Trust

Jeff casually turns right, his steady hands piloting the blue Jaguar toward the river.

“Wait.” Sammie reads the street signs, confused. “The highway’s back there. I thought we were going to--“

“Not yet,” he interrupts.

Sammie watches him. He could be out for a calm Sunday drive except that his pale blue eyes constantly flick from the road to the mirrors, assessing their situation like one of those chess masters thinking six moves ahead. The throbbing music grates on her nerves. “Can we at least change the station?”

“How long have you been friends with Dom and Melissa?”

The banality of the question surprises her. “About a year. Actually it was a month before you came along. Sarah and I met them at the Bright Wire recruiting fair.” She remembers Sarah bribing her with the promise of Cheesecake Factory to get her out of their apartment. Sammie didn’t believe any company would hire new college grads in a recession, but Sarah insisted that the government contractor was desperate for smart data analysts. She was right. “We were all hired at the same time.”

“Do you trust them?”

“You’ve got a lot of nerve asking that. We both know you didn’t accidentally bump into me at the taco truck outside my office. For all I know, you’re still just using me for access.” She searches his face for a reaction. He just raises an eyebrow, repeating the question without saying a word. “I know more about Dom than I know about you, but I don’t know who to trust anymore. Why?”

“Because that’s Dom’s Jeep behind us.”

Sammie peers over her shoulder but can only make out two bright orbs. “I’m not surprised if it is. You tackled me in front of the whole restaurant and left them all standing on the sidewalk. They have to be worried.”

“Maybe,” Jeff says almost to himself. He slows to a stop at the traffic light, still watching the mirrors.

Dom drums his thick fingers on the steering wheel as he pulls up behind Jeff’s Jaguar. He glances at Melissa who is tapping furiously at some app on her phone. She hasn’t said a word since they left the restaurant. “Heading east, huh?”

Melissa rolls her eyes. “Maybe he’s taking the scenic route. Just stick with him and don’t follow so close.” She pulls a Bluetooth earphone from her purse and inserts it in her ear. It blinks madly, but she doesn’t say anything else.

“This is all too weird,” Dom grumbles, tugging at his curly black beard. “I’m getting some answers.” He flings the door open and leaps to the asphalt.

“Wait,” Melissa shouts, but Dom is already approaching Jeff’s car like a bear about to raid a campsite. “How subtle,” she sighs as she slides into the driver’s seat and shifts the Jeep into gear.

Dom raps on Jeff’s window, peering into the car. “What the hell are you doing? Sammie, are you alright?”

The Jaguar’s engine roars and Dom leaps back as the tires launch the blue car through the red light and into the busy intersection. The Jag snakes between two cars and a city bus, which groans to a crooked halt in the middle of the street. Dom turns around and narrowly dives out of the way as Melissa rockets past him in his Jeep. He rolls up against the curb and watches her careen around the bus in pursuit of Jeff and Sammie.

“What the hell is going on?” Dom shouts, but he can’t hear his own voice over the sound of the blood pulsing in his ears. He staggers to his feet just as Sarah’s hatchback screeches to a halt beside him and the door pops open.

“Don’t just stand there gawking!” Sarah revs the little car’s engine. Dom dives into the passenger seat and yanks the door closed while she launches them through the intersection. “You’re lucky I stopped for you after you left me at the restaurant.”

“Sorry.” Dom fumbles with the seatbelt as the Ford scuttles around a corner. “This is my first car chase. I wasn’t aware of the proper etiquette.”

“What did you do to Melissa to make her want to run you over?”

“Nothing!” He finally gets the buckle to click. “Everyone’s gone nuts.”

“Crap.” Sarah slows down to normal traffic speed.

“What?”

“I can’t tell where they went.” They both search for some sign of their friends in the long red string of taillights dotting the road ahead.

“OK. Let’s think.” Dom pinches the end of his beard. “Sammie’s been your best friend for years. Any idea where they could be going?”

Sarah searches her brain for some clue Sammie might have dropped. She knows her friend has been spending a lot more time with Jeff, but a couple of weeks ago she started acting all uptight, like she was keeping a secret. Sarah figured it was about Jeff and had tried every trick she could think of to get Sammie to spill the beans, but trying to get a secret out of Sammie was like trying to pry open a safe with her fingernails. She had hoped something might come up tonight at dinner, but then Jeff...

Sarah’s knuckles go white on the steering wheel. “What if he hurts her?”

“Whoa. Don’t think like that.” Dom catches the glint of headlights in a tear rolling down her cheek and puts his hand over hers. She’s quivering, and he feels like he’s trying to comfort a frightened dove. “You know Jeff would never hurt Sammie.”

“No. We don’t know anything about him! He could be doing exactly the opposite of what we think.”

Her words send something clattering through his memory and a grin slowly cuts across his face. “If I had a brain, I could be dangerous.”

“What?” She hastily wipes the tears away with her slender fingers, hope lighting up her wide brown eyes. “Tell me what you’re thinking before I rip that poodle fur off your face.”

“For some reason Melissa seemed sure they would take the highway east. Maybe we can still find them.”

The End

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