The harsh cawing of the crows clamoured through the garage like the clanging of a fire alarm. An urge to flee swelled up in Naomi, but how near was the danger? Miguel could be leading a van full of masked kidnappers up the driveway at any moment.
Sky stared at the crows for a second, and the corner of her mouth twitched upwards into half a smile. What was wrong with this woman? “Go, kid!” she told Naomi, shouting over the crows. “Head up the hill, into the trees. I’ll be right behind you.”
Part of Naomi urged her to stay—Candace needed her!—but her deeper instincts of self-preservation simply wouldn’t hear of it. Naomi broke into a run, out the garage door. Turning to the right, she aimed herself across the driveway and up the hill, towards the forest.
Griff heard the trap door swing open and reported it to Sergeant Hawthorne over Francis’s cell phone, which he’d put on speaker.
“Hold them back just a bit longer,” Hawthorne advised. “We’ll have a shot lined up in 30 seconds.”
“We don’t have 30 seconds,” huffed Francis. “Take a shot now! It’ll scare them off.”
“Negative,” replied Hawthorne. “We can’t afford to lose these perps in a chase.”
“What you can’t afford,” Francis spat into the phone, “is losing the lives of four more officers and some very high profile inmates!”
From above, Griff heard a faint voice: “…Not sure how well this will work…”
Francis perked an ear up, and her glare narrowed. “Hawthorne, they’re coming in right now. You can’t leave us hanging, here!”
“Uh, Francis?” said Griff.
“What?” she snarled.
“You wanted me to report any more unusual bird movements, right?”
Now she was more attentive. “What is it?”
“There are two birds—crows, I think—coming down towards the garage.”
“Might be delivering something to them. Can you tell if they’re carrying anything?”
Griff shrugged. “Sorry; that’s not how I work.”
Francis frowned. “Okay, we should assume—”
The crows’ hoarse cawing burst out above. Griff and Francis looked at one another.
“Sentry crows?” suggested Griff. “Maybe they… Wait, one of them’s on the run!”
“We see her,” confirmed Hawthorne. “Lining up the shot now.”
Something clattered down the hatch onto the concrete floor at the base of the ladder.
“FLASHBANG!” someone roared, and an instant later Griff heard gunshots. There was a flash, and a bang—not quite the blinding, deafening assault that Griff had expected—and then Griff’s ears were assaulted by shouting and incessant gunfire.
“Get down!” ordered Francis, and Griff crouched down in a corner, covering his ears. But amid the chaos, he sensed the second woman turning to flee, as well, which meant…
“Stop!” yelled Griff. “Stop shooting! They’re gone!” But there was so much noise that he couldn’t even hear himself.
Behind her, Naomi heard a quick burst of gunfire and the flash of a small explosion, following by the angry chatter of more guns firing and bullets pinging off concrete. Instinctively, Naomi ducked her head, fearing ricochets.
Footsteps came pounding after her, across the gravel of the driveway. Naomi glanced back over her shoulder and saw Sky quickly gaining on her. That woman could run. She caught Naomi and grabbed her by the arm, pulling her forward.
“Come on, kid,” she urged. “Almost there!”
As they reached the verge of the forest, Sky yelled, “Down!” and tackled Naomi around the waist, flinging both of them onto their faces at the base of a bush. Simultaneously, Naomi heard an overpowering BOOM.
“Skip us,” hissed Sky. “Do it now! Skip!”
Naomi closed her eyes, set her teeth, and dove down into the purple cloud.