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©2020 Alanna Peterson. All rights reserved.

Chapter Thirty-Four

Monday June 22

Andi hunched down in the back seat, peeking out her window. Everything was absolute chaos. Downtown Seattle traffic was at a standstill. The man whose Tesla had been rear-ended confronted Gretchen, stopping her from running after Roya. The driver of the SUV behind him soon joined the altercation. Another police car arrived, lights flashing, with one officer trying to break up the fight and the other directing traffic around the accident.

 

Cyrus squinted in the passenger seat. “What's going on? Where did Roya go?” He started taking his glasses out of his shirt pocket.

 

“Don't put those on.” Andi didn't want anyone to recognize him. “Roya's okay. She's on the sidewalk, but the police have her.”

 

“Shit.” He sank down in his seat. “What was she thinking? Running off like that....” 

 

Andi shifted her attention to the front window. She could still see the silver Buick that Roya had tried to follow, stuck at a light on the next block. Even though Andi had only glimpsed the person in the back seat, Roya had been so certain it was her brother that Andi didn't doubt Naveed was in that car. 

            

She needed to find out where he was going. Anyway, she couldn't stay here: the police were distracted right now, but as soon as they came near Gretchen's car, Andi and Cyrus would be discovered.

 

Andi hesitated. The police were everywhere; she might get caught out there too. But she had another chance now to help Naveed, to make things right. She had been too late to prevent what happened to him at SILO, but she'd managed to move past her immobilizing doubt and fear the night they escaped. She could do it again. Probably.  

 

“We should go,” Andi said to Cyrus. “It won't be long till the police come over here.”

 

Cyrus didn't turn his head. “But Gretchen wanted us to stay here... and what about Roya, I shouldn't leave Roya....”

 

“Gretchen will look out for her. You do whatever you want, but I'm going.”

 

“Fine, then. Abandon me.”   

 

Andi didn't bother responding, annoyed that he continued to hold a grudge even now. She unbuckled her seat belt and slid out the door, closing it quietly. No one paid any attention to her; the sidewalks were uncrowded this morning, and the few people nearby were either rubbernecking the accident, tapping at their phones, or rushing elsewhere. Still, she kept her head down, walking as fast as she could without drawing attention to herself.

 

The muggy summer air sat heavily in her lungs, and it kept making her cough. She tried not to think about how achy and exhausted she was. Why did she have to be getting sick now? 

 

Andi heard someone approaching her from behind. Alarmed, she glanced over her shoulder, but it was Cyrus, panting and angry, his trucker cap askew. “I'm only following you because I can't see a damn thing without my glasses,” he hissed. “So just get us to Harborview, and don't talk to me.”

 

The idea of going to the hospital on foot hadn't occurred to Andi; she was still straining to see the silver Buick. She led Cyrus down two more blocks, watching until it pulled over in front of the library, across the street from Nutrexo Headquarters. 

 

Andi ducked into a nearby parking garage, breathing hard. She hadn't been paying attention to how close they were to Nutrexo, but she didn't intend to get any nearer. Naveed would know better than to go there, too; he was clearly being taken against his will. But Andi didn't understand why someone would take him there, unless....

 

Unless the police weren't the only ones looking for them. 

 

Nutrexo had probably sent their own agents, people like Zane and Chase, to try to find them before the police did. It would be much simpler for Nutrexo if they weren't able to tell their story in the first place. If they just stayed dead. 

 

Andi hugged her chest, trembling, as the gravity of the situation sunk in. Walking to Harborview wasn't appealing; she was so tired, and it would be a long uphill hike, plus she wasn't sure exactly how to get there. Nutrexo might even expect them to turn up at the hospital, and have someone waiting to intercept them. Even if she and Cyrus did make it safely there and tell the doctors that Naveed was in trouble, it wouldn't help. The doctors would only call the police, who would probably send a SWAT team to Nutrexo Headquarters convinced that he was going to attack the place, and if he did anything unexpected they wouldn't hesitate to shoot—

 

“What's going on? Did someone see us?” Cyrus asked, peering into the bright street. 

 

Andi pulled him deeper into the garage, finding a shadowy nook behind a concrete pillar. “No. Hold on, I need to think for a minute.” Cyrus was already on edge, and Andi worried that if she said anything about Naveed he'd blow up again; he might run off or something, leaving her alone.

 

She rubbed her temples, trying to come up with a plan. Gretchen's phone was still in her pocket. It wasn't a smartphone, which was probably for the best; their location wouldn't be traceable. She just had to figure out who to call for help. Frida? She was looking for Naveed at the south end of Lake Washington, nowhere near here. With the traffic, it would take her at least half an hour to arrive. They couldn't wait around that long.

 

Erika? It seemed unlikely that she was at headquarters, but Dr. Snyder did have an office there; maybe Erika did too. She probably wouldn't be able to help, though. If Nutrexo was after them, it wasn't like Erika had any authority to call it off. They needed someone with more power for that.

 

Someone like the Senior Vice President.

 

Andi shuddered. She had no idea if she could trust Mark. He'd always been kind to Andi before, inviting her to join their family vacations to Lake Chelan every summer and Marblemount each winter, applauding the long, poorly-rehearsed plays that she and Marina used to perform. At the park once, when she'd taken a corner too fast on her bike, he'd calmly cleaned up her skinned palms and knees, telling funny stories until she calmed down enough to stop crying.

 

He'd also covered for Andi at the party, when she'd first overheard his conversation with Richard Caring about SILO. Even though she knew he had approved the research there and would want to cover himself, she found it hard to believe that he would sit back and let his daughter's friend be killed in the process.

 

Andi took a deep breath. Her head spun with all the possibilities, all the options. Time was passing. People were looking for them: police officers, or Nutrexo guards, or both. She had to make a move, and considering she might not survive this, she decided to take a risk and do the one thing she wanted more than anything else.                  

 

“Stay right here,” Andi told Cyrus, who was leaning against the wall, arms crossed. “I'll be back in a minute, I promise.” 

 

She stepped closer to the street, still careful to stay hidden, stopping as soon as the phone got a signal. 

 

Andi dialed and held her breath as it rang once, heart pounding with hope. But the call went straight to voicemail, and she was listening to her mother's voice, calm and cheery, asking her to leave a message.

 

She was tempted to hang up, to call again, so she could hear her mother one more time, but the tone sounded—a high B—and then came the silence, empty but expectant. Andi paused, collecting herself, then left a short message in Mandarin. She rarely spoke the language and was self-conscious about her pronunciation, but if someone else was listening to the call, she could at least make things a little harder for them.

 

“Mom, it’s me. Don't believe what they're telling you,” Andi said into the phone. “It isn't true. This researcher, Tara Snyder, took us to the same place where Dad's doing that clinical trial, and I can't explain now but you'll read about it soon, on the website, and a newspaper interview I did, but Dad's still there and you have to help because I couldn't save him and I think they're after me and I'm sorry, I'm so so sorry and I love you, Mom. Wǒ ài nǐ.”  

 

She hung up, and would have been overcome with emotion had Cyrus not materialized behind her then. 

 

“Who were you talking to?” he demanded.

 

She fought back tears. “I was leaving a message for my mom.” 

 

“You called her? What if the police were listening?”

 

“It doesn't matter anymore. Cyrus, we're in serious trouble—Nutrexo has people out looking for us, and the police will be searching too, and we're not safe anywhere and I'm just going to make one more call. You have to trust me, all right?”

 

Cyrus narrowed his eyes, but stayed silent. Andi's mind was made up. She was already dialing.  

 

Getting through to Mark's phone wasn't easy. First she called information to get the number for Nutrexo, then asked the receptionist to transfer her to Mark. 

 

“I can put you through to his assistant,” he said.

 

“No, I need to talk to him directly. Please, it's an emergency,” Andi said.

 

“Sorry, I don't have his direct extension. His assistant can help you.”

 

Andi doubted that, but she gathered her courage while she waited on hold. Finally, the assistant picked up the phone. “Mark Williams' office.”

 

“Hi. It's Marina, Mark's daughter,” Andi said, drawing out her vowels in what she hoped was a passable impression of her friend. “Is my dad there? It's an emergency and I really need to talk to him.”

 

The assistant sounded confused. “Didn't you try his cell?”

 

“I tried but he's not answering. Please, someone just took my purse and my phone and I'm kind of freaking out, can you put me through to him?” 

 

The assistant must have sensed the genuine anxiety in her voice, because she said, “Hold on. I'll connect you.”

 

Then Andi was on hold again, and Cyrus was looking at her incredulously. “You're calling Mark? Are you crazy?”

 

Mark picked up the phone before she could respond. “Rina? What's wrong, honey? Are you all right?”

 

“No, I'm not,” Andi said, relieved and angry and nervous and scared all at once. “And this isn't Marina. I'm sorry, but I'm sure you understand why I couldn't say who I really am.”

 

A pause. An exhale. “Hold on for a second.” She heard a chair squeaking, a door closing. Then, very quiet, “Andi? Where have you been? Are you safe? Do those boys have you?”

 

“No! It's not like that at all. Cyrus and Naveed aren't the ones you should be worried about. They didn't have anything to do with that bomb. And no, I'm not safe. That's why I called you: I need your help. If you care about me, you'll listen to what I have to say. And if they kill me, if they kill us—”

 

“Andi, calm down. No one's going to kill you.”

 

“No, listen to me! I saw them taking Naveed—they weren't the police, they must have been Nutrexo people, and he didn't do anything wrong, you have to try to help him—”

 

Cyrus looked at her in alarm now, but Andi ignored him. “Slow down. You're not making sense,” Mark was saying.

 

“Just come!” Andi said. “Alone, and don't tell anyone where you're going. If you don't come, and we die, then it's going to be on you. It'll be your fault, if you don't help us now!”

 

“Okay. Where are you?” Mark asked. Andi described the location of the parking garage and hung up.

 

“You told him where we are?” Cyrus asked. 

 

“Mark's our best hope,” Andi said, but it came out barely louder than a whisper. She returned the phone to her pocket, and together they sank back into the shadows to wait.

  

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