Now I had to plan how to get her away without being followed and without the Rabbits realizing that she hadn’t left the city. It would be better if they thought she’d gone far away- I didn’t think their influence reached beyond the city limits.
Looking back, it would have been a better choice to simply send her elsewhere but I honestly didn’t think of it. I expect that I didn’t trust that she would be safe unless I knew she was safe. Selfish of me, but there it is.
So, camouflage. I went to a cab company and rented one of their off-duty cabs. I make that sound simple but it took a bit of persuasion and enough ‘rent’ to replace the cab. For once, my looks were not really against me- I’m sure the cabbie I talked to thought I needed it for some drug deal or other nefarious purpose, but he didn’t ask questions. Maybe I scared him. We agreed that I would leave it and the keys sitting at the train station and the cabbie could either pick it up or report it stolen- as long as he waited until after midnight to report it.
Train tickets were easier- there are automatic machines for tickets to go anywhere. So I got a couple of passes that would allow for everywhere and could be used for up to a week. Not that I intended for us to use them but I wanted real ones just in case.
I saw Rose and her father as I turned the corner. I’d walked here often but I hadn’t ever driven down these streets so I was being very careful. The cab was unfamiliar, nothing was quite in the right place to me. They were standing in front of the building so I was able to pull up right in front of them. I hadn’t worn a mask but I did have on a hoodie that shadowed my face as much as possible as well as the cabbie’s borrowed hat and jacket. I didn’t want to frighten Rose out of her wits… and my face isn’t one you forget.
I rolled down the window. “Cab for your daughter, sir.” He looked a bit confused. “Get in. Please.” He opened the door and Rose threw a backpack and a suitcase in and got in. Then her father started to get in. “Just the girl, please.” He closed the door and came around to my window.
“I don’t understand, we didn’t call a cab.”
I looked up at him so he could see a little of my face. “Just because you didn’t call one, doesn’t mean you don’t need one.” I handed him the envelope with the ‘phone I had prepared. “Don’t loose it, don’t sell it and don’t reprogram it.” I pulled the cab away back into the light traffic.
Rose was sitting with her arms crossed. I had no idea what her father had said to her but she looked very angry. She was staring at the back of my head.
“You’re not a cabbie.”
“No, I’m not.” I’d better tell her a little of what we were doing to loose her pursuers- there was a car two back that was shadowing us. Not obviously but they were there. “We’re going to do a fast intricate little dance now. It’s for your safety and I’m leading. Please follow without asking questions and I will answer them all as soon as it’s safe.”
“How do I know you’re not just kidnapping me?” I was prepared for this
“On the seat there is a manila envelope. In it is a phone. It already has your father’s new phone programed in and is encrypted.”
“Yes. I’ll explain later but for now what you need to know is that you can call your father or anyone else on that phone and your location can’t be traced. Please use it instead of any other.”
She considered this for a moment. “Okay, that does make me feel safer.”
That was what I had hoped. That being told she could call whoever she wanted would make her less likely to feel abducted. But, right now, safely was an illusion and the train station was getting close.
“Rose. I won’t ever hurt you in any way. Trust me on this.” I paused “Do you have a hat?”
“I have a toboggan. Will that do?”
“Nicely. Please take it out and put it in your pocket.”
We pulled into the train station. I was glad it was cold. People are much less identifiable as amorphous blobs of coats… and it gave me an excuse for the hoodie and the gloves.
“Get out, take your backpack. I’ll get the suitcase for you. Leave the hat in your pocket for now.”
Rose nodded. Our tail was pulling in, we hadn’t lost them. But then, I hadn’t meant to.
We walked into the station and she headed for the manned ticket counter. I was a little behind her and when she got there, I walked past, not turning to face the counter and held up the tickets and kept walking.
“We already have tickets.”
She scampered to catch up to me.
“You could have told me- now I look stupid.”
“I’m sorry. I wanted him to see and remember you but not be able to give any information about where you are going.”
“You mean where we are going.”
“Oh no. I’m just a cabbie, helping you with your luggage. At least, that’s what I hope they’ll see. Ah, there’s a train for Baltimore in five minutes. We’ll use that one.”
We walked down the stairs to the loading area.
“Get on, walk through the car to the next one.”
When we got to the next car, Rose slowed.
She picked up the pace. When we got to the back, where we couldn’t be seen through the windows, I stopped her.
“Tuck your hair inside your jacket and put on your hat.” I told her shedding the cabbie’s jacket and hat. I still kept the hood up, I didn’t want to panic her now. I pulled a bright red scarf out of my own pocket and handed it to her. “Put this on.” Then I kicked the cabbie’s jacket and hat under a seat. “Okay. Through the next car. And hurry.” We navigated that car quickly and she stopped at the end.
“We get off.” The train lurched and she staggered. “Hurry.”
We got off on the opposite side we had gotten on.
“Bend down and tie your shoe.”
“Do it!” I was too sharp but I didn’t want anyone to see her face. And I had become a master of techniques to hide a face in public. I could see the men who were tailing us moving through the cars we had passed through- looking for her. But the train was already pulling away and none of them were looking out the windows.
“Can I get up now?”
“Just another second… okay.”
She stood up. “What…”
I cut her off. “We’re not safe yet. Up these stairs. Please.”
The stairs came out on the other side of the station where I had my own car parked. I directed her to it and opened the back door, holding it for her. She got in and I closed the door with a metal sigh of relief. With the tint on the windows, someone would have to look very hard to see that there was someone in the car with me and would not be able to see more than that.
Still, it didn’t hurt to be cautious. I took the long way home, watching the traffic- but no one was following.
“Are you ever going to tell me what this is all about?” Rose startled me a little with her question. She’d been quiet since we got in the car.
“Yes, very soon now. We’re almost home.”
“My home. Yours, for now.”
I hit the button to open the garage and drove in. I hadn’t turned on the lights so it was dim… and there was less chance of her seeing my face.
As I took her suitcase and held the door for her, I dreaded her first sight of me, tamping down both my relief that my goldbergesque maneuver had worked and my elation that she was actually here. But all I said was “Home. You’re safe now.”