Jared’s brows arched. “He did? Good. I always like the stuff that Fletcher picks out for you.”
“That’s because you’re a pervert.”
He gave me an unapologetic, devilish grin. “So you’re not going to try to run on me?”
I shook my head, still smiling. “You’re stuck with me.”
“I like being stuck to you.”
Just then, the molecules returned to the backseat. “They’ve just collected their ‘package’,” revealed Stuart, angrily, once he shifted back. “How can people sell babies? How can they kill their mothers and sell their babies? It’s f**king sick.”
“You’d be surprised what people would do for money,” said Jared, “especially those who want it there and now – which seems to be the case with the vampire running this op. He wants a lot of cash, and he wants it fast. I’m guessing he has to be young in vampire years. The longer a vampire has lived, the more time he’s had to accumulate money. An older vampire wouldn’t need to do this, or to take these kinds of risks.”
Stuart leaned forward. “Do you think he wants it fast because he needs it fast?”
“No. Maybe he was used to a certain lifestyle as a human and he wants it back. I’m willing to bet that he was involved in criminal activity as a human and this is the only way of life he knows.”
“Good theory. Hey, maybe when he was a human he was involved in an operation where he had a role similar to Wendy’s, and maybe he saw too much and they Turned him rather than kill him.”
“Maybe,” allowed Jared. He stiffened as he added, “We have movement.”
The Handlers turned out of the side street and crossed the intersection, placing them on our side of the road.
I took a long breath. “Right, let’s go slaughter the f**kers.”
Jared slipped behind the SUV. “Sounds like fun.”
As before, he kept two car spaces between us and them as we followed the SUV down more roads. It wasn’t long before Chico was once again in front of them, and Max and Butch had taken a place on either side of them. Jared did all the usual things; he sped up when he needed to, he slowed down when necessary, and he switched lanes often. Always he managed to keep the Handlers in sight, and all without drawing attention to himself.
Things got a little worrying, though, when we started to enter a rural area. Although, on the upside, it meant that the traffic wasn’t hectic, it also meant that we would stand out more. Obviously sensing my concern, Jared spoke reassuringly.
“It’s okay. Chico’s giving me some advice.” Listening to that advice, Jared kept a reasonable distance between us and the SUV as he drove; only closing some of that distance when turning corners so that he didn’t lose sight of the SUV. Once back on a straight section, he pulled back, giving them a wide berth again.
Butch and Max followed that same example, keeping far behind us, as parallel surveillance would arouse suspicion at this point. The thing with rural areas was that everybody tended to know everybody, and strange vehicles would attract attention. Four strange vehicles…Not great.
“We need to all split up,” I said. “The next time we come across somewhere that would be a good idea to park and conceal the cars, tell them to pull in. We’ll catch up with them after we’ve seen where the Handlers stop.”
Jared nodded. “Good idea.” He was quiet for a short moment, and I knew he was communicating with the others. “I’ve also told them that if we see another good hiding area on our way, we’ll tell them to head to there.”
About fifteen minutes later, the SUV took a right turning. Jared sped up until he reached the corner.
“It’s some sort of converted farmhouse,” said Stuart.
Rather than stopping, Jared kept going straight.
“Want me to go take a closer look?” At Jared’s nod, Stuart switched to his other form and flew out of the window.
Jared puffed out a long breath, clearly agitated. “There’s nowhere to park around here. Not unless we want to stick out like a sore thumb, anyway.”
“Maybe we should head back to the others. The campground they stopped at isn’t that far away. It’s not like we can’t get back here quickly if we need to.”
Nodding, Jared did a U-turn and passed the farmhouse. “Stuart said there’s no psychic alarm around the house.”
Good. “I suppose that means that it wasn’t a precaution for all those involved in the op, it was simply added to the Handlers’ home.”
“It’s most likely Zeke’s gift as we know Blake’s gift is to mess with memories.”
I was about to say something else, but Jared held up his index finger, gesturing for me to wait. I guessed he was talking to someone telepathically so I remained quiet, waiting for him to finally pass on the info.
“Stuart said there are two female vampires in there, who I’m guessing are Lynne and Moira. He said there are also five male vampires – he’s not sure whether they’re serving as guards, but if they are, they’re not acting very vigilant. That means that, with Zeke and Blake, we’re facing nine vampires in total. I’d say we have a very good chance of ending this now.”
“The rest of the squad will be happy to hear that.” It turned out that I was right. They were extremely happy to hear that, as was Jude.
She made a good point, though, when we were discussing strategies. “I’m not comfortable with having a big battle around a baby.”
I sighed as I leaned back against one of the cars. “Neither am I.”
“Then our priority has to be to get the baby out of there, and to do it fast,” said Jared.
Harvey, who was standing beside him, nodded. “Like in paintballing.”
My brows flew up. “Say again?”
“During our first round of paintballing, our objective was to get inside a building, obtain something, and quickly get it out again, right? This is pretty much the same.” That was my Harvey – full of ideas.
“Very true,” said Jared, looking impressed. “So, we cover the fastest here – which is, hands down, Butch – while he slips in and out with the baby.”
“The vampires in there will surround the house as best they can,” Chico pointed out, “which means they might not be so preoccupied with the baby.”
Another good point. “I say we split into teams of two like we did at paintballing, but this time we work together. We come at the rear of the house from either side. The attack will not only mean the death of those vampires, but it will provide the perfect distraction for Butch.”