I tensed and looked out the window, seeing the white van that was now sitting quite noticeably in the middle of the parking lot. It was just like the one I was pulled into before.
My hands gripped the seat beneath me as two men jumped out of the van and headed straight for Mark's truck. I guess he'd been right - they could trace it.
The two men yanked open each of the doors of the truck and briefly looked inside.
Looking back at the van, I saw Wescott standing outside it, staring right at me and looking furious.
I couldn't hear what, but he said something to the guards, making one of them start running toward the train.
For a second I wondered why both of them didn't start running, but then I realized, Wescott wanted to keep this as inconspicuous as possible. One guy running toward an almost departed train would just look like a guy trying to catch a train. Any more than that might look like an attack or something.
I glanced back, nervously, at the open train door and then at the guard who was heading straight for it.
I couldn't get caught now! Not after I'd made it so far!
But how could I get away? I couldn't get off the train. If I did, they'd be sure to catch me within a few seconds. All they would have to do is use that remote and then catch up to me.
The train was my only hope. And I didn't think they'd be quite as forceful in front of all these people. They wouldn't want it to look like I was being kidnapped. But would that stop them from using the remote and just saying I had a seizure or something?
Maybe they wouldn't use it if it would be dangerous. Like if I was standing just inside the door of the train and could easily fall out and be hurt or killed.
I jumped up to stand in just the right spot, hoping that my assumption was right. If it was, and the guard reached me before the door closed, I could knock him away, hopefully giving the door enough time to close.
"Come on. Come on," I muttered anxiously as he got closer.
He jumped over the bushes that separated the train platform from the parking lot and the doors, mercifully, started to close.
But would it be fast enough? What if they had an automatic sensor to make them open if someone stuck their hand between them? It might take even longer. Long enough for Wescott, who was making his way over more slowly, time to get through one of the other doors.
"Close. Close. Close. Close." I repeated, as I tried to help the door with my hands.
I held my breath as the guard closed the distance between us, just in time to have the door shut in his face.
I exhaled in relief as I stared at him, with wide eyes, through the window.
He dropped my gaze after a second and moved toward the back of the train.
I looked back anxiously to see what he was doing, but there was only a tiny window, straight back, and I couldn't see anything. I guessed, though, that he was trying to grab onto the train. I held my breath again as I waited for some indication of either his success or failure.
It took an agonizingly long time to feel the first sign of movement. But finally the train picked up speed and as it moved away, I could see the guard still standing on the platform, looking after the train.
I felt a smile spread across my face as I realized that I'd made it. For whatever reason, the guard couldn't get on.
I looked out the other window, just in time to see a very angry and, for once, totally helpless Wescott standing on the platform.
Feeling unbelievably happy and more than a little smug, I gave him a huge grin and waved as the train took me further out of his reach.
After he disappeared completely from my vision, I stood at the door for another minute, allowing it to sink in. I'd really done it. I managed to get away. All I had to do now was blend in, once I got to New York. I'd only visited the city once or twice, but I knew it was busy enough, all the time, to give me some cover.
I went to take my seat again, still feeling dazed as I handed my ticket to the man in uniform, who'd made his way down the aisle.
He punched a small hole in my ticket and handed it back, looking bored and tired. I smiled brightly at him as I took the ticket and shoved it in my pocket with the remainder of my money.
He blinked in confusion at my unusual cheeriness before he smiled back, hesitantly, and moved on.
I crossed my arms and propped my feet up on the seat in front of me, allowing myself to really relax for the first time in a very long time.
I could still hardly believe I'd actually done it. I'd planned on escaping and apparently, it had been a good plan, but I think it was always in the back of my mind that they would catch me. That, somehow, Wescott would just know, the way he seemed to know everything else, and stop me.
But he hadn't had a clue and now, the train was taking me far away from him.
The smile, that had been etched across my face since the train door shut in the guard's face, faded as I realized something about trains.
They made scheduled stops. And it wouldn't be difficult for Wescott to figure out where and when those stops would be.
How many times would we stop before we reached Penn Station? I'd barely gotten away, back there. How would I manage a miraculous escape more than once?
Remembering what Mark said, I knew I needed to disguise myself somehow. I might have a shot if they didn't recognize me right away. Or, better yet, at all.
But how? I had nothing but what I was wearing and the money and ring that Mark had given me. And there wasn't exactly a store on the train, to even buy different clothes.
I looked at the girl, across the aisle, getting an idea.
"Excuse me," I said, leaning over.
She turned to look at me, curiosity and distrust in her wide green eyes.
"Can I..." I faltered as the suspicion in her expression, deepened.
"I mean, would you mind if I bought your hat?" I tried, glancing at the nondescript, black hat on her head. It wasn't much in the way of disguises, but maybe it would be enough to at least give me a shot at blending in.
"My hat?" She repeated, still clearly suspicious.
My cheeks flushed slightly. How weird and creepy was I being, right now?
"Yeah," I said. "I just, um...I sort of need to hide." There. She should understand that. She seemed pretty interested in being invisible, herself.
She looked at me, for a few seconds, assessing.
"That guy your ex?" she asked.
"The guy from the station," she said. "Is he an old boyfriend or something?"
"Oh..." I hadn't thought about the fact that other people would have seen that.
"No, he's just..." I looked down, wondering what to tell her. 'He's one of the guards for the loony scientist that wants to lock me up and do horrible things to me for the rest of my life'? Yeah, she'd believe that...She'd think I was lying or crazy. Or both.
"Stalker?" she asked.
I looked up. Now that was believable.
"Yeah, sort of," I said. "I just really need to get away, ya know?"
She nodded, looking as if she understood, all too well, the need to get away.
"What did he do?" she asked.
I looked down again. The question was, what didn't he do? Or, what wouldn't he do?
"Everything," I said, quietly.
She snorted in disdain. "Men are such scumbags."
I looked up again. "Yeah." But not all, I corrected her in my head. Mark wasn't. I didn't think contradicting her would go over real well, though.
"And you think he'll be waiting for you at the train station?" she asked.
I nodded. "How many stops before Penn Station?"
"Just one," she said. "But it'd be stupid for him to waste time going there. It's kind of out of the way and there's no guarantee he'll catch the train. He'll probably just go straight to the final stop. If he's smart, anyway."
Wescott was nothing, if not smart. And he wouldn't want to replay that scene from the station and risk missing me at the final destination. She was right, he'd head straight for New York.
"You think he'll be able to get there before the train?" she asked, curious.
"I'm sure of it," I said. If not Wescott personally, then someone working for him. Probably alot of someones....
She snorted again and shook her head.
"Look," I said, wanting to get back to the important thing. "I can pay you for the hat. How about fifty dollars?"
She raised her eyebrows in surprise. It was an outrageous amount for a hat. Especially one that was clearly not very new.
"Do you think it would be enough?" she asked, doubtfully. "I mean, he knows what you look like, right? And what you were wearing."
Yeah, that was also a big problem. Unfortunately I couldn't help that. The hat would have to be enough.
When I didn't answer right away, she pursed her lips. "How do you feel about make up?"
"Make up?" I asked. I know I probably looked pretty bad, but did she think I cared about that right now?
"Goth make up." she said with a sly grin, pulling a small make up bag from her back pack.
I smiled, feeling hopeful. "Well, I've never tried it."
"Sit here," she said, nodding at the seat facing hers.
I quickly obeyed and she started slathering goop all over my face.
"How does it look?" I asked after she indicated that she was finished. I wished I had a mirror.
She sat back and gave me an evaluating look. "Well, I don't know you all that well, but I'm positive you look nothing like yourself."
I grinned and tried to get an idea from the reflection in the train window.
"He'd have to know you had make up on, to even know to look for you like this," she said. "I don't think he'll have any idea."
"Thank you, so much!" I said, looking back at her. "You have no idea how much you've done for me.
She smiled, seeming genuinely pleased. "I'm glad I could help," she said. "I know what it's like."
My smile faded. She couldn't have been more than eighteen, maybe. How awful to have to be so street smart, so young.
Her smile faded too and she tilted her head, appraising me again.
"What?" I asked, self-conscious.
"Your hair..." she said, pursing her lips. "It doesn't really fit the look. And he'll probably be watching for that..."
I shrugged. "I guess it'll have to do. You said he wouldn't recognize me anyway." Besides, if she would sell me her hat, I could still hide it.
"Here," she said, reaching up and taking off her hat and then the short black wig that I'd taken for her real hair. Her actual hair spilled out around her shoulders in long, blond waves.
"You can wear this." She held the wig toward me.
"Are you sure?" I asked. "The hat will work too."
She shrugged before pulling the wig back a little, looking hesitant. "There is still the money, right?"
"Definitely," I said, "But don't you need that?" She was obviously used to disguising herself and the wig seemed to be an important part of that.
"I need money more," she said. "I have a few other wigs, but I'm running low on money and I'd rather not have to...." she trailed off and glanced away. "Get it another way." It wasn't too hard to figure out what other way that might be. The way alot of desperate girls resort to, if they need money badly enough. "Besides, I think you need it more than me, right now."
"Alright," I said. "Thanks."
She looked back at me and helped me get the wig on straight before sitting back and smiling.
"I don't think you have to worry about being recognized," she said. "Whenever I dress like that, most people look away really quickly. Just try to look bored and annoyed."
I scowled at her, practicing, and she giggled. "Perfect."
I grinned before I dug the money out of my pocket, knowing she was waiting for it.
"Thank you so much," I said, handing it to her.
She gladly took the money, glanced down quickly at it in her hand, and then looked back up at me, surprised.
"This is too much," she said. "You said fifty."
"I know." I shrugged. "But you really helped me out."
"But the wig isn't worth this much," she said, looking a little guilty. "I actually stole it."
I smiled. "That's ok," I said. "It's worth alot more to me."
I'd given her one hundred dollars, which really was alot for a wig that she'd stolen in the first place. To me, though, that wig represented a real shot at freedom and was worth much much more than what I'd given her. And she'd really done alot more than I originally asked for.
Besides, I hated to think of her wandering around the city with no money. No matter how street smart she was, she'd be ridiculously easy prey for any number of lowlifes. One hundred dollars wasn't enough to live on for very long, but maybe it was enough for her to be able to get started.
And anyway, one hundred dollars wasn't going to make a big difference to me right now. If I got caught, it would be completely useless, and I'd rather she have it. If I managed to get away, I still had another thirty dollars and Mark's ring to pawn. So, I'd be fine for a little while.
"Thank you," she said quietly, seeming dazed and looking down at the money again.
"What's your name?" I asked.
She looked up at me. "Lily."
"That's pretty," I said.
She half-smiled. "What's yours?"
"Sam." It felt good to be able to get my name back. I'd grown to absolutely despise the name Abi.
"I'm glad I met you, Sam," she said. "I guess we sort of saved each other."
"Yeah," I agreed, before I got another idea. "Hey, would you maybe, wanna stick together?" Wescott would be looking for me alone and, probably, so would whoever Lily was running from. Besides, she seemed to know alot about surviving on her own.
That wary look returned to her face. "I don't think so," she said. "I'm kind of a loner, ya know?"
"Sure," I nodded. "It was just an idea..." I couldn't blame her for being guarded. She probably had very good reason to be.
"If I wasn't, though," she looked apologetic. "I wouldn't mind it being you. You're the nicest person I've met in a long time."
Before I could think of what to say to that, an announcement came over the speaker, letting us know that we were approaching the next station.
"You should probably go to a different car," Lily said.
I looked at her, questioning. Did I freak her out that much by asking that?
"He'll probably start looking for you on this car, since he saw you here," she added.
"Right," I nodded and berated myself, in my head for not thinking of something so obvious, on my own. If I was going to have any hope of surviving, I was going to have to start thinking of these things.
"Thanks for all your help," I said, standing up, ready to move. I didn't think they'd be waiting at this station, but better to be safe and go now.
"You too," she smiled and I turned to walk to the front of the car.
"Sam?" she called, before I got too far away.
"Yeah?" I stopped and looked back at her.
"Don't trust anyone," she said, making me look at her curiously.
"I mean, not really," she said. "Most people...they look out for themselves, you know? If they can get something out of it, they won't hesitate to turn on you."
I nodded, wondering what she'd had to go through to become so distrustful. She was probably right, though. It would be wise to keep my guard up the way she did. Trusting the wrong person, even once, could ruin everything.
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