Okay, so ten out of ten for dealing with the issue, but minus several million for not noticing the tail right off.
When I heard them tell this story I couldn't help but compare it to my own experience. See, as a courier, you're almost always minimally armed. The idea is to sneak in and out, not blast your way in. Go unnoticed. Slip past them.
Which has the added benefit of making you hyperalert for anything even the slightest bit wonky around you.
Ah, well. Like I said, they dealt with it.
Chapter 15: I Like it Heavy
“We’re being followed.”
“Ah, shit,” replied Cass. “How do you know?”
“Same headlights for the past ten minutes,” said Montana. “Not getting closer, not falling off.”
“There isn’t much out here,” argued Cass. “And not much traffic.”
“Right, so they should have passed us by now.”
They were still on the road between Vegas Junction and Las Vegas. It was a well-maintained local road, but only two lanes, so Cass had opted to maintain the speed limit of sixty MPH rather than push it.
“Point,” admitted Cass. “You said they’ve been there ten minutes?”
“At least. I hadn’t noticed them before, so they could have been behind us longer.”
“What do you suggest?”
“Well,” mused Montana. “The way I see it, there are three possibilities. One, it’s a coincidence, and they’re just cautious.”
“Yeah, I trust coincidences like I believe a Vegas hooker when he says he’s clean,” mocked Cass.
“Two,” continued Montana, trying not to laugh, “It’s a cop and they’re waiting for us to do something they can ticket us for.”
“Not many cops out here,” countered Cass.
“No, but it would be just our luck, wouldn’t it?”
“Yeah, true enough. What’s the third option?”
“We’re being tailed by someone, probably HLC, but maybe OutLook.”
“I was afraid you might say that.”
“How far to Las Vegas?”
Cass checked the nav. “About another twenty minutes.”
Montana thought. “Here’s what I think we should do. Hit the gas, bring us up to, oh, eighty.”
“Why?” Cass was already accelerating.
“Eliminating options. If it’s a cautious driver, they’ll fall back. If it’s a cop, eighty is enough for them to pull us over.”
“And if they keep up, enemies.”
Only a few seconds passed before Cass spoke again.
“Not falling back.”
“Not a cautious driver,” agreed Montana.
A few more seconds passed.
“That’s eighty, and no rollers.”
“Give it a minute,” said Montana. “And maybe a few miles faster.”
“How about five? That’ll put us into the “reckless driving” category, that’s a huge fine.”
“And that’s eighty-five.”
“Still there,” Montana said. “Not cops.”
“No,” agreed Cass. “I wish I knew the car better,” she added.
“Kendra has all sorts of, well, upgrades,” Cass said coyly, not knowing how much to reveal. “But I don’t think it would be a good idea to poke around to figure it out.”
“No,” Montana agreed. “It would be just like her to have a self-destruct.”
Cass paled. “I hadn’t even thought of that until you mentioned it. Thanks so much.”
They drove in silence for a several minutes, monitoring the unchanging lights.
“Okay,” said Montana finally. “Bring it back down to sixty. They’re not going to try anything.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because, if I were them, this is when I would try to take you out. Virtually deserted road, and we’re obviously onto them, so I’d be thinking now or never. They aren’t, so they’re just following us. That’s bad, but it’s back in our favor.”
“Oh? How do you figure? Five minutes to Vegas, by the way.”
“It gives us the advantage. They’re just the tail, and once they report in they’ll call up the muscle. They probably think it’s just us since you really can’t fit many people in here. If we can lose them, even for a little while, we can set up a surprise for them in Los Alamos.” She paused thoughtfully.
“How fast did you say you could drive this?”
“I’ve done three seventy-five, but that was KPH. Um.” A little mental math. “A little over two thirty MPH.”
“Can’t do that on this road,” said Montana. “What’s the road like once we get through Las Vegas?”
Cass grinned. “Big and wide and beautiful.” Ahead, the lights of the city shone.
Minutes later, having passed through Las Vegas and returned to the near-total dark of the road, Cass asked, “They still behind us?”
Montana checked. “Yup.”
“They have no idea how far behind they’re about to be.” With that Cass’s foot slammed on the accelerator and the lights visibly diminished. Quickly they were out of sight.
“How long until we have to turn?”
“At this speed?” They were just over two hundred. “Maybe thirty minutes. We’re going to have to stop to refuel though.”
“If they push their car – dammit, I didn’t get a good look at it. Don’t know what it was, so I don’t really know how fast it can go.”
“Cris, that might not matter.”
“I’ve been thinking. How are they following us?”
“This car isn’t exactly inconspicuous,” replied Montana.
“No, but they weren’t behind us the whole way from Tucumcari. We would have noticed.”
“So it must not be visual.”
“Oh, I am such an idiot!” exclaimed Montana. “A tracker. Of course. Fuck.”
“That’s what I think,” said Cass. “And I’ll bet I know when they tagged us.”
“At the border,” nodded Montana.
“Exactly. So. How are you at gadgets?”
“Not as good as Mac,” admitted Montana. “Hurt people and break things, remember? But you hum the tune and I can fake it.”
“Then here’s what we do…”
Thirty-five minutes later, the highway behind them and stopped at a fueling depot in Hebron, Montana and Cass scoured the car.
“Engine, chassis, trunk,” said Montana. “They didn’t have long, and they would have wanted to put it somewhere it wouldn’t be noticed.”
“Would it need power, or would it have its own?”
“The ones I know have their own power,” answered Montana. “Easier to be self-contained. Less chance of something going wrong.”
“Then I’m gonna bet this one needs external power,” said Cass.
“Contraries. Remember? Every time we go logical…” She opened up the cabin.
“It bites us in the ass.” Montana shook her head. “I’m still going to check the engine first.”
“How long do you think we have?”
“Making a metric fuckton of assumptions? Twenty minutes, tops.”
“We’d better hurry.”
Seventeen minutes later, Cass called out, “Got it!” and emerged from the cabin.
Montana pulled herself away from the engine. “Let me see.”
As expected, the device was small, only an inch or so on each side. A thin wire trailed out of Cass’s open palm.
“That sure looks like it. Where was it?”
“Clipped onto the power lead to the nav system. The wiring is exposed below the center console, probably where Kendra did her upgrades.”
“Yeah, that would make sense. Easy to get to quickly, but nobody would look there.” Montana examined the device. “I’ve got an idea. Gimme.” Cass dropped it into her dirty palm. Montana took the transmitter and walked off.
Moments later, hands clean, she climbed into her seat and said to the waiting Cass, “Let’s go.”
“What –” started Cass, but Montana shook her head.
“Later. For now, just drive.”
She waited until they were back on the Taos road before speaking again.
“That should buy us some time,” she said.
“What did you do?” demanded Cass.
“Found a vehicle with United States plates,” answered Montana.
“I asked the owner – he said his name was Matt, like I cared – where he was headed. Back into the Mountain Territories, he said. Well, it took a little convincing, but I talked him into buying the tracker. I sold it as a signal booster, installed it too. Got twenty credits for it to boot.”
“I did. By now he’s on his way to the border. With any luck, by the time the goons following us realize what we’ve done, we’ll be at your home.”
As it turned out, the trail car followed the decoy all the way to the ruins of Denver, where Matt stopped again for breakfast. The agents pulled into the parking lot, looking for the distinctive shape of the Bugatti. When they couldn’t find it, they realized they had been duped and reluctantly contacted Kaine. After several minutes of abuse, Kaine ordered them to head to Los Alamos, despite their protests that it would take them at least four hours to get there.