Colby Burton carried a bulky sleeping bag over his shoulder. The shape of the thing made it obvious that there was a human-sized object inside, but it did not move. Colby didn’t seem to be exerting himself under the burden, which was by his guess about a hundred and twenty-five pounds and about half of what he could carry on a bad day.
He moved easily down the rear service hall of the hotel, and met no one on the way out to the van containing his brother Blaine and the man he knew only as Goodman, who was behind the wheel.
They had pulled up on the curb, so Colby didn’t have far to go. The less chance for witnesses, the better, of course. From a distance it wouldn’t be as obvious what he was carrying anyway, but he was least likely to attract attention if he didn’t obviously rush. So he didn’t.
Blaine opened the minivan’s side door for him, and he slung his package inside, climbed in after, and shut the door behind him. Goodman accelerated quickly off of the sidewalk and headed for the freeway.
Goodman eyed Colby suspiciously in the mirror. He had made no secret that he thought the larger of the two brothers was by default the junior partner in the brains department. It was a common assumption. Colby didn’t know or care if it was true or not. He and Blaine were both big men, so it didn’t much matter which of them was stronger, and since they were brothers and partners alike, it didn’t matter which of them was smarter either, did it? Being thought to be the dumb one because he was four inches taller and several dozen kilos heavier was just fine with him
“You took your time,” Goodman said sarcastically.
“Not me,” Colby said. “I popped her as soon as she got in the room.” The open doubt in Goodman’s eyes was a bit annoying–Blaine was the one with the rape conviction, not him.
“I expected she’d be struggling more, too.”
“I put a sleeper hold on her. It was easier.”
“Blaine, please check and see that your brother hasn’t killed her,” Goodman sighed.
A look of understanding passed between the brothers, and Blaine slid out of his seat. Colby had to turn sideways so the two could maneuver inside the van, even though the rearmost seats had been removed to create a larger cargo area. “What difference does it make?” Blaine asked. “Aren’t we going to ice her anyway?”
“Methods, my dear man, methods are the difference that it makes. It won’t do to have some medical examiner discover that she was killed by having her head squeezed off, rather than by the freak accident which I am going to so much trouble to orchestrate, now would it?”
“Guess not.” Blaine unzipped the top of the sleeping bag and checked Lexi’s pulse. “She’s okay,” he said knowingly. “Cute, too.”
“Don’t let your brother get any foolish ideas. Undamaged, remember. Cover her back up, before she comes to.”
Colby turned to look out the window so Goodman couldn’t see his grimace.
They drove northwest out of Arram, toward the coast. Fifty years of careful (and expensive) irrigation had created a sizeable forest on the coast of the northernmost island.
Lexi woke up as they came off the freeway onto a coarse two-lane blacktop. Her feet shifted, then her torso, as she rolled about a bit trying to figure out where she was. Blaine put a foot on her back, to let her know she wasn’t alone and that motion was discouraged.
“I get it,” she said. “I get it. So if I’m in a Toyota Previa–and don’t tell me I’m not, because the engine’s under my head and this sure as Sylvia Plath doesn’t sound like a VW Microbus–I’m willing to bet that it’s bright green and it’s being driven by the guy who shot me. I forgot your name, what was it?”
Blaine and Colby looked at each other, then at Goodman, who calmly put his finger to his lips.
“Unless of course, Previas are the official vehicle of meatheads all over Ile du Soleil, of course. I am getting really sick of this place. I’m supposed to be on vacation.” There was a tremor in her voice that took some of the bite out of her bravado. None of the men answered her. “Or is this part of the entertainment? Do I get peanuts?” Blaine kicked her in the head; Lexi said, “Ow,” and stopped moving.
“Dammit, Blaine, cool it,” Colby said, putting a hand on his brother’s arm.
“How much farther?” Blaine asked Goodman.
“Not much,” was the reply. “I want you two to get this finished before anyone knows she’s gone missing. I’ll drop you at the car, and then we’ll meet at the rendezvous point, at the time we agreed on. Is three hours enough?”
“Plenty,” Colby said confidently.