Another chapter in a story I started a while ago. As requested by my readers (Mary) I decided to post another chapter. I’ve already written it, just haven’t gotten around to sharing it yet. If you need a refresher, I linked to the previous chapters. Don’t worry, It’s not nearly as long as The Darkest Hour.
I could tell Randy considered asking me to slow down, but decided just to continue his story. “He told me if I could bring you to him, he would reward me. That it might be dangerous, but I wouldn’t regret it, and I would be saving lives. ‘I know it’s hard to believe,’ he said. ‘She seems nice and normal, but she’s not. You don’t know who she is.’ So I asked him who he was. All he said was he was there to help and to protect the students at the school. It was pretty phony. This guy just seemed kind of mean. I didn’t believe him for a second.
“I didn’t figure it would be a good time to tell him you had already warned me about it, and that you seemed a lot less sketchy than he did. He wasn’t the kind of guy you disagreed with. When I said nothing he laid out the terms. He offered me $1000 bucks, and…” he paused, looked over, in the darkness I couldn’t see, but I’d guess he was blushing. “And a chance to sleep with you after I brought you to him. Only he didn’t quite say it like that.”
I snorted. “One Grand?” I was so worth more than that. “What kind of idiot tries to hire a bunch of high school students for a hit and pays $1000?”
“Yeah, but now I knew something about him,” Randy went on. “He didn’t know I’m rich, or else he would know that a thousand bucks doesn’t really matter to me. He got out a bandana, a sack, some plastic zip tie stuff. He said you would fight. He said I would have to knock you out somehow, or it would never work. He told me he wanted you alive, so try not to kill you. He told me how to tie you up, wrists and ankles, gag you and put the bag over your head. The stuff he gave me is in the trunk.”
“Well, either Crystal is a terrible judge of deadly force, or he changed his mind, because she was aiming to kill.”
“Either of those are plausible,” Randy said. He was right. “He said you would have a weapon, and I should take it away. Then he stopped talking, and waited. I decided to play along at least for now, but I didn’t want to sound like an idiot, so I decided to bargain with him. I asked him for $10,000.”
“Still not enough,” I said, grouchily.
“Well, I wasn’t asking for it because that’s what I thought it was worth, I just wanted to see if he’d go higher, and I didn’t want to be too eager. Anyway, he said $7000. Then I shrugged, which he took as a yes, and handed me the stuff. We were almost back to where he had picked me up. He gave me a phone number, and said when I had you tied up and unconscious, I should call the number. They would give me more instructions over the phone. They dropped me off.”
We were past civilization now, and the night was dark. The moon wouldn’t show its face till almost morning, and the sun well on its way to the other side of the world. The glow of the city was behind us. We were entering the endless desolation of the Mojave Desert. Out here you could really fly. Randy went silent. “So that’s it,” I said. He shrugged, leaving out the last part that I knew they would have included: some sort of threat. “So what are you going to do?”
“I think I need your side of the story first,” Randy said. He still didn’t know whose side he was on. I did, but he didn’t. I guess I owed him an explanation, since I had gotten him into this mess, and since I was going to trust him. It was just a matter of how much to tell.
“Well, I guess we can all agree on one thing, I’m not who you thought I was,” I said.
“So who are you?”
“Well, the details really aren’t important, but I’m not a high school student.”
“Pretending to be a foster kid too?” He asked.
I felt a pang, but I couldn’t place its origin. “It’s a good cover.”
“So now I know what you’re not,” Randy prompted.
“I am working on finding some important documents,” I said. “You may remember a while back—maybe a year—a donation was made to the school. They made a big deal about it, because it was a lot of money, enough to build a new library, along with a lot of things to put in the library.”
“Yeah, I remember, an alumnus of the school. We heard about it every day, and there’s that plaque on the library,” Randy said.
“Right, well, some of the documents given to the school, are…” how should I phrase this? “sensitive. And important.”
“Well no one’s even really sure.” Randy gave me an incredulous look. “You see, the man who made the donation was a researcher. It was believed he had made a fairly important discovery, but before he told anyone, he suddenly died.”
“What was he researching?”
“He worked for the government. It was thought that he had discovered some new weapon technology.”
“And then he died,” Randy said.
“Yes, coincidentally, of a heart attack,” I replied.
“That sounds fishy.”
“Yes it does. Everyone thought so, but there was absolutely no evidence to prove otherwise,” I said. “Or at least that’s what they tell me. Nothing was found on his computer or notebooks. He wasn’t the type of guy to store everything in his head, and he wasn’t the type of guy to throw caution to the wind. He knew how important this discovery would be. He knew there would be people willing to do anything to get it.”
“What kind of people?”
“What’s worse than terrorists?” Randy asked.
“People who sell things to terrorists,” I replied. “At least terrorists have a cause they believe in. These people have only one love: money.”
“So where do you fit into this story?”
“I am supposed to find the documents, figure out what they mean, then destroy them,” I said. “That is why I came to the school. At first they were at a loss, until they realized he had left everything to the school. Who leaves a bunch of stuff to their public high school? It’s weird. So they figured he must have hidden his work with the collection that was to come to the school. They needed someone who could discreetly come and find the information, keep it safe, and remove it. There aren’t many people like me in a position to impersonate a high school student. I’m the only one that came to mind.”
“So you’re not really in high school,” Randy said. “Who do you work for?”
“Who I work for hardly matters. It’s the good guys.”
Randy laughed quietly, “Yeah, I’m sure you’d tell me if it wasn’t. And the ‘bad guys’ the ones that I talked to today, who are they?”
“I’m not sure. Nor am I sure how long they’ve been watching. I thought we were way ahead of them. But now, I don’t know. I think they must have been watching for a while. I’d like to find out more.”
I was blasting through the desert now. We were really in the middle of nowhere. I felt the adrenaline ebbing. It was time to breathe. No one was following us. I would know if they were. I slowed and at the next ranch exit, got off going left, toward some low hills. I eased up, shifting down, drifting along the roughly paved road, not wanting to nick up this beautiful vehicle.
“So have you found what you needed?” Randy asked as we weaved around a bend in the road, losing sight of the highway behind a dry, barren hill.
“I was beginning to, but I haven’t figured it out yet. He hid his work in a complex puzzle, that’s coded, and very technical,” I said. He was silent as we drove out into the desert night. About five miles from the highway, the pavement ended. I slowed, and stopped at its edge, shut off the engine. There was silence.