Chapter 20 is live!

Head on over to to read the next installment.  Or don’t.  It’s not my fault if your actions bring on the Apocalypse.



“What are you doing?” Jack said, pointing.  “That’s the house right there.”

Sohrab drove the car, his eyes flicking in steady rhythm from the road to each mirror in turn.  Jack had noticed the pattern began as soon as they entered the neighborhood where Amber waited.

“The house is being watched,” Sohrab said as he guided the car to a stop at the next intersection.  He set his signal, turned the wheel to the right, and pulled out onto the cross street.  “There are at least three painfully nondescript government vehicles parked along that street.”

“You think Rutger set us up?”

“Doesn’t matter who,” he said, still scanning.  “What matters is that they are there.”  He turned right again at the next intersection, and slowed the car as he watched the mirrors, occasionally turning his head to the right to look past Jack.

“So now what do we do?”  Amber was so close Jack could feel her presence in the car with him.  If one thing goes right today, I’ll call that a victory.  Desperate for a win, this one now felt beyond his reach.

“The good news is the idiots aren’t watching the back door,” Sohrab said, his voice level.  “They think you’re stupid enough to go in the front where they plan to take you together.”

“I am stupid enough, Sohrab,” Jack said without humor.

“And that’s how I know they still don’t know I’m with you.”  He turned to Jack and smiled, “Well, that and the fact one of them didn’t follow as we drove past.”

So what? Jack thought.  We still can’t drive by again.  They can’t be that stupid.  He chewed a nail and looked across the vacant lot to the house where Amber was.  If they took much longer, she might do something rash.  Why the hell didn’t I get the phone number from Rutger?  He hadn’t even asked—just took the address and hung up.

Sohrab pulled over, the gravel crunching beneath the tires, and shifted into park but left the motor running.  He unbuckled his shoulder harness and reached across Jack to the glove compartment.  “Excuse me,” he said, and fished around inside, pulling out a screwdriver.  “Back in a few,” he said as he exited the car.

Jack watched him as he removed the license plates from the front and rear bumpers and then open the hatch and drop them in back.  He rummaged around for a few seconds, then closed the door and walked to the driver’s side.  As he climbed in, he tossed a Washington Senators cap into Jack’s lap.

“Put that on, and pull the brim low,” he said.  “It won’t confuse anyone who gets a good look at you, but it should work for our purposes.”

Jack looked at the hat, then up at Sohrab.  “I don’t think I like where this is going.”

“You’ll like this even less—your phone is compromised,” he said, pulling his own phone from his pocket.  He tossed it to Jack.  “Take mine and give me yours.”

“I don’t understand any of this,” Jack said, taking his phone out and handing it to Sohrab. The man had changed before his eyes, like taking off makeup after a play.  Bits of him fell away, schist chipped by Vulcan’s hammer, revealing hard and unyielding corundum.

“Put the hat on and take my phone.  Get out, climb that fence over there,” he pointed over Jack’s shoulder, “and knock on the back door.  Keep doing it until she answers.  She might not be inclined to answer.  Under no circumstances are you to call out to her.”  His eyes were hard and narrow.  “Do you understand these instructions?”

“Yes, but—”

“When you are both safe and away from here, call Mason and give him a location to pick you up.  Instruct him not to bring Bill or tell him where he is going.”  Sohrab’s breathing was calm and measured, and Jack was sure that if checked, the man’s heart rate would be in the low fifties.

“Why can’t—”

“Do as I say, Jack!  No deviation, and no time for discussion.”

Jack’s own face grew tight as he considered all the possibilities, then he placed the hat on his head, and pulled the brim low to shade his eyes.  He took the phone and shoved it in his pocket, then looked up into the stone of Sohrab’s face.  “And what will you be doing?” he asked.

A smile creased Sohrab’s face from ear to ear, full of mischief and mayhem.  “I’ll be the diversion.”  He laughed, the car shaking in sympathy.  “Don’t worry about me,” he said.  “This part will be fun.”  His face grew hard again.  “Now get out.”


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