Chapter Eight

Getting the Rubber to the Road

An hour-and-a-half later, with their good-byes done, the gas tank full of premium (ouch), thanks to the colonel taking the car to the station, and having survived another round of Barb's energetic hugs, they backed out the driveway and waved as Annie turned in the direction of the 34 South out of Carlisle. Her plan was to take the 15 past Gettysburg to join Interstate 270 near Fredrick, Maryland. She had dressed in a different color shirt and vest; put her hair into a firmly tightened scarf and added sunglasses, so she looked quite different from yesterday, just in case. She was ready for a completely boring drive home. Well, as boring as a road trip in a hot car with her hot boyfriend could be. She smiled to herself.

Annie happened to glance his way and saw Auggie sigh with a relaxed smile on his face. She reached out and touched his hand briefly between gears. Her eyes back on the road ahead, she heard him say, "Those are genuine good people. I'm really glad we ran into Colonel Abbott at the car show. That worked out well in so many ways. Plus, now we have someone to visit in Carlisle. Annie, we have non-work friends other than your sister. I like that. I like it a lot. It just feels good."

Annie said, "Auggie, you are right on. I love them to pieces. I can't wait to go see Betsy and her husband. I can't imagine you not liking Betsy."

Annie heard Auggie make a small noise and out of the corner of her eye, saw him move a little, but it wasn't a position shift; it was Auggie's trademark way of telling himself he'd decided something. She wondered what and toyed with leaving it alone, but she finally decided to give him a chance to share.

She looked his way and asked, "What'cha thinking, sweetheart? Enjoying the morning?"

"Yes, I am. Sometimes, when we're together, we get a few moments of blissful peace in the storm. Right now is one of those; I'm cherishing the moment. The wind in my hair, on the way home with the most incredible one in a gazillion woman I've ever known, and she's my girlfriend, my lover, the incredibly hot love of my life. It feels so good to be me right now. Honey, right at this moment I couldn't be better if I tried."

"I couldn't either. I love you, Auggie. I'm loving this too." She saw him move his head slightly to cast his eyes in her direction with a very content and happy look on his face. He reached out, touched her, to see her, then visibly relaxed and settled back in his seat.

For the next ten minutes Annie went through a rather elaborate routine to see if they were being followed. By the time she was done, she was certain they weren't being followed. She glanced toward Auggie, who undoubtedly knew what she had been doing, and announced, "We're clear, no tail. It's time to make miles toward home." With a second glance in his direction, she saw him nod, still relaxed.

That bit due diligence out of the way, Annie went back to thinking about the route they were taking. The downside of the route was how much of it was through Maryland where she couldn't legally carry a gun, but there was no reasonable route for which her permits were valid. It could be done, but, good grief, it would more than double the trip. She had the slick little SIG P238 in her purse but planned to put that in the trunk safe unloaded to comply with federal law just before crossing the Pennsylvania state line. She didn't want to. In the back of her mind, trained to consider contingencies and what if situations continuously while on a mission, she wondered if the FBI was certain they had all the members of that cell in custody.

She wished Joan could get her some sort of federal off-duty permit that would allow her to carry when they were on the road like this, but she hadn't really asked for one either. Or even if such a thing was possible. She decided, because she'd begun to feel almost naked without a gun, for good reason, that she'd at least bring it up. Maybe there was some way that could be done through the FBI? Rossabi had sounded sincere with his apology, but that was just him, not the whole agency, so good luck with a permit as a favor. Timing is everything. Maybe if I ask at the right time it would help? Oh well, a girl can dream, right?

Google had said the trip was 105 miles and would take two hours more or less. The GPS said they should be back in DC at eleven forty-three. She translated that in her head to be between noon and one o'clock depending on if they stopped for lunch along the way, and how many coffee breaks she took. That would be good.

Knowing the cell had been taken down, but not having read the report to know why they thought all the members were in custody, she asked Auggie to call in their time of departure, route, and projected time of arrival as a matter of precaution.

Just as he got his phone out, her secure phone rang. It was Joan with Agent Rossabi, both of them on the encrypted line on a conference call. Joan said, "Annie, Agent Rossabi has some news for us. Agent Rossabi."

Annie put the phone on speaker for Auggie to hear and slowed down looking for a place to pull off, then thought better of it and resumed driving along at the 35mph speed limit through what the GPS on the dash said was Mt. Holly Springs.

"Ms. Walker, we have confirmed there are two members of that cell that were not taken into custody because they were not present at the compound. Where are you now?"

"Just left Carlisle a few minutes ago heading south on the 34 passing through Mount Holly Springs. Projected route is 34 South through Gettysburg to join the 15 South into Maryland, pick up 270 South near Fredrick and continue on to Georgetown."

"I will arrange for an escort to pick you up probably some place around Gettysburg, I'll get back to you with the details."

"Agent Rossabi?" Annie asked sounding tentative.

"Yes," he answered.

She replied, "I don't know if this is even possible, but I have to ask. Can you make it legal for me to concealed carry my gun through Maryland? I'm officially off duty. I have it back; you know I'm competent with it. If you can do that, I'm fine with us being our own escort. I would appreciate an alert to the State Police here and in Maryland just in case we need them. And if there is a chopper in the air for some reason not too far from us, it wouldn't be a bad thing if it had an extra trooper or two on it."

Annie was a little surprised and relieved to hear Rossabi reply, "Let me see what I can do. I think we've done something about a permit like you would need before. That time it was a civilian but give me a minute to make a call. I need to put you on mute here."

"Thanks. Joan, you there?"

"Yes."

With some trepidation because she hadn't broached the permit thing with Joan first, Annie asked, "You okay with this? Me having the gun on me off duty?"

"Yes. We can add this to the growing list of things we need to talk about, okay?"

"Thanks. Yes. I'd definitely like to talk about it." She paused and when Joan didn't interject continued, "We aren't being followed, I did everything but beam up to the moon and back on the way out of Carlisle and nobody followed me. We are headed into Pennsylvania farm country on a two-lane blacktop country road. If this isn't the middle of nowhere, it's within a hundred yards of it. Avoiding Amish buggies seems to be the biggest problem. We didn't even go to a gas station; Colonel Abbott did that for us. I'm wearing a scarf to hide my hair, sun glasses and different color clothes. We should be fine on the road. I'm more worried about after we get back. What do you think the chances are that the two on the loose were in the parking lot and that they have pictures of us?"

"Your intuition is serves you well. What you don't know, that supports your concern, is that there was no vehicle left over in the restaurant parking lot after everybody was gone. Nothing they could have driven to the restaurant in. So their car, the one you saw them taking the shotguns out of, must have been taken away by somebody. Our current hypothesis is: the most likely person to have done that is one or both of the two we haven't located," Joan replied.

"Or a third person nobody knows about."

"Or a third person," Joan agreed.

"How could they segregate us from the others that were there?" Annie wondered. "The restaurant was pretty crowded."

"If they monitored the lot with a video camera on, they would have footage of everybody in and out. You and Auggie included. If they stuck it out, or were afraid of leaving in the aftermath, they might put two and two together when I drove your car out of the lot. Rossabi and I getting in would be noticeably different from you and the blind man who entered the restaurant. They wouldn't know where we went because at that point they wouldn't have had time to study the tapes in real time but they could have figured that out after the fact".

"Then it would be just dumb luck if they found us now," Annie concluded. She paused and then said, "Joan, I wonder if they could have access to the traffic camera footage? I saw cameras next to every traffic light. They would have really good coverage of the city. This corvette would be easy to track."

"I'll check into that, but it seems very unlikely. Based on the limited data we have, I think it's extremely unlikely they know where you are or where you are headed. That's why I'm good with you being your own escort if you can be armed. If not, I'd take Rossabi up on his offer of an escort and have them drive North at high speed to meet you rather than waiting in Gettysburg. Your car is easy to spot."

At that moment there was a click, some static, and then she heard Rossabi's voice, "Ms. Walker?"

"Yes."

"You are cleared to concealed carry in Maryland and DC for the next 5 years - actually anywhere in the US and it territories, including Illinois and even on airplanes, as long as you are off duty. That said, using your civilian permits - SSA Burk told me about them - might raise less questions if they are valid at your location. Important, because you are CIA you need to be off duty. Which, by definition you are since you are on holiday, right?"

"Oh, absolutely!" Annie replied.

"All right, then. What I have is a verbal from the US Attorney, but he has agreed the permit is valid as soon as I tell you about it, which is now. The actual document is being printed as we speak. He'll sign it and give it to me in the next hour or so. I'll get it signed by a federal judge shortly after noon. I know the judge, and he's in his office today. Before I go further, Joan, he will have to be read in that Annie is CIA. It's not on the permit, but that fact, and her recent performance, is on the supporting paperwork as justification. Is that okay?"

"Yes. He doubtless knows her status is classified, but perhaps a gentle reminder is in order."

"Yes, he knows that. I picked him because he's been involved with us and the CIA before. Let's see… okay, Ms. Walker, I will send a photo of the signed permit form to your phone and text you a phone number for any law officer who questions it to call. We will send the paper work along with the laminated photo ID wallet card to you via official channels, probably late in the week. Joan, I'm assuming you can e-mail me a passport picture of Annie? In the next ten minutes or so?"

"Yes," Joan replied.

"That should take care of that."

A relieved Annie said, "Thanks Agent Rossabi, I owe you a big one." She'd been thinking of packing anyway; this was much better.

"Consider it a small down payment on what we owe you."

"Thanks anyway-"

Joan interjected, "Agent Rossabi, we have Annie's phone location on screen now based on GPS. We can track them; she's armed, capable, and used to being in the field under much more hostile conditions than these, so is Mr. Anderson. I think we are good for now. I will arrange a safe house for them to stay in till you have those two in custody."

"OK, I'll go with that. Supervisory Special Agent Burk has a couple of agents and a chopper at the diner where we were yesterday. They would be the closest support till you get close to the Maryland State Line. After that the HRT rapid response unit at Quantico is closer."

Annie replied, "Got it. Thanks. Agent Rossabi, is there any security footage of the restaurant parking lot? I didn't personally see anyone that looked out of place, but thinking back, there was a large white van parked in the back corner next to the building. It didn't look like a vehicle that would belong to a restaurant, and it wasn't parked where a customer would park. It might be nothing, or it might be where the other two set up to record their attack. There may be something in the news footage of the parking lot during the day that would tell us something. You might also scan the traffic cameras in Carlisle to see if that van left town on our same route this morning."

"Good thought - we have agents in the area doing follow up; I'll have them get us copies of the raw footage from the news crews. Traffic cameras footage can be used to track a suspect vehicle; the parking lot news crew footage is better for identifying the vehicle to track. Turns out downtown Carlisle has traffic cameras all over the place. They are brand new so most of them actually work, which is refreshing."

"Thanks. One more thing. Agent Rossabi, can you arrange for protection for Colonel and Ms. Abbott till you catch these guys? As you know, we stayed there last night. If the terrorists figure out what car we were driving, they might somehow determine our car drove there and try to squeeze our route out of them."

"How would they do that?"

"I'll be sure to ask them if I get the chance."

"Okay! Okay, down girl. I'm on it, give me a minute, be right back."

"Joan?"

"Yes."

"Is there some way you can arrange for someone to keep an eye on my sister's house in California and my apartment in Georgetown?"

Joan assured her by replying, "I arranged for that yesterday while I was at the restaurant. Should have told you. They've had someone on them full time since about an hour after the event, just in case. So far nobody and nothing suspicious. I'll keep them on it till the other two are captured."

Agent Rossabi returned to the conversation saying, "I spoke to Colonel Watt, who you met yesterday. He has a State Trooper on the way there now. I asked for Benson, and it turns out he's on patrol about 5 miles away, and Colonel Abbott has met him. Meanwhile I'll arrange for the Federal Marshall's office to put someone in the house till we get these guys in custody. We good?"

Joan, sounding to Annie like she wanted to be done with this, said, "Okay, we are good. Thanks Agent Rossabi. We'll be in touch and looking for Annie's permit card. Annie, see you and Auggie Thursday."

The call ended. Annie looked over to see Auggie concentrating. She waited.

"Annie, I think there is some chance they have figured out where we are headed. Just in case, how about we pull off, you get your Glock out of the trunk and put it on with that custom holster you have and put your spare magazine in your vest pocket? You can wear that in the car, pistol at three, with the vest you have on, right? The little SIG is great up close, but not the best for an ambush on the road. Out in the country side where we are now, I'd rather have an M4, truth be told, but the baby Glock is the best available at the moment."

She chuckled at the mention of an M4. She had liked the times she got to practice with it at Frank's, but there was no chance of having one of those here. In Iraq, which was where she was headed when she asked Frank about a chance to practice with weapons she might encounter, it would have been a different matter altogether.

When it came to long guns, the bolt action sniper rifles were fun. She'd enjoyed her somewhat limited training with them just because of how good it felt to finally be able to shoot Frank-Groups that had him nod with approval. A Frank-Group, which she'd come to call an FG, was fired by taking one shot each at 100, 200, 300, 400, and 500 meters. The scope was adjusted for elevation between each shot using a table taped to the rifle stock. Windage was compensated by holding off to make the estimated correction at each distance. The estimated hold off as a function of wind was on the table as well. She liked the Tactical Milling Reticule but did fine without it too. Letting the rifle cool for 20 minutes between groups of 5 shots, the same routine was repeated a total of 5 times. The goal was to have all the groups at their respective ranges be within a minute of arc between the two holes farthest apart. After considerable practice, she'd managed to be able to do it pretty much as a matter of routine on the range and had a favorite long-range rifle, which prompted her to say, "I'd go for an Accuracy International sniper rifle in three hundred Win. Mag. with a nice Night Force scope on it, like Frank trained me with. This definitely looks like rifle country out here, but it would be a bit hard to conceal. We couldn't even fit it in this trunk if it was assembled. But, yes, I agree, I should have the Glock where I can get at it. I'll just button the bottom button of the vest when I get out so a gust of wind won't blow the vest back exposing it, and I should be fine."

"Keep the SIG in your purse as a backup?"

"Yes, I'll take care of that right now. I see a place to pull off into a parking lot ahead on the right. It used to be a tile factory of some sort according to the faded sign. It's sort of overgrown, but there is an empty parking lot in front of it. It's apparently abandoned at the moment; I already reloaded the magazine when I swapped the Glock for the SIG. I will put a plus one in the chamber though. I wish I had brought the 19 with me. Oh well. As they say at the races, you run what you brung. Or, as Frank says, the very best gun you own is the one in your hand when the shit hits the fan."

Annie pulled off the road into the abandoned parking lot. She drove in a circle, which turned the car around so that the trunk, and what she might do back there, was hidden from the view of highway traffic. It was faced at an angle back toward the entrance so she could see where she came from, which was also the most likely avenue of attack, just by glancing up from what she was doing in the trunk. Still, she felt exposed.

Determined to be out of there as soon as possible, she exited the car, keys in hand, stepped around to the trunk and opened it. She found the VersaMax holster, loosened her belt, slid it in her waistband at her right hip, snapped the belt loops around the belt, and re-tightened the belt. She opened the safe, retrieved the Glock 26 and a full magazine. She palm-slapped the magazine into the grip of the pistol, did a quick sling shot to chamber a round, dropped the magazine out, added a round to make up for the one that was now in the chamber and palm slapped it back in. Her trigger finger drifted up over the extractor, she felt it protrude slightly which confirmed there was a round in the chamber. Double checking as usual, she also glanced at the tiny gap between the barrel and the breech face and could see the nickel plating on the casing of the chambered round. Satisfied, she slid the pistol into her holster.

She retrieved the spare magazine from the safe, double checked the counter holes along the spare magazine's spine to make sure it was full and blew a bit of lint off the top round before putting in her left vest pocket.

She shook herself and rocked the holster a little to get it to settle into its proper position on her hip. It sure felt good. She recalled how Frank had called in a favor with Milt Sparks, the holster maker, and had gotten one made to her measurements that fit her just right. The grip didn't angle in over her hip and bang her in the ribs, but it didn't stick out either. It had been made to accommodate the curve of her hips and still be concealable under a vest, un-tucked long sleeve shirt, or sweatshirt. And it was oh so comfortable compared to carrying at five o'clock, especially when sitting in a car seat for a couple of hours. The same holster worked for both her Glock 19 and her Glock 26.

It had been delivered in three weeks - which was impossible, but it happened. Six months was more common. It was very comfortable but not really good enough for restaurant wear unless she had on a sweatshirt or sweater. She'd make it work now, though, to have the extra firepower without the gun beating on her kidney like it would in the other holster. She figured the odds of them being located were pretty slim, but if it was going to happen, it would happen today, because they would be inaccessible after they got to the safe house. The pony in the pile was it was clear to her that Joan would put them in the same safe house. That caused her to grin for a second.

Still behind the car, Annie picked up her phone and called the Abbott's residence. Barb answered. She got the Colonel for Annie who confirmed she and Auggie were okay and explained about the two loose cell members. Then she told Barbara and the colonel to lock the doors and windows, get out their guns, and expect Trooper Benson to show up. She followed with the information that the FBI would be sending a Federal Marshall to watch over them till the two were caught. That apparently alarmed Barb who asked, "How long might that be?"

"I don't know. But they are also putting Auggie and me in a safe house till they are caught. I figured you would rather be at home with the marshal than in a safe house."

"Do we have a choice?"

"Yes, but I'd much rather you did this than turn down the protection. As you can tell from what they attempted yesterday, these guys are deadly serious, and they take it personally when they are stopped from completing a mission. Especially by a female. The news said it was a female, and I whacked them down hard."

Colonel Abbott came back on and said, "No worries, Annie; we will comply with whatever they ask. I just hope this doesn't drag on for months."

"It shouldn't, but I have no idea how long it will be. The FBI has a real manhunt on for them, and they have pictures of them. In fact, I'll arrange for pictures of them to be sent to you."

"Okay Annie, Thanks for the heads up. Have a safe trip."

"We will. Bye."

Annie closed the trunk, made her way back to the driver's seat, settled in and fastened her seatbelt. She relaxed back into the seat, and sighed when it occurred to her, we aren't even to Gettysburg and it's already more exciting than I'd like. Remembering her thoughts about the sniper rifle prompted her to say, "If we do encounter them, I'm going to have to find a way to get within 10 to 15 yards of them to feel like I have an acceptable chance with this baby Glock. Frank said if they are farther away than that to run like hell."

Auggie reached over and touched her saying, "If you see them, take advantage of your well-known, best ever for a woman, escape and evasion driving skills in this pretty fast car. Yes, I read your training file before I ever met you the first time. They were very complementary about your escape and evasion driving skills. Seriously, unless we wreck or the car breaks, we have the advantage. If we are stopped, we need a big advantage before we should take them on – like they need to have wrecked and be incapacitated. I'm no help if they are beyond arms reach, which they almost certainly will be."

Annie picked up the undertones of bitterness in his voice; they prompted her to reply, "Auggie, just by being here you are good for me. Trust me on this, we are a team. If those home-grown wannabe jihadists show up, we'll know what to do. Besides, how would they have any clue where to find us?"

Still in the spirit of their conversation, a few seconds after she pulled back onto 34 South and was up to her cruising speed of five over the 45-mph speed limit, Annie asked Auggie to call his tech guys and make sure they had her phone on their tracking display. She told him, "We need them on the phone if we get into a situation where we have to lose a pursuit. I don't know the roads here, and while we have a great car, I want them to be able to give me guidance on what to expect the road to do when I come over a hill onto a blind corner at hundred plus. I'd also like them to help me figure out the most likely places to cause them to crash. I agree, our best chance is if they are wrecked and disoriented. Evasion and escape that leaves them out there to come after us again is not very appealing to me. In fact, if Stu could track us and keep the evasion software up and ready, at least till we get to 270 South, that would be really good."

"Got it. I'm dialing."

Annie looked over the gages and noted with relief everything looked normal. Heck, they probably won't find us, but we are as prepared as we can be if they do.

She heard Auggie say, "Stu? Auggie, do you have us located? ... Good. Please bring up the pursuit software and get Barber to look over your shoulder. What? Annie, how fast are we going?"

"Fifty."

"We are going fifty, Stu. Your tracker matches? Good. I want you to track us with current pursuit evasion options updated continuously on the screen till we are safely on Interstate 270 South. ... We're driving my Corvette. Yeah, the performance model is in the database, I put it in myself. Look under sixty-seven Corvette roadster. ... Yes, that's it, 435 horsepower. ... What? ... Annie's driving, so use the highest performance setting. ... Okay, I'm going to keep this connection live till we get to Interstate 270 with the phone on mute. ... Yes, trust me; you will be the third to know if anybody shows up behind us."

"You followed that, Walker?"

"Yup."

They settled down to enjoy the drive through the Pennsylvania country side. Annie occasionally narrated what she saw. There was a field full of fresh cut alfalfa that smelled really good as they passed it, at least that's what she thought it was. Auggie confirmed it.

A few miles later, as they approached a rise between two apple orchards, Annie saw what she thought might be the white van from the parking lot yesterday approaching faster than normal traffic would, especially since she had been going five over all along. She wasn't sure, white vans all look pretty much alike in the rear-view mirror, but it was the right make, Ford, and she didn't want to take a chance.

She said to Auggie, "I see a white Ford van gaining on us in the mirror. I think they may have found us. Get Stu up on speaker, turn the volume all the way up, brace yourself and see if you can hold it where I can talk to Stu hands off with a hell of a lot of wind noise. The GPS says we are approaching Quaker Valley Road. It looks like there are several roads networked together over to the right. I'm going to make a hard right onto it – if the van follows, it's on. Tell Stu to see if I have any good options for causing that big white whale to crash if it follows us."

She was so glad they had the benefit of the pursuit software and Stu. It would track their progress, speed, and predict speeds for turns based on a performance model of the Corvette they were in. She hadn't had to take advantage of it before, but this seemed like a good time to see if it worked.

In full mission lock on, Annie flicked the Corvette into second gear and stood on it just short of wheel spin. The car lunged ahead, rocked Auggie back in his seat, picked up speed to nearly 100 mph as she flicked through the gears shifting as the tach reached the redline. She felt it get light as they crested the hill before the Quaker Valley Road junction, kept the wheel straight with a light touch and let it settle back onto its wheels. She modulated the pressure on the brake pedal to match the tire load as the car settled into the dip and prevent lockup. She achieved maximum deceleration that pitched them against the belts as the car settled down from the near launch. At the same time she heel toe shifted back down one gear, then two gears to take advantage of the suspension loading, verified no oncoming traffic, veered to the left side of the road as the downgrade pulled to level, eased the brakes to settle the car, then cranked it into the corner.

There was a little gravel on the corner; she compensated for the car's under steer by kicking the back end out with the throttle to power slide through the turn - the tires howled in protest. The car rocked violently as it slid from gravel to asphalt and back; then she was through the turn, aligned with the left edge of the pavement, foot to the floor on Quaker Valley road. She accelerated hard through the gears and moved to the center of the road before she saw the van clear the rise in the mirror.

Annie sat up straight, with her arms straight out on the wheel and her eyes wide open. She focused on keeping the car in the center of the asphalt country road while she looked as far ahead as she could to check for slow farm traffic or Amish buggies. Her mind registered the lack of shoulder, the rare tree, and the regularly spaced power poles as they flashed by. They were well passed 100 again on what the GPS depicted as a reasonably straight road when Stu came on the phone. A quick flick of her eyes showed her that Auggie held the phone braced against her seat near her ear. It was clamped in a white-knuckled, left-handed grip that only loss of consciousness was likely to release. He held onto the car with his right hand and had pressed his head back into the headrest, presumably by bracing his feet against the firewall.

"Annie can you hear me?"

"Yes, Stu."

"You have an 80-mph left next ahead of you"

"Got it," She saw the turn, eased as far to the right as she could, lifted, used the brakes to settle the car on its suspension and bring down the speed a little. She depended on the under steer, turned early for the apex, let the increased tire friction scrub speed off the car just enough to get past the apex, pointed at the exit and then began to feed the gas back in. Her right foot controlled the rear end. It took the whole road but because she had a delicate touch with the controls, the car held nicely. She was glad the road was reasonably smooth with the live axle rear suspension. She eased back into the middle of the road, foot back on the floor, gave a quick glance in the rear-view mirror, no van in sight yet. A few second later, just as she saw it behind them, Stu announced the next curve.

"90 mph right in about a third of a mile."

"Got it." Another quick flick of her eyes picked up the van in the mirror, then ahead to confirm no traffic. All clear, she focused on the corner. She eased to the left edge of the pavement, lifted a little, again feathered the brakes to settle the suspension, turned in early and again let the tire friction of the corner do her braking to the apex with slightly more throttle on this exit to move the back end over. Then she was aligned with the left edge of the road and put her right foot down hard.

"Pretty much full throttle allowing for traffic with a 140 mile per hour left as you approach the rise before you get to Bear Mountain Road. The turn onto Bear Mountain Road is a ninety-degree hard right, says 35 mph on the screen, with a fifteen-foot bank off the road to a creek and a pond of some sort. It's a blind corner over the rise, but the model says you can get over the top in the right lane with your tail lights just out of the van's view before you hit the brakes and move left if you lift and down shift before the top of the rise. I'll let you know-"

"Got it. Drown the bastards," Annie said with fierce determination as she guided the car down the middle of the road at some speed over 100 mph – the engine was roaring near max revs in 4th, it wouldn't go any faster. She didn't need to look at the speedometer. Auggie was saying nothing - she assumed he was still holding on for dear life focused on keeping the phone where she could hear it.

"If he makes it around the corner, you are on a triangle shaped four-mile loop that will give you another great chance to dump them in about two miles. Ok, you are almost to the rise …. LIFT AND SHIFT!"

Annie felt herself pulled down into the seat as the car traveled over a hundred and loaded the suspension to the stops as it transitioned from level to the upslope of the rise on a road designed for 45mph. She lifted completely off the gas as the suspension loaded nearly to the stops at the bottom of the rise. The deceleration made the car feel less stable; it got worse when the car topped the rise nearly leaving the ground. She kept the wheel steady to avoid side load on the tires with almost no traction. Then the car began to settle as it arced over the top of the rise. She took a quick glance in the mirror and determined the van was quite a way back now not able to keep up with the Corvette. She waited till it was out of sight in the rear-view mirror before she got on the brakes. She knew this was going to be right on the ragged edge one way or the other. She controlled the brakes expertly as a function of suspension loading and brought them right to the edge of locking up (benefits of ice racing in Sweden as a teenager), heel toe down shifted to match until she was in first gear. At the last possible moment, she initiated a weave that carried the car to the left edge of the asphalt dragged off more speed and preloaded the left suspension for the hard turn into the corner. At that moment, almost too late, she wrenched the wheel right, so she compensated for the under steer and then blipped the throttle as the car rocked, slid on the gravel, the tires caught, howled and grabbed. The car rocked violently with the shocks struggling to control the wheel hop. She barely moved the wheel and steered with her right foot on the throttle. She waited and resisted overcorrecting while the car settled out of the slide and was rewarded with the car being aligned with the road right at the edge of the asphalt and balanced enough that she could feed the throttle to the floor just short of wheel spin. She was able to accelerate hard through the gears. The car picked up speed very quickly as she accelerated away from the corner and was around the next corner almost out of sight when she looked up and saw the van in her mirror off the road rolling towards the pond.

In an instant reflex she hit the brakes hard, downshifted and flicked the 'Vette into a bootlegger turn just like they taught her at the farm. She had it recovered accelerating in the other direction through the cloud of burnt rubber tire smoke a few seconds later. She accelerated at full throttle back the way they had come, kept a firm grip on the wheel and eased the car to the center of the road. She was back up to 100. She could feel she'd flat spotted the tires a little, but she had this under control now. Well, almost - she had to get back before they got out of the van to take them down. She knew she was outnumbered and probably out gunned. She needed the advantage of being in position to ambush them when they emerged, hopefully injured, confused and disoriented. She calculated she had about a minute to get in position. She needed to stop without calling attention to her arrival.

A half mile out she shifted to neutral, smoothly decelerated to a stop still on the asphalt to avoid the noise of the gravel on the shoulder. She switched the engine off as they passed through 40 and slowed down. With any luck they wouldn't think she would come back. She stopped with the car in first gear to hold it in position. She had chosen a location where she'd have an approach to the blind spot on the van with Auggie able to hide behind the mass of the engine block. As she opened the door and jumped out she drew the Glock and said, "Auggie, get out and crouch down by the left front wheel."

He immediately opened his door. Satisfied that he would be safe, she headed around the front of the car and down the bank toward the van at a dead run. The Glock was in her right hand just as she heard Joan come on the phone, probably to tell her to wait for backup. Yeah, right. Screw that! She had these guys, and they were damn sure not going to get away this time.

She heard Auggie say something but ignored it and focused only on getting within ten yards of the van as fast as her legs would carry her.