"You really need to get off of me, Luke," Alfonzo stated as Jewel waited for a response from the other line of the phone.
Luke immediately adjusted himself and climbed into the back seat, getting Alfonzo's blood on his pant leg on his way back. The car finally slowed down to an even seventy-five miles per hour, and it seemed like a turtle's pace.
Everyone was silent and finally Jewel spoke into the phone. "H-Hello. This is Jewel Laurent. . . I'm with Alfonzo. He says that we need a jet at location four." A muffled woman's voice replied, and the phone call ended. Jewel turned to Alfonzo and her eyes fell to his shoulder wound as she spoke. "The woman said that the jet will be there in an hour, if all runs smoothly on our end. She said that she'll be tracking our location."
Alfonzo did not reply, but his lack of an answer somehow communicated that their plan was moving forward. They were going to France. McKenna shifted in her seat. The combination of nerves, confusion, and nausea caused by Alfonzo's injury was sinking in hard. "Jewel. . . can you turn up the air?" Since the back window was missing and the airflow seemed like nothing less than a tornado, Jewel didn't move.
Realizing that McKenna apparently didn't have a stomach of steel when it came to blood, Luke turned and tried to help her. "Do you need something cold? I have a melted slushee. It's cherry."
McKenna leaned down and put her head between her knees and Luke brushed tiny shards of the rear window from her hair. A slushee was the last thing she wanted, let alone a melted slushee. All she wanted was to see her mom, even though Alfonzo had promised her that her mother was safe and under close watch. She wanted to be back in her little town of Artichoke, back with her Zombie-obsessed best friend, Greg, working on their history project that was due next week. She didn't want to fly to France to where only mysteries were about to unfold. Only the unknown would result. Only danger would be greeting them when they arrived.
Then her mind drifted back to that day at the train station in Gare du Nord, France. Back when life seemed to be simple. Back to the day she found a brown paper bag on the seat next to hers. When that dark-eyed boy appeared from the crowd and snatched the bag from her grasp. She could still taste her confusion and curiosity as he bolted away with the fashion-deprived, middle-aged man with the newspaper. They both disappeared in the cab after the boy gave her that pleading, knowing look. . .
With a jolt, McKenna awoke from a deep sleep. Although she had fallen asleep with her head uncomfortably on her knees, she felt energized. Looking up at the clock on the dashboard, she was surprised to find that she had only slept for about an hour. Ron was sound asleep next to her, his head looking straight up so as to rest it on the seat behind him. He was probably snoring, but she couldn't hear over the sound coming in through the broken window.
Jewel was curled up in a ball in the passenger seat with her hood on. She looked pretty helpless like that, rather than sarcastic and bitter like she was when she was awake. McKenna wondered what it would be like to have a gang banger trying to hunt her down. She realized that it just might be a little more frightening than what she felt now--the idea of hunting down the gang banger for some unknown reason that Alfonzo had yet to disclose.
She felt Luke next to her adjust his position. He was leaning against the window, face in palm, mouth wide open. He amused McKenna. He always seemed to act older than he really was, and always making sure she was happy. They barely knew each other, but she appreciated his concern for her, and was grateful to have a friend on this new and frightening journey. She wondered if Luke knew what would happen when they arrived in France--if Alfonzo ever updated him on their next plan of action, or if Luke just always followed his commands, trusting that the plan would unfold to the expected results.
Nearly forgetting that Alfonzo had just been shot just over an hour ago, McKenna blurted out, "Fonz, how's your arm?" The sleeping passengers jerked awake.
Alfonzo found it almost as odd as McKenna that she'd chosen to use the nickname Luke always used for his uncle. They both ignored this, and Alfonzo responded with, "My shoulder is okay. There will be someone on the jet to remove the bullet. But the tourniquet you made seemed to stop the bleeding just fine." The gang all looked down at McKenna's sweater that wrapped around his bloody shoulder and arm. "We're about five minutes away from the jet, now."
Long minutes passed as the car sifted through the darkness of the early morning. Everyone started to stretch and adjust themselves to feel more awake. As the car turned down a tree-enclosed road, they could see a light just ahead of them. McKenna guessed that it was the platform for the private jet. Soon enough, her assumption was verified. A small jet, one that was smaller than she'd imagined, was parked on a large, cement platform. The jet was black and only about fifteen feet long. The plane was more than ominous--dark and leering at them with thin, green 'W''s on the side.
Alfonzo pulled up next to the platform and turned off the car. He opened the door and stood up, and everyone else remained sitting, gawking at the next ten hours of their day.
Luke broke the hush. "Well, who's ready for a ride?" He turned to McKenna and smiled with his half-smile. She could tell that he was nervous for what lay ahead of them. She wondered if Luke had ever flown on Alfonzo's jet at location four, let alone at any of Alfonzo's "locations". He broke their eye contact and opened the car door. "Let's go."
Jewel got out of the car without saying anything. She and Luke wandered over to their uncle, who was talking to a tall man standing on the platform. The man was wearing a headset and sunglasses, even though it was still dark outside.
Neither McKenna nor Ron moved from their seats. They both stared as Alfonzo talked with the tall man, who were obviously discussing his injured shoulder.
"McKenna," Ron began. "Hand me your cell phone."
McKenna automatically reached to her pocket. "Luke took it from me when we were in your office," she responded, after finding her pocket was empty.
"I know, but when we got to the car, he slipped it in the side pocket of the door. Please hand it to me. I don't trust Alfonzo, and I want to have that phone with me. Just in case."
She reached over to the door, and sure enough, her phone was waiting there. Obediently she handed it to her father and said, "I really think Alfonzo is probably trustworthy."
"Emphasis on the 'probably' in that sentence. That's not enough for me." He slipped the phone into his pocket, kissed his daughter's head, and got out of the car. He reached his hand out to help McKenna out and asked, "Are you ready?"
Feeling a little more energized from her catnap in the car, McKenna felt a little more confident than she had just after the car chase. She gave her father a half-hearted nod, took his hand, and got out of the car. Together they walked over to Luke, Jewel, and Alfonzo, who had finished talking to the sunglasses man and were now discussing their next plan of action.
"The ride will be just over ten hours," Alfonzo explained. "We'll arrive at a platform just north of Le Havre. There, we'll split up and take a train to Paris. It'll be risky to be separated, but safer than if we all traveled together. McKenna and Luke: you'll be together. It makes the most sense, with your ages and the public observing you. The three of us," he gestured to Ron and Jewel, "will go together." McKenna didn't like the idea of being split up from her dad, and she could tell that he didn't like the idea any better. "It's only about three hours on the train, and then we'll make it to the station in Paris. And that's where our journey really begins." He turned and climbed onto the fluorescent-lit platform, not allowing any questions to be asked or answered. After motioning for the gang to follow him, they all plodded onto the platform, and headed after Alfonzo toward the jet.
A small door opened, and Alfonzo climbed onto the stairs and into the plane, holding his arm all the while. Jewel followed suit, and Luke turned to McKenna. "You set?"
"Yeah," McKenna lied. "Hey, what about all the stuff we bought back at the grocery store? It's still in the car?"
"Alfonzo's boys will get it. They'll take care of us. But. . . Are you ready? You okay?"
"Alfonzo's boys will get it. They'll take care of us. But. . . Are you ready? You okay?"
"Yeah, I am," she lied again. Luke reached out and squeezed McKenna's hand.
"Me, too," he said, with his usual confidence and half smile. He let go of her hand, turned, and followed Jewel onto the jet.
"Ready for this, Dad?" McKenna asked her father without looking at him.
"I'm not sure I have a choice, Kenna. But I can be ready if you are."
McKenna grabbed the rail of the stairs leading to the aircraft. "I'm not really sure what exactly I'm doing or what's going to happen. . . But I think I'm ready for it." This time, as she glanced up to the friend she'd only had for a day, she wasn't lying about being ready for the adventures and mysteries that lay ahead.