Plans and Schemes
Lindsey had decided she absolutely hated the people who had abducted her. She hated few people, but these anonymous monsters were worthy of the emotion. Damon was the only bright spot in a very bleak existence, and because of their captors' "research goals," she had to avoid him like the plague, except at night, when they could whisper in the bedroom, and he could hold her.
For two days, she stayed in the office all day long, only coming out to eat a piece of toast or a bowl of cereal. Damon always made at least one appearance in the office, to apologize once again for "raping" her and she always told him to go to hell. He would skulk away, looking sad.
Damon was sad, truth to tell. He missed Lindsey's company, and was boiling with anger at their abductors. He was still terrified they would cut back on his blood supply, to see if he would feed from Lindsey. It was not out of the realm of possibility, in spite of the threats he made – which weren't threats. If he should kill Lindsey accidentally, he was killing himself. The Augustines wouldn't have to do it, and he was going to face death on his own terms, not theirs.
But at night, they were friends. Damon might even say they were best friends. She was his best friend, at any rate. He might not be her best friend, but she was his, no doubt. She didn't judge him for what he was. Didn't mean she liked it, or approved of it, but she at least understood it. And somehow, she had succeeded in making him at least consider rising above it. Lexi had mostly succeeded in pissing him off. She was so self-righteous about how she had "saved" Stefan, and how she could "save" him. He supposed her heart was in the right place, but she still managed to make him feel like a failure, which irritated him. Lindsey, on the other hand, simply let him know she expected better things of him. She didn't moralize or lecture – much – and the trust of a human was just worth more than a vampire's, since vampires were much harder to kill. Damon laughed a little at himself for valuing anyone's trust, but Lindsey was special. He had to wonder what would happen to their relationship when they finally got out of here. He vowed he would show her the time of her life, if she would let him do it.
Damon got the dry erase board from underneath the mattress and doodled on it. He was making some notes about how best to break away the next time they got out. Doodling helped him think. And, he could always commit his notes to memory, wipe the board and voila – no incriminating evidence. They had to have a distraction – something that would create enough commotion for him and Lindsey to escape, but also prevent their captors from following right away. An idea occurred to him and he chuckled and started writing notes. He couldn't wait to tell Lindsey all about it.
The second day after the "assault," Lindsey got the word she was up for her evaluation. Damon followed her into the bedroom and wrote on the board, "Chin up. This is the last one. Next time, we break out of here." She nodded and smiled at him, then left the room with, "Would you stop trying to apologize? It's not working!" and when the door opened, she left.
As she went into the inner sanctum, her mouth was dry, her heart was racing and she prayed earnestly that she was a good enough actress to fool these people. Damon said the Augustines' downfall was always their arrogance and complete belief in their total superiority, so maybe that would blind them to what was really going on.
"You and Mr. Salvatore have not been getting along as well, recently," said the voice after she sat down.
"You noticed, huh?" Lindsey replied, her voice pure acid.
"This does not further our research goals."
"Then you should have put 'rape is a no-no' in the house rules. I'm sure you saw the whole sorry scene."
"You indicated you found him sexually attractive."
"Didn't mean I wanted him humping me on the sofa! He raped me! And I can't even call the police or anything! I just have to see him and be in the same space with him every day! With my rapist! You people are sadistic psychopaths."
"We are scientists."
"Same thing, apparently," she spat.
"So now that a physical relationship has been initiated, you are still not receptive to the idea." The voice actually sounded puzzled, and Lindsey almost laughed.
"Sure. Yeah, I definitely want to get physical with my rapist again! Not like I can stop him, since he can pin me down at will, or snap my neck if he feels like it. I didn't sign up for any of this, but I damn sure didn't ask to be raped!"
"You will be compensated for your experience."
"Money won't give me back what he stole from me." Lindsey was outraged that they thought money would make all the bad memories go away. She was just glad she hadn't actually been raped, or this would be excruciatingly painful, instead of just criminally insensitive.
"We have authorized another excursion for you."
"I don't suppose I could go by myself to get away from him for a little while."
"That would not be possible. We must insist you go together."
"Whatever. I don't even care anymore. I said in my very first interview I must be in hell. I knew more than I thought, huh? I am in hell, no question."
"Considering your background, our theory was that you would be pleased Mr. Salvatore found you attractive enough to consider a physical relationship with you."
O.K. Just give her the bottle of Pepto-Bismol to keep her from puking her guts up at that "theory." She took a deep breath, remembering Damon's advice about keeping her cool in front of these people. They loved emotional outbursts. "Looks like I shot your theory all to hell, then," she said coolly.
"We still have our goals. Your excursion is in the morning. You may go."
Lindsey stood and with a supreme act of will, suppressed the urge to give them all the finger. Instead, she walked out quietly. She would have her fit in the bathroom when she got back, where they couldn't see or hear her. When she got back to the unit, she walked in and Damon could feel the rage rolling off her. His eyes widened.
"How did it..." and she interrupted him with a "Speak to the hand!" and stalked into the office, slamming the door so hard it made the windows rattle.
Damon Salvatore was a vampire — and a reasonably powerful one — but he was also a man and no man in his right mind would have messed with a woman who was that pissed off. He didn't get the impression she was mad at him, but clearly, she was in no mood for conversation. He wasn't going to push his luck. She might decide to stake him with the curtain rod. So he did what any sensible man would do — he held his peace and stayed in the den. He could, however, hear her go into the bathroom, turn on the vent fan and the bathtub faucet. The microphones would be unable to hear her, but he could. And she was fuming. He could hear her stomping her feet and cursing fluently. Lindsey rarely used profanity, so this was unusual, to say nothing of entertaining.
He waited until all was quiet, and then went into the bedroom and quietly closed the door. He opened the bathroom door from his side and cautiously peeked around the door. "You O.K. in here?" he said, low.
"I will be. Come on in." Lindsey sat at the vanity and her expression looked like a tornado about to touch down.
He did and closed the door. He immediately surmised this was not the time to come out with a sarcastic line or pithy comment. Too many sharp objects in the room. He just leaned against the wall, concern on his face, but waiting on her to decide what she wanted to say.
"Can you make molotov cocktails with bourbon as the fuel?" she said.
"I guess. Ideally, you'd want PGA for that though – higher alcohol content."
"True. Wish I had some."
"Thinking of starting a fire somewhere?" he asked.
"Wishing I had about ten to throw at those glass doors and blow up their little inner sanctum."
Damon nodded. "I could get behind that idea." And he could. Probably wouldn't do any good, but it was a pleasant thought. "Feel like talking about it yet?"
She blew hard through her mouth. "They pretty much implied I ought to be damn grateful you decided you wanted to have sex with me, and all but came out and said it shouldn't have been rape, since, because I'm so unattractive, I should have wanted to have sex since you lowered yourself enough to do it."
"Wow." Damon shook his head. "I can't..." He stopped and put his hands in his pockets. He leaned against the wall. "Incredible."
"Can you imagine what hearing that would do to a woman who actually had been raped? The damage would be incalculable."
"Yeah." Damon had never raped a woman, ever. That was one line he refused to cross. He had compelled them not to fear him, but never to have sex with him against their will. "I'm sorry you had to go through that." He thought, a little ruefully, that Stefan wouldn't recognize his big brother having concern for someone, sympathy for them, worrying about their feelings. It was completely out of character for the Damon he knew, and Damon was actually a little pleased to discover he could still feel those emotions. Lexi had been right about one thing: you never could completely turn off your emotions. No matter what you did, they haunted you.
"They said the excursion was tomorrow, so I hope you've got an escape plan."
Damon grinned, and Lindsey felt better immediately. "You bet I do. It's a good one. When you get to sleep tonight, I'll tell you all about it."
"Give me one of your bottles. I'll probably have to drink the whole thing to get relaxed enough to sleep."
The only thing Damon could think to do was to go to her and take her in his arms and hold her. He kissed her hair and said, "I've got your back, Lindsey. You won't have to go through that again."
When she pulled away, she kissed his cheek and said, "Thank you, Damon." She held her hand to his face. "Whether you believe it or not, there's a good man inside there." She smiled at him and went into the office.
Damon took a deep breath and exhaled as he went into the bedroom. Lindsey Hargrove was too good for him. Seems like he had spent a lot of his life chasing women who were unavailable, unattainable, or simply out of his league. Lindsey was a clear-eyed pragmatist, but with an uncorrupted soul. The condition of Damon's soul didn't bear thinking about. She was stubborn, argumentative, opinionated and came very close to being a know-it-all. When she was sure of her ground, she would argue passionately, and refused to back down. She got in his face regularly, and he didn't mind it. He wondered what she was like when she was being fully herself. He still got the sense there was a lot she was holding back from him, things he wasn't seeing about her. He wanted to see that side of her.
The rest of the day was unbearably tense. It was actually a good thing they were staying away from each other. They might have otherwise given something away. And both knew they had to nail this plan to escape.
Damon and Lindsey sat next to each other in the SUV, as they had before, but they refused to look at each other. Both figured the car was wired for audio and video, so they had to maintain the facade of not wanting to be around each other. They had their escape worked out as well as they could, beforehand, not knowing exactly where they were going. It was tough for Lindsey to get to sleep the night before, but she finally managed, and she and Damon had their plans made when he stepped into her dreams.
It looked like another trip to the grocery store. It was the same one as before, which made their plans much easier. As they walked inside, Damon guided a female manager to one side. "Something is about to happen. When it does, you're going to go to the office and erase the security tapes. And you're not going to remember anyone told you to do it. Go to the office where they keep the tapes and get ready. When it's done, leave and don't remember you did it." He gave her a brilliant smile and she disappeared to the back.
They could see their watchers milling around, trying to look casual. Damon and Lindsey both managed to stay close to the front door. Then, under the guise of asking him where something was, Damon grabbed a stock boy and compelled him. "You heard that gunshot, didn't you? Somebody's trying to shoot up the place! It's a terrorist! Hit the alarm! But you didn't hear it from me."
The boy started screaming, "Gun! Some terrorist has a gun and shot into the store! Help! Call 911!"
The confusion was immediate and perfect. Damon grabbed Lindsey and sped her through the front door, right before the head manager put the whole store on lockdown. That was a stroke of luck. Now it would be at least 30 minutes or an hour before anyone could even start looking for them.
Damon grabbed a mom getting out of a minivan and asked her, "Do you know where the luxury used car lot is on Eighth Avenue?"
"Sure. What's going on in the store?"
"Not a thing. Somebody thought they saw a rat and everybody went nuts. Now, you're going to take us to that car dealership." More compulsion.
"Oh sure. Of course."
Lindsey and Damon dove into the back of the minivan and they exited the lot just before the police came screaming in. "That ought to keep them tied up for a while," Lindsey chuckled.
"Let's make a detour to this First Tennessee Bank over here, please," Damon said.
"All right," the woman said.
"Stay here. I'll be right back," he instructed. Several minutes later, he came out, carrying a leather case, and said, "Let's go to the car lot." The woman obediently started the car and they left.
When they got to the dealership, Damon gave her a $100 bill. "You found this on the ground. Doesn't belong to anyone, and you don't remember me or my friend. When we get inside, you're going to remember there was a terrible wreck on the Interstate, and you took a detour, O.K.?"
"Whatever you say," the woman replied and drove off.
"That compulsion is just creepy," Lindsey said as they got inside.
He chuckled. "You ain't seen nothin' yet." They walked up to a beautiful blonde girl in a business suit. She was standing behind a counter. On a slow Wednesday morning, she was the only person in the place. Lindsey watched Damon saunter over to the girl. His charm and looks all by themselves were lethal, and when combined with compulsion, well, it was just too much.
He glanced at her name tag. "Hi Kaylee. How are you today?" Damon said to the girl, his eyes twinkling. Lindsey just looked on as the girl glanced up from her computer and caught an eyeful of Damon Salvatore in a black T-shirt and black leather jacket. Her mouth dropped open a little. Well, Damon did have that effect on women. Lindsey shook her head and grinned.
"I'm fine, sir. How are you?" the girl said, a little breathlessly.
He grinned and his voice was darkest velvet. "I am just dandy. Now Kaylee, what's the fastest car you've got on the lot? I need some speed in my life today." He leaned his elbows on the counter and the look on his face was calculated to send any female with a pulse into the stratosphere.
She consulted her computer, then looked adoringly into Damon's eyes. "Well, that would probably be the Nissan Skyline. Hits zero to sixty in just a hair over three seconds."
"Sounds like just what I was looking for. I'd like to take it for a test drive, please."
"Certainly. I'll just need your license."
"No, you don't. You're just going to walk us out to the car and give me the keys. And then, you're going to go erase the security tape from the time we walked in, aren't you, Kaylee?" Damon's voice took on a singsong quality that was mesmerizing, even without the compulsion. Lindsey shook her head in disbelief.
"Sure. Are you planning on bringing the car back?"
"At some point. But not today. But you're not going to remember that. Or me. Or my friend. As far as you know, you went to the ladies room, someone just walked in, got the keys and drove the car off the lot, all right?"
"O.K. Sounds good." She went to get the keys and walked them out to the lot. "It's the black one at the end of the row."
"Thank you, Kaylee. You've been such a big help. Now go back inside, do what I told you to do and go on with the rest of your day."
"All right. Take care!" she chirped.
As they got into the car, Lindsey said, "That girl's gonna get fired, sure as the world. I wonder how long it'll take the police to track down this car?"
"We'll have another one by then," Damon answered.
"So we're going on a car theft spree?"
"We're escaping a bunch of lunatics," he said, an edge in his voice. "You have a problem with that?"
"No, no. Just wondering how I got myself mixed up with a repeat felon, that's all," Lindsey said with a chuckle.
Damon grinned too. He started the engine and revved it a few times, looking at Lindsey as he did.
"Sounds good. Now let's get out of here," she said.
"My thoughts exactly." Damon eased the car out of the parking lot and drove at a sedate pace until they got to the freeway, and then he floored it.
"Be careful, Damon. Tennessee State Troopers don't put up with speeders real well."
"They'll have to catch me first," he said.
"Yeah, but you don't want them putting out a BOLO on this car."
"Good point," he replied and slowed to something approaching the speed limit.
Lindsey was checking the mirrors. "Is there any way to identify the Augustines if we see them? Like, do they drive a certain kind of car or anything?"
Damon shrugged. "They like plain navy sedans that look a lot like government vehicles. You know, plain hubcaps, that kind of thing."
"Only they won't have government tags."
"Right. They'll have ordinary state license plates. Probably Virginia."
"Good to know," Lindsey said. "Where are we going?"
"Well, my car is in Knoxville, so I'm expecting them to head east. I'm kind of partial to that car, and they'll figure I'm going to go back for it. I will, but not when they think I will. Now, if we're going south, into Alabama, where's the nearest place I can get rid of this car and pick up another one that won't stand out?"
"Huntsville, definitely. Big tech town, so new cars don't even register with people. That would be my first choice."
"Sounds good. After that, I think we'll go to the beach."
"Seriously? All I've got is my license and bank card, though. I don't have any money, and I don't want to use the ATM. I'll need some clothes."
"Not to worry. I went to the bank. What do you think's in that leather case? I'll take care of it."
"Don't start. We're in this together, OK? How much farther to Huntsville?"
"Oh, about an hour and a half, if the traffic cooperates."
When they got to Huntsville, Damon looked at all the company names on buildings. "Lockheed-Martin, Grumman, Boeing, McDonnell-Douglass... Damn. You weren't kidding about this being a tech town. It's been years and years since I've been through here."
"Yeah. That's how you know a new car won't be noticed. What are you going to do with this one?"
"Leave it on a lot somewhere. Someone will figure it out eventually. Not like it's damaged."
"True. I doubt you'll be able to use the same tactic twice, though. Not here."
He snickered. "I don't plan on it."
"And I'd go for a less speedy model. You don't stand out as much that way."
Through compulsion and flashing a wad of cash, Damon ended up paying a ridiculously low price for a used Jaguar at the Acura lot.
When he and Lindsey got in the car, he asked, "Where's the hospital?"
"Downtown. Four or five miles. What's up?"
"I need to raid the blood bank."
"Well, don't clean them out. People do need that blood, you know."
"I know." He normally didn't care, but Lindsey made him want to care. "Do you know anyone in this town?"
"Not anymore. I used to, but not now."
"Hmm. I was thinking of a place to crash, but maybe I'd like a little more distance between us and Nashville. How far is the beach?"
"About six hours, if we hit Birmingham before rush hour, and Birmingham is about two hours from here."
Damon looked at his watch. "We ought to make it. We got an early start this morning." Then, he looked at her. "Did you eat anything this morning?"
She shook her head. "Too nervous. Still am. We can hit a drive through south of Birmingham. There's plenty of places to stop along the way."
He snorted and said, "Don't you pass out on me."
"I won't. Unless it's to sleep. And I need some quiet, uninterrupted sleep."
"I guess you do," Damon answered. "And I need to get my hands on some blood." He gave her a wicked glance. "Unless you're willing to donate."
She snorted. "At this point, if it gets me some sleep, have a pint." Lindsey stretched her wrist to him.
Damon smiled as he took her wrist and kissed the skin, but said, "I'll wait until you actually care."
"Thanks," she said dryly. "Hospital's ahead."
"Yeah. Man. That place is huge. But that's good. Big is much better. I'll park and you just sit tight."
"No arguments. I don't want to know how you do it. Just get the blood and let's start putting some miles on the Interstate," Lindsey said.
Damon parked across the street from the complex, and after a moment's study, he headed for the Emergency entrance. Lindsey closed her eyes and acted as though she was just waiting for someone not involved in biological larceny.
In 10 or 15 minutes, he was back, cooler in hand. He stashed it in the back seat and got in the car. "Jackpot. The van from the Red Cross was just pulling up to make a delivery."
"I don't need to know anything else," Lindsey said. "I need to maintain at least a vague semblance of plausible deniability."
He laughed. "That's another reason I like you, Lindsey. You make me laugh. Not many people do, humans or vampires."
"Glad to help. Now let's get out of here."
Once they were on the Interstate, Lindsey knew they had about 90 minutes of just road driving, so she used Damon's jacket as a pillow and went to sleep.
"Lindsey, there has to be a mall in Birmingham, right?" Damon's voice woke her.
"Sure. The Galleria is in Hoover, south of town. Why?"
"Well, we both need clothes."
"Yeah, we do. But that'll put us late getting to the beach, and they have all these outlet stores at Foley, so it's not like this is the only place between us and Gulf Shores."
"I know. I just get the feeling we might be safer in a big place for a while."
"Have you seen something?" Lindsey asked.
"Not directly. I've just got a funny feeling, that's all."
"I trust your funny feelings. You've dealt with these people before."
"Do you know how to get there?"
"To a mall? Are you kidding me?" Lindsey chuckled.
Damon smirked. "I know. Stupid question. How far is it?"
Lindsey looked at the exits and made some mental calculations. "Six or eight miles. Not too far."
Riding through Birmingham in a Jaguar with a vampire behind the wheel was a whole different experience than driving through in a 4-cylinder sedan. His lightning-fast reflexes dealt with the traffic insanity easily. Usually, when Lindsey drove through, she had both hands on the wheel, and was tense and white-knuckled, every sense on high alert. Damon, on the other hand, drove with one hand resting carelessly on the wheel, and this could be a quiet country drive, except for him cursing the other drivers.
"Is every driver in this town bat-shit crazy or what?" he said in frustration.
"You hit the nail on the head, hon," Lindsey laughed. "The only time it's not a nightmare is three in the morning."
He shook his head and continued muttering until they got to their exit. "Whew," he said. "I've been in this damn car long enough. How about you?"
"Definitely," she replied.
As they walked into the large complex, Damon looked up at the building. "I didn't realize this place had a hotel with it, too."
"Yeah, the Wynfrey. It's a really nice place."
"Is that so?" What better place to hide than in plain sight, he thought. Maybe they would make it to the beach tomorrow or the next day. Plus, he could compel every clerk to hide their presence. No one would get their room number, or have any idea where they were. Right now, they were exactly where they needed to be.