This serial story is posted weekly on Fridays in draft (unedited) format. Each installment is available for one week. If you’ve missed an installment, email me and I’ll send you what you’ve missed.
It didn’t take long for Nicole to make a hat and mask of branches this time, and she settled it over her head with just barely enough room between the leaves in front to see where she was going. She kept an eye on the tablet screen as she walked for the first few feet, relieved when the live feed didn’t seem to pick up her movements, though of course the tracker map still showed her dot moving.
She’d bet there was a locator chip on her just like the one he’d left her, probably in one of the items he’d given her. The tablet was the most likely option, followed closely by the knife.
She checked the blade and holder on her hip, but didn’t find anything resembling the other locator. She didn’t dare open the tablet case because if she ruined it, she’d be at an unfair disadvantage of her own making.
There was nothing to do but hike, and hope for a good opportunity to use the other beacon.
It was a mild day with a gentle breeze, and the tree leaves rattled pleasantly as she walked beneath them. There was actually a fair amount of noise, with birds singing and insects buzzing and the roar of the river not far off. She kept up a steady pace, walking in the direction of the yellow dot, but staying between it and the property line on the other side.
She stopped often, sometimes getting a snack from the rations Patrick had provided, sometimes taking a long drink, and sometimes just sitting to enjoy the view. It wasn’t that she needed to rest, but she wanted to establish a pattern so that when she did leave the second locator behind, it wouldn’t trigger any kind of immediate reaction.
Eventually she reached the point where she’d have to turn one way or the other. She sat on a fallen log to rest and to make the final decision on where she’d prefer to meet him.
If she went left, she went right to Patrick and whatever he had in store for her. Maybe something, maybe nothing, but she’d definitely be at his mercy, in his home territory. Still, her plan was solid, as long as he’d enjoyed their encounter the night before.
If she went right, she’d have to run, and he would catch her – that much was inevitable. Where he caught up with her would depend on where he was right now, and given his trick that morning with the locator, he could be closer than she knew.
If she could stay far enough ahead of him to get almost to the border, she could kill him then and run to the highway. Or he’d kill her, and none of this would matter anymore.
She took a drink of water and looked up at the sky. She’d taken her time coming down from the outcropping, and she could just imagine Patrick waiting impatiently for her to reach him.
Or sneaking up on her to alleviate his boredom. She’d find out soon.
Nicole put everything back into her backpack, including the tablet, and palmed the second tracking device while she was at it. She checked the knife to make sure it was secure on her leg, maybe even a little too tight as she didn’t want it to slip.
Taking the hand-made headdress out of her pack, she slipped it in place to cover her head and hide from the actual cameras.
Then she ran.