Logan’s call was unexpected—and at that moment, anything unexpected seemed unlikely to be good.
“Yes?” Ashley asked when she answered, body tensing in anticipation of what she was about to hear.
“Clear out of the hotel,” Logan said. “Now. Get absolutely everything out of the suite, but trash my stuff at the first opportunity—you don’t need the added encumbrance.
“Once you’ve done that, go to the Bowdoing Mall. I’ll meet you in the seats outside the movie theater.”
Ashley didn’t know where the Bowdoing Mall was, but assumed it would be easy to find out.
“Got it,” Ashley said, and then before she could ask if there was anything else, heard Logan break the connection.
Ashley hurriedly went about the suite doing what he asked, putting all of Logan’s clothes and personal items into his case. He’d already taken his cell and laptop and money and other essentials, so all that she decided to keep were the extra copies of their disc, which went into her case along with her own possessions. She then called a cab, spared a moment to hunt down the Bowdoing on her cell (there it was), checked out of the hotel as if nothing was amiss (they didn’t need a suspicious departure drawing additional attention to them) and left without the staff showing any sign of special interest.
Outside she met her cab, and told the driver to take her to the train station, hoping that anyone who followed her trail there would think she’d left town, then pondered the situation as they headed off.
Obviously things had gone badly. She just didn’t know how badly. Maybe Logan didn’t even know himself. But at least he was alive and uninjured and free if he was able to make that call. She just hoped that he stayed that way. And that she didn’t bring more trouble with her, Ashley thought as she looked back at the traffic behind her.
When she reached the station she took her luggage, tipped the cabbie and saw him off, then dropped Logan’s case into a garbage receptacle on the street. As far as she was able to tell, no one paid the act much mind, or watched her as she continued away from the train station, to the same subway station from which she and Logan caught their ride to the Fillmore Monday. This time, though, she took a train east as a precaution before switching to the westbound line to get to the mall.
A little after three she finally arrived and saw Logan just where he’d said he’d be, sitting in the seats outside the movie theater, dressed in a brand-new brown suit, with a new cart containing a new case packed with replacements for his lost clothes and personal items parked next to him. In his lap was his laptop. He was also wearing a pair of dark sunglasses and much shorter hair, having got a haircut too.
Ashley didn’t see his eyes, but she did see a hint of relief in the lifting of his features. She also saw the incompleteness of that relief, much still weighing on him. It was a look she’d come to know well, though the burden he bore now seemed heavier than any she remembered seeing him carry.
She sat down next to him.
“Did you get here all right?” he asked her.
“Yeah,” Ashley said. “What about you? What happened back there?”
“They were waiting for me,” Logan said, looking right ahead of him rather than at her. “I don’t know which team they were playing for, but there was a whole squad there, authorized to shoot. I did get the disc, and I did get out of there in one piece, but Lloyd—the guy I was meeting—didn’t. Whoever was after us—they shot him.” He sighed. “He tried to warn me, and I guess that was his punishment.”
“Oh . . . God. I’m sorry . . . I . . .”
“He wasn’t the only one. They shot Henry Schmidt too. A guy walking out of an electronics store while I was passing by. Just a bystander. He ended up taking a bullet meant for me, and now he’s on a slab in the morgue.”
Two people dead. And now Logan was not just the guy helping her but, after being made at that meet, a man on the run himself.
“I’m sorry . . .” Ashley started again.
“I thank you for your condolences,” Logan said. An odd thing to say, Ashley thought, but she supposed he was telling her in as pointed a way as possible that he took her “sorry” as “sorry for your loss,” not “sorry for getting you into this.” There was simply no point to her saying that she’d never meant for any of this to happen, because of course she’d never meant for any of it to happen.
Still, she’d known from the start that this was exactly the kind of danger they faced.
And so had Logan.
Of course, she’d never tried to dissuade Logan from helping her—
But then he would never have let her do that, even if she had tried.
“I got away from them on the subway, just,” Logan continued. “People noticed, they must have, even if they didn’t interfere or know what to make of it, so I took off the jacket because of the blood on it, and used the big T-shirt in my duffle to cover the blood that got on my other clothes, then moved back through the train to another car. Two stops down I got out, before they or the cops could catch up, and called you. The next thing I did was buy a change of clothes at a convenience store, then make my way to this mall and get myself properly fitted out. Now here I am.”
Ashley had been through enough to imagine the bits he wasn’t bothering to describe, while knowing enough to be horrified by the thought of the things she hadn’t personally experienced. She knew what it was to flee the scene of a crime, but she didn’t know what it was to sit in a packed train in the middle of the day covered in someone else’s blood and hoping nobody noticed. She knew what it was to be shot at—but not to get someone else’s blood on her the way he had. Let alone the blood of a friend murdered in front of her, the way he must have seen Lloyd murdered. (Oh . . . God.)
“These people . . . they’re reckless, even stupid, but they get away with being reckless and stupid because of how far their reach extends,” Logan said, the tone of his voice changed from what it was before. The hint of vulnerability evident in his recounting of the event gone.
“I’ve been checking the news. The way they make it sound, what happened was that Lloyd shot Henry, then shot himself. There’s no way anyone could have actually come up with that looking at the facts. The cops have simply been given their script, and they’re reading it to the world, and there’s no reason why everyone won’t buy it.”
“But what about you?” Ashley asked. “Is there any mention of you?”
“No,” Logan said. “Just like everything that happened with you in New York’s had a very low profile in the press. They seem to want to do this themselves as much as possible, to use their pull with the authorities to cover their tracks, not actually involve them in getting to us.
“In fact, that’s how I think they got onto us back at that mall. The file on that disc probably tripped some keyword search running in the NCO computers, and some helper on the inside tipped them off about it.”
The thought that the people out to get them could do that made Ashley feel very small. That she still thought of them as “the people out to get them,” that she couldn’t put a name on them after all that they had done—all the blood on their hands—made Ashley feel smaller still.