1979 Jaguar XJ Series II

Sequestered in the RV he’d bought for Tierson’s task force, Danny Packard received an unexpected phone call.  “Dobie?”

“That’s right, Danny.  Where are you?”

“I’m not certain. There’s a mobile headquarters, and I’m there–where are you?”  Danny kept his tone guarded, knowing that Dobie was riding with Lexi. Many witnesses had attested to this.

“In Amina,” Dobie said. Danny had no idea where that was. “Lexi kicked me out of the car.”

“Kicked you out?”

“Quite literally, and I have the bruises to prove it.”

“She assaulted you?”

“In a manner of speaking.”  Dobie’s tone was clipped and angry. “I’d really rather not discuss it at the moment. It’s taken me two hours to walk out of the desert to some semblance of civilization.”

“What are you doing now?”

“I need to talk to Carino Rhoades, and you’re going to help me make that happen.”

“Why are you helping her?” Danny asked impatiently.  He wasn’t interested in who Dobie wanted to call.

“Did I or did I not just say that she threw me out of her car? This is not the action of someone who wants help.”

“Well, she’s insane. It’s the action of someone who needs help,” Danny said, and grinned at his little witticism. He decided to take the initiative, even though Dobie wasn’t someone he wanted to anger. “Where is she now?”

“I have no idea.  She was headed north on L7 toward Reeze when she threw me out. It’s been two hours, so she’s probably crossed the land bridge by now. She’d be close to Granthum. Make sure you let the powers that be know.”

“Oh, I will. They’ve sent out specialists,” he added.

Dobie sighed as though he knew what that meant. “Good. I certainly can’t say I didn’t warn her. Now, I need you to call my office and get one of the assistants there to call me, so I can make my connections and get someone to come take me out of this hellhole. Amina is the most miserable cesspool in this nation, excluding Fountainhead–where I was stuck for an hour as well–and I’d prefer to be stuck here for as little time as possible. Take this number; I’m using the phone at a real estate office.”

Dobie hung up and looked at the cheap desk he was sitting at.  The fake wood veneer was peeling off of both corners. He figured it would be at least twenty minutes before anyone from his office reached him; Danny would certainly be calling the men in charge with a report on Lexi’s position first. Dobie admired Danny, to a degree, but he’d never consider hiring the man for anything other than a nepotistic favor.

If Danny gave the police his estimate on where Lexi might be, they’d converge on her quickly. From Granthum to the mountain range north of Arram there was nothing but salt desert, and it would only take one helicopter crossing that fifty-mile expanse to find her. Danny’s mention of “specialists” meant that the assassins Victor had mentioned were definitely in play now. If they found her, Dobie could honestly tell Becka Packard that he’d done what he could to grant her wish, and there was a measure of satisfaction in that thought.

It had been easy to maintain his rage while walking along the freeway through the desert, of course. His hips and elbows ached from the tumble he’d taken out of the car, and he only saw three vehicles during his ten-mile walk back to the city. Apparently no one was driving from Fountainhead to Amina today. He had thought of no less than ten different ways to make Lexi pay for what she’d done, and was looking forward to implementing them.

Calling Danny was just the first. But now, in the comfort of an air-conditioned office, with a cheap metal and vinyl chair squeaking underneath him, he was losing his desire to punish Lexi. Dobie was shocked to find a part of himself that wanted to try to earn her forgiveness, in fact. It wasn’t that he was necessarily sorry for whatever he’d done to offend her (he hadn’t been able to figure that out at all), but the notion of her being unwilling to speak to him was unacceptable. He had no intention of letting her walk out of his life until he was ready for her to do so, and as he sat with his hands tented he decided that he was most certainly not ready for that.

At the very least, he hadn’t even bedded her yet. It hadn’t been a conscious goal, of course; she’d just lost Ren after all.  But Dobie fancied being the man to help her past her grief, and he thought that given time, she’d see that this was the case.

All of which meant that it didn’t behoove him to let the Ravens to kill her, now did it?  Anger faded; death was quite inconveniently permanent.  Dobie picked up the phone again.  With his cellphone gone (he’d thrown it out) he didn’t have any of his contact information, but he knew Victor’s number by heart.

The phone was answered almost immediately. “Arriaga,” he answered.  He always answered with his last name, even when he knew the caller was Dobie.

“Victor, it’s me.”  Dobie explained quickly what had happened.

“You’re in Amina?”

“Yes. I’ve asked Danny Packard to call the office and have someone get to me here.”

“That worthless little shit won’t do it.  I’ll call for you. Can you be reached at this number?”

“Yes, Victor. Thank you,” he added. The words felt strange on his tongue.

“He’s probably contacted the police about Lexi’s whereabouts already, you know.”

“I know. I’m sure she’s through Granthum by now, or almost there. Where are you?”

“An hour behind you, at least.”

“I want you to catch up to her, then. Stay with her, make sure she’s okay.”

“There will probably be Raven entanglements.”

“I know. Don’t get directly involved if you don’t have to. I…I think this will work out best politically if she gets out of the country, though. Much better than her becoming a martyr, don’t you think?”

“I’ll do what I can,” Victor said. “I’ll also have Miranda send another cell, so we can reach you easily. I can get a valet there from the Florenz office in less than an hour.”