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Authors: Dean Murray

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BOOK: Trapped
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I
filled up the car in record time, pulled out of the gas station and
didn't stop looking back until we were on the interstate again.

Somewhere
between the border and Platte City, Ash started running a
temperature. By the time we pulled into Kansas City he was delirious
and mostly incoherent. I caught snatches here and there as the sun
started to set.

"…can't
ever go back…sorry I failed…won't be forced to bow to
their demands…"

I
checked his bandages as we entered the city limits. Things weren't
looking good. Both wrappings had soaked almost all of the way
through, and I had no idea how much blood he'd lost before he'd got
the bandage in place.

The
second gas station that I asked at was able to give me directions to
the car lot. An hour later I managed to successfully navigate my way
there. Ash had mostly trailed off by then, and it took a lot to get
him awake.

"Ash!
We're here, you need to wake up."

"Kansas
City?"

"Yes,
you told me not to get out of the car. Now that we're here what am I
supposed to be doing?"

He
tried to pull himself up into a sitting position, but the attempt
washed the color out of his face almost instantly. I could only
imagine how much pain he was in.

"Look
around. There should be a semi full of cars and then a line of vehicles
next to it."

"OK,
I can see it."

"Pull
up next to the cars, as close as you can get. Don't open the door,
just unroll the window."

As
soon as I cut the engine a slender figure more or less just appeared
at my window.

"You
the pair we're waiting for?"

The
speaker looked to be late thirties, and judging by the piercings and
tattoos had probably spent his formative years in and out of prison.

"Yes,
we're the pair."

"Here's
the packet I was paid to deliver. You can have your pick of this lot
here, and once you've vacated your vehicle I'll load it up and be on
my way to Chicago, no stopping, just like instructed."

I
awkwardly accepted the thick envelope, thought about opening it, but
then decided against doing so. We probably would have sat there for
an hour, neither him nor I moving if Ash hadn't spoken up.

"Kristin,
we need to climb from this car to the next, don't set foot on the
ground if you can avoid it."

Ash
waved the trucker closer while I was still trying to process what
he'd just asked me to do.

"You've
got your instructions?"

"Yes,
I'll wait until you've driven away, then I'll load up your car, pour
vinegar on the ground between each of these rigs and drive off. Your
man let slip that the rest of the vehicles will be gone within the
next six hours, singly or in pairs. Either on car carriers or driven
to separate lots where the sales guys will be told to give people
offers they can't pass up. You'll want to watch that—people with
loose lips like that cause more problems than they are worth."

Ash
nodded. "He's temporary. Thanks for the heads-up though. You
recognize that there is an element of risk to this?"

"Sure.
Nothing that pays this well is safe and legal."

Ash
nodded again, waved the trucker away and then motioned for me to get
started. I would have said it wasn't possible. I almost expected the
trucker to help, but he watched impassively while I climbed over Ash
and then half pulled, half assisted Ash in climbing into the next
vehicle.

I
wanted to stop at the first car, but Ash weakly insisted that we keep
going, so I helped him through a pickup truck, another sedan and into
a SUV before it was obvious that there wasn't any way he was going to
make it any further.

By
that point I was exhausted, but to humor him I crawled through each
of the other vehicles in the line and then back to the SUV. Ash had
passed out again, so I started the vehicle up and carefully pulled it
forward. The trucker was waiting and motioned for me to roll the
window down.

"Look,
sweetheart. I don't know how you got hooked up with this guy,
but you don't look like the type to be running around with
someone like him."

I
felt stupid. Four or five hours of sleep curled in a ball in Ash's
car wasn't enough to compensate for all of the adrenaline that
had been spiking through my system off and on since Anton had walked
into the TacoHut.

Apparently
my blank stare cued the trucker into the fact that I didn't
know what he was getting at.

"Kristin,
was it? Only two kinds of people have the kind of money it takes to
arrange something like this on what looks to be short notice. On the
one hand you've got the respectable ultra-wealthy who have
nothing better to do with their money than arrange weird ways to pick
up a new car and get the old car home. The other group is full of
people who are just as rich but who operate on the other side of the
law. Organized crime, drug dealers, very exclusive hit men. You're
smart enough to figure out which group shows up to pick up their car
covered in blood."

I
must have tensed up; he stepped back and put his hands in the air.

"What
you do is your business. I'm not going to be telling any tales.
Just wanted to make sure you know what it is you're getting
into."

I
shook my head. "I have no idea what I'm getting into, but
he saved my life and someone even worse is after both of us."

The
trucker pulled a cigarette out and lit it. "Better make sure
you figure out what's going on sooner rather than later. My
experience is that when you start dealing with devils, there's
not much difference between the ones on your side and the ones on the
other side. Sooner or later you get burned."

 

 

Chapter 4

 

I
drove until the tank was down to less than a quarter full and then
pulled into a gas station. I debated for several seconds and then
finally tore open the envelope. The contents read like something out
of a spy movie.

Cash,
lots of cash actually, maybe thirty thousand dollars. Another gun,
two passports, one for me, one for him. Ammunition, a knife, driver's
licenses, and two cheap-looking pre-paid cellphones.

I
shook my head in astonishment. The trucker hadn't been kidding.
This wasn't the kind of thing a normal person could arrange at
all, let alone on less than forty-eight hours' notice. I
stripped a couple of hundred-dollar bills off of the stack, slid
everything but my set of fake IDs back into the envelope and went
inside to pay for the gas.

We
made it back on the road without incident and I lasted for another
three hours before I got so tired that I had to pull over. When I
finally woke up the sun was rising again and Ash was awake and
staring at me.

"You'll
live, I take it?"

He
nodded. "Looks like it. How long were you asleep for?"

"I'm
not sure, maybe seven hours."

My
stomach chose that moment to growl and Ash nodded again.

"No
reason not to go find food then. If he hasn't found us yet,
then our odds are pretty good. You didn't happen to drive
through a rain storm, did you?"

The
mention of food got me moving. It had been too many hours with
nothing but convenience-store snacks to subsist on. I let my chair
click back into an upright position.

"I
think we're in Alabama, if you're curious."

Ash
froze for a moment. In someone else it wouldn't have been
noticeable but he normally moved so smoothly that even a slight hitch
was practically screaming that I'd knocked him for a loop.

"Very
well. Still not a good reason to forgo a meal, but we should choose a
smaller establishment."

"Why?
Are the cops looking for us?"

Ash
nodded as he reached for the envelope that I'd left on the
pedestal between our two seats.

"Among
other reasons."

I
grabbed the envelope before he could put his hand on it. It was a
stupid thing to do for multiple reasons, and I'd look back
later and realize that he probably could have still beat me to it if
he'd wanted to, but I was finally pissed.

"Not
so fast. I've put up with all kinds of crap. I fled the scene
of a frickin' knife fight because you've saved my life
twice. Oh yeah, and I shot somebody who I'm now pretty sure
just shrugged it off and then went off and devoured a couple of small
children or whatever it is Anton does for kicks when he's not
trying to kill me. All of that and all I know is that some random
trucker you hired thinks you're in the mafia and that sooner or
later you're going to kill me."

Ash
had a bemused look on his face, but he shrugged and then leaned back
in his chair.

"Technically
I didn't hire him. Somebody else did that, I just hired the
somebody else."

The
response was so off the wall that I couldn't help but stare.

"You
still hired him indirectly…"

"Yes,
but I can't vouch for his character. Actually I can't
vouch for the character of the 'somebody else' either."

He
was smiling, and I found myself returning the smile.

Ash
held up a hand before I could say anything else.

"I'm
not trying to keep you in the dark, Kristin, not any more at least. I
want you to think about what you're asking though. Once I tell
you what's going on you can't forget that information.
You won't be able to just go back to your old life."

The
switch from humor to seriousness was abrupt enough to underscore just
how important he felt like the question was. I thought about it for a
second and then nodded.

"Like
I said. I've just spent the last day and a half running for my
life, and for most of that time I was convinced you were some kind of
psycho kidnapper. People don't just forget that either. Heck,
some people go through years of therapy to deal with that kind of
stuff. I already can't just go back to my old life."

Ash
sighed. "You saw that Anton shrugged off bullets when they
should have killed him right? How do you explain that?"

That
one floored me. I'd been expecting him to confess to being
involved in something illicit. I didn't expect him to return to
one thing I couldn't explain with anything that was remotely
rational.

"Actually,
I can't explain that. Why don't you just tell me?"

"Some
things are hard to believe unless you've already arrived at
them yourself."

Now
I was starting to get frustrated, but he opened his mouth again
before I could respond.

"How
long do you think it normally takes to recover from two serious stab
wounds?"

It
was like he'd run a current through me. Science and math were
my subjects. I'd never even had an anatomy class, but I really
should have realized that Ash was recovering too fast.

Actually
he shouldn't even be alive, let alone moving around on his own.
People got stitches and antibiotics after being stabbed and then
still spent days in the hospital after something like that.

"You
should be dead."

"Probably.
At the very least I should still be out of commission."

"So
how are you and Anton both doing things that aren't humanly
possible?"

He'd
gone unnaturally motionless. It was like we were both waiting for the
other to move.

"Think
very carefully about what you just said, Kristin."

"You're
both doing things that…"

What
was the principle? When you've ruled out all of the simple
explanations, then whatever is left, no matter how complicated and
unlikely, has to be the answer. I felt a shiver run through me as
some primal urge demanded that I run or fight. The silence stretched
out for more than a minute, but despite Ash being able to see the
answer in my eyes he waited for me to say it.

"So
you're not human. What does that leave? What are you?"

"A
shape shifter. Popular culture would probably call me a werewolf but
that's not quite right. There really are werewolves and I'm
not one of those."

"So
what, you got bitten?"

I'd
seen Ash serious, I'd most recently seen Ash funny, almost
playful, but I'd never seen him bitter before. His laugh
actually made me hurt inside.

"No,
actually, that would be easier to stomach sometimes. It would be nice
to have a single event to blame. No, my 'condition' is
genetic."

"You
mean there is a whole what…subspecies…out there that
nobody knows about? Is it a recent thing or have you guys been around
for a long time?"

The
real smile was back.

"You
know, most people would completely miss out on the evolutionary
considerations. Maybe one in a thousand would think about things the
way that you just did. Of that one in a thousand, most of the rest of
them would have at least refrained from calling me a subspecies. You
really are a geek, aren't you, Kristin?"

I
felt myself blush. I worked hard to try and avoid the appearance of
being a nerd. It was one thing to be smart, it was another thing to
be so socially awkward that people could pick you out in a crowd for
it. Ivy League schools accepted geeky geeks, but I figured I had a
better chance if I could be super-smart but still articulate.

"How
did you know? Were you stalking me before the night Anton tried to
kidnap us?"

Ash
held up his hands in mock surrender.

"When
you fell asleep that first night you talked in your sleep. Only a
real egghead would recite the periodic table in their sleep."

I
blushed again. Somehow his humor helped. I would have thought it
would infuriate me, but somehow it took the edge off of a revelation
that should have made me run screaming for the hills.

"Stop
deflecting. How many of you are there?"

Ash
shrugged. "Nobody really knows. It's not like we have a
phonebook or anything. My best guess would be more than a couple
thousand, less than ten thousand."

BOOK: Trapped
12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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