At that flat rejoinder, which told her Colin had come to the same conclusion—blame the blow to her head if he’d gotten there before she did—Bianca felt goose bumps spring to prickly life all over her skin. She remembered the fate the CIA had planned for her the last time they’d had her in their clutches: they’d been in the process of trying to drown her in a vat of preservative liquid when she’d managed to escape.
She was, she discovered, still holding the phone. She spoke urgently into it. “Doc?”
“On it.” He sounded abstracted. She pictured him feverishly working his computer magic—on Lifson’s computer, she had no doubt—and realized that the best thing she could do was leave him alone to do his thing.
“Great,” she said. And hoped her voice didn’t sound as hollow to him as it did to her. The knot in her stomach was now boulder-sized. She had to work to keep her breathing even. She had great faith in Doc, she really did. But—
Praise the Lord, but pass the ammunition: a favorite saying of the grizzled former Army Ranger who’d trained her in wilderness survival, that was what popped into her mind in this moment of extremis. In other words, waiting for rescue was all well and good, but if you wanted to live you’d best get busy saving yourself.
“This your buddy who knocked me out?” Colin took the phone from her.
Bianca nodded. And bent double, twisting herself into a pretzel as she wormed her way down to reach the gas pedal in a quest to see if, perhaps, lifting/prying it up would close the throttle valve—stepping on the gas makes a car go forward because it depresses the mechanism that opens up the throttle valve, which lets air into the engine to mix with the gas—thus stopping the car. But the gas pedal was up, the throttle valve mechanism was in the closed position and impossible to manipulate without going through the metal floor, and the Jeep was still moving.
And picking up speed. At least, she thought it was. The vibration, the hum of the tires, the sensation of hurtling along, was intensified by her being wedged into the foot well. The faint smell of exhaust seeping through the floorboard made her nauseous.
Or maybe what was making her nauseous was burgeoning fear.
“You find a way to stop this thing and we’re quits, brother,” Colin said into the phone. That’s when she knew for sure that he was as alarmed about their potential fate as she was.
“Doing my best.” Doc’s reply was barely audible. Again Bianca pictured him at Lifson’s computer. Popping up, taking a steadying breath of fresher air, she turned the steering wheel—nothing—hit the gas as well as the brakes just to see—nothing. Absolutely no change. The Jeep was driving itself, or, rather, being driven remotely by someone unseen, zipping along and dodging the few cars in front of it as if it had eyes and could see.
And, yes, they were picking up speed. A glance at the speedometer showed her that it was creeping toward forty. On a street with a thirty-five-mile-per-hour limit, that was fast.
“Doc?” Her thumb hovered above the disconnect button. She hated to cut off contact.
“I’m hanging up,” she told him. “Call me back if something comes up.”
She hated to do it, but she disconnected. Then she held the phone out to Colin. “I’m taking your job offer, okay? You said the kill team would be called off when you got the word out. So get the word out. I’m in.”
“You know I know you’re lying, right?”
“Does it matter? Make the damned call.”
He took the phone from her, but shook his head. “You think the people I work for take calls from any random cell phone? That’s not the way they operate. We communicate through authorized channels only.”
“You have a phone number to call, don’t you?” His expression told her that he did. “Try.”
His mouth twisted. Then he punched in a number, hit the speaker button. The phone rang once, twice. A click as the call was picked up made Bianca’s pulse quicken with hope. Then a voice recording said, “We’re sorry. You have reached a number that is disconnected or that is no longer in service. If you feel you have reached this recording in error, please hang up and—”
He disconnected. “I can keep trying, use other numbers even, but the result’s not going to change, and we don’t have that kind of time.”
Disappointment felt thick in her throat. Well, she should have known that nothing was ever that easy. She gave a nod of reluctant acceptance.
“You armed?” she asked as he dropped the phone back into the console. “With anything besides the Glock 17 in your ankle holster, I mean?”
He gave her a narrow-eyed look. “A knife in my shoe.”
“Sorry, I left my AK-47 at home. What about you? Besides the throwing star necklace, that is. That sexy garter belt got anything lethal in it?”
“A switchblade. A garrote. My earrings are bo-shuriken.” Her favorites for special occasions when she had reason to fear for her safety, they were long, dangly crystal dazzlers with needlelike centers. He frowned at them. “Japanese throwing darts,” she explained.
“I know what bo-shuriken are.” His eyes slid over her. “No gun?”
“You know, when I got dressed this morning, I didn’t know you were coming. If I’d known, the answer might be different, but as it is, the throwing star and the rest are it.”
“So we’re facing a well-armed, highly trained and extremely lethal CIA kill team with one gun, two knives and some jewelry between us.”
“When you put it like that—” She broke off as their eyes met.
“Piece of cake,” he said.
She had to smile.
“They don’t need to get up close and personal to kill us,” he said.
This time the look they exchanged was grim.
“We need to get out of the car,” she said.
“Yep.” Clambering to his knees, holding on to the seat backs for balance against the Jeep’s rocking, he shimmied/squeezed into the back seat. At any other time, watching him lever his six-foot-three-inch frame through the few inches of space available to him would have made her laugh. This was not that time.
“How long do you think we have?” She couldn’t quite keep the tension out of her voice.
“They’ll want as few witnesses as possible, so at a guess we’ve got till we’re out of the city.”
Roughly fifteen minutes, then, was her estimate, and she thanked God for urban sprawl. Fifteen minutes she could work with.
The Jeep changed lanes again as it dodged a gray sedan emerging from a McDonald’s. Grimacing, she looked ahead for possible obstacles: some cars, a few red lights. She knew this street—there were warehouses and a dock down at the end of it, complete with security fences and guards. The river was to the left; Talmadge Bridge was coming up. To the right was the entire city of Savannah. And beyond that—the world.
Bottom line was, they could be headed anywhere. She wet her lips as anxiety dried her mouth. Realizing that she was glad Colin was trapped with her didn’t make her feel any better. He was, of course, a second trained body to fight, but that wasn’t entirely it, and she didn’t care to speculate on exactly what the rest of it was. Survive first, soul search later, she ordered herself.
“This isn’t aimed at you. It’s aimed at me.” She spoke with far more sangfroid than she was feeling as she studied the interior of the door. No way to wedge even the slimmest tool between the door and the window to hit the lock mechanism; thanks to the bulletproofing, the fit was too tight.
“Looks to me like we’re in it together.”
A glance in the rearview mirror revealed that he was trying the door handles and the window switches.
“Just think, if you’d minded your own business and left me alone, you wouldn’t be in this fix.”
“And if you weren’t so bloody pigheaded, we’d both be on a plane right now and neither one of us would be in this fix.”
“Like being in your power and the power of whoever you’re working for would be so much better.”
“Five Eyes. I told you. And in case you haven’t quite picked up on what’s happening, somebody’s trying to kill us here. How much bloody worse could it get?”
“Who knows? You already threatened my friends and my business.”
“Anything I could do to them beats the hell out of us being dead.”
Fair point. She didn’t say it. Instead her response was a scornful grunt as she ran her hands searchingly over the hard, smooth plastic of the door panel.
The ironic thing was, she could break into just about any car ever made in a matter of minutes. Breaking out of a car, however, was trickier, because the locks providing easy access were on the outside of the doors. To get to them from the inside without being able to use some kind of makeshift slim-jim would require digging into the door itself: doable but time-consuming. Especially given all the custom reinforcements she’d added to the Jeep.
What could she say? It had seemed like a good idea at the time.
She went for something potentially quicker, reaching up under her skirt to yank the knife from her garter belt then grabbing every wire she could find. If she was lucky, she might be able to kill the flow of electricity to the battery or fuel pump, which would in theory cause the car to stop.
In a series of quick, fierce movements she sliced through wire after wire.
At the same time Colin kicked savagely at the rear windows and doors. Smash, smash, smash, smash.