From behind the van, Taf shouted, “Cuff yourselves to the van. The van!” And then Peri spun, heart pounding at the thunder of the rifle firing. Shit.
“Taf!” Howard cried, but the young woman was sauntering to them, ponytail swinging, looking sharp with that duster furling around her ankles, the open rifle draped over her arm and smoking as she dropped a new shell in. The two men were white-faced but fine, the van spewing a pink fluid.
Taf smiled as she tossed her bangs out of her eyes. “I wasn’t going to shoot them. Scared the crap out of them though, huh?”
Taf laughed, as Peri sagged in relief and staggered to the truck. “Nice escape vehicle,” she said, thinking it was a sweet ride, even if it was not inconspicuous. And in a ditch.
Howard was already moving to the back of the truck. “I’ll push. Get in.”
“You like it?” Taf said cheerfully. “It belongs to a friend of mine. Can you drive a stick?”
Peri lifted the latch, smiling at the sound of money behind the small click. “Jack’s better at it than me, but yes,” she said, then froze as the thought burst against the top of her brain. Jack’s better at it than me, she thought again, though there was no memory to accompany it.
Her smooth step up faltered at the pain, but she managed it. “I appreciate this,” she said as she started the engine, relishing the overindulgent brum of sound. “How close is the airport?”
Howard stood up from where he’d been leaning over the tailgate. “Uh … why?”
“Silas. If that’s where the exchange is, that’s where I’m going.”
Taf’s smile fell and she caught Peri’s closing door. “I did not risk cracking up Jamie’s ride so my mother could catch you again.”
Peri tugged at the door, and Taf yanked it out of her grip. Sighing, Peri looked up from her stinging fingers. “I know I said to stop letting your mother control your life, but this isn’t what I meant.”
Taf smirked. “Funny. That’s what I heard.”
The truck shifted, and Peri looked across the long bench seat as Howard got in. “Get out of the truck, Howard.”
Eyes down, he flushed. “Taf is a big girl. She can push. You’re going to need help getting Silas.” His eyebrows bunched. “He’s my friend. Maybe I should drive. You look a little green.”
Still between the door and the body, Taf crossed her arms over her middle. “I am not pushing a truck out of a ditch.”
I’m going to go crazy. “Ah, guys? I appreciate this, but this is a bad idea. You’re a vet,” Peri said to Howard, “and you plan events,” she added, not liking the headstrong woman’s frown. “This is secret agent stuff.
“Ow!” Peri yelped as Taf shoved her to the middle of the truck.
“Get over.” Taf dropped her rifle next to the seat and wiggled that tiny butt of hers into place. “I can get us out of a ditch,” she said, reaching for the gearshift.
“This isn’t a game,” Peri said as Taf started rocking the truck and Peri’s head began to throb. “People die. Sometimes I’m the one who kills them.”
Howard held the chicken strap, grinning to show his white teeth. “Only the bad ones.”
Taf shrieked in delight as the wheels caught on the last roll, and spitting dirt out the back, they regained the road. “Got it!” she shouted, and the engine thrummed as she floored it.
This is not happening.
“I almost-minored in evasive driving,” Taf said, performing a neat three-point turn and heading back the way they’d come. Peri looked behind them in the rearview mirror to see the two men cuffed to the van. They had maybe five minutes, max.
“There is no such thing as a minor in evasive driving,” Peri said. “I appreciate you both wanting to help, but this is a bad idea.” Howard probed Peri’s head, and she jerked away. “Do you mind?”
“You have a nasty lump,” he said. “How’s your light sensitivity?”
“Fine,” she lied. Taf was fiddling with the state-of-the-art sound system, and Peri smacked her hand. “I said this isn’t a game. They’re at hangar three.”
“Got it. No tunes.” Taf popped her gum as if this was a most excellent adventure.
Peri gripped the dash, gut tightening when Taf skimmed a pothole. “Okay, you can drive,” she admitted. “But you stay in the truck. Both of you.”
They didn’t stay in the truck. They followed her, whispering all the way to the rear door of hangar three, and they didn’t quiet down until Peri threatened to shove Taf’s rifle up the ass of the next person who opened their mouth. It had been at least an hour since she’d been injected, and she didn’t know yet with what. She might not be able to draft yet. Just as well.
Waving them back, Peri busted the lock on the small entry door, and when no one came to check out the slight noise, she slipped inside.
“Stay here and watch the truck!” Peri hissed at Howard when he tried to follow, but Taf had already inched past Peri and was creeping along the far wall of the building toward the sound of an argument. Giving up, Peri motioned for Howard to stay behind her, and with more help than she wanted, she followed Taf to a pallet of freight.
The hangar door was open and the light streamed in to show a small single-engine plane sitting cockeyed to a black car. She could feel the heat of the engine from where she crouched, and Peri’s eyes narrowed when she saw Allen sitting on the rolling stair pulled up to the plane. His leg was in a Flexicast, his hand bandaged. He was having a hard time using his phone. Peri didn’t feel sorry about it. You stole three years of my life.