Eve can’t stop twitching as we stand in the elevator. I, on the other hand, am on the verge of exploding into tears. We ride in silence.
Finally the elevator dings and the doors open. My jaw drops as we step out of the elevator and are greeted by three sets of little eyes which have just separated themselves from the television playing across the room from us. Three children are attached to those eyes and are sitting on the carpeted floor of a family room, in front of a brown leather couch, looking at us as we drip with the water from the raging river that apparently ends in their basement.
“Mooom!” the little girl says.
“Honey,” a woman’s voice speaks from another room. “They’re here.”
I peek my head around the wall and see a woman standing in a kitchen holding a baby. A man appears from the other direction.
“Cyrus, Eve, welcome!” he says with a toothy smile on his face as he extends his hand to greet us. “My name’s David.” Eve reaches out and shakes the open hand in front of me.
“Hi David,” Eve says quietly as I stare on in silence.
“You two are looking a bit wet. If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, could you hang out in the elevator for a minute while I grab you a towel? We just put in new carpet.” He walks away as Eve pulls me into the elevator. “Alright kiddos,” David says as he stops to turn off the TV. “You got to see them. Now go to sleep.”
“No whining. Off to bed.” The kids get up reluctantly and walk out of the room like a miniature horde of zombies.
The woman comes through the living room to the elevator. “Hi there,” she says, wiping her hand on her apron before extending it. Eve shakes it and then elbows me in the side to wake me from my stupor. I shake the woman’s hand as well. “I’m Karla, and this little guy,” she says as she turns her baby to look at us, “is Gordon. Sorry about the mess. We didn’t find out until a few hours ago that you were coming and I just couldn’t quite find the time to—”
“Oh, that’s alright,” Eve replies. “But maybe you could tell us what’s going on here?”
“Oh, no,” she says, her free hand going to her cheek in disappointment. “Hank didn’t tell you, did he?”
“He didn’t even introduce himself? Oh, he’ll get an earful about that, I can tell you. Hank’s the man you met in Niagara, the one who took you into the tunnels. He’s my brother.”
“Could someone tell me why we’re in your house?” I ask, finally breaking through my confusion to get some answers.
Karla laughs. “Well, I’ll admit that when David told me he wanted to build our house on top of the Niagara Tunnel Project I wasn’t amused, but, I guess I couldn’t really turn it down.”
“But, why is your house on top of the tunnel?” I ask.
“When the Canadian government decided to build the tunnel, they needed a place where people could get into it without looking too suspicious. David volunteered our house to be that place.”
“So, you’re the secret entrance into Canada?” I ask. “Doesn’t that get a little annoying, especially having little kids and all?”
“It can definitely become trying at times. But it’s nice knowing we’re doing some good and the kids almost always have someone new around to play with. It does tend to leave me with a great deal of housekeeping, though,” she smiles. David reappears, towels draped over his shoulder.
“Sorry for the wait. Liz was trying to convince me she had already brushed her teeth. Here.” He hands me and Eve each a towel and we dry ourselves off. “And, I’m sorry for keeping you in the elevator like this. We’re really not used to anyone trying to get back in the States. People usually use our house to get out. Would it be too much trouble to ask you to take your shoes off while you walk through the house?”
“Of course,” Eve answers for us. We each take off our shoes and enter the living room.
“So, do you two have time to stay and eat something?” David asks. “Karla’s been baking up a storm all day.”
“We also have a couple of cots ready for you if you’d like to take a nap before you head off.”
“That’s very kind of you,” Eve begins. I cut her off.
“We really should be going. The SPs still think we’re in Canada. I’d really like to use that to our advantage while we can.”
“Cyrus is right,” Eve continues, “We’ve inconvenienced you enough already.”
“It’s really no inconvenience,” David assures us.
“None at all,” Karla agrees.
“All the same,” I reply, “I think we’d rather be on our way as quickly as possible.”
“Okay,” David says, “as long as you understand it would be no problem if you stayed.”
“Thanks again, but Cyrus really is right. We should be on our way.”
“Well,” Karla says, “at least take something with you to eat. You must be starving.”
Eve looks at me to see if I plan on shooting down another offer of comfort.
“I suppose we could probably do well with a little something to eat,” I allow. “As long as it’s quick.”
“Perfect. I’ve made some sandwiches for you.”
“Are those cupcakes?” Eve asks.
“Well, um, actually, yes, they are.”
“Would you mind?”
“No, not at all.”
Eve picks one up and peels off the wrapper, taking a big bite out of the side. “Oh, Cyrus, you’ve got to try one of these,” she says excitedly. She picks one up and shoves it in my direction. I usually try to stay away from baked goods while on a run, but these things smell like they came from heaven itself. I greedily unwrap the cupcake and shove it in my mouth. It’s delicious.
“This is really good,” I say through a muffled mouth, “Thank you!” I try not to spray food as I talk.
“I’m glad you like them,” Karla’s smile grows bigger. “If you don’t mind, I should probably get Gordon here off to sleep as well. Good luck on the rest of your trip! And David, no more cupcakes.”
“Thanks, Karla,” I say as she walks out of the room.
“No more cupcakes?” Eve whispers. “Were we not supposed to eat these?”
“Oh, no, eat as many as you like,” David corrects. “Karla was talking about me. I may have already snitched a couple while we were waiting for you to arrive.”
“Does she always make cupcakes for people using the tunnels?”
“Oh, no, not at all. Actually, these are for a bake sale at school tomorrow. Most of them, anyways.”
The rest of our meal is quick and quiet. After we have ingested as much as we consider is safe to eat when running, we excuse ourselves. David directs us to the front door and we share goodbyes.
We are off, once again on our own. We run across the road to a set of train tracks and follow them until we find another set of abandoned cars. I stop.
“Hey, Eve, we should probably check in with The Geek.”
“Great idea.” We jump into one of the cars and make ourselves as hidden as possible. The area here is pretty rural, but we’re right next to what looks to be a major highway and need to keep from drawing any unnecessary attention to ourselves if possible, even if the SPs think we’re still in Canada.
“So, that was weird, right?” I ask.
“Well, you know, the whole white water rafting underground, the house on top of the underground tunnel, those aren’t normal every day activities.”
“Canadians,” she says, as if that answers the question.
“Yeah. . . Anyways, Geek, you there?”
“Yeah, I’m here, don’t you two ever get any sleep?”
“No time,” I say.
“Well, actually, from my calculations, you’ve got plenty of time.”
“With an army of SPs only a couple of miles away?”
“Good point. So, what’s up? How’d things go underground? You went dark for a while there.”
“Oh, nothing much, just took a raft down a raging river a few hundred feet below ground level.”
“Eve says it’s a normal day for a Canadian.”
“Hey, I didn’t say–”
“So, what’s the plan?”
“Well, you two are looking fantastic on time. You’ve got a little over 450 miles left to go and a little more than 11 days to do it in. You could walk the rest of the way and still be early.”
“I’d rather not,” I say.
“How about a place to hide so we can rest?” Eve asks. “I’m exhausted.”
“Yeah, got the perfect spot for you. Ellicott Island.”
“How far?” I ask, thinking a spot to nap would be great as well.
“Less than 5 miles.”
“How nice of a spot is it?” Eve asks.
“Well, there’s only one entry point, so it should be easy to keep an eye out for the SPs. And it looks like it’s mostly unused. It’s got some old buildings on it, which should provide some cover. And, most importantly, it’s close.”
“Sounds good to me,” I say.
“I’m up for it,” Eve agrees. “Where to?”
“Mostly east, a little to the south. I’ll put the directions on the GPS.”
“Okidokie,” I say, looking at Eve. “Ready to run again? Feels like it’s been forever.”
“I’m always ready to run, Cy. You ready to keep up?”
“Me? I’ve been taking it easy on you.”
“Alright, champ, why don’t you show me what you’ve got?” And with that, she takes off.
I bend over to tighten my shoelaces quickly and chase after her. I reach her without much trouble, but it soon becomes apparent she was toying with me, as she speeds up and leaves me behind. I push harder, keeping pace, but just barely.
“That all you got?” she yells back to me.
“I didn’t want you to think it was too easy for me,” I yell back. I slip my headphones over my ears, hoping The Geek will choose something good. Like A G6 by Far East Movement. An odd choice, but it does the trick. I pass her and see her face turn sour.
She yells something at me, but I’ve got the music up too loud to hear. I push harder. A huge smile crosses my face. I don’t see her in my peripheral vision at all, which means I’ve easily taken the lead.
I look over my shoulder and see she’s stopped in her tracks. I look in the direction she’s staring and stop as well. I slip my headphones off. The sound is unmistakable. A drone swarm, coming at us fast.
Go to Chapter Thirty