When English professor Lam Corso receives a death threat at work, he laughs it off. A liberal activist teaching at a small Southern conservative college, he's used to stirring up controversy on campus. It's just part of the give and take of life. Even when violently attacked, Lam is convinced it has to be a mistake. He can't imagine anyone who would want to kill him for his beliefs.
When his home is broken into and his wife's business vandalized, Lam is forced to face facts. The police can't find a single lead. Lam's wife—a passionate anti-gun crusader—is outraged when Lam brings a gun into the house for protection. Left to their own devices, Lam and Susan must examine their marriage, faith, and values in the face of a carefully targeted attack from an assailant spurred into action by a different set of beliefs.
What will it cost to survive?
The sudden shock of something hitting him hard from behind knocked him into the bike and the rack. His glasses fell to the pavement, and his stocking cap came down over his eyes. His first thought was that someone had tripped and fallen into him, and he pushed away from the bike rack, sat up, and turned.
He shoved his cap up, but without his glasses, he saw only the shape of a person standing over him and reaching down toward him. “That’s okay,” he said, “I can get up all right.”
When he rolled to one side to try and stand, a sharp blow struck him in the back of the ribs, and he grunted in pain and went to the pavement face down.
A distorted, almost metallic voice said, “You don’t get it, do you?”
“Jesus!” Lam groaned through gritted teeth. “Get what?” The pain in his ribs and the strange sound of the voice disoriented him.
Then came the kick to Lam’s thigh, and he yelled with the pain. “What the hell are you doing?” But he knew the answer to his question as soon as he asked it. This was it. Someone was attacking him. No matter what he had thought or felt over the past few days, the threat had not been real until that moment. Fear shot through him at the sudden clarity that this person was carrying out the threat. He said between tight breaths, “I’m Dr. Corso…from the English Department… Settle down and…we can clear this up.”
The distorted voice said, “You think I don’t know who you are? The mighty Lambert Corso, who thinks he can stop the earth from warming? Well, suck it up, and take what’s coming, Dr. Corso.”
Lam patted the pavement for his glasses, but he was grabbed by the back of his coat collar and jerked up and thrust hard back down on the ground. His head bounced on the pavement, stunning him. He kicked out at the dark figure, who picked up a bicycle that wasn’t chained and slammed it down on top of him. Lam roared at the pain, the bike pedal digging into his stomach. The attacker threw the bike out of the way, grabbed the front of Lam’s coat, and punched him hard three times in the face before he could raise his arms in defense.
When he dropped Lam back to the pavement, he said, “You dodged a bullet Friday afternoon. My bad. I won’t miss this time.”
And then the attacker stepped away and waited, breathing hard. Another shock of fear and clarity ran through Lam. The car had been trying to kill him. He’d been a fool. He thought of Susan, sitting with the boys on the sofa, watching TV and sipping a glass of wine. He couldn’t let go of her, he couldn’t bear to leave her and the boys, the thought of himself lying dead in an empty parking lot. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. He had imagined dying hundreds of times—cancer, car wreck, drowning, plane crash—but never this, beaten to death by a lunatic who didn’t like his politics.
A desperate sound, short, high, and strained, broke from him. Blind without his glasses in the dark, he was helpless, but he refused to lie there and be killed without a fight. He tried again to stand. But as he struggled to his knees, a blow to the side of his head sent him sprawling against the bike rack, and he thought he was passing out.
The voice came again, “Time’s up, Lambert.”
When Lam looked up, the man stood above him with something—a knife Lam thought—in his hand. The voice said, “You were warned.”
Laughter came from the far end of the parking lot, and a girl’s voice yelled, “Last one to the bike rack buys the lattes!” Racing footsteps echoed on the pavement.
A split second later the figure standing over Lam slipped the knife into a side pocket, turned, ran over the lip of the hill behind the cathedral and was gone.