(Note: This novel contains critical ENEMIES FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC
"plot spoilers,"so consider reading that book before plunging into this sequel.)
It was after dark when he let Ranya out. He stopped the eighteen-wheeler on the shoulder of the highway before an overpass. She climbed down, thanking him before she slammed the truck's door shut, and watched as his red taillights diminished and disappeared. If he was going to call the police, there was nothing stopping him now.
She hiked an hour west from 287 on the dirt shoulder of the asphalt county road. She stepped away from the road and crouched behind scrub at the first hint of headlights, until the occasional vehicles were past. Finally, she left the road and walked up a dry wash, and found a place to sleep rough. The driver had given her a green wool Army blanket from his truck's sleeping compartment. Before finding a flat grassy spot, she zipped on her pant legs and pulled on a black hooded sweatshirt from her pack.
Each time she put on another article of stolen clothing, she thought about Starr Linssen, wrapped in her seashell pattern shower curtain, concealed beneath her bed. She wondered if the warden had been found yet. Linssen had said that she had signed out for the rest of the workday. She might not be missed until she failed to show up for her next scheduled duty shift, or she failed to answer her phone or pager too many times. It was Friday night, so it was even possible that she wouldn't be missed until Monday.
There was no news of any prison break (or a murdered assistant warden) on any of the AM radio stations Ranya could tune in. Still, she knew that the alert could have been put out only to the police on their own radio and email networks. In the meantime, she was engrossed in catching up on the current news. It was the fourth night of deadly "arson riots" in Los Angeles, despite martial law, curfews and shoot-to-kill orders. The tense standoff was continuing in the besieged Muslim Quarter in Detroit. Marines were engaged in heavy combat in some city called 'Nazeer-Bakaf,' wherever that was. An emergency meeting of the Federal Reserve Board was scheduled for Monday. The first thousand representatives of the "Poor People's Party" had set up their planned tent city encampment on the National Mall in Washington.
Headlights passed less frequently as the night wore on. She slept fitfully, with her head on the warden's pack, and the Glock beneath it. She was wrapped in the blanket on a bed of flattened range grass, with her black sweatshirt hood pulled up, the string tied tightly in a circle. Mosquitoes buzzed around her exposed face, other insects trilled and chirped. It was miserable attempting to sleep this way, but she was hardened to misery. Through a slit in the folds of her blanket, she could see a brilliant swath of stars, and she found Orion standing guard among the constellations.
The real Spiderman wouldn't be afraid. Not one little bit. But I'm not the real Spiderman, and I am afraid, thought Brian Garabanda. Spiderman pajamas wouldn't fool real bad guys or monsters. Something was scratching the roof of his house, right over his bed. This happened sometimes when it was windy, or even worse, when there were thunderstorms.
It was the middle of the night. Brian was awake, but lying perfectly still, while something terrible scratched at the tiles on the roof. He carefully opened his eyes, just barely. If anything terrible was in the room, or looking in through his window, he was ready to shut them tightly again in an instant. But there was nothing. The Snoopy nightlight cast its reassuring glow across his room.
Once when he had opened his eyes in the night, he thought he had seen Daddy looking in the window from just a few feet away, but he wasn't sure. Maybe it was a dream. Daddy was very brave, he even had a gun. He worked for the FBI, catching bad guys. Brian hoped that his Daddy was outside somewhere, guarding him from terrible things. Daddy had told him that when it was windy, the tree branches scratched the roof sometimes, and not to worry.
But Daddy didn't live here any more. Now, Daddy only came and got him on Fridays, and took him to his small house, his apartment where he lived now. His Daddy and Mommy used to get so angry all the time, that he had finally left. Brian knew that it was his fault. He was sure that Mommy and Daddy had been happier before he had come along. He had heard his Mommy say this, and he knew it was true.
But even though today was Friday, Daddy did not come to get him. Instead, he had been picked up at day care by Mommy and her friend Gretchen, and they had gone to a boring meeting, which had lasted forever. Grown-ups in a big room, talking forever, blah-blah-blah. He didn't even have a game-boy to play with, so he had to play with boring Legos and coloring books instead.
He wondered why his Daddy didn't pick him up at day care. Mommy said he had other things to do. Brian worried that his Daddy was probably getting tired of picking him up. Probably, Daddy didn't care about him very much any more, since he had moved away. This fear stabbed deeply into Brian's five-year-old heart. Maybe Daddy will come and get me tomorrow morning?or maybe he will have other things to do again.
From his bed, he could see out his window and up at a part of the sky above their neighbor's roof. It wasn't cloudy, so there would probably not be any thunderstorms tonight, thank goodness. Thunderstorms at night were the worst, with the booming and crashing and lightning flashing.
Tonight there were stars out. Daddy would get him in the morning, he hoped.