And we’re down to it with just a few chapters left. If this had been rewritten, the Vancouver/return to Irisville section would have been a much larger part of this novel. As it stands, your torture and mine is almost done. Again, some mild foreshadowing here to events in the Rankin Flats series. I like to think Garrett and Brianna made their trip to Japan someday.
“I know who has the child,” he said.
“What do you mean, has her?”
They threw everything into their suitcases as he explained. Three minutes later, management was knocking on their door. Garrett flung it open, wild-eyed, his shirt only half-buttoned. Two men stood there, one of them a suit, the other one much taller, broader, and meant to look intimidating.
“We’re out of here in ten minutes, I swear,” Garrett said.
“I need to make sure your wife is okay, sir,” the suit said coldly,
Brianna leaned past Garrett. “I’m okay. He’s okay. We’re okay. It was a bad argument but we’re good now. Sorry and we’ll be out of your hair soon.”
“We can’t refund you for-”
“Yeah, fine,” Garrett said. Behind him, Brianna zipped up one bit of luggage and rolled it to him. “See? Gone in five.”
He let the door swing shut behind him. Brianna swept everything off the table and into a plastic bag. “How awake are you?” he asked.
“Good. You’re driving the first couple of hours. I’ll sleep, we switch off like that until we hit Irisville.”
“Are you okay? Physically?”
“Exhausted. Feel like I could drop, but I don’t feel as sick as you did. I think whatever it was doing to me, I stopped it early.” He stopped for just a moment to cross the room and kiss her, hard. “I’ll make this up to you. Somehow we’ll make this right.”
“You forgave me. I’ll forgive you.” But behind her tone was a bit of sadness. It mirrored his own horrible adrift emotions after she’d made her confessions to him.
They did one last sweep through the room. Outside the door, management was still waiting. They flew by them to the elevators. Both men looked as though they wanted to say something as they rode down with the couple, but Garrett and Brianna were too busy kissing to notice much.
On the ground floor, they ran.
* * *
The city skyline had been remarkable in the day, but in the night behind them, the scattered lights and illuminated steel towers were nothing short of picaresque.
“Goodbye,” Brianna whispered, and kissed her fingers before pressing them to the mirror. “We’ll be back someday, maybe.”
“Believe it,” Garrett said beside her.
But neither of them did.
* * *
She was still there. Still connected to Garrett sporadically.
“I hate and love my father,” Garrett said through gritted teeth. “I wish you two would make peace.”
“That’s not so bad,” Brianna said. Compared to the verbal lashes he’d been making off and on for the first hour, it was tame as hell.
“She’s digging for anything she can get. It’s like a tug of war, but the rope is my head. Rose breastfeeding gets me way off. Oh fuck me, that’s embarrassing.”
“Not like I didn’t know it, though.”
He drew in a series of short, rapid breaths and made a grunting sound like he was taking a shit. “Gone again.”
“Out of the car gone? Is she…?”
“No. We’re locked together. She’s not going to murder anyone else until she’s done with me. If I’d known all this, she could’ve killed me back in Irisville and I’d have been happy.”
“Don’t ever say that. Not even as a joke. We don’t carry the burden of the victims of the killers we take down, remember?” That had been something Sloan had said to them in one of their little group therapy sessions. It would have been a lot easier to believe if she didn’t so visibly carry the baggage of her time being controlled by Desmond.
“Yeah. Listen, Bri, about what I said…”
“When you’ve lived through that end of things, it’s easier to pick out the bullshit from the little kernels of truth.” She sighed.
“I do like to take care of you. I’m sorry if it’s overbearing sometimes. And I think you’re beautiful and sexy and however you want to look, you should look.”
Brianna gave him a half-smile. “That one was harsh, but kinda fair. When I came back from Vegas, I looked half-starved.”
“Don’t say that. Please. I wouldn’t love you any less if you were five hundred pounds, Brianna. That’s not hyperbole. However you’re happy with yourself, that’s all that matters to me.”
“It’s been… on my mind.”
“Really, I mean it.”
“No, I mean… Garrett, I keep thinking about trying to get pregnant, and I think I’m going to cut back on the number of classes and YouTube videos I’ve been leading. Just, like, bring down the intensity levels. Family’s really important to me, and it’s kinda been bothering me that it hasn’t happened yet.”
“We’ve only been trying, what, three weeks? Four?”
She smiled faintly. “We’ve never really been great about using condoms.”
“That’s, uh, that’s true.” He was quiet a moment. “You know, it could be a problem on my end too. As many times as I’ve been kicked in the nuts, it can’t hurt for me to get tested when I get home.”
“We could go together. If that helps.”
“Yeah. Brianna, if it is me…”
“Can we not do this now?”
“Sure,” he said awkwardly. “Yeah. Sure.”
The miles – or kilometers, but neither of them had learned to think that way, leading to a very early speeding ticket north of Lethbridge – peeled away, and Garrett tucked back into his seat with a throw and a travel pillow, but all he could manage was rhythmic breathing. Brianna, thinking he was asleep, cried in the early morning hours, and his soul cramped in misery that he couldn’t set it all right again.
Rose’s voice. “Tell her, you idiot.” He smiled in the darkness.
“Where would you go?” he asked. “We missed some places along the way. I hate that we had to leave Vancouver so early.”
“Thought you were asleep.”
“No. I heard you cry. I…”
“Can we just agree to both be sorry and move on?”
“Sure.” Tell her, you idiot. “No. No, we can’t.”
She slowed down rapidly, found an offramp, and pulled off the side of the road. When the car stopped, she leapt out, fists balled, and screamed her frustration into the night.
Garrett got out too, and they met in front of the SUV. She pressed her fists against his chest, and for a moment, he thought she was going to punch him. “You’re so… you’re so…”
His hands fell on her shoulders, and in the low beams, they came together. His tongue darted between her lips, and hers his, a give and take, a dance, a greeting. She dug her fingernails into his back, he balled up little corners of her shirt. Someone roared by, honking, and neither noticed, neither cared in the mad swirl of their hurt.
It was him that pulled away first. “I’m always going to be clingy,” he said. “I’ll always need you.”
“I don’t want it any other way.” She looked down at the ground. “I’ll need your help. Now and again. I know that. It hurts. But I’m my own woman, Garrett. I don’t want you to look down on me.”
I don’t, he almost said, but everything they’d said to hurt each other did have a little core of truth to it. “Okay,” he said simply instead.
It wasn’t an end to their pain, and there would be more to come. But it was the start of their healing and whatever came next.
* * *
Brianna came awake with a start. The sun was well above the horizon now, and the bright light blinded her at first. She held up her hand against it, grimacing, and yawned. “How far?” she murmured.
“Hundred kilometers. Or miles. Not really too sure which.”
She nodded, stretched, and winced when something in her back gave way with a nasty pop and a crackle. “Just one away from Rice Krispies.”
“Nothing.” Her arm brushed up against a plastic bag. Jerky. “Jeez, I was really out of it, huh? Didn’t know we stopped.”
“There are donuts in the back. Just the boxed kind. I ran in and out. Water and energy drinks too.”
“Nice.” Neither of them were much of a fan of energy drinks in general, but now with the need ahead of them, she cracked one open and sipped. “Japan.”
“You asked sometime last night. Where I’d go. I think Canada’s kind of been spoiled for me, at least for a while. I think maybe I’d like to go to Japan sometime if you’re game.”
“Hey, yeah?” He scratched his chin. “Sounds interesting. What’s the imaginary itinerary? What do we see? What do we do?”
“Hm.” She wiggled in her chair and stretched some more, smiling. “Himeji Castle, for sure.”
“What’s that? You know what, assume I’m not going to know what anything there is.”
“Oh, it’s this cool old castle. It’s gorgeous. You like architecture and stuff, right? I think you’d love it. Oh, and Osaka. We’d have fun in Osaka, I think. It’s this big shopping hub, and Japan’s got crazy shops. Like bananas crazy. If I don’t come home with a giant robot doll that transforms into a panda or a little girl or something, I will be sorely disappointed.”
“Now I know what to get you for your birthday.”
She laughed at that, the first honest, unguarded one he’d heard from her in what felt like forever. “Seriously, you could throw a rock at some of that stuff, pick whatever it hit, and I’d be squee-ing for a week. Kind of a lapsed Japanophile. August would be a kick to take with us on that one.”
“Hey, maybe we could do that. Family vacation to Japan or something next year, maybe. Bring your mom along.”
“And Stephanie,” Brianna said, and squeezed his arm. “Gar, I…”
“I know.” He cleared his throat. “So where else?”
She launched into descriptions of some of the themed cafes and bars she’d heard of, and soon had him laughing hard enough to forget what lay in front of them. Not for long, but for a moment, at least, things were okay again.
* * *
“We have no weapons,” Brianna said. “No idea what this guy is capable of.”
“And there was definitely some mystic bullshit going on in the girl’s vision. I saw a syringe. The liquid looked alive. Whatever this guy’s doing to her, I don’t know if it’s… agggh, shit!” he screamed, nearly swerving into the other lane.
Brianna grabbed the wheel for him, steadying the Durango. “What?”
“She’s getting stronger. Grabbing at me again. I knocked over Mom’s curio cabinet when I was eight. I told her it was the dog. The first girl I fucked in high school, I told her I loved her and I didn’t. I stole from a guy when I was twenty, not because he’d done something wrong, but just because he’s an asshole. Never told Murphy.” Then the child’s presence was gone, and he gasped for air. “I need you to drive.”
“Yeah, no kidding.”
They swapped on the roadside. Garrett felt for the young teenager’s mind again, but it was getting harder to pull more from her. Bits and pieces of her childhood, mostly, fractured and broken. Her mind was broken, he understood that. For some reason, she was locked now into feeding on anger and guilt instead of all the emotions in the human spectrum like when she was alive. He gleaned too an uncle, someone who seemed to have her gift. There were more of them out there. How many, he didn’t know, but he wondered.
Weapons. Brianna had been right. They needed weapons. He crawled over the center console and into the backseat to search for anything they could use. Bags of souvenirs, tee shirts, and trinkets weren’t of much sue, so they went into the front seat. Camping gear. That was more like it. He dug out the tent bag. The stakes weren’t super sharp, but they were something – and the mallet he’d brought to pound them in was even better. A lighter. By itself, not much use, but with the unopened jug of lighter fluid? Yeah, that’d work too. The pair of kitchen knives weren’t too shabby either. And far in the back was a tire iron. Not much, but it would have to do.
“Fingerprints,” Brianna said from the front. “What do we do about fingerprints?”
“Did we mail those gloves we found in Edmonton?”
“The winter ones? Will those work?”
“They’ll have to, I guess. Try to remember what you touch.”
He dug those out too, along with a pair of scarves that would have to suffice for their disguises. Brianna’s scars were sometimes a problem when it came to masks, but the scarves were long enough she could wrap up just about everything but her eyes.
“I can see the city,” Brianna said. “Garrett… she’s a kid.”
“I know,” he said grimly. “If it comes to that… I’ll do it.” “No. We do it together.”