Eventually, we ended up at an old, dingy little flat in a worse state than any of the hostels I had previously stayed at. The wallpaper on the walls was peeling away, the windows looked like they were in dire need of replacing, and the floor was littered with books of all languages, histories and stories. Some had bookmarks, others looked well kept, yet others looked like they had been thrown around the room. I bit my lip, fighting the urge to pick on up and flick through them.
Above the bed to the left of the room was a world map, bigger than me in size, coated with red string leading from one destination to another. Some areas were circled, others had crosses, and a couple places were littered with question marks. I couldn't quite make out the locations, and before I could ask, Sam shoved past me. He marched towards the map, jumping onto the bed and violently ripping it down. He shoved it under the bed, crumpling it as he did, and suddenly I felt very offended.
"Planning another trip, son? Or reminiscing?" Sully asked, picking up an open book from the floor and flicking through the pages.
"Something like that." Sam replied.
"Huh," Sully replied, nodding, and gently put the book down on his desk. He turned to us, and colour rushed to his face.
"Sorry about the mess… it's been a wild few days."
"We're not… staying here, are we?" I asked, growing more and more anxious by the minute. Sully chuckled at me.
"Hey, what's that supposed to mean?" Sam asked, jumping off the mattress and hastily scrambling books into his arms, piling them onto a desk opposite the bed. "I know it's not the most glamorous of places, but I'm working on it."
"Right." I said, still unsure. He glared at me.
"No, you're not staying here." Sully said gruffly. "You're going to the local hostel, and Sam is coming to get you in the morning. I just need a computer."
"So what's the plan here, exactly?" Sam demanded, gesturing towards me. "What am I supposed to do with her? Catch a direct flight to Costa Rica and just leave her there? Is she even meeting anyone?"
"I'm standing right here, you know." I sneered, leaning against the door as it closed behind me. For the first time I could get a good look at him. He was told, and slightly bulky, with his dark hair pushed out of his face. The lines on his face aged him, mostly creases of concern. Stressed? He looked rugged, like he'd recently been in some kind of fight, and despite everything, his eyes were very tired. His eyes screamed distrust and uncertainty; like this was something he had never dealt with before. It didn't make me feel any better, either.
"Fine." He said, taking a step towards me. "You explain it to me, then."
I took a breath. "I found someone. She wrote to me and said she could keep me safe. She knows my situation, and she wants to help."
"How about you explain your situation to your supposed escort." He said, not satisfied with my answer. His voice was low, almost challenging, and it made my stomach coil.
"I already told you. I took something, and the person I took it from wants it back."
"So badly they'd kill you for it?" he shook his head. "I don't buy it."
He couldn't know. The less people knew, the more they could be safe. I couldn't have cared less about Sam, but Sully mattered to me. I owed him as much as to get out of his hair, and the less he knew the better. Guilt riddled my mind, like I was letting him down after everything he had done for me, but I couldn't put him in danger, not like this.
"I just need a direct flight there, no escort needed. I wanted Sully to come with me because I was scared. But I can do this. I know I can."
"No direct flights; you'll be an easier target." Sully cut in, shaking his head.
"They don't know where I'm going!"
"They knew enough to know where to find you at mine; they'll know where you're travelling to, especially if they're after your head." He jerked his chin in Sam's direction. "All the more reason you need him."
"I still haven't agreed to this." Sam snapped, exasperated.
"You're going, Sam. Swallow your pride and deal with it. Now give me a damn computer."
Sam's laptop was at least two years out of date, but it had to do. We spent the hour waiting for Sully to organise our 'trip', Sam looking over his shoulder whilst I lounged on the floor near the door. I felt like such a burden. I didn't want to be here. I'd gone to Sully in the hope he would take me where I needed to go and it would be over. But instead he had to be difficult.
I pulled out my phone and scrolled through my emails. The woman I was going to had reached out to me through the use of social media, even though I had changed my last name on there. Her name was Nora Robinson, and she claimed to know me a lot more than I knew her.
I reread the email, something I had done repeatedly for four days now.
I truly hope it is you. I have searched for you since you were little. I looked everywhere for you, but your father made sure that you all disappeared. I'm so sorry it has taken this long to write to you.
My name is Nora, and I need you to know that you are in grave danger. I know where you are, and I know that it is not safe for you there. You're dad is very well known, and not in a good way, and if anyone found out who you were, you will not bear well with the consequences. I know you must be thinking I'm a mad woman – I know I would if I was you – but I need you to trust me right now as you read this.
I knew your family well, and I know they were not kind to you. If you have nowhere to go, or no one to turn to, I'm here. Costa Rica, that's where you'll find me. I don't know if you can find a way to get here, but if you can, you must as soon as possible.
Forgive me if I have frightened you, but now that I've found you, I will not lose you again.
I hope to hear from you very soon, my sweet.
Maybe I was mad, or even insane for even considering finding this woman. But I had been in a desperate situation when the email came through, and given her skills to go as far as to find my email address was both concerning and intriguing. I believed her words. I wanted to know who she was, how she knew me, and what she could do to help me. Her warning was too great to ignore, and the fact she brought up my father made me all the more worried. Her words about him were no lie.
I'd replied hastily, asking so many questions, but all I got in response was an address in Costa Rica… and an instruction. I slid my hand into my jeans pocket, allowing my fingertips to touch the cool metal of the coin that resided there. It was cold to the touch, but it reassured me. It was my ticket out of here, out of the city and into a new life somewhere over seas. I would have to leave Sully behind, but if it meant I would no longer have to be on the run, I was okay with that.
"Who is it?" Sully's voice pulled me out of my thoughts, startling me.
"This woman you're going to. Who is she?"
I blinked. "A friend."
"I gathered that, but who?"
"Someone who used to know me when I was a kid." I replied. "She searched for me, after… you know."
"Can she be trusted?" he asked after a pause. He knew so much about me, about my past that it was hard to not be warmed by his concern. "I'm not handing you over to someone even worse than what you've already faced?"
"She warned me I was in trouble. I trust her. I need to know who she is, and how she knows so much about me. She promised she would keep me safe and that I would never have to run again." I explained. "I don't know what it is, Sully, but I trust her. I really do."
He sighed, heavy and defeated. "If anything, anything, goes wrong, call me. I mean it. Call me and I will get you out of there."
"I know you will."
"So it's done, then. We leave in the morning, just before dawn." Sam said, for the first time sounding satisfied. They had been murmuring earlier, but I couldn't find it in me to care what they were saying. Whatever Sully said, Sam was now on board, even eager. It was a little unnerving. "Make sure you're up and ready, kid."
"I will be." I replied.
"I'll leave some things for you with Sam later tonight. Right now, you need to get some rest. Keep your head down and don't talk to anyone. Sam will come for you in the morning, and before you know it you'll be on the sunny beaches of Costa Rica."
"Sounds like a plan," I smiled, but it was a sad smile. "I'm gonna miss you, Sully."
"No goodbyes yet, kid. You might be coming back yet. Come on, let's find you a hostel for the night."
We left Sam in his flat, and the younger man had his back to us and didn't say so much as a goodbye, for his eyes were glued intently on the screen. I thought nothing of it, but I probably should have.