Twenty-three (Taiisha)

“She’s going,” Martin said.  He had been sitting just out of sight of the open window, where he could see the hotel parking lot across the street and Eddie’s Town Car in it.  Eddie’s room faced the freeway, so they couldn’t watch it directly, but if the car left, they’d know where he went.

“Who?” Taiisha asked, keeping her Italian accent and playing dumb.  She knew full well who Martin was talking about.

“Your daughter,” he replied.  “She’s taking the car.  She’s alone, and she’s got his bags.”

A thrill of triumph went quickly through her.  Had Kerry finished him, then?  But there was a tone in Martin’s voice as well, and Taiisha saw the wrinkle in her story immediately; kidnap victims didn’t drive their kidnappers’ cars alone.  Very well; she’d leave that wrinkle to be ironed out later.  Thus far, taking off her clothes had quashed any desire of his to know more about her or her intentions.  She guessed that letting him have sex with her would keep him incurious for another day or two, if necessary.  Maybe longer.  He was more incompetent than she had first imagined.  “Where is the man?”

“Don’t know.  She’s getting on the road,” Martin said, leaning to watch the silver car’s departure.  In the same moment, his cellphone rang.  He had it out of his breast pocket and open with a fluid motion.  “Talk,” he said authoritatively.  He glanced at Taiisha, who was lounging mostly naked on the bed, and smiled at her.

It was Georges.  “Piggy didn’t show,” he said tersely.

“He’s gone,” Martin replied.

“Where?”

“I’ll know in half an hour.”

“Fifteen minutes.”

Martin grinned at Taiisha again, then barked at the phone.  “Do you want a tracker, or not?  Wherever he goes, I’ll go.  Once I’m sitting on him, I’ll call you back, trigger man.”  He hung up, then shut the phone off before Georges could call back.

“Who was that?” Taiisha asked.

“Just a guy who thinks he’s more important than he is, Gray,” Martin said patiently.

She allowed him the luxury of condescension, for this day.  Later, things would change.  “So what do we do now?”  She considered asking him where Eddie might be taking her daughter, but there was no reason to draw attention to that ruse just right now.  She could follow Nikki wherever she went regardless.  The questions that wanted answering now were if Edward was still alive, and what danger Martin and his fellow Ravens posed to Nikki.  She rolled over onto her stomach and stretched luxuriously while Martin made rapid phone calls, stealing glances at her naked form whenever he could, grinning whenever he did and oblivious to the fact that she was aware of it.

Taiisha listened in; in ten minutes they both knew that Edward had flown to Chicago the day before.  Nikki was presumably on her way to meet him with the car and gear.  Annoyance at the girl’s continued dalliance made Taiisha rise abruptly from the bed and stalk into the bathroom, locking the door behind her.  She didn’t turn on the light, and looked into the mirror.  Her reflection was a shadow among shadows.  Seeing that, she felt comfortable again. Taiisha leaned close to the mirror, close enough to kiss her reflection if she felt so inclined.  Her breath turned to steam on the glass.  She ran her finger through the ragged silver cloud, slicing it in half and feeling the moisture transfer itself to her finger.

There was a rap at the door.  “Gray.  We got to go, if we’re going to follow them,” Martin said.

She muttered under her breath in Italian, knowing he was close enough to hear.  “Can’t you learn where they stay in Chicago?”

“I already know,” he replied.  “And I got you a plane ticket.  On the house.”

Taiisha considered refusing; she wanted to trail Nikki, not Eddie.  She continued to stare into her dark reflection.  She liked mirrors.

Martin seemed to read her mind.  “Come on.  He’s staying at a Sheraton, and your daughter’s going to meet him there.  We won’t lose her.”

Fair enough.  It was best to stay with him for now, despite her desires.  Taiisha opened the door and went with him.