During their workout, the security team comes in to give their report. The lead technician is very impressed by Jason’s knowledge and skill. They declare the house bug free and they installed the extra security as requested.
Jason wasn’t eager to get the chip he’d been promised, but decided it was better than feeling completely alone. It was better than an ankle bracelet and preferable to nothing, but still…. It was too much end of days, Revelations, for him. After his swim and shower, he accepted it stoically. Taylor held his other hand while Spence inserted it in his arm.
“I feel like a bar code,” he said. “Shall I set things off at the airport?”
Tim laughed. “No. It’s all good. You’ll be fine.”
“Mark of the Beast,” Jason said, rubbing his skin over the bandage. “Only thing I remember from Sunday school.”
Taylor stilled his roving hand by taking it in hers. “Think of it this way instead. If anything happens, we’ll be able to find you. Unlike a cellphone, watch or anklet, this can’t get thrown away easily.” She put her fingers on his arm. “It’s your insurance, Jason.”
“And yours, that I can’t get away.”
“You don’t want to get away,” she said softly.
“True that. I’m hopelessly hooked on you—lot….”
Tim cleared his throat and the other men turned away.
“Pity party’s over,” Jason said briskly. “What’s for dinner?”
“You’re not cooking?” Taylor asked.
“I’ll help cook. I’m not deciding.”
“Breakfast,” Greg said. “It’s the only thing I can cook on my own.”
“Kind of hard to cook for a crowd,” Tim said.
“Don’t want pizza,” Taylor said, wrinkling her nose.
“Boss has spoken,” Jason said.
“How about hamburgers? I think I saw all that stuff in there,” Taylor suggested.
“That works. I’ve got a nice grill, never been used.”
“Charcoal or gas?” Tim asked.
“Not sure. My contractor told me I couldn’t have that beautiful a backyard view without a deck and a grill. Never had any time to use it.”
“We’ll cook. You’ll stay inside,” Tim stated firmly.
“Not arguing.” Jason held up his hands in feigned helplessness.
“We’ll see what we’ve got. How many of us are there?” Alex asked. “Never mind. I’ll do a head count.”
Fortunately, they had enough frozen burgers to feed everyone two. They also had chips, potato salad, coleslaw and baked beans.
“Someone planned a cookout for us,” Greg said as he munched on a chip.
“Grill’s gas. I guess I can’t complain too much,” Tim said sullenly. “I prefer charcoal.”
“Too much messing with charcoal,” Alex said, clicking tongs together. “If you won’t do the honors, I will.”
“Be my guest. I’ll supervise.”
They walked outside together. Anyone not paying close attention wouldn’t have noticed that while Alex cooked, Tim kept a careful eye on the yard and its surroundings.
“Hard to remember why we’re all here,” Jason said quietly to Taylor as they fixed iced tea. “Then I have this flash of panic that she’s found me and we’re all going to die.”
“She’s lying low, you said so yourself. If she’s smart, she’ll stay that way for a long time.”
“We’ll hear from her again. She’s too driven, too psychotic to stop. I could have quit this life ages ago if I’d wanted to. Once I got my business set up and this house complete, that was the plan.”
“That can still be the plan,” Taylor replied.
“Yeah.” He stopped working, leaning against the counter, shaking his head. “Maybe it would’ve been better if she’d killed me.”
“Don’t you dare talk like that!” Taylor said sharply. “It wouldn’t! The families of those six people are counting on you. So is the judge.”
“What if I can’t do it, Taylor? What if we don’t stop her and she does it again?”
“Enough!” Greg said loudly. “We’ll do it. You have to believe that. I know it seems like we’re not doing anything but she is being hunted. I think we need to let Jason see the leads, Tay. If he got a look at that, maybe he’d feel more like he was really part of this.”
© Dellani Oakes
To Purchase Dellani’s Books:
Under the Western Sky http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Oakes_Dellani/under-the-western-sky.htm