The Willow Society

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Chapter 26

Chapter 26

“So, um, you moved way quiet back there.... how did you sneak off without me hearing?“ Taylor asked after some time in the cab.

"I'm like the man, old boy, that's how.“ Winston leaned in close, eyed the driver in mock suspicion as he watched him through the rear-view mirror. “I'm that good man. I could steal the Mona Lisa if I wanted to.“ Taylor searched Winston's face, thinking the other boy was bragging, but despite his smile, he looked serious. Whether he could or not, he clearly believed he could.

“So, what are we going to with this?“ Taylor waved the thumbdrive around. “We have to show this to the others now, right?“

But before Winston answered, the cab screeched to a halt in front of the ferry back to Manhattan. "Ferry here. You go. Fifteen eighty.“ A light brown hand with manicured nails hovered over the seat dividing the front from the back. It held a receipt.

Taylor realized he didn't have any money and blushed.

“No sweat, T.“ Winston said. He pulled out a tightly rolled wad of bills from a pocket and thrust them at the light brown hand. They jumped of the cab and off towards the ferry, Taylor running behind Winston.

He's friggin' fast!

“So we have to show this to the others, right?“ Taylor said brandishing his loaded thumbdrive at Winston once they reached the station.

Winston paused and concentrated for a second before rapidly saying, "Um. No.“ He laughed. “They'd crucify us, T. Don't you get it? Isabel or Sue-Ann would think we stole it ourselves. Broke the law doing it, no less, you know how Sue-Ann is, especially, she would even think we staged this whole thing just to get our hands on it. The broad is more suspicious than an angry badger.“ Winston said. Taylor hadn't really pegged Sue-Ann or Isabel as the type to leap to such conclusions, but Winston had known both women longer, so Taylor said nothing. Winston chuckled, as if his scenario was the attempted funny ending of a particularly unrealistic comedy. Taylor was sure Winston wasn't really afraid of Sue-Ann, maybe the other boy feared being kicked out of the Society, what with his extracurricular activities. Rather he felt Winston might just be hesitant for some other reason, hesitant to cross Sue-Ann or Isabel, or maybe hesitant to share what they had learned, maybe for the fear telling the others meant an end to his covert spying at the school and the little adventure he was currently enjoying so much. That Winston saw this excursion as an adventure was obvious.

Taylor couldn't have come out and given his reason for wanting to share. Partly, he wanted to impress Izzy; and if all this couldn't impress her, he wasn't sure what might. He also wanted to make sure the others saw him as deserving of his place in the Society, as valuable as they were since he still didn't quite feel secure. Beyond all that Taylor thought whatever the extent of what they had found, it was more than they could handle just the two of them. It would be necessary at some point to tell the others and the longer they waited, the more likely the girls would assume they had played some part in the stealing the tech, whatever they claimed.

“I think we should tell Izzy, at least“ Taylor said. The wind whipped his hair as the ferry chugged along. The island of Manhattan and its multi-dotted facade of a dark skyline steadily approached. Winston sighed and laughed hard. “Whatever, old man. I'm down if that's what you really want to do.“ Winston looked away back towards Staten Island. “We'll head over there after school tomorrow and give them the happenings. All of it. Right-o?“

Taylor laughed, but it was a dry forced laugh. Winston's tone didn't ring true but Taylor had what he wanted and wasn't going to push further.

The ferry docked and the boys got off, wandered out of the station and towards the street, towards the taxi line. A shiny black town car pulled up. While the boys had been on the ferry Winston had spent most of the time on his mobile, on Facebook. He had updated his status and snooped around on Stat3y3Cracker's page. S-Eye had a fair number of friends, most of whom seemed as faux-mysterious as he tried to be. Winston got bored with it just before the ferry docked. He loped towards the black town car without much of a pause, waved Taylor to follow. The town car's tires had just finished squeaking as the driver edged it up towards the boys, cutting off a taxi which should have been next in line.

“Man, I love Manhattan.“ Winston said stretching inside town car. Taylor looked around, suddenly nervous and unsure why. Irate taxi drivers leaned half out of their driver's side windows, shouting what Taylor assumed were obscenities in several different languages, none of which Taylor had heard before. A black, opaque sheet of something separated the backseat of the town car from the front, much like a normal taxi, only it was like the kind in a limousine. This instantly intensified the nervous feeling in Taylor, but when he mentioned something to Winston, the other boy laughed it off, saying, “Town cars are livery cabs, T. They know money when they see it, old man.“

Taylor had no idea what a livery cab was and didn't bother asking. The car sped up and before long they were winding through the Wall Street area, headed for the West Side Highway. Winston tapped the glass and it came down a few inches. He shouted out the address of his mansion. He and Taylor had agreed to go there first, make copies of the data on the thumbdrive and then stash it before Taylor went home.

The driver didn't respond to the address, but the glass slid back up. Winston leaned back and yawned.

“I'm tired as hell, old boy!. Can't wait to crash. You gonna bring your copy to school tomorrow right? I'll keep mine in the safe, just for....“ The car jerked and the boys slid against the right-side door as one. “What the hell? Hey man?“ Winston said rapping on the glass partition, “slow the hell down!“ The only response was more speed and another sudden swerve. Taylor's head was thrown back and he saw a pair of headlights behind the car, keeping pace with them as their driver wove from lane to lane, passing other cars.

“What the...“ Winston said. Taylor pointed the car following close behind. Winston banged on the glass, screamed, "Stop this fucking car! NOW! Let us OUT!“ But it was no use, the glass stayed up and the driver didn't respond. Winston whipped out his mobile and started typing in a text.

“Who are you texting?“ Taylor barked.

“Lou! I don't know what's going on, but someone should know!“ The car jerked and both boys went sliding again.

When Winston tried to send the text it failed. “What the hell? I've got no signal! This is Manhattan! There are signals everywhere!“ He looked around the back of the car, his eyes wide. “T. This is some scary shit. What is going on?“

“I dunno, man.“ Taylor said, his voice cracking, from fear or age, or both. “Where is he taking us?“

“Midtown... on the Westside...“ the car swerved. Winston screeched as they slid into the door again.

The town car exited the Westside Highway, the headlights behind swerved to follow, just barely managing to avoid causing a huge pile up while making the exit.

“Check your cell, T. See if you've got any signal,“ Winston said as he looked out the windows trying to read street signs.

“Don't have any!“ Taylor managed to get out before the squealing of the cars tires silenced him. The car swerved again.

Winston banged on the glass, screaming obscenities. Both boys jerked forward as the car from behind slammed into them. The town car fishtailed as the driver fought for control. Another slam from behind and both boys went off the back seat, their heads hitting the roof of the town car as it went airborne. The driver had lost control, run into something and the car was sideways, flying. Winston slid atop of Taylor and both boys screamed with abandon. Taylor couldn't hear Winston's scream though, it sounded like air rushing past an airplane. Everything was slow motion. He managed to turn his head back as the car flew and saw the headlights rapidly shrink, the driver of that car must have slammed on the brakes. Taylor was thrown forward under Winston as the car slammed into something and went still. Everything went black.

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