“Her turn” Dakota announced, shuffling papers around until he found a clean one and began again “full name?”
“Shara Linn Federico” I said at once, my hand still clasped tightly in my husband’s watching him with continued unease. The careless way Dakota threw out these questions genuinely bothered me, and he’d yet to ask one I was still tensed up for.
“You spelled my first name wrong” I pointed out, and I watched half uneasily half curiously as he rolled his eyes and snapped “well then, if you spell it funny, make sure you mention that when you see someone writing in ink.” He trashed that paper and got out a new one and scribbled out impatiently how I really did spell it before I answered “Chenning.”
He wasn’t the most pleasant person to talk to, giving off that same sense as when we’d first met him, that he really didn’t like us. I had no idea why, and as we were set to leave, didn’t see the point in starting up to find out.
Dealing with belligerent people wasn’t all that new for me either, and I was half thinking of a few methods I maybe would have liked to try and use to talk to him, if I wasn’t so distracted otherwise.
“Animal, and any special characteristics?”
“Timber Wolf, light gray coloring, white breasted,” I easily replied, since these were the exact same questions he’d been asking Al, maybe he wouldn’t ask...
“Are your parents still alive?” Al bristled beside me and made the same scathing noise he had when Dakota had asked him that, for some reason he seemed to find the phrasing insensitive but Dakota’s lack of caring hadn’t changed one jot.
I waited a moment longer but then he persisted “and their place of residence?”
“Pikesville, Maryland” I answered briskly. My parents were a sensitive topic to me, considering how I’d treated them about this whole situation. They deserved an explanation for what had happened, I hadn’t even been able to pick up the phone and say the words-
“And the accent? Are you legal?”
“Excuse me” I spluttered in shock.
He rolled his eyes and huffed “he’s obviously Mexican, but his last name was traced and we found documentation saying all of his family’s legal. What about yours. It’s not like we’re going to deport you, so we don’t care, it’s just something we need to keep on record.”
I gave an equal scowl back now, snapping “not that it’s any of your business, but I was born in Pikesville. My parents came over from Prague a few years before I was born. I’m also Jewish, anything else, like my favorite color.”
“No need to get snippy” he smirked, clearly finding this funny now that I was tossing some attitude back as he jotted down a few things. Now that I was watching more carefully, I noticed the slight shift as he muttered “No need to ask the next question,” making another few notes and then shoved that file away, before quickly snapping a photo of me and dismissed the pair of us, calling out for the other two next. I had personally been grateful Al and I had be seen together, guess the two named Chase and Fiona had requested the same.
“It still bothers me they wanted files on us” Al muttered as we made our way back to our room, that we’d be leaving almost permanently in a few short hours.
“We’re like operatives or something now” I soothed, with a wide grin in place. Now that I didn’t feel like I was being interrogated anymore, the excitement was beginning to return. I admitted, I was almost enjoying this, though part of the reason was simply getting back out. I felt like I’d been cooped up way too long, too much time to think. “I don’t blame them for wanting to do background checks or something.”
“You really want to do this huh?” He asked for the seventeenth time. I had a fairly good idea what was bothering him so much, and I honestly couldn’t blame him. Going back out into the world would finally be like admitting this wasn’t just some dream we were going to wake up, that we couldn’t just go and pick our daughter up from daycare and go back to our lives. Changing things up now would be the permanent mark, saying we were ready to move on.
Was I? No. I was fairly certain I never would be again, if I could ever bear having another child at all. But I was also never one to sit around and wait for anything either, like for this pain to go away. “Yes mi amor, I really do. I can’t force you to come along though-”
“Oh I’m coming,” he cut me off at once, effectively getting rid of that dark shadow that had been lingering over him the whole time we were here, and replacing it with his more natural grin. “We’ve always talked about going on a road trip, now we’re getting paid to do it.”
Our bags were all packed and ready to go, we didn’t really have anyone we felt obligated to say goodbye to, the only exception was the person coming with us. The one thing we had left to do was already done, so the two of us made our way to the garage in peace.
It was while we were passing thru now familiar halls did I realize how much I would miss this place. We hadn’t even been here long, but never before had I felt so open and free. Even in our own house we’d felt paranoia levels of careful, we’d never even discussed with our daughter what she would grow up to be once she hit puberty-
I forced my train of thought to end there, knowing I’d start balling if I kept going, so I blurted out the first thing “know where we’re headed first?”
“No,” Al’s voice sounded a little more gruff than usual, so I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d been thinking along the same lines as I had. “Think Ben said he did though, so we’ll find out.”
Thankfully we arrived then, so the silence didn’t return. Instead we heard another conversation, and I easily picked out Ben’s voice as well as his vibe. Guess I’d been spending more time around him then I thought for that to happen so easily.
He was talking enthusiastically to Dennis, the pair of them leaning against Ben’s car, which made it occur to me for the first time that we wouldn’t all fit in it legally, let alone comfortably.
Ben caught sight of us first, and grinned while waving us over to him. “Hey guys, ready to hit the road?”
“All packed” I agreed, before curiously asking Dennis “are you coming as well?”
“Nah” he chuckled “I’d go stir crazy away from this place. Don’t know how Benji does it. Speaking of, I should head back, good luck you guys.”
He waved cheerfully as he excused himself, and I couldn’t help but notice he seemed to do that a lot. Looking back at Ben though, I saw how upset he looked, so I wondered if maybe it wasn’t usual behavior for him. He didn’t give me the chance to ask as he offered out his hand and said “here, hand over the bags. I’ll toss them on top of the car, we’ll need all the space we can on the inside.”
“How are we all going to fit?” Al voiced.
Before Ben had a chance to answer, I sensed more people approaching, and indeed they were entering the garage a few moments later and the young Indian boy I’d noticed before cried “Oh sweet, is this what we’re taking!”
“Aww, I was hoping we were going to get a truck.” The other boy I was sure was named Chase groaned as he dropped his backpack at his feet. “I’ve always wanted to ride in the trunk of a truck.”
“It’s called a bed,” the younger one answered with chipper as he walked wide eyed around the jeep.
“Huh?” Was Chase’s brilliant reply, now watching him with an annoyed frown.
“The back of a truck is called a bed,” Evan smirked without turning back around to look at him.
“I don’t know why, I didn’t name it.”
“Do people sleep back there or something, I mean-”
“Moving on,” the other girl finally groaned, watching the two boys with a long suffering look before turning her attention to us and smiling easily. “They get like that a lot, you really will have to cut them off.”
“Ge, thanks’ babe” Chase snorted, before putting his full attention on us as well. “Name’s Chase by the way, this is Fiona, and the kid’s Evan.”
“Kid” Evan yelped with indignation, finally taking his eyes away from the shiny red vehicle.
Chase merely smirked back without reply, then turned to Ben who was obviously holding the keys in his hand and cried “I call shotgun!”
“What are you, five?” Evan groused, “Besides, wouldn’t you rather sit in the trunk?”
“Why on earth would I want to sit back there?” He demanded right back, already heading for his declared door.
“More room to stretch out, duh.”
“Then you sit back there!”
“I am seriously starting to reconsider this already,” Al sighed, rubbing at his forehead. I knew he was the middle child with two brothers, so I was guessing he may be having flashbacks. Even I was starting to have some uneasy feelings about them though. It wasn’t from the youngest one, who had the sweetest smile and kindest brown eyes I’d ever seen even as he went back and forth, it was the other two who were giving me some hesitancies.
Chase had a lean build to him, and even just a flick of my senses towards him showed a dominant predator waiting to strike underneath, and just slightly more digging showed something cat like. Irony had nothing to do with the fact that I was not a cat person, and he’d hardly shown me that was going to be changing soon.
Fiona was only slightly more reassuring. The way she held herself and the opulent style she wore, what with the elaborate curls stacked on her head and the stylized eyebrows, rather suggested something pompous to deal with, but I couldn’t deny that her voice had come out more soft hearted as she first addressed us. It was putting me ill at ease that I couldn’t even sense what she was, whatever it was floating under the surface was most likely something on the rarer side.
Ben had still watching the arguing pair with keen interest, but upon realizing the argument clearly wasn’t going anywhere, he interrupted, “well since I’m not going to make a lady ride in the back, one of you two had better settle this, because yeah. Someone is going to have to ride in the way back. Play rock, paper, scissors or something and load in.”
He collected everyone’s bags and tied them down to the top of the car securely, and by the time he was done Chase had lost and despite mutinous mutterings stretched leisurely out in the back while the rest of us settled in.
We trundled through a clearly seldom used path in the back of the property, the road’s bumpy and overgrown pathway giving me a little bit of an understanding why Ben may have chosen this as a car if he came and went from here so frequently.
I was now regretting not having taken the opportunity to try and find these three and talk to them when I’d had the chance outside this car. I was sitting in the middle with Al on one side and Fiona on the other, and the whole car clearly felt awkward as the silence dragged on.
It didn’t last too long, as Chase was the first to clear his throat and ask “so, who are we going after first.”
Evan snorted up front and laughed “going after? Jeez, we’re not out looking to murder these people Chase.”
Chase didn’t deem that with a response and waited impatiently, I could hear his fingers tapping out a rhythm on his pants leg and feel his eyes boring into Ben.
“Records say his name’s Thomas Fisinin. Located somewhere outside Nampa Idaho.” Ben replied with ease, before pointing to his glove compartment and saying “got a file in there, but all it says is pretty much what I just said.”
“That’s it? Just a city?” Chase scoffed. “Can’t we at least get something resembling an address? I feel like we’ll be damned lucky if this guy’s in a phone book. Do those even exist anymore?”
“Why do you think we’re doing this?” Ben replied calmly, not seeming nearly as offended by the tone as I would be. “Our records sucked back then, so we got a name, and a relative place of suggested location. I’ll bet the Hunters have this guy being GPS’d at all times, so we need better info. If we scope the place out and don’t find anything, we’ll report back and mark it as not useful information. If we do find him, we’ll let him know what we’re planning, get his proper address and animal credentials, and be on our way. What is so difficult about that?”
“At least there aren’t too many of our kind in the big city,” Evan offered hopefully. “Once we get a trace of his scent, he should be easy enough to follow.”
Chase muttered something about a wild goose chase, but not loud enough that anyone would have heard if they hadn’t been listening for it. I remembered the day we’d all been at the meeting, and almost couldn’t help but agree. I thought we were being sent out to go after the Hunter’s, couldn’t we have gotten some better intel on where they might be hiding rather than one random person who was minding his own life?
Probably to avoid another string of awkward silence, Ben decided to flip on the radio instead, breaking out another argument about what music was to be listened to. Ben eventually won that, and I was starting to agree with Al. This was going to be a long trip. We’d be lucky if we survived it with our sanity intact.