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Jack Sutton heard a whisper of movement a split second before an arm wrapped around his neck and something sharp plunged into his gut. His brain registered that he’d been stabbed as a hard shove sent him crashing to the cold concrete floor.
"You should’ve slit his throat," a croaky, unfamiliar voice complained.
"He’ll be dead in an hour," a second voice assured the first. "Come on, help me get the cash register opened."
Jack lay still as death, praying whoever these bastards were they’d hurry the hell up. If he could crawl to the phone and dial 9-1-1, he might have a chance.
Jesus, he was going to puke. Concentrate, Sutton, he thought, swallowing hard, choking down bile. He cracked an eye open and wished he hadn’t. The sight of his own blood brought on another wave of nausea; the noxious odor of gasoline made it worse.
He squeezed his eyes shut and listened as his attackers struggled to get the cash register open. He would have laughed at their incompetence if every second didn’t mean the difference between his own life and death.
His head spun and his world darkened. He teetered on the brink of unconsciousness. The voices of his attackers became more and more distant. Jack fought with everything he had to remain conscious.
Finally the ring of the cash register reached Jack’s ears and he nearly groaned his relief. He heard the distinct crinkle of paper as they cleaned the sucker out and felt a glimmer of hope.
"Should we grab some new tires, make it look good?" the deeper voice asked.
"Nah, good enough. The cops’ll see the register open and figure the place got robbed."
Jack sucked in a shaky breath as he listened to their retreating footsteps and puzzled over that last statement. Figure the place got robbed? If they weren’t there to rob him, then what the fuck just happened?
When the back door swung shut, he struggled to his hands and knees, squeezing his eyes shut again as he fought the urge to vomit. Head hung low, he half-crawled, half-dragged himself to the desk, never imagining twenty feet could seem so damn far. He reached up and grasped the edge, managed to pull himself to his feet, but had to lay his head down on the cool metal of the podium-style desk as a wave of dizziness hit him.