BOOK EXCERPT: Andrew Klavan's 'The Long Way Home' (The Homelanders) -- Part 1
Charlie West went to bed one night an ordinary high school student. He woke up a hunted man. Terrorists are trying to kill him. The police want to arrest him for the stabbing death of his best friend. He doesn't know whose side he's one or who he can trust. With his pursuers closing in on every side, Charlie makes his way back to his hometown to find some answers. There, holed up in an abandoned mansion, he's joined by his friends in a desperate attempt to discover the truth about a murder he can't remember-and the love he can never forget.
The Killer In The Mirror - Part 1
The man with the knife was a stranger. I never saw him before he tried to kill me.
I was in the Whitney Library when it happened, about seven miles from my hometown of Spring Hill. I’d been there for about forty-five minutes. I had come with a plan—a plan to clear my name, to get free, to get home to my family and out of danger. Now I had to leave. It wasn’t safe for me to stay in any one place for very long.
I was in the main research room on the library’s second floor. I went down the hall and pushed into the men’s room. I took off my black fleece and hung it on the door of one of the stalls. Then, wearing just my jeans and black t-shirt, I stood at the sink and splashed cold water on my face.
I was tired—way tired. I had been on the road—on the run—I don’t know—several weeks—a long time. I had to fight to stay alert. If I didn’t stay alert, I wouldn’t stay alive.
I dried myself off with a couple of paper towels. I looked at myself in the mirror. The guy looking back at me was six feet tall. Thin but with broad shoulders, good muscles, still in good shape. I had a lean, kind of solemn face with a mop of brown hair flopping over the forehead. Brown eyes—serious eyes—probably too serious for a guy who was only eighteen—but honest and straightforward. At least, I always thought they were…
I shook my head. Snap out of it. This was no time to doubt myself. I had to keep my spirits up, keep going. Never give in.
It was hard sometimes. I have to admit it. With the bad guys after me, and even the good guys—the police—after me too. It was hard not to get discouraged. Lonely. I missed my home. I missed my friends. I missed my Mom and Dad. I even missed my sister, who could be very annoying, believe me. Imagine sitting down to watch your absolutely favorite television show and just as it’s about to begin, a nuclear explosion wipes out all of civilization as we know it—that’s how annoying my sister could be. But I missed her anyway.
I missed just being a regular guy, just going to school and church and hanging out and doing regular things.
But it was no good thinking about that now. I had to keep going. I had to do what I’d come here to do. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t stop trying. I’d promised God too. And I wouldn’t stop. Not ever.
I turned away from the mirror. I took the fleece down from the stall door. I’d bought it at a thrift shop a few days ago. Something to keep me warm now that winter was coming. I tapped it to feel the papers folded up in the inside pocket. That’s what I’d come to the library to find. I had what I wanted. It was time to go.
I slipped the fleece over my head, working my arms into the long sleeves.
It was just then—just as I got the fleece on—that the man came in.
He was a little older than I was—in his twenties maybe. A bit taller and a bit bigger around the waist and shoulders. He was wearing black jeans and a red windbreaker. He had a round, clean, pleasant face. Blonde hair, blue eyes. He looked like a nice guy. He gave me a quick nod as he entered and I nodded back. Then he moved past me, heading toward the urinals at the far end of the room.
I took a step away from him, toward the door, ready to leave. As I went, I glanced over at the mirror to check myself one last time. I lifted my fist to my reflection by way of encouragement. Never give in.
And, as I did that, I caught a glimpse of the man behind me. I saw his reflection too, out of the corner of my eye. Strangely, he had stopped walking toward the urinals. He had pivoted around, back toward me.
Suddenly, without any warning at all, he had a knife in his hand. It was a killer’s knife, a combat knife. A seven inch blade of black steel.
At the very moment I spotted him in the mirror, he tried to plunge the blade into my spine.
A jolt of terror went through me, an electric panic that gave me almost supernatural speed. I leapt to my left, turning sideways. The blade lanced past my midsection, so close I felt its motion through the fleece. My years of karate training kicked in. I reacted without thinking, smacking his elbow with my left palm to push the knife hand away.
But I was moving so fast, in so much fear, I stumbled, tripped over my own feet and staggered back deeper into the bathroom.
That saved my life. Because the man with the knife was well-trained. He knew how to fight. He was already slashing backwards at my face. If I hadn’t stumbled away from him, he’d have cut my throat right there.
I let out a grunt, bending away from the blade. I still didn’t have my feet under me, and the movement sent me even further off balance. I fell, tumbling down to the floor.
It was the end of me. I was sure of it.
Part two of this two-part excerpt runs tomorrow morning.
"The Long Way Home" is the second book in Andrew Klavan's Homelander Series. He discussed the series and the first book, "The Last Thing I Remember," with Big Hollywood back in April. You can read that interview here and here.
"The Long Way Home" is now available at Amazon.com.