Chapter 46

Sam scarfed dinner and packed immediately after, not letting the slow attitude of the others wear him down. He didn’t have much, he never did, not even before they started running. Everything he owned now could fit in his red and grey backpack and even then it had a lot of room left.

The others were too slow getting ready, too slow for him, anyway. They moved like they were stuck in jello, whining about loosing things they hadn’t had yesterday, finally getting their shit together. Finally getting out of the house and out.

Maya said she had found them a new place, right neighborhood, right price, right amount of beds. That was a relief. Taking the couch had been a mistake, even though he had taken it out of a duty to be chivalrous, but the thing was made of rocks and Satan. It's given him knots in places that he didn't think he could even get knots. 

He caught an odd reflection in the glass of a shop window. He stared as he walked by and didn't catch himself until the window ended. Stupid. Staring like that. Gonna tip her off if you keep that up. 

He walked for a block more, seeing her in reflections as they passed by. She wasn't trying as hard anymore to keep herself hidden. She was doing a very bad job of it. It would be easy to shake her. 

He knew exactly who she was, not because he had met her before, he hadn’t. He knew who she was by reputation alone. It was the Duchess. She ran in the underground, knew all the right people in the Underground, even some of the people that they sold weapons to. But she worked for the government. If you were to say she worked for the government, she would swear up and down that she didn’t. She happened to get paid some rather large checks from time to time for working with higher officials in the government. That is, if she held down a conversation with you. She didn’t really talk to anyone. It was bizarre.

He waited a couple blocks and then caught up to Leo. He linked arms with her and kissed her check, leaning over to whisper to her. 

“She's back,” he said. “And she's doing a really bad job keeping herself hidden.”

“What do we do?” Leo whispered back. 

“We keep walking. But the others need to follow my lead.” Leo nodded. Had the they set up a signal for this in their endless chatter? Back in the warehouse. But that had only been four days ago. It felt like a month.

Leo transmitted her message to the others, somehow, and Sam took the lead. He picked up his phone and texted a taxi service, getting a van to pick them up in five minutes. If he timed it right, the van would get there about forty five seconds before they would and they could pile in and give the duchess the slip. He lead them into a small grocery store.

“Just get some essentials you don’t have. Meet back in ten minutes.”

“And snag something for dinners tonight and breakfast tomorrow.” Leo reminded them. Good thinking on her part, who knew if they could get out of the new flat at all tonight, or for a couple days. 

He and Leo stuck together at the front of the store, which only contained baby items, liquor, and scant produce. They watched as their tail stayed outside, smoking a cigarette and carefully not watching the doors for them to come out.

“Any other ideas?” Leo asked him, bagging a few oranges.

“Still part of my first one.” Sam said, getting a bunch of bananas. “Just throwing in a red herring or three.”

“Good.” They moved a bit further to the back of the store, got some frozen dinners and some beer and met the others at check out. Grocery bags shoved into backpacks in a hurry. Then out the door and past their tail. Three minutes until the cab. Sam’s palms were starting to sweat and Leo was noticing. She wiped her hand off in her coat pocket and slipped it back into his, several times. 

They kept walking toward their destination, keeping pace with Sam, who kept looking behind to see if she was still following. He was sure beyond a doubt that it was the Duchess, now. Her gait and the gun he’d spotted under her coat, a Sig Sauer 1911, had completely given it away. Those were her signature weapons and she moved like a snake.

There. That was the corner where he’d asked to be picked up and here came the van, it pulled up to the curb and began to idle.

“Go!” Sam shouted. “Van! Van! Go!” They ran for the taxi, Sam waving at it. He dove into the passenger seat and let the others climb in the back.

“You are Rodney?” The driver asked, warily, obviously scared he was about to get jacked by a bunch of teenagers.

“I am!” He showed his ID to the man briefly and then shouted, “Now drive, man, drive!” The cab pulled away and they watched as the Duchess attempted to flag down a cab desperately. She threw her hands in the air and they pulled around the corner. 

Zoe FleischerComment