Home > Four Live Rounds(11)

Four Live Rounds(11)
Blake Crouch

“Once more. You Jonathan?” The man returned the onion ring he’d been holding to the basket and wiped the grease from his hands onto his size XXX T-shirt, which displayed three na*ed women engaged in some act that was indeterminate due to the stretched, faded quality of the cotton.

When he started to rise, Will pulled the Glock from his waistband, set it on the table, the barrel pointed at Jonathan, his finger on the trigger.

“You crazy?” The man’s eyes cut to every corner of the restaurant, but Will didn’t move. “Where’s Jav?” Jonathan whispered.

“Jav went to be with the Lord.” Will wiped his right hand on his pants under the table, sweat running down his sides. He tapped the Glock on the table. “Should I put this away or—”

“Yes. Nobody told me nothing about this. Who are you?”

It hadn’t occurred to Will that he might be asked to give his name, and he said the first thing that popped into his head: “Never mind what my name is. We discovered that Jav had this little operation going on the side. And you know what the upsetting thing was? He never shared.”

“Then why are you here?”

“Because I have the product.”

Jonathan picked up an enormous hamburger and bit into it, juice and catsup running down his chin. He wiped his forearm across his mouth and spoke as he chewed.

“You think I’m gonna do business with someone I never met, never seen, never heard of? That how you do business?”

Will exhaled slowly through his nose. “How I conduct my business is not your affair. Just for clarification . . . you are ending your arrangement with us?”

“Us?”

“The Alphas.”

Jonathan’s face blanched. He swallowed. “I suspected,” he said. “But I didn’t know. Sure as shit didn’t ask.”

“Are we doing business tonight, Jonathan? I need to know right now.”

Will set the Glock back on the table.

Jonathan sighed. “Yeah. Course we are. Course we are. And I apologize if I—”

“Just shut the f*ck up. I’m tired, and I’d like to get some sleep. Where’s your truck?”

“Space one fifty-one.”

“Be there in five.”

TWENTY-SIX

Will unlocked the Land Rover, climbed into the driver’s seat, and shut the door. Kalyn lay silent and unmoving across the backseat, and when he glanced at her, he couldn’t help seeing Rachael, and it hit him again that she’d been through all this alone, without him.

“He went for it,” Will said.

Kalyn didn’t move. “What now?”

“We’re meeting him at his truck.”

“How do you feel?”

“Like someone jammed an adrenaline shot into my heart.”

“Yeah, it’s a rush, huh?”

“Kalyn, it’s not too late. We can still just drive away, forget this whole thing. You sure you wanna be put in the back of a trailer? God knows where it’s going.”

“Of course I don’t, Will. I’m scared beyond shitless. But in spite of the fear, I want to know what happened to my sister. She went through exactly what I’m getting ready to experience. Nobody tracking her. Nobody watching her back.”

Will cranked the engine, shifted into drive. He pulled around the side of the building that housed the restaurant and convenience store, soon found himself driving through row after row of semis, at least a hundred of them, dark and dormant, their drivers asleep for the night. Will lifted the TrimTrac device from the passenger seat, slipped it in his pocket.

“Kalyn, I’m worried. What do I do when the next transfer is made? What if he just passes you on to another truck?”

“There’s no way of knowing what’ll happen, where I’ll wind up. You just be close and ready to improvise. But listen, don’t get yourself and your daughter killed over this, okay?”

Up ahead, just a hulking shadow in the dark, Jonathan stood waiting, the back of the trailer already open.

“I see him,” Will said. “Get ready.”

He parked the Land Rover behind the truck and killed the engine, then stepped out, slammed the door. He didn’t like his surroundings—dark, quiet, a thousand places for someone to hide.

“Where is she?” Jonathan asked.

“Unconscious in the backseat.”

Impossibly, Jonathan managed to hoist his gigantic frame up into the trailer. In the poor light, Will could just make out large cylindrical containers, wondered briefly what Jonathan’s ostensible cargo was.

Will opened the door, reached under Kalyn’s arms, and pulled her carefully out of the backseat. Then he slung her up so she draped over his shoulder and started toward the truck, her chest heaving against his back. Settle down, Kalyn. Settle down.

“Got a pretty one there?” Jonathan asked.

Will made no reply, just gave Kalyn’s thigh a gentle squeeze.

At the back of the trailer, Jonathan pulled Kalyn off Will’s shoulders and placed her down. He knelt beside her, ran his hands over her legs, arms, between her thighs.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Will said.

“My ass is on the line now. I’ll rest easier knowing it’s coming into my possession with only the clothes on its body. And that you haven’t done nothing to it.” He continued to frisk her. “Taller than the others, ain’t it?”

“You tell me. I haven’t seen the others.”

“Jav pick this one out?”

“Yes.”

Jonathan struggled onto his feet and dragged Kalyn back into the darkness of the trailer.

Will took the TrimTrac out of his pocket as Jonathan fumbled with a set of keys. He ran his hands under the metal step beneath the Idaho license plate.

A door in back of the trailer creaked open. Kalyn slid along the floor.

Will couldn’t find a surface large enough for all the magnets.

A door slammed, keys jangling. Fuck. Jonathan lumbered toward him as Will’s hands passed over the largest flat surface he’d yet encountered. He lifted the device to the metal, felt the magnetic pull as the TrimTrac locked into place with an audible clang.

Will crept around the corner of the trailer, stood up, unzipped his pants.

“The f*ck are you doing?” Jonathan said.

“What’s it look like?” Will zipped his pants and spun around, Jonathan staring at him. “We done here?” Will said.

“Yeah. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m gonna have to tell my contact that Javier is no longer selecting. Up to the buyer if he wants to use you guys again. Won’t have nothing to do with me. I just wanna be clear so you don’t . . . if it turns out we can’t do business again, won’t be me ending the relationship.”

Will walked to the Land Rover and, despite his trembling hands, managed to get in and start it. He turned around between the rows of trucks and drove slowly away, watching Jonathan in the rearview mirror, and fighting against the thought that he’d seen the last he’d ever see of Kalyn Sharp.

The Last Frontier

TWENTY-SEVEN

Will and Devlin sat in the backseat of the Land Rover outside their motel room, staring at the computer screen.

“That woman has balls,” Devlin said.

“Yeah, she does.”

“So what are we looking at?”

“This is a Google map of the Boise area.”

“The truck’s not moving yet?”

“Doesn’t seem to be. Maybe Jonathan’s taking a nap before he hits the road. We should probably do the same.” He opened the door. “Come on. I’ve got this thing set to fire up when the truck starts to move.”

Will found it almost impossible to sleep, afraid he wouldn’t hear the electronic notification that the TrimTrac had changed positions. But with the computer sitting on the bedside table, humming quietly, he finally succumbed.

His dreams came in waves, repetitive and fevered. He dreamed he woke up and the computer was gone. Dreamed it had melted into a puddle of plastic, got fried by a lightning strike. Dreamed he slept for two weeks and never heard a thing.

His eyes shot open at 4:14 A.M. He sat up in bed, instantly awake. The computer was making noise—some kind of digital alarm. He turned on the bedside table lamp and opened the laptop. As the screen sprung to life, his eyes came into focus and he saw that the icon on the Google map was no longer across the interstate at exit 64.

He shook his daughter out of sleep, and when her eyes opened, he said, “Time to go, Devi. They’re on the move.”

. . .

By the time Will merged southbound onto I-84, Jonathan’s truck had a ten-mile head start. He’d set Devlin up in the backseat with the computer, given her a crash course, and she now knew the program as well as he did, calling out updates every couple of minutes.

At sunup, they were speeding east through Twin Falls.

As morning swung into full gear, they were heading northbound on I-15, climbing steadily into the high country of southwest Montana.

They gave Jonathan’s truck a solid five-mile berth, and what had been pure exhilaration at the outset soon deteriorated into mind-numbing monotony.

There was no stopping.

Dillon. Butte. Helena. Big Sky Country.

On the plains, ten miles north of Great Falls, it occurred to Will where Jonathan was heading, and Devlin must’ve heard him sigh, because she said, “What’s wrong, Dad?”

“He’s going to Canada.”

“Cool, I’ve never—”

“No, not cool, Devi. We have a gun in the car and we’re fugitives.”

“That gun’s illegal?”

“It is in Canada.”

“But we have identification for Joe and Samantha Foster, right?”

It was true. Will carried Social Security cards, a driver’s license, passports, and certified copies of their birth certificates at all times, though he’d had only one interaction with law enforcement—a city cop at a DUI checkpoint near their home in Colorado.

They stopped in the town of Shelby, Montana, thirty miles south of the border, and after thirteen straight hours of driving, Will’s legs cramped as he stepped out of the Land Rover and swiped his credit card at the pump. While the tank filled with gas, he stashed the small Glock in his leather jacket and approached a pair of Dumpsters behind the convenience store.

The gun clanged inside the empty bin.

In the store, Will used the rest room, and he and Devlin loaded up on junk food, soft drinks, coffee, packs of NoDoz.

By the time they were back on the road, it was evening, and the little icon representing Jonathan’s truck on the Google map stood motionless for the first time all day on the Montana-Alberta border.

“I need you to listen to me, baby girl. What’s your name?”

“Samantha Foster.”

“Where do you live?”

“Mancos, Colorado.”

“What’s my name?”

“Joseph Foster.”

“Why are we going to Canada?”

“To follow a renegade FBI agent in the back of a transfer—”

“Not funny. The Canadian border agents won’t have a sense of humor. What they do have is the power to detain us—on any old whim. Something goes wrong? That’s it for Kalyn. So you be respectful, give the information requested, but nothing more. The story is, that you and I are going to visit a friend in Calgary.”

“Shouldn’t I be in school?”

“You’re home-schooled.”

“What’s our friend’s name?”

“Nathan Banks.”

“How long are we staying?”

“A week.”

“You’re a really good liar, Dad.”

The man who knocked on Will’s window was young and garbed in dark clothes.

Will lowered his window. It was already night and bitterly cold.

The customs officer said, “Both of you step out of the car, please.”

Will had their Social Security cards and birth certificates in the sleeve of a notebook.

“Our documents and my driver’s license,” he said.

The man took the notebook and began to examine their papers as another customs officer emerged from the small Canada Border Agency shack, a long Maglite in his hand.

As he climbed under the Land Rover to inspect it, the first officer asked why they were coming into Canada. Where were they going? Coming from? Did they have any firearms? Alcohol? Tobacco? Pets? Plants? Anything to declare?

“Just my watch and a computer.”

The officer helped them fill out a B4 form while the other man opened a door and shone the flashlight inside the car. After a moment, he came over and joined them.

“All in order?” his partner asked.

“Almost.”

Almost?

The man who’d searched the Land Rover asked, “How long are you two planning to stay in Canada?”

“A week,” Will said.

“So where’s your luggage?”

Shit. Shit. Shit.

Devlin said, “We had an accident in Montana.”

“What kind of accident?”

“We came over a mountain pass and I guess the air pressure blew two corks out of the bottles of wine in our suitcase. Ruined everything. We threw the suitcase away. We’ll buy new clothes and stuff in Calgary.”

The customs officers glanced at each other, gave a brief nod, then the man with the Maglite said, “Have a safe trip.”

They stopped in Lethbridge, four miles from where the Google map said Jonathan’s truck had been for the last fifty minutes.

Stayed at an inn outside of town, ate takeout in their room, and slept hard and without dreams until the computer woke them at three in the morning with notification that the truck was on the move again.

The next twenty-four hours were murder. They followed Alberta Provincial Highway 2 for three hundred miles, north through Calgary, Red Deer, all the way to Edmonton, where they picked up the Alaska Highway, spent the afternoon blasting northwest through Alberta, taking turns driving.

Whitecourt. Valleyview. Grande Prairie.

Near Dawson Creek, they came within a mile of Jonathan’s truck as it stopped in town to gas up.

Evening approached and they prayed, hoped, begged the truck would stop, both starving, their eyes burning after a second full day on the road.

But Jonathan didn’t stop. He continued on that northwest trajectory, driving right on into the night through the uncitied wilds of northern British Columbia, on the most desolate two-lane stretch of highway they’d ever seen, Will driving, popping NoDoz with a chaser of flat Mountain Dew or cold coffee, the computer now in the front passenger seat, angled toward him, Devlin having long since fallen asleep.

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