No Way Out (Ebook)

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If you enjoy Mary Higgins Clark, you’ll enjoy No Way Out.

Abby Breuner fears the worst. Pregnant with her third child and having problems at work, Abby is alarmed when her husband, Eric, vanishes without any warning.

The police seem unable – or unwilling – to help. And what appeared to be a close-enough-to-perfect life gets permanently turned upside down when she finds an ominous book and a large amount of cash stowed in a forgotten corner of her closet.

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Chapter 1

Eric Breuner gazed at his sleeping wife one last time before creeping down the stairs and out the front door. He took only one change of clothes—he would pick up a few other things later.

The sick feeling in his stomach intensified as he backed his Jeep out of the garage, and the pressure of doing what he had to do mixed with distress over Abby and what her reaction would be. When he visualized his wife and what he was about to put her through, he nearly turned back. Pounding the steering wheel in miserable frustration, Eric squeezed his eyes closed. 

Knowing the only solution was to get this whole mess over with as quickly as he could, he opened his eyes and pressed the accelerator. He only wished it had been possible to explain to Abby what was about to happen. That wasn’t an option, but just the same, he deeply regretted that his wife was going to have to suffer. His heart ached at the thought of his sweet Abby, pregnant and all alone. 

How can I do this? 

Pulling to the side of the road, he contemplated once again whether this was really necessary, but one glance at the documents on the passenger seat convinced him it was. After the initial discovery, the situation had rapidly gotten out of control. He had hoped he would be able to deal with his situation without leaving, but after what had happened the day before, it was obvious that leaving was the only option. Even so, the night before he’d tossed and turned until he’d made a final decision. 

Despite the fact that he wanted to let Abby know what was going on, he was convinced they would all be better off if she didn’t know anything. Not only that, he knew if he tried to explain, she would never allow him to go. He hoped she would someday be able to understand why he’d made this choice. And that she would be able to forgive him.

Resigned to the inevitability of his task, Eric put the Jeep into gear and pulled back onto the road. A few minutes later he realized he needed to double-check the map for directions to his destination—not wanting to be tracked, he’d stashed his cell phone in his home office. He pulled over again and opened the glove box, digging through the contents.

“Where’s that map?” he said out loud. Not finding it in the glove box, he reached under his seat and felt a thick bundle. “There it is.” He pulled it out and blinked at the unexpected items. “What the –?”

Rubbing the back of his neck with one hand, he read the note, then thumbed through the other items. Blowing out a short breath, he shook his head.

Good thing I found these. If the police had found them first my situation would be disastrous. 

Now he knew with certainty that leaving was the right thing to do. He also knew that as long as he was driving this vehicle, he could be found. Going home wasn’t an option, so he thought for a moment before turning in another direction. He left the Jeep where he hoped it wouldn’t be discovered for a while and hurried down the street to the nearest bus stop.

Once he reached his destination he found a pay phone—already missing his cell phone—so he could leave a message for Abby. This was the time she took their daughters to school, and since he didn’t want to speak to her directly, this would be the perfect time to leave a message. He picked up the phone, dropped in some change, and dialed. At the sound of the ringing on the other end, he hung up, suddenly not sure what to say. He heard the coins slide into the cup at the bottom of the phone.

How can I apologize for something she doesn’t know about? How can I let her know I love her, but that this is unavoidable?

Eric collected the change from the dispenser and dropped it in again. Sighing, he dialed his home number.

“Hello, you’ve reached the home of the Breuner family,” the message began in Abby’s smooth voice. “We can’t come to the phone right now, so please leave a message and we’ll call you back.”

Eric’s heart pounded as he listened to his wife’s voice, then he took a deep breath before leaving her a simple message.

* * *

“Abby Breuner,” the nurse called out.

Abby set the parenting magazine on the table and followed the nurse into the examination room. After the nurse left, Abby looked at the monitor that would soon hold the image of her unborn child.

Eric should be here. 

Irritated with her husband’s absence at this appointment, she recalled the message he’d left on the answering machine that morning. Even though he had apologized for not coming with her, she was annoyed he hadn’t made this appointment his top priority.

“Good morning, Abby.” A tall woman wearing a white lab coat walked into the room. “I’m Lisa. I’ll be giving you your ultrasound.”

“Good morning.” Abby handed the woman the blank DVD, then climbed onto the examination table and lay back on the pillow. Cool gel coated her abdomen, but as she looked at the screen it was quickly forgotten.

Mesmerized by the moving figure before her, she stared at the screen. The picture was so clear that she was speechless for a moment. As the technician pointed out the baby’s head, Abby could actually make out the shape of a miniature nose. She could see four fingers and a thumb on each tiny hand and five toes on each exquisitely shaped foot.

As Lisa pointed out her baby’s beating heart, Abby gasped in wonder at the miracle of it all.

“Do you want to know the baby’s gender?” Lisa asked.

“Well, I . . . I don’t know. I wanted to know before, but now I’m not sure.” She bit her lip, wondering if she should find out.

Lisa nodded. “If you’d like, I can write it down on a piece of paper and you can decide later.”

That seemed like a good compromise and she agreed. 

“I’ll just stop the recording here, and if you’ll look the other way I’ll see whether you’re having a boy or a girl.” 

A few moments later Abby watched in fascination as the technician folded the green piece of paper with the secret information into the shape of a tiny bird.

At the look of pleasure on Abby’s face, Lisa said, “It’s origami. You’d be surprised at the number of people who can’t decide if they want to know their baby’s gender. I thought it might be fun to do more than just write it down on a piece of paper and hand it over.” She laughed quietly. “This little bird is my specialty.”

Abby took it from her. “It’s beautiful.”

“Thank you.” Lisa smiled. “That one’s usually a big hit.”

Before Abby left the room, the technician gave her several still photos of the ultrasound along with the DVD. Abby glanced at the photos and saw that the pictures were as clear as they had been on the monitor. 

A short time later Abby stared at herself in the doctor’s bathroom mirror, wondering if her face radiated the happiness she felt. Pushing her shoulder-length brown hair behind her ears, she leaned in closer to apply pale-colored lipstick, noticing her eyes had a brilliance to them that hadn’t been there earlier. Certain it was from the inner joy she was feeling, she smiled to herself. Then she popped the lid back onto her lipstick, straightened her maternity blouse, and left the bathroom, hoping she wouldn’t be late for work.

Nadine, her supervisor at the county library, didn’t like it when employees took time off from work to take care of personal business. Fortunately, Abby was usually able to make appointments on her own time.

As Abby walked out of the doctor’s office, she looked up at the sunny California sky and thought it looked bluer than when she’d arrived. Rose-scented air drifted toward her as a smile lit her face. All was right with the world on this splendid late-April morning. 

Abby’s mood diminished a little as she pulled into the library parking lot. Just as she had feared, she was ten minutes late for work. Hoping Nadine wouldn’t notice her late arrival, she went to the back to put her things away before getting started. She grabbed the stack of books waiting to be checked in and began scanning them into the computer, but after only a few minutes she heard a voice behind her.

“Oh, there you are, Abby. I was beginning to wonder if you were coming today.”

Abby put a smile on her face before turning toward Nadine. “I’m sorry. My appointment took longer than I expected. I’ll stay an extra ten minutes this afternoon.”

“Very well.” Nadine’s smile was tight. “When you’re finished checking in the books, you can start shelving in the nonfiction section.”

Nadine’s forced smile reminded Abby that she was hoping to quit soon. Even though she loved the library and enjoyed working there, she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom again. She and Eric had only begun talking about the possibility, but she knew he was worried about being able to make ends meet if she quit. The year before, when Susannah had started first grade, she had started working part-time, but once the baby came she wouldn’t even have time for that. 

Scanning in the books, Abby thought about the bills she and Eric had racked up in their quest to become pregnant with this baby. Their insurance hadn’t covered the full cost of the fertility treatments, so they’d taken out a home equity loan and then had nearly maxed out their credit cards to pay for the procedures. After only two attempts, they couldn’t afford any more tries and had given up.

Pulling the last pile of books in front of her, Abby glanced around for more that needed checking in. Mary, her friend and coworker, dragged a cart behind her as she entered the room.

“Hey there, Abby.” Mary smiled, then her voice dropped to a whisper. “Nadine was looking for you.”

Abby rolled her eyes. “I know. We’ve already spoken. You’d think I was an hour late instead of ten minutes.”

Mary gave her a sympathetic glance. “Well, here are more books for you.” She pushed the cart closer to Abby. “I’m going to start shelving the children’s books.”

“See ya,” Abby called after her, grabbing an armful of books and setting them on the counter. It was nice to have someone she could commiserate with. Oh, well. I won’t be working here forever. I’ll just enjoy my job while it lasts. 

The baby kicked a few times in agreement and she rubbed her abdomen, love for her unborn child warming her heart.

It was a miracle she was pregnant at all. After getting pregnant so easily with her first two children, it had come as a shock when after two years of trying she still hadn’t been able to conceive. That was when the fertility treatments had begun. When the money had run out, she and Eric had figured that was it for them—two beautiful girls. She’d tried to accept that, but longed for more children. Then, when she least expected it, she became pregnant without any medical help at all.


She nearly jumped at the sound, then whirled around to see Nadine standing behind her. 

“You were daydreaming.” No smile graced Nadine’s narrow face.

Redness flooded her cheeks at the rebuke and she had unpleasant memories of being scolded by her mother. “I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

“See that it doesn’t. The books are beginning to pile up.” Nadine spun on her low heels and walked away.

Nadine had brought in two more carts of books to check in and shelve, and Abby worked through her embarrassment for two hours until it was time for her lunch break. Before leaving she checked the area where new books were held to see if the book she’d requested had arrived. She loved to read, and one of the perks of her job was being one of the first people to read the new books.

“Yes,” she murmured as she pulled the book from the shelf. After checking it out she walked to her car, ready to go home for lunch. Eric was supposed to meet her so they could watch the DVD of the ultrasound together. Amazingly, Nadine hadn’t said anything when Abby had requested a long lunch. 

Maybe she felt guilty for scolding me. 

Abby pulled into her garage, leaving enough room for Eric to park his Jeep. The moment she walked into the house she went directly to the DVD player and inserted the DVD of the morning’s ultrasound. When the video of her unborn child filled the screen, her heart lifted in delight. At the conclusion of the DVD she remembered the delicate bird the technician had made for her and retrieved it from her purse.

Pleased it hadn’t been damaged after sitting in her purse all morning, she could hardly wait until Eric came home for lunch so they could open it together. She set it high on the bookshelf where it wouldn’t be misplaced, then stood there, daydreaming for a moment.

* * *

Abby was getting worried. She looked at her watch again. Her usually prompt husband was thirty minutes late. Pacing the room, she felt the restless motions of her baby as if it too were worried. 

He knows I only have a limited amount of time. Surely he would have called if he couldn’t make it.

Their disagreement from the night before came into her mind. Although she had wanted him to come to her doctor’s appointment, he’d said he couldn’t make it, and this lunch date had been their compromise.

Abby stopped pacing and walked into the kitchen, convinced Eric would have called by now if something had come up. She called his cell number, but it went straight to voice mail. 

“Hi, it’s me,” she said. “Just wondering where you are.” She tried to hide her irritation. “I’m at home. Did you forget our lunch date? I have the ultrasound for you to see, and if you want to know whether we’re having a boy or a girl you’d better get home soon. I don’t know what we’re having, but I have a surprise for you if you want to know. Please call me back.”

Eric, of all the days to not answer your phone, today is the worst. Abby looked at the tiny green origami bird. I want you here so we can find out together if we’re having a boy or a girl.

Wondering if someone at Eric’s work might know where he was, she picked up the phone again and dialed. 

“Central Valley Construction,” a cheery voice answered.

“Accounting department, please,” she said, trying to keep her voice pleasant.

When she reached the right department she identified herself and asked for her husband.

“One moment,” the voice told her.

Abby tapped her fingers on the counter and glanced at the clock.

The woman came back on the line. “I’m sorry. He’s at lunch. Do you want to leave a message?”

“Can you tell me how long ago he left?” At least he’s on his way.

“One moment, please. I’ll see if I can find out.”

Abby sighed, wondering if Eric would walk in the front door before the secretary came back on the phone.

“Mrs. Breuner?”

“Yes, I’m still here.”

“I came in late this morning and I haven’t actually seen him yet. I’m afraid I don’t know when he left, but I would expect him back anytime. Would you like to leave a message on his voice mail?”

Glancing toward the door to watch for his arrival, Abby shook her head. “No. He’s probably on his way now.”

She hung up the phone and walked to the front window, looking in the direction Eric normally came from. No one was on the street. Abby checked her watch and saw that her lunch break was rapidly ending.

* * *

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