I wasn’t sure what the Boss would do. He could go back to the office, tell them I’d run away and that he needed help finding me. Then again, maybe that would be too suspicious. They might call child services and figure out he was a fraud. I didn’t think he’d risk it.
He did know Randy was involved. And he knew I didn’t want Randy to get hurt. My quick response back in Mrs. Vallone’s office had made that obvious. It was likely that he would target Randy next. As I worked to calm my uncontrolled gasping, I pulled out my phone and sent him a text.
“Boss is here. Hide. Then text me.”
Next I sent a message to Ethan informing him of the recent events. Now that the Boss was here, Ethan and I had to capture him and take him in. Given my condition, the hundreds of innocent bystanders at the school, my alias, and the lack of back up, it is unlikely I could have subdued him myself. Once Ethan came, we could set a trap and quietly arrest the Boss.
In the meantime, I needed to make sure Randy didn’t get hurt. Then we’d head to the library. I hoped Ethan would get back to me quickly and by the time I saw the Boss again, he’d be walking into my snare.
Staying in the supply closet wasn’t doing any good. I snuck out and started to make my way back toward the English class. When I was almost there my phone buzzed.
“Heading to the library. Meet you there.”
I silently cursed. I had told Randy to hide, NOT to take matters into his own hands. Yes, we needed to go to the library, but by himself Randy could easy be captured. I spun around. At one point I skidded to a stop when a man in a suit came around the corner. I hid in a bathroom with the door cracked while the man passed. It was not the Boss, thankfully, but I didn’t need anyone questioning why I was roaming the halls in the middle of class.
I left the main building of the school and hurried across the lawns to the solitary library. Randy jumped out from behind a nearby tree. I nearly punched him in the head I was so startled. “Randy! What are you doing?”
“I was hiding, like you said,” he answered.
I rolled my eyes. “Well, don’t jump out at me like that,” I said. I admit, he’d been well hid. We quickly hurried into the library, where I smiled briefly at the librarian at the front desk.
“The Boss showed up, pretending to be from child services, to come remove me from an abusive environment,” I whispered to Randy. “I managed to get away, but he could be anywhere.” My phone began to buzz. “Go find the book we’re looking for. I’ll watch for the Boss.”
Randy nodded and disappeared down an aisle. I picked up my phone. It was Ethan. “Where are you,” I whispered as a greeting.
“Fontana,” He answered.
“Fontana!? What are you doing there? I thought you were staying close,” I hissed. “The Boss could reappear any second.” I moved to get a view of the front entrance. It was deserted. I dodged back behind the shelves.
“I know,” Ethan answered again. “I got a lock on one of the Boss’s associates, a man named Jones. He was heading east so I followed. I overtook him a few miles east of here and brought him to a safe house.”
“Why is there a safe house in Fontana?” I asked.
Ethan wisely ignored that question. “Draw the Boss away from the school. See if you can get him to chase you out this way. I’ll set the trap if you can reel him in. His real name is Patrick Gurley.”
I slunk through a few more aisles and saw Randy safely flipping through the pages of a book. “He won’t hesitate to kill anyone who gets in the way,” I said.
“That’s why you’re going to get him away from the school. Randy’s Lamborghini should give you enough of a lead to keep you safe. Probably best to bring the kid along.”
I sighed. “I have to, the Boss—Gurley knows Randy’s helping us.”
“How? Has he threatened Randy?” Ethan asked.
“No, the school counselor told Gurley that Randy was my boyfriend,” I said, once again checking the front of the library. There was silence on the other line. “Ethan, are you there?”
“Why would she tell him that?”
“Because I told someone in my class that we were dating since she had seen Randy and I together,” I explained quickly.
Ethan was confused. “So you told one student and then she told the school counselor?”
“No, she told everyone. It’s high school. News travels fast.”
“Interesting,” Ethan said. “I never would have guessed.”
“What do you mean you never would have guessed?” I snapped. I was maybe a little high strung at the moment. “Every high school is like that.”
“I never went to high school,” Ethan said matter-of-factly.
I spun around. The Boss was at the far end of the aisle openly pointing his gun at me. I pulled the phone away from my ear and shoved it in my pocket.
He smiled and took a step closer. “Thought you’d do a bit of light reading?” He glancing at the titles on the shelves around us, trying to figure out what book I might be searching for. “Bronte perhaps?”
“I’ve destroyed all the pages I’ve found, Gurley,” I lied.
“Well then maybe I’ll just have to get that information out of you,” he growled, stepping closer. I didn’t back away. Once again, I needed to get his gun. If I could disarm him, I could run, allowing him to chase. If we could get to the Lamborghini, it’d be easy enough to draw him east into Ethan’s trap. “Or maybe I’ll just get your boyfriend to tell me. Where is the luck young man anyway?”
As if on cue, Randy walked around the corner. “Jamie I found—“ He was holding up a book, his finger stuck in a page and he stopped just behind me, paralyzed by the sight of the Boss.
“Well, well, well, this is certainly convenient,” Gurley chuckled, his grin growing even wider and more sinister. “Good to see you again, Randy.”
I stepped defensively in front of Randy, which the Boss found comical. “Hand me the book.”
“Come and get it.”
“I’ll shoot you. You know I will,” Gurley hissed.
“Then you’ll never solve Sheagul’s puzzle,” I responded.
“Fine, I’ll shoot him!” Gurley redirected the gun up above my head where Randy’s tall frame was unprotected. I pushed Randy behind the near shelving and lunged after expecting to hear the sound of a gunshot follow us, but it didn’t.
“Run!” I urged. He didn’t need to be told twice. We took off down the central aisle. I looked behind us to see the Boss appear close on our heels. He aimed the gun again and I yanked Randy into the closest aisle and kept running. Once again, no gunshot followed. I wondered if the gun was a bluff. Maybe he didn’t have any more ammunition.
We turned when we reached the wall, running for the front of the building, but Gurley turned almost simultaneously from the next aisle. He reached out and grabbed my arm, swinging me around but I used the momentum to punch him in the side of the head. He tried to punch me in the ribs, but I kneed him in the groin again, but not before he managed to hit me across my cheek with the butt of the gun. He doubled over, and I whacked him in the back, bringing him to the ground.
“Come on, let’s go,” I told Randy, whose eyes were huge. He didn’t move and I pulled him along.
I wiped my fingers across my face and began pulling Randy with me. My hand had a streak of blood across it. “We’re going to walk out of here and go straight to your car and we’re getting away from this place.” We reached the first row of shelves. From here, we’d be completely visible to the librarian sitting in the front. I moved to Randy’s side, hoping the librarian wouldn’t notice my face. Behind us Gurley was standing. He saw me look and pointed the gun, but I knew he couldn’t shoot so I turned around again. “Come on let’s go. Don’t stop.”
I held onto Randy’s arm as if he was a gentlemen escorting me to a ball, but my grip was tight and I was pulling him along. “Jamie,” he whispered urgently. “What about the book? If we walk out of here without checking it out the alarms will go off.”
“We have much bigger problems than that right now, Randy,” I said. The Boss was on his way as well. That was good. He couldn’t shoot us, or anyone else, but he was following.
Just before we reached the security detectors, the bell rang indicating the end of third period. I used the opportunity to dash through the detectors and continued out the door even as the alarms began to sound. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the librarian stand up, but then we were gone.
We crossed the lawn quickly. I had a choice. Should we go through the main building, dodging around students which would slow us down, or should we take the longer route around the building, past the visitor parking and next to the gym to get to the parking garage. We’d run into fewer students this way, but the Boss would have a clear view. We couldn’t lose him.
“Come on,” I said pulling Randy to the right. “This way.” I ran diagonal away from the building entrance and headed straight for the corner. As we reached it, I looked back. The Boss was only twenty yards away. I pulled Randy harder. “We’ve got to go faster, Randy. We have to get to your car,” I gasped.
I let go of his arm and together we sprinted away. I was hoping that Gurley would realize we were heading to the parking garage and instead of chasing us all the way, he’d get in his car, pull out so that he could chase us by vehicle instead of by foot. It was important that he was losing ground or he’d never risk that.
“Jamie!” Randy gasped. I turned around to see the Boss sprinting after, but he was now about twenty-five yards back. It was working. Whatever Randy had been trying to say, he decided in favor of conserving oxygen.
“This way,” I said loudly, pointing back around the far side of the building in the direction of the parking garage. We were just even with the visitor parking where Gurley’s car should be. We ran by a group of students who stopped in stunned surprise.
I headed for the corner of the gym. The Boss was behind the students but he wasn’t running. His hands were on his knees and he was breathing hard. Some of the students were looking at us and some were looking at him, and he was deciding it was time to get faster transportation.
Randy had looked back too. “Jamie he knows what we’re doing. Maybe we shouldn’t—“
“Kept going,” I ordered, but I slowed down to a run rather than a sprint. We reached the parking garage and continued to where Randy had parked. “Give me your keys.”
“Jamie, he knows we’re going to drive away. We should do something else,” Randy said catching his breath.
I held out my hands for the keys. “I want him to follow. That’s the plan.”
Randy’s eyes grew wide and he dug into his backpack and pulled out the keys. I grabbed them and opened the driver’s side door. “Get in.”
“What if he tries to ram us or something? My car…” Randy was aware that caring about damaging a car—any car—should not be as important as saving your life, but it was a Lamborghini. It was his one love. I got it.
“That’s why I’m driving,” I said. “Now get in so he can’t trap us in the garage.”
I slid in, closed the door, and started the engine. Randy was buckling up as I back the car out of its parking space and swung it into the lane. Quickly we wove through the aisles of cars. Randy’s hands were clenching the seat, his knuckles white. I had a feeling I was going to enjoy this drive a little too much.
At the garage’s entrance, I slowed. This moment was critical. Not only could he be waiting to t-bone us as soon as we exited, he could also still be far enough away that he’d miss us completely. I needed Gurley to see us and chase us. Fortunately, not many Lamborghini’s were cruising around. If he even caught the slightest glimpse he’d know where we were.
The Boss was not looking to spare my life anymore. As soon as the nose of our extraordinary vehicle was visible, I heard tires squeal. T-bone it was. I cranked the gears into reverse and jammed us backward just as he sped by. Without waiting I shifted gears and gunned it hard. Simultaneously, I heard the screech of Gurley’s tires as he skidded to a halt. We whipped out of the garage as he began to turn around. Everything was going perfectly.
“Why are you smiling?” Randy asked, his voice bordering on panic. “We almost got smashed back there.”
“What? I’m not smiling,” I said wiping the grin off my face. “Good thing I’ve driven one of these before isn’t it.”
“You know Jamie, Lamborghini’s aren’t made like Volvo’s. They don’t do well in major accidents,” Randy said a bit testily.
I looked in the rearview mirror. Gurley was behind us, gaining. I was still trying to keep some semblance of the traffic laws. “I know that too. Randy I need you to call Ethan and tell him we’re on the way.”
“What’s his number?”
“Just use my phone,” I said, going to grab it from my pocket, but I checked the rear-view mirror again and the Boss was intent on ramming us. “Hold on.” I shifted up a gear and sped through the red light, making a sudden turn onto the next street a block away. Gurley had to believe we were still trying to escape. The minute he realized we were allowing him to catch up was the minute he’d be gone.
“Just reach into my pocket and get my phone,” I said, my hand firmly on the shifter. I couldn’t focus on anything but driving right now. Behind us the Boss whipped around the corner. I took the first left.
Randy hesitated before very carefully reaching over to my leg and gingerly reaching into my pocket. He was doing his best not to touch me, but I was sitting down, and the phone was tight against my hip. I felt him pull it out just as we made the next turn. I was hoping by now the Boss suspected we were heading to the freeway. If he took a more direct route he could reach it almost at the same time as us.
Randy had moved as far from me as possible (which isn’t very far in a car like that) and was looking at me with a complicated expression.
“Call Ethan,” I reminded him.
I focused on our wild ride while Randy found the number and pressed dial. He put it on speaker.
“We’re on our way Ethan,” I cut him off. “Randy’s with me. You’re on speaker.”
“Where are you?”
“We’ll be on the freeway in about 90 seconds.” Behind me I couldn’t see the Boss anymore. I thought I had seen him end his pursuit in order to turn onto a larger road. I was gambling, but I figured he was heading toward the freeway. We’d see him at the entrance, waiting to find out if we were heading east or west. And to try another T-bone attempt if possible.
“Good. We’ll be ready.”
“I’ve brought in a few of the local agents to help,” Ethan said. “Don’t worry about it.”
We were two turns from the on-ramp. I slowed down. We were supposed to think we’d lost him and didn’t need to be driving like crazy. Besides, I wanted to make sure I saw him before getting on the freeway. If he wasn’t there, we might have to do a little wandering.
“Listen Ethan, where are you going to be? I doubt this guy is going to be convinced that his Audi can keep up with a Lamborghini all the way to Fontana. I can fake it for a while with traffic, but he’s going to know we’re playing with him eventually.”
“I know. I know,” Ethan said. “I’ve got eyes out. They’ll be watching for you. If he decides to let you go, we’ll have people on him. But keep it interesting okay? Take a detour or something if you think he’s getting suspicious. Do your thing Jamie, no one can drive like you.”
I pulled into the intersection, and into the left-hand turn lane. The light was red and I waited for it. “Thanks,” I answered drily, watching for signs of the Boss. For a second I thought I had lost the gamble, but just as the light turned green he whipped across traffic and headed straight for us. I sped onto the freeway, closer to getting rear-ended by a psychopath than I’d like to admit. He followed. It was time to head east. “Alright, we’re on the freeway, Gurley’s in pursuit. I’ll let you know if we run into any snags.”
“I’ll send you the address in Fontana,” Ethan responded. “When you get here, just run straight inside. We’ll be ready for Gurley.”
“See ya.” I nodded to Randy who pressed the end call button..
I swerved through traffic, which was moderate at this time of day—perfect for the circumstances. I couldn’t put the powerful engine to good use without crashing into five other cars so it was reasonable that the Boss was keeping up with me. If the conditions opened up, he might get suspicious.
“The Boss’s name is Gurley? We’re driving into a trap? We aren’t really trying to get away?” Randy stuttered, piecing the plan together.
“Yep,” I answered all three questions. “The trap is for the Boss, not for us. We’re the bait.”
“Great,” Randy said. Behind us the Boss accelerated quickly and I swerved two lanes over and slammed on the breaks. He went sailing in front of us, almost running into another car, before skidding to a halt. About five cars honked and I jammed the car into gear and sped ahead. Just as we passed him I looked over. Patrick Gurley stared back with a burning hatred so deep I doubted he’d ever find the bottom.
“It looks like Ethan sent the address,” Randy said as I pounded the gas pedal and powered the car past the Boss.
“Put it in the GPS. How far away does it say we are?” I asked zipping in-between two semi-trucks.
Randy fiddled with the phone for a moment. “It says thirty-five minutes in current traffic,” he reported.
“Text Ethan,” I ordered. “Tell him I think I can keep Gurley on my leash until we get there. We’ll be there in about twenty minutes.”
“But I said—“
“I know what you said, Randy. This is a Lamborghini, remember?”
Randy sent the text and Ethan confirmed. I continued playing cat and mouse. When you are driving a fast car, getting away is easy. As long as you know what you are doing, which I did, you can weave your way through all but the worst traffic and leave everyone in the dust. Had I been trying to lose the Boss, he’d have no idea where we were by now. Trying to convince someone you are attempting to escape, while still keeping them close is more difficult. I had to concentrate hard to find the locations where I was likely to get boxed in allowing Gurley to catch up. We were rapidly accelerating and decelerating over an 80 mile per hour range, and Randy looked like he was going to throw up. Neither of us felt like chatting.
After fifteen minutes of this, the traffic began to ease. This was the time that Gurley would begin to suspect something. “How far are we from the exit?” I asked Randy, who looked down queasily at the phone.
He stared at it for a moment. “Three more miles. Two exits from here.”
I nodded. The road had opened up. Gurley was hanging two hundred yards back about to break out of a box. I was creeping close to 100mph, but his Audi could easily match that. I continued to accelerate slowly, watching Gurley behind me. He broke out of the box and hit the gas aiming right for us. I waited an instant and then I geared-up, and gunned it. We shot away from him so quickly even I was surprised.
“The exit! You’re going to miss it!” Randy practically shouted his hands braced against the frame of the car.
I looked back one last time. Gurley was barely visible behind us. I saw the off ramp and swerved over two empty lanes of traffic, barely making the exit, then pressed down on the brakes, not so hard we would lose control, but almost. My hope was that since we were in a Lamborghini, Gurley would easily see our exit.
I headed south on the main road staying visible and slowing considerably. I couldn’t see the Boss behind us. His black car was easy to miss at that distance. I was just going to have to hope that he was working his way toward us.
“You need to turn left up here,” Randy told me, but I passed the intersection and went one further. There were a couple expensive black cars a few blocks behind us and they were both trying to weave through traffic. This wasn’t surprising. Either one could be the Boss, or neither. I let them both get about a block closer before I turned left. Randy let the GPS redirect itself and then gave me instructions to the safe house. We were crawling through a residential neighborhood.
Not only was Gurley not in sight, no one was. I looked up and down every side street searching for the murderous black Audi. “We may have lost him,” I said in frustration.
Randy looked relieved by this information, which I supposed I can’t blame him for. He didn’t yet realize that if we failed, we’d just have to do it all again when the Boss came back next time. “The house is just a block up ahead on the right,” Randy informed me. “I wouldn’t have expected place like that to be in this kind of neighborhood.”
“Safe houses are always in places you’d least expect,” I said absently. “That’s what makes them safe.” I was frustrated. We’d kept him on the leash all the way out here. I was sure he’d seen us get off the freeway and even though I couldn’t know for certain if he’d been one of the cars behind us, my instinct told me he was. We had been so close.
“That’s it, right there,” Randy said pointing to a pinkish tan looking house with a chain-link fence in the front and an average yard. The driveway was cracked and long, continuing behind the house. It would be an ideal location to park a Lamborghini that you didn’t want everyone to be ogling at.
I slowed even more and considered pulling to the curb and stopping so that if Gurley did happen to be in the area he’d know exactly where we were. As I was creeping closer to the curb a black Audi sedan suddenly turned onto the street up ahead. It faced us for a moment before accelerating on a collision course. I almost didn’t react fast enough, he surprised me so much. Just in time, I managed to get the car into reverse and lay on the gas. We zoomed backward. I cranked the wheel and spun us onto another street.
“What are you doing Jamie? We were right there!” Randy yelled.
“I don’t know,” I replied honestly. It had been a gut reaction. I probably could have just run into the house, but too late now. We were still going backward and I used the next intersection to spin us out of reverse. On these small neighborhood streets, I couldn’t get any kind of lead on Gurley. He was following closely. We’d made three left turns, accelerating around the last corner and into the straightaway. Ahead was the street with the safe house. I skidded into the turn and didn’t even look back to see how close Gurley was. This time I slowed only enough to whip the car into the driveway and pull into the back.
As I turned off the engine I quickly said to Randy, “Get out of the car. We need to get into the house before the Boss can start shooting at us or ram us with his car.” I already had the door open. “Just stay out of the way once we get in there.”
We raced to the door of the house and I yanked it opened. Ethan was there. He handed me an assault rifle. “We’ve got the front door covered. You and I will stay here at the back. He’s getting out of his car right now,” Ethan said. He pointed at Randy with his own rifle. “You. Get in the bathroom and stay there. Don’t even think about coming out until I tell you it’s okay. Got it?” Randy nodded his head quickly and Ethan pointed through a kitchen to a doorway half out of view. Randy scurried away.
“He’s coming around back,” Ethan whispered, listening to his ear piece. “Everyone hold your ground,” he directed. “He may come this way, he may circle back. But don’t let him get back into that car.”
I slid behind the back door and Ethan took an opposite position just out of view in the kitchen. We waited. I heard footsteps outside. They stopped. Thirty seconds passed in complete silence. I could just see Ethan, his eyes on me. I wished I was tuned into the network, but there hadn’t been time for me to get an earpiece.
I’m not sure how I knew. I don’t think he made a sound, I really don’t. I’m not sure if it was some change in smell or pressure or something else but exactly one second before he shot a hole through the door, I knew the Boss was there and jumped away.
Patrick Gurley stormed into the house about to shoot again, but I slammed the butt of my rifle into his hand. The gun fired into the wall. He growled in rage and tried to kick my legs out from under me, but I dodged enough so he only managed to hit my shin. It burst into pain, but Ethan was right behind me, his gun over my shoulder. I pulled mine up too, aiming it between Gurley’s eyes.
Gurley was mad with rage and pointed the gun right at me. “You have a well-equipped foster father, Jamie,” he snarled.
“I will shoot you, Gurley, without even a second thought,” Ethan said calmly. “Or something worse, considering how you treated my partner. Put your gun down if you want to live another day with all your body parts attached.”
Ethan was intimidating because he could dole out threats with such calmness and it never hurt his credibility that he was as strong as a bear. I wasn’t sure, but I suspected that he was lying. Ethan, despite how he sounded, would not dismember someone, even someone like Gurley. But the Boss seemed to be buying it.
I like to think I have a fairly strong ethic code. However, the second Gurley’s gun inched down, I took mine and smashed it as hard as I could against the side of his face. He never saw it coming. The Boss slumped to the ground.