Miami – Wednesday, Feb. 19, 11:00 p.m. EST
Anna followed Raven down Torenmaas’ front stairway, out past the statuary and the fountain, and through the pebbled parking area. They got back in the car.
“See? I told you he’s a good guy,” Raven said.
“We didn’t get much, Raven,” Anna said.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I gave him the info about who sent me the video, and what did we get out of him?”
“All kinds of things,” Raven said. “He said he didn’t know who took the video of him with Channarong. He told us he was involved in Channarong’s philanthropy, and he explained all about the art center. He gave you that contact, Alex Ice, and he told us he doesn’t have anything to do with that list or document or whatever you have.”
“Even if we believe him, how useful is that?”
“Very. This guy Alex Ice is obviously the next step.”
“It’s a lead. But it’s not much.”
“You can’t seriously have expected a smoking gun, Anna,” Raven said. “Maybe you should be a little more grateful. Without me, you wouldn’t even have this. You’d have nothing.”
Raven’s comments tweaked Anna—she had much more than the Torenmaas interview. She also had Evy’s diary entry, the spreadsheet, the other files on Evy’s phone, and the hyperlinks Evy sent. But she didn’t want to share that with Raven right now. It was true, however, that Anna owed Raven for the meeting with Torenmaas. She kept quiet.
In their silence, the crunching of the tires on the pebble driveway became more pronounced. As they approached the security gate, it opened, and Raven smiled and waved at the guards. They emerged onto the road that led to Harbor, Crandon and eventually Rickenbacker Causeway to the mainland.
Anna went over the meeting again in her mind. Theo van Torenmaas hadn’t revealed who made the video or why. He could be conducting activities that were illegal or on the up-and-up—whether they were commercial or philanthropic. If legit, they could be straightforward or a cover. Using legitimate businesses as a cover was an old trick—clever and yet run-of-the-mill. Either way, what if Torenmaas was a sidetrack, and didn’t have anything to do with the deaths? Evy’s information seemed to point to Torenmaas, and a nervousness swirled around the man. But the cause could be unrelated. And what about Raven? If her uncle was legit, the point was moot. But if he had something to hide, she was either in league with him or she wasn’t. Anna’s eyes swept over Raven, who was, at the least, biased in her uncle’s favor.
“That’s where the Miami Open takes place,” Raven said, breaking the silence. “The Tennis Center at Crandon Park.”
Anna wondered at Raven’s remark. She didn’t usually offer an olive branch. “Cool,” Anna said. The tennis center’s parking lots disappeared behind them, and they drove into a less developed part of the island. “Amazing how in an urban area of three million people, you can be surrounded by nature,” added Anna—a feeble effort to return the good-will gesture.
As Raven drove, it grew darker. Dense vegetation formed a corridor for the road. Hardly anybody headed toward them from the opposite direction. After all, the island was a dead end without a boat. Then bright headlights approached from behind.
Anna turned and saw a vehicle gaining fast. It was a large pickup, clearly moving above the speed limit. It began to pass them, suddenly appearing on their left.
Raven waited for it to go on ahead, but it didn’t. Instead, it sideswiped their little rental. The car jerked into the shoulder.
“He’s probably texting, that idiot,” Raven spit out as she swerved back onto the road. “And I’ll be responsible for the damages.”
Raven righted the car in their lane, but the pickup jolted sideways once more, smashing into Anna and Raven again. “What the hell!” Raven shouted.
Anna screamed, “Slow down!”
Raven jammed on the brakes, but her maneuver did no good. The truck fell back and sideswiped them a third time. Raven could no longer control the car. An invisible force seemed to propel them off the road. The pickup sped away, but the car crashed into the dense plant growth. When they landed, the airbags deployed, releasing a foul chemical smell.
“Are you OK?” Anna asked.
“In one piece,” Raven stammered. “My left wrist is killing me,” she said, trying to hold it up by her right shoulder, above the airbag balloon. “What about you? Oh my God!”
“I’m calling 911,” Anna said, dialing.
“You have blood all over your face! And it’s dripping down your neck!”
“I have a cut,” Anna said, touching her forehead. “But it’s not that bad.”
“Ew! You’re bleeding like a pig, Anna,” Raven said, recoiling. “Look at your shirt!”
Anna gingerly patted at the wet, sticky blood on her cheek and forehead. She tried to sop it up with her shirt, then opened her car door. “Hey, does your door work?” Anna asked, getting out.
“911 is answering.” Anna redirected her attention to the emergency services dispatcher. “Someone ran us off the road,” she said, examining the damage to the car. “Newish full-size double-cab pickup—I’d say 2018 or 2019. Black. Florida plates, the one with the oranges in the middle.”
Guarding her left hand and arm, Raven also stepped out of the car and walked over to Anna, still on the phone. “The first three characters were PJT,” Raven said on top of Anna’s phone conversation.
“OK,” Anna said, nodding. She passed on the information and continued: “No, it could not have been a mistake. Front left tire blew out. It’s shredded,” she said. “We’ll need a tow truck. The pickup must show damage—can you look for that?”
Shaking, Raven leaned against the back of the car, listened to Anna making the report, and nursed her arm.
“The driver was a male Caucasian, about 40, brown hair. Maybe 250 pounds,” Anna said. “He wore a white sleeveless T-shirt, you know, that thing some people call a ‘wife-beater.’ Tattoo on his right forearm—couldn’t see the details. And he was wearing a dark baseball hat,” she said, pausing. “No, not really…. A sticker or a magnet on the truck’s rear left bumper said Florida Everglades…. Alright, thanks.” Anna hung up and leaned back against the car, next to Raven.
“They’ll be here any minute.”
“He pushed me off the road,” Raven said.
“He was determined, wasn’t he?”
“Did you see him staring at us and laughing? It was like he was having fun.”
“Maybe he was.”
“What a nightmare. If he wanted to attack us, why would he speed off like that? I mean, why would someone do something like that?”
“To slow us down.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, if we are injured in an accident, we can’t work.”
“But no one even knew we were coming out here!”
“Except your uncle.”
Copyright © by Wolf Bahren. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher with “permission requests” in the subject line at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.