Chapter 28 – No More Ghosts
Janice and Jonathan had another argument. On this occasion, he was the one who needed convincing. His main objection centered around the indefinite nature of the assignment, and it fell upon his wife to point out its necessity in moving Evelyn toward the culmination of the counseling process. In the wake of this defense, his next objection fell like a domino. True, Adam and Eve had received nothing in the way of specific instructions, but they were merely applying what they had already learned. A compromise was struck. They would leave early in the morning, and they would not be gone for more than two nights. They were also to take an envelope from Janice to be opened when they reached St. Louis.
The trip took a little less than five hours. The two remarkable friends drove east on U. S. 54 and began dipping into the foothills of the Ozarks past Collins. The scenery was more interesting here than on the relatively flat Osage Plateau region they had left behind. They picked up U. S. 65 South at Preston for about fourteen miles and turned left on S. R. 64 East when they hit Lewisburg. After a while, the road began to wind before descending to Bennett Spring State Park. Passing this, they climbed and twisted some more and were soon in Lebanon. Here, they stopped for gas and then proceeded onto I-44 as it angled northeast toward St. Louis. When they reached the city limits, Adam looked over at Eve.
“What do you think is in it?”
“In what?” she asked playfully.
“You haven’t forgotten the envelope Janice gave us. I know you’re wondering about it as much as I am.”
“So we’re here, aren’t we?”
“You read very well,” she complimented. “When we passed the sign, I wanted to see how long it would take you to ask.”
“Was it worth it?”
“Yes,” she smiled, drawing the envelope out of the glove box. “Three guesses.”
“Just one: money.”
She opened it.
“Well, look at you. Hey! It’s over four-hundred dollars, and there’s another piece of paper folded in here with it.”
She read the note and laughed.
“This is vintage Janice. She says it’s to cover the cost of two rooms for two nights. She doesn’t want us sleeping in the same room.”
“Well, we won’t, and we’re not spending one penny of that.”
“Of course we aren’t.”
Eve directed him to the housing project where she had grown up. Getting out of the sedan, they locked their doors and looked around. A beautiful sky was spread over the dismal monoliths of the project. There weren’t that many cars in the lot because most of the residents couldn’t afford them.
“Over there,” Eve said as she pointed. “That was my building. We were on the third floor.”
Despite the sunny day, the inside was dim. A number of ceiling lights were broken out, and the elevator wasn’t working. Evelyn guided them through a door under a smashed out electrical sign. The stairwell reeked of urine. She wrinkled her nose.
“The smell hasn’t changed. Some of the neighbors must have ripped their plumbing out and sold it. I wonder if they’re the same ones.”
Walking solemnly on the third floor, they stopped in front of a door about halfway down the hall. She took a deep breath.
“This is it? What do I say?”
She knocked repeatedly, but there was no answer. Her hands dropped to her sides, and she lowered her head and thought for several minutes. Her friend wisely said nothing. She looked up again and squinted at the number on the door. Her cheek muscles tightened.
“Adam, before we go any further, I need to clear my head. Janice and I couldn’t do this before because it was impractical, but now you and I are here. The first five assaults I suffered were what tipped me over the edge. The first three happened on the other side of that door, the fourth outside this building. Will you allow me to go over the details with you?”
“Do we really need to do this?”
“I know it’s uncomfortable for you, but it will help me.”
He pursed his lips and swallowed hard.
“Okay. Let’s get this over with.”
Adam actually benefited from Eve’s cognitive re-enactments. Due to his protective nature and their unique attachment, he, too, needed to be inoculated against the effects of her past. Hearing the details of each violation, he progressed rapidly through the stages of grief. His prior knowledge and experience had long since carried him past denial. Anger flared up, but he had learned more effective ways of dealing with this during his own counseling sessions. He was too street-wise, too intelligent to see any point in useless bargaining over circumstances which were firmly established. As things were decidedly looking up for both of them, there was no real basis for depression. He had, for the last couple of years, lingered between intellectual acceptance and emotional acceptance, the latter step being the most difficult to take owing to his feelings for his companion. As she blandly worked by rote through her narrative, he was able to surmount this longstanding obstacle. They went back outside, and she showed him where the fourth rape had occurred. In the parking lot, she stood on the place where she had lain as a victim: a faded, white line between two rusting automobiles.
“There were a couple of cars here then, too. This is where he dragged me. The building on the other side of the one behind us is where he died.”
They re-entered the high rise, mounted the stairs, and returned to the hallway outside her former apartment. It had been six years since she had last been there, and knocking on doors drew reactions ranging from indifference to hostility from those units where anyone happened to be home. Nobody remembered her mother, and Eve did not remember them having lived there when she had. Resolved to try every door if necessary, they moved up to the next floor and so eventually found themselves seated at the table of an elderly woman in a cramped dwelling space crawling with grandchildren.
“I don’t have the means or the room,” she explained with resignation, “but somebody’s got to raise them. Now who were you looking for?”
“Amber Morris,” Evelyn repeated. “She’s my mother.”
“Then you had a hard childhood – even for here. Say, I remember. You’re that little blonde girl of hers. I watched you grow up. Never understood how anyone could look so innocent living in that situation. My, my…”
“Do you know what happened to her? Does she still live here?”
“No, not here. She moved out some time ago. I’m sorry to say this, but word had it she was hooking to support her habit. Must have thought business was better elsewhere.”
This well-intentioned grandmother could offer no further assistance. She was burdened with a multitude of her own problems but wished them well. When they reached the parking lot, Adam spoke first.
“What do we do now? This is a pretty big city.”
“I could guess at some parts of town to search, but are you getting anything?”
“No. I’m drawing a blank.”
“I wonder why he isn’t speaking?”
“He didn’t before we decided to come here, either. That was us. We didn’t come all this way by some miraculous revelation.”
“It was more of a natural thought process, a matter of conscience,” she agreed. “Who’s to say he wasn’t involved in that?”
“That makes more sense to me. He isn’t a trained animal act…”
“Or a cosmic butler…”
“He doesn’t have to speak on command. Maybe we’re supposed to do this the hard way.”
“Yeah. I guess so. I can see how it could help our character – you know perseverance…”
“… and trust,” he finished for her.”
“Do you hear the way we’re talking? It’s like he’s here without being here.”
“Now you’re sounding like Jonathan. Besides, maybe he’s here, and we just can’t tell.”
In a greater metropolitan area of nearly three million souls scattered through fifteen counties straddling the border between Missouri and Illinois, they had no choice but to turn to the streetwalkers in the more perilous parts of the city, and this necessitated conducting their investigation after dark. Operating on the hunch that Eve’s mother had stayed on the Missouri side of the line, they drove, stopped, questioned, and drove again. Eve knew some places where they could find working women, but none were forthcoming for the first few hours of their search. Twice, Adam had to stare down pimps foolish enough to attempt intimidating him. More often than that, he was obliged to turn down some pecuniary propositions.
They were ready to give up for the night when they found a lead. A woman using “Star” as her moniker knew of Amber. No, that particular hooker hadn’t been seen around there for at least a month. Star softened when she learned that Eve was Amber’s daughter, and she helped them narrow their search to a single neighborhood of last known activity.
“Slow business but not much competition,” was her assessment as she strolled off in search of customers.
It was decided that their best course of action would be to find somewhere to eat and then to get some sleep. Their quest would be resumed in the morning. Janice’s gift went unused after a very late dinner at a fast food place that was open all night. Unaccustomed to such unhealthy fare, they experienced indigestion and slept in the car in a somewhat safer part of town. Mid-morning found them trolling the streets of an unsavory locale that prostitutes occasionally worked as a fallback option.
“Do you think she’ll be out here at this time of day?”
“Mom? No. She’s somewhere sleeping it off, but we might find someone who can give us more information. Keep to where the stores are. There isn’t enough activity on the residential streets.”
“It’s a long shot,” he sighed. “Why do I get the feeling this is actually going to work?”
“Wait – over there. I’ve seen that man before. He was one of my mother’s suppliers. He operated in the projects where we lived.”
“Has it struck you that all of this might be too coincidental?” he asked. “This is happening faster than we have a right to expect.”
Adam pulled over to the curb, and they got out of the car. Eve calmly walked up to the pusher and established eye contact.
“You dealt drugs to my mother.”
“Whoa, now… your mother? Who’s that?”
“Oh, yeah… I remember her. Been off her game, for the last year or so. You that little girl she used to drag around with her?”
“You were a looker even then. Too bad your old lady couldn’t keep it together. Got looks too sorry for those project payments, now.”
“Project payments,” Eve repeated with contempt.
“You know how that works. She’d give me a little. I’d give her a little.”
The bait was not taken, and she betrayed no emotion as Adam walked up behind her.
“I need to know where she is. Will you help me?”
“That depends on what we can work out.”
Whether is it was an innuendo or a demand for payment, Adam didn’t like the implications. He leaned in menacingly.
“Just tell her.”
The dealer backed up and waved his hands nervously.
“Okay… okay. No trouble here. I don’t know where she’s holed up.”
“But you know her.”
“Yeah, she works this street sometimes. When she has what I want, I give her what she needs. Hold on, now. Let me ask.”
He called to some loiterers farther down the street.
“Any of you seen the hit lady?”
Eve was incensed by his manner. The men began sauntering over to them.
“Why did you call her that?”
The man shrugged as if it should have been obvious.
“Anyone can have her for a hit.”
“If you’re desperate,” one of the indigents taunted.
He looked critically at the chimera.
“Not at all.”
“I think you look desperate. Maybe I can tell you what you want to know if you let us in on the action with your girlfriend.”
Eve saw the shadows within them. She raised her hands to waist level.
“Not yet,” Adam whispered in her ear.
He fixed his eyes on the provocateur.
“So you know where the woman we’re looking for lives.”
The man seemed to shrivel a little.
“It’s no kind of house… abandoned… not too far from here. Hit lady hasn’t been this way for awhile.”
The more Adam stared at him, the more information he revealed. He gave them the address. The rest of the group began crowding around them. Their hands were concealed. Having a well-practiced eye for trouble, the dealer walked quickly away. Adam and Eve betrayed not the slightest sense of anxiety, and this made the encircling pack hesitate.
“I’ve seen this before,” Adam announced matter-of-factly. “You’re getting ready to come out of your pockets, but you’ll be down before you can use whatever you’re carrying. Are you sure that’s what you want?”
None of them answered. Each had adopted a flat affect.
“You should ask yourselves why we aren’t nervous,” Eve seconded.
“We take him out, we can take you down,” one of them postulated.
Adam followed up with some advice.
“You’re basing that on inaccurate information. It would be safer for you to show us your backs and walk away.”
They failed to heed his advice. There were six of them. Adam disarmed four, and Eve disarmed the other two while rendering them unconscious. Five knives, one gun, and six bodies fell to the pavement. The altercation lasted less than a minute.
“You should have taken the deal,” Adam lectured the four on the sidewalk who were still awake.
They were holding their ribs and breathing with difficulty as they rolled back and forth on the ground.
“Put your hands in your pockets, and hold still.”
This group was neither as determined nor as hardened as the gang they had apprehended in Gladstone. Adam’s instructions were followed with alacrity. Evelyn touched the forehead of each, and they quickly passed out.
“You’re okay with calling the police, yeah?”
“Completely. They might get useful forensic evidence. I mean, the culprits are lying right next to their weapons. Who knows what those have been used for in the past?”
She looked down at their vanquished adversaries.
“They look so peaceful – like little children.”
“Ironic, considering what they tried and what’s about to happen to them,” Adam reminded her. “It’s easy to be compassionate after we’ve won.”
An expression of worry passed over her face.
“They were children once. What happened?”
“I’m sure you’ve heard the explanations, Eve.”
“But those explanations apply to us, too. What happened to them?”
“It might be better to consider what happened to us.”
“Someone cared,” she thought aloud. “Someone intervened and took an interest.”
“Maybe things worked out because we were honestly searching for something better…”
A thought interrupted him, and he paused.
“… not that we necessarily deserved it.”
They fell silent for a moment.
“What is it with you?” she asked in mock astonishment as they walked back to the car. “Two dishonorable men told you the truth.”
“Besides getting us involved in a fight, it got us your mom’s last known address. I hope this pans out. Oh… you brought your phone, didn’t you?”
“You didn’t bring yours?”
“Uh, no. It’s on the night stand by my bed. I don’t use it all that much.”
She giggled in amusement.
“Did you even leave it plugged in to the charger?”
“I don’t know. I forget that a lot.”
“What if I’d left mine, too? What if we’d had car trouble?”
“So I should start carrying it.”
“At least on road trips. Besides, what if I wanted to get hold of you when we’re in different places?”
Crouching down, Eve began going through the pockets of the fallen men.
“What are you doing?”
“Looking for another phone. Mine’s off to save the battery, and I don’t want my number traced. Ah… there we are.”
She dialed 9-1-1 and waited.
“Given our new hobby, we’d best remain anonymous.”
When there was an answer on the other end, she reported their location and what the police would find there.
“Uh, no,” he heard her say. “We don’t want to be identified.”
After she hung up, she wiped the phone off to remove her prints, and they returned to the car.
“We’d better get out of here. I don’t know the streets. Can you find the address?”
“Yeah. Not to dwell on my former vocation, but I’ve done reconnaissance in this neighborhood before. Turn left up here.”
Without hesitation, she guided him down some residential streets. Within minutes, they were parked in front of a row of dilapidated houses. The one for which they were looking no longer had a visible address on the front, but they identified it based on those of the houses on either side. It was two stories high, and most of its windows were broken or boarded up. White paint was peeling from the wood of its clapboard siding. Litter was strewn across the porch and into the meager front yard. When they reached the door, Eve hesitated.
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
“I have to, especially after the trouble we’ve gone through. It’s worse than what I was expecting, even worse than where we used to live. She must be in awfully bad shape.”
Adam followed her in. The first floor was deserted and devoid of furniture.
“Hello? Is anyone home?”
There was no reply. Cautiously, they started up the stairs. The second floor featured a rectangular area off of which a number of rooms opened. Most of the doors were off their hinges or missing altogether. They walked slowly around this space. Some of the rooms were occupied by people lying incapacitated on the floor with needles, bottles, and other paraphernalia. Others were empty. The sleepers were apparently incapable of waking from their stupor. They heard the sound of a person coughing and went to investigate. The occupant of the room from which the noise emanated was an old woman or at least a woman who looked old. She wore the lines of hard living on her face.
“Who are you?” she asked suspiciously. “Haven’t seen you here before.”
“I’m looking for Amber Morris.”
“Amber Morris. She’s my mother. I was told she lives here.”
“Don’t know anyone by that name. Get out of here. Leave me alone.”
“Some people called her the hit lady,” Adam interceded.
“Her? Yeah, she lived here. Your mother, you say?”
“Not here any more. She OD’d n’ died. Some fool called 9-1-1 when the smell got too bad. Too high to know better. Police came with the ambulance, and took her out of here in a bag. Cleared all of us out, too, but me and some others, we came back.”
Eve couldn’t speak. Adam gently led her away by her shoulders.
“Sorry for the interruption. It’s your home, and we’re going.”
When they left the house and stepped into the sunlight, Eve stopped and gazed absently into the sky.
“No more ghosts,” she stated with finality.
“Do you want to find out where she’s buried?”
“No. She won’t be there. I forgive her.”
“You’re lucky. At least you know who to forgive.”
“She never talked about her parents, not even when I asked. I don’t know where they are or even if they’re alive. The only link to my past – it’s broken.”
“Is that such a bad thing?”
Her voice wavered.
“We’re rootless, Adam.”
“Not anymore. We have people, now.”
“The city must have a place where they bury homeless people,” she mused. “Before I left home for good, I asked her why she kept me. She said for the welfare payments. I never saw her after that, never spoke to her. She lived off of the government. I suppose it’s appropriate that she died off of them, too.”
She laughed briefly to keep from crying.
“You know, I daydreamed about saving her.”
He tried to console her.
“It was a good dream.”
“We’re alive and new, Adam. Isn’t it beautiful out here?
Surrounded by squalor, she stopped watching the clouds and faced him. Her expression was one of supplication.
“I don’t want to lead you on or anything, but could you hold my hand?”
He consented, and it struck him that she seemed to be steadying herself.
“Let’s get out of her,” she decided. “We both smell terrible.”
Chapter 29 – Pushy
“No… mmmph… stop.”
He wasn’t listening. His kisses didn’t feel passionate. They felt more like an attempt to keep her from speaking. His right forearm was across her shoulders and upper chest, pinning her back to the car seat, and he was nearly on top of her. A knee was poking painfully into her thigh. He groped her. She reached for the door handle, but he pulled her hand away. The pressure being exerted by his right forearm kept her from wiggling free. His left hand began fumbling with her belt buckle. She tried to push it away, but he squeezed her arm until it hurt. Suddenly, the weight was off of her, and she could take a deep breath. She saw his shoes disappearing through the driver’s side window.
This was a lovely spring evening which had grown progressively worse. He had driven her out of town and into the hills surrounding Springfield despite her requests to turn around and take her home. He had explained that there was a nice spot that he wanted to show her. Once they had arrived here, he had initiated what she thought was a typical “DTR” talk. Yes, she liked him, she had reassured. Then how about showing him, he had suggested. From there the conversation had turned progressively more uncomfortable until it became obvious that words alone would not defend her.
His head was thrust back into the car.
“Tell her you’re sorry.”
“She didn’t mind,” he protested.
“Yes, I did!” she answered with a loudness that surprised her.
“You heard that, right? When a woman thinks she’s being raped, she’s being raped.”
His head was pulled quickly out of the window. Through the blur of her emotions, she saw a huge figure, dressed entirely in black, carrying her date into the woods. She couldn’t hear her attacker saying anything. Maybe a hand was over his mouth. The light sounds of movement through the underbrush became indiscernible, and she was alone. As she cried softly, the night sounds failed to soothe her.
Back in the woods, the would-be perpetrator felt himself being tossed earthward. He was somewhat dazed as he sat up in the detritus covering the ground.
“Don’t try to get up.”
He tried and found himself having to sit up again.
“You don’t like being controlled, do you? Think about how she felt.”
“Look. I won’t do it again, okay? Just let me go.”
A second voice, this one feminine, made comment.
“Don’t. This one’s lying. He’s done this before, and he has no intention of stopping. I wish we could turn him in.”
“It’s no good. He hasn’t really done anything yet, at least not anything that could be proved. There isn’t enough evidence to arrest him.”
Petrified, the man remained quiet.
“What about his date?”
“It would be her word against his.”
“Maybe we could testify.”
“Do you think it would stand up in court? We can’t risk exposing ourselves.”
“Well, we can’t just let him go…”
“And we can’t kill him. Doggone it, that just wouldn’t be nice.”
“No, really. I’ll stop.”
“Who gave you permission to speak?” the woman scolded. “You’re interrupting.”
There was a pause.
“Do you believe him now?”
“Nope. Still lying. That surprises me. They normally tell the truth around you. He must be a hard case.”
“Then we’ll just have to give him a reason to quit. He might fess up later.”
“That depends,” the feminine voice speculated. “Did you read that article I gave you?”
“What type do you think he is?”
“Hmmm… I’ll go with power-reassurance?”
“Do you think he’s that inept?”
“I see what you mean. Probably not. How about power-assertive?”
“It’s hard to tell if he’s that violent.”
“He doesn’t seem all that athletic,” the masculine voice added. “Maybe he works out a little. He is dressed kind of macho.”
“And he obviously got to know her first. That’s rather typical.”
“About the violence thing… we did manage to get here before he got very far, and he was using a certain amount of force.”
“What about Gladstone?”
“Definitely anger-excitation – at least the leader. He was into inflicting mental anguish, but maybe the others were more of the anger-retaliation variety.”
“Yeah. Either way, this guy doesn’t look that sick.”
He looked upward. Both figures were dressed identically, right down to their black ski masks. The smaller one slapped her forehead with the heel of her palm.
“What are we doing?” she asked jokingly. “Those FBI profiles only apply to rapists who target strangers. Maybe he knew her better than that. Let’s ask him.”
“How long have you known her?” his male captor demanded.
“We’ve been dating a few months. We both go to Missouri State.”
“I’d say she looks younger than you. What is she, a freshman?”
His female interrogator took over.
“I’ll bet you met her in a bar.”
“Uh… yes,” he replied weakly.
“And you cultivated the relationship.”
Her companion broke in.
“But you had this in mind from the beginning.”
“Yes,” he admitted, although he didn’t know why.
“That’s better,” the masked woman said approvingly. “Maybe he’s finally wearing down. As to his type, he might be farther down on the continuum. About the only differences between him and a power-assertive that I can see are frequency and how well he gets to know his victims beforehand. Oh, and maybe a lesser degree of force. Well, I can’t stay any longer. Do what you think is best.”
The slight figure walked away. She reminded him of a phantom from some bad dream. The large man grabbed him by his shoulders, jerked him to his feet, and held his head between two gloved hands. Feeling the strength of this anatomical vice, the violator started hyperventilating. Had this masked terror changed his mind? Was he going to snap his neck?
“Look at me, and listen carefully.”
They were standing in a shaft of moonlight that penetrated the canopy of the trees. Desperately, hopefully, he beheld the eyes revealed by the slits in the mask. In the dim light, they didn’t seem to match. He found their intensity threatening.
“I said listen. A number of studies have been done on guys like you – anonymous surveys, mostly. College men who commit sexual assault number about one in ten. Still listening? Four out of five of those rapists think they’ve done nothing illegal. You might not consider yourself a rapist, but let’s get rid of this misunderstanding. Like I said back at the car, if a woman thinks she’s being raped, she is being raped. Got it?”
His captive vainly gripped Adam’s wrists in an effort to free his head.
“Sure,” he grunted. “Whatever you say.”
“I’m not convinced. You don’t seem to be intrinsically motivated to do the right thing, so here’s another piece of useful information. One study found that around one-fifth to one-third of college males would consider raping if they knew they wouldn’t get caught. Let me give you some extrinsic motivation. You were caught tonight, and it could easily happen again. No matter where you go, no matter what you do, remember what I tell you next. There is someone who knows the thoughts that squirm in your brain. Either you’re done, or you will be found out. You will pay. How’s that for extrinsic motivation?”
“Uh, pretty effective.”
“I know you’re saying what you think I want to hear, so I’m going to give you time to come to your senses. If I catch you walking out of these woods before sunrise, you’ll be sorry. We live a long way away, and we had no trouble finding you tonight. There’s nowhere to hide. Now keep staring at the ground, and think.”
He obeyed more out of fear than sincerity. When he finally looked around, he was by himself. That massive shadow could be lurking nearby, and his only guarantee of safety was to wait until morning before returning to his car.
His intended victim was walking down the road when she reached an intersection. She had almost driven away in his car, but she did not want to be accused of stealing it. For as long as she had been walking, she must have been farther out of town than she originally thought. Which way should she go? Hearing the sound of a vehicle approaching from behind, she flinched. The car stopped beside her. Its windows were down.
“Can I give you a ride?” the driver asked.
Relieved to hear another female voice, the college student nodded. The driver, dressed in shorts, a tee shirt, and black running shoes, was in her late twenties, but she looked younger.
“I don’t really know where I’m going. I need to get to my apartment in Springfield.”
“How did you get all the way out here?”
“My date. I thought he was okay, but he brought me out here and tried to rape me.”
She started to cry.
“Get in. I know how to get to town. Once we’re there, you can guide me wherever you need to go.”
As they rode back toward Springfield, the driver tried to make conversation.
“There are some tissues in the glove compartment if you need them. You said he tried to rape you. What stopped him?
“Some guy pulled him off of me. I didn’t get a good look at him, but he was huge.”
“You should be thankful. I’ve been assaulted before when no one was around to help me.”
This information caused a change in the passenger’s expression.
“How did you meet this jerk?”
Emboldened by the knowledge that she was in the presence of a fellow veteran, the co-ed kept talking.
“Where else? In a bar.”
“Not the best place to meet Mister Right…”
“Whatever. Everybody goes out.”
“So he got your number and started calling, yeah?”
“How did you know?”
“Well you were with him, tonight. Besides, they’re pretty predictable, aren’t they?”
“Sure are,” she agreed to avoid appearing naïve. “He called a lot – even showed up at my campus job once or twice. I thought it was by accident.”
“It wasn’t by accident. Let me fill in the blanks. He asked you out, and you said yes.”
“He seemed nice.”
“And after a while he tried to monopolize your time and isolate you from your friends. If you got into a disagreement, he would grab your hand or squeeze or twist your arm a little.”
“That’s just normal.”
“Is it? Should it be? So you dated for what…”
“Almost three months.”
“He made most of the decisions, and he usually got his way, didn’t he? If someone held a gun to my head – and, believe me, it’s happened before – I’d say tonight was a pre-arranged date.”
“Don’t tell me. He took you drinking, and then he brought you here. That’s not much of a date.”
“How do you know all this?”
“Remember what I said about this type being predictable. You don’t have to settle. You can insist on better.”
After playing the role of chauffeur, Eve went back and found Adam walking along the same road. Except for wearing gloves, he was dressed much as she was, and he carried a black ski mask in his right hand. Black sweatpants and a matching sweatshirt were draped over his left forearm. Their discussion in front of the perpetrator had been somewhat staged, but they had ad-libbed nicely. It was uncanny how they could anticipate each other’s thoughts. She slowed to a stop.
“You’re cute. Want a ride?”
“Nah, I’ve only got a hundred miles or more to go.”
“You’re sweating,” she laughed as he got into the car.
“It’s warm out, and this outfit was hot,” he said as he flipped his mask and sweats into the back.
“Don’t look at me. You did the shopping for both of us.”
“Well, these worked better in colder weather. Do they have spring lines for superhero costumes?”
“It’s called athletic wear, Adam. Some fabrics breathe. We can look into it.”
“As long as it’s on-line. I’ve had enough of shopping in person. Mission accomplished?”
“She’s home, safe and sound. I don’t know how much anything I said sunk in, though.”
“Me neither. At least we tried. You still good to drive?”
“For now. I’ll let you know if I get tired. Since we’re near a college town, maybe you can find us some jazz.”
He couldn’t, so they settled for rock. As they went west along I-44 to Joplin, the signal faded. It was country music for a while after that. Near Joplin, Adam found something more to their liking. It stayed with them all the way on I-49 North to Nevada.