Amanda felt her shoulder press into Rob’s as they eyed the people surrounding them. No, no, no. What the hell? Not now. Not tonight. The man with a goatee and calloused hands, who’d first spoken to them, repeated, “Please keep quiet and come with us. This is the last time we’ll ask.”
The other people in dark suits moved in, faces cold and impassive. They didn’t have any guns out at the moment, though that could change in a heartbeat. She glanced past the man’s shoulder. The parking lot was completely empty, save for them.
“What if we don’t want to?” asked Amanda, now back to back with Rob as they were fully encircled. Her hand reached for the empty space at her hip where her stun baton usually hung.
“Then we put a bullet in your boyfriend here and you come with us anyways. Now move.” He stepped to the side and held out his hand, indicating where Rob and Amanda should go. “I ever mention I like livin’?” muttered Rob to her.
Amanda heard laughter from across the parking lot. Another young couple exited the restaurant, hand in hand. Their laughter died down when the noticed the people surrounding Rob and Amanda. They looked away and hurried to their car. If I scream for help, they’ll kill Rob. And maybe those people over there.
I’m not seeing a way out of this. Rob nudged her and shook his head. You don’t see one either, do you? Amanda grimaced and walked by the goateed man and towards a large idling SUV. The small group flanked them on either side, leaving no room to make a break for freedom.
The leader stopped them as they reached the car. A man and a woman held out their hands, palms up. “Your phones.”
Well fuck you too. Rob pulled his phone from his pocket, while Amanda withdrew hers from her purse.
The man raised an eyebrow at the single phone she’d produced. He nodded to the woman next to Amanda and said, “Take her purse. Pat her down.”
Another man coughed and tapped his wrist. “Time.”
The leader barely spared him a glance. To the woman he said, “Do it.”
Rob’s jaw jutted out for a moment as he narrowed his eyes at the man. Don’t pull out some stupid protective boyfriend instincts now. The woman grabbed her purse, set it out of reach, and quickly patted down Amanda’s torso and legs.
“Nothing,” she said.
“Good. Get in,” said the man, opening the door to the car.
Rob climbed in, followed by Amanda. The kidnappers behind them dispersed, heading to two other cars. There was a driver in the SUV already, along with a man in the rear of the car, keeping an eye on Rob and Amanda. The moment the leader took the shotgun seat, he put the car in reverse and pulled out of the parking lot. Their car took center in the three car convoy.
“You alright?” asked Rob under his breath.
“Yeah, for now,” said Amanda with a grimace. My meds won’t wear off for another couple of hours. We have some time. She blinked a couple of times, testing her contacts. Some with these things. Damn it, I should have brought my glasses.
OK, OK, think. They said something about shooting Rob. They’re here for me. God damn it. The dinner went fine, too. I only babbled about sweatpants for a little bit. No, focus. This has something to do with my parents. It has to be. Bounty hunters? I doubt they’re the police, they probably wouldn’t be using all the cloak and dagger. I could just ask. If they wanted to beat us up, they could have already.
“Hey,” spoke up Amanda. “Do you mind telling us what this is all about?”
“Your parents have requested your presence,” responded the leader, glancing at her through the rearview mirror. Amanda’s heart sank. Why don’t they just give up?
“Requested?” she asked.
“Their words, not mine.”
Well, at least they won’t touch me unless absolutely necessary. But Rob they’ll kill in a heartbeat. Amanda rested her head against the heavily tinted window of the car for a moment, before a bump in the road reminded her that was a bad idea. They’re keeping him around because they need my cooperation, she realized. If I were in their shoes, I’d be pragmatic about that, though. My cooperation is a nice to have, not a necessity. I can’t push that very far.
“So, Mom an’ Dad ain’t happy with you?” asked Rob, breaking her train of thought.
“Looks like it,” she replied.
Rob laughed and said, “They got a hell of a way of showin’ it. You know, if they can get all these guys to stick with ‘em when the government is huntin’ ‘em down, they gotta have a lot of money. You workin’ with the cops before you met us, right?”
“Yeah,” replied Amanda. Where are you going with this?
“Why work for the cops, then? Coulda done anythin’. Hell, probably had a nice cushy job at Lock Corp all lined up.”
“Fuck that. If I get a job it’s because I’m the best at it, not because of who I just happen to be related to.”
“Didn’t wanna go corporate?” Amanda stared at him for a moment. Did you miss the Corp in Lock Corp? “You know, some other company,” clarified Rob.
“Why? Money? No thanks. I wanted to do something with my life.”
“I hear you. But you dropped the whole police thing real quick when the opportunity came, same as Chris.”
“Working for the police sucked. I guess I was just trying to piss my parents off.”
“How’s that whole ‘pissin’ ‘em off’ thing workin’ out?”
“Not now,” she said with a shake of her head. He chuckled to himself. “What could you possibly be laughing at?”
“This,” he said, waving his hands around. “We can’t have nice things, can we? We’re just sittin’ there, mindin’ our own business, when John Doe comes outta nowhere. Then we’re tryin’ to lay low, an’ Overlord decides to take over the country. We try to go for a bit, an’ this happens. The hell?”
Amanda shook her head. “I don’t know.”
Silence fell over the car. The man behind Amanda and Rob kept watch on both of them. They passed under a highway. If that’s I-25, then we’re heading east. Where are we going? Their house is to the west, in the mountains.
We’ve got to get out of here before we get any further. Amanda nudged Rob’s leg with her foot. He looked at her out of the corner of his eye. Her hand drifted towards the lock of the car door, in full view of him. He gave her a barely perceptible nod, his own hand on the handle to his own door. Please have forgotten to child lock these. A large hand came down on their shoulders.
“I wouldn’t do that,” said the man behind them. Damn it, how did he see that? Once they pulled their hands from their doors, he released them.
Rob leaned forward in his seat and said to the mercenaries, “You know, my brother works for you guys.”
“What?” asked Amanda. Ben? The mercenaries barely spared him a glance.
“The other one, Sam,” said Rob. Oh, right, I keep forgetting about him. “Yeah, he mentioned somethin’ about a feral. He an’ his buddies were in Teresina, huntin’ it. I think it was half cat, half beetle or somethin’ crazy like that.” That got their attention.
The mercenary leader tapped the driver on the shoulder. “Hey, you hear that?” he murmured.
The driver, a younger, clean shaven guy, twisted in his seat for a moment to take a look at Rob. “Sam?”
“No, that’s my brother. Triplets.”
The driver turned back to the road in front of him, though Amanda could see him stealing glances at Rob in the rearview mirror. “Worked with him for a while in Teresina. He’s a good kid. Hell, everyone in that unit was.” The driver sighed. “You know we’re not going to just let you go for that, right?”
“No, no, I get it. Got a job an’ all. Know where he is now? Last he told me, he was in Iraq somewhere,” said Rob.
“Then you know as much as I do. Sorry.”
“No worries. Tryin’ to figure out where he is. Hell, not sure if he’s even allowed to talk, I know he took a real sketchy job for Lock Corp in Iraq, an’ that’s the last I heard. All three of us never really tried to hide before.”
The driver snorted and said, “That truck of yours is very obvious.” The mercenary leader coughed. In the rearview mirror, Amanda caught sight of the driver snapping his mouth shut with a rueful grimace.
She sat back in her seat as Rob chatted on about his brother. OK. I can work with that. If that’s true, they’re not watching the whole city, otherwise they would have found us much earlier, because there’s no hiding that truck. I don’t know how to use that yet, but any information can be helpful. I guess the question is how they were able to monitor all of that area effectively.
“Whoa, what’s this?” said the driver as they turned a corner, cutting off whatever Rob was saying.
Amanda craned her neck to see a blur of police lights ahead of them, MHU vans blocking the road. As they came to a stop behind the lead mercenary car, a blur of officers moved up to either side of them. Some stopped at the first car, while others moved on to Amanda’s car.
“The others will keep them occupied. Go,” the leader said to the driver.
The driver threw their SUV into reverse and hit the gas, just as the officers reached them. Though muffled, she could hear shouting from outside. Gunfire erupted around them as the driver put the car in gear and gunned the engine, heading away from the police blockade. They ducked as a couple bullets glanced off the car. Sirens filled the air. Amanda twisted around to see half a dozen police cruisers in pursuit, as well as what looked like an MHU van bringing up the rear.
“Keep your head down,” the mercenary leader barked at her. He held a pistol in his hand, keeping an eye on the pursuing police in the side mirror. The SUV’s engine roared as they barreled down the road, the police right behind them. A few more bullets headed their way, most missing or plinking harmlessly off the frame of the car.
“Look at the time,” said the driver. “I can’t lose them that fast.”
“We came prepared,” said the leader with a nod to the man in the back. The man ducked below Amanda’s seat for a moment, before rising back up with a long rifle that looked suspiciously like Ben’s in hand. He leveled it at the back window and fired, shattering it. A few more squeezes of the trigger, and two of the police cars jerked to a stop, lost in the distance shortly thereafter. The driver took a hard turn, tossing Amanda into Rob’s lap.
“We need to get out of here,” she said into his ear, just loud enough to be heard over the sirens just behind them. I don’t know how the police found us, and right now I don’t care.
The rifleman fired again, and another police cruiser careened off the road. The remaining two backed off, letting the MHU van take the lead. The incoming fire picked up.
“Next turn,” Rob murmured back. Right. High profile vehicle. He has to slow down a lot for a turn. His hand fiddled with the lock, then came to a rest on the handle.
“Don’t you fucking think about it,” said the leader, pointing his gun at Rob.
Amanda hauled herself up, placing herself between the leader’s pistol and Rob. “Fuck off,” she spat. The leader scowled and opened his mouth. The MHU van rammed into the backside of the car before he could respond, sending them skidding. How is that thing keeping up? The driver wrestled control back with the steering wheel. The rifleman fired a few more shots at the front of the pursuing van. It kept coming.
“We don’t have time for this!” shouted the driver.
“I know.” To the rifleman, the leader shouted, “John, aim for the tires.”
“Trying,” the rifleman growled back. “Brace!”
Rob and Amanda ducked down just in time, as the van slammed into the SUV again, sending them hurdling off the road and down a drainage ditch. The impact sent Amanda hurtling into the seat in front of her. She kept herself curled up, arms covering her head until the car came to a stop. The brakes of the van screeched behind them.
“The hell?” muttered Rob. “You OK?”
“Get the door.” A lance of pain struck her in the gut as she tried to get off the floor of the car. Fuck. Rob frantically yanked on the car door handle. It didn’t budge. Fuck everything.
“Out of the car.” ordered the leader. He and the driver climbed out of the car, smoke rising from the engine where it had rammed directly into a large rock. The rifleman groaned as he pressed a hand to his bloody cheek.
The leader pulled the door open and dragged Rob out of the car with a gun pressed to his head. Once they were clear, the driver wrapped an arm around her and pulled her to her feet. Behind them, the rifleman crawled out, blood pouring from a nasty gash on his cheek.
“Move!” barked the leader, leading them away from the advancing MHU officers above them on the road. We can work with this. We’ll have to.