Griff closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and massaged his temples for a moment while Francis hopped out of the overturned ERT van and summoned the civilian who had been waiting outside, still on the phone with 9-1-1. Not for the first time, and not for the last, Griff wondered what the heck he’d gotten himself into here, and whether he was ever going to find his way out of it again. Right now, he’d settle for finding his way back into a comfortable bed—or even a clean set of clothes, for that matter. It occurred to him that he was still wearing the wrinkled jeans and faded t-shirt that he’d grabbed at random off the floor when he’d gotten up to warn Francis and her sister, and the clothing hadn’t been particularly sanitary then, let alone after everything he’d been through since.
On top of that… Whose shoes were these? His sore bare feet were tucked into a loose-fitting pair of black runners that he didn’t recognize, and had no memory of putting on. The shoes were rugged, but rough, and chafed on his bare skin. It felt like he was forming a nice little family of blisters… Had the shoes come from the underground prison area? Maybe someone in the ERT van had given them to him. He must’ve glossed it over while he was distracted by everything else that was happening.
A blood-slick hand grasping at Griff’s elbow drew his attention away yet again. He fought the urge to recoil in revulsion, and tried to look down at Callahan sympathetically, instead. Callahan was staring up at him with eyes full of dread-inducing intensity.
“Don’t… listen,” choked Callahan.
Griff frowned. “What?”
“Don’t you… believe… a single word… he says.” A cringe of pain contorted Callahan’s face.
“Who?” asked Griff.
“Innis!” spat Callahan. “He’s a snake… He’s… the devil. He’ll use you… and throw you away… just like he used… me… Stuck the knife in… himself, too.”
Griff leaned down closer. “What are you saying? Who’s ‘Innis’?”
Callahan’s hand shot up and gripped Griff by the front of his t-shirt. The detective hissed his next words through his teeth: “I’ll kill him for this.”
Francis stuck her head back into the van and tersely said, “Griffin, get out here.”
“Hold on,” said Griff. “Mr. Callahan’s trying to tell me—”
“Forget it,” said Francis, cutting him off. “He can do a full debrief later. Right now we’ve got business to take care of. Come on.” She beckoned him out with her handgun. “In here please, Miss…”
“Poulter,” said the woman with the cell phone, her voice wavering slightly as she came up behind Francis. Griff saw her catch sight of the dead men inside the van, and her wide-eyed face went a shade paler.
“Keep an eye on our patient. Put some pressure on his side if he’ll let you,” instructed Francis. “And stay on the phone. You’ll be safe in here, I promise.”
Miss Poulter didn’t look very sure of that promise, but Francis’s authoritative confidence had enough of an effect on her that she obeyed, regardless, stepping over the corpse of the ERT officer at the foot of the vehicle and pressing past Griff to kneel beside Callahan, who had fallen into a deep-breathing silence since Francis had reappeared.
“Out, Griffin,” Francis repeated. She bent down, fished a revolver out of a fallen officer’s holster, and shoved it into Griff’s hand as he joined her. “Here’s the safety; I assume you can find the trigger yourself… Don’t shoot unless someone else does first.” She pulled him up the hill to the side of the highway, where Miss Poulter’s little blue hatchback was parked, and had him crouch beside it with her, so that they were out of sight of anyone approaching from the west. “Now, where are our incoming friends?”
Griff cast out his senses along the road. “Close,” he said. “Just rounding the corner.”
“I see them,” said Francis. “Keep your head down. Now we find out whether they’re back for more, or simply here to get a last look at their handiwork…”
And I find out whether or not she’s actually expecting me to fire this thing! thought Griff, shuddering at the idea. He glanced back towards the overturned ERT van, and the sight of the fresh death there galvanized him. Yeah, he’d shoot this gun… If he had to.
The next fifteen seconds were a unique brand of torture. Watching from underneath Miss Poulter’s hatchback, Griff saw a green sedan approaching, carrying three people—but who were they? He’d picked up at least seven or eight different people at that nearby rendezvous, but hadn’t been paying close enough attention to follow who was whom. Were these the escapees from the Specials Unit prison, or some of the people who had sprung them free? What if the woman who had blown the house down was among them? How could he and Francis expect to fight her on their own when she’d just come from murdering probably a dozen trained cops?
Of course, that time around she’d had the advantage of surprise.
“Okay, here we go,” whispered Francis. She shut her eyes briefly and bowed her head.
“Yes. Shut up,” said Francis, squinting her eyes slightly open. “I won’t be able to hold this for long…” In fact, her left hand was already shaking a little as she struggled to use what little energy she’d regained to shield them from sight.
The green sedan was within 200 metres now, 150, 100. It slowed a little, changed lanes to avoid the hatchback,
and then sailed right on past towards Victoria.
The hum and movement of the car put Candace almost instantly to sleep in the back seat. The driver clicked the radio on quietly, but didn’t speak.
Naomi laid her head back against the headrest and closed her eyes, but rest didn’t seem to come quite so easily for her. There were too many thoughts swirling through her head, too many questions, too many sounds and images. She let herself be rolled back and forth as the car navigated the wide turns of the highway.
At one point, Naomi felt the car slow, change lanes, and pick up speed again. Without opening her weary eyes, she asked, “What was that?”
“Just a deer on the road,” mumbled the driver.
“Oh,” said Naomi, and then sleep found her: oh, glorious sleep.