On the road
by E.Escher - 23rd Feb 2017
They were still laughing and joking when a silver ford focus veered off the road and mounted the pavement, screeching to a halt about ten yards ahead. Colin flinched, but Carmen calmly slowed to a walk, as though she'd been expecting something like this.
Maybe she had.
'Follow my lead!' she yelled, and ran straight at the car. Colin was slow off the mark but fell in behind her as she ducked low to the ground. He saw the tinted windows slowly roll down, and glimpsed alarmed faces through the gap. They were too slow, he realised. Carmen reached the car before the men inside could get an angle to shoot at her. She punched the nearest window, shattering the glass and showering the men inside with fragments. Colin heard panicked cursing.
'Help me!' ordered Carmen. 'Flip it over! On three!'
Colin's mind boggled at the command, but he crouched at her side and helped lift the car a few inches. To his amazement, it came up without too much effort; Carmen was taking most of the strain.
She grit her teeth and counted. 'One... two... three!'
He put his back into it and heaved. Time slowed to a crawl, and he felt his back muscles spasm. Somebody in the car was screaming. Carmen was shouting, a long drawn-out cry of rage as the car wheels began to lift. Metal groaned, the screaming continued, and the vehicle rolled over onto its side with a crunch of bodywork.
'Come on, keep moving!' Carmen grabbed his hand and pulled him away. 'They won't get out, but they can still shoot.'
'Did we do that? Did you do that?'
'Yes, and believe me, in a few hours we might wish we hadn't, but it was a better option than just shooting everybody.'
'Because I don't know who they were. If I knew they were all just hired guns I'd happily kill the lot, but we've got to be careful we don't break anything important.'
'Kill anybody who might be significant. No killing Hitler, remember?'
'What if he's shooting at us?'
'Well then all bets are off, try not to hit anything immediately fatal and hope this time's medical science can pull of a miracle. It's happened before.' she shot him a wry look, then pointed ahead down the street. 'That's the car I saw last night. The black one that picked up Brian.'
Sure enough, a black Range Rover was headed their way, with two other cars following close behind. Colin seriously doubted he could tip one of those, they were super-heavy, and specifically designed to stay on their wheels.
The big car lurched across the road and pulled up blocking the pavement, while the other two formed a roadblock. The doors popped open immediately and a dozen suited thugs sprang out, brandishing a variety of firearms.
Carmen didn't seem perturbed, so he decided to play it cool as well. He clenched his fists and wished he had left the pistol in a side pocket, where he could reach it faster. Reaching for his inside pocket now would be a bad idea - he'd be blasted to chunks before he got the gun clear.
'Brian's not here,' observed Carmen. 'That's a plus.'
The thugs were clearly waiting for something, their focus was only partly on the two revenants and partly on the black car. An old, grey-haired guy slowly appeared from behind the Range Rover, flanked by two more thugs. He wore the same dark suit, but had a kindly smile in place of the thugs' uniform glower.
'Colin Campbell, and his mysterious friend.' The man seemed pleased with himself. 'We meet at last.'
Carmen tilted her head. 'Meet at last? I doubt you even knew I existed more than few hours ago.'
'That's why you're a mystery, my dear. I've heard so much about you two, however, that it feels like we were destined to meet.'
She nodded, agreeably. 'You may be right.'
Colin frowned. 'Just what have you heard? And who are you?'
'Let's just say I know who you are, and who you've been. I know what you are, and I know where you're from. Does that about cover it?'
Carmen smiled. 'Nice and vague. I take it you haven't told your friends here all the details.'
The old man's smiled dropped slightly. 'I have not, but they know enough.'
She held up a reassuring hand. 'No, no, it's cool. I like that you know how to keep a secret, and this way if a particular secret has to be erased it's not going to require, like, a massacre. Nobody wants that, y'know?'
Colin didn't think that sounded especially reassuring, but the old man seemed to take it in his stride.
'Indeed. As for who I am, you may call me Harbinger.'
Carmen blinked. 'Like the radio station? No way! You're a DJ?'
'I own the station, I don't operate it myself.'
'Oh. Bah. Still, wow, long odds. I was listening to your guy on my computer the other night.'
'I'm well aware of that. I would love the opportunity to explain the mess you've made of my business.'
'Is that why there are a bunch of guns pointed at us?' she turned to Colin. 'I suppose I am a bit curious. Shall we go with this guy, see what he's got to say?'
Colin couldn't believe his ears. 'Are you nuts?'
She shrugged, gave him a crazy grin. 'A little. We can't have these guys blocking the road all morning, it'll attract too much attention. Besides, he just wants to talk.'
'I thought we were leaving.'
'Sunset is about four in the afternoon, we can spare a few more hours. I think we can clear this mess up, leave it nice and tidy for everybody.'
'He's going to try to kill us, or worse.'
Carmen rolled her eyes. 'Like I care. People have been trying to kill me since I started this job.'
'What? You think you're unkillable?'
'No, I just think my staying-alive skills are more than regular killers can deal with. Come on, no sense being shy.'
She walked to the car and pointed. 'This one okay? Where are we headed? I've got an appointment later, if you're good I might let you tag along and watch.'
The old man's eyes went wide, and he nodded. 'My house isn't far, maybe fifteen minutes drive.'
Carmen got into the Range Rover, and Colin followed. 'Fifteen minutes with no traffic?' he warned. 'It could be miles from here.'
She merely shrugged. 'Yeah, but I'm not worried, I think everything's working out our way.'
Harbinger gave orders to his attendant thugs before climbing into the front passenger seat. One of his bodyguards got behind the wheel, while the other scooched onto the back seat, next to Carmen.
'Ooh,' she giggled. 'Is that a gun in your pocket?'
'You're no fun. Come on, I've never been abducted before. This is exciting!'
The old man called back from the front seat. 'Need I remind you that you agreed to come quietly?'
'You hardly gave us a choice,' she retorted. 'Don't pretend this is something it's not, pal.'
Harbinger didn't reply, and the car started moving. Colin could see one of the other cars up ahead, and assumed the other was following up the rear. An escort? Did this guy think they had backup? Was he expecting a rescue attempt, or did they know Brian was out there somewhere gunning for them?
If this Harbinger guy really did know anything he had to have got the information from Brian somehow, so where was the hitman now? Had they killed him? Was he waiting for them?
He didn't fancy any unwelcome surprises, so he decided to just come out and ask.
'Hey, Harbinger. Where's Brian?'
The man looked back over his shoulder. 'Why do you ask?'
'Well, partly to verify that you know him, and that he's who told you about us, so thanks for that, but mostly because he seemed pretty keen on seeing me dead last night, so I'd like to give him a wide berth if at all possible.'
'That seems prudent.'
'So? Is he waiting at your place?'
'No. He's out somewhere looking for you. I have some of my men watching him.'
Carmen chuckled. 'You mean you had some of your men watching him. He's probably either ditched them by now, or killed them.'
Colin frowned. 'Somebody was at my house. Was that your guys, or Brian?'
'They were mine. I don't think Brian actually knows where you live, and he ran out of here before I could tell him.'
Colin blinked. 'What, you don't have a phone?'
'I thought it would be more efficient to come and collect you myself. I have some questions, and as you've pointed out, Brian wants to see how many bullets it takes to kill you.'
'Is that what he said?'
'Not in those precise words, but close enough.'
'Duly noted. Thanks for the warning.'
The old man made a sound that could have been laughter. They rode the rest of the way in silence.
The curious tale of Colin CampbellPart One - How did it come to this?, Chapter 1, Earlier that dayChapter 2, Earlier stillChapter 3, Making a withdrawalChapter 4, August 18th, 2362Chapter 5, Angel of DeathChapter 6, Welcome to 2016.Chapter 7, Denmark, July 2358Chapter 8, After the crashChapter 9, Music of the SpheresChapter 10, Denmark, July 2358Chapter 11, Harbinger FMChapter 12, Denmark, July 2358Chapter 13, Excuses and liesPart Two - So here we are, Chapter 14Chapter 15, Quite a rideChapter 16, Talking the talkChapter 17, Leisurely pursuitChapter 18, Dinner Date with DestinyChapter 19, Chips with everythingChapter 20, HarbingerChapter 21, Time to leaveChapter 22, ManchesterChapter 23, Colin's HouseChapter 24, On the roadChapter 25, Chateau HarbingerChapter 26, ShowdownEpilogue, Debriefing