Joan's abductors drove recklessly through the hilly streets, bouncing her around like she was unimportant cargo in the back of their white van. Silently she hoped, even prayed (against her better instincts) that she'd somehow get out of this ordeal unharmed, but as her body slammed forwards into the seats and brakes squealed on the tar seal, she wondered if she would get out of it at all.
Eventually the drivers squealed to a permanent stop, long after Joan had stopped counting the turns that they'd taken. (It had been left, right, right, left, and then she'd remembered that she hadn't even known where she was to begin with.) The back doors of the can opened with a clang, and large, strong hands grabbed Joan by the shoulders and pulled her out onto the pavement. Her knees hit the ground hard enough to bruise, but she managed to keep her head from hitting despite her bound hands being behind her back. A gruff man barked muffled orders, and all Joan could make out was that she was to be taken "out back". Part of her wondered if she was going to be shot, but she held out the hope that if that was the case they would have just shot her before wrestling her into the van.
She was right, they didn’t shoot her. Instead, she got shoved through a creaking door into a room that smelled of piss. Someone in the room roughly pulled the bag off her head, leaving her blinking in the dim light of what seemed to be a large corrugated iron shed.
“Where am I?” She blurted against her best instincts, and mentally berated herself for acting like one of the silly women in those crime dramas she hated. She was smart, and learning to be smarter, she didn’t need to demand answers that she could find out for herself. One of the men chuckled.
“I think she’s good and scared boss.” He sounded like he was a Disney henchman and Joan wondered how long people like that had actually existed because they certainly hadn’t before this summer.
“Good.” The slim man next to him had a surprisingly deep voice. “That means she might listen.” Joan hardened her face, and stared the speaker down. She knew that sometimes people found her unnerving when she did this. She’d used it on playground bullies who had picked on her for having rice in her lunchbox, and on drunk undergrads who claimed to get “yellow fever” when they saw her. It was a practiced look of cold distaste and disinterest. Oren used to laugh and call it her “empress look” when she tried it on him, but for some reason white guys had always thought it meant that they were about to get their asses handed to them. Not this guy though. He laughed, like Oren had.
“Look dearie” he crooned, leaning in towards Joan who tried to maintain her dignity despite the stench that came not only from the concrete floor but also the man’s breath. “I’m going to need you to help me out. You’re working for someone I dislike immensely, and she’s no good for you. Do us both a favour and just do what I ask.” The longer he talked, the faker his cockney accent seemed. It went from passable to a bad comedy sketch when he said words like “immensely” and “favour”. Like he’d done a little research on the accent, but hadn’t accounted for his vocabulary.
“Who are you?”
“Not a nice man, and that’s really all you need to know right now.”
“Alright, better question. What do you actually want with me?”
“I want you to spy on your boss for me. All you need to do is find out what this whole road trip thing is about so that I can head off any plans that don’t…” He paused and smiled broadly, revealing revolting and rotting teeth. “Work quite in my favour.”
“What happens to me if I do this?”
“You get to live in the knowledge that you’re safe from me.”
“And I suppose that the opposite is true if I don’t help you?”
“Well you are a clever dear.” The man backed off, towards the door that Joan entered through. “And since you’re so clever, I’ll give you tonight to think over your position. He clicked his fingers and flung open the door, stalking out followed by his hulking minion. Joan stared after him, and sat uncaringly on the crude wooden table in the corner of the room. She wondered if it was supposed to be where she was to sleep. Certainly an unpleasant change from Moriarty’s five star hotels.
Eventually, after realising that even if she could work out how to escape unnoticed she wouldn’t know where to go next, Joan drifted into an uneasy sleep, still sitting on the rough table and leaning against the wall of the room, which was a surprisingly solid concrete. She wondered why the inner walls were so good and the outer ones so shoddy but decided that it was unimportant. At least, it was unimportant, until in the middle of the night, there was a loud crack and Joan woke up instantly, realising that someone had fired a gun. And judging by the shout that came from one of the henchmen guarding her, it had been nearby. All of the fear of guns that had been drilled into her as a kid growing up when school shootings were beginning to happen in America shot through Joan’s body, and she jumped from the table she’d fallen asleep on only to dart straight underneath it again and tuck herself into a ball just as another gun started firing. Whoever had attacked was being shot back at. Joan panicked slightly, was it Jamie? Would she have come looking for her when she didn’t come back to the hotel after her run? Would she be shot because of Joan? Not for the first time, Joan wondered how her life had ended up like this. Her first thoughts during a shootout had never been about whether or not it was her fault before. Hell! She’d never been in a shootout before. Why would she have been? She led a respectable life, stayed away from drugs, stayed away from gangs, and she’d been safe. Why on earth had she decided that going on the run with a dangerous criminal was a good idea?
These were the thoughts that were still racing through her head when the door to her cell slammed open and Jamie stormed into the room.
“Joan! Get your coat dear, we’re leaving.” The blonde’s hair was tousled, and the shape of her jacket showed that she was probably wearing Kevlar underneath. She stood in the doorway as Joan scrambled to her feet, one hand outstretched, reaching for Joan while the other was on her handgun. Her eyes were trained on a point outside the door, presumably where she thought the threat was going to come from next. Joan instinctively grabbed the outstretched hand, and Jamie grinned at her. “Run.”
Joan ran, still holding onto Moriarty’s gloved fingers and looking all around her to see what was going on. They ran out of the compound, completely unchallenged, and reached the street where Jamie wrenched open the door to their car and shoved Joan into the driver’s side.
“What? The reason we’re in this mess is because I got lost in this town!”
“You either drive or you shoot. Shut up, I’ll give you directions as we go, now step on it, and don’t worry about the road rules.”
Joan took a deep breath, exhaled, and did as she was told. There was complete silence in the car except for the road beneath them, and Jamie occasionally yelling things like “Left! No, shit it was straight ahead at this street!” and muttering “fuck” repeatedly under her breath like it was a mantra to keep herself calm. All it actually did was make Joan more panicked. Eventually they got out of the small town they had been cooped up in and Jamie started to relax a little, actually putting the safety on her handgun (but not putting it away, Joan noticed, as if the pine trees along the sides of the highway were going to reach out and attack them). Joan slowed the car a little, just to a safe pace, and was relieved when Jamie didn’t question it.
“Do you know who abducted you?” Moriarty blurted out nearly an hour after they’d left the town’s outer limits.
“Some Disney style henchmen and a man with a fake cockney accent that described himself as ‘not a nice man’, that’s all I know.”
“Fuck. Fucking fuckity fuck fuck fuck.” Jamie’s mantra started up again. But then she sighed, put her gun in the glove compartment, and looked at Joan. “That man? He wasn’t lying. Not even a little bit. He is cruel, and evil.” Suddenly she chuckled. “Did you say Disney style henchmen? Oh man, he’s still employing the actors. That’s just fucking great that is.” She ran a hand through her hair distractedly. “Never mind. Look, his name is Liam. Liam Shae, and he’s my boss. Or, he was. Now I’m my own boss, and very nearly the boss of his whole organisation. Hence, he’s gunning for my blood and I’m on a road trip trying to take out his underbosses all along the east coast. You with me so far?”
“Hostile takeover of a crime ring. Got it.” Joan snapped. “You know, most college students, they go on a road trip to clear their head, have some fun, get involved in a wet t-shirt competition. Me, no I couldn’t do anything like that. I had to just go and get mixed up in the hostile takeover of a crime ring. My friends will all be jealous.”
“What? No, that was sarcasm. I’m not supposed to be right.”
“Not your words, your… implication. You’re right. This isn’t fair on you. In the beginning, sure, road trip, maybe get laid once or ten times? Meanwhile I sneakily murder some people and you’re none the wiser. Now though, I’ve practically painted a target on your back for Shae and his like who don’t want to see me in power. Next town with a decent bus stop, I'm putting you on it. You’ll still get your pay.”
“What? That sounds like a terrible idea.”
“But you’d be away from me, and away from my scheming bastard of an old boss.”
“And away from your trigger finger. Look, I may not have approved of the body we left in the trunk of a car that now belongs to a poor used car salesman, but I’ve got to say that I appreciated the ones you left behind breaking me out of that compound tonight. And if you just proved that you’re willing to rescue me personally, what’s that going to say to Shae except ‘Kidnap that one again, and lure Moriarty into a trap’.”
“Exactly. I’m stuck with you now, until this is seen through.”
“Shit it all, you’re right. I have one condition to you staying though.”
“You let me teach you to shoot for yourself, and you don’t go running alone if you don’t have a planned route.”
“I think that’s a fair deal.”