Authors: S. L. Eaves
This book is a work of fiction. The characters, places, incidents, and dialogue are the product of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real, or if real, are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, either living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 by S. L. Eaves
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
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For my parents. Thank you for your unwavering support and encouragement.
The pedal vibrates under my foot.
“I’m pushing a hundred. These winding roads make it hard.”
Crina climbs over the front seats and settles into shotgun. She’d been taking care of Xan, who was unconscious in the back.
“How’s he doing?”
“He took one hell of a blow to the head, but he’ll be okay.”
I turn up the radio to drown out the sound of the police sirens behind us. My eyes keep darting to the rearview.
There were two of them back there. At least.
They’d caught our trail while we were tearing through the city. You could say we had a police escort out of Los Angeles.
“How far till Mexico?” Crina was wiping blood off her hands.
“Far. Dunno. At this rate we’re not gonna make it.”
“Where the hell are we anyway?”
“Somewhere mountainous,” I respond dryly.
“You shouldn’t be driving. You lost a lot of blood.”
“Well right now that’s the least of our problems.”
I’d hotwired an old 90s roadster while Crina was hoisting an unconscious Xan through the hatchback. An easy steal, but the old beast of a transmission was fighting me on every turn. It was a miracle we’d made it out of the city at all.
Headlights glimpse the guardrail. We hit a sharp curve, catch some stones in the tires and skid through the gravel for a spell. I grip the wheel tightly, downshifting. Crina claws the dash. Xan remains sprawled across the backseat. We fishtail, then straighten out.
I shift gears and keep my focus on the road ahead.
The speedometer climbs back over 80 mph. Crina shoots me a nervous glance.
“Just keeping the cops on their toes.”
“They’ll be sending out backup and lots of it…likely include a chopper. We aren’t going to make it much farther in this car. We gotta bail.”
I hate when she’s right.
Crina rolls down her window.
“We should’ve stolen a convertible.”
I grin. “Next time.”
“There’s a ravine nearby. I smell the water.”
There was a valley down to our left, a fitting host for water. And our escape.
“Something to aim for. What about Xan?”
An over-confident Crina is halfway out the window; she ducks back in.
“Can’t toss him. Gotta pull him from the wreckage.”
My stomach churns. Not what I wanted to hear. Cops are still in tight pursuit. They would not be relenting anytime soon. Someone blew apart several blocks of downtown LA, and we presently carried the titles of Suspect One, Two, and Three.
Our options are limited at best. There is a tight bend up ahead.
“Get ready to bail.”
My foot slams the accelerator. Crina climbs most of the way out the window, bracing her feet on the door handle.
“See you at the bottom,” I promise Xan under my breath.
The road curves sharply to the right.
We do not.
The car runs out of road and we eject mid dive over the rocky and tree-filled terrain. From my own airborne position, I watch as the car clips the tops of a few trees and nosedives into the jagged landscape below. Its short-lived plummet is followed by a dramatic landing as it bounces into tree trunks, flips over laterally and eventually rolls to a stop.
I have similar luck.
My feet strike the ground, but I don’t stick the landing. Hurling forward over some rocks, I bounce along the mountainside until a tree brings me to an abrupt halt. Still conscious, I lie at its trunk watching the world spin.
Stumbling, I force my feet to keep me vertical. My head is spinning. I stagger toward the light supplied by flames now emanating from the pile of metal and gasoline that used to be a car. My eyes start to focus as I near the overturned vehicle.
“Xan,” I cough, holding my rib cage.
Had that fall not jolted him awake?
I look around. No sign of Crina.
Hastily, I pry back the driver’s side door and am relieved to see Xan inside, still unconscious. The fall had tossed him onto the footwell of the back, but he seems no worse for wear.
Folding the driver’s seat forward, I climb in and slip my arms under his shoulders. Grasping his underarms, I slide him out from the burning car. Crina catches me as I fall backwards under his deadweight. She pulls us both to safety, beating out my pant leg, which had caught fire in the process.
We take shelter in some dense underbrush. From there we can see the police cars up the hillside. They are parked, headlights beaming out across the night sky, illuminating the treetops. I spot the silhouette of an officer as he crosses the front of a car. None of them appear to be making their way downhill. Perhaps they are waiting for a fire truck or a medical unit.
“How are you doing?”
“Okay. Caught ahold of a tree branch mid-flight. Made for an easy descent. You?”
I feel my sides, which are covered in blood. Some of the earlier wounds have healed, but the fresh ones still carry some sting.
“Had a kinda rough landing. Cracked a few ribs.”
Xan begins to stir.
“Xan!” we both exclaim.
“What happened?” His voice is hoarse and weak. I bend down to hug him.
“Lori!” He wraps his arms around me and stays clenched as I straighten up. I grimace at his weight on my half-eaten shoulder. Crina takes his arms from my neck and helps him to his feet.
“You sure you can stand okay?” she asks. He is looking around, a dazed expression on his face.
“Where are we?”
“Somewhere outside LA,” I mutter, bracing myself against a tree. I look over at the car a few yards up the hillside. Cops are shining flashlights around, but they don’t quite have the range. The car is now completely engulfed in flames.
“We have to keep moving,” Crina states. “I lost my comm a ways back.”
“I have mine.” I pop it out of my ear. Surprised it’s still intact. I tap the button, stick it back in. Not even static.
We continue downhill. Crina had been right about the water. We trudge along the crooked path cut by the river, crossing when it narrows. It isn’t long before we are out of range of the sirens.
The silence manages to feel both refreshing and disconcerting.
Crina leads the way, hacking through the foliage. Xan and I stumble along behind. A good hour passes with none of us speaking. I feel dizzy, nauseous, exhausted.
Eventually we reach a clearing.
“Break time,” I proclaim, dropping flat on my back and letting the soft earth break my fall. Crina and Xan join me.
We lie there taking in the beautiful, crystal clear night sky. And a full moon, apparently, illuminating the field around us.
“Full moon tonight. With everything else going on I’d completely forgotten.”
“So had I,” Crina sighs. “Ironic now, I suppose.”
“Where are the others?” Xan asks absently.
“That’s a good question.”
I reach into Xan’s cargo pocket, fishing around.
“Feeling frisky?” he jokes. I remove my hand, displaying the cigarettes and Zippo he’d been holding for me.
“Oh, right,” he laughs as I wink at him.
I light one and briefly feel human as the smoke fills my lungs. Some vices are worth clinging to if only for the memories.
Crina reaches across and slides one from the pack. She normally complains about the smell. I don’t comment. Just flip open the lighter. I give them back to Xan, who hasn’t moved since our collapse.
“And yet you still managed to start a fire.” Xan plays with my Zippo. He takes a cig from the pack, now resting on his stomach, and cranes his neck to light it.
After a moment, Crina props up onto her elbows.
“Does this mean it’s over?”
“I don’t know.” I close my eyes and picture the bomb detonating.
She cranes her neck for a better glimpse of the moon.
Xan groans. “My head is splitting.”
I reach out and run my fingers through his hair.
“My head…is full of static. The comm!”
I sit up with a jolt, hand on my earpiece.
Static comes over my comm, followed by a faint voice. I can’t make it out. My ears are still ringing from the blast. I hand the comm to Crina.
“Thought I heard a transmission. See if you have any luck.”
Crina holds the piece to her ear, pushing the button in.
“Hello. Anyone hear me? Hello.”
I close my eyes, relaxing on the moist earth. The blades of grass prick my skin. It is a warm night. A perfect night.
It is not enough.
I had heard a voice over the comm. A voice that sounded like Catch’s.