Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice: 1
Title: Miss Me, Kait
Hannah and Chad descended from the truck and somehow got me and Riley into the backseat. Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven serenaded the push-me-pull-you process.
“One of us is going to be climbing that damn stairway if we don’t get a move on,” Riley said. She practically yanked my t-shirt over my head before we settled on the bench seat.
“Ouch, babe. Damn it.” I hissed as cotton pulled away from torn flesh. “I’ve been shot, remember?”
“And I have a broken ankle, probably a concussion, cuts, bruises, and I don’t even know what else.”
The laundry list made me pale. She folded up the shirt into a pad and held it to my shoulder.
“Keep pressure on it. It’s still bleeding.” She swore rapidly under her breath. “But you’re not dying, got it? I’ve had enough of the dead.”
I wrapped my arms around her as best I could. She shifted to hold on to me without destroying my shoulder.
“No dying,” I said. “You’re the boss.
“We need to get out of here, Chad” she said. “Before they come looking for us.”
Chad didn’t need a second warning. He turned the truck around and headed out of the woods. We burst out onto the pavement. Hannah had the truck’s CB in hand, giving updates to the police.
I touched the cut along Riley’s forehead. It would scar, no doubt. She winced, but didn’t pull away.
“How’s your vision?” I asked.
“A little wonky, but good enough to see you.”
“Where am I heading?”
It took a minute to get our position relative to my station. I gave Chad directions and he floored the pedal.
“There’s gonna be all grades of hell to pay for this mess,” I said for Riley’s ears only. “You never should have come after me.”
“Right, right,” she said. “Next time, I’ll let the APB find you.” She patted my thigh. “They didn’t, by the way. In case you missed that part.”
I exhaled a choppy breath.
“No, I caught it.”
“I’ll help you fill out the paperwork,” she said. “Promise.”
“Um, guys?” Hannah’s voice wobbled. “Is this a bad thing?”
We looked out the windshield as Chad slowed to a stop. A police blockade crossed the otherwise empty road. Not local. I recognized the dark FHP cars, spotted the officers positioned for a very one-sided firefight, and the longer barrels of rifles.
How big did this damn thing get? I mean, the senator wasn’t enough? He had to have state troopers in his pocket, too?
“Turn around,” I said. “Now. Hur—”
The windshield cracked twice. Chad and Hannah slumped in their seats. Riley made a noise halfway between a whimper and a scream, a high keening sound that set my teeth on edge.
The air left me. Riley couldn’t run. Fuck, with only two doors on the truck, we’d be dead before we pushed our way over the seats and past Hannah and Chad to get out.
“Out the back,” Riley said, no longer screaming, but calm. Numb. She took my shirt and tied it around my shoulder. “Go, Adam. It’s your only chance.”
“You said no dying. I’m not leaving you.”
“They’re coming, so don’t dick around.”
Officers walked slowly our way, guns at the ready.
“You’re the only one strong enough,” she said. Her hand cupped my cheek. “It’s all on you to make sure we’re not lost for nothing.”
“Riley, no.” Tears stung my eyes.
“I die now, okay? I know. It sucks. But you have to try, damn it.”
“I can’t just leave you here.”
“Then it’s all in vain,” she said. “Everything we’ve done and been through. All the death and pain… it’s for nothing.” She pressed the zip drive into my hand. “I love you. Always. Now go.”
I pressed my lips to hers, hard and fierce. Then I opened the back slider window and climbed my way through with Riley’s help, all the while praying the staties didn’t open fire before I got moving. I edged over the end of the truck bed, trying not to jar the vehicle. With any luck, they wouldn’t notice until too late.
I ran straight back, as fast as I could, using the truck as a shield. The more distance I got between us, the more chance they’d miss when they shot.
One hundred, two hundred paces.
I didn’t look behind me, just veered left into the thickest brush. Gunfire obliterated any other sound, but I didn’t stop. The ground gave way, and I tumbled down. Soupy mud sucked at my body, slowing me.
I had to keep moving.
Please let it be quick. I prayed as I ran. Prayed she didn’t suffer.
I prayed, and I didn’t believe in God. Or any damned stairway to Heaven.
“You’d better believe.” The shadow of her voice touched my mind.
“Oh, no. Please, no.” My eyes burned with tears I couldn’t let loose.
“We cry when we’re done,” she said.
“Okay,” I said, swiping at my eyes. “Let’s finish this.”
The zip drive tight in my hand, I followed her directions. Away from the following troopers. Toward salvation. Justice.
“I don’t care how high I have to climb to get to you, Carson,” I whispered. “I’m coming for you.”
Cara Michaels is the author of the Gaea’s Chosen sci-fi romance series and host of the #MenageMonday flash fiction challenge.