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It was the small tinge of wildness in the blond’s eyes that had Morgan Day pausing—wildness at rest, because the young man wasn’t at all agitated. He wasn’t doing anything but standing there, tray in hand while he stared at Morgan. Then Morgan saw a small ripple of recognition swim over those near-black eyes and only years of hiding in plain sight allowed him to keep his response to a purely internal shit.
He forced his own gaze to pass over the young man. Forced himself to pat his pockets as if he’d slowed merely to confirm that he had everything he needed. His steps were measured and sure as he moved on, eyes straight ahead as his mind muttered left, right, left, right, feet following the careful cadence from long years of practice. He held to it until he rounded the corner, at which point, he…ran.
Blocks passed in an eternity that seemed to stretch on and on, but he didn’t dare move any faster. He could hurt someone by accident, moving at full speed, but more importantly, running full-tilt into some strolling person just wandering about as people were prone to do on warm and sunny Saturday afternoons might hurt him. Might slow him down enough that he wouldn’t make it in time.
The deli slipped past then a block farther, the laundry. He slowed there to look through the glass storefront then slid back into his fast jog. Plenty of people, but not the ones that mattered. Then the little grocery where they did all their shopping and three doors down, the local pawn shop.
Morgan ducked inside, one hand digging deep into his pants’ pocket as he tried to remember exactly how much cash he had with him.
Not enough. He knew that for a fact as he exited the store, one side of his jacket weighed down by his purchases. Not nearly enough, which meant he would have to take a chance later, but he’d work it out. He would. It wouldn’t be the first time, after all.
Two more blocks that he ran by memory, knowing what lay between the pawn shop and the dingy little second storey walk-up they were calling home for the moment.
“Ellie!” he called out, even as he fumbled with his keys, the urgency singing through his veins, screeching a nails-on-chalkboard soprano that hurt so much nothing would help other than having it stop. “Ellie! Rico! We gotta move!”
The door swung too far, knob slamming into the wall behind it from his hard shove.
“Morgan!” Ellie shrieked, the sound loud and strident and almost as bad as the urgent need to get the hell away, to get out. “There goes our deposit, damn it!”
“Christ! Fuck the deposit, Ellie, we need to fucking go!”
He was already shoving a few extra things into the big duffel bag he would shoulder like he always did, and Rico was doing the same, though slower and with a smaller bag. But Ellie? God damn it, Ellie was just standing there as if they had all the time in the world. As if she’d really believed they’d be staying this time. In Brooklyn. For long enough to get the deposit back on the one room shit-box when their so-called lease expired.
“Damn it, Ellie,” Morgan growled, ignoring her crossed arms and narrowed green glare. “Get your shit! We’re already on borrowed time!” His own bag full enough that he could barely clip the top closed, he tossed it at the door and started in on her backpack. Her entirely empty camping backpack. “Jesus fucking Christ! Which part of ‘always be ready’ do you not understand? Or are you just tired of breathing?”
It wasn’t until he came out of the bathroom a few minutes later to throw what Ellie called her ‘girly supplies’ into her bag that she seemed to realise he was serious, and damn it, Morgan would make her pay for making him touch them. Later. Once they were gone and safe. Once Rico was safe.
“You’re serious,” Ellie nearly whispered, her usually gold-toned face suddenly white and stark. Good. It meant she was remembering. Meant she was finally catching up with just how screwed they would all be if she didn’t get her ass in gear.
“I’m always serious,” Morgan grunted, checking the straps on Rico’s backpack, which was necessarily much smaller than Ellie’s, but no less important to them all. “Here,” he said, giving Rico a smile as he pulled the snub-nosed revolver from his jacket and handed it over. “You remember how to use this, don’t you, Rico? Brace yourself against a wall or something big and sturdy—”
“Point, aim low and shoot. Duh.” Well, at least Rico was on board, which was more than Morgan could say for Ellie because she was still just standing there, bone-pale and shaking.
“Damn it, Ellie, get your fucking bag on and let’s go!” He could be wrong. It was possible. Maybe the guy at that café hadn’t really recognised him, but Morgan couldn’t take that chance, couldn’t afford to even hope. Not with Ellie and Rico’s lives depending on him to trust his instincts. “Or do you want the kid in their hands?”
If he’d cared any less for Rico, he would have gone easier on Ellie, but while his and Ellie’s lives were at stake in one way, Rico’s was endangered in an entirely different manner. Morgan would die himself if it meant keeping Rico from whatever the people after them had planned, even without knowing exactly what that was.
It couldn’t be good; that much Morgan was sure of. Any group that would resort to illegal means to ‘acquire’ a child once the legal avenues had been exhausted couldn’t possibly want that same kid for philanthropic reasons.
“Okay,” Ellie finally answered, pack on her back and strapped solidly around her waist. “Let’s do this.” She was breathing fast and hard, but she looked steady, finally. Ready.
Thank God, if he even existed. If he did, Morgan figured he’d forgive the uncertainty. After all, God would have to know exactly what the three of them had been through in the last two years. It was enough to shake anyone’s faith, especially someone who’d never been a true believer.
“You and Rico will need to hide once we get to the bodega,” Morgan said, giving Ellie a quick nod when he saw the nine millimetre held down beside her leg. She was thinking again. Good. “I have to collect that package then we’re out of here.”
“For fuck’s sake, Morgan, you couldn’t have taken care of that first?”
Morgan nodded, short and sharp, as he hit his zone and emotion drained away. “I could have. I thought it was more important to get the two of you out of here before our ‘visitors’ crashed the party. Now shut the fuck up and follow my lead. You too, Rico. We’re nowhere near out of the woods yet.”
“Or even out of Brooklyn,” Rico piped in, and Morgan would have to remember that later. Would have to tell Rico that being precocious was all well and good, but being a smug little pain in the ass was another thing entirely. Later.