“Fifteen minutes,” Joe said tersely into his satellite phone’s hands-free earpiece. He clicked the off button and put his full focus into driving, slewing across the snow to narrowly miss a huge clump of ice that had fallen off some vehicle’s undercarriage.
Lila dozed, her head hitting against the window with a clunk each time they drove over a bump, which was unfortunately almost all the time. At this final swerve, the side of her head thunked hard against the glass, waking her. “Ouch!” she exclaimed, rubbing her palms across her face. She yawned until her jaw cracked. “How long was I asleep?”
“An hour and half,” Ian replied and turned to look back at her critically, “You look like shit.”
“That’s just what every woman wants to hear,” Lila laughed and returned the perusal. “You’re looking pretty tired yourself. I can’t believe you and Joe haven’t fallen asleep.”
Ian rubbed his eyes. “I’m not sure if Joe has been staying awake. All that swerving makes it hard to tell. I know I’ve been drifting off,”
Joe glanced back at Lila. “Fifteen minutes out from the airport. Get ready.”
“Get ready for what?” Lila mumbled. She scrabbled around in her backpack and pulled out what appeared to be a lipstick container. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” she said shaking her head.
“So you’re gonna do what, put on lipstick?” Joe asked jokingly, glancing in the rear view mirror at the object Lila held.
“No, I’m going to stun anyone who tries to stop me from getting on that plane.”
She pulled off the case top and pressed a button. A jolt of electrical current arced across the top of the gadget.
“Sounds like a giant mosquito,” Ian commented. “Probably feels like one biting you too.”
“Shall we try it out?” Lila asked him challengingly and reached the stun gun toward him.
“Children, children,” Joe said teasingly, but with an undercurrent of tension. “Get your gear together. We’re almost there.”
Lila strapped on her backpack and Ian pulled his bag tightly across his shoulders.
Joe sped up and pulled the wheel hard left to skid into a position paralleling a small plane. Even though the plane was only a car’s width away, Lila had to squint to make out its shape in the near pitch darkness.
The three of them launched from their respective car doors, Joe taking time to nostalgically pat the car on the hood before running to catch up. They raced toward the plane, its engines already running.
A man with an AK-47 stepped around the side. “Please, don’t be in such a hurry,” he said in a thick Russian accent.
Lila grabbed Ian to keep from skidding across the snow and smacking into the man as she came to an abrupt stop. Joe almost created a domino effect by crashing into them.
“Uh, that’s our plane,” Lila said weakly.
“Not anymore,” the man “Charlie,” as she dubbed him, said villainously.
“Oh, yeah?” Lila couldn’t think of anything smart to say and looked to Ian. “Do something,” she muttered.
“What? He has a gun,” Ian replied in a low voice.
Joe pushed past the two of them and appeared to trip directly into Charlie, knocking the man’s AK-47 to the side. “Oops,” Joe said, slamming his elbow into the man’s nose, causing it to spurt blood like a faucet. Charlie dropped his rifle, clamping both hands to his nose, eyes streaming with tears. Joe took advantage of the man’s position to kick him in the head with his heavy boot. The man dropped like a rock.
Ian picked up the AK-47, removed the magazine and then ejected the already chambered round. Throwing the AK-47 as far as he could to the left, he then pitched the magazine and round off into the distance to the right.
“All right then,” Lila said, a little shocked. “Who’s going to fly the plane? I hope that wasn’t the pilot.” She gestured to the man lying on the ground and oozing blood.
“You do realize that Joe and I are pilots,” Ian said as they clambered on board the plane.
“Helicopter pilots. Even I know it’s not the same thing,” Lila said sarcastically.
Lila nearly fell headlong as her foot caught on an object on the floor. A man lay bound and gagged. “I’m assuming this is the pilot?” She asked hand braced above him. The man nodded.
The plane was already taxiing down the runway with Ian and Joe at the controls, when Lila helped the pilot sit up and climb into one of the passenger seats where he could take a moment to regain his composure.
Joe contacted what passed for a control tower and then cut the radio as a series of shouts in Russian could be heard squawking from the headphones. “Can’t hear you!” Joe yelled before pulling off the headset.
“Whew, glad to be in the air,” he said.
“What if they did something to the plane?” Lila asked worriedly.
“Then it will be a short flight,” Ian said mildly.
“Doesn’t anything ever worry you?”
“Not really. If it’s good, it’s good. If not, we’ll deal.”
They arrived safely in Magadan, and caught their onward flights. Almost thirty-six hours later, the taxi pulled up in front of their place and Ian and Lila crawled stiffly out.
“What a journey,” Lila groaned. “I think I need a bath.”
“I think you do too,” Ian agreed.
Lila rolled her eyes, too tired to respond.
As she unlocked the door, she could hear imperious meows emanating from behind it.
“Pearson!” she called out happily, carefully opening the door to keep from squishing him behind it.
Ian and Lila stretched out on the couch, Pearson nestled in beside them purring. Lila idly petted his fur. “I’m glad that the cat sitter left us a pumpkin, that was really nice of her.”
“Very seasonal,” Ian concurred sleepily, his eyes half shut and the reflected light from the candles burning inside the pumpkin dancing across his face.
Lila turned her head to gaze at him. “Happy Halloween.”
“To you too.” He smiled.
Lila snuggled in to enjoy the glow from the pumpkin. “It’s nice to be home.”