Another Tuesday, another chapter. This is getting so…routine. 🙂 Poor you, you get to read a cool book on a regular schedule.
And now, strap yourselves in for another chapter of The Pericles Conspiracy. We’re now about a third of the way through; it’ll take a few more months to reach the end. As always, if you don’t want to wait you can go buy it (it’s available in ebook and trade paperback) from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, or iTunes.
Against A Wall
“Son of a bitch,” Malcolm swore, and he floored it. The van surged ahead, but the pursuing car was smaller and probably souped up with a law enforcement motor. They were not going to outrun the agents, not in this rig.
Malcolm took a right hand turn so quickly that the passenger side wheels came up off the road momentarily. Jo slid into the van’s wall, jarring her sore shoulder, and winced.
“Be careful, Malcolm. It won’t do us any good to crash!”
Malcolm blanched and sent her a reproachful look. Raul’s look was more speculative. Jo gasped as she realized what she had just done. Stupid, stupid! It’s not like she had not been in stressful scenarios before. Why was she losing her cool this time?
The answer came to her as soon as she asked the question. She had been in hard situations before, even a few life-or-death ones. But she had never faced a high probability of arrest and incarceration before. Sure, she had been arrested just a couple weeks ago, but she had not really believed any harm would come to her when it happened. This time…
That was no excuse, though. Malcolm had not told Raúl his real name for a reason, and she had just blown it for him. She flushed in embarrassment as she gave Malcolm an apologetic look. He did not see it, though; he was focusing on the road.
He made another right hand turn at the first intersection, but did it slower this time and under more control. Jo noticed the pursuers entering the last intersection as the van completed the turn and blanched. The agents almost certainly saw them.
Malcolm turned to the right again at his first opportunity and Raúl said, “Whatchu doing, man? You’re just making a circle.”
“If we’re lucky,” Malcolm replied as he jerked the wheel hard to center the van on the road before flooring the accelerator again. “They’ll miss at least one of these turns. If that happens, they’ll continue on and we’ll be going the opposite direction.”
Raúl snorted. “Don’t matter, man. They’re probably calling in the local cops for help.”
Jo snorted and Malcolm shook his head. “No they’re not. They want to keep this under wraps.”
Raúl looked inquisitively at him and Jo could see he was doing some figuring in his head. It would not be a big stretch to put two and two together. He just might decide it would be worth it to turn them in, maybe get a reward. Jo flexed her fingers unconsciously, the way she used to do before starting a sparring session with her father.
“It didn’t work,” Raúl said, his tone one of near panic.
And he was right. In the rearview, the pursuit car rounded around the corner and sped toward them, making up ground at an alarming rate.
Malcolm swore under his breath and glanced at Raúl, then Jo. “Any ideas?”
Jo shook her head; she had nothing.
Raúl pursed his lips in thought for a moment then pushed himself out of the seat and slid past Jo into the back of the van. “I might have something back here that can help,” he said. He began opening one locker after another and hurriedly sifting through the contents. “It’s here,” he murmured. “I know it’s here.”
“Help him,” Malcolm said, but Jo was already on it. She went to the the lockers on the other side of the van from Raúl and started looking inside them.
“What am I looking for?”
Raúl replied, “Looks like a thick magic marker, except it has a button on one side and a transmitter element at the end.”
Jo blinked. “A transmitter?”
“It sends out a burst of electronic noise that’s tuned to disrupt a car’s computer systems. Cops use it to avoid high speed chases.”
Jo shut the locker and moved on to the next one. “You mean like we’re in right now?”
“Yeah. Wonder why they haven’t…”
Raul’s words were cut off by a loud crunching sound as the van shuddered and spun off course. He and Jo fell to the floor as tires squealed, a motor revved, and Malcolm shouted a curse. The van continued to skid. Jo looked forward and saw, through the windshield, a hardware store on the side of the street. They were heading straight toward it. Malcolm clawed at the wheel, but only managed to turn the van a fraction of the amount needed to avoid crashing.
They hit the storefront a few degrees from broadside, smashing through the display windows with a loud crash. The van tilted, then rolled over onto its side as impact absorbing foam flowed from the walls and ceiling. All Jo could see was pink foam, the only sounds were the squealing of the van’s steel body as it slid further into the store and repeated crashes as it knocked over display cabinets, countertops, and machinery. Then there was another tremendous crash and the van stopped.
* * * * *
The foam absorbed the worst of the impact, but as she got to her hands and knees Jo nevertheless felt bruised and battered all over. Raúl lay in a heap in front of her, his left arm bent at an unnatural angle. From up in the cockpit, Malcolm groaned softly.
Jo got to her feet and staggered over to Raúl. Her movements were slowed by the foam as much as by pain. She had to force her way through the stuff. Supposedly it would dissolve in a few seconds, now that the collision was over, but for the moment it was a serious impediment. Finally she got to him and crouched down.
“You ok, Raúl?” she asked as she felt for his pulse.
At her touch, Raúl jerked up to a sitting position. “What the fuck…” he began. Then he let out a strangled cry and doubled over, clutching at his broken arm. “Hijo de puta,” he muttered through clenched teeth.
“Can you stand? We need to get out of here.”
He nodded and Jo helped him to his feet. It was beginning to get easier to move; the foam must have begun to dissolve.
“Malcolm, can you move?” Jo called.
In response, Jo saw two feet rise out of the foam and begin kicking at he windshield. Once. Twice. Three times. Then the bottom – or rather the passenger side – of the windshield popped out of its frame, leaving a gap they could probably crawl through.
Jo put her arm around Raul’s shoulder and helped him forward while Malcolm got to his feet. He took in Raul’s condition at a glance and grimaced. Then he slipped through the gap in the windshield and pulled it out a bit further from the other side.
“Let’s go!” Malcolm hissed.
Jo helped maneuver Raúl through the opening. As broad as his shoulders were, it was a tight fit. He ended up jarring his bad arm on the way out, and for a moment there Jo thought he would either pass out or refuse to go on.
Then Malcolm, who had stood up to look over the van toward the street, hissed, “They’re almost here. Move your ass.”
That was apparently all the encouragement Raúl needed. He gritted his teeth and began moving again. Jo helped him with a vigorous push that left him sprawled on the ground, then followed him out.
The store was a wreck. No big surprise there, but the destruction was still impressive to look at. Shelves were toppled, products smashed. A column had smashed the rear portion of the van and was itself split and leaning over at an acute angle. The ceiling, about three meters tall elsewhere in the store, was sagging around the pillar; it clearly had been a load-bearing structure.
Jo straightened and looked over the the hulk of the van. And cringed. The sedan that had been pursuing them was a crumpled hunk of metal wrapped around a light pole on the other side of the street. One person lay sprawled on the sidewalk, where he had apparently been thrown from the sedan on impact. The remaining passengers, three of them, were clawing through slowly dissolving foam and out the sedan’s windows. Two were strangers, but Jo recognized Agent Moore without difficulty.
“What happened?” Jo breathed as Malcolm helped Raúl to his feet.
“They came up faster than I expected and rammed us,” he replied.
Agent Moore and one of her companions made it out of the car. He took a moment on his knees to catch his breath, but she was up on her feet in a flash, plasma pistol clutched in both hands, the barrel pointing toward the street for the moment.
“Ngubwe! Ishikawa! There are more units on the way. You can’t escape, so come out with your hands up.”
Jo found herself sliding her hand to the small of her back, where she had tucked DiStefano’s weapon. If Agent Moore thought she was going to just surrender – a certain death sentence at this point – she was sorely mistaken.
Malcolm’s hand on her shoulder stopped her from pulling the weapon. “Not like this, Jo. Come on, out the back.”
Jo nodded and the men moved out. She waited for a moment, just long enough to see the third agent make his escape, then she turned to go.
She found Malcolm and Raúl at the back of the shop. They looked distressed. It only took a moment to figure out why. There were two doors in back. One led to a small office, the other to a bathroom. There was no rear entrance and, at first glance at least, no windows either.
“Oh no,” Jo breathed. She looked over her shoulder. The streetlights outside cast long shadows from the three agents as they approached the overturned van. They were getting closer. It would take a moment for them to climb over the van, but then it would be all over. “What do we do?”
Raúl leaned against the wall and winced, then shut his eyes and shook his head. Malcolm’s eyes went to the ground and he sighed.
“I guess we get arrested.”
* * * * *
I hope you enjoyed this chapter of The Pericles Conspiracy. Stay tuned in a few days for the next chapter, or, if you don’t want to bother waiting half a year to read the entire book, you can always go buy it (it’s available in ebook and trade paperback) from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, or iTunes.