Percy stood at his father’s bedside, the syringe in his hand. He looked down at him, fear making him immobile. “What if he court-martials me?”
“What for, waking him up? Be serious Percy.” Lily grimaced at his reticence.
“I just don’t want to get in trouble.”
“For Pete’s sakes, give it here.” She grabbed it from his hand and pushed the needle into the empty tubing.
Wyatt stirred, opened his eyes, and said groggily, “Why are you standing there staring at me like that?” His heart beat heavy in his chest like a tom-tom.
Lily smiled. Her heart tripped around in her chest and sweat popped out on her brow. “We need you to wake-up, colonel. Something bad might happen if you don’t.”
Wyatt’s eyes popped open wide. “What’s going on?” He cleared his throat, trying to get his voice in working order. His brain was full of cobwebs, and he needed to clear it, too. “I need to go outside.”
“You can’t go outside yet, Colonel Adams. Your son has something he needs to tell you.” Nanny looked over at Percy expectantly.
Wyatt looked at him. “What’s up?”
“You have to promise me you won’t be mad.”
“I don’t have to do any such thing. Besides, when someone tells you that, it usually means you’re going to be mad.” He raised one dark brow. His mind was finally waking up and he had a sneaking suspicion he wasn’t going to like what Percy had to say.
“I stole your laptop.” Percy cringed with the words, waiting for the blow-up.
Wyatt dispelled the urge to bellow and asked quietly, “Why would you do that?”
“I wanted to know what was going on in the rest of the country and you wouldn’t tell us.”
“Did it ever occur to you that it was for good reason?”
“Yeah, it did for a minute.”
Wyatt couldn’t help chuckling a bit. His son was a lot like him. “What about after that minute? What compelled you to steal from me?” His blue eyes fastened to the laptop under Percy’s arm. He hadn’t really stolen the computer, but borrowed it.
“Look, I realize you didn’t want us to know what was going on, but I just don’t think it’s right. We serve this country and we have a right to know what’s going on. It’s a good thing I did take it and look at a news page, too. The terrorists have demanded the government turn Lily over to them or they’re going to bomb all the secondary cities, too.”
“What? They can’t be serious. What response did the president give?” Wyatt’s heart slammed in his chest again, this time for an entirely different reason. What if they decided to turn her over? It was the logical thing to do, even though the U.S. didn’t negotiate with terrorists. They were at an extreme disadvantage, and she was only one person, opposed to millions.
“We haven’t heard a response yet, but you can guess what it’s going to be.” Nanny shoved her bottom lip out in disgust.
“I can guess.” Wyatt shoved the covers off and pushed his legs wearily over the side of the bed. His chest was screaming with white-hot pain but he didn’t have the luxury of time to recuperate. “We have to get her out of here.”
“But where will you take her? Do you want me to go?” Percy was torn between his affection for Lily and his love for his dad. He wanted to be where they were.
“I don’t know, kid. Give me some time to think about it. Now skedaddle on out of here so I can get dressed.”
“Do you need help?” Nanny smiled mischievously.
“I think I can manage.” He returned the smile and shooed them out with a wave of his hand. “Percy, on second thought, I need you to stay.”
As the women went to stand outside the tent Lily said, “Will you go with us?”
“I want to, if he lets me.” She tipped her head toward the tent.
“I don’t want to leave if you aren’t going.” Lily picked Mushi up and hugged him to her tightly. “You’re the only human I have left.”
“I know, sugar. It’s the same here.”
“I want you to go. As soon as I heard the news, my first thought was to take Lily and run with her as fast as possible. But if I do that, Nanny will be all alone. You can go and help me. I don’t have any strength right now, so you can be my brawn and I’ll be the brains.”
“That’s awesome dad, thank you.” Percy tried not to let the hurt show on his face. He knew his dad was weak and exhausted, he’d just had surgery.
“Why don’t you go direct the ladies in preparations? I know they don’t have much left but they need to take what they can. Tell Lily to make sure she brings that mutt some food because it sure isn’t getting any of my meals.”
“Does she have dog food?”
“I told them when they went back to get the dog not to forget food, so I assume they brought it. Make sure you remember to grab it before we leave. Son, this has to be done quietly. No one can know we’re leaving.”
“Dr. Wilkes knows already. He’s the one who gave us the stuff to wake you up.”
“That’s interesting. He’ll have to go with us, then. Make sure you tell him. No one else can know so be as quiet about it as possible. Now scoot, I have to get dressed.”
Percy hustled out the tent flap and almost ran into Lily and Nanny, who were leaned up against the canvas, trying to hear what was being said. “What are you two doing?” He grinned at the guilty looks on their faces.
“We were trying to hear, of course.” Lily felt humiliation spread through her at being caught in such a position.
He smiled and said, “I was gonna tell you.
Lily gave him a playful punch in the arm. “See how you are?”
“How am I?” he laughed. “Dad says the doctor has to go with us since he knows we’re planning on leaving. That’ll be good because he needs one, anyway.”
“You said we. Does that mean he’s gonna let me come, too?” Nanny chewed on her lower lip worriedly.
“Yes. He doesn’t want to split you two up.”
“That’s great.” Lily was happy. At least Nanny could come with her. But how long were they gonna hide out, wherever they were gonna hide?
“I think it is. I have to go inform the doctor of his orders. You two need to go gather everything you can carry comfortably to take with you. Dad also said not to forget the dog food because he isn’t feeding that mutt any of his.” Percy finished on a mock-snide tone to let Lily know he was just relaying a message, and not necessarily one he agreed with.
Lily pugged her nose and spat, “What a beast.” She fumed off in the direction of her tent to get ready. No one knew they were leaving yet, so no one paid any attention to her movements. Maybe that meant the president hadn’t made a public declaration about what to do with her yet. She knew in her heart if she were president, she’d make the same call she expected him to make. She couldn’t be mad at him for making the same decision she would if it were up to her. It wasn’t really a matter of rocket science. One versus millions was a no-brainer.
Nanny entered the tent about five minutes behind her younger friend. “Are you okay, sugar?” Concern wrinkled her massive brow.
“Yes, I’m just a little pre-occupied. I’m really sorry, Nanny. I don’t know what they think I know that’s worthy of killing me over.”
“It isn’t your fault, sweetheart.” Nanny walked over and rubbed Lily’s shoulders for a second. “You didn’t ask a bunch of crazies to go blow-up our cities.”
“I know. I just wish I knew what they want from me.”
“I think you already know what they want. That’s why the colonel is getting out of the bed just a few hours after surgery, and why I’m letting him. He’ll lead us where we need to go. I’m glad that doctor’s going, to be honest. I’ll feel a lot better knowing there’s someone coming along to help keep an eye on Wyatt.”
“I know what you mean. Nanny, why do you think the colonel thinks I’m his fiancé? It feels so…deceptive not to tell him.”
“It wouldn’t matter if you did, sugar. In his mind, you are, and that’s what counts.
Lily picked up the pile of clothes she’d stacked up against the tent wall and stuffed them into a backpack. It was disheartening to realize this was all she had left. She was reduced down to a backpack full of possessions, and a hairy dog. She reached down and ruffled his silky fur in apology. It wasn’t his fault she was thinking bad, ungrateful thoughts. “You know I love you, Mushi.”
“Do you love your fiancé?” Wyatt said from behind her. She jumped, turned around and said, “You scared the daylights out of me.”
“I’m sorry, love. I didn’t mean to. Are you almost ready?”
“You couldn’t possibly be ready. You’re weak and tired from having surgery. You couldn’t possibly be moving that quickly.”
“I wouldn’t bet on it, love.”
“Stop calling me that.” Her demand was petulant, and he laughed.
“You know you love it.”
Secretly, she did, but she wasn’t about to tell him. What were they gonna do when he regained his memory? He was going to be totally humiliated, and she didn’t want to be anywhere near when it happened. Different scenarios about how it would go ran through her mind and she couldn’t take it anymore. “I’m not your fiancé, Wyatt. I barely know you.”
He looked at her like she’d taken leave of her senses. “What are you talking about? Of course we are.” Genuine hurt crossed his features and Lily almost cried.
“Why do you think we’re engaged?” Her tone was gentle because she didn’t want to upset him anymore than he already was.
“I proposed to you ten years ago, on the bus.”
A fuzzy memory leapt to her mind, but she couldn’t quite grasp it. “What are you talking about? I didn’t meet you until yesterday.”
“Think, Lily. It was ten years ago. I was on the bus when you got on. I can still remember the outfit you were wearing, and the way you smelled; Like sunshine in a rainy breeze.”
“I think you may need a psych eval.”
“I can’t believe you don’t remember. You boarded the bus carrying some ridiculous camera from the late eighteen-hundreds. You were wearing black jeans, a black turtleneck, and had a big red rose pinned to the lapel of a white linen jacket.”
Memories slammed into her brain all at once. She could almost envision what he was talking about. She could picture the clothes he’d described. It was still one of her favorite…well; it had been one of her favorite outfits. It didn’t exist anymore. But how did he know about that? Had they actually met in the past? She didn’t remember if they had. “I don’t remember.”
It was in October. I was in Salt Lake for a special mission and I rode the bus downtown so I didn’t have to rent a car. When you boarded the bus you smiled at me and sent me for a loop.”
“Even if that were true, why do you think we’re engaged?”
“When you came on the bus, I said, “I think I’m in love. Will you marry me?”
You giggled and said, “I know I’m in love, and yes, I’ll marry you. That means we’re engaged.” He smiled at her and made a heart sign with his hands.
His actions were so incongruous that she stared at him before asking, “Are you serious? Even if it did happen, we aren’t engaged. We don’t even know each other.”
Nanny laughed hilariously behind them and they both started. They’d been so involved in their conversation they’d forgotten she was there. “You two sound like an old married couple already. You might was well do the deed.”
“Don’t encourage him, it’s like feeding the…”
“Bears, I know. I heard that one before. You’re just upset because you know it’s true. You two are like oil and water and that’s a winning relationship if I ever saw one.”
“I think you’re confused.”
“Nope, I’m pretty that’s what it takes.”
“I think you need to be checked by a doctor yourself, Nanny.” She huffed out the door flap in search of Percy. Maybe there had been some kind of nerve agent dropped here and it was affecting their brains.
She found the private in the doctor’s tent, helping him pack a bag. “Hey Lily, we’re almost ready.” He gave her a strange look, which she tried to discern. She didn’t know him well enough to figure that one out, though.
“Could I talk to you outside, privately?” She asked. She gave him a warm smile, letting the doctor see she didn’t pose a threat.
They walked toward the door, and as soon as Percy cleared the flap behind her, he turned around and whispered, “He didn’t argue at all when I told him he had to go with us, even though he knows it’ll mean a court martial for desertion. I don’t trust him. I think he’s up to no good.”
Alarm swept through her. “What do you think it is?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. I just have a bad feeling.”
Lily didn’t have any such feelings about Dr. Wilkes so she discounted the private’s worries and said, “We’ll keep an eye on him. Is he about ready?”
“Yeah he was just putting the last of his stuff in his backpack. I told him to pack lightly, and to make sure he brought supplies to take care of my dad.”
Suddenly, suspicion began to crawl through Lily. “Did he happen to say anything about your father going? I mean, he did just have surgery and the man’s a doctor.”
“He didn’t say a thing. Maybe that’s why I got suspicious. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but that must’ve been it. Do you think we should make him stay here? Or maybe we could get him up on the trail somewhere and incapacitate him somehow.”
Lily giggled. “I think you watch too many movies. We’ll just watch him for now. I’m gonna go.”
“Hold on and let me tell the doctor I’m leaving and I’ll walk back with you.”
Lily examined her fingernails while she waited on Percy to come back. He was a really likable kid. It was a shame his mother had died already. He seemed to still need a mother’s special kind of love. She heard a twig snap and her head jerked upward, to the hill above the camp. She saw movement and quickly ducked back into the doctor’s tent.
Dr. Wilkes stood in the middle of the tent with a gun pointed at Percy. “Good, I don’t have to go collect you now.” He gestured with the gun for her to join the kid. She slowly complied, trying to think of an escape, but there wasn’t one.
“What’s going on?”
“You’re a smart girl, figure it out.” He said snidely.
“You’re one of them, aren’t you?”
“What do we have for her, Johnny?” He asked sarcastically.
Wyatt stepped through the tent just then, his gun out and pointed at the doctor. “Let them go and put the gun down.”
The doctor’s face fell and he began to lower his gun, until someone else entered the tent. It was a man Lily hadn’t seen before, but he was holding a gun, too.
“No, you put down your gun.”
Wyatt stood his ground and the stranger began to pull back on the trigger. “Hold on.” He lowered the gun and dropped it to the tent floor.
Lily wondered where Nanny was and hoped she didn’t come through the door, too.
“Okay, let’s get out of here.” The man standing by the door looked out, and then gestured for them to leave ahead of him. Wyatt, Percy and Lily followed him out, while the doctor took up the rear, holding his gun under a jacket.
They were led through the camp, and no one noticed anything amiss. The last two days had taken their toll on every citizen of the U.S. and they were all tired, thinking the worst had already happened.
A tear of sorrow rolled down Lily’s cheek as she walked in between Percy and Wyatt, her protectors. What would happen to them now?