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From Book 4: If the Path Begins Again. The last thing I would want to do when six months pregnant, but hey, we can’t have it all.
“Get up. We have to be quiet.”
“It’s still dark out. It’s not morning, mom.”
“You don’t have to worry. Remember, when I first got you back, I told you I was your mother now, and that I would always make sure you’re alright?”
Sleepily, he blinked his eyes. “Well, yeah. Are there bad guys coming to get us?”
She tiptoed to his dresser and started filling his backpack. “No, Dre. You and I are going on a special trip.”
“Is this another surprise?”
“Yes. Be extra, super quiet. I need you to not make a sound until we get there.”
“You’ll see. But if you don’t hurry and be quiet, we won’t be able to go.”
When they were ready, she sent Dre ahead of her, carefully making sure the area in front of him was clear. She kept very careful control of her heart and her breathing, knowing that one mistake could mean the end.
Before leaving, she knew she had to check. She had to make sure. Keeping a white-knuckle grip on her self-control, she eased open the door just enough to check that he was still sleeping. As far as she could tell, he was out like a light, spent from a night of talking her ear off. She just hoped he stayed that way. The last thing she needed was for things to get violent.
Carefully, so carefully, she went downstairs, only raising her voice enough to be heard. “Go outside and wait for me, Dre. I’ll be right there, and then we can go.”
She opened and held the door for him, then glided into the office. Reaching to the top of the doorframe, she lifted the small, secret hatch, and lifted out the key. Unlocking the closet, she picked up the panel in the floor. After grabbing the huge black duffel bag, she carefully shut everything again, and put the key into one of the side pockets of the duffel.
She was starting to wish she had at least changed into some pants before pretending to go to bed. She could have gotten into the bedroom closet while he was still awake, and it wouldn’t be suspicious.
Secure, defend, protect.
But she knew why she hadn’t. She hadn’t really known she was leaving until now.
Identify, plan, and respond.
Grabbing her runners and her combat boots, she tiptoed out the door and painfully, quietly shut it behind her.
Run. Hide. Escape.
“Okay, Dre, come with me.” She grabbed his wrist and pulled him behind the hedge, onto the sidewalk. After looking both ways for people, she pulled him down. “Alright. I need you to get your clothes out and put them on.”
“What’s that bag, mom?”
She zipped it open. “It’s my go-bag. In case of emergencies.”
“Whoa! You really are a spy!”
“Dre. Listen to me. This is important. Keep watch while I get some better clothes on.”
“Like, just get naked here?”
“No one is around. I’ll be fast.” She pulled out a pair of pants, and a long-sleeved shirt, then swore. “There’s no way I’m going to fit into these.” How could she have forgotten to restock her bag for almost ten months in a row? What was the point of even having it if she didn’t keep it updated? “Okay. I’ll just buy new ones.”
Uncertain but desperate, she reached in and grabbed the old cell phone. As she suspected, it was dead. “Please, I just need a tiny bit of juice,” she whispered as she got the charge pack and plugged it in.”
Unlike her iPhone, which took five minutes to boot up when it died, this phone instantly turned on. The battery pack showed one out of five bars, glowing red. She didn’t waste any time, and called a cab to pick them up in front of the grocery store in fifteen minutes. Then she dug until she found a black jacket. It didn’t quite cover the edges of her grey dress, and her legs were still bare in the late-August chill, but it was better than nothing.
Strapping her shoes on and shoving her boots in her bag, and held her hand out to Dre. “Let’s go.”
Even though her feet and back ached, they ran through the night, reaching the grocery store just as the cab pulled up. She gave the driver directions, and he took them across town to the old motel. Once she paid with the money in her bag, she waited for the cab to leave before taking Dre another three blocks to the old mechanic shop.
With the key from the doorframe, she unlocked the first door, and hustled Dre inside. A keypad unlocked the inside door.
“I thought this place was abandoned.” Dre was breathless and shivering.
She led him through the dark and took him to the back to a fenced-off courtyard. Once, it had been a parking lot. There was a large shed, with a padlock, and she grabbed the key out of her bag. Thankfully, even though she hadn’t oiled it for a year, the door didn’t creak. The black car waited for her, untouched by time.
“Be very quiet, and get in.”
The lights didn’t come on when he opened the door, and Lanie jogged painfully to the gate to unlock it. There was a faint squeak as she swung it wide, but it probably hadn’t carried. Running back, she unplugged the car from the outlet in the floor, then got in.
“Seatbelt?” she asked, reaching back to feel him in the dark. Her stomach bumped the steering wheel, and she winced. “You need to tell me.”
“Yes, Mom.” His voice was small, scared, but she didn’t have time to comfort him. And she wasn’t even really sure how.
Okay. She pressed the button, and the hybrid smoothly came to life in virtual silence. She kept the headlights off, and drove as carefully as she could through the yard and the gate, illuminated only by the hint of light coming from the street behind them. But she made it.
Finally, she ran back, locked the shed, and locked the gate. Since no one was around, she took the chance of driving down a back alley with the headlights still off, then turned them on as she navigated onto a street.
After only a few more turns, they were on the main road heading out of town toward the mountains.
“Mom. I don’t think I like this anymore.”
“Go to sleep, Dre. I’ll wake you when we get there.”
Lanie was barely awake when they finally pulled into the driveway just as the sun was coming up. After a quick scan, she pulled into the empty garage, and kept the lights off, and let Dre sleep while she unlocked the door to the house and went inside.
The little bungalow smelled stale. It was clean, and just the way she had left it. She went through, opening rooms, and leaving the lights off because the sun was coming up. That had been a mistake. What if someone had seen them pull in? She had hoped to arrive in the dark of the night. She had wanted to, but then she remembered she was not alone, and that she couldn’t drive like a bat out of hell.
But it was probably fine. There wasn’t another neighbour for a mile in either direction. The whole place was surrounded with trees. No one had seen her. And even if they had, they wouldn’t care.
She had just wanted to get here.
“Okay, Dre.” She shook his shoulder, and then unclipped his seatbelt. “We’re here. Bring your bag inside.”
They walked in, and Dre’s eyes went wide as he took it in. “Where are we?”
“This is my vacation house. I haven’t come here in a while, but I figured it might be fun for the two of us. Just like when we took that yacht trip.”
“Mom. I know this isn’t a vacation. Something’s wrong.” He crossed his arms and glared at her.
She rubbed her back, and her head, and her shoulders, all sore from driving. From the whole situation.
“If I told you, I’d have to kill you.”
He cracked a small smile. “Well, I’m in this now. So, you have to tell me.”
Why did he have to pick now to become so altruistic? Why couldn’t he remain a self-absorbed preteen?
“Dre, can you do something for me?”
He straightened his back. “Sure. What’s the next part of our mission?”
“Kid, I’ve been driving all night. Can you let me sleep for a few hours? Can you just stay in your room, and don’t touch anything, and read the books in there? I think there’s a puzzle, too. A couple of them. Read the books, do the puzzles, and don’t do anything else. Okay?”
“Okay…but I’m actually kind of hungry. It’s almost breakfast time.”
Sighing, she went to the pantry and grabbed a handful of granola bars, some fruit cups, and a bag of chips. Filling a glass in the sink, she took it all to the room. “Don’t go anywhere. Except the bathroom. And if you do, don’t turn on the lights, and go right back to your room. Can you promise me you’ll listen, and let me sleep? Then we can talk.”
He nodded, already eyeing the treats on the bed.
“Okay. Lock your door. And you can wake me if there’s an emergency or something.”
Then, Lanie went into the other bedroom, leaving her own door slightly open. She didn’t want to sleep in her dress, but she had no clothes that would fit her huge belly. So she shed it, keeping only her underwear. Pushing her bag under the bed, she drew the blackout curtains to block out the sun, then crawled in. With one of the pillows tight to her chest, she at last let herself fall apart.
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