It’s late, but it’s here. It’s also a bit longer than normal.
I looked down at Stevie again. He moaned, but didn’t open his eyes. Now that he was lying on the ground, his jacket gaped, exposing his gun and shoulder holster. I pulled out the gun, yanked out the clip, and dumped the bullets into the storm drain next to the driveway.
Then I opened up his cell phone case, popped out the battery and stole the SIM card. I assumed that Dom’s SIM card had probably been annihilated when Vaughn shocked him, but I took his too. You never know.
As I was dismantling Dom’s phone, Vaughn pulled out of his funk enough to ask me, “What are you doing?”
“Stealing their SIM cards. Without them they can’t call anybody, and I can check out their contact list.”
“Is that legal?”
“Probably not, but it’s the best way I can think of to find out a little bit about them.”
“What about looking through their wallets?”
He had a point there.
I pulled out Dom’s wallet and flipped through his identification. He had plenty of driver’s licenses, none of which identified him as Dom. He also had ID’s that identified him as FBI, CIA, a U.S. Marshal, a Secret Service agent and an employee of the NSA for good measure.
Stevie’s wallet had just as much variety.
“This can’t be real,” I said.
“No kidding,” Vaughn said, looking over my shoulder.
“Well,” I said, “we should probably get out of here. Would you open the car and nuke the inside? That way they can’t drive around and look for us.”
“I’ll try.” He opened the passenger side door and stopped, picking some photographs off the front seat.
He flipped through them and handed them to me, saying, “Nick, look at this.”
They were glossy, blown up to 8½ by 11 inches and showed the faces of everyone who had attended a DVD Night: Daniel, Cassie, Jaclyn, Vaughn and myself, plus her brothers and a few other people who had only attended once.
All of them seemed to show Grandpa’s house, lawn, or a neighbor’s house as background. How had we failed to notice? Did they use more than one car? Or had they placed cameras nearby?
Just as important, why were they bothering?
My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Vaughn making lightning and the smell of burnt plastic.
As the lightning’s afterimage faded from my eyes, I said, “Maybe we ought to go. If the guys in the Escalade are working with them they could get here at any time.”
“Never mind the Escalade,” Vaughn said, “Look at that… A few shots and I might be able to destroy the whole car.”
Blackened, and smoking, the steering wheel lay in the front seat. The clear plastic over the speedometer had shattered and in some spots the dashboard had melted.
If it was a rental, they definitely weren’t getting their deposit back.
“I get a little stronger each time,” he said.
“I still don’t want to find out if they’ve got backup,” I said.
We ran back toward the school.
Somewhere out there is a crazy coach looking for new ideas for training cross country runners. The coach’s school is in the middle of the city so there’s not much of a cross country course to train on.
If that coach were to ride around in an SUV, hunting runners with a BB gun, forcing them to run through yards instead of anything resembling a road, he might create a workout similar to, but not quite like, the workout a gazelle gets before being eaten by a lion.
He might also get fired.
Coach Michaelson isn’t that coach, but that’s the workout I got.
We cut through backyards, climbed over fences and hid in the bushes as we decided where to cross the street. When we crossed, we sprinted.
We saw the Escalade three times. First we saw it as we left Dom and Stevie on the ground. It came around the corner slowly. We ran around a dark house with grimy windows into the backyard and followed the alley almost to the end of the street, cutting through another backyard to escape.
The second time we saw it we were hiding behind a yellow, plastic slide/swingset. Vaughn peered around the side of the slide as the Escalade stopped at the corner. It turned right, traveling away from the school and us.
“They’re giving up,” Vaughn said.
“Maybe,” I said.
The third time, we were almost to the school. We were running down the sidewalk in a nice neighborhood just to the north of Central’s athletic fields. The houses were obviously beginning their second century, but were kept up and the lawns mowed.
A boy that couldn’t be older than five raced past us on his bike shouting, “I winned you!”
Vaughn turned to me, grinning. “Race you to the gate,” he said.
He sprinted and I sprinted after him. We’d decided to make for the back entrance to the school fields, betting that if the Escalade did show up, they wouldn’t have the nerve to go after us in public.
We were wrong about that.
The moment that Vaughn and I began to sprint, I heard a deep roar behind us. I didn’t even look behind to check what it was.
“Backyard,” I shouted. He didn’t reply. He’d already left the sidewalk and begun scrambling up the nearest house’s front yard. All houses on the school side sat at least five feet above the street.
I followed Vaughn up the hill, past a brown house, around the plastic chairs on their back porch and into the backyard.
The gate through the school fence was three houses down from here. Between us and it stood a seven foot tall wooden fence, extending from the house back to the twelve foot tall school fence.
The Escalade drove straight up the driveway and stopped in front of the small, single car garage. The doors opened and four men in black suits stepped out, pistols in hand.
Technically, they probably weren’t the Men in Black of conspiracy theory fame, but I didn’t really have a good opportunity to ask about that.
“Halt,” that nearest one shouted.
I was frozen, not because I was listening, but because I couldn’t think of what to do next. The fences seemed too tall to climb and I didn’t see a way to get past the men and around the side of the house.
Vaughn didn’t stop.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him run toward the school fence, jumping to give himself a head start on the twelve foot climb.
He flew into the air, hands outstretched, ready to grab the chain link fence.
He never grabbed it. He flew past and turned around in the air, facing us and suddenly giving a laugh.
The nearest Man in Black raised his gun toward Vaughn, but he never had a chance. Vaughn’s hands seemed to explode with bolt after bolt of lightning.
I couldn’t see in the brightness and closed my eyes. I opened them to find Vaughn standing next to me and all the men unconscious on the ground.
“Did you see that? It was incredible.” He looked over the yard—the unconscious men, the Escalade (now with four flat tires), and a hole in the lawn that I assumed came from a miss.
“Some of it,” I said.
“I had no idea I could do that stuff. I’ve only ever seen it on TV,” he said, mumbling the last sentence.
“No, fine,” he said. “Maybe a little tired.”
“Well,” I said, “let’s get out of here.”