In The Warzone - Chapter 24
Nathan didn’t say a word until we’d gotten on the freeway. Even then, I noticed he maintained his grip on the handle of his seat.
I frowned. This had something to do with my driving. I really didn’t think I was that bad. Sure, I ran up a couple of curbs now and then, but besides that, I wasn’t too bad.
“So,” Nathan said, continuing his narrative of what had happened up to when I had met up with him at the hospital. ”We’d just gotten out of Jay’s room when I bumped into you.” He frowned, looking down at his hands. ”His surgery is probably over.”
He looked really worried. I nodded at his phone. ”Go ahead and call him, then,” I said to him.
He looked up at me startled. ”Can I do that? Won’t Jack like track my phone using satellites and GPS and stuff?”
“You’ve been watching too many spy movies,” I said, rolling my eyes at him. ”Jack can’t do that mainly because you have a phone from out of the country. And besides, it’s not as reliable as it seems on TV and in movies. So, yeah, you can go ahead and call anyone safely enough provided that they also have a phone from out of the country.”
“Huh,” Nathan said, flicking his hat on and off in thought. He was always wearing that stupid thing. I wasn’t really a hat person, but in all honesty, it didn’t actually look too bad on him. Not that I would ever admit that.
He reached for his phone and rapidly dialed a number.
“Hello?” he said into the phone. “Seev you there?”
I couldn’t hear what Siva said, but whatever it was, it took a while.
“Right,” Nathan said, nodding. “That’s good. What about Jay?”
Another long pause.
“That’s good, yeah,” Nathan said into his phone. ”Tell him I say bye.” Pause. “Yeah, I will mate, thanks. I’ll call you later, bye” Nathan finished, hanging up. He was silent for a moment.
“So?” I enquired.
“Well, Jay’s hand is good,” Nathan replied, smiling. ”The doctor’s are cautiously optimistic for a full recovery actually.”
“That’s good news,” I agreed, nodding my head.
“Yeah. As for Jack’s men,” Nathan continued, the smile falling. ”They came in and sort of interrogated Martin and Max as to where I was. They told them that I was still in the hospital someplace. And apparently, they ended up spending twenty minutes searching the hospital before they watched some security tapes to see where I went. Of course, you were on them, and so they likely know that I’m where you are.”
I nodded again. ”That was expected. As dumb as they can be, Jack’s men are still men of action. They know how to follow procedure.”
“How do you know so much about how Jack and his men operate?” Nathan asked in sincere curiosity.
I tightened my grip on the steering wheel and didn’t answer.
Nathan sighed frustratingly. ”I haven’t learned a thing about you. Or Danny. I don’t know why or how or what this whole deal is.”
I stayed quiet. I could feel Nathan’s impatience rising.
“You promised me answers. I want them. I’m here, in the car with you, and you’re pretty much a stranger. I don’t know your full name, how old you are, nothing.” He paused for a moment then banged his fist on his seat handle in frustration. ”Goddamn it Riley - I’ve ran and hid and done stuff in the past three days that seem surreal - it doesn’t seem true.” He took a deep breath and rubbed his face with his hands. ”But it is. It’s real. I’m convinced that it’s a dream half the time, but I - unfortunately - know its not.”
I didn’t respond. I didn’t know how to.
“I just wish,” he said, frustrated again. “I wasn’t kept in the dark. I think I’ve proven that I’m trustworthy. I didn’t tell Jack anything about you guys. And I trusted you guys enough to follow you. I just wished you’d trust me too,” he said, turning and facing out the window.
There was a moment of silence before I cleared my throat. ”Winters.”
“What?” he asked, turning back around.
I turned my head to look at him. ”Riley Anne Winters. That’s my full name.” I turned back to the road. ”And I’m 19.”
Nathan didn’t sat still, absorbing what I had told him. ”Thanks,” he said, softly.
I nodded back. “You’ll want to catch some sleep if you can. We’re still 4 hours away from San Francisco. Since it’s near the middle of the night, the roads are clear, but I’ll wake you if anything happens.”
Nathan nodded again, then turned over and laid his head on the window. Within ten minutes, he was asleep.
I looked over at his sleeping form and felt guilt build up inside me. I had dragged him into this mess. He hadn’t done anything wrong. I wanted to tell him - I wanted to answer his questions. He hadn’t complained once, and he deserved better.
I turned back to the road, forcing myself to push aside thoughts of what I was going to do with Nathan. I needed to focus. I was tired too, and falling asleep here wouldn’t be the best idea.
I needed some music. I turned the radio on, but that was no use - there were no stations available in the middle of nowhere.
I sighed, fighting the impulse to close my eyes. I needed something to distract me. I looked around the car, pausing when I noticed Nathan’s phone. I hesitantly grabbed it and plugged it into the jack installed in the car. I found his phone’s music area quickly enough and scrolled it, trying to find something that I would pay attention to. There was a lot of Stevie Wonder and John Legend on here - at least I knew he had good taste in music. I scrolled back up once I reached the end, pausing at one entry. I frowned and glanced at Nathan to make sure he was still sleeping before hitting shuffle.
Sound filled the car as I settled back into my seat, relaxing for once as I listened to the music and watched the mile markers pass by.
I woke when I felt the car stop. I cracked my eyes open, squinting through the headlights of the cars across the street from us to see that we were waiting at a street light.
I lay where I was for a moment, disorientated and tired. Some familiar song was playing in the background and we were now in an area with rows and rows of apartments and small homes. I blinked twice, trying to figure myself out. The light turned green and we started moving again.
I stayed where I was, staring at the streetlights that passed by us. It was after a moment that I realized that the song playing in the background was Warzone. I frowned. That was weird.
“How come Warzone’s playing?” I asked turning and sitting up.
Riley jumped and jerked the wheel, causing us to swerve in and out of the lane we were in.
“Jesus Christ,” she said, taking a deep breath. ”I didn’t know you were awake.”
“Sorry,” I mumbled, my voice heavy with sleep. I glanced at the clock and yawned. It was nearly 2 in the morning.
“It’s okay,” she muttered back, reaching over to turn the stereo off.
I frowned. ”Did you not like it?”
“No, no,” she said, taking a left down a side street. ”It was good, I just - I didn’t know you were awake,” she repeated, her face slightly red from embarrassment.
“Hmm,” I said, sitting up straight and stretching, then turned and lazily grinned at her, enjoying her discomfort. ”You just don’t want to admit that you like my music.”
She scoffed and sharply turned the steering wheel. “It’s not like you wrote it or anything - it’s not your music, technically,” she muttered under her breath, her face still flushed.
“Actually,” I said, reaching over and grabbing my phone. ”Max and I wrote this one.”
She glanced at me, clearly surprised. ”Really?”
“Yup,” I nodded. “It’s one of my favorites, too.”
“So you write all your songs?” she asked in a doubtful tone.
“Not all of them, but a lot,” I shrugged at her. ”Believe it or not, we’re not just some pop boy band. We all play instruments but none of us can dance, so we’re definitely not like *NSYNC or whatever.”
“Shame, I quite liked *NSYNC,” Riley said, turning the car once again and parking in a small lot. I chuckled. Sure.
I frowned as she turned the engine of the car off and unbuckled her seat belt. ”Wait, are we already here?” I glanced at the time again. ”We left LA at around 11, how are we already in San Francisco?”
“I drove fast,” Riley said, shrugging and opening her door.
I unbuckled myself as well and stepped out of the car. A five hour trip in three hours. She must have driven very fast. “Good thing I wasn’t awake for that,” I muttered.
“I heard that,” Riley said, slamming the car door and glaring at me.
I chuckled and followed her as she made her way to a certain apartment building. I didn’t say anything about the outburst I had in the car, and Riley didn’t mention anything about it either. I was secretly pleased about it though. She had, in the end, given me something - but I guess I’d have to earn her trust before she divulged more.
Riley stopped in front of apartment 122. There was loud bass playing in there, and I could hear voices yelling and shouting.
“So, this is where Teddy lives?” I asked, looking at Riley slightly bemused.
She sighed in response. ”Unfortunately. Just keep your mouth shut when you meet her - don’t say anything I wouldn’t.”
I nodded. Riley stepped forward and knocked on the door, but I doubt anyone would have heard with all the noise inside.
She sighed again, and reached for handle ”I guess we’re going straight in,” she said, turning the handle and stepping inside the apartment. I followed her, wrinkling my nose at the smell of cigarette smoke.
“Riley?” someone questioned. I stepped around Riley to see who was speaking. A girl maybe a bit older than Riley stood at the end of the hall with a beer in one hand and her phone in the other. She had an expression of confusion on her made-up face and her neon red hair was wild around her head.
I tilted my head to the side. She kind of looked like Rihanna, but like a white and short version.
“OH MY GAWWD,” she screamed and tackled Riley in a hug. ”WHAT THE HELL YOU DOING HERE? OH MY GOD OH MY GOD, I CAN’T BELIEVE IT.”
I stared at the scene in front of me, trying not to laugh. Poor Riley was looking scared and awkwardly patting Teddy’s back as Teddy squeezed her and swayed her back and forth.
Teddy finally let go and looked over at me. Her smile faded though as she realized she didn’t know who I was.
She turned back to Riley, frowning. ”Who’s he? Did you and Danny break up, darling?”
“Oh ho,” I exclaimed, my eyebrows shooting straight up as I looked at Riley. This was new.
She became all flustered again, ignoring both my reaction and Teddy’s question. ”Uhm - Teddy, I - well, we - actually came here ‘cause I - we - need your help.”
Teddy narrowed her eyes and looked from me to Riley before nodding. ”Straight to the point, huh, darling? Well, okay, let me get these idiots out of my house. One minute, por favor.”
She smartly turned and went straight into the crowd of people that was in her living room and began herding them out.
I continued to look at Riley. ”So. You and Danny were -“
“Shut up,” Riley said, not looking at me and barging into the kitchen of the apartment.
I shook my head before following her. Maybe this visit would be more interesting than I had thought.