My hand goes to Gia’s waist, guiding her into the building, and while I don’t like people at my back, the old man included, I like them at Gia’s even less. I just hope like hell that acting performance she gave doesn’t mean I’m one step away from a knife in my back that she’s holding. Following her down a narrow hallway, we enter a bullpen-style office setup with two steel desks, one on each side of the door, facing the plate-glass windowed front wall that gives me a full view of the lot.
In unison, Gia and I step inside the door to the right and let the salesman pass by. He steps behind the desk on the left and opens a drawer while Gia surprises me by asking, “Is there a ladies’ room?”
“That door we just passed in the hallway,” the man offers.
I give her a warning look, and my eyes narrow at how bloodshot her eyes are. “What are you doing?” I ask softly, wondering how the woman who didn’t even know why I picked a truck became this one.
She steps to me and flattens her hands on my chest, kissing my cheek. “Breaking down and needing this truck has me flustered. I just a need a minute.”
I grab her head and lean in near her ear. “Don’t try to play me. You won’t like the results. I’ll be watching the door.”
“Good,” she replies. “I really don’t want to be alone right now.”
I want to know what that means, but she pulls back, and considering we have an audience, I have to let her. But I don’t miss how her lashes are lowered to become an effective shield that leaves me incapable of reading her intentions. I allow her to escape.
“Okay,” says the salesman, still standing behind his desk. “I have the paperwork and the keys.” He offers me his hand. “I’m Jeff, by the way.”
The bathroom door shuts, and I step forward and shake his hand. “Thanks for the help, Jeff,” I say, leaving out my name, a habit I’ve perfected over the years.
“My pleasure.” He releases my hand and motions for me to sit. I comply simply because it gives me a good view of the bathroom.
“I’ll need identification and the cash.”
Removing my wallet, I adjust my chair to profile the front window and the door Gia should exit from any second, laying the ID that reads “Kevin Moore” on the desk for Jeff to review. “The money after the contracts,” I state.
“Not a problem.” He glances at the ID. “Mr. Moore.”
Ten minutes later, I’ve signed the contracts and we’re about to exchange cash for keys, and Gia has yet to appear. A blue Chevy four-door sedan pulls into the lot and Jeff sighs. “That would be my wife with my lunch.” He pushes to his feet. “Let me go get rid of her.”
I follow him to his feet. “That’s not necessary. We’ll be leaving anyway. Let’s count the cash.”
He hesitates. “Counting money in front of my wife is a negative for me. I need to get rid of her. I’ll be fast.” He doesn’t wait for an answer, heading for the door, but not before he snatches the damn keys. Cursing the delay, I walk to the bathroom door and knock. “Gia, we’re leaving.” She doesn’t respond immediately and unease rolls through me. “Gia—”
The door swings open. “Sorry,” she says, swiping hair behind her ear, her eyes bloodshot, skin pale. “I’m not feeling grand. Are we ready to go?”
Whatever is going on with her, I don’t like it, but this isn’t the time to figure it out. I grab her hand and lead her back into the front office, and scan for Jeff, who isn’t anywhere to be found. Neither is his wife’s car. A frisson of unease goes down my spine.
“Where’s the salesman?” Gia asks.
“Good damn question,” I murmur, walking behind the desk and opening drawers. “Bingo,” I murmur, grabbing keys with a tag that reads “Blue Dodge.” Walking to the window, I scan the cars and find no signs of life. I do find the Dodge, and it’s sitting in the center of the lot, blocked in. “Fuck.”
“What’s happening?” Gia asks, moving to my side.
“Nothing good,” I assure her, offering nothing more. Focused not on her, but on getting us out of here alive. The back door gives me no visual. The front makes us targets, but the cars are lined up close to the exit, offering good coverage.
“They found us, didn’t they?” she asks from beside me.
I reach down and remove my gun from the ankle holster, barely glancing at her as I instruct, “We’re going out the front door and between the two cars to our right.” I turn to face her. “You go first so I can cover you. Get down low and stay that way.”
“Low,” she agrees. “Happily.”
“Now,” I say, opening the door without giving her time to develop a case of nerves, or us time to end up trapped, if we aren’t already.
She goes down low and darts forward, and I follow, unzipping my bag and holding my hand with the weapon inside, where it won’t be seen, as I do. In what feels like about a hundred heartbeats, though it’s more like ten, we are between the two cars.
“Keep going,” I encourage, urging her to the next row of cars, and toward the rope that divides the lot from a McDonald’s. If we were seen, it’s the predictable way to go, which means we can’t hesitate or we’ll be toast.
Gia seems to understand as well, driving forward and under the rope. I follow and in unison, no words needed, we head to the row of parked cars and kneel between the first two. I check the locks on some sort of Jeep. She checks the doors on a pickup.