Trade-Up (A Season 5 Reboot)

Chapter Twenty-Two

Three nights in a cozy, cottage-y motel suite, and Auggie was growing impatient. It wasn’t the setting, because the actual motel room was comfortable and easy to manoeuvre once he took his investigation of its layout. He walked to the little store on the next block over with Annie when they needed to stretch their legs or get supplies. He stayed at his laptop much of the time, trying to come up with a solution, an answer, a reason, a contact, anything that would give them leverage over the situation. Annie contacted Joan, and they learned that Annie’s car had been photographed where it sat in the airport and the picture sent to McQuaid. The next alert was a message from Joan with a picture of the SUV where they had left it.

“They’re right behind us,” Annie said. “We need to keep going.”

“Where’s McQuaid?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, does he contact you? What does his intel say about this?”

“I don’t know. He’s working with Joan, obviously. Arthur, too. Joan told us to sit tight, but I don’t want to stay, Auggie. We could keep heading north, cross the border, maybe--”

Auggie stood, walking toward her voice, reaching out, touching her shoulder. He pulled her into an embrace.

“If we can lead them into a trap… Have McQuaid bring his brute squad… They could lead us to Belenko.”

“Unless Belenko’s with them now. The man is cunning, Auggie. He doesn’t play around. I’ve seen what he is capable of. Apparently you’ve seen what he is capable of. What didn’t you tell me? You said you hadn’t heard his name, you didn’t know him.”

“Annie. What I told you was the truth. But he knew about me.”

“Why?”

“I’m working on that.”

“They could be right here now. Auggie, we should go. Forget the car; we’ll take a different route.”

“Not the bicycle,” Auggie groaned. He heard Annie chuckle and he winked at her. “We zigged when they think we zagged. I think that little creative map tour was a pretty good idea, if I do say so myself. A moment of genius.”

“You flatter me.”

“I’m surprised I hadn’t thought of it myself.”

He felt Annie give him a little chuck to his arm, and he couldn’t contain his laugh. He slid one hand up to the back of her head and pulled her close, kissing her lips tenderly. They’d already made love at least five times in the past three days, and it wouldn’t take too much for Auggie to make it to six.

He felt Annie sag a bit in his arms. “Hey, you okay?”

“Yeah.”

Auggie pulled her over to where there was a comfortable big chair, his hand out in front of him, sweeping for it. Finding it, he sat in the chair himself and pulled her down sideways on his lap. She leaned back against him, and he held her, his hands always moving, stroking her hair, her cheekbones, her earlobes, seeing her always.

“You’re overdoing it,” he told her.

“There’s not much else I can do. I can’t lose you, Auggie. I’ll do everything to keep you safe.”

“I can’t lose you, either. Your heart is important to me.” He spoke softly.

They were silent for a while, each thinking their thoughts of each other.

“Auggie?”

“Yeah?”

“I am yours. You know this, right?”

Auggie smiled. “I know this. I was worried for a while that you didn’t.”

“You didn’t give up on me.”

“I don’t give up easily.”

“Or ever,” Annie twisted, to look at him. “We should all be so determined.”

“I think you fall into this category.” Auggie hugged her a bit. She was so small in his arms. But he could feel the strength in those limbs as he held her. She was more than what she appeared.

“Annie. I trust you. I believe in you. I will trust whatever you tell me to do when you tell me to do it. You have never failed to be my eyes. You’ve made it so I never have to ask you for help. And yet, you don’t help me like I need it. I can’t explain. You just get it. You get me. I don’t know how, but the moment I met you in the lobby as your guide, I have let myself just be to you. I told you this before. I don’t have to pretend, to be something I’m not, and to be embarrassed or humiliated. I don’t know how you do this, but I knew that we were so meant… this. This is how I knew it. I have been blind now for seven years, Annie, and since I’ve known you, it’s become just something that’s a part of me, like my height, or that my eyes are brown. I didn’t expect this. But it is amazing. You are amazing. Don’t you ever doubt it. I don’t doubt you. I don’t want you to doubt yourself, either. When you went dark, that was exactly what it was, a dark time. We couldn’t possibly expect that everything would be fine coming out of that. It was a bad time and we’re through that one. But we weren’t together, and now, this time, we are, and it doesn’t feel as hopeless to me.” He kept surprising himself, how much he was opening up to her. It had always kind of surprised him. She’d never been afraid to ask him anything, and he’d heard himself telling her things he had kept in from everyone else before he realised he was even digging in there.

“Me, either.”

There was silence. Annie breathed softly and Auggie could feel her body expand with each breath. The steadiness of the sound and the feeling gave him comfort. He wouldn’t trade this moment for anything.

“I’m not scared for me anymore,” Annie told him. “I feel like… I’m not alone, I won’t be alone. You always gave me that. Even when I was dark, and I didn’t want to think about you, I never stopped thinking about you and it kept me going, even if I was never going to see you again.”

“You aren’t alone. I’m always in your ear, Walker.”

He heard a breath from her laugh. “And I will always be in yours,” she whispered, and kissed the very spot she referred to.

“Why don’t you take a nap? You’ve been pushing yourself, and I wasn’t joking when I said I was looking after you.”

“I have a headache. And I feel so tired.”

“I only have high-potency headache pills. I can go get you something at the store.”

“No, I’ll be okay. I don’t want you to go out there.”

“It’s okay, I know the way, we’ve gone enough for me to be comfortable,” He let his hand slide down her arm as she stood, clutching her hand when he reached it, and pulling himself up behind her.

“No, I don’t think it’s safe.”

“You do want to eat tonight, right? I have to get some food. I’ll get you some pills and supper and then I’ll be back. I’ll have my phone, I’ll call you if I get lost. You need rest.”

“Why don’t we both go and then I’ll nap when we come back?”

Auggie gripped her t-shirt by the hem and pulled it off, pushing her back towards the bed sideways, scanning the space for the bed ahead of him with his hand. He felt for the covers and pulled them down, giving Annie a little nudge. She sat down and looked up at him.

“I love that you want to come with me. I love that you are my Annie. And I love that I can look after you and that you, at some times, anyway, will actually listen to me.”

He leaned down, his hand finding her cheek, and then kissed her on the lips.

He stuck around until he knew she had fallen asleep. He wasn’t being too overprotective, he knew it was a strain on her heart and she’d not had any attacks lately. The longer she went, the more likely recovery was. He wanted this as a guarantee. He wouldn’t go any further without her; he’d done that, he’d done it again, and he wasn’t going to let it ever happen in their future.

He took the key to the motel cabin and put on his jacket. He took his wallet and his cane and quietly crept out the door.

Once he was to the sidewalk, he turned left, and started the simple walk to the store. They had walked this way, and Annie had described the sights to him as she always did, easily and with all the information he could need. He heard the sound of the children in a park, getting their pent-up after-school energies out. He smiled at the sound of little girls laughing in a group. Sounds like that were amazing joys for Auggie, he was hearing a painting of the landscape.

When he reached the store, he was greeted from behind the counter by the older lady who shared the responsibility with her husband and daughter. With her help, he made his purchases and she double bagged them for him carry in one hand.

On his way back, he breathed in the autumn scent of leaves decaying in the damp piles everywhere and he smiled, imagining the brilliant reds, golds, oranges, and greens that would have been the vista a few weeks before. The smell of wood-smoke wrapped around him in a few places, like a warm, comforting scarf of a home he may have known. This place was a blind man’s dream, for sounds and smells. He could get used to the clearness of his senses here. As he passed the playground, he heard the snap of a skipping rope hitting the gravel as the skippers sang a rhyme. He stopped for a second, listening. He could hear a basketball being bounced on the far side of the playground. So many sounds and not all traffic. Very different for Auggie. Very welcome, if he had to admit it.

He was nearing the tree-lined cove of motels when he felt a change in his comfort level. For some reason, his nerves shot to alert, and the hair on his arms and the back of his neck stood up. He stopped, turning his ears back and forth, trying to locate some sound to back up his feeling. He swung his cane, searching his path quickly, and picked up his pace. It wasn’t too much further now. He would be home, Annie would be okay, and safe, and feeling a lot better, and they would make their daily connection with Joan or Barber. Then, they could do whatever they wanted, and what Annie felt up to.

Then, Auggie would continue his own search. He had new equipment. Annie had received a package at the store, addressed to Patricia Simpson, which she had requested for Auggie. She told him after he had opened the case to explore a state of the art laptop fitted with a top-of-the-line refreshable Braille display and all the newest software that it had come from McQuaid. She still believed he was working on their side, and that he wanted to help them. That he was doing his part to protect both of them. He had lost people in this, too.

The feeling grew when Auggie heard footsteps on his right, moving quickly toward him. The next thing he felt was an explosion to his gut, and every muscle in his body contracted, and then he blacked out.

They dragged him across the street, and threw him in an unmarked van. The bag had been dropped and scattered, his cane had been kicked into the gutter. Auggie’s new watch had been ripped off as they forced his hands behind him to drag him so roughly, and it was smashed in the street, run over as the van backed out and pulled away.

It was so fast, there was no-one to raise alarm.

Inside the motel, exhausted from her condition and the anxiety over Auggie, Annie slept.


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