I feel a rumbling beneath my feet.
“I think they’re on their way back.”
I hear a series of clicking noises as Billy types away on a keyboard wherever he’s gotten himself hidden at.
“Nope, looks like reinforcements. They should be heading off to where I sent the other ones, but that means they’re coming right through where you’re at.”
“Alright,” I say, bending over to tie my shoes. “Give me something good to run to. It’s time to rock this party.”
A series of chimes and random noises starts up in my headphones, followed by a solitary guitar being played rather unimportantly. I peek down at the display on the music player. The End by The Doors.
“Nope,” I say to Billy. “Not a chance.”
He laughs at me as the music cuts out and a new guitar sounds, joined in immediately by some drums. Born to be Wild by Steppenwolf.
“Perfect,” I say softly. I grin devilishly as I look to the horizon.
Eve lets out a loud scream and I can hear faint sobs coming from The Geek. I can’t pretend I’m not shaken by the whole thing, but I choose, instead, to press my own face even deeper down into the ground, my hands holding each other tightly behind my head.
“Get down, little girl,” Maxine shouts. Eve is wailing and I feel the ground shake slightly as Maxine moves past me toward Eve. “I said get down!”
I hear Eve shoved roughly to the ground, a yelp escaping her lips as she is forced into a lying position. My fear gives way to my need to protect Eve and The Geek and without even thinking about it, I’m already pushing myself up to face our captor.
Something presses hard against the back of my head before I’m able to get very far. I’m forced to the ground; grass and mud going up my nose and into my mouth.
“Don’t get any bright ideas, Mr. Brave Man. Your girlfriend will be just fine as long as she keeps her face touching the earth.”
Muffled sobs can be heard from both of my companions. My heart races. Is Grant really dead? Like, really dead? He’s fooled us before. And he used to work with Maxine, right? Maybe this is all some sort of scam. Right? They wouldn’t kill us, would they? Don’t they want us alive? That’s why they were going to put us into prison instead of killing us right off the bat. There’s no possible—
“Now that I am having all of your attentions, I wish to speak with you about what you are to be doing for me.”
I feel Maxine’s boot lift from the back of my head.
“You three have been quite the impressive trio in avoiding capture. I am knowing that Alvin has been looking all the country over for you and has been coming up empty-handed. This is impressive, considering the amount of power he is wielding. However, I am working for a new boss now. Well, you could be saying I am the boss, although my new friends like to be considering us more of a cooperative effort.”
“Can you just kill us and get it over with?” The Geek asks through his muted bawling.
“Oh, but little man, that is the thing. I do not wish to be killing you. I wish to be aiding you. Or, more rather, I wish for you to be aiding me.”
“You just killed our friend!” Eve shouts as she stands to face off against the Russian woman currently holding a gun in her direction. “Why would we ever consider helping you?”
“I know, it is terrible what I have done to your friend,” Maxine says with what I’m pretty sure is feigned pity. “This man who has betrayed you time and again only to suddenly join your team when it would be most useful for him.”
“What are you trying to say?” asks The Geek as he sits up.
“I am saying your friend Grant is the reason you are now in so much trouble. I am saying that when he was allowed to go searching for you on his lonesome, it was only because Alvin allowed it. I am saying he was not the comrade you are thinking he was.”
“No,” Eve says defiantly. “Grant did what he did before because he was confused. He changed. He wanted to—“
“Didn’t it seem too easy for him to change his mind and join your team? Wasn’t he all too willing to come along with you as you searched for the missing parents? Wasn’t it amazing how much you were able to keep from being found during your time together?”
“Well, now that you mention it, yeah, it did seem a little easy,” I allow.
“Cyrus!” Eve retorts. “He saved our lives!”
“Only after threatening to end them countless times!” I shout back.
“Now, now,” Maxine cuts in. “This is no time to be fighting. So I killed him. I am a bad guy, you are already knowing this. Is not important. What is important is that I am needing your help. And you are needing mine.”
“Yeah?” Eve asks with a scowl. “Well, I can’t say I’m feeling very positive about the idea of helping you with anything.”
“Do you not see my friends who have joined me in my greeting of you?” Maxine asks, gesturing to the multiple SP SUVs surrounding us just as an SP branded helicopter flies overhead. “I am having an army now. The SPs are not liking that they are no longer having any power. After talking with me and learning how Alvin intends to take over, they are liking it even less. This is why we are friends. I have knowledge which will allow them to be getting the power.”
“You’re still not answering the question,” Eve says, crossing her arms.
“With my army at your disposal, you can be assured that you will be getting to wherever it is that you are going. We can offer you protection. We can offer you asylum. But only if you are helping us to be getting back our power.”
“Yeah?” I ask. “And how will we be doing that?”
“By stealing the device from Alvin and giving it to me.”
Go to Chapter Twenty-Seven