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By:Amanda Lance

I wish I coulda told her I was sorry.

She started screaming again when I slammed the door, though I didn’t know whether or not that was a good thing or a bad thing. I’d heard about that thing where people panic and end up choking on their own puke. I peeked in on her through the tinted windows, glad that she couldn’t see me or Polo, who tried to take a glance at her, too. But I smacked him upside the head and he got in the SUV. I half wanted to crawl in the back with her but just cursed instead, climbing in beside Polo just before Wallace pulled it into drive.

Damn, with that real quiet engine, I could hear her sniffling back there, probably crying again and terrified out of her pretty little mind. What was she thinking ’bout now? Probably thought we were all a bunch of perverts or kidnappers—though I guess technically we were, or I was. I coulda kicked myself, mighta if I was in the position to do it.

Polo was tossing himself back and forth in his seat. I knew it was bad if even he knew how much trouble we were in. “Oh man, oh man, oh man!”

“Hey,” I whispered, leaning forward to tap Wallace on the shoulder. “There’s a phone up here under the light. Turn ’round and make sure you run it over good.”

He nodded all serious-like, and I tried to ignore the glare I was getting from Yuri, but all I could hear was this poor girl groaning in the back. Wallace didn’t have no trouble finding the phone, but I didn’t care so much about that. It was real weird for me, but I cared about her, whether or not she was scared. What if she had a condition she needed medicine for or something? Damn it. I hadn’t thought any of this crap through.

“We gotta find some place to ditch her,” I said. “Someplace where she’ll get found but not until after we make port.”

If nothing else, she was alive enough to whimper, to complain, and feel her way ’round the cargo bed. I just hoped she wouldn’t try to do nothing real stupid like roll out.

“When are we supposed to do that?”

Yuri laughed sarcastically. “Yeah, we don’t exactly have a lot of free time on our hands.”

My own hands were ready to start shaking when I lit up a smoke. I inhaled real deep, still listening to the girl in the cargo bed. Maybe the guys had a point. Between the safe house and finishing loading the ship, we only had a few hours between here and there. Trying to find someplace where we could hide her where she would be found and would be safe for us would probably take more time than we had.

Her crying had slowed down so that she was only sniffling every few seconds. I had to figure that she was probably in shock like they talk about on the TV—maybe she was already passed out. After all, what were the odds that she was just brave?

“Just gimme one goddamn minute to think,” I said.

“You’re going to get us all screwed.” When Wallace said that, that was it for me. I was going to get us screwed? He was the one who had capped that driver in the first place, and I was going to get us screwed? I lost it. I reached over the seat and smacked him hard enough that his neck snapped forward.

“I’m helpin’, is what I’m doing. You’re lucky everybody in the state didn’t come over when you got rid of that truck driver.”

Yuri didn’t say nothing, but I let him have the last of my smoke when he reached out for it. Right away, I lit up another one, and like the little kid he was, Polo tried to shove his way through the tension.

“Hey, hey, hey! He’s got a point, Wally, and it could be a lot worse.”

I smacked him on the back. Leave it to Polo to try and make everybody feel better. “Thanks for the optimism, Polo.”

“Hey, Wally? Wally? Wasn’t that driver a connection of yours? What did you go and lose that guy for, anyway?”

“’Cause he’s a damn fool.”

I made a face at Polo, and he laughed louder.

“To hell with you both!” As much as I shouldn’t’ve, I thought it was pretty funny that Wallace had gotten so mad. I like seeing people other than me lose their temper. It’s a real nice reminder than I ain’t the only one in the world who’s messed up. “That greedy bastard wanted more money, a bigger percentage next time for less merchandise. Bottom line is, we had a problem, so I took care of it.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Now we got a bigger problem.”

I wished like hell I hadn’t a said that. ’Cause then Polo started laughing like he does, and I could see Wallace grip the wheel all hard when he said, “Ain’t no problem. I’ll take care of that, too.”

It was hard not to freak out when he said that, hard not to freak out when I heard her start to cry again and gag. Oh Christ, what had I done? She musta heard that whole thing and was scared outta her wits. Why hadn’t I just kept my mouth shut? Got the guys to do the same ’til I thought it out a little more?