Content Warning – Nudity
If the passengers in the stolen black SUV had turned their heads when they hurriedly drove out of the gates, they might have seen a pulsating bright light stationed in front of one of the second-floor windows.
A strange visitor teleports himself into one of the isolation cells where Cade has locked the facility’s surviving researchers up.
The light stays visible only for a brief moment, then it takes off with its precious passenger, quickly fading into the dark clouds…
Cade takes Derek and the others to “Sleazy Night’s Motel” a couple of miles from the Insanatorium, where he already has a room paid for.
He backs the large black car into a parking spot next to his Harley. Derek waits patiently until Cade has finished maneuvering before parking his own motorbike, and rapidly follows the others into the small, now crowded, room.
Derek slumps down on one of the beds, next to Jen. ‘Where’s my dad?’
‘In the bathroom. I’m next for the shower – just so you know.’ Jen rolls over on her stomach and yawns.
Cade looks at the teens. Neither Mitchell, nor Jen, has asked any questions about what had happened to Leann. He thinks they are numbed with shock, and he sure doesn’t want to be there when it wears off.
‘We can’t stay here too long. People will start asking questions,’ he says curtly.
Mitchell turns on the TV. ‘How long is the room paid for?’
‘I planned on staying another week, but that’s not the problem. We have to leave before someone comes looking for you. I don’t think we have more than a couple of days before the place is crawling with cops…’ Cade addresses Derek, ‘Your dad needs new ID, both of you do.’ He draws on his cigarette. ‘I don’t know about you guys, but I’m starving!’
‘I saw a candy machine outside,’ Mitchell drawls.
Jen perks up. ‘Let’s raid it!’
Derek stands up. ‘OK, I’ll go with you, Jen.’
There are two machines. While Derek stocks up on sodas, Jen puts some change into the candy machine, but nothing happens.
Pleadingly she looks up at Derek. ‘It’s not my fault. The dang machine just swallowed the money and-’
Swearing under his breath, Derek slams his fist into the machine which suddenly rattles to life, sputtering out candy bars.
Don comes out of the shower and heads straight to bed. Without a word he pulls the blanket, forcing Mitchell over to one side of the queen-sized bed. He is asleep before his head hits the pillow.
Mitchell stares at the TV, ignoring the snoring man next to him.
‘Have you got anywhere to stay? Family?’ Cade slumps down on the other bed.
Mitchell doesn’t look away from the TV. ‘I have two sisters back in Vulturu.’
Cade frowns. ‘Where the fuck’s that? Never heard of it.’
‘Still don’t know where it is.’
Mitchell sighs. ‘Never mind. The US government brought me here with my uncle, Edmund Flynn.’
Cade freezes. So Professor Flynn is his uncle… Was his uncle… He clears his throat. ‘And what about Jen? Has she got family you both can stay with?’
‘I don’t know. I don’t know where her mom’s at, she’s Romanian, you see. But her dad died in Iraq and I think his family is from Nevada somewhere, so I guess that’s where she’ll be heading…’
They are interrupted by Derek and Jen who stumble through the door, their arms filled with sodas and candy bars.
‘We hit jackpot!’ Jen giggles.
Cade picks up a candy bar from the floor. ‘Milky Way?’
‘My favorite!’ Derek snatches it away.
‘Hey!’ Cade leaves the candy to the teens and opens a coke. ‘First we’ll have to get rid of the car.’ He swigs from the can. ‘Derek, take your bike and follow me. Jen and Mitch, you stay here, keeping a low profile. Jen?’
But Jen’s already fallen asleep, her hand clutching a Hershey bar and smearing chocolate all over the clean sheets.
Mitchell yawns. ‘OK. Don’t worry about us. I’ll lock us up in here and take a bath…’
The parking lot is deserted apart from a scantily clad woman who is taking shelter from the drizzling rain at the bus stop. She watches Derek and Cade leave the motel. It is going to be slow night, tonight.
Derek follows Cade on a desolate road through the forest and out onto some cliffs overlooking the large river. With a grim smile Cade accelerates and runs the car over the cliff, bailing out at the very last moment.
Together they watch the car slowly sink, and they stay until there’s not even a bubble at the surface that could give away what just happened.
Cade straddles the bike behind Derek, grabbing the handrails with both hands.
‘Have you never thought about getting a Harley?’
Derek doesn’t even glance backwards, revving up the engine.
Exhausted, they sleep through the day, waking up late in the afternoon. There are candy bars left but living on sweets is not enough.
‘Maybe we could order something?’
‘There’s no room service in a place like this, Mitch.’
‘Yeah, I was thinking pizza.’
‘Sure, go ahead.’ Cade lights a cigarette.
‘Anybody’s got cash?’ Jen looks insistently at Cade, who sighs and peels off a few 10-dollar bills from a wad in his pocket. She keeps eye contact until he peels of a few more.
‘This should get you through the day, I have to keep some for gas, honey.’
Jen grabs the money. ‘Thanks. Can I get some coins to use the payphone outside?’
Derek rummages through his pockets. ‘I guess I only got enough for one call. Here.’
‘I have friends not far from here… They’ll help us get clean clothes and new ID. And they probably have something that gets the Wolfsbane out of my system.’ Cade draws deeply on his cigarette, looking thoughtful. ‘Let’s go.’
Derek and Cade leave the motel in the setting sun. The hooker is still there, watching them drive away.
They stay away from the highway, driving through the dense forest on empty roads.
It is late evening when they enter a small town.
The Hungry Hunters Tavern is on the outskirts of the small town, in an old, abandoned factory. The brick walls were once a fiery red, but now they are a brownish terracotta, used by time. When they turn into the full parking lot, they meet a police car slowly cruising past them on its way out.
It brakes and slows, the driver and his colleague scrutinizing the newly arrived bikers. Apparently satisfied that the newcomers seem calm enough, the cops speed up, turning out of the parking lot and away from the seedy bar. Derek realizes he’s been holding his breath.
Cade chuckles. ‘Looks like we’ve missed out on some action, Der’!’
They leave their bikes with the other Harley’s lined up in front of the bar.
I can see why Cade asked me about my bike… Derek smiles to himself.
They leave their bikes with the other Harley’s lined up in front of the bar.
I can see why Cade asked me about my bike… Derek smiles to himself.
They walk through the sparse crowd and take a seat at the bar. Cade lights a cigarette and orders two beers. Derek looks surreptitiously around. The crowd has noticed them alright, but Cade seems to be at ease, so he lets himself relax. A guy sides up to the bar and casually asks them if they’re interested in playing pool.
‘Go ahead, Der’. I have some business with the guy over there in the corner.’
Derek follows his gaze to a table in the shadows where two men are sitting on a couch in deep conversation.
‘Are you coming or not?’
‘Sure.’ Derek follows the guy over to the pool table.
‘I’m Jaaz. How much?’
Derek hesitates. He doesn’t have much money left, but these guys don’t seem to play for nothing.
Jaaz looks up from racking the balls.
‘OK. 8-ball? You can break for 50.’ He winks to his friends.
Cade takes his beer and makes his way through the crowd. He stops in front of the table and swigs from his bottle.
The dark guy looks up at him and sneers. ‘You’ve lost something?’
Cade doesn’t answer, just swigs again from his beer, waiting for the bald man to acknowledge him.
‘Well, hon, I asked for a beer. Not four damn cocktails! Just take them away. Please.’
The girl picks up the tray, checking Cade out. Cade raises his beer and nods to the man on the couch.
‘Hi Wyatt. Long time no see.’
‘I’ll be damned! Cade Farrow!’ The bald man jumps up and hugs Cade. ‘What happened to you? We all thought you were dead!’
‘Nope. Doesn’t seem so.’ He hugs Wyatt back.
‘How long has it been? Four years? Five?’
‘Yeah… Well, life goes on. Meet my second, Regner Murder.’
Murder? Really? Cade lifts his eyebrows and nods to the dark man who hasn’t budged from his seat.
‘Come sit with us!’ Wyatt pulls up a chair and slumps down on it, addressing the girl who has been hovering by the table. ‘And bring us another round, Dakota. No, wait.’ He raises his voice, ‘Drinks on me! Cade’s back!’
Everyone cheers and catcalls. Cade makes a mock bow to the audience and slumps down on the couch next to Regner.
The girl Dakota is soon back with the drinks, smiling to Cade. Regner pulls her down next to him, making a big show out of letting Cade know the girl belongs to him. Cade ignores them and swigs his beer.
Wyatt leans in towards Cade, lowering his voice. ‘You must tell us what happened. What about those wounds? Wolfsbane?’
‘Yeah.’ He touches the wound on his cheek. ‘I took care of Professor Flynn. He won’t cause us any more trouble.’
Wyatt nods. ‘You took your sweet time.’
‘Yeah, something came up.’
Cade glances over at the guys playing pool. Jaaz is good, but Derek is better. There is already a little crowd gathering, watching the game.
‘The kid came in with Cade is wiping the floor with Jaaz. There’s some money to be made.’
‘Uh-huh… You can’t be serious? Jaaz never lost a game of pool since I know him?’ Quin surveys the bartender. ‘A little more tequila, bro’! Then you can add the lime… and shake…’
‘Well, Quin. Your man’s losing right now…’
Derek downs the balls with one smooth direct stroke after the other.
But the guys watching don’t like it. They have bet on Jaaz, and now it seems they are losing their money.
‘C’mon over here!’
He sighs and turns towards the huge pale man sitting on the stairs.
‘Yeah, you boy!’ The man beckons him over with an enormous, gloved hand.
Derek approaches the man cautiously. ‘How old are you, boy? 15? 16?’
‘Oh… So you mean you’re legal?’ He looks at Derek with an exaggerated quizzical look on his face, but Derek just stares back. ‘Well, good for Cade…’ The man draws grimaces and nods. ‘I always thought he liked girls. But what the hell… Six years’ a long time…’
The ginger giant smiles evilly and makes a vulgar gesture with his tongue, creating a bulge in his cheek. Derek closes his fists harder around the cue and glares at him. Their eyes lock, and the man rises, towering over Derek.
‘Now get back to the game or I’ll use that cue on you! And dude, you won’t like it!’
Derek turns around, but the ginger giant murmurs behind his back just loud enough for him to hear it.
‘Or maybe you will. Like it…’
Derek closes his eyes and counts to ten before getting back to his game. There are no more incidents and twenty minutes later he pockets the 8-ball. Jaaz and his friends hand him the money, and Derek counts the bills on his way to the men’s room. 250 $! Wow!
The three men burst into the bathroom while Derek washes his hands. ‘This is not the way we use to do things around here, dude!’
‘Really?’ Derek doesn’t look up. ‘And what’s your way?’
‘Don’t talk back to me. Pup!’
The other men nod and murmur approvingly.
‘How old did you say you were, boy?’ The ginger pushes on. ‘Legal?’
Derek raises his eyebrow and meets the ginger giant’s stare in the mirror. ‘Old enough to wipe that stupid smile off your face.’
The man’s cheeks turn red with fury. ‘Really? And how would you do that?
Two minutes later Derek is pushed backwards towards the brick wall in the alley behind the bar.
‘First, I’ll smash those milk teeth in, and then I’ll break your nose. Maybe that’ll give you a grown-up look.’
The two henchmen laugh, and the massive redhead closes his fist and lands it on Derek’s jaw. Derek’s head swivels to the side, making him dizzy. He grunts with pain and spits blood onto the ground.
‘Did you see that one coming? No? Oh, you’ve never been in a fistfight before, have you, boy?’
Another punch in Derek’s stomach makes him double over.
‘Get up, dude! I won’t beat a man on his knees.’
He chuckles to himself and makes the joints in his knuckles crack.
Derek stands up and wipes blood from his mouth.
‘Don’t. Call. Me. Dude.’
The giant looks mockingly at him.
He throws his head back and roars with laughter, followed by his friends. Then everything happens in an eye blink. Derek uses the wall as support to tackle the muscular man, the fall pushing the air out of his lungs.
‘You didn’t see that one coming, huh?’
A vicious kick sends the giant slumping into the fence.
Derek turns to face the other two, now circling him. The first one is throwing a vicious punch, but Derek bands backward, catches the man’s arm and uses it as a lever to pull him faster forward and straight into the wall. The man is knocked out cold. The other comes at him, and Derek kicks him in the balls. Hard. The man falls on the ground, crying in pain.
‘There you are! Did I miss out on something?’
Cade’s mocking voice interrupts Derek who is on his knees, grimacing watching his broken fingers reset.
He stands up facing Cade and two other men on the loading deck.
The older holds his hand out. ‘I’m Wyatt. Like Earp, but he’s not family. Welcome to the pack, son.’
Wyatt leads the way back to his home. His wife, Ulrica, comes shuffling downstairs at the sound of the motorcycles, knotting her bathrobe and grumbling.
‘Have you ever used that fancy watch I bought you for Christmas, Wyatt Wulf?’
Wyatt just pecks her on the cheek, ‘Hi, hon. I brought someone home for breakfast!’, and steps aside so she can see Cade.
‘Well, well, well. Look who the cat brought in? We all thought you were dead!’
Cade lifts her up in a bear hug. ‘I’ve missed you, Ulrica!’
‘Put me down!’ Ulrica giggles, and steadies herself holding on to his arm, giving her long hair a quick smooth. She turns towards Derek.
‘And who is this? What have you done to the poor kid?’ She tuts. ‘We’ll have to take care of those cuts…’
‘Derek Vargas, m’am.’
‘Don’t you dare “m’am” me, son. I’m Ulrica Wulf. Sit down and let me check those cuts.’
She motions towards a chair at the table and obediently Derek sits. She takes his chin in her left hand, turns his head a little towards the light and he winces.
‘It’s nothing, m’am, sorry, Ulrica.’
‘Have you been in a fight? Wyatt?’
‘Ah, don’t go soft on him,’ Wyatt says, handing out beers. ‘Just get him some ice to put on his eye.’
‘Yeah, or a steak,’ Cade adds.
But Derek is already sleeping, his head in his arms, when she comes back with a pack of frozen peas in a towel.
‘Well. Sleep is the best healer anyway.’ She turns towards Cade. ‘And what happened to your pretty face?’
Dakota leans over and pulls his hair back to show Ulrica, but he grabs her hand. ‘Don’t.’
Flushed she lets go. Ulrica frowns. ‘Those cuts look really ugly… Wolfsbane?’
Cade shrugs. ‘Yeah. I thought you might help me?’
Ulrica beckons Dakota to follow her. ‘We’ll be right back.’
Once in the master bathroom, Ulrica closes the door behind them. ‘He’s off limits, Dakota. He’s not for you, Wyatt has greater plans for him, and you’re Regner’s girl, aren’t you?’
Dakota blushes and mumbles something unintelligibly.
‘Great. Now that’s settled, let’s find that paste.’ Ulrica rummages through the pharmacy. ‘Ah, here it is!’ She holds up a small tube. ‘You’ll take this paste and massage it into the wounds. It will hurt as hell, but it’s the only way to heal him without leaving ugly scars… I’ll fry some bacon and eggs, those men need something more filling than beer for breakfast.’
Dakota sees to Cade’s wounds, letting her fingers linger longer than necessary when she massages in the paste. Her heart beats so fast he must surely hear it and she can tell he’s not insensitive to her presence.
‘I need to wash my hands.’
She hurries off, but hesitates at the stairs, meeting Cades eyes an instant, sending a message. She dashes into the master bathroom but leaves the door unlocked. Quickly she washes her hands before putting some toothpaste on a finger and brushing her teeth with it. Then she checks her hair and pinches her cheeks. She pouts seductively at her image in the mirror and waits. After what seems like an eternity, she understands he isn’t coming.
‘Dunno. Probably the bathroom.’
Dakota walks back into the kitchen, rearranging her skirt, a strained smile on her face. Her eyes dart towards Cade who just smiles devilishly, focusing on Ulrica.
‘Jeez. That smells good, Ulrica. I could eat a horse!’
Rufa, Wyatt and Ulrica’s daughter, woke up when the four motorcycles roared into the driveway. She knows she is not supposed to be up this late, or early, but she is too curious to stay in bed. She has sneaked downstairs and is hiding behind the sofa. Unfortunately, she can’t hear everything that is being said but she can see what is going on under the table.
Rufa doesn’t understand what Regner’s girlfriend is doing, but from the look on Dakota’s face, she is up to no good.
Dakota is trying her best not to look flustered as she seductively massages Cade’s legs with her naked feet. To her immense disappointment, he is continuing the conversation without batting an eyelid.
Ulrica’s bacon is the best, but Dakota can’t eat. She tries to catch Cade’s eye, but he doesn’t even look her way, just keeps on eating and talking. Irritated she pulls her foot away, but Cade is faster. He grabs it in a viselike grip, making her catch her breath. Finally, he looks at her. Just a quick glance with raised eyebrows. His thumb caresses the hollow of her foot, and she gasps. OMG. This is so good…
‘Are you all right, Dakota?’ Ulrica sits down between Cade and her husband.
Did she say that out loud? ‘Err… Oh, yes. Ahem… the bacon is really good.’
Cade chuckles, finishing off his plate. ‘Yeah, but it screams for exercise…’
‘Did you just imply my bacon is too greasy?’ Ulrica teases,
Dakota adventures a quick glance at her boyfriend. Did Regner notice anything? Apparently not, he’s attentively listening to Wyatt, as usual. Dakota bites her lip trying to concentrate on her bacon, moving it around the plate while Cade continues bantering with Ulrica, his hand doing things to her foot that makes her squirm in anticipation.
At last, she gets an excuse to leave the table. Her chair almost falls as she pushes it back in her haste to help Ulrica clean away the empty plates. Regner catches Cade watching Dakota sashaying into the kitchen. Cade meets his eyes and the tension between the two men is tangible.
Wyatt clears his throat, pushing back his chair. ‘All right. Let me show you something.’
He takes them into the garage, where he pulls off a grey protection and uncovers a sleek power car.
‘Just got her back from the overhaul. New paint, new plates…’ He winks to Cade.
‘Wow… A real beaut.’ Cade whistles. ‘But lime? Isn’t it a little too… flashy?’
Wyatt scratches his unshaven chin. ‘Maybe, but the cops never check a car you can see from a mile!’
‘Yeah,’ Regner adds, ‘-and this babe’ll outrun anyone, no problem!’
Wyatt opens the hood and soon the three men are discussing the V10 engine with its new turbocharger unit. Regner seems to be an expert, and is soon on his back under the car, doing some last-minute adjustments with the Nitrous Oxide cylinders, while Wyatt is doubled over the engine with his sleeves rolled up. Nobody notices Cade slipping away.
Cade grabs Dakota as she walks past. He pulls her towards him with a hand over her mouth to keep her from screaming.
‘Shhht, babe… It’s just me.’
He turns her towards him and gestures towards the office. Dakota just nods.
As soon as they’re in the office, Cade kicks the door closed and kisses her hard. Lifting her up, he carries her over to the desk where he puts her down.
They tear at each other’s clothes, the secrecy and danger of discovery making it all the more exciting.
Cade leaves first, blowing a kiss to Dakota before whistling closing the door to the small office and joining the other men in the garage.
Dakota is walking briskly towards the living room, rearranging her clothes on the way, trying to regulate her breath and look inconspicuous, when a voice from upstairs makes her stop.
‘I saw you in the office, Dakota!’ Rufa is sitting on the stairs, a smirk on her vixen face.
‘Shut up, you little monster! Or I will tell your parents you weren’t sleeping but running around outside!’
Rufa just stares deadpan at her and reaches out her hand. ‘50 bucks.’
Dakota opens her mouth to say something but thinks better of it and pulls out a crumpled note from her skirt pocket.
Rufa throws a quick glance at it. ‘It’s only 20 $?’
The young girl pockets the money and scurries up the stairs, stopping to say, ‘You can bring me the rest next time!’
With a last menacing glance after Rufa, Dakota returns to the kitchen. The men are back from the garage, and are sitting at the table discussing vehicles.
Regner watches her with an inscrutable look on his face, blowing smoke through his nose and killing his cigarette. ‘I’ll take you home.’
‘Yeah, fine.’ Dakota’s eyes dart towards Cade. ‘Nice to meet you… and Derek.’ She glances at the still sleeping figure slumped at the table.
‘Yeah, take care, Dakota.’ Cade winks at her, making her blush deeply.
Wyatt is making some calls so he just waves at her and Regner, mouthing ‘Bye, see you,’ while continuing his conversation. ‘Yeah… ID’s… uh-huh… Tomorrow morning? OK. Fine. And a cell… Good…’
Cade almost has to drag a protesting Derek downstairs. Throwing his dirty clothes in the basket he scrutinizes his appearance in the mirror. It never ceases to amaze him how fast he heals.
‘Get in the shower, you dirty bastard! I won’t share a room with you stinking like that.’ Cade taps hot water into the tub, sinking into the steaming water with a contended sigh. ‘But then again, you can always sleep in the tub…’
‘No way!’ Derek steps into the shower, turning the water on full blast.
‘Hey, what about the tattoo?’ Cade asks.
Derek squeezes some shower gel onto a bath loofah, looking down at his hip.
‘Oh… It feels like I’ve always had it.’ He swiftly massages shower gel onto his body, hiding the grinning wolf from sight. ‘It showed when I first changed, like faint outlines, and has become darker for every time since…’
‘Really?’ Cade frowns. ‘Bran?’
‘Nothing… Something just came into my mind…’
Cade closes his eyes again, but the thoughtful frown doesn’t leave his otherwise peaceful expression.
The Wulf’s guestroom is large and smells good of wood from the new paneling. Derek sits for a while staring at the open laptop on the desk. His fingers hesitate over the keyboard. Better not venture the possibility of getting his dad safely out of the country by messaging Taïga too soon. But she’s probably worried…
Cade saunters in and switches on the flat screen TV on the wall. Slumping onto the bed, he reaches for the remote control on the bedside table.
‘Hey, Der. You should watch this… They’re talking about the fire.’
‘Huh? What fire?’ Derek swivels on the chair, resolutely closing the laptop.
‘Oh. I forgot to tell you. I set the place on fire before we left.’ Cade increases the sound.
‘You set the Insanatorium on fire?’
‘Yeah… I just emptied some gas in the garage before we left, and… Well, you know.’ Cade chuckles.
Derek stares at Cade who looks back with an innocent expression. ‘What? We couldn’t leave those “things” roaming the neighborhood now, could we?’
Derek rolls his eyes. ‘Of course not! It’s just… I could have helped you.’
Cade smiles. ‘I bet you could have!’
Appaloosa Plains Historical Society
Gracie Loveland has taken the art class to visit the small museum. The outing is a welcome break in the final exams, even though VJ would have preferred to play hooky instead of listening to some boring old woman going on and on about dusty stuff. He stifles a yawn.
Taïga waves at Teddy who is late. ‘I was starting to think you weren’t coming?’ she whispers.
‘Sorry! Did you watch the news this morning?’
‘No, I’ve been in class the whole morning.’ Taïga looks alarmed at her friend. ‘Something bad happened?’
‘Yes and no. Listen,’ he lowers his voice. ‘There was a fire at a mental institution up at the Canadian border…’
‘… and you think it’s Dementé Insanatorium?’ Taïga adds, breathless.
‘Yeah. Don’t you?’ I mean, it’s up there somewhere, and Derek…’ Teddy looks down at his hands. ‘Everyone died, Taïga. They are identifying the bodies as we’re talking…’
‘Maybe he was the one who started the fire! To cover up his tracks!’ Taïga tries to sound optimistic, but Teddy doesn’t answer right away.
‘He would never start a fire that could hurt innocent people. He loathes everything about “casualties”.’
‘So, you mean it was an accident, and he… Oh my God!’ She slaps a hand in front of her mouth, feeling her knees go weak.
‘C’mon everyone!’ Gracie Loveland calls cheerfully and claps her hands to draw attention. ‘Mrs. Curley will show us the new artifacts donated by Rodney Singleton!’
‘Booker Singleton, dear. Booker Singleton,’ Esme Curley corrects her.
All the students start out of the room, leaving an extremely worried Taïga to mull about the new information. Gracie Loveland claps her hands, waving for her to hurry up. She follows the teacher and the other students upstairs. Teddy looks worriedly over his shoulder at her. She does not look good, all pale and sweating. He waits for her to catch up and squeezes her cold hand, trying both to comfort her and getting some comfort himself but they don’t get the chance to talk again before they enter the large showroom.
‘Everything about that place is strange,’ Teddy says in a low voice. ‘There’s absolutely nothing on the net, but mom was positive he’d told her he was being sent to Dementé Insanatorium when he called her from the hospital. Then he was declared contagious and nobody’s seen or heard from him since. Just a short message to mom telling her he was taking part in some top-secret research program…’
Taïga nods, she already knows all this. ‘But Thomas hacked into the Dementé database!’* Taïga whispers back.
‘Yes. But it said the government shut it down in 1962 and just left a minimum of security guards. Remember?’
‘But we saw the list! There were lots of names!’ Taïga exclaims.
Esme Curley looks disapprovingly at them with pursed lips, tut-tutting.
Teddy leans closer towards Taïga and continues, ‘Uh-huh. Including my dad’s.’ He shakes his head. ‘I was just happy to know he was still alive, but you know my bro, he started to seriously plan a rescue mission as soon as he learned where he was kept.’
He closes his eyes and grabs Taïga’s arm to make her stay as the others follow Mrs. Curley out of the room. ‘And now this. I don’t know what to make out of it!’
Suddenly Teddy breaks down. Taïga puts her arm tentatively around his shoulders, and he doesn’t resist when she pulls him closer.
‘Shhht… I’m sure everything will work out all right…’ She tries to sound convincing, when all she wants to do is cry herself.
‘First dad…’ he sniffs. ‘Then mom… And now Derek.’
‘Hey! I’m still here.’ She holds him at arm’s length. ‘And I trust Derek completely. 100 %! If anyone can get your dad home, it’s him. And he’s got a protection spell, remember?’
Teddy dries his tears with the back of his hand and tries to smile. ‘I guess I’m ashamed. I should have gone with him. I suppose you think I’m a coward.’
‘No. You’re just not a daredevil like your brother.’
‘I wish I was…’
‘But you aren’t. And Derek needs you to be just the way you are!’
‘Do you really think so?’
‘Absolutely positive. Yin and yang!’ Teddy finally smiles and Taïga continues, ‘Let’s ask Thomas to help us to hack into CNN (Cyber News Network) and see if we can find out something more about the fire…’
Cade wakes Derek as the sun sets.
‘Wake up sleepy head! You’ve been out like a log. A snoring drooling log!’ He laughs. ‘Time is precious…’
Ten minutes later, they’re ready to leave. Shane looks worriedly at Cade driving the amazing car out from the garage, the motor purring almost soundlessly.
‘Don’t forget the clothes!’ Ulrica hands over a sack. ‘There’s some of my stuff for the girl, and some of Wade’s outgrown things…’
‘Thanks, Ulrica.’ Cade takes the sack and throws it on the backseat. ‘C’mon, Der. We have to get back to the motel before dawn!’
Shane shakes Derek’s hand. ‘Good luck, son. We’ll be here for you whenever you need us.’
‘Thank’s, Mr. Wulf. For everything.’
‘And you better bring me this baby back without a scratch, Cade!’ he shouts after them as they tear out of the driveway.
As soon as they’re out of town, Cade sighs contentedly and smiles at Derek. ‘Now, let’s see what this babe’s got under the hood…’
He puts some weight on the accelerator and the engine roars.
‘Have you fastened your seatbelt?’
He winks at Derek who quickly fastens the 5-way Camlock style harness. ‘Sure.’
With a growl the car roars forward, pushing Derek back in his seat as they go from 50 mph to 130 in a couple of seconds! Wow.
‘Wanna have a go?’
Derek looks at Cade, dead pan. ‘Ain’t that a dumb question? Pull over!’
Back at the motel everyone is awake, anxiously waiting for Cade and Derek to come back for them.
‘I’m sure I heard a car!’ Jen exclaims, jumping off the bed for the tenth time.
‘It’s a motel, Jen! There are cars coming and going all the time…’ Mitch sighs.
But this time Jen is right. Cade eases the car into an empty slot, letting the roaring motor purr to a stop.
‘I’ll sure miss this beauty,’ he mumbles, caressing the steering wheel.
Derek stops at the door to their room.
‘Are you coming, Cade?’
‘Just a sec.’
Cade throws him the sac of clothes and turns towards the motel hooker who has tripped up to their car on high heels. She runs a finger along the hood and licks her lips, glancing up at Cade under lowered lashes.
‘Nice car…’ she purrs seductively.
Jen is opening the door before Derek has the time to knock.
‘Derek! Gosh! We were so worried!’
Don hugs him hard and taps his back. ‘I knew you would make it, son!’
Derek hands the sac he got from the Wolff’s to Mitch. ‘Here. I think you’re the one who seems to need it most…’
‘Is it clean clothes?’ Jen looks inquiringly at Derek and snatches the sac from Mitch. ‘I think I need it more!’
Mitch snatches it back and hurries into the bathroom, closing the door in her face. ‘I promise I’ll leave you the lacey stuff!’
Jen swears under her breath and checks for Cade. ‘Where’s Cade?’
Derek nods towards the door. ‘Outside. He had some… Err… business to take care of.’ He continues talking in a low voice to his dad.
Nervously biting on her nails, Jen turns towards the window.
There is movement outside. Curious, she peeks under the drawn blinds.
She winces when she sees how the motel hooker sneaks up to Cade, whispering something in his ear.
Cade recoils from the woman’s touch, holding her at arm’s length and saying something Jen can’t make out.
She quickly backs away from the window as Cade makes his way back in, leaving the woman staring yearningly after him.
Once again, Derek and Cade sleep on the floor and only get a couple of hours rest before their taxi is honking outside at dawn. Mitchell and Jen don’t even wake up when Cade leaves the motel with Derek and his father in tow.
Cade slides into the backseat, motioning for Derek to ride shotgun. ‘I need to talk to your dad.’
He bends towards the driver and gives him the address, adding, ‘I wouldn’t mind some music.’
The driver nods and turns up the sound, making Derek wince as Indian Bollywood music blare out of the high speakers. Cade leans towards Don and starts talking in a low whisper, sure Derek can’t hear them with the loud music on.
What Cade says makes Don thoughtful.
He decides to trust Cade, telling him the essential about his research at the Insanatorium, how they had tried to make him talk about his discoveries and inventions. They obliged him to construct a kind of android, surveilling his every move but he didn’t give up his secret about the artificial brain. He couldn’t let the army lay hands on something that could be used as a weapon.
The staff were very well informed about quantum physics and his advances with time travelling, trying to torture the formulas out of him.
The taxi takes them through Sleepy Creek and a long way into the woods on the far side of the river. Derek tries to listen in on the conversation in the backseat, but only catches bribes; blackmail, androids, robots… He finally renounces and lets his thoughts wander back to the day he left Appaloosa Plains.
If we can get overseas to Egypt without getting caught, I would be able to get back home in a couple of weeks. In time to graduate and no one would be any wiser… That would be just perfect. I wonder if Taïga is worried… Teddy promised he’d watch over her, but still…
He closes his eyes briefly, smiling to himself.
The taxi finally stops in front of a traditional Canadian timber cabin where a tall, scruffy man is impatiently waiting for them in the morning mist.
‘C’mon, Derek. You must meet Pieter!’ Cade jumps out of the taxi, leaving Don to settle the fare.
Pieter Green is not a man of many words. ‘Dwayne called me yesterday, and everything is ready. I just need to take some ID pics.’
They settle in the living room while Pieter starts rummaging through the papers on a desk.
‘Flo?’ He lifts a pile of papers, looking beneath. ‘I’m sure it’s here somewhere…’ he mutters to himself.
His mother brings him his reflex camera. ‘It was in the kitchen, Pieter.’
Pieter takes it and motions for Don to follow him.
Flo looks expectantly at Cade and Derek.
‘Would you like to have some tea? And I just baked some chocolate cookies! With honey from our own bees.’
The clouds have grown steadily churlish, the rain going from a light mist to a steady drizzle as the same afternoon, they arrive in Calgary. Cade drives into one of the YYC airport carparks and turns off the ignition.
‘There’s a shuttle leaving every ten minutes or so. Have you got everything?’
Derek pats his jacket and feels for his two passports. ‘Yeah.’
He turns around and nudges his father who has fallen asleep. ‘Dad?’ Don wakes with a start and looks bewildered around him. ‘We’ve arrived at the airport, dad.’
They get out of the car, and Jen starts crying as she hugs him.
‘I’ll really miss you… Will you stay in touch? Maybe come visit in Vegas?’
Derek hugs her back, a little uncomfortable by her tears. ‘Yeah, I’ll try to.’ He shakes Mitch’s hand. ‘Take good care of her, she’s a nice girl.’
Mitch just nods.
‘The shuttle is coming!’ Don points towards a large bus slowing down to a halt on the other side of the road.
‘Yeah. Well. We made it, bro.’ Cade slaps Derek’s hand in a high five.
‘Yeah. Seems we did.’
‘Hurry up, son! The shuttle will leave without us!’ Don gesticulates to him, already crossing the road.
Derek hesitates as if he wanted to say something more, then just turns and hurries after his father.
Derek and his dad have finally boarded the flight, after all families with kids and other priority passengers. The seats are spacious, and Don immediately starts fiddling with the console, checking the films available. Derek fires up the iPad, checking for new mails.
‘Excuse me, sir, but you’ll have to turn off your iPad.’ The dry voice of the airhostess makes Derek startle.
‘Just a second, miss…’ His smiles apologetically, concentrating on the important message from his mom. His fingers fly over the touchscreen. “We’re on the plane. Take off in twenty minutes…”
“There’ll be a package waiting in a locker at the airport with a change of clothes for your father…”
13 hours later, Derek retrieves a small package from the locker at the Cairo International airport, while Don is nervously waiting in the men’s room. The package contains clothes which Derek hands him under the door. After some banging and swearing, Don walks self-consciously out wearing a comfortable Egyptian gallibaya.
Straightening the tarboosh on his head, he asks, ‘What do you think?’
Derek stares at his dad emerging from the toilet stall. Repressing a smile, he mumbles, ‘Perfect. Now let’s get out of here.’
The airport is milling with people, but no one – not even the military police patrolling with dogs – even glance at Derek and Don as they make their way through the crowd towards the exit.
Huffing and puffing, a fat man works his way up the taxi line, and resolutely jumps into the last cab, pushing Don aside. Derek swears, but there’s nothing they can do but wait outside in the suffocating heat for a new cab to show up.
A large white Hummer slows down, silently stopping on the sidewalk. The tinted windows roll down and an outstretched arm signals for them to approach.
‘You’re expected. Get in.’
Don and Derek look at each other as they warily approach the large car. A man in his forties is waiting in the cool back seat, signaling for them to join him.
‘My name is Hassan Kader. I’m a friend of Dwayne Wolff.’
When Derek is about to get in after his father, M. Kader stops him, nodding towards the front seat. ‘You can sit with the driver, I have to talk to your father.’
The car slides silently onto the highway, direction downtown Cairo. Derek can see out of the corner of his eye how Kader hands his father a large brown envelope.
‘There are keys to a secluded villa on the outskirts of Cairo, a new passport for you and your wife-’
Don opens the envelope and peers inside. ‘Wow.’
‘-and 10,000 $. It’s a loan, of course. To help you settle in.’
Don nods, putting the envelope in his inner pocket.
‘Now we shall go to the marketplace and meet with your lovely wife. She’s having lunch with Zaki Taymur, the son of a dear friend of mine, Ali Taymur. The shipping magnate.’ He stops, looking expectantly at Don who looks blankly back. ‘Ahem. He will guide you to your new home…’
The traffic is dense, and the ride takes longer than expected. When they finally reach their destination it’s already 3 p.m. The usually busy shops are closed, and the marketplace lays almost deserted. They try not to hurry, but leisurely walk like the inhabitants, towards the small restaurant where they can see Derek’s mother’s red hair standing out against the environment like a beacon…
Part II – End of Chapter 18