Other early-morning drivers scowled in our direction at the way Caleb had joined the highway, barging onto it as if no other cars existed.
“Caleb,” I said, reaching for his forearm, “we’ll still make it back in time. It will be tight, but I know we’ll make it back.”
I couldn’t even think about what would happen if we got delayed and seven days passed, so I tried to find conviction in my own words.
“We can’t afford more delays,” he said.
That much, at least, we agreed on.
We didn’t talk much for the next few hours as we sped forward. Caleb looked over at the map occasionally, but otherwise his eyes were fixed ahead.
My thoughts drifted to Rhys. It was ironic to realize that he’d been the least of our worries so far. We’d had enough trouble just dealing with humans. Caleb had said that he would come after us. I wondered how he’d even go about tracking us down. We could be anywhere in South America by now.
I shuddered again, wondering why he’d taken me. Caleb had said he didn’t know.
I thought about my parents. I hoped that neither they nor my brother would try to come after me. I hoped they’d all stay safe within The Shade and wait for my return. I wished I’d brought one of The Shade’s phones with me. But it wasn’t like I could have predicted Micah would suddenly morph into an evil warlock. Besides, he’d have confiscated the phone anyway.
Caleb’s voice broke through my thoughts.
He was looking into his side mirror. I caught a glimpse of my own before obeying him. A tall, black vehicle was following us. It looked like an armored truck.
“Could they be cops?” I whispered.
Caleb shook his head as he pressed down harder on the accelerator. “Not cops.” He swerved left sharply, my head bashing against the side of the truck.
“Stay down!” he bellowed.
I dropped down on the floor as low as I could. There was a crack and then the shattering of glass. Caleb was still glancing in the rear mirror.
There was a sudden bump against the back of the vehicle. My head went crashing against the wall again, this time splitting my forehead and drawing blood.
Bullets continued to shatter the back screen. I was frightened one would hit Caleb again. I didn’t think I could bear to see him endure more wounds than he had already.
“I knew I should have killed that bastard,” Caleb muttered.
“Luis’ man. The one who got away.”
There was another crash as the heavy truck rammed right into our bumper.
As Caleb swerved right, I clutched the door handle to stop myself from getting injured again.
“Listen to me, Rose,” Caleb said, his breathing uneven. “I need to stop the vehicle so I can deal with them. I need you to stay exactly where you are. No matter what you hear, don’t step out of this vehicle. Do you understand me?”
“O-okay,” I gasped, clutching my head in my hands, trying to stem the bleeding with my sleeve.
Caleb swerved left again and then screeched the vehicle to a stop. The black truck rushed past us, taking longer to slow down. My whole body trembled as Caleb stepped out of the vehicle.
He disappeared from my vision as he lurched forward into gunfire that shattered the front windscreen. I ducked down as glass rained down on me. I closed my eyes tight and covered my ears with my hands, trying to block out the noises and hear only my harried breathing. But the gunshots were deafening. They were impossible to block out.
Shouts pierced the air. I hoped that Caleb would finish them off soon. The sun would once again be beating down on him, making this doubly difficult.
Stay down. He told me to stay down.
But why is the gunfire continuing? He should have disarmed them already.
When the gunfire continued for what felt like five more minutes, I just couldn’t stay down any longer. I raised my head slightly so I could glimpse over the dashboard.
Three men lay dead and bleeding on the floor. The back of the truck was wide open. Caleb stood inside with another man who was trying to corner him with a machine gun. Caleb rammed into him, knocking the weapon from his hands and slitting his throat. He held the man in front of him as a shield. As he motioned to step back out into the sun, two more men appeared outside the truck and aimed fire.
And then it happened.
A third man still standing outside lurched beneath the bumper of the vehicle and pulled down a lever. The door to the armored truck slammed shut. He fastened the bolt. There was a violent banging against the door. But there were no signs of it opening again.
I blinked, barely believing my eyes. They couldn’t just trap Caleb like that. Why wasn’t he breaking free? “No,” I gasped. “No.”
Wiping sweat and blood from their faces, two of the men turned toward me. I sank to the floor, trembling. I shook my head. No, he’ll escape. He’ll escape.
My heart hammered in my chest as footsteps approached. I cast my eyes about for any sign of a gun, any means of defending myself. But I couldn’t see anything. I huddled further beneath the dashboard. The two men approached the driver’s seat of our truck. I caught the flash of a blade. One of the men tore it into the driver’s seat, cutting all around the fabric and removing it entirely.
They pulled from it a black canvas bag. Unzipping it, they pulled out plastic bags filled with a powdery substance.
They muttered to each other in Portuguese as they examined the bags. Seemingly satisfied, they placed the plastic bags back in the canvas bag and zipped it up again. One of the men picked the bag up and then footsteps walked away. I thought they were about to leave without noticing me, but then the door I was leaning against clicked open. I found myself looking up into the eyes of a tall tan man with long greasy hair. Blood and dirt covered his face and arms.