We had been walking for a while before we saw anything. "Up there," Charlie said. She gestured to a space where the trees thinned and we could see lights. We got closer and saw the carriage that they'd been driving.
"I don't see them," I said.
"Hopefully they're asleep, you look for Monroe and I'll deal with them."
I wasn't sure if she'd done it on purpose, but splitting up gave Bass and me a chance to get away without her, meaning I didn't need to worry about her killing him. "Alright," I said. We got closer and I saw one of the men, back to us. Charlie motioned for me to go while she went straight for the guard.
I wasn't sure what the area had been post-blackout, maybe a really small, budget motel or something. Whatever it was it had a swimming pool, and in the dark I almost fell right into it. I steadied myself last minute and looked down, in the drained pool was Bass. He was in the corner of the pool unconscious and I started to walk towards the ladder.
Before I could get to the ladder there was a gunshot. "You had one job Charlie," I mumbled. I turned to see the second man pointing a gun at me. I started to reach for my gun but he shot at me, I leaned to avoid the bullet and fell into the pool. I hit the ground hard and blacked out.
When I came to, my wrists had been tied and my gun was gone. To my right was Charlie, who was unconscious. The guy who'd shot as me was tying her up. Past them was Bass, who had woken up. We locked eyes but neither of us said anything.
Finally the man left leaving Bass and I alone. "Bass, I…" I trailed off, unsure what I was supposed to say. I'd been so focused on finding him that I hadn't ever stopped to think about what I was going to tell him when I found him.
"I thought you were dead," he said.
I didn't know how to respond so I remained silent. Well Charlie had been wrong about us fighting, though I thought this was worse. I sank down against the wall and leaned my head back against it. It was almost dawn, the men would probably be back soon to take Bass. Most likely they were bounty hunters, if they had a personal agenda, like Charlie, Bass would already be dead.
It wasn't long before the second man returned. I leaned forward on my knees to keep an eye on him. He walked over to Charlie and treated a wound I hadn't even realized she'd gotten. I guess he'd managed to shoot her. "Don't worry, it was just rock salt," he told me. I shrugged to let him know I didn't particularly care.
Charlie woke up and when she realized what had happened she jerked away from the bounty hunter. "What are you doing?"
"Cleaning up your shoulder," he told her. "Don't try anything, I don't think you want me to use a real bullet on you." She didn't look thrilled but she let him finish up her shoulder. "What's your name?" He asked her. She looked past him like she hadn't heard him. "I'm Adam. How did you girls find Monroe?" He asked. Neither of us answered. "I understand why you'd want to kill him, I mean he did kill thousands of people with those bombs. But I'm afraid I can't let you."
"I didn't have anything to do with that arrow," I said.
"So, what, you were just the bait?" He asked. "Who are you? You might be the only person that doesn't want to kill Monroe."
"She didn't care if I died six months ago," Bass mumbled. I leaned my head back against the wall. Charlie was right; he didn't want me anymore.
"They're willing to pay a lot for the people responsible for the bombs," the bounty hunter went on. "No one doubts that Monroe fired them. Of course there are varying opinions on who else was in on it. Some people think Georgia was in on it."
"My dad is dead thanks to those bombs, he would never kill his own people and neither would I," I said angrily.
Adam looked at me curiously. "You're Ciara Jackson? Well it looks like I'm just racking it up today. Two birds, one stone. I'll let the US government decide what they think about your story." He climbed out of the pool leaving the three of us alone again.
"Did he say US government, as in the United States of America?" Charlie asked. I nodded; I was just as confused as she was.
"They're right, I took Randall right to the Tower, it was my fault," Bass said.
"I'm sure you're real torn up about it," Charlie cracked.
"I am sorry," he said, looking straight at me.
"Sorry doesn't change the fact that thousands of people are dead," Charlie said.
"Shut up, Charlie," I snapped. "You weren't there. Bass wasn't the only person who let Randall walk right through those doors. I knew there was something up with him and I ignored it. And we're not the only ones at fault. You and Miles couldn't stop Randall from firing the missiles. Rachel helped design this entire program. Aaron couldn't turn it off quick enough. We could play the blame game all day but the outcome is still the same, Randall pushed the button."
Bass and Charlie were silent and I slumped back against the wall. I wanted to sleep, I was exhausted but I didn't think I could sleep before I talked Bass. "What do you want, Ciara?" He asked, as if reading my mind. I opened my mouth to explain but he cut me off. "If you're still on your grand quest for America you can stop right there."
I shook my head. "I've lost everything: my family, my home, even my hopes and dreams," I said the last part sarcastically. "Everything I love is dead and gone, except for you. And I left you and I hate that."
After a moment he nodded but he didn't say anything else. So that was it then, I'd told him how I felt and he was telling me he didn't care. I could live with that. At least he wasn't dead. Yet.
The men returned. The older man who'd been standing guard when we first arrived grabbed my arms and steered me out of the pool. Adam took Bass. "You're just going to leave me here?" Charlie called after us.
"We don't need you. I'm sure you can get out of here just fine," Adam called back. Bass and I were tossed into the back of their carriage, the left us alone. They didn't waste time hitting the road, they must be in a hurry to turn us in and get their rewards. After a few minutes Bass pulled his hands free. He tossed a piece of pool tile to the floor and motioned for me to turn so he could untie my wrists.
He reached for the door and held up his fingers counting to three. On three he opened the door and we both jumped. The landing wasn't exactly quiet and our drivers had realized what we'd done as soon as we hit the ground. Bass took off into the woods and I ran after him. I could hear the bounty hunters racing through the trees after us. A sudden pain shot up my weak ankle and I dropped. I was up on my feet within seconds but that had been long enough to allow the older bounty hunter to catch up with me.
The man lunged at me and I hit the ground again. I tried to push him off but he was bigger than me and in the dark I could hardly tell what I was grabbing at. Another shadow appeared and for a moment I was sure it was Adam. But then, the man pinning me down let out a strangled cry and collapsed next to me. Bass leaned down and pulled me back to my feet. "Come on."
We ran back towards the wagon, and right into Adam. He attacked Bass and Bass punched Adam. I was seriously considering running, I could make it back to the road while Adam and Bass were fighting. I'd be gone before they even noticed. Then I saw Charlie running towards us. I realized if I left, Bass would almost certainly be either captured by Adam or killed by Charlie and I didn't want either to happen.
I hadn't even noticed that Bass had gotten the upper hand. I was all right with letting Bass kill Adam but Charlie wasn't. She pushed her way between them and Bass ended up punching her in the face. "Let's go!" I yelled at Bass. He turned as if he'd forgotten I was there. Charlie lifted her gun and so did I. "Shoot him and I shoot you, remember?" Bass grabbed my arm and steered me towards the road.
We reached the wagon and climbed up into the driver's seat. The only thing nice about wagons was that you didn't have to hot-wire them to drive. After I caught my breath I looked at Bass out of the corner of my eye. "Why did you save me back there?" I asked.
He was quiet for a moment. "Because I understand."