clever woo- woo twist that will keep you on your toes. Definitely worth the price of admission."
—Steve Berry, New York Times best-selling author of The 14th Colony
“Riveting in suspense, One to Go by Mike Pace is a pulse- pounding journey from Washington, D.C.’s most influential backrooms and courtrooms into its most dangerous neigh- borhoods. With a supporting cast of memorable characters buttressed by muscular prose, One to Go is a devilishly clever tale, one you won’t want to miss.”
— Gayle Lynds, New York Times best-selling author of The Book of Spies
"Mike Pace has fashioned a relentlessly suspenseful, gut- wrenching tale that's both homage to the classic Twilight Zone and a kind of post-modern take on early Stephen King with a wildly imaginative concept realized to the fullest.”
—Jon Land, best-selling author of Strong Darkness ￼
"This entertaining and original chiller has Hollywood written all over it! Just when you think you know where it's going--there's another creepy and surprising twist. It's Law & Order meets--well, that would give it away. Just make sure you read this thought-provoking page-turner with all the lights on!"
—Hank Phillippi Ryan, Anthony, Agatha, Macavity and Mary Higgins Clark award winning author
"A very strange, dark, intense tale that actually spotlights (in an odd way) the risks and horrors that come on a daily basis from someone texting while driving. Even though this is a fictional tale, it really brings the point home. The angels/demons, whichever title these two people claim, are keeping a tally so Tom can’t cheat, and readers won’t be able to look away. This is a completely unique suspense novel; while you hold your breath waiting for the next shoe to drop, the reality sets in."
—Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion for Suspense Magazine
"Following his debut horror/thriller Dead Light, Mike Pace presents perhaps one of the most surprising novels I’ve come across in the past decade. Promoted as a thriller, this tale smacks more of the paranormal genre....this story is one of self-assessment, moral debate, ethics and redemption—one ideal to be adapted for a blockbuster film."
"Educated, avid readers who like to contemplate momentous issues and encounter the worst horrors imaginable when they are safely distanced by the covers of a book (or the off switch of a tablet) will find plenty of both in the thought-provoking entertainment of Mike Pace’s One to Go."
—Philip Jason is professor emeritus of English at the United States Naval Academy. A former editor of Poet Lore magazine, he is the author or editor of 20 books, including Acts and Shadows: The Vietnam War in American Literary Culture and Don’t Wave Goodbye: The Children’s Flight from Nazi Persecution to American Freedom.
Tom Booker watched the numbers descend, his confidence growing with each passing floor that no one else would get on before he reached the garage. 8 ¼ 7 ¼ He tugged the collar of his green polo under his blazer, and used his fingers to smooth down his unruly brown hair. He wanted to look good for Janie. ¼ 6 ¼ 5 ¼ Ding.
The elevator stopped, the doors opened and Robert “Bat” Masterson entered. Tom’s heart leapt to his throat. Masterson was the third named partner in Smith, Hale and Masterson, one of the most prestigious law firms in the nation’s capital and, at over 500 lawyers, one of the largest.
Approaching sixty, Masterson looked at least ten years younger. Tall, tan, with patrician features. Except for silver tinges over each temple his thick hair remained as black as seen in publicity head-shots from twenty years earlier. Masterson’s nickname derived from the renowned Dodge City gunfighter who at one point served as Wyatt Earp’s deputy, and was popularized by a fifties TV show. Masterson, who claimed Bat was his ancestor, loved the image of the tough lawman and didn’t discourage the press from referring to him as a gunslinger when defending his white-collar clients. His massive corner office was covered with sepia photos of the old west, including a three by five foot photo of Bat Masterson himself. Since Smith had died decades earlier and Hale recently retired, Masterson was the most senior of senior partners.
“Good morning,” said Masterson. “Mr. Hooker, is it not?”
“It’s Booker, sir.” He’d only spoken to the man once before during the reception for new associates held shortly after he’d joined the firm.
He saw Masterson was wearing the official SHM Saturday casual uniform: tan slacks, loafers, polo shirt, and navy blue blazer. When Tom dressed that morning, he’d briefly considered foregoing the uniform for more comfortable jeans, but thankfully had succumbed.
“Yes, of course,” said Masterson. “And in which department do you now find yourself, Mr. Booker?”
“Corporate, sir.” The firm’s policy required new associates to rotate through four or five legal specialties during the first two years, the theory being the rotation would allow both the new lawyer and the firm to find the best fit. The newbies also had to do a pro bono stint so the firm could meet its bar obligations to the poor and downtrodden without pulling time away from attorneys billing at much higher rates.
“Katherine’s not only a fine lawyer, but a good teacher. Maybe we’ll see you in WC soon.”
WC was shorthand for white-collar litigation. Most in Washington considered Masterson, a former U.S. Attorney General and Texas governor, the best white collar defense counsel in town, if not the whole country. The country’s voters had booted Bat’s former boss out of the Oval Office two years earlier, and Bat’s name was on the shortlist of potential challengers for his party’s presidential nomination to take on the new incumbent two years hence.
“Heading for the library?” asked Masterson. He was about to touch the button for the second floor.
Tom could easily lie—the chances of Masterson missing a lowly associate over the next several hours were virtually nil. But the key word was “virtually.” “No sir. Got to pick up my daughter for a short field trip.” He added quickly, “But I’ll be back in a couple of hours to make up the time.”
“Family’s important, of course.” His expression left no doubt that Masterson believed time spent by an associate on a Saturday morning doing anything other than cranking out billable hours cost the most senior partner money, and therefore was by definition not important.
The elevator reached the lobby and Masterson exited. “See you this afternoon, Mr. Booker.”
“Of course, sir.”
The doors closed. Tom took a deep breath, then punched the already-lit “G” button, willing the elevator to drop the last two floors before anyone else came aboard.
Once in the garage, he jogged to the silver Lexus GS430. Almost five years old, it had been his one extravagant purchase when he’d been hired by SHM out of Georgetown Law.
He started the engine and drove quickly up the ramp and out of the garage, almost hitting two young men in suits and ties. Both gave him the finger. Lobbyists, thought Tom. They still wore ties on Saturdays.
He turned onto M street when the annoying warning chime began, and he buckled his seatbelt with one hand as he turned south onto New Hampshire. He glanced at the dashboard clock. Shit. Gayle was going to kill him.
After catching the fourth red light, he reluctantly pulled out his phone. Talking on a cell while driving was technically against the law in the District, but everyone knew if the law were strictly enforced, the federal government and the businesses of all those who made a living off it would screech to a halt. Besides, he was stopped at a light so he wasn’t technically driving.
When he heard the connection, he grimaced, knowing what was coming next. With caller ID, he didn’t expect the courtesy of a hello. He was right.
“Where the hell are you? Janie, Angie, and two other seven-year-olds are standing here in my kitchen, waiting for you.”
“Just how do you expect to drive here, pick them up and get them back to the Air and Space Museum in less than forty-five minutes?”
“O’Neal needed the buy-sell agreement before—”
“I don’t care! It’s always something. Always putting your work and yourself before family.”
The response shot from his mouth before he could stop it. “One might consider sleeping with our daughter’s pediatrician putting yourself before family.” Damn. Remember, pause, then speak. Pause, then speak.
“You son of a bitch.”
Tom took a deep breath. Excellent chance Janie was within earshot, and the last thing she needed now after seven months of dealing with her parents’ break-up was another fight. He lowered his voice. “Look, I’m almost to the Roosevelt Bridge. Can you take her? I can meet you at the museum entrance, and take the hand-off.”
“My daughter’s not a football. Besides, David and I have plans. If you’re not here in fifteen minutes, maybe I can persuade Rosie to take them.” She ended the call.
My daughter. The change from our daughter to my daughter several months earlier had not gone unnoticed. Gayle, Janie, and Dr. Dave—he insisted his patients and their moms call him Dr. Dave—lived in Tom’s former house in Arlington, while Tom called a cramped, one bedroom apartment in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood of the city home. Adams-Morgan was known for its eclectic charm, a string of the best Latino restaurants in the city, and the violent drug culture along its borders.
Rosie was Rose Battaglia, Gayle’s sister. She, her husband, Gino, and their young daughter, Angie, lived east of Connecticut Avenue in upper Northwest DC near the Maryland line, the fancy-schmantzy part of the city.
Angie was the same age as Janie and the two cousins were inseparable. The previous evening, Janie had invited Angie for a sleepover, a common event ever since the girls were old enough to have their own room. Tom wished the sleepover had occurred at Angie’s; it would’ve made his trip from downtown much shorter.
The last light before the bridge. One car in front of him, an ancient beige Buick with Ohio plates. The light turned yellow.
“Go, go ¼” But instead of speeding up, the sedan slowed down, then stopped at the intersection. Tom pounded the steering wheel with his fist. He checked the dashboard clock again. No way was he going to make it to his house in time.
He could feel his face flush as his frustration escalated. He glanced at the glove compartment. Just a sip to take the edge off?
He still considered it his house. As part of the divorce settlement he’d agreed to continue paying the mortgage until Janie graduated from high school. His attorney had advised him he was being too generous, especially since Gayle was the one who broke the marriage vows by slow dancing with Dr. Dave. But he wanted his daughter to remain in the same house where she’d known him since birth—moving to a new place with Dr. Dave would’ve made handling her parents split even harder. Or at least that’s what he’d thought at the time. Now, sometimes when he was moping around inside his cramped Adams-Morgan one-bedroom apartment feeling sorry for himself, he’d wonder if the divorce attorney had been right.
The light changed. He hit the gas, tailgating the Buick, barely avoiding knocking up against its bumper.
When he rounded the curve, he saw flashing lights on the bridge, an accident backing up traffic to a stand-still. Shit. His deadline only a few minutes off, he considered abandoning the drive to Arlington, calling back and begging Rosie to take the girls. He could intercept them at the museum.
Or, he could try the Memorial. What the hell? Maybe Gayle would give him a grace period. He pulled around the Buick and drove south along the river. As he approached the entrance to the Memorial Bridge, he could see the usual tourist busses circling the Lincoln Memorial on the eastern side of the span, but fortunately the traffic appeared relatively light on the bridge itself. He made the turnonto the bridge and headed west across the Potomac.
Tom slid into the passing lane where a single yellow line separated him from oncoming east-bound traffic.
In the far distance, he saw a green Dodge minivan heading toward him from the western entrance to the bridge. Rosie had a green minivan. Could Gayle have sent the kids off with Rosie early? Why didn’t she call him?
He dug out his cell, glanced down, and scrolled to her number. He knew texting while driving could be dangerous, but he considered himself an excellent driver, and he’d developed a system where he held the phone up at eye level with his right hand so he could still keep his eyes on the road.
He punched in the text: on Mem bridge. Did they leave? He hit, “Send.”
The minivan was getting closer. He remembered Rosie had tied an orange ribbon on her antenna so she could spot her car in a parking lot. A red Ford pickup truck in front of the minivan wove back and forth in its lane, making it difficult for Tom to see the Dodge’s aerial.
He heard the chime, and glanced down to read Gayle’s message.
Yes. Couldn’t wait. R not happy. Meet at A & S.
Great. What could she —?
Suddenly his ears were barraged by the sound of car horns blasting and tires screeching. He looked up to see he’d drifted into the on-coming lane, heading straight for the green minivan. A split-second image of a dirty orange ribbon flying from the antenna filled his brain.
He jammed his foot on the brakes and cut hard right. Instead of responding, the Lexus spun like a Frisbee across the pavement, first crashing head-on into the front of the minivan, then ricocheting into the rear of the red truck. The force of the collision sent both the truck and the minivan hurtling toward the bridge rail. The truck hit the curb hard at an odd angle. It flipped up into the air, appearing to hover for a long moment.
The minivan glanced off a light-pole hard and rolled up onto its two right tires. Teetering next to the bridge rail, it was about to flip into the Potomac. A split second later, he thought he saw Janie’s face pressed up against the back window.
In a flash he sawa blur of red as the pickup dropped down toward the hood of his car.
He saw the blue and white Ford logo.
Then he saw nothing.