The Brain-Jacked Chronicles - Fugitive! - Part 2

Some experiments are supposed to fail..

The Brain-Jacked Chronicles

Fugitive!

Part 2

by Melanie Brown

Copyright © 2016 Melanie Brown

It's helpful to read The Brain-Jacked Chronicles - The Too Sucessful Experiment as well as part 1 of Fugitive! before reading. -- Ed


“Keep your hands where I can see them!” I hissed as I continued to point my gun at the stranger’s nose.

The man slowly raised his hands, still giving me a slight smile. He said, “Yes, ma’am.”

Wild eyed, I said, “Tell me what the hell is going on!”

The young man, staring intently into my eyes said, “Put the gun down. We need to talk.”

“Oh no,” I said, holding the gun steady in both hands. “I want to know what’s going on.”

“Put the gun down, bitch!” I felt something hard push into the back of my head. “I said put it down. Now!” What I perceived to be the barrel of a gun was pushed into the back of my head. It hurt.

I slowly set the gun down on the van’s floor. The young man with the long hair quickly grabbed it. Oddly, he didn’t point it at me. He just grinned at me. The person who had put a gun to the back of my head moved quickly around me and crouched next to the long haired guy. He kept his gun trained onto me.

The young man reached over and set his hand on top of the other’s gun and pushed it down. “Put your gun down, bro. We’re all friends here.”

The van door suddenly opened and the two girls who had distracted the cop quickly piled inside. One of the girls said, “Oh good, Boss. She’s safe.”

The young man looked behind him quickly at the two girls. He said, “Are you sure you weren’t followed?”

One of the girls spread her arms in a broad gesture and said, “What? Are you serious? Pfft.”

The young man relaxed and said, “Okay y’all. Let’s all just settle down. Guys we have a very important guest with us.”

Tired, I sat on the van floor and said, “Will someone please tell me what is going on?”

The young man smiled and with a nod of his head said, “Gary Treadway at your service, ma’am. I think it’s safe to assume you’re Stephanie Shephard, correct?”

I hesitated before answering. I had no idea if these were street criminals, or bounty hunters or just thrill seekers.

“Why should I tell you?” I said. “I know there’s a bounty on that girl.”

Gary laughed. He said, “Girl, we’re not interested in any rewards. We’re not going to the cops. There’s a bounty on my head and Joey’s here.” He pointed to the boy who had poked me in the back of my head with his gun. He saw my expression and added, “Not for anything like murder. To keep our operation going, we’ve had to…um…make certain, unauthorized appropriations.”

“You steal,” I said sternly.

Gary shrugged and with a sheepish expression said, “If you want to be rude about it, yes. Look. I recognized you from the zillions of pictures the government is throwing on newspapers, TV, and there’s talk about you on the radio. I can’t imagine what a little fifteen year old girl could have done to become Public Enemy number one. I knew I had to get you off the street.”

“Just out of the goodness of your heart. Yeah right,” I said with more than a bit of sarcasm dripping from the words.

Gary shifted his seating position and said, “Well, yeah. I don’t care why they’re after you. You don’t seem like the killer type to me.”

“I’m not,” I said flatly.

Joey piped up and said, “The feds are saying you killed a runaway in Houston after stealing her identity.”

“Oh my God!” I exclaimed. “I hope she’s not dead. If she is, the people after me did it. She gave me her hat and we swapped shirts. She distracted the cops for me. That’s all.”

Gary got up to a crouch and maneuvered past me. He said, “See? I knew that was a false charge. We have to get out of this parking lot. Let’s get back to home.”

I said, “Look. I got to get out of here. I’ve been spotted. And I need to get my stuff from a locker in the mall.”

Gary said as he climbed into the driver’s seat, “They’ll be searching cars in the parking lot in a few minutes so we have to leave. You’ll be safe with us for a day or two as we figure out what to do with you. The mall is too hot right now. I’ll send someone over later to get your stuff.”

Gary started the van’s engine and he unhurriedly drove the van out of the parking lot and up onto a freeway.

 

*          *          *

 

“You brought a fugitive from the Federal government here? Is that wise?”

“Chill, dude,” said Gary. “They were going to nab her. I had to act.”

We were standing in a large room in an abandoned office building. There were a dozen or more kids lying around, reading, sleeping or watching TV.

Gary turned to me and said, “Welcome to what we like to call the Nest. We move periodically when the electricity finally gets shut off. We’ve been lucky here so far. Stephanie, I’d like to you meet my second in command, my nervous friend Pete. Pete, this is Stephanie Shephard.”

Pete said, “I know who she is. I don’t think it’s a good idea to bring her here! She’ll bring the feds down on us!” Pete looked younger than Gary. Maybe around eighteen or so.

Gary said, “Joey, can you bring our guest something to eat? Some of that stew?” He turned to Pete and said, “I couldn’t leave her there. Not long after I noticed her, the police spotted her. We had to get her out.”

Pete said, “I think she needs to go soon. Like tomorrow.”

Gary pulled a chair out from a table and sat down, pointing at another chair indicating he wanted me to sit. He said, “This is a big city. They don’t know where she went. I agree she can’t stay long. I doubt she wants to.”

Fuming, Pete said, “You only picked her up because she’s hot.”

Frowning, Gary said, “She’s fifteen, Pete. Knock it off.”

Pete scowled at Gary for a moment and walked away silently, sat on the floor and started watching TV.

Looking around, I said, “So. What is all this exactly?”

Gary smiled at me and said, “It’s kind of a home for wayward kids. Runaways mostly. I find these kids on the streets and bring them here where they have food and a place to sleep and it buys them time. They don’t get caught up in drugs, or prostitution or committing major crimes. After a while, they cool off, realize that maybe running away wasn’t the solution and go back home. There’s a smaller core of us that have no home to go back to, so we stay. I try to give them survival skills and keep things organized.”

I laughed and said, “You fancy yourself as a modern day Fagin do you?”

Gary laughed and said, “Maybe. Look. We don’t allow drugs here. We’re not a criminal organization. We’re not a fencing operation. We do occasionally have to take something that technically doesn’t belong to us and sell it so we can get food and other necessities. We mainly stay under the radar.”

I said, “I’m not trying to judge you and I’m grateful to be off the street. You have no idea what I’ve been through. But wouldn’t most of these kids be better off if you handed them to the police?”

Gary shrugged and said, “And get them sent back to the abusers they ran away from? Some of these kids have some pretty terrible horror stories. But to your point, I’m not an idiot. Some kids I pull off the street so they don’t meet up with pimps and dealers first. Some I hand over to charities. Some I take to the police station. The rest stay with me until they figure out what they want to do. And if someone needs moved out of the country, I’m part of an underground railroad.”

I said, “I guess in a way that’s commendable to help out runaways. Many won’t survive being on the streets.” Joey set a bowl of stew on the table. It smelled good. I took a taste and while not the best I’ve eaten, it certainly hit the spot. After wolfing down a few bites, I said, “You seem like a smart guy though. I’m sure you could do better than playing nursemaid to a bunch of dislocated teenagers.”

Gary frowned and said, “Life has dealt me a pretty rotten hand, Stephanie. The police raided the wrong home one night and killed my parents. I was put into an abusive foster home where I ran away. I’ve lived on the streets. I’ve been in jail a few times, juvie before that. I started doing this feeling that it might lead to redemption. But you know what? The Universe doesn’t give a shit. There’s no cosmic balance sheet. So now I run this place because I really don’t want to see kids ending up like me. I can’t save them all.”

I frowned and looked into my bowl of stew. I said, “I’m sorry. But one of these days you’ll have to grow up.”

Gary smiled at me and shook his head. He said, “And by the way, you’re welcome for keeping you out of the hands of the authorities.”

I stopped eating and looked into Gary’s eyes and said, sincerely, “Hey, look. I’m sorry. I’ve only recently become a criminal. And your friend is right. For your own good, I need to be on my way as soon as possible.”

Nodding, Gary said, “We’ll get you on your way as soon as we can. I have a couple of guys getting your stuff from the mall right now. I’ll have to contact a group I work with in Colorado. They’ll get you to Canada.”

Squinting at Gary, I said, “Why would I want to go to Canada?”

Gary shrugged and said, “You’re red hot right now. You should get out of the country. Once in Canada, you take a tramp steamer to Hong Kong or Australia, something like that and lay low for a while.”

Talking with my mouth full, I said, “That might not be a bad idea, but booking passage, even on a tramp steamer isn’t all that cheap.”

Gary said, “True. But the Colorado group has deeper pockets than I do. They specialize in moving political refugees.”

“Thanks,” I said. “But why are you helping me?”

Pete said in a quiet voice from where he was sitting, “It’s because you’re hot. A real looker. Simple as that.”

Gary grinned sheepishly and said, “Okay. That’s partly the reason. But I have to ask. Why are they after you? What crime did you commit?”

I finished off the stew and said, “I survived.”

 

*          *          *

 

“Anyone have any good news for me,” asked Taylor Cromwell leaning on the surface of the desk in front of him.

Senator Harlson cleared his throat and looked back and forth along the line of people seated at the long table in the darkened room. He said, “Police in the town of Frisco, which is just north of Dallas made positive identification of the subject one twenty-seven.”

Taylor Cromwell sat bolt upright and growled, “They saw her, but didn’t apprehend her? How in hell could they not catch her?”

Clearing his throat again, the senator said, “She had help. Some other kids deliberately caused a distraction during which the subject managed an escape.”

Mr. Cromwell scowled for a moment. He looked over at Nancy Davidson and said, “What are you smiling about, Dr. Davidson? Do you know where she is?”

Dr. Davidson’s smile widened as she said, “No. No I don’t. I wouldn’t tell you if I did. I’m just fascinated that Stephanie wasn’t expected to live and now she’s been able to survive and evade capture. You have to give her credit.”

Douglas Sweeny stood up and gestured at Dr. Davidson and said, “Doctor. We give this monster nothing. Let me remind you that subject one twenty-seven is to be treated the same as an outbreak. This thing is a public health issue. All of us, including yourself is liable should this loose experiment causes any public harm. It must be brought back to the lab and destroyed.”

Dr. Davidson laughed. She said, “Do you listen to yourselves? This isn’t some disease that’s escaped the lab. You can’t catch a brain transplant! This is not a monster. We’re talking a fifteen year old girl who is probably scared out of her mind and just wants to be left alone.”

Frowning, Mr. Cromwell said, “The Board disagrees with your assessment, doctor. Since you refuse to cooperate with us, you leave us no choice but to terminate our contract with you. We advise you not to violate your non-disclosure agreement. Now good day, Dr. Davidson.”

Dr. Davidson stood up and said, exasperation in her voice, “You’re throwing me out? I can’t leave. Someone has to be an advocate for this girl.”

Setting his jaw, Taylor Cromwell said, “Good day, doctor.” He picked up a phone receiver and said, “Security.”

 

*          *          *

 

I awoke to bright sunlight streaming through the dirty windows of the abandoned office building. I squinted in the light and looked around. It looked fairly late in the morning. A few people were milling around in small groups. A lot of the people I’d seen the previous night were gone.

I pulled the blanket from me as I sat up. I don’t remember going to bed. Sitting at a table at the far end of the room were Gary and Pete. They were having an animated discussion about something. I looked under the blanket to make sure I still had clothes on and then stood up.

I was unsteady at first, but managed to walk over to the table. Both Gary and Pete stopped talking and looked at me as I approached. I held up three fingers and said, “I just have three questions. What time is it? How long did I sleep? And is there a restroom I can use?”

Gary smiled at me and said, “It’s one thirty in the afternoon. You slept something like fifteen hours and the restroom is out that door, turn right, fourth door on the left.”

I rubbed my eyes and said, “Fifteen hours? Really? Why didn’t you wake me up?”

“How long has it been since you’ve had any real sleep?” said Gary.

“What month is it?” I said as I yawned expansively.

Gary chuckled.

“No. I’m serious,” I said. “Anyway, I gotta take a major piss. I’ll be right back.”

I stumbled out into the hall, still groggy from sleeping so long. I found the restroom and noticed I was alone. I relaxed as the restroom door closed behind me. This is the first time in some time that I’ve been alone and not running. It felt good.

While the urge to go was becoming overwhelming, I took a look at myself in the mirror. My God. I looked awful. My hair was coming in and needed washing really bad. I wanted my wig. I also needed a shower really bad as well. My face was dirty with some small cuts. I leaned into the mirror closely. In a raspy voice, I said aloud, “Good God, girl. You could use a little make-up.”

I grunted a laugh as I turned to enter one of the stalls. With everything going on and all the police looking for me and it’s make-up I think about.

As I was about to leave the restroom, my cell phone rings. I stop in my tracks. Do I answer this? Nancy is the only one with my number. Could it be a trap? I pull the phone from my pocket. The battery is almost shot. The caller id says simply “Nancy”.

I take a deep breath, press the button to accept the call and said, “Hello?”

“Steph!” exclaimed Nancy Davis in my ear. “Are you safe?”

“Nancy! I’m glad to hear from you,” I said. “I worry that something has happened to you. But is it safe for you to call me?”

“I’m using a throwaway phone,” said Nancy. “Look. The reason I called is to tell you that you must make every effort to hide. They know you’re in Frisco. I’ve been removed from the board so I won’t know what they know any longer.”

In a sullen voice, I said, “Yeah. I got spotted by a cop in the mall here. I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault, sweetie,” said Nancy. “They have your picture everywhere. Look. You need to get away from there. Don’t try to fly or take a bus or even a train. You have to stay under the radar. Get to Canada or Mexico.”

“Thanks,” I said. “I’ll probably heading out today or possibly tomorrow. I have met some friends…”

“Don’t trust anyone, Steph,” said Nancy. “You never know who’s working for whom.”

“I trust you, Nancy,” I said starting to feel depressed. “I have to trust somebody sometime.”

“Just be careful, Stephanie,” said Nancy. “I need to go. I’ll try to call you again in a few days. Stay safe.”

“I will,” I said and Nancy clicked off a moment later.

 

*          *          *

 

“You’re getting very hot,” said Joey. He was listening through headphones from a police radio they had jacked from police car that afternoon in broad daylight. They had set the car on fire to cover their theft. I looked over at one of the windows, but the sun had set a couple of hours ago and it was pitch black outside.

A girl sitting on the floor next to me said in a scared voice, “You need to leave. Now. You’re going to bring the police down on us. I can’t go back home. I just can’t.”

I was seated at the table with Gary and Pete and eating some soup. I said, “Setting a police car on fire isn’t exactly being stealthy.”

The girl folded her arms and said, “That was Joey.”

Joey looked up from the radio and said, “Hey, Gary told me to!”

Pete said, “She’s right though. Your little girlfriend here has to leave.”

I set my spoon down and said, “I’m not his girlfriend! And I’m well aware that I can’t stay.”

Gary said, “Hey. I’ve been working on a plan all afternoon. Later tonight, I’ll hotwire a car parked on the street behind these buildings and I’ll drive her down to Jal New Mexico. I have a buddy there I trust that can get her to the group in Colorado. It’s kinda roundabout, but we can’t do anything directly.”

Pete said, “I can hold down the fort here while you’re away, no problem.”

“Then we leave before sunrise,” said Gary. “I suggest we all get some sleep…”

“Oh shit!” exclaimed Joey. “They spotted one of the girls that distracted the cops yesterday. From the description, I think it’s Aimee. The cops are trailing her here!”

Gary stood up and said, “Well shit. That changes our plans. Steph, you need to go now. Get your stuff.”

Suddenly worried, I said, “How far away are they?”

Joey looked thoughtful for a moment and then said, “She’s on foot and the street they spotted her on is about fifteen minutes away.”

Gary said, “Pete. You need to take Steph to Colorado any way you can. You know where the safe house is in Pueblo, right?”

Pete stood up and said, “I’ve been there a couple of times. But why me?”

Gary frowned and said, “I need to greet the cops and delay them. Everyone needs to leave anyway and go to the backup house. I’ll come get everyone after it’s safe.”

Feeling tired and more than a bit scared, I picked up my bag of stuff. Everyone went running from the building. Joey unplugged the radio from the car battery and ran from the building as well.

Gary said, “Pete. Go out the back way and down to that big parking lot. Hotwire a car and get out of here. Just don’t attract any attention.”

Pete scowled at me and snarled, “I knew you were going to be trouble. Get your shit and let’s go.”

I was already holding my bag. I said, “If you’re waiting on me, you’re wasting time. Lead the way.”

Gary gave me a hug and said, “Stay safe.”

Gary and Pete just gave each other some meaningful look as they shook hands. Pete said curtly, “Let’s go.” Without waiting to see if I was following, he darted down the hall after grabbing some long flat rod lying on the floor.

I ran down the darkened hallway after him. We bolted through a few doors and quickly found ourselves outside in the darkness. A few security lights lit the side of the building.

Pete said, “If Joey was right, Aimee and the cops will be coming from that direction. So let’s go this way to get to the parking lot.”

I followed Pete through a long dark alley, worried I’d trip over something, like a garbage bag or a drunk. We crossed an empty street and across a vacant lot with a few scattered trees. I was glad to have Pete leading me. There was no way I’d go into those dark trees by myself.

In the dark, we came up to a wooden fence that was in bad need of repair. At one point, there were a few pickets missing that provided a gap large enough for us to step through. On the other side of the fence was the parking lot Gary had mentioned. One feeble light in the middle of the lot seemed to increase the gloom rather than dispel it.

Pete stood there in the lot for a moment, scanning around. Mostly to himself, he said, “Ah, that car over there.” He then ran over to it.

When we got to the car, Pete ran the long flat tool he’d taken and slid it down the car’s driver side window. After a couple of moments of moving the bar around, there was a click and Pete opened the car door.

I whispered, “Why this car? It looks like junk.”

Pete said, “It’s an older car. Won’t have an alarm. Plus, maybe nobody will miss it. Toss your stuff in the back seat.”

“Before I hotwire this puppy, let me check something,” Pete said as he slid into the driver’s seat. He opened the panel on the console between the front seats. He exclaimed, “Ah yes. I love stupid people. Spare set of keys in the car. Get in.” He placed his unlocking tool in the back seat, put the key in the ignition and started the engine.

Putting the car in drive and leaving the parking lot, Pete said, “There’s a 7-11 a couple of blocks up. Try to hide your face while we’re there. After filling up, we should be able to make it to Lubbock where we’ll probably change cars.”

“How long is that from here?” I asked, my nerves getting frayed.

Pete shrugged as he drove the car up to a gas pump. He said, “Roughly four hours or so. It’s a long way across Texas. I suggest you sleep.”

Pete got out of the car to go inside to pay for the gas. I just sat there and listened to the car radio. I felt my stomach tie up in knots. Did we get away in time? Will we be able to get out of town before the cops spot us?

Would I even make it to the next sunrise? I closed my eyes and cried.

 

*          *          *

 

The end of Fugitive! - Part 2



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