Soon enough, a trail of molecules entered through the open window of the car. Taking a sneak peek around me and satisfied that no one would see anything, I quietly said, “You can change back.”
A second later, Stuart was lounging on the backseat with his head rested on his hand. “We have movement. The two guys from Ryder’s sketches were putting jackets on and switching off the T.V. I reckon they’ll leave any minute now. From what I could gather, they’re the only people in the house.”
Time to move, I told Jared.
Quickly yet still managing to appear casual, he, Butch, and David abandoned their coffees and headed for the door. They would have managed not to attract any attention if they all weren’t so bloody gorgeous. One of the women in the café actually said something to Jared as he passed, which I imagined was a line of some kind.
“Slut.” I hadn’t realised I’d spoken aloud until Stuart started laughing. I shot him a scowl, but he just laughed harder. “Your time will come, Stuart. Then I’ll be the one laughing.” He just gave me a dismissive, ‘sure, sure’ look.
A little of my irritation must have been showing on my face, because the first thing Jared did when he hopped inside the car was give me one of his ‘whatever it is, I didn’t do it’ looks. I merely snorted.
“They’re leaving,” announced Stuart. We all looked in time to see two male vampires exit the house.
“Those are definitely the guys from the sketches,” stated Jared. “I’ll warn Chico and all the others to get ready to move.”
Obviously having heard Jared’s telepathic announcement, Denny travelled in his alternate form to the car beside ours, wherein Butch and David were already waiting. Once inside it, he returned to his human shape on the backseat.
We all remained very still as the Handlers’ black SUV drove by. I had no idea whether or not they took a look at us, because I focused on my newspaper to avoid any chance of eye contact. When I saw in my peripheral vision that they had turned the corner, I looked up again. It was only then that Jared – having known better than to immediately slip behind the SUV – started the car. At a steady pace, he exited the car parking lot and followed after the SUV. Butch kept close behind us.
As Jared drove along another street, keeping a fair distance between us and the Handlers, my enhanced vision was able to spot Chico’s car up ahead, tailing the SUV from the front. I guessed that was one way to avoid suspicion, though following from the front seemed a little complicated to me.
A left turn took us all onto a very busy road.
Jared exhaled a loud sound of annoyance. “We could have done without the heavy traffic.”
He was right. Keeping the vehicle in sight would be much easier for us, but that didn’t mean we could afford to leave a lengthy distance between us and them. Doing that would be to risk losing them in the traffic. So, as advised by Chico, Jared kept two car spaces between us and the Handlers as he drove. He was careful not to remain directly behind them by changing lanes every now and then. At one point, Max and Butch positioned the cars either side of the Handlers, so that we had all effectively boxed the SUV in.
About ten minutes into the pursuit, we came to a roundabout. Startling the hell out of me – and I’m pretty sure it equally startled the others – the Handlers didn’t take the first, second, third, or final turn; they instead continued to circle the roundabout…leaving us no choice but to drive on ahead of them, or expose that we were following them. Bollocks.
Chico, too, had been forced to take the final turn or expose himself. In the visor, I was able to see that the SUV actually circled the roundabout three times. At that point, they then took the same turn that we had taken, placing them six car spaces behind us.
Stuart took the words out of my mouth. “What the hell was all that about?”
“Chico thinks they’re testing to see if anybody’s following them,” said Jared.
“They’ve sensed that they have a tail?”
“It’s more likely that they’re doing a standard test. Chico said a lot of guys do things like quickly change their course, or enter a public building.”
I thought it wasn’t a bad idea, actually. “Circling a roundabout…I wouldn’t have thought of that.”
“Chico’s pulled over up ahead,” Jared told us. “He’s going to fall in from behind and take our place at the rear of the Handlers. We’re going to now take his place at the front.”
“Oh, right,” I said. “I suppose the question is, though…how do you follow someone from the front?”
“Well, according to Chico, I shouldn’t watch for signals. He says that most drivers take a couple of seconds before flashing the light to signal that they’re turning. I should watch the driver and the tyres.” So that was exactly what Jared did. And he did pretty well at it. That was most likely a lot to do with the fact that Jared’s vision enabled him to observe very well.
But then the Handlers turned down a side-street.
“Shit,” Jared uttered.
“It’s okay. Chico or one of the others can stick with them.” But Stuart was wrong. Chico didn’t stick with the Handlers. He instead stopped just before reaching the corner, where Salem hopped out and proceeded to follow the Handlers on foot.
Having crossed the intersecting street, Jared made a somewhat illegal U-turn and drove down the opposite side. He parked outside a Chinese takeaway, placing him parallel with Chico. It was at that moment that Salem had returned to Chico’s car.
“They’ve parked at the end of the one-way street,” revealed Jared, obviously having telepathically heard the info from Salem. “Apparently there’s a white van waiting there. A van that looks a lot like the mobile hospital that Erik had.”
“Stuart, time to go spying.” My announcement was met with an excited smile. Then Stuart reduced himself to molecules that went zooming out of the slightly open window and across the road. “Where are Max and Butch?” I asked Jared.
“One of them is parked at the end of this road, and the other is waiting at the end of the other side.”
I understood why; this way, both possible routes that the Handlers could take were covered.
“Nervous?” Jared suddenly asked me, and I understood that he wasn’t talking about the assignment.
I smiled. “Not in a way that means I’m unsure. But I’m nervous of being the centre of attention. And of seeing the dress that Fletcher played a part in designing.”