“Honey?” I didn’t realize I’d used the term until it was already out in the open. “How can you not say anything at this point? Your force has to know what’s going on. And how can it be that they don’t have information on the meteors and the infected?”
“I’m not sure. Perhaps the Chief knows and he’s keeping it under wraps to avoid mass panic. It’s L.A. Can you imagine the pandemonium if this became public?”
That made sense. A couple of dozen reported crimes could mean that many more had gone unreported. As of yet. How was this spreading so quickly? This infection could blow up in a matter of days. Hell, it was mushrooming right now.
I thought for a moment. “How about if I put in an anonymous tip?”
“Good idea,” Carla sounded relieved. “But from a pay phone. And you have to keep the call to under a minute. Can you go somewhere like Sunset Boulevard? That’s a hard area to trace.”
I thought of my daughter. And her boyfriend. Alone at my house. I didn’t like it, for more reasons than one. “I’ll get Anna and Jared first.”
“I don’t think your home is safe yet,” Carla said, referring to the fact that I had been questioned by the goon squad here at the park, that maybe someone was following me.
She was right, of course. Griffith Park Observatory might not be the most popular attraction L.A., but there were plenty of cars in the parking lot now. Any one of them could be the agents.
So, how to get to Anna and Jared without being seen, without leading the bastards to a home they knew nothing about, a home that was in my ex-wife’s family’s name? I had an idea.
“Carla, can you do me a favor?”
“Oh, those poor animals!” Anna cried into the phone. She and Jared had strict orders to stay at home; they had been studying when I called. Or so they said.
“I know, angel, I know.” I tried to calm her. “I want you to come here. I don’t want you two alone.” I knew Carla had gone to work around one in the afternoon, and I’d wanted the two kids to get as much sleep as possible. It was now late afternoon and it looked like I would have to work a double.
“You want us to come there?” Anna was shocked.
“Not really,” I answered, “but I’d rather have you close to me.” I looked at my watch. It was getting late. Dark. And the fog was rolling in. “Carla’s on her break right now. She can’t come to the house, because, you know...” I didn’t need to explain the obvious. We were both worried that we hadn’t heard from her Uncle Joe all day. One thing at a time, I told myself. To Anna, I said, “She’s going to meet you and Jared at the Greek. She will take you up to the observatory, that’s safer than the zoo. I’ll meet you there. I have to do something.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll meet you on the Hill.”
“No buts, Anna. You do exactly as I say, okay?”
“Ookkaayyy,” she was irritated. Probably scared.
I hesitated. “Put Jared on the line,” I said.
She called him, and a moment later a squeaky, hesitant voice came on the line. “You wanted to talk to me?”
“Jared. I don’t want to scare you or Anna any more than I have to.”
“All right,” he said bravely.
“But there’s real trouble. We don’t have time to mess around here. You and Anna need to leave now.”
“And, do you know how to use a gun, son?”
“Uh, yeah, I do.”
“All right,” I said. “I want you two to take the streets. Not the trails. To the Greek Theatre. You understand? No trails. Stay where people can see you.”
“If, for any reason you come across someone like...like I was, or feel in danger, you have to use the gun, okay?”
“Are you kidding me?”
I could hear Anna asking in the background what was going on.
“Keep this between us, Jared. You understand?”
“Just shoot and run. You have the gun?”
“Not with me.”
“Anna has it?” I asked.
“Get it from her. It makes me nervous her having the gun.”
“When you shoot, aim for the head.”
Jared ended the call in a haze.
Had he heard right? Aim for the head. By now, after everything they had been through, he trusted Jack almost like a father. Hell, more than his own father. But Jared wished like crazy that he’d just wake up from this horrible nightmare.
Of course, Anna was impatient. “What did he say? Jared, you have to tell me!”
Jared looked at the phone a little stupidly, and handed it back to her. “He told me to protect you at all costs,” he told her, which was a version of the truth. And he would, too. “Look, we have to go. Now. Carla is waiting, and it’s getting dark.”
Anna glanced out the window. “It’s fogging up,” she said.
“I’ll be with you.” Jared took her hand. He kissed her gently. She returned his kiss with passion. She made him dizzy when she kissed him like that and he wanted to...No. He had to keep his head clear. Jared couldn’t help but press a few more kisses on her soft lips, then stopped. This was wonderful, but it wouldn’t protect her. Or him.
“Give me the gun,” he said, pulling back.
“Because your father wants me to have it.”
“But why? Jared, I’m the better aim. We both know that. Why?”
Jared sighed. “Anna, sometimes you just have to do what you’re supposed to do. And not ask questions. I didn’t ask your father why and I don’t know. But I trust him. Don’t you?”
Anna nodded, her eyes round with worry.
“So, if your dad wants me to have the gun, I’m taking it. And we’re going to meet Carla at the Greek. Now. Before it gets dark. Don’t argue with me, babe.” He liked calling her babe. It made him feel like they were in a real relationship. A grown-up relationship. Jared added, “I’m following your dad’s orders and you want your dad to be happy with me, right?”
The passionate moment had passed. She pulled the gun out of the back waistband of her jeans and handed it to him.