He ran as fast as his old legs would carry him. Joe didn’t know how those agent had found him, but he couldn’t waste time worrying about it for now. He had to lose himself in the streets. After an hour of wandering, his head finally began to clear and he took shelter in a bar where he ordered a double scotch. He’d never been in this bar before, which was a good thing. There was nothing to tie him to this place, nothing that would lead his pursuers here.
As the scotch warmed his blood, he debated where to go. He could hole up in a hotel for a while, but that was only a temporary fix. He didn’t own a car, and all the public ways out of the city were likely being watched. He thought Louise might loan him her car, but then something else occurred to him. If they had found him so quickly, wouldn’t they check out everyone he knew. Louise might be in danger now, and it was his fault.
There was no question; he would have to go to her. Even though it was likely a trap, he had no choice but to make sure she was safe. He’d already lost one woman to these agents today and he was damned if he was going to let it happen again. Her house was almost an hour away by bus, but it was the least conspicuous way to go. The sun was already setting by the time he got to the door of her suburban home..
“Come in,” she said. “You look terrible. Did you have another episode? Are you all right?”
“I’m all right, but there’s a new wrinkle. What would you say if I asked you to pack a bag and leave with me tonight?”
“Leave? To where?”
“It doesn’t matter. Vegas, Paris, Kathmandu…anywhere but here.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Louise. “I can’t just fly off to Europe on a moment’s notice.”
“Then can I borrow your car? I don’t know when I’ll get it back to you though.”
Louise started to laugh, but thought better of it. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“Dead serious. I need to get out of town as soon as possible.”
“Then I only have one question,” she said. “Can we bring Mathilda and Bess? I don’t want to put them in a kennel.”
“That’s all you want to know?” It was Joe’s turn to laugh. “Sure. Absolutely. It wouldn’t be the same without them.”
“Then just give me an hour or two to pack up some things and we’ll be off.”
True to her word, it was just after midnight when they emerged from the house, Joe with two heavy suitcases and Louise with a cooler full of food in one hand and the dog’s leashes in the other. They packed the luggage and the dogs into the car and were ready to go, but Louise wanted to run through her checklist before they left.
“Stove off. Water off. Left note for Harry to pick up mail. That reminds me, I didn’t check the mail.”
Joe had been impatient an hour ago. He was currently working himself up to hysterical. “Hurry up and let’s go.”
“It’s the last thing on my list. If I don’t check it now, it’s going to bother me the whole time we’re gone. It’ll just take a second.” Louise walked to her mailbox and reached inside. She walked back to the car with a puzzled look on her face, carrying a single envelope.
“What is it?” asked Joe.
“It’s for you,” she said, “but there’s no stamp or address. It’s just your name.”
“Let me see that,” said Joe, taking the letter from her. He tore it open and pulled out a fancy engraved invitation. “It seems that Hope and I weren’t the only ones. The wording is kind of vague, but there’s a time and a place to meet.”
“Do you think it’s a trap?” asked Louise.
“No,” answered Joe. “It’s not their style. If they knew I was here, they’d come in guns blazing.”
“Well then, it’s something to look forward to,” said Louise. “And it’s only a week from now, so it shouldn’t be too hard to stay out of sight until then.”
“You always manage to find the good in any situation,” said Joe.
One of the dogs barked, drawing their attention back to the car, but she was just excited to be out so late. Louise shrugged and said, “And why I get to pick the music. Let’s go.”