I'm really enjoying writing this book. It's been a long time coming for Cali, and I'm happy to help her through it.
Later that night, Cali slid out her window. The shutters had been drawn against the lash of the rain. She used a stick to hold them shut. It would not do for their slapping to alert anyone to her absence.
The darkness of the night was all consuming. There was no real light, only lighter darkness. Still, Cali kept to the darkest shadows. She had worn blue jeans and a dark tank top. The rain was warm but, she would be shivering by the time she returned to her room.
She took her time, sliding from one shadow to another. Before each move she scanned the area with her senses. Seeking sound, movement and prying eyes with her every nerve. Finally she arrived at the edge of the road. She was compressed into a black oddly shaped boulder next to a local bush. Crossing the roadway would be tricky, even in this gloom. She waited for the rain to increase. It had been alternating between normal rain and downpour for hours. Her wait was not as long as she anticipated even so, her legs had begun to stiffen by the time she wanted to move. She rose to a crouch and scurried across the mud roadway, and quickly blended into the bushes on the other side. Anyone watching might have missed the small dark form moving in the heavy rain. She honestly hoped that no-one was watching.
The garage portion of the gas station was occupied. She could see the dim light from within. It was the only real light in the darkness. Yellow light flickered through decades of grime on cheap window glass. Gill, the local mechanic and all around fix it man, and his wife and family, lived in the house attached to the garage. He spent many of his nights in the garage repairing one thing or another. Cali had noticed that his wife Sofia, was also the local debutant and gossip. She was Cali’s first choice in the pool of suspects for town snitch. A fact that she had kept from her host and hostess.
Cali had mapped out her route earlier. But, the rain had obscured much of the detail in her path, and the building had obscured the rest. She needed to pass the garage, without getting caught in the path of the light from the window. With this much darkness, that single dim light was like a lighthouse beacon.
She could pass in front of the gas station but, she would risk being back lit for the entire town to see. No, she must pass behind the station. Right now her concern was passing by the side window of the garage. Her only path would take her right to the edge of the glow. Cali took a cleansing breath. She had little choice.
Her progress was painstakingly slow. She had never thought that 60 yards could be so long. She moved from bush to bush. When she neared the edge of the light she pushed her body into each bush until the small branches cut into her shoulders. Pain, it was of little consequence.
Finally she found herself looking down the line of bushes and trees that ran behind the garage. The glow from the window did not reach this line. She hugged the bushes and the extra shadow that they provided and in a crouch, she ran. It’s one thing to run a hundred yard dash standing upright with your arms pumping to help you draw air, it is a far different thing to run the same distance or more in a crouched position. Her hair broke free of the tie that had been holding it. A branch snagged her. She had to stop and retrieve the ribbon, silently cursing. Quickly she tied up her hair again. She was behind the house now. There was no sound from within. She scanned the line again. Her goal was in sight. Again she rose to a crouch and ran. Within seconds she had found a thin path that led into the trees and was scurrying down it.
The path paralleled the roadway. It was little more than a game trail. Still, Cali stayed low and stopped every few dozen steps to look and listen. All she could see was darkness. She tried not to remember the forest around her farm. She tried not to let her mind drift back to the many times that she had run down a similar path, not towards something as was the case tonight, but away from something. How many times had she heard her grandmother’s voice following her into the trees? She had known that when the grandmother got her hands on her, the punishment for running would be more severe. Still, she had run.
Cali had remained still for quite a few moments, while her mind remembered. But, the crack of a twig brought her quickly back to reality. Her body melted into the shadow of a small bush. Her breathing slowed and her fingers slid around the handle of a small knife that was tucked into her waist. A paring knife she had taken from Nonna’s kitchen.
Nothing, she listened so hard that she could hear the rushing of her own blood in her ears. The rain on the leaves. The drips from the trees to the bushes and ground. The roar of her soft breathing. She held her breath and willed her heart to stop, for the blood to stop thundering in her ears. There it was. The soft movement of a foot. A person shifting their weight.
Cali moved. Slowly lifting one foot and gently placing it in front of the other. Her movements were so slow and careful that even she could not hear them. Like a living shadow she stalked the sound of a human trying to be quiet. She was close now. She could hear their breathing and the sound of rain dripping from leaves onto canvas or rubber. It had to be canvas, she couldn’t smell any rubber. The person was in front of her.
There they were. A dark shadow against a tree. She didn’t move. She waited for the rain to ease and the wind to shift. The figure was growing impatient. Cali had to be certain. The scent on the wind confirmed it for her. Jasmine, she smelled Jasmine. She smiled and slowly rose. Even so, her sudden appearance startled the figure. They reacted quickly. In less than a heartbeat the muzzle end of a big black gun was pointed at Cali.
Cali nodded at the figure. “Shoot if you wish but, for the love of God, use a silencer.” She had kept her voice low. The figure would have needed to strain to hear her.
“Good God Cali, how the hell did you do that?” Angela’s cultured voice came from the figure.
Cali shrugged. They embraced. “Can we get out of the rain now?”
Angela led them a bit further down the path where she had secreted a car. It was an electric car. Again, Cali smiled. A silent car.
The car was warm inside. The windows fogged almost immediately. Without saying a word Angela handed Cali a small back pack. Inside were several different weapons, Cali’s passport, jewelry and clothing. It wasn’t all there but, there was enough and more.
“I sent the rest home.” Angela looked embarrassed. “I thought if I could disguise you, no-one would notice that you were here.” She had been looking at the steering wheel, unable to face Cali. But, now she turned in her seat. “I’m sorry. I left you without proper protection.”
Cali put the backpack on the floor between her feet and turned to face Angela. “You were trying to protect me. You were not expecting me to stop anywhere long enough to get found out. This was my fault.”
“I should have told you not to come.”
“I would not have listened.”
They both giggled. “You look like hell.” Angela pointed at the mud and scratches.
Cali had forgotten about the scratches right after they had happened, and had never noticed the mud. She shrugged it off.
“You would have made a great soldier.”
A small stab pierced Cali’s heart. “I was a soldier. In a different kind of war.”
They had spoken of this before. Angela nodded. “So what do you need from me? How can I help you get out of this?”
Cali smiled devilishly. “Ahh sis, the question is, how can we help each other get out of our respective difficulties? And… how do we rid the world of Ben?” She studied Angela’s face for a moment. “That is of course if you are in the market to really be the boss of this family.”
Angela studied Cali for a time. The idea of really being the boss, had never really had the time to coalesce. She had gone from one event to another since last she had seen Cali. “You would help me to become the head of this family? Do you understand what it is you are getting involved in?”
“Ang, you have been there for me. Even now, in the midst of your own problems, you have tried to accommodate me, protect me.” Cali shook her head and sighed. “You’re my sister. How can I not offer my help? What’s more… how can I not want you to be the boss? Besides, I’m already involved. I have been for a good portion of my life.”
Angela smiled and pulled Cali into a hug. Then they started planning.
Stay tuned for more....
Live well and be good to each other.