“So you were in on this the whole time?” I asked as we ran down the steps leading to the underground garage. I was a little weary of her plan, but decided to trust her. Besides, I didn’t have much choice since we had to get out of the building somehow. My biggest worry was that Matt would show up and give us a double dose of danger.
“Maybe,” she said slyly, taking two steps at a time. Her fitness was impressive as I was starting to get winded with seven floors to go.
“Did your old man know?”
“God no … He still has his misgivings about you, but that will change soon.”
“If we succeed.”
“Yes, if we succeed.”
We reached the parking garage door and cautiously entered. Dimitri or even Matt could’ve easily been lurking behind the sea of cars.
“I take it you have a plan?” I asked.
“Of course ... we drive out of here like bank robbers in one of those old movies.”
“You can drive one of these?”
“Sure, can’t you?” she responded, not delivering the most convincing performance.
“Seriously, how do you know how to drive … they belong in museums?”
“Well, Augustus was the one who received the training, but I watched him do it enough.”
“Let me guess, it’s like riding a bike?”
“No, for that I would already have to have done it … but there’s a first time for everything, right?”
“We’re going to die, you know?”
“We’ll be fine,” she said. “You just don’t like it when you’re not in control.”
We approached a black sedan, but the faint sound of footsteps sent a flag up my spine.
“Wait ... I think I heard something.” We froze and scanned the area frantically. I tried to concentrate, but my already racing heart was the only thing I heard.
“I think it’s okay,” Allison encouraged and stepped to the driver’s side.
“Don’t you need a key or something to start it?”
“Yep,” she said, pulled something out her pocket and displayed it proudly. “They gave us two for some reason. Come on, get in.”
“This ought to be fun.”
Allison winked and slipped behind the wheel. I scanned the area again just to be sure, but didn’t spot or hear anything unusual and joined her in this medieval contraption.
“Where are we going, Captain?” I asked, keeping an eye out for a crazy man with a gun and my ex-best friend. Allison hit the brakes hard just before sending us headlong into the busy street and the car rocked back and forth. I swallowed hard and cocked my eyebrow her way. “Did I say this was going to be fun?”
“I’m getting the hang of it, you’ll see.”
“Please do before we understand what a sardine feels like.”
She glared at me momentarily and hit the gas, merging the ancient tank into traffic. “See, that wasn’t so bad,” she snapped proudly as several cop cars and an ambulance flew past in the opposite direction, lights and sirens blaring. “And to answer your question, we need to get back to Crimson’s house and clean up that mess you and Matt left before he gets home.”
“I’ve always wanted to break and enter into someone’s house twice in one day.”
“And then we wait for him to leave and see where he’s going, which more than likely will allow us the opportunity to see his cat burglar skills in action.”
“It’s a wonder you’re in love with the guy,” I quipped and softened my tone. “By the way, I’m sorry about Augustus.”
“I know, it’s terrible and I’d rather not think about it.”
“Well, you’re doing a bang up job just so you know ... your dad would be proud.”
She smiled briefly and whipped past a couple of cars. Not before long, we were entering Crimson’s neighborhood.
Two hours later, with the sun slipping below the horizon, we watched Crimson pull his slick looking black SUV out of the garage and head toward the arterial road fronting his subdivision.
“Don’t follow too close,” I cautioned and caught an abrasive glare.
“Who’s the expert around here anyway, huh?” Allison retorted, her hands gripping the wheel like a life preserver.
“I was just saying … you know, since we already know where he’s going, there’s no need to ride him like a horse.”
“Have you ever ridden a horse?” she asked, giving me a cross look. I shrugged and she switched the topic to something a bit more serious. “Do you have that sensation now?”
“I don’t know if it’s that or just butterflies in my stomach. Besides, I’m not entirely convinced of your claim.”
“Well if you had opened your darned letter, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Instead, you’d be asking me to ride his car like a horse – if that even makes sense – in order to complete the trigger-effect.”
“At least one of us is convinced,” I said sarcastically and watched as we merged onto the freeway. Allison gunned it and we were quickly keeping pace with the rest of the pack. “Are you sure you haven’t done this before because if I had to guess, I’d say you were an old pro.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” she replied, checking the side mirror before getting into the next lane. “Who knows, maybe one of my missing lives was as a race car driver.” I could tell she was trying to get closer to Crimson in order to prove her theory correct, but the traffic was too heavy and she had to back off.
The next ten minutes or so was uneventful as more cars switched on their headlights to combat the blanketing twilight. A soft trickle of snow gradually increased as we headed up the mountain pass. I noticed Allison fidgeting with the steering wheel mechanisms and sensed her growing frustration.
“I can’t figure out how to turn on the headlights.”
“They don’t turn on automatically?”
“No, apparently we arrived before people needed to see at night.”
“Well, start pressing buttons ... it’s got to be there somewhere,” I instructed then had a better idea. “Turn on headlights,” I commanded in my best computer voice.
Allison looked at me funny. “What are you doing?”
“I thought maybe it was voice activated.”
“You sound like a constipated calculator.”
I cocked my eyebrow and tried again, “Computer, headlights on.” But nothing happened. Not quite ready to give up, I said, “Car, headlights on...”
“Headlights are on,” a soft female voice replied.
I jumped slightly in triumph but bumped my head on the low ceiling.
“Settle down there, Mr. Locke,” Allison chirped, but I could tell she was enjoying my excitement. “It looks like he’s exiting ... can you see?”
I craned my head as far as the window would let me and with my cheek pressed firmly against the glass, I searched for his car through the increasing snowfall until a black SUV pulled onto the exit ramp.
“Yep, he just got off.”
Allison slowed and took the same exit. By that time, Crimson was turning onto the two-lane highway that flowed perpendicular to the freeway and would carry us higher into the mountains toward the resort areas and expensive subdivisions hosting multi-million dollar mansions.
Once we made the unsteady turn, Allison increased her speed. At first, I just thought she was acting like one of the locals, but then her true intentions came to light as we closed in on Crimson’s vehicle. “Now tell me if the sensation grows stronger the closer we get.”
“What do you plan on doing, ramming him?”
“That would force him to stop ... but don’t worry, we’ll just get nice and tight.”
“We’re not the only ones,” I said, noticing a pair of headlights in the side mirror streaming closer. Unfortunately, before Allison checked the rearview mirror, the car behind us tapped our rear bumper and sent us swerving off the road into a snow bank. We both screamed – okay, she screamed and I yelled, or so I told myself, trying to maintain some dignity.
The car that hit us barreled forward without stopping. When our vehicle finally stopped, my adrenaline was pumping and the pins and needles had started, but then just as quickly faded as it became clear that further potential harm was not in the immediate forecast.
“What the hell was that?” I asked rhetorically. Allison was busy trying to restart the car, which actually grumbled to life after an initial putter.
“Who do you think it was?”
“I don’t know ... Matt or Dimitri?”
“My guess is both.”
“You’re probably right.”
Allison pressed the gas pedal, but we didn’t move and the heart-wrenching sound of spinning wheels grabbed my ears.
“Okay, I’ll push, you drive,” I said and jumped out of the car, moved around back, tapped on the trunk twice and pushed hard ... the car rocked, but slipped back into the small groove created when we first landed.
“Pop the trunk,” I yelled and watched Allison fish around absently before reciting the magic words to the car’s computer. A moment later, the trunk opened and I pulled out a plastic emergency kit, snapped the cover off and placed it between the wheel and the sloshy, half-frozen ground.
“Okay,” I yelled, banged on the trunk twice and pushed as Allison gunned it ... the car fought gravity at first, but caught the plastic and popped forward. Allison pulled onto the shoulder and waited for me to hop in.
“It’s getting cold out there,” I said, rubbing my hands.
“Good thinking with the plastic cover,” she said and gave me a kiss. I was startled.
“What was that for?”
“For being you.”
“It’s good to be the king,” I said, grinning wide.
“Let’s not get carried away now, mister,” she replied, rolling her eyes, checked the mirror and merged onto the highway. “I guess that’s a good reminder what we’re up against. We could have just as easily been killed.”
I looked over my shoulder at the misty valley below. “You can say that again.”
Allison reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a closed fist.
“What’s this, a magic trick?”
“It kind of is if you were to ask someone from this time period.” She opened her hand, palm up to reveal a metallic coin. “Take this just in case.”
“Are you out of your mind? You need that to get back.”
“No, I still have mine. This is Klovatz’s.”
“Your team leader?” Allison nodded. “But he’ll need it.”
“Only if he survives ... and if he does, we can always send someone back with another coin. Besides, I’m sure they’ll send someone anyway.”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course ... now take it, I need to drive with two hands on the wheel.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I exclaimed and whisked the life-saving device away. “Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it,” she said and we drove for several minutes without speaking.