Three hours later Sandra and Garith were sitting cross-legged between two rusty cots arguing like teenaged siblings.
“You keep saying you want my help, but you never tell me exacting what is going on!” Sandra almost shouted.
“I told you as much as I could.” His jaw was as taught as hers.
“Well it wasn’t enough—so tell me more.”
“It’s very confusing.”
“Confusing? I can handle confusing. It was always confusing before.” Her anger made her stomach throb with pain. Because he did not have the tools to access the information he wanted from her ‘blueprint’ remotely, he had had to perform a minor surgery in the motel room to remove it.
He had turned away from her when he put on a clean pair of black gloves. He did not want her to see his hands. And frankly, with what she was about to go through on her mind, she did not want to see his hands again.
She could not remember being more terrified of him than she had been a few hours before when he had disinfected her stomach, injected her with a painkiller, opened a briefcase of equipment, and approached her with a fine-bladed knife. She had forced her emotions to detach from her reason and held herself still and calm. His resolve had wavered before he made the first incision. He had stopped and walked away, standing for a long moment with his back to her. Then he had turned back, and with calm, steady hands he had performed the surgery. It was one of those things that one wished would go quickly but managed to seem to take for ever.
“There is not time to explain more.” He used a few keys on the small machine he had set up on the floor to move the image around. The screen glowed an eerie green and displayed a complicated map of some sort of machine.
“If someone is after you, why don’t you just run away and hide?”
“No were to hide.”
“I don’t believe that. Hop planes till you get to Greenland. Find yourself a desert hideout. There are always places to hide.”
“Look,” he spoke without looking at her. He was just talking to make her stop asking questions. “There’s more at stake here than my personal safety.”
“What, that stupid machine of yours? Or some new harebrained scheme?”
He glanced at his watch and avoided answering her questions by saying, “we have go soon. They’ll be here in a couple hours.”
“Who will be here in a couple hours. Who?”
“Sssh,” he said, glancing about nervously.
There was a knock on the door. Garith jumped slightly. “They should not be here yet,” he whispered.
Sandra looked questioningly at the door, “do we answer?” she whispered.
He shook his head.
Someone tried the door and found it locked. Garith began quickly disassembling the machine. Another knock, then a young woman’s voice said through the door, “I know you are in there.”
Sandra looked questioningly at Garith. Without looking up from the work his hands were busily doing, Garith said in a barely audible whisper, “I don’t know who she is.”
“Please,” said the woman at the door, “I just want to talk. Please just listen to me. I need your help. I’m on your side, I promise.”
Garith raised his voice and said through clenched teeth, “There are no sides in this game. Now go away. Get yourself uninvolved, if you can.”
There was an audible sigh on the other side of the door. “It’s too late for that.”
“Well, I’m sure that the farther away you are from me, the safer you are. So get.”
“Please, just listen to me.” Sandra though she detected tears in the voice and realized just how young the girl on the other side of the door must be.
“Alright, start talking.”
“But is it safe—” began the girl, but Garith cut her off.
“Talking through the door will make little difference at this point. Nothing is safe.”
“Alright. I suppose you are right.” There was a pause, and then the girl began. Her voice was so quiet that Sandra and Garith had to strain to hear it. Garith paused what he was doing and sat perfectly still.
“Errand thinks he knows where the children are hidden. He is very sure of it, actually. I think there was a traitor somehow involved, but I don’t know.”
“Where does he think they are?” asked Garith, intense interest written in the sharp angles of his face.
Children? Sandra was surprised by this new development. Very surprised.
“I don’t know. I never heard him say where. But he is very sure of it and he is planning to attack them. On the twenty fourth of December. I think he is going to kill them all.” her voice caught on these last words.
“Tell me, do you know whose children they are?” Garith asked, rising silently to his feet and beginning to move towards the door.
“Then trust me, you don’t care for them enough to risk telling me all of this. Who are you?”
“Nobody. I’m just, a, listener,” came the nervous reply.
Garith was at the door now and Sandra stood up too.
“You’ve said rather too much for a listener. They’ll kill you for it, you know.”
“No, they won’t kill me, I—”
With one swift movement he unlocked the door, opened it, grabbed the girl standing right outside by the arm, pulled her into the room and closed and locked the door. She gave a little squeal of surprise and fear. Holding her wrists in his hand he pushed her up against the door so that she could not see the rest of the room.
The look of pure terror in the teenager’s face right away made Sandra pity her.
“Now, who are you?” Garith spoke in a low voice.
“Please don’t hurt me. I just wanted to warn you.” He was shaking and her voice was soft and high.
“How can I take a messenger’s word if I don’t know who they are or who sent them?”
“I, I, I work for Errand. Or, well I used to. Used to be his secretary.”
“Secretary?” asked Garith. “No, I don’t think so. You look too much like him to be his secretary. His niece, or daughter maybe? Yes, I remember hearing that he had a daughter. That’s you, isn’t it?”
She nodded slightly, her big brown eyes were still wide and terrified and Sandra wanted to interrupt and console the poor girl, but didn’t quite dare.
“Hmm,” said Garith. They he released her and stepped away so that she slumped against the door, taking frightened little gasps of air. Garith returned to his machine and quickly began reassembling it. Sandra stood, between the girl and Garith, not sure what to do. When she received no instructions from Garith, she stepped towards the girl and gently took her shoulder and led her to one of the cots.
“Come, have a seat,” She said softly. “It’ll be alright.” The girl hid her face in her hands and began to sob quietly. Sandra gently rubbed the girl’s back and comfortingly squeezed her shoulder.
“What are you going to do with her?” Sandra asked Garith.
“I don’t know,” he spoke without looking up. He had reassembled the machine and the green screen was glowing again. “How did you find us here, Girl?”
“I overheard some of them talking and made a guess. Please let me go.”
Garith seemed to find what he was looking for on the blueprint because he stopped scrolling and leaned forward slightly to rapidly read some small text that Sandra couldn’t see from where she was sitting.
“There’s no time for that now,” he said as he shut of the screen and one again began disassembling the machine. A moment later he was pushing pieces of the contraption into his large leather briefcase. He snapped it closed and stood up. “Let’s go. Our time is up here.” He went and opened the door. Sandra began to stand up. “Come with us quietly and quickly,” he spoke now to the girl, “if you value your life.”
She came. His cellphone rang softly as they stepped into the hall. Garith grabbed Sandra’s wrist and began to run. Sandra caught the girl’s hand and followed.