Wednesday, September 27th,
After clicking on the right turn signal, Evan drove the
Blazer into the underpass. This was surely the correct spot. The sign said it
Patient Pick Up & Drop Off. Personal Vehicles
He chuckled to himself. Well, yeah, this darn thing
certainly fits that description.
Dana texted she would be near the street, on the sidewalk.
He found a vehicle-free spot and parked close to the
sidewalk’s curb. He wanted to remove his sunglasses, but recalled he was
instructed to keep them on.
So, even with the tint in his view he looked around. Black
floppy hat. Blond wig. Ripped, or torn as Nate probably meant, black jacket.
And then he found her around twenty yards away, near the
glass entrance doors. She could see him. She was walking directly toward him.
The first thing he noticed was her overall appearance. Going for the
low-income, destitute style? Sure. Good cover, for a woman worth 130 million.
He couldn’t help but notice her long, slender legs fit quite snuggly into
dark-colored ripped leggings. She was wearing a ratty-looking, wash-worn black
denim jacket, over a black T-shirt. That black floppy hat had quite the wide
brim, hiding most of her face. And her sunglasses covered even more – large,
round dark lens hiding part of her cheeks even. The only thing lightening her
outfit were the long, straight blond strands, falling nicely and abundantly
around her shoulders.
She looked tall, beautiful, but fragile, her steps in
flat-healed sneakers unsteady and her pace slow. She kept her head down most of
the time, a slouching posture definitely not typical for her.
Fortunately, no one was nearby. People out and about
elsewhere in the area were mostly older and didn’t seem to notice a thing.
She had told him not to get out of the Blazer and not to say
her name. He could only wait, but he locked his eyes on her, his protective
She arrived at the passenger-side door. She opened it and
looked within. “Paps. Have you seen any?”
“Uh, no. I just got here. I’ve only seen a few old folks,
“Okay.” She grabbed the dashboard with one hand and placed
her left hand upon the seat, giving evidence in her hand and the jacket’s
sleeve that her left arm was trembling. “Oh, damn. I’m so weak yet.”
Evan immediately reached over and wrapped his hand around
her jacket-covered arm. “I have you, Dana. Let me help you.”
He eased her into the seat, very surprised by her
When she was sitting comfortably, and she had closed the
passenger-side door, he helped wrap the seatbelt around her and plug it in.
He held his foot on the brake and shifted into drive. “All
set to go?”
She glanced around out the windows. “I don’t think I see
anyone suspicious up ahead. Do you?”
He did his best to scan the area ahead from within his
tinted, sunglasses-view. “Still just seeing old people in wheelchairs or on
crutches. Nothing more.”
“You’re right. Me too. Go straight ahead under here and then
take a right on Park Avenue. Just try to go fast, if you can.”
“All right. But I think driving normally would attract less
“Yeah, yeah. Sure, sure.” Her words came off as a bit curt.
He carefully drove the old clunker, muffler noisy, motor
rapping, along the under-passage road, thankful no people nor vehicles were
blocking their path. Eventually he arrived at the under-passage end, turning
right onto Park Avenue once traffic had cleared.
“So,” he asked, making certain to speak loud enough to
compete with the Blazer’s noise, “where are we heading?”
“North, more or less.” She spoke at a higher volume too.
“Once you see an available street heading north, a two-way or one-way, take
He passed by a suitable road, just as she said that.
“Take the next.”
He kept his eyes on the road, traffic building up, and the
Blazer running increasingly rough and losing some acceleration power. But he
had to know. “Dana. What’s going on? And why did you want me involved in this?”
“There.” She pointed up ahead at a traffic light. “Third
Street South. One way. Get in your left lane. Take that left.”
Using the Blazer’s mirrors he adjusted before driving, he
carefully eased the vehicle into the left lane. They sat for only seconds at
the red light and then it turned green.
He turned onto 3rd Street. The Blazer was sounding worse by
the second. “We don’t have much time with this thing. It has a bad rod knock.
Can you please answer my question?”
“I will! Can’t you just wait?”
Something for certain wasn’t right with her. Maybe even fear
in her voice. “Yes. I can, Dana. But like I told you, this Blazer could break
“Well, good. Then we walk. I don’t care.”
“Walk? Around murder-apolis? I mean, I can protect you, but
why take chances?” He glanced at her, expecting a direct-on sunglasses-under-floppy
hat glare, but instead found her staring straight ahead out the windshield, her
hat covering most of her profile.
“I don’t care,” she said. “You’ll protect me. It’s your
He focused his eyes on the road again. “Uh, actually not.
Carter told me last night my position had ended. He no longer needs me on the
“What? Well, I’m the one paying you. He has no say in this.
So, no, you are not fired and you’re still working for me.”
“Well, fine. But Dana. No need to put ourselves at
She sighed. “Life…is unnecessary risk. All of it is.”
“Okay, maybe so. But I don’t agree with walking around this
She didn’t respond. He continued concentrating on driving,
unsure of what to make of her words.
Coming to a stop at a traffic light, he gave her a glance.
She had settled herself into the seat, her arms crossed over her ripped
leggings-covered thighs, her hat yet hiding most of her face. She was probably
The light turned red and he continued driving.
“So, you must know your way around here pretty good,” she
said, “being from Minnesota and all.”
“Somewhat. I have been here before. Just be forewarned. This
street has a lot of traffic lights.”
“Yeah. I can see way up ahead.”
“Are we going to keep driving then? And are you going to
tell me where we are going?”
“I will. Just keep driving for now. I need to rest.”
“All right. But you need to tell me soon.”
Again, no answer about what was going on. And it was
obvious, with her confirmed tiredness, that she shouldn’t have left the
hospital so soon too.
Driving along 3rd Street, Evan recalled the tall
or broad buildings and other landmarks he and Dad traveled by, that day, after
Mom had died. And sure enough, like he remembered, a freaking traffic light was
at every block’s intersection. How annoying.
Dana was quiet and resting.
He concentrated more on the Blazer. Was it really a rod
knock? The rapping noise was getting louder. Maybe belt tension problems,
piston slap or possibly even timing chain slap. But with every increase in
distance traveled, the accelerator was providing less power. He looked at the
gauges. Not good. The oil pressure was now dropping, a sure symptom of pressure
loss from the extra space inside the damaged crank.
He was keeping count. They had now passed through five
traffic lights, though not all were red.
The rod knock noise grew louder.
“Is this thing about to die?” Dana asked, stirring from her
Smoke began seeping up and out of the sides of the Blazer’s
hood. “You sure spoke at the right time.” The stupid thing was losing even more
power. “Sure looks that way.”
The traffic light up ahead was red. He put on the brake.
More smoke was pouring out from the hood and the rod knock
noise was pattering away even louder. “We need to get out of this thing.”
“I have to agree,” she said. “Pull over as soon as you can.”
The light turned green. Evan pressed on the accelerator,
barely feeling any power, but still enough to get them moving. With a
vehicle-free spot coming into view up ahead, he snapped on the right turn
signal and eventually parked there, next to a massive twenty to thirty story
tall building. He glanced at Dana. “Let’s get out now before this Blazer explodes
or catches fire.”
She nodded and didn’t hesitate, clicking the handle and
swinging the door outward to the sidewalk in mere seconds.
Evan turned off the ignition and took the keys. He searched
in both rear-view mirrors until seeing a break in traffic. He stepped out and
rushed around the front end of the Blazer until meeting up with Dana on the
She walked over to the tall, concrete building, her back
facing the oncoming traffic. He followed her. She leaned against the building’s
side, though yet trying to face away from the street, her hat and sunglasses
hiding her well regardless. “You think anyone will recognize us?”
He glanced over her body. “Our heights are the main things
recognizable, honestly. And your slim body. Otherwise, I suppose no one will
notice. We’re not dressed like we usually do.”
“You really think I look slim?”
“Yes, of course you do.”
“Thanks.” She looked at the Blazer, smoke still gushing out,
though diminishing slightly. “You sure that thing’s done for good?”
“Oh, yeah. For sure. I work on vehicles. That engine needs
to be replaced. Oh. And by the way. Nate doesn’t want his aunt getting a
citation for leaving it here and getting towed.”
“Ridiculous. He can bill me. We can easily take care of that
charge. Just hang on to the keys. I’ll text him about it later.” She sighed and
stared ahead down the street, in the northern direction. “We need to keep
moving.” She took off walking in the same direction she stared, keeping her
back towards the one-way street’s engine-revving, noisy traffic. Her steps
definitely lacked her usual energy.
Evan immediately rushed up next to her, so he walked between
her left side and the traffic gushing along. “Dana. Can you please tell me,
now, why we are doing this?”
“I will. Just…just not yet. I don’t feel comfortable telling
you here, outside. We should find a place inside somewhere.”
“Do you know your way around here too?”
“Sort of. Probably not as much as you do.”
They arrived at another traffic light intersection.
“Where to now?” he asked.
She kept her head down, so the hat hid her face. Traffic on
3rd Street was rushing northward, while traffic on the intersecting
street, a road named Nicollet Mall with two-way traffic, had vehicles waiting
on the red. “West,” she answered, barely audible, “on Nicollet.”
3rd Street traffic finally hit the red light.
“Evan.” She took hold of his right arm. “I need your help.”
“Of course.” He wrapped his right hand around her left hand,
holding securely, and led them across 3rd Street to Nicollet.
He couldn’t hear anyone with their car windows down shout
out ‘Hey, there’s Dana Zypher’ or anything similar, but he was concerned at how
much trouble she had walking, her steps more of a quick shuffle. She really
wasn’t up for this.
When they arrived across the street, they ended up walking
along a smooth, cobblestone-like sidewalk adjacent to Nicollet, with narrow
lawns and planted trees nearby. Her movement was yet sluggish. “Dana.” He
continued to hold her hand as they walked. “You worry me. I don’t think you
“No! Stop.” She yanked her hand away from his grasp. “This
is more important than me right now.”
“Okay, fine. But are you sure you can walk without my help
“Maybe. Let me try.”
He sighed. “All right.” And then he recalled Nate’s last
words. He glanced around the sidewalk and street but didn’t see any people
walking or in vehicles that suggested covert spying, on them. “And why did Nate
say we could be followed by someone?”
“Umm, I don’t know. Just a feeling I got.”
“A feeling? What do you mean?” They were now walking past a
large parking lot. But after he let his eyes do a quick search around the lot,
he didn’t see anything to be concerned with.
“I’ll tell you soon. When we get somewhere secluded.”
Something more was bothering him, but what? And then it hit.
Art’s Unihertz phone. It was on him but could not be tracked. But his iPhone
could be. He thrust his hand within his jogging pants pocket and pulled it out.
He quickly turned it off. “Dana. Where’s your phone?”
“On me. Why?”
“You need to turn it off.”
She stopped walking, near some sort of Minneapolis directory
structure, glass-encased, with maps and other info. She leaned against it.
“You’re probably right.” She reached inside her jacket and pulled out a large,
leather zippered wallet. She unzipped it and clutched a small iPhone. Her hands
were trembling, and she was having trouble handling the phone. “Can you, help
“Of course.” He made sure to stand in front of her, guarding
her, and proceeded to turn off her iPhone. He handed it back to her.
She put everything back together and placed the wallet
inside her jacket. “Come on. Let’s keep moving.” She continued walking in the
same direction as before.
He stepped directly alongside her again.
Something was definitely wrong; her behavior was quite
different, especially in regards to this following thing.
A few people, college-age guys and girls walked past them.
But Dana had her head lowered and none of them expressed any awareness of
Dana’s celebrity status, nor seemed to notice Evan himself.
But a sensation of being followed, and watched, arose in
Evan’s mind and body. Maybe either Art, or Limati, was alerting him, somehow.
This wasn’t good. If only he had thought about the phones earlier.
They arrived at another traffic light intersection, next to
a very tall apartment building on the south corner. Dana lifted her head up,
enough even to be seen by people, and she looked around the streets. More
people were hurrying about on the nearby sidewalks, probably in a rush to get
to school, work, or whatever, but again, none of them appeared to recognize
Dana. Nor did people in the vehicles. She finally settled her attention to her
right, on 4th Street S, though in the northward direction. “Come on.
Let’s head up there.”
He checked to make sure traffic was fully stopped. It was.
He walked on her right side, protecting her from the vehicles, regardless of
what she might think.
When across the intersection, she continued leading them
along the sidewalk, passing an expansive bike parking area, filled with more
college-age people. But this time, some of those people did pause and stare
when she walked past.
Dana noticed it too. She picked up her pace slightly. Evan
turned back several times while they walked, but no one was gawking
excessively, or following them, at least not yet.
They walked along the side of a four-story building. Dana
looked to the left, across the street. She stopped walking. She fanned her hand
by her face a few times and gestured a brief pointed finger at the building.
“There. Looks like a public parking garage.” The building consisted of
four-story circular ramp spirals, heading up, to the different parking levels.
The building also had a ramp heading down to a dimly lit basement level below.
“Let’s go there.”
This didn’t feel right. “You sure?”
“Yes. I just…I just want to hide away for a while.”
“All right. But I want to hold your hand as we cross. Okay?”
“Uhh, sure. I’m not walking the best anyway.”
Evan grasped her right hand in his left. They waited.
Fortunately, 4th Street South was a one-way, heading south. When a
break in traffic came about, he helped her cross the wide, five lane street,
with her even attempting to do a slow jog.
She stopped on the sidewalk next to the parking garage once
they crossed the street. She stared down at the basement ramp. A red Nissan
Murano suddenly headed up on this ramp. “Come on. I want to go down there.”
“Wait. What? Down there?” She started walking down the ramp,
but he pulled her back by his yet secure grasp on her hand. “Dana. No! Stop.”
She looked at him with those sunglass-covered eyes. “There’s
no time for this! Please!” She twisted her hand away from his hold. She kept
her head down and waited until the Murano passed by them. “Come on!” She began
an awkward jog down the ramp, about twenty yards in length until the basement
“I do not approve of this, Dana, not at all.”
Following her, negative, disturbing thoughts materialized.
How could he not have realized this so far? Dana and Hal’s behavior at the
party. Nate’s suggestion that someone could be trailing them, now. Had this all
been a setup, planned all along amongst Carter, Lloyd, Hal, and maybe even Dana
since she had no choice?
But he had to follow her, he just had to! Art. Limati.
Don’t fail me now! He had to find out the truth, one way or another.
They arrived down at the basement level parking area near an
automated ticket reader and dispenser. Dana headed left, where it was even
darker. Evan immediately removed his hat and sunglasses, tucking both into his
jacket’s pocket. He checked for any people nearby but saw no one. This was
getting more uncomfortable. And it didn’t help this place was far larger than
its above ground structure would indicate. His eyes alert, he stared carefully
within the low lighting and figured the entire underground room was about a
hundred yards squared, with vast rows and sections of parked vehicles, and a
few people though at the far corner of the room.
He glanced behind, up the ramp, but no one was to be seen
He focused back on Dana. She was walking past a corner
section room with a door that read ‘Pedestrian Locked Storage’. On one side of
this corner section room were two rows of bikes attached with chains to metal
She walked beyond the bikes, toward the building’s
Keeping his alert senses in high gear, Master Ren style, he
walked over to her. She had found an empty area. Some vehicles were parked at
the opposite end of the bike racks lines, some twenty feet away or so, but
otherwise this area was just an empty concrete floor bordered by the bikes, the
corner room’s wall, and the building’s south wall.
Evan looked around again. Still no one right nearby, that he
could see or hear. They were quite alone right now unless someone suddenly
decided to barge through that door. He rested his hands loosely at his sides,
prepared. “Dana. Come on already. Why did you take me here?”
She took off her sunglasses and slipped them into a pocket
inside her jacket, just like he had done. She leaned against the south wall. “I
need to tell you something.”
He stepped closer and locked eyes with her tired gaze on a
weary face. She didn’t seem to be hiding something nefarious, but he couldn’t
say for sure. “I sure hope you can. Your dad and Carter are going to be really
upset with me, allowing you to leave the hospital in your condition and come
“NO!” Her loud response echoed in the building. She covered
her mouth a moment. “I don’t care.” She spoke quieter. “I don’t care about my
dad, and Carter.” She drew in a deep breath and held her gaze on him. “Evan.
Listen. I don’t want anything to do with them anymore. And even more important,
you need to do the same…though, Carter, of course, ended your employment.”
“Why avoid them? Why?” He stepped until several feet from
her. “Can you please tell me what’s going on? Your behavior has been off for
“It’s hard…to explain, and I--” Dana stared to her left. Her
eyes instantly grew wide and startled.
A familiar set of metallic noises struck Evan’s ears, from
behind where he stood; someone had pulled back the slide on a handgun, to click
a bullet into the chamber. And it took. The bullet was in the chamber. He felt
Adrenaline filled him, at the same time he caught motion on
his right. Hal was here. What? Hal was standing about ten feet away, the
handgun tightly crammed into his two gloved-covered hands. How was this even
possible? Hal pointed the gun, likely a Glock 19 at them both as he stepped
closer, trapping them in the corner produced by the south and storage room
Instead of affirming his suspicion, though, his mind quickly
concluded something else.
Dana’s startled eyes had shown fear.
Instinct took over. Evan swiped his left arm out into an encircling
arc and forced Dana behind his back. “What do you want, Hal?”
Hal had a devious, disturbing look on his face. He squinted
one eye and aimed the gun right at Evan’s face. “You, bitch.”
Dana struggled away from Evan’s hold and moved out to his
left side. “Leave us the fuck alone, Hal, right now! You hear me?”
“Dana, no!” Evan grabbed hold of her and pushed her behind
his back again. Anger roiled within him. Hal had really done did it this time.
He walked straight on at Hal. “Go ahead. Pull it. I know where I’m going. Do
you?” He kept on walking, unafraid, until standing only several feet from Hal.
He meant those words. “Let’s get this done.”
Confusion flushed across Hal’s face. He stepped back a few
paces. “I’ll do it, Evan. Do not tempt me.”
Evan continued to move closer to him, each step replacing
the lost distance from Hal’s reverse steps.
“Don’t do this!” Dana said, staying close behind Evan as he
walked. But then she veered away from his left side again, only too far away
this time for him to grab her. She walked toward Hal anyway. “It’s me you want,
and you know that. Leave Evan alone!”
His eyes wide, yet displaying confusion, Hal was unsure
where to point the gun. But then he pointed both the gun and his stare directly
on Dana. “Stay away from me, you whore!”
That was all Evan needed to see and
hear. Years of previous training in fast disarming rushed to his mind’s
forefront. He was pumped and ready for this.
Hal had his finger in the trigger well. In lightning-fast
speed, Evan tilted to the left to block Dana as much as he could and to avoid
the gun’s line of fire, at the same time clamping both hands on the gun and
flipping it to his right. Instantly Hal lost grip on the gun. Evan flung the
gun behind at a diagonal line away from himself.
Hal lunged for him. He grabbed Evan’s jacket and shot a left
hook to Evan’s head. Much faster than normal, Evan whipped his right arm up,
blocking the head blow. He didn’t waste a second, quickly removing his right
arm’s protective stance and launched a right fist to Hal’s left jaw. This
knocked Hal off balance, and he began to fall, yanking Evan down with him. But
preventing a fall to the concrete below, Evan sealed his left hand around Hal’s
wrist of the hand that yet clenched the jacket and with his right fist pounded
on Hal’s head. He held him up and kneed Hal’s head several times too, until he
swung Hal around by the wrist he still grasped and then at the same time
released the wrist and pushed Hal’s back, sending him hurling towards the
building’s south wall.
All of this happened way easier than normal. And he was
barely breathing. Art or Limati?
Breaking impact with his forearms, Hal spun around. He
glared at Evan, intense hate and rage in his eyes, blood pouring down from his
nose. He wiped his nose and mouth and began to lunge at Evan for round two.
“Stop it, Hal!”
Hal stopped in his tracks.
Evan looked over to his left. Dana was holding the handgun
with both hands, pointing it at Hal. Her finger was on the trigger. “I will do
it, unlike you. Don’t make me.” She stepped a little closer and kept it
targeted on him.
His breathing fast and labored, Hal leaned back against the
wall. He wiped his nose and mouth again. “You…all that talk, all those videos
and promotions, about gun control. You…you don’t even like guns.”
“Shut up!” she yelled. “You need to get out of here, now!”
Hal glanced at Evan and then back at Dana. “Who taught you
how to use a gun…Dana?” He straightened himself up and pressed his back into
the wall. “That is, if…if I’m really talking to Dana, now.”
She stepped back a little. “What the hell is that supposed
Hal leaned forward and began walking away from the wall, but
not toward Evan. “Oh, you know exactly what I mean.” He pointed at Evan. “You.”
He pointed at Dana. “And you. The fake blond bimbo under the hat.” He shook his
head but kept moving. “I don’t need to take care of you two. It was only a
test. You two have it coming, so I don’t need to do a thing.” He smirked, and
nodded slightly. “Waiting with anticipation for it.”
“What exactly are you talking about?” Evan demanded.
He pointed at Evan again. “You’re possessed, man. Nobody,
especially an eighteen-year-old punk, has speed and strength like that without
some help. But not to worry. Takes one…to know one.” He struck his fist twice
against his chest. “Others have it too.”
“I’m not possessed, you idiot,” Evan said, flexing up and
preparing for another attack on Hal.
Dana rushed closer to Evan and seized his left arm, holding
him back. “No. Just let him leave.”
Hal let out a horrible, strange laugh. “Can’t wait to see
you guys get yours.” He charged at Evan for just a few feet. “And you will,
bitch! You will.” He then backed away.
With a limp, Hal started walking, then jogging, up the same
ramp driveway Dana had led them down earlier.
Evan stepped around the bike racks until he could see up the
ramp to the street. Hal continued moving but glanced back one time. A car then
headed down the ramp, blocking Evan’s view. When the car passed by him, he
looked up the ramp again. Hal was gone.
The car, a blue Dodge Journey headed far across the parking
area to a distant location, Evan keeping an eye on the driver’s path. He also
looked around for anyone nearby, who might have heard their fighting commotion,
but thankfully there wasn’t anyone.
He looked at his hands. They were bloody. But whose blood?
He wiped them on his jacket for now.
He walked over to Dana. She had removed the magazine from
the gun and was peering inside it.
She looked at Evan. “I guess he didn’t lie, not really.”
He could see tears had filled her eyes and had overflowed
into little streams on her cheeks. “No bullets?”
“Just one in the chamber.”
He also noticed she was shaking. “Dana. What’s going on?”
“I think you can tell by now. You’re in danger, from…from
Hal, and my dad and Carter.”
“Okay. I can think of some reasons why they don’t like me.
But what about you?”
Dana gave the magazine and the gun to him. He took both and
shoved them into the inside pockets of his jacket. She looked into his eyes. “I
guess the same goes for me too.”
“His own daughter?”
She wiped her eyes and cheek with her hand. She was shaking
even more now. “I don’t know.” Her voice gave indication she was fighting back
Evan wrapped his arms around her and took her to his chest.
He gently stroked her back. “It’s all right, Dana. We’ll figure this out. Did
you want to contact the police?”
She allowed him to hold her for a moment, but then pushed
away from his embrace. “No.” She looked in his eyes. “We need to leave, soon.”
“And go where?”
She pulled out her wallet, unzippered it and took out her
iPhone. She turned it on. “Only for a short time. I need to check something.”
“You shouldn’t turn it on at all now. And how did Hal show
up so suddenly? I looked around everywhere before we showed up here, and I did
not see him. Not too sure what was going on, especially with the way you
treated me at the party Saturday night.”
She looked up from her phone. “Saturday night. Yes. You’re
right. I was so rude to you. And I am sorry.”
“That’s okay, Dana. But how did he find us here?”
“I definitely didn’t have anything to do with it. The only
thing I set up was with Nate, and that’s the truth. I don’t know how he found
us here.” She formed a puzzled expression. “But why did he mention about you
“I can’t answer that too, except he couldn’t handle being
defeated by me, and that was his only explanation.” Well, that was sort of a
“You did move quite fast. But I’ve seen other martial arts
experts do the same.” She shrugged. “Hal is just a fucking idiot.” She went
back to her phone, doing a search in the web browser, her fingers yet
“I hurt him. I didn’t mean to.”
“But he totally deserved it. You did nothing wrong. I mean,
come on, my brave protector, you were willing to take a bullet for me.” She
gazed into his eyes. “Thank you, really.”
“Hey, it’s my job. Or, at least, it was my job.”
She smiled, but only a moment. “You’re still working for me,
don’t worry.” She finished with her phone and then turned it off, putting the
phone back into the wallet, and the wallet back in her jacket’s inner pocket.
“What should we do with the gun?”
He glanced around the area, thinking. No one was yet nearby.
But that was for sure not to last forever. And security videos probably
recorded it all too. “Against my better judgement, but given the circumstances,
we need to keep it with us.”
“I agree. We should leave this place. Now.”