We’re on the road!
I love driving, I loved driving my Bugatti, but I hated the drive we were about to do.
Okay. So we’re having lunch and Cass wants to know what we’re going to do next; I have to explain about the New York Thruway and the relative lawlessness of the road.
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Chapter 24: On the Road Again
Exiting the People’s Republic was easier than entry, for values of easier. Still, it wasn’t an experience anyone enjoyed, or repeated more often than necessary. It took not quite a half hour and yet more paperwork to get the Veyron out of the country – ‘Export license fee!’ fumed Kendra – but eventually they were free and headed into the Empire of New York. Entry was painless, compared to Massachusetts, after crossing the half-kilometer DMZ.
Lunch was quick, simple, cheap, in a small town outside Albany. Cass brought a tablet in with them, tied to the Roadrunner, to continue her search while they ate.
‘Anything, yet?’ said Kendra once their meals were ordered.
‘Nothing. Nothing! Past that initial pack of rumors and half-truths, the day of the wedding, not a word! It’s like he disappeared!’
‘Did you try -’
‘I emailed Mysti, asking about follow-up, but she hasn’t replied yet.’
‘I was going to suggest the police logs. Two dead bodies in a locker, remember?’
‘I try not to, but that’s a good idea.’ Poke, poke, drag, pinch, poke. Wait. ‘Nothing.’
‘That is odd,’ admitted Kendra.
‘Unsettling, too. There should have been something by now. Unless -’ Her voice stopped.
‘What if they took Derek? Not the police, HLC.’
‘Derek has more money than god, Cass. He might have bought his way out of the spotlight,’ suggested Kendra dubiously.
‘You don’t believe that. I can hear it.’
‘No, I don’t. I think you’re right. I think that whoever hired those goons grabbed Derek, disposed of the bodies, and buried the whole thing. Now…’ Her voice trailed off on a speculative note.
Kendra waited while their plates were brought to them. Only when they were alone again did Kendra continue.
‘There’s nothing we can do, not here, not with this equipment. Our best chance – our only chance – is to get to New Orleans as quick as we can, and hope OutLook can help us.’
‘What if he’s hurt?’
‘You’re valuable to them; he’s valuable to you. Us. Whoever has him, should treat him well.’
‘Dammit, Cass, what do you want from me? Go charging across the country to Zeus-only-knows where, break in, spring Derek, and go riding off into the sunset? I may be a secret agent, but I’m not James Bond!’
‘Never mind. The point is, I can’t do anything alone. I need my company’s help if we want to find Derek and figure out what happened.’ She paused, seeing the hurt in Cass’s eyes. ‘I miss him too, but we have to concentrate on one thing at a time. First, Pittsburgh. Tomorrow, New Orleans.’
‘How long will it take to get to Pittsburgh?’
‘Depends on you, honey.’
‘The safe route, the slow route, is down towards the City, through the Delaware Water Gap into Pennsylvania, then south and west across the state, avoiding the radiation around the Philadelphia strike. Probably take us the rest of the day. It’s, what, noon? Might get there by nine. We have to go through some pretty heavily populated areas and the roads aren’t the greatest.’
‘And the other choice?’
‘If we stay in the Empire, we can take the Thruway towards the remains of Buffalo, then almost due south to Pittsburgh.’
‘Is it shorter?’
‘Time-wise, for us, absolutely. Distance, not so much – actually, about fifty kilometers further.’
‘I’m all for faster.’
‘Well, there’s the problem with the Thruway. It used to be a National road, but then it was purchased in the Eighties and privatized. It’s the best road across, condition-wise, but there are no rules, no laws, and no enforcement.’
‘None. I’ve heard tell of highwaymen, roving bands of thugs that try to force people off the road, shit like that. No speed limit, though, which works for us. We ought to be able to blow past anything else out there; if not, I have a couple tricks up my sleeves.’
Kendra looked down at her tank top, smiled. ‘Point.’
‘How much shorter would it be?’
‘We’ll have to stop for gas twice, maybe three times, so that adds a bit, but I’d say, oh, in time for tea. Call it four.’
Cass wiped her lips, set down the napkin, and stood. ‘I’m ready. Let’s see how many of those highwaymen we can embarrass.’
‘That’s my girl!’ Kendra dropped some bills on the table. ‘Time to hit the road.’