Chapter 19, Part 3
“I hate to say this, but are we almost there?” Mariah asked. Kyle’s grip tightened around the steering wheel.
“Almost,” he replied.
The clock flicked past 7:30. Breakfast was usually at 7 back at the facility. If they hadn’t noticed the escape before, they’d definitely have someone on their tail by now. Mariah wished she could calm her high strung nerves in order to better appreciate the wonder of the Arkansas mountains. The early morning sun danced across the rolling ranges covered in the lush green of the trees. But she really only had eyes for the road in front of them.
Their drive had taken them out into the foothills and as they crested another rise, Mariah could see the window reflections of the town below. She didn’t have to tell Kyle to hurry.
“Just in time, too. We’re almost out of gas,” he muttered.
“We’re not going to steal another car, are we?” she asked.
“No definitely not. I have plenty of money to buy a new one,” Kyle retorted. “And we can’t stay in this one either.”
Mariah huffed a sigh. “Car thief” was something she kind of didn’t want on her resume. But she could probably deal with it if it helped them get further away from Amelli and his men.
“Let’s just get there so we can call Cassie. She’ll know what to do. She always does. And she said they had people helping them,” she said.
“All we have are some coordinates. Even if they can help us, it’s going to take some time for them to find us,” Kyle reminded her.
“Why couldn’t I have broken out of creepville with an optimistic person?” Mariah rolled her eyes.
“Someone has to keep you grounded.” A hint of a smile crossed Kyle’s face and they both relaxed a little.
Kyle parked the SUV down a side road outside of town and they walked in. It looked touristy, so they didn’t look too out of place with all the other early morning outdoor enthusiasts. They kept to the busy parts of the sidewalks, searching for a phone.
“There.” Kyle finally pointed to a shop with a small sign that proclaimed it had a pay phone. They darted across the street and into the store. Mariah sidled around racks of t-shirts and one or two bear figurines before finding the wooden counter. An older gentleman offered her a smile and a “good morning”. She replied in kind and leaned on the counter.
“I’m so embarrassed. I lost my phone yesterday and my brother and I are supposed to check in with dad every morning before we head off to hike. Can we use your phone?” she asked.
“Sure thing!” the man replied. “How many minutes you need?”
“I’ll have to explain about the phone and probably get a mini-lecture, so at least ten minutes?”
The man chuckled. “Good luck, kid.”
Kyle handed over a few bills to cover the card. The phone was around the corner, screened from the room in a wooden booth. Mariah slid her finger across the screen to wake it up before setting the card against it. A light flashed, reminding her she had purchased ten minutes. She dismissed it, and pulled up the call screen. She tapped in Cassie’s number and pressed it against her ear, nervousness pulling at her gut as the dial tone, rang and rang, until an automated voice told her that the number she wanted was no longer in service.
Mariah slumped against the wall.
“What?” Kyle asked.
“It’s not working,” Mariah stared at the phone in defeat. Kyle loosed a frustrated sigh.
“Okay, let’s go.”
“No wait.” A thought struck Mariah. “The night everything happened, her phone wasn’t working either.”
“Maybe it got damaged in the wreck,” Kyle said.
“What wreck?” Mariah’s voice pitched higher.
“I’ll tell you later and then you’ll see why they won’t want me. Anyone else you can call?”
“Let me try Sam.” Mariah frantically punched in a new number. It buzzed twice before-
“Sam!” she shrieked.
“Mariah?” Sam shouted back. Tears bubbled in her eyes at hearing a familiar voice. “Are you all right? Where are you? We’ve been looking for you!”
“I know, we heard the message. I’m fine. I’m with Kyle, I…” Mariah babbled.
“Who’s Kyle?” Sam interrupted.
“It’s a long story, Sam,” Mariah tried to corral her thoughts. “Okay, listen. Some guy named Amelli took me. Kyle’s like us. We escaped and now they’re probably after us. We’re somewhere in Arkansas in the mountains.”
“What phone are you calling from?”
“A pay phone. And I don’t have many minutes left.” Mariah took a glance at the screen.
“Okay, I’m on my way to tell Captain Santos. Can you stay where you are?”
Kyle was clearly able to hear the whole conversation and he shook his head.
“No, we need to keep moving,” Mariah said.
“Is there any way we can track you to find you again?” Sam asked. Mariah looked helplessly at Kyle.
“I don’t…” Mariah broke off as Kyle gestured for the phone.
“Listen, are you at a military facility?” he asked.
“Ye-es,” Mariah could hear Sam’s hesitation.
“Okay, tell them to look out for electrical pulses above normal. You can track us that way.”
“What’s going to be making these pulses?”
“Me. Whatever happens, Mariah and I will stick together until you can find us. I’ll look after her.”
“Are you sure that will work?” Mariah asked almost in stereo with Sam. Kyle shrugged a little.
“It’s the only thing we have,” he said.
“Okay,” Sam agreed. “I’ll tell them. Let me talk to her.”
Mariah took the phone back. “Hey, Sam, tell everyone I’m okay?”
“I will. Be careful, Mariah.”
“See you soon, Sam.” She forced some cheer into her voice.
“Soon,” he promised. Mariah stared at the phone for a few long seconds after they hung up. Kyle let her process the last few minutes before he touched her arm.
“We’ve got to go,” he reminded her.
She replaced the phone in its slot and followed him out of the store. They hadn’t gotten very far down the street when Kyle paused.
“You hear that?” he asked.
Mariah tilted her head as she listened. A methodic rumbling was coming from somewhere…she glanced up at the sky as a helicopter came into view. Kyle saw it at the same time. He loosed an impressive curse that left Mariah’s eyes wide.
“It’s his. Run!”
They cut off the main street and headed for the edge of town.
“Where are we going?” Mariah asked, keeping pace with Kyle’s quick lope.
“Somewhere we can hide,” he replied.
They headed out of town and ducked into the surrounding trees as the helicopter began its first pass around the town.
“There’s another one coming!” she hissed at Kyle.
“Yeah, and the trucks aren’t going to be far behind,” he replied. “Keep running.”
She got a few paces away before her hair stood on end as Kyle released the first of the electrical pulses that would help Sam’s friends track them.