They rode the Yellow Line up to the Chinatown station. There she left the trio and joined a new couple, two women who could have been secretaries or librarians in their buttoned-up blouses and cat-framed eyeglasses. They rode the Green Line together up to the Shaw-Howard station, Jesse’s head cocked in the direction of the shorter brunette, pretending to be absorbed in a story about last weekend’s wedding reception that hadn’t included an open bar, of all the nerve. Mid-story, she left the secretaries on the train and melted into the crowd exiting the Metro. She did a quick U-turn through the densely packed ladies’ room and then joined the crowd heading down to the tracks for the next train. Timing would be everything now. She wouldn’t be able to hide inside the herd.
The shrill wail of the approaching train had Jesse’s heart bouncing up into her throat. She braced herself; it felt like she was a sprinter crouched at the blocks, waiting for the gun to fire. Then she shuddered at the metaphor in her head – it was only too possible that a gun was actually about to fire, but this one would have real bullets and wouldn’t be aimed at the sky.
The train shrieked to a stop, and she was on the move.
Jesse power-walked down the line of cars, elbowing through the flow of passengers as the doors whooshed open. Scanning as fast as she could, she searched for the tall frame with the floppy hair. There were so many bodies ducking past her, blocking her view. She tried to put a mental X through every head that didn’t match. Was she moving too quickly? Not quickly enough? The train was leaving by the time she got to the last car, and she couldn’t be positive he wasn’t on it, but she didn’t think he was. By her calculations of his last two arrivals, he was most likely on the next train. She bit her lip as the doors closed. If she’d blown this one, she’d have to try again on his next trip. She didn’t want to have to do that. The closer the time got to Carston’s plan being put into action, the more dangerous this would be.
Rather than linger in plain sight, she continued briskly toward the exit.
She did another circuit through the restroom, wasting a little time pretending to check the makeup she wasn’t wearing. After counting to ninety in her head, she rejoined the stream of commuters on their way to the tracks.
It was even more crowded now. Jesse chose a spot close to a group of suited men at the far end of the platform and tried to blend in with the black fabric of their jackets. The men were talking about stocks and trades, things that seemed so far from Jesse’s life that they might as well have been science fiction. The next train was announced and she got ready to walk and scan again. She stepped around the traders and examined the first car as it came to a stop.
Moving fast, Jesse’s eyes ran through the next car. Woman, woman, old man, too short, too fat, too dark, no hair, woman, woman, kid, blond… The next car —
It was like he was helping her, like he was on her side. He was right beside the window, looking out, standing tall, with the wavy hair very much in evidence.
Jesse gave the rest of the occupants a quick once-over as she walked toward the open doors. Many business types – any one of them could have been hired by the department. But there were no obvious tells, no extra-wide shoulders that didn’t quite fit into normal-size suit coats, no earpieces, no bulges under the jackets, no eye contact between riders. No one wore sunglasses.
This is the part, she thought to herself, where they try to bag us both and haul us back to the lab. Unless this is a setup, in which case Daniel and his innocent curly hair will be one of them. He might be the one to shoot me. Or stab me. Or they’ll try to get me off the train to shoot me somewhere in private. Or they’ll knock me out and throw me on the tracks.
But if the story is all true, they’ll want us both alive. They’ll probably try something similar to what I’m about to do to Daniel. Then they’ll cart me off to the lab and my odds of ever walking out again are… less than encouraging.
A thousand other bad endings raced through her head as the doors closed behind them. She walked quickly to stand beside Daniel, sharing the same pole for balance, her fingers close below his paler, much longer fingers. Her heart felt like someone was squeezing it in a tight fist; it got more painful in direct proportion to her proximity to the target. He didn’t seem to notice her, still staring out the window with a faraway look, a look that didn’t change as they pulled into the darkness of the tunnel and he could see only reflections from inside the car. Nobody in the car made any move toward them.
She couldn’t see any of the other guy in Daniel Beach, the one she’d seen pictures of in Mexico and Egypt, the one who hid his hair and moved with aggressive assurance. The abstracted man next to her could have been an Old World poet. He must be an incredible actor… or was it possible that he was legitimately psychotic, suffering from dissociative identity disorder? She didn’t know what to do with that.
Jesse tensed as they neared the Chinatown stop. The train lurched into the station, and she had to grip the pole tighter to keep from swinging into Daniel Beach.
Three people, two suits and one skirt, exited the train, but none of them looked at Jesse. They all hurried past, moving like they were late for work. Two more men got into the car. One caught Jesse’s attention – a big man, built like a professional athlete, wearing a hoodie and sweatpants. He had both hands in the front pouch of the hoodie, and unless his hands were the size of shoe boxes, he was carrying something in them. He didn’t look at Jesse as he passed her, just went to the back corner of the car and grabbed an overhead strap. She kept him in the corner of her eye in the reflection, but he didn’t seem interested in either herself or the target.