J O H N
He set off in the middle of the night, leaving his sister a note. It was her advice after all, but he couldn’t risk her holding him back. He would find Mari and confront her. His rage fueled him, driving him to succeed and he had witnessed the power of determination from the girl he was looking for herself. He would use that against her.
He drove right back to where he left her. It had been a couple of weeks, so he had no doubt she had put some distance between her and that spot out in the fields. How she did that, he would have to find out.
If she were smart, she would still be covering her tracks, even if she thought she wasn’t in danger of being searched for again. Alessandro would likely send someone out after him but that would be a while away, he hoped, until he found out John had simply let his daughter go.
Soon enough, John realized that it was more difficult than he thought to get to the closest town. But he knew she made it there. By foot? That surely was revenge.
The closest town happened to be a small town. Not so small that newcomers would stick out and small enough that they didn’t have cameras in every store and on the streets and traffic lights. The worst kind of town for a bounty hunter. Why couldn’t he have left her somewhere a little more strategic?
Because he didn’t think he would be chasing after her again. Though, here he was. Chasing her.
He managed to get security footage from a street camera belonging to the sheriff’s department that was by the entrance to the town, right at the sign that read ‘WELCOME’. There were some benefits of a small town at least. He was able to slip into the department without being seen due to its lackadaisical security, uncommon for a local law enforcement.
She didn’t arrive on foot. There was only a couple of cars that entered that day. He pondered whether she saw the camera and decided to maneuver around it, but if she had walked all that way, she wouldn’t have thought to do that, nor would she have cared. She would have put distance between herself and that town by now anyway. So, perhaps she hitch-hiked. That didn’t seem an unreasonable idea, particularly because her inexperience out in the real world made her prone to not thinking through the dangers of getting into a car with random people.
Which car was it? This town didn’t have many visitors. It wasn’t a town that you simply passed through for any other more popular place.
Thus, he looked at the license plates. One was registered in New Jersey, and the other, a New York plate. That car was an outsider, which meant they were probably travelling the same route Mari had been walking.
He ran with that guess.
From what he could see in the footage, there were two men in the front seat without any sort of view in the back. They didn’t particularly look trustworthy, though nobody did to John. Perhaps if a little old lady was driving the car.
Using the street cameras as much as possible, he tracked it to the center of town before the trail went cold. It didn’t matter where they dropped her off. She would take a bus out of this town or take a ride.
He roamed about the center of town, seeing what she must have seen and thinking in her mindset. Creating distance was most important. She would change buses every so often so he would have to track each and every stop once he found the bus he was looking for.
He noticed a homeless man curled up on a bench and he approached him.
“Excuse me, sir,” John began.
“What is it, lad?” John stuffed twenty dollars into the man’s empty coffee cup.
“A couple of weeks ago, did you happen to notice a girl, short with brown hair, not from around here and-”
“Yeah, I seen a girl like that. Don’t make ’em that pretty ‘round here. And you never forget the crazy ones. Carrying a fuckin’ knife that looked to be covered in blood. Course no one ’round here would believe me.” A knife with blood? Trouble really did follow the girl.
“Did she look hurt?” John hated that he cared, but he was in love with her. What else could he do? He had to ask.
“Not from what I could tell.”
“You see where she went?”
“Got on the city bus. Only bus that runs. It can take you into town from the city and out of town to the city.”
“Newark.” John slotted another twenty-dollar bill into the man’s cup before getting in his car. He waited around for the bus and, once it came, he followed it. Luckily, there were only two stops. That town and Newark. At least he wouldn’t be unsure of where she got off.
He followed. Whilst he mindlessly tracked the bus, he noticed a car in his wing mirror. It was an ordinary car, nothing too special about it, other than the fact that it was the same car he had seen on the security footage. It was the same car he assumed Mari got to town in. And she happened to have stabbed something or someone, at least something that drew blood. Perhaps it happened to be the people in that car.
He continued to keep his eye on this car, turning off at certain points to watch whether the car followed but also still with an idea of where the bus was. And the car did follow. Every turn he made. At a distance, of course. True professionals would have missed a couple of turns so they wouldn’t be made. He knew Alessandro’s men knew that. Maybe this was Manuel, or Striker. Or even the feds. Redford could only keep them all occupied for so long.
When he decided he would ditch them, that was when the car figured out it was made. It started to speed up to him and John sped up too. They jumped onto the main road, the bus still in his sights and the car rearing up his side.
And then it attempted to run him off the road. It tried to squeeze him out, scratching along its beautiful sides. Another car would be gone all too soon. How many cars would this girl cost him?
To avoid getting run into a ditch at the side of the highway, he veered off into a loading bay for trucks. The cars circled around each other, a vehicle standoff. John made a series of turns, dangerous turns, until they made the wrong choice to follow at that angle. And their car flipped.
John didn’t have time to look back as he joined the highway again and fought to catch up with the bus.
He knew whoever that was, whoever they worked for, they weren’t finished with either him or Mari. Who had she pissed off now? Was it because he had been asking around about her? Or was it one of his enemies?
His focus was again switched back onto the bus, whose leisurely pace finally had some advantage. He was trailing behind and soon reached the city, at the exact stop she got off at. How was he going to find her when all these options were available? She wouldn’t go underground, too many cameras, so the subway was out. Buses and trains were her best bet. To get on a train, she would have to get a ticket or risk getting thrown off. But she could risk getting thrown off. She would still have put distance between them.
But what caught his eye was a sign on the notice board. Car share to Indianapolis. She would have spotted it too. The destination was a quaint town just outside the city. And there was no charge. He wondered how much money she had acquired and figured it wasn’t too much. She probably stole a wallet in that small town and that would have run dry after the bus trip to a city. Those trips were always costly.
He would follow down this lead. See where it took him. Well, it would take him to a little town just outside of Indianapolis, Indiana. It should be fun.
Unlike the ride to Newark, he didn’t have any more trouble. It would take some time for those men to recover and track him. He was aware he could be leading them straight to Mari, but John would just see how their interaction went first before deciding whether to tell her to leave or not.
He arrived in that quaint town and talked to a local business owner about the different hotels, motels and lodgings. There were only a handful. Eventually by the third try, he had located Mari through the motel’s security camera in the reception. Technology was the answer these days. He just had to bribe the woman so that he could take a look at it, which wasn’t too hard as she wasn’t too bothered.
And then he arrived at her door. And he hesitated. He hadn’t planned what he was going to say. He had all that time to think about it and yet he was still unsure. He was furious with her, that was certain. He wouldn’t give her a chance to manipulate him any further. Sure of himself and his paranoia now, he was going into this with his eyes wide open. She could lie and tell him it wasn’t all an elaborate plan, but he knew that wasn’t the case. It was evident when he told her he knew.
No, she knew he knew. And he would not be fooled again.
He slammed his fist on the door. Seconds later, the door swung open to reveal the girl he had been looking for.