Road Kill

Road Kill is a thriller that starts with an average day for government intelligence analyst who sits in the wrong seat on his early morning flight. When the passenger who sits in our hero's intended seat ends up dead by poisoning, the story quickly accelerates to a cat and mouse game. The main character is being framed for possessing intelligence that he did not gather. He must go on the run in an attempt to clear his name and stay alive.

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8. Part 8 - Welcome to Florida

As I sat in the spacious front seat of the vintage Crown Victoria, I began to ponder my situation. We were heading down Interstate 95 at a legal, but aggressive speed. We were likely being searched for by Donovan and my agency along with whatever other government and private mercenaries had been enlisted. My escape from The Mother Ship screamed guilt. My fleeing with Ben Simpson implicated him as well. Now I was heading south to try to pull someone else into this web of guilt. If I was going to clear myself and those that I involved, it was going to be a difficult road. The more people I pulled in, the more risk there was of taking them all down with me on a sinking ship.

As we crossed the South Carolina border and made our way past Savannah Georgia, Ben pulled the Crown Vic off the road into one of the many travel stops.

“Gas is cheap here in Georgia. We might as well top her off,” he said

“Good idea. I need to use the bathroom.”

“Let’s get some food. There’s a Subway connected to this place. What do you want?”

“Ham and cheese for me.”

“I’ll get the gas and the sandwiches. Give the cashier this on the way in and tell him fill-up on pump 2.”

I took the crisp twenty and ten that Ben gave me, stopped by the cashier and headed to the men’s room. After I relieved myself, I looked in the mirror as I washed my hands. My artificially brown irises were surrounded by red. My eyes had dark circles under them from lack of sleep. Seeing this image in the mirror resulted in a wave of exhaustion passing through my body to the extent that I had to grab the edge of the sink.

I splashed some cold water in my face and made my way back out to the car. Ben was just finishing up pumping the gas. He tossed me the keys and headed for the travel store.

“I’ve gotta use the facilities. You can drive the rest of the way. I’ll pick up the sandwiches on my way out.”

I sat in the driver’s seat and adjusted the mirrors. As I looked in the rearview, a blue and yellow Dodge Charger with the markings of the Georgia State Patrol pulled in behind me. I saw the driver and passenger doors open. I began to panic. Could Donovan have put out a BOLO for me? The trooper from the passenger side walked up the driver side of the Crown Vic. I sunk down in the seat. As he got close to the driver door, I braced myself for him tapping on the window. I expected his partner to be coming up the other side of the car.

Instead, he was pumping gas into their cruiser. The other trooper passed the Crown Vic on his way into the store. My panic was unfounded, but also reminded me how serious the situation was.

As my breathing returned to normal, Ben returned to the car. I told him what happened.

“Donovan wouldn’t have put a BOLO out on you yet. I know him. He’s personally embarrassed that you escaped on his watch. He will send his thugs after you. He wants to make this go away. You’re making him look bad.”

“So how is he going to find me?”

“He’ll wait for you to slip up. Don’t underestimate him.”

“You make it sound hopeless.”

“Not totally. We just need to stay one step ahead. We do that now by getting back on the road.”

I maneuvered the land yacht back on to 95 south. We cruised silently for the next couple of hours and crossed the Georgia-Florida line.

“So, I haven’t asked until now. Where are we going?” Simpson asked as we passed the northern fringes of Jacksonville.

“We’re going to visit a person that I know only by reputation. He is a hacker with a reputation for being able to maneuver his way around the Dark Web like some kind of cyber Spiderman.”

“That’s saying something. You think this guy will help you?”

“I’m hoping he will. He’s kind of a friend of a friend with a reputation for helping people in trouble.”

The sun had been down for a while and it was approaching 10 P.M. I pulled off into the parking log of a Red Roof Inn.

“What are we doing?” Simpson asked.

“It’s too late to try to make contact tonight. Let’s get some rest and we’ll reach out to him tomorrow.”

“Good idea. This place is out of the way enough. Like I said, I don’t think Donovan has put out a wide net for you yet. He’s going to wait until you pop up somewhere on the grid and them move in fast.”

“So let’s stay off the grid until tomorrow.”

“Agreed.”

Simpson paid cash for a room with two double beds. We went to a retail pharmacy that was nearby and bought some travel size toiletries and toothbrushes. Then we grabbed some fast food and went back to the Motel.

I spent a couple of hours switching through the television news channels half expecting to see my face splashed across the screen as a criminal on the run. Ben fell into a deep sleep in one of the beds.

After I was satisfied that I wasn’t the most wanted man in America, I went into the bathroom, popped out my color contacts into some saline that I had bought. Brushed my teeth and crawled into the other bed. I didn’t think I would sleep, but I soon fell into a deep sleep.

My body must have reacted to the fatigue of being on the run. I woke up with a strip of sunshine filtering through the blackout drapes directly into my face. I wiped the sleep from my eyes and noticed that Ben wasn’t in the other bed.

I swung my legs onto the floor and shook the cobwebs from my mind. The clock radio showed that it was 7:30 A.M. It was time to get going. But where was Ben?

I walked to the window and carefully peered out. I saw Ben pacing in the parking lot. He was speaking on a cell phone. A cell phone. So much for staying off the grid. I opened the door to the room and he turned as saw me. He ended his call and came back toward the door.

“What the hell was that? You’re on the phone? What’s going on here Ben?

“Just relax. It’s a burner. No one can trace it. I’m just making sure that our tracks are covered, that’s all. I’ve got eyes back in Virginia. Apparently they’ve been combing the woods by my property since yesterday and they just gave up this morning. They’re just figuring out that we’re not there or they think we were killed in the cave in of the tunnel.”

I calmed down a bit, but this raised questions.

“Are you sure you can trust these ‘eyes’ of yours?”

“I’m sure. There’s a pretty extensive network of people like me that want to stay off the grid and keep the government out of our lives. We look out for each other.”

It sounded convincing, but I couldn’t help but wonder if Ben was telling me the truth. He must have picked up on my thoughts.

“Listen, I’m looking out for you. Let’s get on the road and go see your contact. We need to get online and look for the backup of your laptop images if we’re going to get out of this mess.”

I snapped back to the matter at hand. I put my contacts back in, straightened my hair, brushed my teeth and we gathered up our things and hit the road.

We traveled over the Buckman Bridge and followed the 295 loop toward the beaches area of Jacksonville. We exited on Atlantic Boulevard and followed it east to the coast and to a strip mall in the Neptune Beach area.

I parked the car a few doors down from the office that we were visiting. We walked in to the lobby and we were greeted by a friendly looking black dog.

“Who is it Lucy?” came a voice from one of the offices and then, “May I help you?”

The man was medium height with dark hair and intimidating blue eyes that indicated intelligence.

“Are you Clifford Jones?”

“No, I’m his partner, Frank. Jonesy, er, Mr. Jones should be back in a little bit. He is out getting us coffee. If you have a seat he’ll be here soon.”

We sat in the small lobby area of the office and less than three minutes later, the door opened and a figure that looked like he just finished surfing entered.

“Jonesy, these gentlemen are here to see you.”

I stood up and shook hands with Clifford Jones.

“How can I help you guys?” he asked with just a bit of trepidation.

“Mr. Athenos sent me,” I said in reply.

Jones recognized the code word at once and his face changed.

“Come into my office,” he said.

We entered and he motioned to his guest chairs and quickly closed the door behind us.

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