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Technically, buying a gun was easy. The clerk asked a few questions, just the regular paperwork type, but she was still nervous. She was anxious until the last day of the waiting period when she went to pick up her gun, thankful the men hadn't tried anything too drastic in the meantime. She definitely wouldn't use it until her trip unless it was a last, desperate attempt to be certain the information got into the right hands.
Caitlin peeked out the curtain again. She couldn't see the car parked outside her house from this window, but she knew it was there. It was there when she went to work yesterday morning, and when she came home last night. It would follow her when she left this morning. But, hopefully, it wouldn't be able to catch her once she changed cars.
She turned back to the briefcase on her bed. She checked to see if she had packed everything she needed, rattled off her toiletry list in her mind. When she came to the last item to pack, she cringed.
Emotionally, she had struggled with the idea for two weeks before actually going through with it. She hated the idea of shooting anyone; killing them she didn't allow to even enter her mind. But she felt she needed some sort of protection besides a fast car, a few tricks up her sleeve, and, Lord willing, an above-average ability to stay awake on her side. It would be a long trek.
With a hard swallow, she put the gun in her purse, then, thinking twice about it, removed it and relegated it to her briefcase. If she had to use it, she didn't think it would be too soon. There would be plenty of time to get it out later. At least she hoped so.
Caitlin jumped as her front door bell rang. Could that be one of the men who had been making her life havoc for the last three weeks? She unholstered the 9mm semi-automatic handgun. It felt cold and hard in her hand. The term, "dead weight" entered her mind, but she quickly banished it. She pushed the safety off and pulled the slide toward her, chambering a round, and headed for her front door.
Her hands shook as she held the gun in front of her, barrel down, pointed toward the floor. She entered the foyer and checked the window beside the door. Whoever was out there, they stood in just the right place to not be seen from this vantage point. Caitlin carefully checked the peephole and gasped.
"Get in here! What do you think you 're doing?" she cried as she threw open the door and pulled her younger sister inside, slamming the door behind them. "What are you doing here?! Did anyone see you come up? Of course they did. Did you see a brown....."
"Hello to you too," the petite brunette smiled. "I thought I'd surprise you. I brought a housewarming gift...." her voice trailed off as she spotted the gun. Her face went pale, "Caitlin, what's wrong? What are you doing with that?"
Caitlin returned the safety to the on position, opened the door enough to drag in two suitcases left there, then closed and locked the door. She frowned at her sister, "Tara. Oh, Tara. You shouldn't be here. You should be home. You should be getting ready for your wedding. What are you doing here?"
"You answer my question first. What are you doing with a gun? What's going on? Have you called the police?" Tara followed her sister into the bedroom, forgetting altogether the new house she had come to see. "Caitlin! What's going on?"
Caitlin put the gun back into the holster, and, without reserve this time, put it on her hip. "I don't have time to tell you." She picked up the phone receiver and began to dial the number of the airline she used most often. "You have to go back home. Now." She looked at her sister, "No arguments."
Tara shook her head, "No. Not until I know what's going on." She put her finger on the hang-up button, "You tell me. What are you doing with a gun?"
"I don't have time, Tara!" Caitlin pushed the finger away, "You have to go."
"What's going on?" Tara again pushed the button.
"I can't tell you. Honestly. I ...." she turned her face away. "Tara, I want you safe. You have to go."
Caitlin's voice was so quiet, so filled with regret that Tara felt a shiver go down her back. "I'll go. But I'd rather stay and help you if I can."
The sound of glass shattering made both women jump. Caitlin grabbed the gun out of its holster, checked the safety, and pointed it at the floor. With her free hand, she slammed her briefcase closed and locked it. "You'll have to come with me," she put her purse under her arm, picked up the briefcase and headed to the hallway, "at least part of the way."
Tara followed, pulling her suitcases and glancing behind as she went into the garage. She quietly pulled the door shut behind them.
"Come on, Tara," Caitlin had her briefcase in the back seat and was in the driver's seat of her car. She held the gun out the window in her left hand, ready for use.
Tara pushed the trunk closed then climbed in beside her sister.
Caitlin started the engine and pushed the button for the garage door. Slowly, quietly, it opened. Caitlin tapped her left foot on the floorboard as she counted the seconds. She laid the gun in her lap and looked at her sister, "Stay down."
As soon as the door was high enough for the car to fit under she slammed the car into reverse and floored it, leaving black marks on the garage floor. Clearing the garage, she threw the steering wheel hard right, sluing the car into the extra parking area, "Duck!" she pushed her staggered sister further down in the seat.
Two dark-suited men ran out the front door as the car screeched down the driveway.
As they turned onto the street Tara looked over the top of the seat as one of the men reached into his suit coat and pulled out a revolver. "He has a gun! He was going to shoot us!"
A brown car with two men in it, parked curbside facing them, pulled out to block the street but Caitlin braked hard and cranked the wheels left, pushing her car onto the sidewalk. Three cars later she turned off the sidewalk, shot through an alley and skidded left onto Oak Street just in front of an eighteen wheeler bearing down hard on them.
Caitlin checked the rear view mirror then turned right at the next intersection, left at the next, then right again. "I don't think we're being followed," she slowed the car to the flow of traffic.
"How did you learn to drive like that?" Tara asked as she straightened in her seat.
Checking the cars all around them, Caitlin said, "Two years ago I took a defensive driving course for a book I was writing." She shrugged her shoulders, "I've kept in practice at a local demolition derby."
"What!?" Tara screamed. "Are you serious? Does Mom know? Why didn't you tell me? You could have been killed!"
"Actually, it's a very safe sport." She checked the rearview mirror, "I didn't tell anyone because I didn't want them to worry. I couldn't have gotten killed. Those cars are reinforced so much the chances are next to nil for anyone to get seriously injured, and even less to be killed." She glanced at Tara, "Are you okay?"
"I think so. Caitlin, please tell me what kind of trouble you're in. Please. Let me help you." She watched her sister, waiting for a response, then asked, "Are you involved with a mafia boss or something?"
Caitlin guffawed, "No. No, Tara, I'm not. You and Tony better stop renting those Godfather movies." Then she fell silent and glanced over her shoulder. As she turned down the street toward the train station, she smiled over at her sister, "I'll tell you when I come to visit after all this is over. Okay?"
"Promise," she crossed her heart, "It might take a couple of weeks, but I'll be there as soon as I can."
"Hey, where are we going? This isn't the way to the airport."
"I know," Caitlin sighed, "but I want you out of this as soon as possible. The airport's still thirty minutes away."
Caitlin turned the car into the train station's parking lot. Following the arrows around the parking area she searched for a place to park. Finding none, she stopped at the end of a row and turned to Tara, "I guess I'll have to let you off at the door. Here's money for the ticket," she gave her sister a 'don't argue with me' look and handed her two hundred dollars, "and tell Mom and Dad to expect me in a couple of weeks, okay?"
"Sure." Tara took the money and wadded it into her hand.
They sat for a moment looking at each other, neither saying what they wanted to say, neither willing to say the good-bye that had to be said. Finally Caitlin hugged her sister, held her for a moment longer than she meant to, bringing tears to both of their eyes, then steered to the front entrance.
Pulling into the "Unloading" zone, Caitlin turned off the engine and got out to open the trunk.
Tara followed and together they removed her luggage. Tara smiled, "Well, I guess this is good-bye."
"No, it isn't. Remember, a couple of weeks from today."
"Right," Tara smiled, a tear sliding down her cheek.
"So, give me a hug, and get your keester on the train home. Tell Mom I want a big lasagna for supper and her special sticky buns for dessert when I get there."
"I will," she returned the hug, then stepped back and picked up her bags. As she turned to leave she saw a brown car turning into the unloading zone.
"Caitlin ..." she began.
"I see it," Caitlin said, taking Tara's bags and returning them to the trunk. "Get in."
The brown car sped toward them as Caitlin pulled out of the unloading zone. She glanced to the left as she pulled into rush hour traffic on Maple Street and worked her way across to the inside lane.
"Can you see them, Tara?"
"Yes," she twisted in her seat to get a better look, "they're about six or seven cars back and in the outside lane."
"Keep an eye on them for me. If they get any closer, let me know."
"I will," Tara smiled, "I'll just scream."
"I'm surprised you haven't yet. You used to scream all the time when we were kids," Caitlin smiled at her sister.
"I've been trying to learn to control that," Tara smirked back at her. "Tony doesn't know yet. He says girls like that gave him a headache when he was a kid."
"It gives everyone a headache, Tara," she saw the road she needed up ahead and glanced over her shoulder to check the car. "Any movement?"
"No, not yet." Tara glanced at the brown car and shook her head, "What do they want?"
"Hold on," Caitlin turned left in a mad dash between on coming traffic.
"They're turning. They're two cars back."
"I see them," Caitlin checked her speed. She was doing forty-five when the speed limit was twenty. She was glad her radar detector wasn't sounding, "We've got a few more turns to make. When we stop beside a blue car I want you to get in it. Don't bother about your things. We'll take care of that as we go. Just get in. It's mine, it's paid for, and if I can get rid of these guys for a few minutes, it should get us out of here without any more trouble."
When Tara didn't respond, Caitlin looked at her, "Do you understand?"
She nodded. "You've got this all worked out. You act like it's not your first time..." she didn't go on, but Caitlin understood that she wanted to, and what she was thinking.
"I have got this all worked out. But you're wrong. It is my first time. I don't know too much more than you. I just know those four men mean business," she glanced at Tara, "and that I want you safe."
"Cait," Tara called her by her childhood nickname, "are we going to be okay?"
"Sure," Caitlin squeezed her hand, "we'll be fine. I'll stop at the next available airport, train station..."
"Shipyard," Tara put in, teasingly.
"Whatever," Caitlin laughed. "Hold on," she turned a hard, skidding right, fishtailing across the yellow line and almost hitting a Cadillac heading toward them. She recovered the fishtail, pulled around a red Firebird, and made a hard left. Seeing an opportunity, she pulled behind an ice cream truck, killed the engine, and pulled Tara down out of sight.
The brown car sped past.
"Good," she grimaced as she sat up and watched the rear end of the brown sedan disappear from sight, "I hope they stay lost."
Tara sat up, "You did it!" she smiled.
"For now." Caitlin started the engine and pulled from behind the vending truck, backtracked the two blocks they had gone down the street, and traveled the short distance to their destination.
Minutes later, they pulled into a car dealership and stopped beside the blue car. Tara now understood why she couldn't bring her two big suitcases. This was a Lamborghini, it had no room. In her opinion, it barely had room for two people. She lowered herself into the passenger's seat and buckled up. It felt comfortable, if a little cramped. She wondered if she would develop claustrophobia in the short time that it would take Caitlin to get rid of her.
Caitlin lowered herself in, "Comfortable?" she asked as she put her briefcase in the little space behind the seats and started the car. She pulled into the flow of traffic and took the exit for the highway headed west.
She glanced in the rear view mirror and saw the brown car pull out from around the corner and fall in two cars behind them.
* * *
"Caitlin," Tara shook her sister, "Cait wake up! You've been dreaming again." Tara glanced at her sister as Caitlin pulled herself out of the fitful slumber.
Caitlin straightened from her slumped position and looked around her, "Are our friends around?"
"No," Tara glanced in the rear view mirror, "haven't seen them for about two hundred and seventy miles."
"What time is it?" Caitlin rubbed her eyes.
"P.M.?-Must be: sun's up." She yawned and wanted to stretch her arms, but sufficed with a tight mini-stretch toward her legs. She had slept for about three hours and everything felt stiff, cramped or tingly. "How you doing, sis?"
"Tired, but I'll be okay for a while yet," Tara said. "You were dreaming again."
Caitlin frowned at her feet, they had gone to sleep and were just now waking up. "I know. Same dream. It's getting kinda' old." She tried to work a kink out of her neck. "Where are we?"
"Just outside Tulsa," glancing in the mirror she sighed, "Almost half way there."
Caitlin smiled at her, "You hungry?"
"No," Tara shook her head, "not yet. I should be though," she glanced at her watch, "I haven't eaten since, what, about ten last night?"
"Me, too. Let's not worry about that too much." Caitlin picked up the road atlas and studied it, "We'll take care of our stomachs when they tell us to, but until then let's put as much mileage as possible between us and the Fearsome Foursome. I believe we'll be able to join up with ..."
"No. Forget it, Sis. I had to change our plans last time the Double F was interfering. We've been on so many little back roads, I couldn't tell you. We're still heading west, but we're not where we're supposed to be."
"Oh," Caitlin dropped the atlas back to the floorboard at her feet. "Any idea when we'll hit Tulsa?"
Tara checked her watch, "About half an hour, I suppose." Running her fingers through her brunette tresses, she said, "What are the chances of a shower in Tulsa? I would really enjoy washing my hair."
"Maybe," Caitlin checked over her shoulder, "but no promises."
Tara braked hard as the radar detector sounded, "Oops! Trouble."
"How fast?" Caitlin asked, straining her eyes, and 'owling' her head around to try to find the police car.
"Just sixty-five in a fifty-five zone." Tara checked her speedometer, "I'm down there now. Think they got us?"
"I don't know," Caitlin still couldn't find the elusive source of the radar detector's warning.
"If he tries to stop us, shall we?"
"Do we have time to stop if we have been caught? Would it allow the Fearsome Foursome to catch up with us?"
"Oh," Caitlin caught on, "I don't know." She checked her watch, "How far back do you think they are?"
"If they hadn't stolen that Porsche in Pennsylvania we would've been out of reach. But now," she looked over at Caitlin, "we've only got ten to twenty minutes on them. What do you think?"
"I'd like to obey the law if we could, but, considering the circumstances," she shook her head, "I just don't know."
"There he is," Tara pointed to a well-hidden police car behind some bushes. She saw him as they passed, within the speed limit. They watched him in the mirrors, but no lights or siren came on.
Tara drove five more miles within the posted speed limit then returned to her normal speed. "Talk about a blessed life!" She whistled, loud, shrill, and highly reminiscent of a fan at a football game.
"Okay, got through that one." Caitlin shook her head, "I'm surprised, after all the laws we've broken, that we haven't been caught yet - not to mention arrested."
"We've got company," Tara's eyes were on the mirror.
Caitlin checked her mirror, "What kind?"
"Trouble kind. Double F," Tara checked the speedometer, "Shall I run?"
Caitlin turned around, "We don't have a choice. Go for it."
Tara shifted down a gear, pressed the pedal all the way against the floor, quickly shifted up, and they were running. The speedometer hit one-twenty-five and kept going. They passed three cars on a solid double yellow, narrowly escaping a head on collision with a green convertible around a curve, and pegged it out as they returned to the right lane.
Checking behind them, Caitlin saw the Fearsome Foursome's silver Porsche doing the same. It couldn't quite keep up with their Lamborghini, but it made a valiant effort at just a few miles per hour short of their max.
Minutes later, the outskirts of Tulsa flew past. Tara had to back off as the traffic got heavier, and as they joined with the flow of city traffic they came almost to a standstill.
Caitlin took up the watch position; twisted around almost backwards in her seat and looking out the side window for the silver Porsche. As the Porsche's driver peeked around the cars in front of him, Caitlin caught a glimpse of it about eight cars back.
"Break in traffic," Tara said.
They took the break and passed three cars, then slid into the line again. "Hot dog!" Caitlin slapped the back of the seat, "We've got an unwitting ally. The guy in front of the Fearsome Foursome got hot under the collar when they tried to pass and blocked their path!"
"All right!" Tara smiled. "Downtown coming up, want anything?"
"How are you doing for sleep?" Caitlin caught Tara's chin and turned her face to check her sister's eyes, "You look like you could use a couple of hours."
Tara looked back at the street, "All right. I could. My eyes are starting to feel like sandpaper again, and my butt's going to sleep. I'd like to get some eye drops."
"Okay, you know the drill." Caitlin turned back to check on Double F, "They're still back there, eleven cars away. In this traffic," Caitlin glanced around, "I'd say about three turns."
"I'm on it." Tara began watching for a drug store. Six blocks later she spotted one on the left. "Eye drops, nine o'clock," she said at the light at the corner.
Caitlin smiled. Their short hand speaking was something they used to do as children and it was fun to go back to something they had such a good time with when they were young. "Two blocks."
Tara shook her head, "Looks like a one way street for the second block. I'll have to go three."
Tara went three blocks, turned right, went a block, right again, three blocks and right again. They were facing the drug store from across the street. Tara jumped out and Caitlin crossed the hump and slid into place behind the wheel.
"Five minutes," Tara said.
"I'll be here." Caitlin watched as her petite younger sister went to the corner on the driver's side of the car. She waved as they both got a green light to go and Tara started across.
Caitlin pulled around the corner and saw the silver Porsche as she crossed the next road. She was certain the men in the Porsche saw her but they were blocked in by the surrounding cars. Quickly she merged left through two lanes and made a left turn, pulled into an alley and headed to the back of the drug store.
She checked her watch; it had taken about two minutes. Tara still had three minutes to make it back to the corner. She drove past, went three more blocks, then headed to the rendezvous point.
When she got to the corner, Tara wasn't there.
© Linda McKinney All Rights Reserved
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