It felt like Naomi had been standing at the corner of the garage for an hour, but the sun looked like it had hardly moved. How long did Sky plan to have them stand around here like this, doing nothing?
Sky’s pacing footsteps stopped for a moment, then changed direction. Naomi looked inside to see the denim-clad woman approaching her, holding a cylindrical can of something. It had a nozzle at the top. Spray paint, maybe?
“What’s that?” asked Naomi.
“Compressed air. Grabbed it from one of the shelves.”
“Part of our next step,” said Sky, glancing at her watch.
“What is our next step, exactly? I thought we were waiting for their backup to arrive or something.”
“We are. And they should be here soon. But we don’t want them to know that we’ve just been standing here waiting. They have to think we’ve got some other plan in mind.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You don’t have to understand. Just follow along. And hand me that gun.”
“Still no new activity up top?” asked Francis.
Griff stared up at the ceiling. “Still one on watch and one pacing back and forth. Maybe she’s on the phone with someone, trying to figure out what to do next.”
“Maybe,” said Francis. “Maybe not. At least our backup should be here any minute.”
A bead of nervous sweat dripped down Griff’s temple. The RCMP reinforcements’ arrival would be very welcome, if for no other reason than to break this agonizing stalemate. “I hope they’re well equipped,” he said. “Those two women are pretty deadly…”
“We were caught off guard, that’s all,” said Francis. “The Emergency Response Team will handle them just fine, especially once you’re on the phone with them, feeding them details on the bad guys’ movement.”
“The one woman pretty much blew down a house, though,” said Griff.
“That’s why we’ll have to turn the tables on them, catch them by surprise. Shouldn’t be a problem; Vic PD has some great snipers.”
Griff let out a low whistle. “Snipers, eh?”
Francis nodded. “Richard Callahan is among the best in the country, or so I’ve been told. Apparently he could’ve joined Joint Task Force 2 if he’d wanted to.”
“That’s Canada’s global counter-terrorist team, right?”
“Throw the word ‘elite’ in there somewhere and you’ve got it, yep.”
“Sounds like a good guy to have on our side. And he’s just a regular cop?”
“A detective, apparently,” said Francis. “No idea why he stays around here. You’d at least think he’d go to a bigger city where he could draw a higher salary. Maybe he just likes the Vancouver Island pace of living.”
“Maybe,” said Griff. “Or—wait, something’s happening up top. The pacing’s stopped… They’re talking to each other, I think. Now they’re coming back over to the trap door.”
Francis leaned out the cell door. “Could be trouble,” she informed the two guards. “Our friends’ patience could be running out; they might try something risky.”
“Roger that,” responded one guard. Both men renewed their attentions towards the narrow entryway.
Francis’s cell phone buzzed. She swiftly flipped it open and clapped it to her ear. “You’d better have some good news for me! We’re looking at a basement breach attempt any second here.”
Griff didn’t need to hear the response from the other end of the call; he’d just sensed about a dozen people, in two vehicle-shaped clumps, entering the periphery of his senses. “I’ve got them,” he told Francis. “Two clicks out.”
“Good,” she said, then told the person on the phone, “Here he is,” and pressed the phone into Griff’s hands.
The person on the other end said, “Hello, Mr. Hamels. This is Sergeant Martha Hawthorne. Here’s what I need you to do for me…”
Naomi finished rolling the freezer away from the trap door for the second time and wondered how this go-round would be different from the time before. Instead of sending someone down that ladder, would she see Candace climbing up it, instead? She could only hope. Then maybe they could get the heck out of here…
“Lift the door slowly,” Sky told her. “Stay back from it. They might get a little trigger-happy and hope for a lucky ricochet.”
Naomi gulped, but she didn’t dare disobey. She crouched down, took hold of the trap door’s handle, and pried it open. She almost thought she could the hear the echoes of people’s breathing floating up out of that dark chasm. Silently, she begged them not to shoot at her. Why don’t they give up? she thought. Just give us Candace back and no one else has to die… But she wasn’t sure she could make that promise, not judging by the look that had been plastered on Sky’s face ever since the shooting started.
“Back up,” said Sky softly. She took a step closer to the trap door and held up the can of compressed air. A little louder than before, she said, “Cover your ears, kid. I’m not sure how well this will work.”
Naomi obeyed, flattening her hands over her ears. Sky readied the submachine gun and held the compressed air out over the trap door. Was she going to drop it in? What would that accomplish?
Before Sky could let go, however, there was an outburst of raucous noise from the open garage door.
Two black crows had landed on the concrete floor and were flapping their wings and cawing at the top of their lungs. Naomi’s frayed nerves twanged like a guitar string snapping. Crows!? The man who spoke to birds, the man in the blue car… Miguel.
The reinforcements must be about to arrive.