Chapter 33: Tracking
Deena paused at the door, examining the lock she had destroyed. Was there anything still in the apartment that could identify her?
She was wearing her shoes, the only things of hers that had not been ruined. Bloody clothes were under her arm, wrapped in two layers of black plastic bags.
All the rest of my mess is anonymous, I hope.
It was morning. She took a cautious route out of the apartment complex. All she had to do was get away from Katy’s door unobserved.
In her new body, she was totally unknown. I don’t even have a name.
But that was okay. She wasn’t trying to set up a new life here. She just needed to find Luther, and hopefully Katy.
And to do that, she needed to find the man who shot her.
The street met the highway. Traffic was flowing both directions.
“Twenty-seven miles long and a block wide,” he said. Which way to I go?
Thompson watched Ruben edge back behind Leo’s chair. The animal was sensitive to his master’s distress.
“Angelo won’t appreciate it if I keep the Haskell boy any longer than necessary, but I need information and he won’t give it to me.” Leo looked at him. “I need your skills.”
“You don’t need the secretary?”
Leo shook his head. “Whatever it takes. But regardless, I’ll need to ship the boy to Vegas tomorrow. She doesn’t need to come along.”
Deena only made it two miles north along the highway before her leg cramped.
“You need to stretch before running that fast,” called a helpful jogger over on the beach.
She knew about stretches, but not how to do them. The running had come so naturally back at home, but these muscles were new, fresh grown, and something wasn’t quite right.
Okay you nanobots, fix it. The cramp eased as she worked the leg, sitting in the sand and looking at the buildings up on the hills.
I can’t just run back and forth along this highway and expect to find Luther. I need a plan.
But she had no way to track either Luther or the people who had killed her. I need a bloodhound, and a scrap of his clothing, like in the movies.
Radio bands were blasting away, much more congested than what she listened to in Crescent City. Cell phone chatter in particular was so widespread as to be nothing but noise. Any chances she had of listening in to a recognizable voice were limited. Someone would have to be within a few feet of her.
I have no information to go on. She only assumed Luther was still in Malibu. There were a zillion people in the Los Angeles area just down the road. Even if all of them lined up for her inspection, she’d never find them in time.
Cautiously putting her weight back on her leg, she walked slowly back towards Katy’s apartment. If there were any evidence, it should be around there.
The sound of the waves and the warm, salty air gave her some comfort. She would also need to find some way to eat. There was nothing back in the apartment but spices and cooking oil.
The nanobots could probably use it, but I’m not ready to start chugging salted olive oil.
The smell of blood caught her attention. She had arrived back at the intersection where she was shot.
That’s my blood.
Morbidly curious, she walked back to where it happened. Old blood and a sharp chemical odor wrinkled her nose.
This didn’t smell as strong when I walked down this way. The nanobots are tinkering with my nose again.
Come to think of it, she had probably asked them to do it. Idle thoughts can be dangerous.
Quickly, she ducked into the bushes and followed the trail. Along with the stink of her blood, there were other smells now—leather, sweat, cayenne pepper, and urine.
Others had been here, more than one of them, probably looking for her body. She smiled smugly. A little mystery won’t hurt.
Down in the grass, she saw a glint of metal. She picked up the two mangled bullets she had pulled out of her chest. The third one was probably long gone. She put them into her pocket and walked back to the street.
Hydrochloric acid. She recognized the smell. Quickly she found where the scent was strongest.
They had cleaned up her bloodstain. A bad-guy cleaning crew has been here.
Back at the intersection, she sniffed the air. The scent was faint, but strongest to the south.
I went the wrong way. She turned south and began a slow jog. I need to walk before I can run.
Thompson followed Leo into the ‘guest room’. The boy was still bound to the chair. He picked the chair up and faced him towards the bed, where Katy Ferril was cowering.
Leo sat on the bed facing the boy.
“Luke, I need to know everything about the chests your father stole from Angelo Benedict. I want you to tell me everything, down to the number of times you breathed.”
The boy struggled against the duct tape.
“I told you everything! Dad took the chest out into the desert and buried it. When he went missing, I followed his tracks and saw the disturbed ground. I dug and I found the one chest. That’s all I know!”
Leo said, “I think you know more, and you’ll tell me if you just try harder.” He stood, and nodded to Thompson.
Katy Ferril whimpered as the big man stood over her and grabbed her chin, holding her wide-eyed face.
“Nice face.” Thompson said. A knife clicked open in his other hand. “Pity.”
He brought the blade towards her face. She screamed.
The boy struggled, his muscles tight against the tape, his face distorted into a mask of rage. “No!”
The knife went in. Blood spurted over the bedsheets.
“Stop! Stop it, I tell you!” the boy cried. “I can tell you more. There is more!”
Leo asked quietly, “Tell me.” Thompson paused in his butchery.
“The GPS. The GPS in my car! It probably still has the trail my father left.”
Leo pulled Thompson outside.
“Where is the car?”
“Jorge was sent to dump it.”
“Call him back!”
“Enrico has the phone.”
“Then page him!”
Thompson’s victim was still screaming, irritatingly loud even behind the closed door.
He jerked his head. “And shut her up.”
Leo was a cautious man. “No, not until I have the gadget.”
Deena settled into a running speed that was comfortable, but wasn’t so fast that it turned people’s heads. The scent of acid had dissipated. I’ve got to keep my eyes open.
But she was headed the right direction, she was sure. She was on the only road. If only Luther would drive by!
Malibu looked to be a residential city. There were few stores. When she passed the university, built up on the hill, things changed a little. There were restaurants and shops. But if you lived in Malibu, she suspected you would go into other parts of the Los Angeles area for your shopping.
The scent of fresh fish from one of the restaurants caused her a twinge of hunger. And it was real hunger, not the absorb-all-nutrients kind of hunger she had experienced coming back to life.
She paused at a public beach. She took off her shoes and waded into the water. Heat was building up from her running and although the darker skin tone hid her dramatic flush, she knew she was radiating too much.
Soaked up to her neck, she waded back and recovered her shoes. She considered how to get something to eat. When this salt water dries, it’ll be itchy.
It might ruin the dress too, but that couldn’t be helped.
Back at the street, she looked hard at the parked cars and sniffed the air, hunting for any clue in her pursuit.
Deena shook her head when she saw the blue and white ‘57 Chevy approaching on the road. No, it can’t be.
But of course, it could. Any traffic at all in this town took the PCH. The driver was frowning, and pulled hastily off to the side of the road. It was no one she knew.
It’s a California tag. I should have memorized Luther’s number.
The driver got out and crossed the road to get to a public phone booth.
Cayenne pepper. She caught a whiff. He’s one of the cleaners.
Which meant Luther had not escaped. He might already be dead.
She had to get closer to the car.
The urge to hide was strong. But I’ve got a different face, different skin. She walked briskly to the side of the car.
He was facing the other direction, and the lock button was in the up position. Hurriedly, she jumped in.
There’s food and money, if I can find it. She could also try to follow him when he drove off.
Everything was in disarray. She recognized her new overnight bag, but everything it had contained was now on the floor. Luther’s bags had been opened, too.
Luther’s cell phone was on the floor, she grabbed it, but it had no battery. And there was a half-bag of beef jerky. Both went into her pockets.
Only seconds! And the change from her purchases wasn’t where she had left it. She peered at the man in the phone booth. He was gesturing with agitation.
And her eyes noticed something on the dashboard.
Luther’s navigator thing! It tracked everywhere the car went. Which meant it would have marked where the cleaners had taken it! If Luther were just at the same place!
She grabbed it, quickly unplugging its power adapter.
Across the street, the man was hanging up the phone.
She slid out the far door and waited until he was watching traffic before she straightened up and walked casually down the sidewalk.
He didn’t drive away. Doors were wrenched open and he was frantically rummaging through the luggage, again.
Deena concealed the GPS behind her arm and kept on walking.