On The Run Book Five:
Public Enemies is book five in Gordon's largest project, yet. On the Run is a massive 6 book adventure series about a brother and sister who are on the run from the law, trying to clear their parents who have been framed as spies. All six books are now available in stores.
Gordon had this to say: "The idea to feature kids who are wanted by the FBI was a real change in my adventure writing. In my trilogies, the danger came from the setting -- an island, a mountain, shark-infested waters. But when you're a fugitive, the entire world becomes dangerous for you. In a way, it's scarier than an eighteen-foot shark, because you can't get away from it. No matter where you go, your face is still in the newspapers and on TV. That's something you can never escape."
We've received several comments from readers on our discussion forum that indicate this may well be Gordon's best series ever, and we highly recommend giving it a try. "That's how I see it ... you got a problem with that?"
From the book:
Thirty-one miles inland from the rugged Oregon coast, a deserted two-lane road was losing its battle to hold back the encroaching brush. The highway department had long since forgotten this lonely stretch, dozens of dreary miles from the nearest town.
It was the last place on earth anyone would expect to find an FBI agent at two o'clock in the morning.
Agent Emmanuel Harris squinted out the window of the police cruiser into the moonless gloom. “Why are we stopping?”
Sheriff Donnelly of Tillamook County , Oregon was at the wheel. “According to the scanner, the cellphone signal is coming from here.”
Harris did a quick three-sixty. “I don't see the car.”
“The technology doesn't lie,” Donnelly insisted. “The car may not be here, but the phone is.”
Wearily, Harris unfolded his towering six-foot-seven frame out of the car, taking care not to spill an enormous hot-cup of coffee that had long since gone cold. He played his flashlight beam over the weeds and brambles. This was going to be like finding a needle in a haystack.
“Wait.” The sheriff took out his own handset. “I've got a better idea. What's your number?”
When the ringer went off, it was so close that Harris jumped. He could even see the glow as the faceplate lit up. He reached down and retrieved it from the tall grass.
The small screen displayed the last picture taken by the camera function. It showed, in detailed close-up, a fifteen-year-old boy and his eleven-year-old sister. Aiden and Margaret Falconer, the fugitives who had been outrunning him, outsmarting him, and generally driving him insane for the past several weeks.
They were in a car – his rental car, stolen after they'd left him handcuffed and humiliated – with his own handcuffs! This photo, taken by his phone, was their message to him, and not a very polite one at that.
Harris swallowed hard. He wasn't sure he deserved any better. After all, he had created these young outlaws by sending their parents to prison for life.
He snapped the flip-phone shut. “Let's get back to the station. I want this picture on the front page of every newspaper tomorrow.”
“What is it?” the sheriff asked.
Harris looked grim. “I think Aiden and Margaret Falconer have finally made their first mistake.”
It was crossing the state line into Idaho that Aiden decided he could ignore the gas gauge no longer.
“Meg –” He nudged his sister, who was asleep in the passenger seat.
She was awake in an instant. “What?” No fugitive was a heavy sleeper. Life on the run had trained that out of her. “Where are we?”
“Idaho ,” Aiden replied. “I think it's time to ditch the car. Sun's up.”
“But it's a million miles to Denver !” she protested. “How are we going to get there?”
“Not in this car,” Aiden said firmly. “It's a rental stolen from an FBI agent. We're okay on back roads in the dead of night, but we won't last five minutes if the police give us a second look. Besides, we're running on fumes.”
The reality of their predicament could not be denied. Buying gas was out of the question. Neither had any money – not one cent.
“We could always do the old fill and fly,” Meg suggested hopefully. “We've already got every cop in the west after us. What's one more?”
“It won't be just one,” he argued. “Picture the report: two kids in a white Buick with Avis stickers. How long would it take them to figure out that we're a lot more than just gas thieves? They'd surround us with roadblocks and come at us in force. The one thing we have going for us now is that nobody knows where we are.”
The words were no sooner out of his mouth than a black and white police cruiser pulled off the shoulder behind them, lights flashing.
Terrified, Aiden checked the speedometer. Seventy-five. Idiot! he cursed himself. They had escaped manhunts, and threaded their way through dragnets. How could he risk their freedom by getting stopped for speeding?
He eased up on the accelerator and began to veer over onto the gravel.
Meg was horrified. “Are you nuts? What if he finds out who we are?”
“Shhh!” Aiden hissed. He sat motionless, his eyes riveted to the side mirror. It was all he could do to keep from shaking as he watched the uniformed officer step out of the cruiser.
We're Mom and Dad's only hope to get out of prison, he thought desperately. It can't end this way …
With measured steps, the man began to walk toward the Buick. Aiden monitored every millimeter of progress.
Closer … closer …
As the cop reached the back bumper of the rental, Aiden stomped on the pedal with the full force of his determination. The tires screamed against the dirt and stones, until the left front wheel grabbed pavement. The big car roared away, leaving the officer scrambling for his own vehicle.
Meg looked back. “He's coming after us, Aiden! Faster!”
Aiden whimpered with fear as the low fuel light came on. But he knew he would run out of time before he ran out of gas.
No way I can win a race against a local cop on his own home turf!
Their only hope was to get lost – now ! How could they manage that on a long straight road with no turnoffs?
“He's gaining on us!” Meg cried frantically. “Do something!”
“It's a Buick, not a Lamborghini!” Aiden choked, keeping a death-grip on the steering wheel as the speedometer needle vibrated past ninety. At fifteen years old, he had no license – not even a learner's permit. This was only his second attempt at driving. It was not the ideal time for a high-speed chase.
The tiny town was upon him so fast that he might have missed it. Slamming on the brakes, he wrenched the wheel in the direction of the intersection. But the forward momentum carried the car past the cross street. Suddenly, they were spinning around, out of control, pressed into their seats by centrifugal force. The Buick lurched to a halt in a cloud of dust, facing the highway.
Aiden opened his eyes just in time to see the cruiser flash by.
Now it was the policeman's turn to brake hard. As he tried to make a U-turn, a lumber truck, loaded with huge undressed logs, came by from the other direction, blocking his way and his view.
Aiden knew it was now or never. He drove straight across somebody's front yard and lurched onto the main street of the town.
Meg was chalk white. “He's coming any minute, Aiden! We've got to disappear!”
“I know !” But in this place? There was a luncheonette, a general store and post office, a bank, and a gas station with a car wash.
With his shoulders so tense they were up around his ears, Aiden pointed the Buick at the car wash and gunned the engine.
“What are you doing?” Meg was practically hysterical.
A front tire slipped into the slot on the conveyor chain.
“Put it in neutral!” shouted the attendant.
It was as if Aiden had spent every ounce of energy and will to get them this far. It was Meg who had to reach over and shift into neutral. The mechanism drew the vehicle into the washing tunnel. Water began to cascade down on the hood.
“You want hot wax?” bawled the attendant.
“Whatever takes the longest!” Meg called back.
Aiden looked out the rear window, dreading to see the police cruiser coming up behind them. The hanging rubber strips closed, blocking the daylight.
They were safe, but only for a couple of minutes.
“I hope you have a plan,” Meg ventured nervously.
Amazingly, Aiden did.
Forty feet ahead, at the far end of the tunnel, was a dark panel truck, just about to enter the drying section.
It was their only chance. In a town this size, it wouldn't be long before the process of elimination led that cop to the one place he hadn't searched yet. There was no way they could leave this car wash in the Buick.
“Follow me.” He threw open the door and scrambled into a downpour of frigid soapy water. A giant rotating brush came out of nowhere and smacked him in the side of the head. He staggered against the car, reeling and spitting suds.
Meg grabbed his wrist, and the two ducked just in time to be missed by an enormous spin-scrubber that swooped down on the Buick. They scampered forward through a drenching ice-cold rinse. They knew they had only a few seconds to traverse the tunnel before the car arrived to be doused with hot wax.
The panel truck's rear doors were only a few feet in front of them when a wind straight from a nightmare hurricane blasted into them, driving them back toward where the wax was now spraying. Shafts of light from the end of the tunnel indicated that the hood of the panel truck was already leaving the car wash.
With a superhuman effort, Aiden flung himself directly into the teeth of the dryer's gale, and threw open one of the back doors of the truck. He and Meg clambered inside, the noise of their movements drowned out by the clatter of machinery. Aiden shut them inside in total darkness.
“What if it had been locked?” Meg whispered, shivering.
“It wasn't.” It was the most comfort he had to offer.
This was what their lives had become. Even when things went right, total disaster was never more than a hair away.
Tucked away in the windowless payload, they were unable to witness the dramatic ending to their narrow escape. When the panel truck drove away from the car wash, it passed the police officer, who stood waiting to arrest an empty Buick.
Copyright © 2005 Gordon Korman, used by permission