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Authors: Jim Heskett

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BOOK: The Legend of Kareem
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Edgar and Glenning shared an uncomfortable look. Maybe they thought I wouldn’t know I was being followed, but with everything that had happened to me over the last few weeks, why wouldn’t I assume I was always being followed?

“Okay, Tucker, I can get to the point, if that’s what you want,” Edgar said. “We understand your father recently passed away. He was in possession of some of my company’s information. Sensitive information. And I’m very interested to see if it has now passed into your possession.”

“What’s the information?”

Edgar didn’t even blink. “I’m not at liberty to discuss that.”

“How am I supposed to tell you if I’ve got it or not, if you can’t tell me what it is? Do you see the disconnect there?”

Edgar stood, walked to the mirror hanging on the wall, and adjusted his tie. “What are you doing in Texas? Isn’t your wife at home, recovering from the incident?”

The mention of Grace sent a spike of heat down my back. I closed my eyes for a second, reminded myself to stay calm. He probably wanted me to get angry.

But I also didn’t have a good reason to explain why I was racing south across Texas. I said the first thing that popped into my head. “Tree. My dad’s will said he wanted a tree planted in his honor on Padre Island. So I’m on my way down there.”

He kept his face pointed at the mirror, started smoothing his hair against his scalp. “That’s quite noble of you. But why didn’t you fly?”

“I like to drive, not that it’s any of your damn business.”

He smiled at me. “You’re getting a little worked up. It’s not my intention to upset you, Tucker. I’m just trying to understand the situation.”

“The situation is that you’re pestering me about some kind of information you seem to think I have, but I have no idea what you’re talking about. Now, it’s late, and I’m tired, and I’d like you to leave.”

Edgar nodded and flicked his eyes to the other two men. “I understand. I’m sorry to have bothered you. We’ll go now, and if you think of anything,” he paused to take a business card from his jacket, “please do give me a call. This is my direct line.”

He set the card on the bed and nodded to Glenning and the other man.

“Are you stationing Glenning and this other lunkhead here at the motel? Are you going to keep following me all the way to Padre?”

The lunkhead didn’t like being called a lunkhead, but he didn’t do anything more than scowl at me. Glenning just grinned.

“Of course not. We’re going to leave you be. As I said, we’re not those people. Goodbye, Mr. Candle.”

 

***

 

Edgar, Glenning, and the other man left me in the room, and I spied them through the curtains until their car backed out of the parking lot. I raced outside to watch the car leave, and I was able to track the headlights all the way onto the highway. Would they actually leave me alone? Doubtful.

How are you supposed to hide from an organization that can find you wherever you go? How was I going to get Omar across the state in secret?

I checked the time on my phone. It had only been fifteen minutes, so hopefully Omar was still hiding out somewhere close.

I ran back into the diner, passed all the booths and looked into the bathrooms. Wasn’t there. I checked the kitchen and behind the counter, found nothing.

“Have you seen a little Middle Eastern guy?” I asked a waitress at the counter.

“Can’t say that I have, sugar,” she said. “Was he supposed to meet you here or something?”

I shook my head at her, and she shrugged. Don’t know why I bothered to say anything.

Back outside, I took stock of the surroundings. I hadn’t given Omar a motel room key so he couldn’t be there. Besides the diner, there wasn’t anything else in sight for several blocks in every direction. Just the motel and the wilderness of empty parking lots.

“Omar,” I shouted into the night air. Nothing came back.

I went to the motel and checked the linen closets at both ends of the building. Locked. Went back to the motel office, checked inside the bathrooms there. Nothing. I considered ringing the bell for service and asking them but didn’t expect anything more helpful than what the waitress had told me.

I looked back at the diner, then as I shuffled along the gravel parking lot, I noticed something poking out the back. I sprinted around the building, and two big green dumpsters next to each other stared back at me. Lifted the lid of the first one, and only the smell of rotten meat and dairy came back.

I lifted the lid of the second one, and my pulse skyrocketed when I found my traveling companion inside. He was on his side, convulsing, with his hands like claws and his eyes rolling back in his head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWELVE

 

 

Seeing Omar in the dumpster in the middle of a seizure nearly sent me into a panic. Among the bits of discarded food, empty containers, and mounds of paper sludge, my traveling companion wriggled and writhed and grunted.

I called his name a few times, but he was oblivious to my voice. He seemed like he was in some kind of trance, eyes open and unfocused.

I grabbed him by the shirt and lifted him until I could get a hand under his armpit. He was semi-stiff and uncooperative. I had to throw my back and my aching stomach muscles into lifting his body out. I kept ignoring all the physical abuse I’d been through in the last couple weeks, and my body kept telling me to stop being a jerk to it.

I dragged Omar’s vibrating body onto the ground, and his eyelids fluttered at me. I hadn’t ever seen this before, and had no idea what to do. I didn’t think taking him to a hospital was a good idea, because that would only confirm to IntelliCraft that he was with me, if they didn’t know already. Even though they probably did.

But if I did nothing and he died out here, how could I let that sit on my conscience? Wasn’t the whole point to keep Omar alive and safe?

I ran back into the diner and threw the door open. “Is there a doctor here?”

A dozen customers and waitstaff turned their heads to me, blinking, not speaking. No one stood and answered my question.

“What about a paramedic or EMT? A veterinarian, for fuck’s sake?”

A couple of them shook their heads, but they mostly just stared. Some country music about Jesus and cattle blared from the speakers.

“Is something wrong, dear?” a waitress said. “Do I need to call you an ambulance?”

I dashed back out of the diner, but when I rounded the corner, Omar was gone.

“Oh, no, shit, no. Where the hell did he go?” I yelled his name. No answer.

I blindly ran into the darkness beyond the motel. With my phone out, I turned on the flashlight app, which barely lit fifteen feet in front of me. Nothing but gravel parking lot and then dirt and weeds trampled under my feet.

But I kept running and shouting Omar’s name every few seconds. He couldn’t have gone anywhere, could he? More likely, he’d been snatched. I’d left him alone, and they’d come back and taken him.

Snatched, and now gone forever.

Then I heard a grunt, like an animal, to my right. I flicked the flashlight in that direction and saw a figure huddled against a barbed wire fence, with one hand grasping the wire. Saw his chest heaving.

“Omar?”

He raised his head, panting. “What happened?”

“I think you had a seizure.”

He fell forward and crawled toward me. I ran to him, took him by the hand, and helped him to his feet.

“Yes,” he said, “I remember now. I felt it when it began.”

“Tell me what to do. Do we need to go to the hospital?”

He shook his head. “No. Just some water, please. I have some medication in my bag. Can you get it for me?”

I helped him to the motel and sat him down on the bed. I made sure he was comfortable, then went to the car, retrieved his suitcase, and dug out a collection of pill bottles. Got him a glass of water from the bathroom sink.

He downed his pills and laid back on the bed. “Thank you.”

“Do you get those seizures often?”

“From time to time. It is worse when I am under a lot of stress. I try to stay calm as much as possible.”

Well, maybe I shouldn't have kidnapped him from his quiet life in Austin and made him go on a suicidal and poorly-planned road trip with me to Mexico. But it was a little late for that.

“Who did they send from the company?”

“The CEO, a guy named Edgar.”

Omar mused on this for a few seconds. “I do not know that name. Are you sure he was with IntelliCraft?”

“He had a guy with him that I know for sure is one of them.”

“This is bad,” he said.

“Yeah, that’s an understatement. What are we supposed to do? They can somehow track our every move. I don’t know how we’re going to keep you safe out here if we can’t go around unnoticed.”

Omar finished the rest of his water and coughed for a few seconds. “I have an idea, but it may be a poor one.”

I laughed, a little nervous titter. “One poor idea is better than the zero brilliant ideas I have right now.”

“Can you trust me?”

“Okay,” I said.

“Then I know a place we can go, to the south of here. I know some people, and they are not what you might deem good people, but they may be willing to help us. It will not be easy, and there could be some danger. But if this is all we have, then this is what we must do.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

 

 

I couldn’t sleep. The motel bed was too soft, and my body kept bending at weird angles. With Omar snoring softly in the other bed, I slipped out and went into the motel courtyard. A covered pool sat in the middle, so I went into the fenced-in area and sat on a lawn chair.

A long time ago, my mom and my dad and I had taken a trip to Myrtle Beach, and for some reason, I’d preferred the hotel pool to the beach. The beach was only a few blocks away, but I just wanted to swim in the chlorine and hang out on the pool chairs. I couldn’t have been more than twelve.

That was the last year I’d spend with Heath Candle. The last time I saw him was only a few months after that, at my sixth-grade science fair. He’d come to see my project at school that day, my poster board presentation about how volcano eruptions affect the atmosphere. I didn’t see him until the end, after I’d accepted my third-place ribbon, when I noticed him at the back of the room. He claimed he didn’t want to interrupt me, but I knew that was bullshit, even at that age. He’d come in late and thought he could pretend he’d been there the whole time.

That night, he and my mom fought, in their whisper-yelling they thought I couldn’t hear. But I heard all of it. The next morning, he was gone. Didn’t say goodbye.

And now he was dead, and I wasn’t sure how to feel about it.

Naming me executor of his will must have meant something. Did it mean I was the only person in the world he still had, except for this Susan person? Why hadn’t he named
her
the executor, or his sister, my Aunt Judy?

I didn’t have any explanation. I was a thousand miles away from my wife, away from home, where I should have been. I never should have left Grace so soon after what she’d had gone through.

The task I’d come here to accomplish seemed to be hanging on by a thread. Omar and I weren’t exactly getting along well, we had no good way to get out from under IntelliCraft’s thumb, and I didn’t even know where to find Susan Palenti.

After a few minutes of staring at the cover of the pool and letting a few tears collect on my cheeks, my eyes started to droop. I’d have to give the too-soft bed another try.

I walked back up the concrete motel stairs to the second floor, then paused outside our room. Heard something.

I slid my key into the lock and opened the door quietly, then found Omar on the floor, on his knees, silently praying on a mat. With his hands up next to his head, he was whispering to himself, then he leaned forward, his head on the floor. He hadn’t seen me or was too involved to pay attention.

Who was this man traveling with me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

 

 

In the morning, Omar and I took a taxi east of town to be dropped off in the middle of nowhere. I called Grace and told her I’d had to change my flight because everything was taking longer than anticipated. She didn’t seem to have a problem with this, and said she was feeling better every day. A little more human, a little more normal. She’d been taking Dog for walks around the neighborhood, and he trotted along at her side, growling at any other dogs that came near her. I hadn’t expected the mutt to take to her so quickly.

I promised myself I was going to tell her the whole story at some point, but I didn’t want her to worry now. Plus, I felt guilty for not being there to help her. I should have been the one growling at other dogs who approached my wife.

BOOK: The Legend of Kareem
10.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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