Ice monkeys drunk monkey.., p.23

Ice Monkeys [Drunk Monkeys 7] (Siren Publishing Ménage Everlasting), page 23

 

Ice Monkeys [Drunk Monkeys 7] (Siren Publishing Ménage Everlasting)
 



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  Weighing his options, he took a wider view of the situation than just there in Atlanta. Time could be short, and, so far, there was no indication anyone in any way had discovered his trail.

  He also knew he could count on alonegirl and her paper-thin password to be there at the coffee shop. He’d never seen her miss a day.

  What to do?

  It was an acceptable risk. He called work, told them he’d be in for the shift, and set out to go rent a storage locker and get those plans in motion. He’d hit the coffee shop after doing that, then head in to work.

  He had to make preparations, though. The last thing he wanted to do was be caught unprepared.

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Early Wednesday morning, Donna awoke disoriented, feeling even more sore than she had Tuesday morning in some very nice ways, and snuggled firmly between Uni and Victor.

  Holy.

  Crap.

  She couldn’t believe she’d done this. But now that she had, she realized she didn’t regret it in the least.

  If she was going to be doing this, at least she could have some fun to take the edge off her tension and fear.

  She jumped when someone pounded on the bedroom door. “Victor, Uni, get out here,” Omega boomed.

  The men leaped out of bed and grabbed their shorts, pulling them on as they flung the door open and raced through it. She grabbed her robe and followed, barefoot and shivering as she ran across the chilly tile floor to join them in the dining room.

  They were all up, Chief and Omega looking like they’d just been awakened, too.

  “What’s going on?” Uni asked.

  Lima stood there with a grin on his face. “One more in from the cold. Well, one and a half. Dr. Julie Chu and her son. They’re at the safe house.”

  “No shit?” Victor asked. “That’s fandamntastic!”

  “Waldo met up with Dr. Chu, who is now known as Mama, in Cuba. He came in first last night to make sure it was safe, and gave Mama and Junior the all-clear. Panda brought them in this morning just before dawn from Key West.”

  Uni scrubbed at his face. “That’s great. Five down, nine to go. Now maybe we can catch a lucky fucking break for a change.”

  “We already have. They’re preparing to do another test run this morning. Mama and Waldo suggested a change, and they’re implementing it. By the end of this week, they’ll be ready to start running stuff through the CDC labs.”

  “Great,” Uni said. “Just what I needed, to be split into two. We don’t have the new space up here acquired and set up yet.”

  “Papa’s sending Echo and Quack up here to help,” Lima told him. “They can take over for you and Omega with us at the coffee shop. We’ll still have Chief helping me run the operation. That will leave you two free to get the safe house up and running.”

  “So why the early wake-up?” Uni asked. “This couldn’t have waited?”

  “No.” He pointed at Victor. “You need to go fly to the other airfield and meet Panda there. She’s already in the air now.”

  “Fuck,” he muttered, running back toward the bedroom, presumably to get ready.

  “Does that mean we’re not going to the coffee shop today?” Donna asked.

  “We might be running a little late,” Lima said, “but we’re still going. We can’t afford to miss an opportunity to catch our fish.”

  “We’re going to need another vehicle,” Omega said. “You can’t have just one ride for the operation, and we’ll need to be mobile.”

  “Bubba’s already arranging it. It’ll be dropped off at the airfield here by the time Victor gets back with the helo. One of them can drive it.”

  So much for what Donna had hoped would be a repeat of the previous morning’s wake-up. Before she and Uni had made it back to the bedroom, Victor came running out, dressed and with his small gear bag in hand.

  He brushed a kiss across her lips on his way past. “Sorry, sweetie. I’ll take a rain check for this morning.”

  And off he went.

  With the bedroom door closed behind them, Uni pulled her into his arms. “How about a nice hot shower together? Will that help?”

  She nodded before resting her head against his chest, not wanting to admit her disappointment had come close to bringing her to tears. That was stupid. They had important jobs to do and fucking around wasn’t part of their mission.

  They’d have time later.

  If there was a later.

  When.

  She had to force herself to believe it would be when, not if.

  Otherwise, she might really cry.

  After their shower, where Uni spent a good chunk of the time just holding her, his face pressed against the top of her head and hers against his chest, Donna got dressed and helped Chief make breakfast while Lima, Omega, and Uni focused on getting their arrangements hammered out. Omega and Uni would first go look at the fourth safe house before relaying their final decision to Bubba.

  As she and Chief bobbed and weaved around each other in the kitchen, Donna realized that during her time with them, she hadn’t felt crowded or cramped the way she had growing up. Sometimes just having friends over for dinner or to watch something on TV at their apartment had made Donna feel edgy, twitchy. Hemmed in.

  Not once since her arrival had she felt like that with Uni and Victor, even sleeping in bed with them.

  She realized going back to sleeping alone when they left…

  Well, that was going to suck eggs.

  “You all right?” Chief softly asked her.

  “Yeah. Just not looking forward to you guys leaving.”

  “You could always come with us. Having a data analysis person on board would be handy.”

  “I can’t. I have my job and my friends. I won’t leave them.”

  “I understand. Had a similar situation myself. Sharon and Mike made the trip with us from Seattle.”

  “What happened to them?”

  “They both had family here and went to join them. Mike was a good kid, but didn’t have the heart or stomach to be doing this. And Sharon should be retired by now. She really shouldn’t be on the run. It was for the best.”

  “Are they safe?”

  “I hope so. Bubba helped them out.”

  “He sounds like a fairy godfather or something.”

  “He kind of is, from what I’ve heard.”

  “Have you ever met him?”

  “Nope. I hope I can, one day. Once we get through all this shit.”

  Donna was quiet for a moment as she scrambled eggs. “Do you think we will?”

  “Think we will what?”

  “Get through this?”

  “I have to think like that. I can’t not have hope. They’ve come a long way in their research. With Waldo and Mama in safe and sound, they can really buckle down and make some progress.”

  “Have you…had to deal with Kite? I mean, besides your ex?”

  The woman’s face grew somber. It took Chief a moment to reply. “My former boss. I thought he’d died in LA. We went to go check on his wife. He’d snuck back home. Uniform covered in blood, and his wife washed it. He was pos, and gave it to her.”

  “What happened?”

  “He drew on me, but I was faster. She begged me to po-clo her, which I had to do anyway. I couldn’t let her live.”

  Donna swallowed hard. If she ever thought she had life tough, she’d need to remember this conversation.

  “I’m sorry.”

  Chief shrugged. “It sucked, but it is what it is. Had we not shown up when we did, they would have left. They were in the process of packing their cars. We would have missed them had we been maybe ten minutes slower. They were going to meet up with their kids and grandkids. They would have passed it to them. No telling how many people would have caught it from them.”

  The woman took a deep breath and forced a grim smile that Donna saw right through. “I don’t want to think all those people—Barstow—was for nothing. I want to believe we’ll do this. That we
ll fix this. That the eggheads will find a vaccine because they’re the ones who made the damn shit to begin with. I have to believe that.”

  “What do you do after this?” Donna asked. “I’m guessing you can’t go back to Santa Clarita.”

  “I wouldn’t want to go back,” she said. “Not unless LA is up and running again, if ever. Between the riots, and the earthquake, and the military going in and burning the place to the ground in a scorched earth policy…it’s not worth going back to. Maybe not even in my lifetime. I’d rather follow my guys wherever they want to go. Preferably someplace safe and quiet with really low crime.”

  “That sounds nice.”

  “It’s all I can hold on to.”

  * * * *

  There was barely time for introductions when Victor and the others returned, driving a third SUV, just before they had to leave for the coffee shop. Donna quietly waited and listened while, at the table, Lima and Chief gave the newcomers a rundown on where they were going, what they were doing, and what the plan of attack was.

  Victor pulled Donna aside for a hug. “This actually works to our advantage. Two new guys. They can cycle in and out with me and Chief and be less suspicious that way.”

  She nodded. “What happens when we find this guy?” she asked.

  “I thought you understood that part of the plan. You go outside and—”

  “No,” she softly said. “I meant…once you have him. What happens with me?”

  His expression softened and he cupped her face in his hands. “We keep our promises, babe. One way or another, we’ll come back to you. For you.”

  “How long can I stay here after you get him?”

  “At least until Friday,” Victor said, sadly smiling. “If we don’t get him by then, hey, we’ll keep trying next week.” He pulled her in for a hug. “I need you to be strong for us,” he whispered. “I know you can do this. This is one more step toward us getting this shit fixed and us being able to be together.”

  “I know.” She tightened her grip on him. Both of the men had leanly muscled, sculpted bodies speaking to their countless hours in the field and on the run. “I’m just scared I might not see you two again. Just because you promise me doesn’t mean you’ll be able to keep it.”

  It bothered her how quickly she’d fallen for these two guys. This wasn’t her. This wasn’t Donna Epperson, queen of not screwing up her life.

  This was…rash. Impulsive.

  Irresponsible.

  Maybe my parents’ genes finally kicked in.

  She rode with Victor and Lima. Chief rode in the other vehicle with Quack and Echo to make sure they knew where they were going.

  She knew she shouldn’t be nervous about any of this. All she had to do was her usual stuff while Victor, Lima, Chief, Quack, and Echo ran surveillance. She was still hooked in with a two-way radio of her own, but she didn’t speak. Usually whoever was stationed outside at any given time in the SUVs checked in with those in the coffee shop.

  Meanwhile, Donna sat there and tried not to let her nerves eat her alive. She had the easy job.

  Watch funny videos.

  Goof off.

  Read.

  Pretend the world wasn’t violently coming to an end in some countries.

  Ignore the fact that the government was not only actively lying to people about how bad Kite was in some places, but had incinerated over a million people in the process.

  None of those were exactly happy-happy-funtime thoughts.

  It left a bitter taste in her mouth. Instead, after an hour, she split the difference between depressing the hell out of herself with bad news and nearly making herself vomit from the vapid stuff passing as entertainment by looking up the weather. If anything, the day felt like it was getting colder, grey, overcast skies, the cloud cover growing thicker instead of thinner like it usually would as the sun heated the atmosphere. The wind had kicked up, too.

  Her eyes widened as she stared at the radar screen displaying a clown-puke splatter of colors all around and to the north of the Atlanta metroplex.

  Just under that, the headline pulled Donna in to read the story.

  Oh. The cold weather would be because of the massive winter storm heading their way.

  Fuck.

  Good thing she’d brought jeans and a coat with her. Temperatures would continue to plummet throughout the day, dipping below freezing that night. If it rained—and it looked like it very well might—it could easily turn into an ice storm.

  Tomorrow would be when it really got cold, highs predicted not to get much above forty degrees, if that. Some experts thought it might even stay below freezing all day.

  Worse? There was a train of two more arctic weather systems behind it that would definitely make it as far south as Atlanta, if not farther. Parts of northern and central Florida could easily see snowfall of one to two inches in depth.

  Which some experts were predicting could herald an agricultural disaster. With wide swaths of California out of commission, that took a goodly chunk of the nation’s winter food production offline.

  Losing fall and winter crops from Florida could easily push a serious situation over the edge and turn it into a massive food shortage.

  I guess one of the first things I’m doing with that money I’m getting is going shopping and stocking up on enough supplies to hold us through the entire winter.

  Even if it meant they’d be eating canned tuna and veggies for six months, at least it’d be food.

  We’ll need fruit, too. Oranges… wait, doesn’t spinach have vitamin C? Hell, I can buy us vitamins to keep from getting scurvy.

  It was on this train of thought which her mind had ventured, thoroughly derailing her concentration, when everything went to absolute shit.

  Chapter Thirty

  Ax felt triumphant and more than a little jangled from his fifth energy drink of the morning by the time he hit the coffee shop. He felt like splurging a little, too. Buying himself lunch there instead of sticking only to a beverage.

  And yes, there in her usual corner, sat alonegirl.

  He felt on top of the world now, no bullshit. The storage locker was rented and paid up for six months. A large one, more than big enough for two vehicles. After he handled his business and logged off with the throwaway laptop, he planned on piggybacking through alonegirl’s connection again and looking at vehicles for sale. He wanted something big, an SUV or king-cab truck with a topper on it, something with four-wheel drive. Hopefully diesel. Something big enough to carry all their supplies that they’d need to survive.

  Another thing he wanted to shop for—good camping gear. Tents, sleeping bags, survival gear, MREs, everything they’d need to keep them alive in the wild a year or longer.

  He’d also stock up on a few things like hand-crank and solar chargers that he could use to keep his gear running.

  And guns. No, he’d never fired a gun in his life, but this was Georgia, for chrissake. It seemed like there was a gun store or pawn shop on every corner. He’d even skip getting a concealed carry license and just go through the waiting period for a handgun. Rifles and shotguns, you could just buy.

  Ammo.

  Maybe even a crossbow and arrows. He could get good with those.

  Knives, fishing gear…

  Books on how to survive in the woods.

  I need a list.

  He fought the urge to giggle. He could afford it. Alll of it. And when they had to leave Atlanta because of Kite, his brothers would be thanking him for keeping their asses alive, and apologizing to him for not believing him all those years ago.

  They wouldn’t give him a hassle about where he got his money from, because it would be what kept them from becoming Kiters.

  Maybe the government would come up with a vaccine in time. He hoped so. He hoped Tank was wrong. He didn’t want to see the country go down the shitter.

  But he wouldn’t go down with it, if he could help it.

  He fired up his throwaway laptop first. One of the oth
er items on his agenda to accomplish that week was to pick up another cheap laptop. This one had just about outlived its useful life. He didn’t want to push his luck too far. Yes, he’d hacked it and changed the MAC address, but better safe than sorry.

  Yep, another payday. He quickly moved and deposited the money, which now brought his account up over the two-hundred-thousand mark.

  Hell, he’d never seen that much money before in one place.

  Ever.

  He delivered the promised video clips and then checked the e-mail account he was using to handle stuff.

  He had another message from the contact at CMM.

  Ka-ching! He opened it, hoping it was a request for more.

  It was, along with a short-link.

  Thank you for the clip, and yes, absolutely, we want more. Here’s a link to the web version of the story we posted using the first one.

  That was nice of them. The other networks hadn’t bothered doing that.

  Before he thought better of it, he clicked the link.

  And that’s when the shit hit the fan.

  * * * *

  Donna had her earbuds in and plugged into her laptop, as she normally did, even though Lima had disabled the one into her left ear, which was where the radio mic was positioned just behind her ear and hidden by her hair. She’d been tuning out the increasing communication between the team. Their voices still sounded soft, calm, and no one was addressing her directly.

  On her laptop, while she’d been looking at the weather information, a music video had been playing in a background tab. Then the audio hung up, catching her attention.

  When she clicked through to it, she realized the video had paused, buffering.

  Which it hadn’t been doing.

  Nothing had been slow yesterday or up until that point today.

  “Bait, don’t move,” Lima softly warned over the radio. She struggled not to turn her head to the left to look at him. They’d warned her not to make eye contact with any of them, but to also not avoid glancing around, either. If it was obvious she wasn’t looking at particular people, that could also be a tell.

 

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