Never Fade Page 36

The PSF must have remembered protocol, because he reached over and forced the door open, jumping out into the snow. He’d have to secure us, make sure we were all right.

I was ready for him.

My legs were shaking like a foal’s as I dove over Jude’s prone form, beating the soldier to the door. He had his gun in one hand but needed the other one free to unlatch the back door. I had my handcuffs looped over his neck and his face between my hands before he could let out a gasp of surprise.

The soldier, Moreno, was rattled enough that his brain didn’t put up much of a fight. Taking control was smooth, easy, without the slightest whimper of pain in my mind.

“Take…our handcuffs off,” I ordered. I waited for him to reach up and do it before ripping the gun out of his hand. Jude let out a blissful moan as their metal grip released.

“Turn around and start walking back toward Boston. Don’t stop until you reach the Charles. Understand?” My finger curled around the trigger of the gun.

“Walk back toward Boston,” he repeated. “Don’t stop until you hit the Charles.”

I felt Jude at my back, swaying, but kept the black handgun trained on the PSF’s head as he walked away, disappearing into the swirling clouds of snow, deep into the night. My arms began to shake, both from the frigid cold and the stress of keeping myself upright.

The truck driver took his time, but he appeared at the driver’s side window, pounding against it. “Is everyone all right? I’ve called for help!”

I signaled for Jude to stay back. The PSF was still visible as he made his way down the highway despite his dark uniform and the pitch-black road. The truck driver spotted him immediately. I counted off his steps as he ran after him, calling, “Hey! Where you going? Hey!”

At the sight of him, Jude slipped the cuffs from his shaking hands, and they clattered as they hit the floor. When the truck driver spun on his heel, I was already waiting for him, gun up, hands steady.

The truck driver’s face went stark white under his beard. For a moment, we did nothing but stare at each other, the snow collecting in his wiry hairs. His jacket was a vivid red plaid and matched the knit cap he had pulled down low over his ears. Slowly, he raised his hands in the air.

“Kids,” he began, his voice shaking, “oh my God—are you guys—”

Jude’s hand tightened around my shoulder. “Roo…” he began uncertainly.

“Get lost,” I said, nodding toward the gun in my hands.

“But…the nearest town is miles away.” I saw the driver relax, his hands dropping back down to his sides now that the shock had worn off. Clearly he thought I wasn’t capable or willing to shoot him if it came down to it. I didn’t know whether to be furious or grateful about it. “Where are you going to go? Do you need a ride? I don’t have much food, but…but it’ll be warm, and—”

Maybe the driver thought he was being kind. Jude obviously thought so. I barely caught the back of his jacket to keep him from jumping out of the van and throwing his arms around the man in weepy gratitude.

Or maybe the driver just wanted the $10,000 per head he’d get for turning us over.

“I need you to get lost,” I said, switching off the gun’s safety. “Go.”

I could tell that he wanted to say something else, but the words caught and stuck in his throat. The driver shook his head once, twice, and gave me a weak nod. Jude let out a strangled protest, lifting a hand in his direction, like he could compel him to stop. The driver was slow to turn and slower to walk away.

“What did you do that for?” Jude cried. “He was just trying to help!”

The thin layer of ice on the road cracked as I jumped down, snapping me back to full alertness. I didn’t have time for explanations, not when the need to run was singing through my veins. The night was long and the piles of snow in the heavy woods around us unmarred. We would have to move fast and cover our tracks.

“We help ourselves,” I said, and led him into the dark.

The distant specks of headlights down the highway did nothing to ease up on the chill that had dug its fingers into my chest as we ran. I kept hoping to come across a car we could use, but every single one that had been abandoned on this stretch of road had a dead battery or no gas. Five minutes of charging through the knee-deep snow of the nearby woods, following the edge of what I assumed was the Massachusetts turnpike, finally turned up an exit sign for Newton, Massachusetts, and another one telling me it was forty-five miles to Providence, Rhode Island.

This was what I knew about the state of Rhode Island: it was south of Massachusetts. Therefore, we were going to Providence. And then I was going to look for a sign for Hartford, the only city I knew in Connecticut, and then one for New Jersey. And that was how my fourth grade education was going to get me down the eastern seaboard, at least until I found myself a goddamn map and a goddamn car.

“Wait…” Jude sputtered, gasping for breath. “Wait, wait, wait…”

“We need to move faster,” I warned. I’d been dragging him along behind me, but I’d carry him if I had to.

“Hey!” He let his body go limp, dropping to his knees. I jerked back with the suddenness of it, almost losing my balance.

“Come on!” I snapped. “Get up!”

“No!” he cried. “Not until you tell me where the heck we’re going! Barton’s probably been searching for us all night!”

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