Chapter 11: Reasons and another truth
The morning finds me awake, sitting on the street in the back of the train station. I hear footsteps behind me, and I turn around ready to do what I had done my entire life: to run. But I see a familiar face, one from whom I don’t want to run. Tina comes near me and sits on the ground. She looks tired and I can see fresh wounds on her hands.
“You came back”, she says sadly.
“Yeah, where’s Gina?”
“You haven’t heard?”
She makes a long noise, and her lips start trembling.
“What the hell did you do? In what mess are you caught up?”
“What do you mean?”
“Some people came. Big guys in suits. They asked about you. I recognized one from TV. Some politician’s son.”
I feel like the story is never going to end. I strain and I look Tina curiously, putting my palms together.
“But Gina had no idea where you were, and she wouldn’t have told them even if she had known. She couldn’t stand the ones like them.”
“Well, she started a fight with them, and one took a gun out and shot her without blinking. I ran, but they fired at me too. Luckily, they didn’t hit me.”
“Let it go. There’s nothing to do now. I’m in another gang now. But you have to fight hard here to earn your place. This is why I have those scars. I can’t take you with me. They wouldn’t take you in. You would be a threat to them. They would kill you on the first night. Anyway, there are infiltrated some undercover agents. They believe that we’re doing drugs. They’ve mistaken us with another clan, this is how stupid they are.”
“It’s fine, I won’t come with you.”
She gets up and heads to a dead end. I follow her, and I see on the ground marks of dried blood.
“This is where it happened”, she says continuing to walk.
I look at the crime scene for a couple of seconds and I feel a lump in my throat. I just want it to be over.
“You know, Gina liked you a lot. She was like a mother to us. She protected us. Some might say that I have no heart, but I really miss her. She treated us like her children. She would have been a good mother if the Government wouldn’t have destroyed her life.”
“I know. She was a strong woman. A tough character.”
It’s a moment of silence now, probably in Gina’s memory. Tina spits and coughs two times.
“Give me your hoodie. Do you need it?”
I take it off and I hand it over to her.
“Good”, she says. “I’ll give you a lighter instead.”
I walk two more steps, and I lean on a wall on the corner, on the cold brick. Tina stays there, putting the hoodie on her head, just the way I was wearing it a minute ago. I look up at her sadly. I want to tell her something, but in the next second I hear a loud and sharp sound, and I see Tina lying on the street.
I pull back desperately. I hear some wheels on the street and I put my head out a little to look around the corner, just in time to see a gray car driving away. I rush to touch Tina, but she’s already dead. Shot in the heart. I crawl back into the corner and I cover my ears.
“Please, make them stop”, I was praying, but I wasn’t sure whom I was begging.
After five minutes, I get my hands off the ears and open my eyes. The ringing from my ears disappears, but I still have that horrible image in front of me. I was hoping for it to be a dream, but it looks like the reality had hit me again.
I get up and walk on the main street, looking around for some car on the road. I can’t see anything, so I leave Tina’s body there. I arrive in front of a decommissioned power plant, and I lean on the shaky and rusty door.
“Cara!” I hear from across the street.
I lose my balance and I fall inside with the door. Dylan runs at me, but I rush up the stairs, and I close a door after me. I’m in a big room, with a lot of decommissioned machinery around me. There’s another door on the other side, so I run to it. Dylan opens the door behind me with a hit of his leg and approaches me. He catches me before I can open the other door.
“I thought I might find you here.”
“Dylan, please go away!” I shout desperately. “Just go! Leave! I can’t do this anymore! I don’t want to!”
My limits are tested, so I start crying in front of him, a thing I never wanted to do.
“They killed Gina! And Tina too! She had my hoodie on! They thought she was me! They shot her! They think I’m dead now! I have an advantage and I will show them now! They’ve gone too far!”
“Who is Tina? And Gina? Cara, just breathe! Tell me what’s going on!”
Dylan looks more lost than me. He grabs my shoulders and he looks me in the eyes.
“Tyler was one of them! He fooled me, he used me! He took me into his apartment where a sniper was supposed to shoot me! He saved me in the last second. I don’t know why he changed his mind, but he did it! Damn all of them! I will kill them all!”
He was staring at me shocked and sad, and he probably couldn’t believe the words coming out of my mouth.
“Now you understand me? Everyone who helps me dies! So go away! Stop following me! Leave me alone!”
“I can’t”, he says.
“Then I’ll leave!”
“Why are you making everything so hard? Do you think I can just let you walk away like this after what you’ve told me?”
I escape from his arms.
“I don’t trust anyone! How did you find me? Why do you keep showing up when something happens? What if you’re one of them?!”
“Do you hear yourself?”
I’m too afraid and desperate and I run to the door.
“Go! Leave me alone! You’re all corrupted people, puppets of the Government, doing their dirty jobs!”
I slam the door and block it with a piece of wood, to keep Dylan away from me. I run down the stairs, leaving him to scream after me. I suddenly stop. Something makes me remain still, and I can’t hear anything from upstairs.
I make another step on the broken ladder when I hear more voices coming from the room. I’m disoriented and I want to run away, but I stop after two steps. I close my eyes.
“Fuck it!” I grind my teeth.
I go back at the door which I had blocked, and I look inside through a crack. In there I can see Dylan fighting with two men in suits, just like the ones Tina had described them. Whatever, he’s more like beaten up by them.
“Tell us! What did you find out? Who were you talking to?” shouts one of them.
“Next time stay away from Stan and Gibson’s business!” screams the other one.
I feel desperate again. The thing I was so afraid was about to happen in front of my eyes.
“Crap! Think, Cara. Think”, I grumble.
I look around and see a deodorant spray. I pick it up and I shake the bottle. It’s not empty. I take out from my pocket the lighter that Tina had given to me. I take away the piece of wood that was blocking the door and I open it suddenly, running straight at the two men. One of them rushes to catch me, but too late, only when he realizes who I really am. I light the fire in front of the spray, just on his face, and he walks back and falls screaming like hell.
Dylan hits the other one and puts him down, then he runs at me. We rush to get out of there, but not before we block the door again, just in case one of the men could have survived.
“This way! I have the car parked here!” he says grabbing my hand.
“Yes, another one! Not the police one, or the one from which you have stolen my keys, or Raisa’s!” he shouts and takes out the keys from his pocket.
He gets behind the wheel, and I sit in his right. He drives away quickly, leaving behind a lot of smoke. He’s a good driver, but the problem is he’s driving too fast. I understand the situation, as long as we’re running for our lives. He goes near the cars which were stopped at the red light and passes by them with speed. I don’t say a word, but I’m searching for the seatbelt with my hands, without moving my eyes from the road.
Dylan doesn’t stop for forty minutes until he arrives on a forest road after he got out of the town. He finally thinks of reducing the speed. For the first time, I turn my head to him. I can see a blood stain on his shirt.
“You’re hurt”, I say with intelligence.
“Really? Oh, thanks for noticing that”, he replies ironically.
He suddenly pushes the break.
“Get down and look for the first aid kit in the trunk and the black backpack. Take both out of there.”
I get off mumbling, I open the trunk, grab the two things, but I don’t have the chance to close it because Dylan drives away, throwing dust on me. I see him heading to the steep and I drop on the road what I have in my arms, while I scream loud and terrified.
“Dylan!” I shout running there.
He jumps out of the car, leaving it to crash into the steep. While he stands up, I can hear a bang, and then I see an explosion. There are pieces on fire carried by the wind all around us. I run at him and I push him hard, making him lose his balance, but he manages to stand on his feet.
“I thought you’re running to hug me. I must admit I’m a little shocked.”
“Shut up! You’re an idiot!”
“Raisa tells me that too. Oh, by the way, I’ve sent her to the airport. Destination: France. To our parents.”
“Why did you do that?”
“I’ve told her everything. I know all of it, Cara. I sent her away to be safe.”
I’m getting angry because Raisa had left everything behind and it was my fault.
“Why were Stan’s people looking for you?”
“Because I’ve stolen some documents when I left Gibson’s office when he fired me. I’ve found out that the one who had stopped the security system worked for Stan, and I made some connections and I figured that Gibson also works for him. He probably realized that I’ve stolen the stick and he set the alarm.”
He walks by me, pressing on his wound from the right side of his ribs. We are about to continue our way on a forest path, so I pick up the backpack and the first aid kit.
“Where are we going?”
“At a cottage in the woods. Rangers used to go there, but it should be empty this time of the year.”
“What are we doing there?”
“What do you want to do there?” he laughs.
“I mean it!”
“See how it’s like to be ironic with people around you? This is how you treated me since the first moment we’ve met!”
I throw him a mean look and I continue walking. At one point, he remains behind me.
“Are you ok?” I ask.
“Are you worried about me?”
“I just want to know if you will slow me down”, I reply cold.
“Don’t worry, you won’t get rid of me. I’m deep in this mess, so I guess I have to keep going now.”
“I see. What else is on that stick?”
“There were some encrypted files, which I managed to move, but I couldn’t decrypt yet. Anyway, I need a laptop for this, and how I couldn’t bring one with me because I didn’t want to risk, I have to find access to one on our way. But now, let’s focus to get over this day. They will start looking for us soon. The smoke is thick. They must not find us around here.”
“If we would have been in the car, we would be dead now. I hope they believe we are. We can have an advantage.”
“I like when you speak at plural.”
Dylan laughs, and he takes a deep breath, waving at me to go on the right path.
“Unfortunately, they will realize soon that we got away again. It’s hard to consider someone dead without an actual body. Everything depends on who’s going to arrive first at the explosion: the police or the ones who are after us. It will be an advantage if the police arrive first.”
“How come you know all the paths around here?”
“I searched for a body around here with the trained dogs. The mission took three days.”
I roll my eyes. It’s again a long moment of silence when I keep listening to the leaves cracking under our feet.
“You were dead. They thought they had killed you. You had the advantage, but you blew up your cover and you came back for me, back at the plant.”
“It wasn’t that simple. I couldn’t just leave you there.”
“Well, you had already left. How did you know that I don’t work for them like you had said?”
“I didn’t know.”
“And how do you trust me?”
He looks at me weird and stops.
“I realized that you haven’t lied to me for a second. I knew that you weren’t one of them, but I wanted to make you get out of the game before it was too late.”
“Nice try. It didn’t exactly work out. You didn’t try hard enough to make me hate you.”
I push the leaves away and I see the little wooden cottage. The sun was gone for a few minutes, so it started getting cold. I step over the doorstep, and when I walk inside I feel a strong smell of pine. On the ground is a fox fur, and on the wooden walls are hanged a lot of horns and heads of wild animals. Dylan closes the door behind me and he sits on the shaky wooden bed.
“Hand me the kit. I want to see what’s with this wound before it gets too dark.”
I approach and open the medical kit. He opens the buttons of the shirt and his abdomen catches my eyes more than his wound.
“It’s good”, he says.
“What?” I ask without being sure about what he had said.
“Just dip a gauze into that white bottle.”
I do that and I hand it to him. He makes a sharp sound when the gauze touches the wound.
“Now give me that long thing.”
“It’s a sort of a machine that stitches your wound, without needing to go to the doctor, but only if there’s nothing too serious. You just have to put it like this, over the wound, but I need another pair of hands to keep the wound closed. So? What pair of hands would you be?”
I grab the machine and wait for him to prepare.
“Now, put it over it and push.”
“Are you sure that’s the way you use this thing?”
“Yes! Just do it already! We’re not in kindergarten anymore!”
I push on the spot he had told me to, and I hear him making that sharp sound again. I do it one more time, but now he doesn’t make any sound.
“Thank you”, he says. “Now, open that brown box.”
I take out a bandage and I put it, at his indications, over the stitched wound. Dylan lies on the bed sighing.
“Are you ok?” I ask him.
“Be careful. It’s the second time in one day when you ask me this. You don’t want your pride to fade away, don’t you? You might beat your personal record”, he laughs.
I look at him angrily.
“And you haven’t answered the first time either”, I reply indignantly.
“If my memory helps me, this is the first day you’re asking me this since we met. There were a couple of situations when you could have been interested in my condition, but you were too busy making me hate you.”
“And I succeeded?”
“As you can see, no. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here now.”
I let a smile appear on my face and I get up to unpack the backpack. I have the shock of my life when I see what’s inside it.
“Wigs? Sunglasses? Really, Dylan? Do you think we’re in movies? Hello, this is the reality! They will find us anyway! You knew they would come for you, so you came here, to find me, ready thinking that I will come with you. Interesting.”
“No. I’ve bought the wigs for myself”, he smiles.
After a closer look, I discover a bag with two passports.
“Dan Lascov? Dan? Really?”
He puts his hand on the forehead and starts laughing hard.
“I don’t even want to know what name is on the second one!”
I open it and I see the picture from my old identity card.
“Monika Lascov? Dylan, you’re dreaming. You made us husband and wife!”
He laughs again and he stands on the edge of the bed.
“You can’t say now that I’m selfish and I think only at myself.”
“But you? You represent the law! How can you do this?”
“I was. I’m sick of their dirty political games.”
“You amaze me. If you keep getting closer to me, you might learn new things. You might turn into some psycho.”
“Anything is possible”, he says analyzing me curiously.
Inside the backpack are some clothes and personal hygiene stuff. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, a hairbrush, a small towel, a small deodorant, and a bottle of water. A lot of things in that backpack. I’m surprised he thought at all. I hear a sound and I turn around, and I see him slipping slowly into his initial position on the bed. I laugh and put the things back into the backpack.
I see a lamp, so I turn it on. There’s not a lot of light, but it’s enough for me to see where I’m stepping. I walk around the room and I finally find myself next to the bed. Dylan had fallen asleep stretched in the whole bed, so there wasn’t a place for me to sleep.
I look at the extensible armchair with wooden arms, from the right side of the cabin, so I head there. I try it and I realize that I’ve slept on much more uncomfortable things than it. I open the wooden wardrobe, which makes a loud sound. I look at Dylan, but he’s still sleeping. I wonder what would happen if someone walked in. Was it possible for any of us to hear it? Or we could have been killed in our sleep?
I put this thought away and pull the two woolen blankets from the shelf. I put one on the armchair, and I get closer to the bed holding the other one. I remain there, staring at Dylan, with the blanket still in my arms. I put it nicely near him, and I let him decide if he was cold or not. “He will take it from there if he’s cold”, I think and go back to my sleeping place.
I lay down and put the blanket on me, but I notice that it itches me and it’s uncomfortable. I still fall asleep with it on me, because I don’t have another choice. Of course, not before I turned off the lamp.
As it was to expect, I wake up before Dylan. I get up from what I couldn’t call a bed, and I notice that he had used the blanket overnight. I let a smile lift the corner of my mouth and I take the personal hygiene stuff, then head to use them outside. The air is fresh and thick, and I imagine how it’s like to live here forever and let everything go. If I can have a normal life, of course.
“What a beautiful view!” I hear behind me while I’m brushing my teeth.
“Mhm”, I mumble as an affirmation.
“I’m talking about your disheveled hair. You know, I think I took a hairbrush too. It’s somewhere inside the backpack”, he continues from the doorstep with his shirt unbuttoned.
I roll my eyes and I continue my routine. The blood was dried on his shirt, so he decides to take it off and to wash it at the pump near the cottage. I scatter for the hairbrush in the backpack, but I find a T-shirt instead, so I grab it and go near Dylan.
“It’s hard, isn’t it?”
“To decide if you want to give me the T-shirt or not. Judging by the way you described me in the book, I believe it too.”
I throw him the T-shirt and get inside the cabin. I remember about my book, which had probably burned along with the barn, and I feel sad. Dylan enters the cottage, wearing the T-shirt. He opens a zipper from the backpack, one I haven’t seen before, and he takes out a sandwich and throws it into my lap.
“You haven’t scattered in here”, he says. “I’m a little bit surprised.”
“Is there something you haven’t thought of?”
He laughs and takes a bite of the sandwich.
“You’re not stone cold, as you may want to seem.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“Because you threw that blanket on my bed last night. It would have been nice if you covered me too.”
“Ha! That’s not my job!”
He gets up and crinkles the paper, and then he comes closer to me.
“Come on, redhead. Shall we start moving?”
“Yeah”, I blush.
We leave the cabin and start walking on the path until we reach the forest road. From there we were supposed to bump into the main street, which connected our town with the neighbor one.
“Give me that backpack”, says Dylan.
“I can carry it too”, I reply offended. “I’m not like those girls who make their lovers carry their purses around the mall.”
“I know you’re not like them”, he laughs. “Now come on, give it to me.”
I pretend not to hear him and I continue walking, but I slow down when I notice that I’m always getting away from him.
“You see? If you had this thing full of bricks on your back, it would have taken us forever to get to the main road!”
“You’re very careful, even if you don’t seem to be like this at a first glance.”
“Stop aggressing me!”
“You call this aggressing?” he laughs.
His ironic remarks annoy me, and I feel that something is not like it is supposed to be. The sun is up when we walk into the main street. The area is not circulated because this is the old road that connects the towns, but I still shiver when some car passes by.
“Wait a second”, says Dylan breathing heavily.
“I thought that cops have a good physical condition!”
“Yes, but not the injured ones! Not to mention, I’m not a cop anymore. I’m a fugitive thief, who is wanted by some politician’s men.”
I start laughing and I stop. Dylan comes near me and puts his hands on my back. I don’t understand what he’s doing there, but I finally see that he’s opening the zipper. He hands me a brunette wig.
“Here you go. Now you can relax a little bit.”
I put it on my head, but I obviously don’t arrange it well, because it disturbs me, and I have some hair on my face. Among the hair spikes, I see him putting on a wig too, blonde and short haired. Mine is long. I can’t help myself not to laugh.
“Yeah, I know, I look much better dark haired. Now, stay still.”
He arranges my wig, and I finally see him beyond the hair strands of hair. His cold hands touch my ears, then my face, and I feel a shiver I haven’t felt in my entire life. My stupid smile disappears from my face and I remain with a serious face, staring at his green eyes.
“Do I look so awful?” he asks seeing my sudden change.
“You don’t look awful…”, I say and look away, and then I continue walking.
Dylan follows me closely, curious about my change in the behavior. I’m curious too about this feeling. I throw him a glance, but I look away quickly when he tries to catch my eyes.
We continue our way in quiet for some time. Finally, we reach the entrance to the town. The noise of the cars and the horns make us think about how beautiful it is to live in the middle of the forest. I know he misses the cabin too, by the look of his face. I gulp and I stop.
“What is it?” he asks.
“You still don’t trust me?”
I don’t answer because I’m not really sure what can come out of my mouth.
“Silence is an answer too. If it helps you, you have to know that I trust you.”
“You shouldn’t. I don’t trust anyone. It’s a powerful word. I’m unpredictable and you shouldn’t count on me.”
“It doesn’t matter. I know that you’ll show up when you’re needed. Like you did back there in the power plant.”
I stop to arrange my wig, but in the next second, Dylan pulls me behind a wall.
“Surveillance cameras for the traffic.”
“But we have wigs. And we’re not cars!”
“Facial recognition is made by your face, not your hair! These were just distractions for the areas where are no cameras! Quick, let’s move. If the cameras caught us, they will show up.”
“But we’re so far away!”
“Cara, you know better than me that they have people everywhere! Now, come on!”
He takes me by the arm, between the gray blocks. It’s not sunny anymore. The clouds seem to be ready to pour some rain over us at any time. The noise from the town slows down my senses. We get lost among the streets and we end up in the notorious area of the town. The homeless people are scattering through the garbage, and a group of hooligans is spitting seeds on the ground, looking at us with some taste of a fight.
“Don’t look at them”, I warn Dylan.
He listens to me, but he doesn’t say anything. He most likely doesn’t even know what to say to me. He knows damn well that I used to live among them. We take the corner of the block to a quiet area, at least I hope so when a long black car appears out of nowhere.
“Run!”, yells Dylan.
We get out of its way, and we head to the narrow streets, back to the notorious area, hoping that we can get rid of them. We sneak between the blocks, forcing them to leave their car. Two of them get down and run after us, and I can hear a shotgun at some point. The wall breaks at a couple of centimeters near me, and I realize that’s not a joke. Dylan tries so hard to keep up with me, but the wound he has from the other day is holding him back.
I look desperate around me, thinking of some brilliant idea.
“What are you doing? Why have you stopped?”
“Shut up! Let me think!”
“What is it to think about? Run!”
We hear the steps of our followers on the street. I see a little window opened, leading to the basement of a block.
“Get in there!” I push Dylan.
He listens to me, but I push the dumpsters in front of it.
“What the hell are you doing? Get back here!”
“You said that you trust me. Now is a good time to prove it! Shut up!”
I start running to the gates in front of me and I jump on them. The two men appear from the corner, running. I jump the wire mesh fence, and I find myself at a crossroads. I let them see me, and then I start running between the cars, in the middle of the street. I notice a yellow van, with the lateral doors opened on both sides. I run in front of the cars, making the drivers angry, I jump into the van and I shut the door. I get off on the other side and I see a truck passing in front of the two men. “Now’s the time”, I tell myself and I jump on the other side, closing the door, and I finally crawl under a parked car.
I’m out of ideas and all I can hope for is that they will head in another direction, but they rush to the yellow van.
“She went in there!” shouts one of them.
I feel like my luck is about to finish, but I see the van driving away, and the two men running after it. I get out of there and rush to the place I had left Dylan, arranging my wig to cover my face, trying to keep it away from the surveillance cameras. I arrive back in the ghetto, and I push away the dumpsters. But Dylan’s nowhere to find.
“Damn it, Dylan!”, I scream angrily.
I hit a dumpster with my leg, but I feel a hand on my back. I turn around ready to attack, pushing hard, but I see Dylan staggering and leaning on the wall. I breathe relieved, and an impulse makes me rush at him again, not to hit him this time, but to hug him. The miracle doesn’t last long because I realize what I’m doing, and I jump quickly from his arms.
“I told you to stay there!”
“As if I’m doing what you tell me to!”
I nod as disapproval.
“They’re gone for now.”
“For now. Now we have to figure out what to do next. I need a laptop to recover the data from that file. To see what else Gibson is hiding.”
“What we need to do now is to find a safe place and let things chill out. We can’t get ourselves exposed again. They’re looking for us. They want to kill us!”
“What do you have in mind?”
I wave at him to follow me. He does that, but I stop when I reach the end of the street.
“What are we doing here?”, he asks.
“I have an idea, but you might not like it.”
“If it will keep us alive, it doesn’t matter!”
I lift my shoulders and I bend to the cover of the sewerage in front of me. Dylan is visibly shocked, but he tries to hide his reaction. I sigh and I slam the cover back.
“Do you have a better idea?”
“But I didn’t say anything!”
“You just can’t understand that this is how I lived all my life? Do you see where we stand now? You start regretting that you met me!”
“I didn’t say anything! Don’t put words in my mouth!”
“Let’s be honest, Dylan! You’re a man with a good material condition, you’ve lived in luxury, you had everything you wanted, and I am the opposite of you! What the hell are you even doing here with me?”
“In case you’ve forgotten, we’re both running from the same people!”
“Yes! Because of me!”
The shouting would have continued a lot more if I haven’t noticed the two men running at us from the crossroads. One of them stops to let the other know that he saw us, then he shoots at us. We start running again between the parked cars, while there are a lot of gunshots behind us. The glass breaks near us, when the bullets hit the windows from a store. I can feel something wet on my arm, but there’s no time to stop and check. Instead, I check if I still have it attached to my body with the other hand. I can feel it there, so I relax for a moment.
Our running stops the moment when a gray van crosses our path, and I stop hitting with my hands on its door. The way it suddenly had stopped in front of us doesn’t prevent anything good.
“Get up!”, says a feminine voice.
I go a step back and I see Dalia behind the wheel.
“Cara, stop staring and get in!”
I pull Dylan with me on the door from the back. Dalia drives away and gets lost in the traffic. I get up and stare at her. She throws me a look in the rearview mirror, and then she turns right entering the highway.
“How did you find me? Why?”
“I have my sources. All these years I gathered proof and I waited patiently to catch them with something. Now is the time to make justice.”
“But you said…”
“Forget what I said. I’ve lied to you because I didn’t want to bring you into this mess. But it looks like you brought yourself in it.”
“Can someone explain to me what the hell is going on?”, asks Dylan.
“She is Dalia. He is Dylan. No more introductions”, I say.
Only now I can feel the pain in my left arm, and it spreads all over my body. I make a sound of pain and I pull my sleeve. The blood is flowing, and only when I move I realize that I’m sitting in a pool of blood.
“What the hell?”, I hear Dylan. “They hit you!”
I fall again, dizzy. I’m not usually sensitive when it comes to wounds, but this time it’s too much blood around me to control myself. Dylan grabs my arm, but I don’t have the strength to tell him that it hurts me.
“It’s a clean wound. The bullet came out and it didn’t affect any principal veins. Do you have any medical kit in here?” he asks Dalia.
“We have in our backpack”, I mumble.
“Oh, shit! Yes!”
“I’m the one who’s not supposed to focus right now, not you”, I say.
Dalia stops the car.
“Get down! Quickly!” she says.
“What are you doing?” asks Dylan.
“We’re changing cars.”
I try to get up, but everything is spinning and I fall into the pool of blood.
“Take Cara and come on! I don’t want to waste time!” she shouts.
Dylan lifts me from the pool of blood and puts me in the back of the other car, which Dalia had parked in some bushes. It’s a smaller van, black, and I can see around me a lot of wires and pieces of mobile phones. Dylan rushes to grab the other stuff from the other car, and the Dalia moves it next to the black one, covering it with leaves. Dylan gets up next to me, and Dalia drives away again on the highway. Her phone rings. Someone talks too much at the other end of the line.
“Fine. I will find you, thanks”, she says and throws the phone on the window.
“What was that?” I ask to keep my mind busy while Dylan is cleaning my wound.
“A friend. He created us a free pass on the highway. He froze the cameras for a couple of seconds. They won’t notice that he did this. If they were following us, now they are certainly not.”
“Now you involved with some hackers?”
“No. There’s only me and a friend in this mess. It’s enough. Anyway, someone else joined the group recently, but I’ll explain it to you when we arrive at the motel.”
“Motel? It’s a good idea?” asks Dylan.
“Yeah. There’s a ramshackle-down. Not a lot of people know about it. It doesn’t have surveillance cameras and it belongs to a farmer from the area. It’s more like a house with many rooms than a motel.”
“It seems you really have a good plan”, I continue grinding my teeth.
I feel a sting and I realize that Dylan is using on me the stitching machine I had used on him earlier.
“Karma”, I grumble.
He looks at me with a serious face.
“You really make jokes at the worst moments.”
“What can I say, I don’t want to lose the charm of my personality.”
Dalia makes a sound that seems to be laughing.
“So, shall I begin. I haven’t given up on revenge or punishing the guilty ones if you want to call it this way. I only waited for them to screw up, and believe me, they did. Stan and his son started selling guns again. This time is worse because they supply the conflict area from Afganistan. The President has no clue about it, and neither does the Prime-Minister.”
“And how do you know about this?”
“There’s a whole conspiracy that keeps her away from this. But one of them is the weak spot. He broke down. He wanted out, but ‘you can’t get out until you’re dead’: his words. John Sullivan. Counselor. Me and my good friend, Ted, have watched them for many years. We knew that we need a lot of evidence for anyone to believe us. So we stayed put until now. But John cracked, so we addressed to him.”
“By encrypted messages, sent on his computer. Everything we were talking erased the next second, in case he was a traitor. We didn’t leave any traces. Anyway, he’s ready to help us.”
“To do what?”
“To make justice. This is why I saved you. I need your help.”
“And if you didn’t need our help, you would have just let us die?” asks Dylan ironically.
Dalia continues to drive relaxed.
“I think I didn’t choose my words wisely. Of course not. We need help to break into the Parliament.”
Something stopped my breath. I stood up and I looked at Dalia. She seemed too calm.
“Have you lost your mind?”
“Ted and I will stay at a distance to turn the cameras off for you. We will guide your way to Stan’s office. John will keep him busy until you steal all the data from his computer. Then we will guide you out. We needed one man on the inside and one or two to get in there in order for our plan to work. We’re doing the technical part. John knows Stan’s schedule, so there shouldn’t be any problems.”
“It’s easy to say”, I mumble. “But why in the Parliament? Isn’t it too risky? There’s security everywhere! And when do you want this to happen?”
“Well, tomorrow at noon. Only in that office Stan’s keeping his computer. He doesn’t have one at home. We checked.”
“Noon? In the middle of the day?”
“We will draw too much attention at night. Plus, the security officers are more careful at night. It will be strange to find two people walking around in the Parliament, considering the fact that the politicians barely walk in there in daylight, don’t you think?”
Dylan looks at us stupefied.
“You’re not actually considering doing this. What if they catch us? What if John is not on our side?”
“This is an option too, but it’s all we have. After we take the data from Stan’s computer, we hope to recover some of the deleted stuff. We will be able to expose them then. They will be punished.”
What Dalia’s talking about seems cut off from books and movies, but I realize that we entered a world where the dirty political games destroy lives. My life, my family’s life, the life of people around me.
“I’m in”, I say. “I want to know everything.”
“Cara!” shouts Dylan.
“I will go alone.”
“Cara!” he says again.
“What? Your first exclamation made it perfectly clear that you don’t want to be a part of this!”
“Don’t push me away again! If there’s no chance I can change your mind, I’m coming with you!”
I look at him and I know I didn’t give him a lot of options. Dalia stops the car.
She gets down, and we open the doors. I manage to get out on my own, while Dylan’s gathering the stuff. Dalia walks first, stepping to the old house, which is actually a motel. An old man welcomes us. He has white hair and worked and dirty hands.
“Two rooms”, says Dalia.
“Dylan searches for his wallet in the backpack.”
“Keep the money. You need it in case something goes wrong.”
“Why two rooms?” I ask.
“Because I have my issues, and you two have slept together before from what I can tell.”
I roll my eyes and swallow my words. We arrive upstairs. Rooms twelve and thirteen.
“I’ll take twelve”, says Dalia.
“Are you superstitious?” asks Dylan.
Dalia doesn’t answer, and we step on the old floor, which starts creaking under our feet. I sit on the edge of the bed, while Dalia leans on the doorstep.
“Make yourselves comfortable, clean yourselves up, because in the morning we hit the road.”
“What are you doing?”
“I’ll leave for a while. I need some laptops. I will come back with Ted. Oh, and something for your pain. I think you’ll need it.”
She leaves, closing the door on her way out. I look around. The room seems an old one, and the furniture is old too, but it’s maintained well. The purple walls calm my eyes. It’s a lavender smell in the air. I get up and look for some clean clothes.
“I’m taking a shower”, I say and close the door.
I leave Dylan sitting on the edge of the bed. I enter the shower and turn on the water, to cover the crying of pain and anger which I can’t control. The dirty water flows on me. Dust and blood. I keep my left arm away from the water as much as I can, especially the bandaged part. The shower gel has a lavender smell too, and it calms my crying. The smell and the feelings are connected, at least for me. The rose relaxes me, the lavender calms me down, and the linden flowers give me adrenaline, even if they say the opposite about it.
I wipe with the stern towel and I look at myself in the mirror. The burn from my back itches me, and my arm hurts. I see something changed on my face, and I can’t say that’s maturity because that change I had seen a long time ago. My green eyes have seen too much pain, and maybe that’s the reason they struggle to bring it out in tears. I wipe my face and get dressed, leaving the bloody clothes in the corner.