Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Baxter: Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty

“East or west?” she asked when they reached the bottom of the hill.
“Where’s your nearest cache?” he asked her.
“Oh, we’re on the same team now?”
“They want both of us, don’t they? You’re gonna need a new ID and money. If they killed my accounts, they killed yours, too, right? And burned your IDs. You might be worse off than me at this very moment.”
She shook her head, frustrated that he was right, but not ready to admit it.
“Where do we go?” she asked.
“We have to switch cars, maybe a couple of times, we need a mall or a big parking garage, just in case there’s satellite coverage. I’d like to think we’re not that important, but I think Smith just proved otherwise.”
“What’s close?”
“Fuckin’ nothing, that’s the problem. Portland or Vancouver, I guess, but I don’t want to backtrack.”

“I can look it up on my--” she froze, looked at the dashboard, where her phone sat neatly in a cradle. “Shit.”
Baxter pulled it out, opened the door, carefully placed it in line with the front right wheel. “Back up,” he said. She did, running over the phone several times. He found a bottle of water in the door and dumped it over the remains.
“It took two hours for the last chopper. Ground response will be on the way faster, but there’s still a delay. Turn left.”
“Are you sure?”
“Trust me.”
She didn’t, not anymore, not really, but they had to start somewhere. 
He found her road atlas and checked it intently. “There’s a bridge coming up, few miles at Hood River. There’s a small highway heading south. A few towns where we can switch cars and get lost in the sticks.”
“But if they manage to track us the whole way, they can trap us anytime they want.”
“There’s nowhere good to deploy from around Portland. We could make it very tough.”
“What about going back to Portland. There’s got to be another route...Highway 26, right? Go south from here, head back to the city.”
You want to backtrack?” he asked doubtfully. 
“They’d assume we couldn’t possibly go back where we started, won’t they? I would.”
He thought about that. “Hopefully. We have to assume if they’re really coming for us they’ll have teams everywhere and it’ll be easier to hide in a bigger city. Plenty of malls to choose from, anyway. Priority one is breaking any tail we might have, which means a lot of chicanery for the next hours or day, and then we light out to...”
“Where’s your nearest cache?” he repeated. 
“L.A., I guess.”
“Not Seattle?”
“I never come to the West Coast, I think Smith has someone else. He sent me because it was you, remember?”
“L.A. it is then.”
“And how do we get there?”
“Same way everyone else does, we drive, we take a train, we fly, whatever.”
She looked at him. “You know it’s not that easy.”
“Sometimes it is. I did it.”
“No one was chasing you.”
“But I had to act just like someone was, just in case.”
“So, what, this is round two for you?”
“Except this time I know someone’s chasing us.”
“Is that why you’re not freaking out?”
“Maybe. Maybe I know it’s a waste of energy. How are you feeling, anyway?” he asked. 
“Really, really amped up.”
“You want me to drive?”
“No, it’d be even worse.”
“Okay. Will you be all right?”
“I’ll be fine!”
“It’s different when you know they’re Americans, isn’t it?” he asked quietly. 
Her eyes slid to him, but her head didn’t turn.
“That’s not what I was thinking about,” she said.
“You will.”
“Tell me how you did it.”
“A magician never tells--”
He stared ahead, and a sign for the bridge came into view. He took a deep breath. 
“I was late for work on 9/11,” he began. “And I had this briefcase with me...”

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