By J.R. Wagner
A quick side note. Due to the popularity of this story, I'll come up with a title for next week's post. Stay tuned!
I strongly recommend reading parts 1-5 before continuing
Careening. It sounds like a great word to describe how we were traveling but it isn't. Turns out Careening is a nautical term and we were most assuredly not over water. The dirt bike was now at top speed moving along a walking trail sending inattentive exercisers diving for the grass that bordered the path.
For my part, I was squeezing Tessa's waist (not entirely a bad thing) while praying to every god I could think of as we weaved around dogs, strollers, rollerbladers, cyclists and all other forms of pedestrian ambulation.
I was quite certain our pursuers had given up the chase once we exited Tessa's property but still, she had the accelerator rolled all the way back and gave no indication that we would slow anytime soon. I wasn't familiar with the trail (I told you, I'm a slob) nor where it ended but was hoping the end was near as the vibration from the bike had gotten both my bladder and bowels in an uproar and I'm pretty sure this type of bike wasn't meant for a fat guy like me let alone two passengers.
We passed under a bridge over which cars went zipping past and nobody seemed the wiser to our plight. I still couldn't get over the fact that we had managed to go from DEFCON 5 to DEFCON 1 in a matter of seconds. Dr. Nano-Man wasn't kidding when he said people would kill to get their hands on his discovery.
We slowed as we reached the trail head and for the first time, I realized where we were. Tessa's father's lab was two blocks away. I could see the McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's trifecta (the only one in town) across the street. Ironic that the walking trail ended at three fast-food joints.
A wave of fear swept over me as she turned onto the street and headed toward her father's lab.
"Are you insane?" I yelled.
Between the helmet and the buzz of the motor (dirt bikes buzz, road bikes wail, Harley's roar) I couldn't hear my own cries and was sure she couldn't either. I started frantically tapping her mid-section with my fingers (yes I was too afraid to completely remove my hand) but she must have thought it was a nervous tick or something because she completely ignored me.
I could see the building ahead on the left side of the road. No police cars surrounded the building. No flames erupted from the upper floors. No men in black body armor scurried around the perimeter. Several people were eating their lunches at the tables that surrounded the fountain in front of the main entrance -all oblivious to the precariousness of their current situation.
I tapped harder with both sets of fingers as we slowed but Tessa merely elbowed me in the ribs and rolled the accelerator back. Much to my relief we passed the building, continued two more blocks, then took a left and pulled into a three-story parking garage. She parked on the roof and I awkwardly hopped off nearly falling to the ground under the weight of the backpack she had given me to wear.
We removed our helmets and Tessa slid the backpack off my shoulder.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"Getting my father," she said.
"You do realize there is no way they aren't watching his building, right?"
"And you're still going to get him? You're still going to TRY to get him, I should say."
Her expression was completely unreadable but I couldn't believe that a high-school-aged-girl would fearlessly run into danger to rescue her father. I wasn't buying it.
"Do you understand why they were at your house? They were waiting for YOU. They were going to kidnap you and use you as leverage to get what they wanted from your father," I said, surprisingly concise about it.
"And if they take him and he doesn't give them what they want, they will try to leverage his life against me just the same. The only way out of this is if we're together," she replied.
Tessa ran her fingers through her hair a few times before tying it up in a pony tail with the band around her wrist. Her jaw was set. It was clear she was preparing to go find her father and there was nothing I could say to change her mind.
"I'm coming with you," I said. (quite possibly the stupidest thing ever to escape my lips)
She rolled her eyes in that bitchy teenage way all girls do and began moving toward the stairs at the corner of the garage roof.
"Go home Rol-and," she said without looking back.
I jogged to her side.
"I can't let you do this alone," I said, slightly out of breath.
"Cant you?" she said turning to face me, "Look at yourself. Do you really think you'd be anything other than a hindrance? I've already had to rescue you once, you can't run more than ten feet without falling into a state of respiratory distress and I bet you've never shot a gun in your life."
"I can shoot a gun," I said. (I play Black Ops all the time)
"Really?" she asked, her words dripping with doubt.
She slid the backpack off her shoulder and set it on the ground. Tessa unzipped the top of the bag and removed, to my surprise, a shotgun. She thrust it into my hands and reached back into the bag. It was heavy -surprisingly heavy. It didn't look anything like the guns from Black Ops and certainly weighed more than my X-Box controller.
"Load it," she said tossing two shells at me.
I went to catch the shells and managed to drop the gun. On my foot. It hurt. I cursed and quickly picked up the gun and both shells. Keeping my eyes on the gun (because I knew Tessa was rolling hers) I looked for some indication of where to put the red shells. In Black Ops, all you have to do is press the green re-load button.
After a minute of turning and pushing and pulling, Tessa jerked the gun from my hand and, with one hand, appeared to break the gun in half.
"You broke it," I said.
She snatched the shells from my hand and stuffed one in each of the two barrels then, with a slight flick of her wrist, clicked the gun back together. Cocked, locked and ready to rock -as they say.
"You're not coming," she said zipping the backpack and sliding it over her shoulder with her free hand. She moved to the stairs and began to make her way down.
"I'm not letting you go in there alone," I shouted.
But I was because she was out of sight and I was talking to no one. I was overcome with a need to do something. I couldn't stand idly by and let her get hurt...or worse. Why? Looking back, I'm not exactly sure. We just met, she didn't particularly like me, I didn't particularly like her father. The only thing she had going for her was the fact that she was hot and I'd like to think I didn't decide to put my life in danger just to impress a girl.
I needed a plan. Fast.
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