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- XVIII -

I got to my apartment building in record time of four minutes. I didn’t even bother with waiting for the elevator, I just ran upstairs. While I was running, I kept calling myself every single name in the book. "Dumbass" was probably the mildest one. I expected my door to be unlocked and when it was indeed, I just swore out loud.

I burst inside, knowing that the damn apartment was empty. Son of a bitch! Mickey’s out of the hospital, Tanner is trying everything to keep me away from coming back here… Goddammit!

I have no idea how I knew that someone was behind me. I mean, I was almost panicking. But I knew that someone was behind me so I whirled around and threw my right arm up at the weird angle. She made a very surprised grunt when my wrist collided with her face and staggered backwards.

She pressed her hands against her face and looked at me with huge eyes. I pushed her against the wall, making sure that she couldn’t possibly knee me in the groin. That would be bad. I was pissed off. At my own stupidity mostly.

"Where is he?" I asked in a low voice and she tried to weasel out of my grip. But as I said, I was pissed off so I squeezed her throat harder.

She squeaked and clawed at my hand.

"Where is he?" I repeated.

Her eyes started to bulge out and I released my grip slightly. She gasped air and immediately coughed. Then I remembered what Dylan said recently. "I wonder if she has a concealed weapon permit." I ran my hand over her hips and sure enough, there was a gun underneath her jacket. I pulled it out and snorted when I saw a silencer. She managed to bite my hand and I slapped her so hard that her head jerked backwards and hit the wall hard.

"Don’t fuck with me, Ms. Waters", I hissed at her. "Where is he?!"

"I…" she gulped some air. "Don’t know… Let go of me!"

I clicked the safety off and gave her a very nasty smile.

"If I kill you right now, it’ll be just a simple case of self-defense", I murmured. "Breaking and entering on your part, catching you in the act on mine. Now for the last time… Where is he?!"

"I don’t know", she muttered, her eyes huge as if she was mesmerized by the gun barrel. "I swear, I don’t know…"

"What the hell were you doing here?" I demanded. "Speak, damn you!"

I shook her and her teeth clanked.

"I…" she blinked rapidly. "I had to make sure that you don’t…"

"Get in the way", I finished her sentence with a small nod. "Got it."

I doubted that she would’ve shot me. Too messy. That meant there had to be something else. I quickly searched her pockets. When I found a white plastic syringe that was filled with clear liquid, I almost laughed.

"You were supposed to knock me out so I stay put until they are done with him", I said.

Her eyes flashed helpless anger at me. I put my hand with the gun into my pocket and released my grip on her throat. It was really bizarre but right now I didn’t feel anything even close to doubt or remorse. I could care less if I had to hurt her or anyone else for that matter. Maybe I’ll worry about it later or maybe not, who knows.

"Now walk slowly in front of me", I said calmly. "And please believe me when I say this… I’ll kill you the minute you try anything that looks even remotely funny to me. Are we clear?"

She nodded slowly.

"Good", I muttered. "Now go. Towards your car."

We went outside and she was a good girl. Didn’t try anything, didn’t even look around. When we got to her Ford, I put my hand onto her shoulder.

"Give me your car keys", I said softly and she did just that.

I have no idea what I looked like right then but I guess I looked convincing enough for her. I unlocked the door.

"Get in", I said and she obeyed.

I got behind the wheel, started the car, and looked at the clock. Two thirty. Good. It was funny how the plan just bloomed in my head. I didn’t even have to think about it. I just hoped that I’ll manage to work it in time before Mickey (and I was sure it was Mickey’s brilliant idea all along) will send Dylan to the great beyond. If he will, then help him God.

****

I glanced in the rearview mirror. There was nobody behind me. Excellent. I took a sudden right turn and Dinah grunted when her head promptly smacked into the window.

"Where are we going?" she asked evenly but I could hear badly hidden fear in her voice.

I didn’t answer her and just kept on driving. Finally the surroundings satisfied me and I slammed on the brake. We were in the middle of the field behind the airport, nobody around, not a single car in sight. Dinah clasped her hands in her lap and looked at me, her lips pressed tightly.

"Listen…" she said finally. "I am sorry for breaking into your apartment, okay? But…" she took a shaky breath. "I don’t know what your role in this whole thing is but… You don’t know what he is capable of… I’ve done a hell of the research on him and…He is the one who attacked Michael Harvey… I also think that he is the one who murdered William Vaughn in…"

"I know what he is capable of", I interrupted her and glanced at the clock. Three ten. "I know that better than anyone else, believe me. And you’ve got the facts wrong. Dylan didn’t kill Vaughn." I smiled at her without baring my teeth. "I did", I said simply and she stared at me without blinking.

Now I know what you are thinking. I should’ve pumped her full of whatever crap she had in that syringe of hers, throw her out of the car and let her deal with a hell of a headache when she wakes up. I guess that’s what I would’ve done a year ago. Hell, even three days ago! But not now. Not anymore. If I leave her out here, then she might cause a problem for me and Dylan later, when she wakes up. And did I want that? No. Plus I had plans for that syringe later on anyway. So before she could say anything else, I pulled that gun out of my pocket, pressed it against her temple, and pulled the trigger.

I marveled at the small hole in her skull for several seconds and then she slumped down in her seat. I clicked the safety back on, shoved the gun under my belt, and got out of the car. She weight maybe a hundred and ten pounds at the most so shoving her into the trunk wasn’t difficult at all. I looked at myself carefully, making sure that I didn’t get any blood on me. That would be bad. Finally I was satisfied with my self-inspection, got into the car and drove towards the road. It was three twenty five.

…I was surprised at how light the traffic was. I got to the Seventh Continent at three fifty, it was impressive. I parked on the side of the road and walked towards the parking garage. I guess I got lucky because I had no idea how to find Tanner’s car. But I saw it almost right away. There it was, on the first level, close to the elevators. I laughed to myself softly and walked towards it.

I went towards the soda machine and started fumbling in my pockets as if looking for spare change. I glanced around, making sure there was nobody in sight. Finally, after I was positive I was alone on the floor, I dashed towards Tanner’s car, carefully shot all four tires, feeling thankful to Dinah for the silencer, and when I got out of the garage and walked towards the dark Ford parked on the other side of the street, it was four ten.

I started the car and drove towards the airport, making sure that I follow every single driving rule in the book. Getting pulled over while I am driving someone else’s car with its owner dead in the trunk would be very bad indeed.

When I got to the airport it was four twenty seven. I had no idea what airline I needed so I marched towards the information counter.

"Hi", I said to the gal behind it when she looked at me with tired eyes. "I have to meet someone and I don’t know the flight number…" I smiled sheepishly. "I know that it lands at four forty and that it’s from Wisconsin."

I was taking my chances with Wisconsin. I mean, according to the web site Dylan found, Tanner’s magazine was located in Wisconsin. The minute I thought of Dylan, my hands started to shake. I clenched them into fists, making sure that I don’t look like someone who is suffering from bad drug withdrawal.

The gal behind the counter sighed and typed something in her computer.

"There are several flights from Wisconsin", she said and I cursed silently. "But only one of them lands at four forty. Gate B seventeen."

"Thank you so much!" I said sincerely and gave her my best smile.

"You are welcome", she smiled back.

I walked towards the escalator and checked my watch. Four thirty three. Perfect timing.

****

The flight landed on time and I was watching the people coming towards me like a hawk. Finally I saw her. She looked just like the photograph. Shiny blonde hair, sharp features. She wasn’t smiling, she was looking around with puzzled eyes. I walked up to her.

"Jenny?" I said and she looked at me with puzzlement.

"Yeah", she said and I thought that her voice sounded like she was twelve or something.

"Hi", I smiled brightly. "I am Connor, Tanner’s friend. His car broke down in the middle of the road so he called me and begged me to come and get you…"

"Oh", she said doubtfully.

I blinked and pulled my phone out.

"God", I said quickly. "I’m sorry! I probably sound like some creepy kidnapper, huh… Here, let me call him…" I started punching number pad on my phone. "He sounded really stressed out", I muttered. "I hope he hears his phone meowing…"

That made her laugh.

"It’s okay", she said. "I just didn’t expect this… How bad is his car?"

"Nothing too major", I closed my phone and shoved it in my pocket. "Tire blew. But he said he didn’t have a spare so…"

"Yeah", she laughed again. "That sounds like him, all right."

I smiled at her again.

"You have any luggage?"

"No", she shook her head. "Just this bag", and she slapped the bag on her shoulder.

"Let me get it for you", I said and she handed me the bag with visible relief.

The bag was somewhat heavy so I could understand why she looked so happy to finally be rid of it. We walked out of the airport and got to the dark Ford in less than ten minutes. She slid into the passenger seat and buckled her seat belt. I dumped her bag into the back seat and when she looked at me questioningly, I shrugged and said apologetically:

"My trunk is full of junk… I never empty the darn thing."

She smiled at that and closed the door. I walked around the car, opened the driver’s door, got in, and briefly wondered why the hell I don’t feel bad about what I’ve done and what I am about to do. Finally I shrugged it off. Who cares. I guess Dylan and I were truly made for each other since he never showed any remorse either. I started the car and soon enough I drove out of the parking lot into the road.
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