Episode One – Emily (continued)

An hour west of the city, I pull off the interstate into a rinky-dink town that’s all hotels and franchise restaurants and a pipeline storage farm. In the parking lot of something called a Cracker Barrel, I finally open the box.

I’m disappointed in the size of the revolver – a small frame Smith and Wesson – but it packs a stopping punch so I can’t complain. There’s also a box of fifty shells and a small-of-back holster. Plus a burner phone, a small silver key, and a couple of business cards – a bank in Las Vegas and a lawyer in Sacramento.

The note itself is generic as could be. Laser printed on cheap copier paper in an upper case default font. Probably Sans but possibly Arial.

ORANGE21.

It’s not an ingenious code.

My threat level is Orange. People are hunting me but they don’t know where I am.

The number of threats is two. Police and gangsters both.

And I should plan to stay away for at least a year.

It’s two thirty in the afternoon. When I cross the state-line into Alabama, I reclaim an hour. It does nothing for me. I’ve been traveling for thirteen hours straight. I’ll stop for the night when I reach Birmingham.

Or not.

The interstate cuts through forests and sky all the way to Birmingham. When the city appears in the south, I can’t bear to swap the green and blue for grey. Also it’s too early. I need to push myself today so I can get back into my regular sleep routine. I’m never flying cattle class again.

Little Rock, Arkansas, is five hours, a gallon of coffee, and three states down the road.

Alabama.

Mississippi.

And a snip across the corner of Tennessee.

When I blow into Little Rock, I know it’s time to stop but I’m so brain-tired I can barely make the call. The sight of a new build hotel at an imminent intersection lures me like a Siren. Or a sleepy bitch magnet.

They don’t have a restaurant so I pig out on vending machine potato chips and over-priced diet coke.

A British celebrity chef is terrorizing a dozen young Americans on TV when I pass out across the bed, unwashed and half-dressed. I’ve met that man a couple of times in a previous life and if he ever spoke that way to me, I’d hurt him. Grieviously.


 Page Three

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