On The Run Book Six:
Hunting the Hunter
Hunting the Hunter is the exciting conclusion to 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:
Aiden Falconer was milking cows again.
He had come full circle. This nightmare had begun at a juvenile prison farm in Nebraska . That was where he and his sister Meg had been sent after their parents had been convicted of treason and locked away for life.
Back then they had been inmates, prisoners – before the fire, the escape. Now they were fugitives, wanted by the FBI, the juvenile authorities, and dozens of state and local police forces.
But the cows – they were the same. Uncooperative, cranky, and with a stink that would choke a sewer rat.
Everybody else could milk a cow. Meg could fill a bucket in no time. Why was it that every cow shut down milk production based on the smell of Aiden's fear.
It shouldn't take a PhD to do this!
That started a new train of thought, a much more unpleasant one. Mom and Dad both had PhDs. And their expertise had been used to frame them and destroy the Falconer family.
The lapse in concentration cost him. The cow lifted its rear hoof and delivered a hammer-blow to Aiden's stomach. The wallop sent him off the stool and into the soft straw.
In despair, he gathered his gear and steeled himself for another attempt.
There was a purpose to all this, he reminded himself. This job as a farmhand – it wasn't a career; it was a hiding place. For Aiden and Meg to show their faces in Denver right now would be to risk instant arrest. But on this farm, just twenty miles east of the city limits, they could disappear for a while, Aiden posing as the hired worker, and Meg keeping out of sight. Here they could lie low until the heat was off, and prepare themselves for the awful thing they had to do.
Six big cows, one piddly little bucket of milk. How was he going to explain that to Mr. Turnbull? The farmer had a broken leg, not brain damage. How long before it dawned on the man that his “experienced” hired hand was a suburban fifteen-year-old who didn't know the difference between a cow and third base?
The next order of business was taking the herd out to pasture. It was a slightly more pleasant task. He still had to deal with the cows, but at least the paralyzing stench of the barn could be left behind for a few minutes before shoveling time.
God, how he hated farming!
The collision came from behind. It was so powerful, so devastating, his first thought was that he'd been hit by a car. The impact knocked the air out of him, propelling him six feet forward. Then his attacker was upon him, three hundred pounds of rooting, snarling rage.
He had seen the pig from a distance. It was the size of a Volkswagen, easily four times bigger than the other pigs in the sty. Hooves like sledgehammers pounded down at him. The huge drooling snout battered him about the head and face. Aiden struggled, but the crushing weight pressed down on his rib cage.
The thought was as horrifying as it was absurd: This animal is killing me!
He had escaped manhunts covering more than seven thousand miles. He had survived five murder attempts, and countless life and death struggles. Was he to die here in this pasture, cut down by an enraged swine?
The flat of the shovel connected with the pig's hindquarters in a homerun swing. With a squeal of shock, the animal rolled off Aiden and squared up against eleven-year-old Meg Falconer, an attacker barely a quarter of its weight.
Aiden leaped to his feet, muddy and bleeding, his clothes torn. “Meg – run!”
But his sister faced the danger like a gladiator, brandishing her shovel. “Don't even think about it, fatso, or you'll be pork chops before you can say oink!”
Before Aiden's amazed eyes, the giant porker backed off, whining like a whipped puppy. The other spectators, the cows, looked on, chewing disinterestedly.
“What are you doing out here?” Aiden hissed. “If Mr. Turnbull sees you, how long do you think it's going to take him to figure out who we really are?”
“What am I supposed to do – hide in the loft and let this thing crush you? Fat lot of good it'll do Mom and Dad if one of us gets killed.”
That was the goal of these weeks on the run – to prove that their parents were innocent of treason. They had finally tracked down the man who had framed Doctors John and Louise Falconer, only to find that he was a vicious killer. It was the end of one problem, and the beginning of an even bigger one – how could two kids capture a professional assassin?
Meekly, the pig backed away, and trotted off in the direction of the sty.
Around the corner of the barn, the farmhouse's screen door creaked open, then slapped shut.
“Scram!” Aiden whispered urgently.
Meg beat a hasty retreat into the barn and up the ladder to the hayloft.
Aiden didn't add, “Thanks for saving my life.” Over the past weeks, both Falconers had rescued each other so often that one more time didn't bear mentioning.
We're turning into hard cases, a couple of action heroes who don't think a brush with death is worth a thank you.
Meg needn't have rushed into hiding, because it took a long time for Zephraim Turnbull to thump his way on his crutches out to the pasture and his bleeding hired hand.
Mr. Turnbull looked like every picture Aiden had ever seen of the leather-faced American farmer – stoic, weather-beaten, and humorless.
“I see you've met old Bernard,” the farmer observed dryly. “Suppose I should have warned you about him. Nasty piece of work.”
Aiden brushed at his sleeve, which removed about one percent of the mud that covered him. “I can take care of myself,” he said stoutly.
Turnbull looked him up and down. “I can see that. You sure you're eighteen?”
Aiden straightened, setting aside his many aches and pains. “Absolutely. I'm just trying to make some extra money for when I start college in January.”
“Suppose I can't fault you for not being ready for Bernard,” the farmer decided grudgingly. “He comes on pretty strong, but that's why I keep him around.”
“You mean he's a watch-pig?”
Turnbull nodded. “You can't be too careful with Holyfield and his lawyers nosing around.”
It had all been explained to Aiden the day Turnbull had hired him. Mountain View Homes, the land developer, owned every single property as far as the eye could see, except one. The Turnbull farm was not for sale.
Actually, it was for sale. But Turnbull still had seventeen years to go on his family's ninety-nine-year lease. And he didn't intend to be begged or bribed off his farm.
“I guess Mr. Holyfield wants to sell pretty bad, huh?” put in Aiden.
Turnbull nodded. “You should have seen his face when he found out I was in a cast for six weeks. If the land isn't farmed, the lease is null and void. That's where you come in. A good experienced hand to tide me over until I'm on my feet again.” He regarded Aiden dubiously. “Eighteen, huh? Well, follow me. We'll have to get those cuts cleaned up. That's a lot more than mud, you know, with all these animals around.”
The farmer thumped his way back to the house with Aiden trailing along behind him. As he stepped up to the wooden porch, his foot nudged something metal, knocking it off the platform to the grass. The loud report that reached Aiden's ears needed no identification.
It was a gunshot.
Weeks on the run had sharpened Aiden's response time. He hit the dirt before the echo died, and rolled under the porch.
When Zephraim Turnbull turned to investigate the source of the noise, his hired man had disappeared.
“You okay, Gary?” he asked. Gary Graham – Aiden's alias.
“Get down!” Aiden hissed. He was absolutely convinced that Frank Lindenauer, the man who had framed their parents, was shooting at him from cover.
How did he find us here?
Five days before, Aiden and Meg had barely escaped him in a Denver cemetery.
Meg – Aiden thought of his sister, hidden away in the barn, completely unprotected. How could he reach her without making himself an easy target?
“My fault. Sorry,” came the voice of Zephraim Turnbull. The farmer reached down and picked up something that looked like a power drill. “It's just a nail gun. I forgot to put the safety on.”
Pale and shaking, Aiden emerged from the shadows under the porch. Not Frank Lindenauer. Not this time. “A nail gun?” he repeated in a daze.
Turnbull nodded. “I'm replacing some of these rotted planks.” He flashed Aiden a satisfied grimace. “That'll show Holyfield I'm not planning to go anywhere. If he wants this farm, he can have it – in seventeen years.”
Aiden picked up the nail gun and handed it to the farmer, who set the safety and rested the device on the porch rail. That explained the percussive cracks that reached the Falconers in the guest apartment attached to the barn. They had been awaking each dawn to what sounded like a gunfight.
He stood patiently on the porch while Turnbull washed his face and painted his cuts with dark orange iodine. “Don't trust those newfangled ointments,” his employer said flatly. “The old ways are the best. Wouldn't be using that blasted nail gun, but my bum leg makes it hard to get squared up to swing a hammer.”
The front door was open, and Aiden could see inside. The house was very much like its occupant – simple, harsh, and spare. Much of the furniture was unpainted wood, and even the upholstered living room couch had a severe, sit-up-straight quality to it. By the wall stood an open carton containing a brand new computer, still in its factory packing.
Turnbull noticed his interest in the Dell system. “From my nephew in New York City last Christmas. Figures we can stay in touch via the e-mail.”
“You haven't taken it out of the box yet,” Aiden observed.
“You got that right.”
All at once, there was a loud squealing noise, and Bernard thundered past, an enraged pig closer in size to a buffalo. Hooves thundering, he scrambled around the corner of the house and charged down the dirt drive.
A few seconds later, a car door slammed, and a gray sedan screeched away from the farm and out of sight, burning rubber.
The incident produced the closest thing to a smile Aiden had yet seen on his employer's lips. “Show me a private investigator with the belly to tangle with Bernard, and I'll show you a man without fear.”
Aiden did not share the farmer's good humor. Weeks on the run had taught him that mysterious spies watching from a distance were nothing to joke about. Maybe that had been just a snoop hired by Holyfield to force Turnbull out.
But with Frank Lindenauer out there somewhere, and with hundreds of cops on the alert for the Falconer fugitives, a private investigator would be the least of Aiden's worries.
Copyright © 2005 Gordon Korman, used by permission