"Do you think I can knock these off?"
"No," I say. They're not coming off without a lock pick or a key. Smacking her wrists into the metal paneling, will only injure her. "Don't waste your energy."
"I can't just sit here and wait for them to kill us," Lucy says. She's frantic, and I don't blame her. It's not just anyone who snatched us at gunpoint. It's the mafia.
If there's any chance that Anton got away, maybe he phoned Mikhail for backup? "I need to get to my phone," I say, reminding her that she has my device tucked inside my coat pocket.
"Go for it," she says, pinning me with her stare. She licks her lips, and while I shouldn't be turned on right now, Lucy seems to always get under my skin and fire me up. Whether it's intentional or not.
With my back to her, I use my bound hands to open the jacket she's wearing. My fingers graze her bare skin, and she inhales a sharp breath. I'm not trying to seduce her, but I can't see anything with my back to her, and my fingers brush over her supple skin as I search for my coat pocket. "You're a little low," she says into my ear, "higher."
She gives me instructions, and I swear if this were sexual, she'd have murdered my ego with her up and down, left, and right fiasco as she eventually guides me to my interior jacket pocket.
I get the sense that she enjoyed that a little too much. I fiddle with my phone and then give up, instead opting to voice dial Mikhail for help.
"You couldn't have started with asking Siri for help?" Lucy quips.
"Not funny," I mutter. But it doesn't matter because the call doesn't go through for whatever reason. "They must be jamming the signal."
"How? We're moving."
"Could have some type of jamming device on the van." I don't see anything in the back with us, but it could be up front or attached to the exterior.
The van exits the highway, and the driver doesn't slow around the bend until he has to slam on his brakes.
I approach the back window, looking outside at the scenery and trying to pinpoint our location. The van jolts forward, and we're on our way again. But this time, we're heading off-road and down a set of railroad tracks.
My stomach tumbles as I glance out the window. "Get up," I command Lucy, and she struggles to her feet.
Where the hell are they taking us?
We're still on the train tracks. Our speed seems to be moving at the same pace as we hear the sound of a door slamming.
Did the driver just bail?
Was it Otello or another one of Antonio's goons?
Another vehicle, a black SUV, waits perpendicular to us as we blaze past them along the railroad tracks.
"We need to get the door open." I turn around, my back to the van door, but it's locked. I wouldn't expect it to be easy. The mafia isn't going to let us walk away. Not if it's up to them.
I grab the door handle with my cuffed wrists, but it doesn't budge. There's no child safety latch on the back door of a van, but the mafia must have done something to rig the door shut from the inside.
I turn and slam the full weight of my body, shoulder-first, aiming to break the glass. The window doesn't break on the first blow, but it shatters on the third. "You need to climb out," I say to Lucy.
"I can't fit through there!"
A train's whistle blows, and Lucy's voice raises an octave. "Nikita, was that what I think it is?"
"There's a train heading right for us."
She senses the urgency and danger as well. I can't see the direction we're heading, but I'm sure the train is approaching head-on. There's only one set of train tracks.
There's only one other option. We break through the barrier to the driver's seat and steer the vehicle off the tracks. "We need to get to the driver's seat. The minute we make it in there, I need you on my lap. You need to steer while I'm your eyes."
Her mouth is agape as I take as much of a running start as possible and slam my shoulder and body into the partition, separating the van from the back. There's a decent dent and a stream of light. The metal is pliable and nothing like the reinforced door. I ignore the stinging pain and searing injury to my shoulder as I repeat the motion and, this time, break through to the driver's seat.
The cabin is empty.
Not that I expected Antonio or any of his men to stick around. They'd jumped while there were plenty of opportunities and driven off in the black SUV, not wanting to be held responsible for our deaths or the impending disaster.
The vehicle is set on cruise control, and I climb into the driver's seat, my hands behind my back. If I hit the brakes, it won't be enough. The train is coming closer. The horn blares at us to get out of the way.
Lucy is ready and doesn't waste a second while straddling my lap, her hands grazing the steering wheel. There's a wall on either side of the brick. "Push left," I say as we swing off the tracks and travel the narrow path between the retaining wall and the train as it whizzes by. I hit the brakes, the passenger mirror clips against the brick wall.
She's gasping, her chest heaving as she rocks inadvertently against my thighs. "Is it over?"
I glance in the rearview mirror. In the distance, the black SUV is closing in, coming toward us. "I wish it were, Malish," I say. "You just need to try to navigate as straight as you can."
I hit the gas, lurching the van forward. "A little right," I say as I give her directions, trying to navigate the narrow path between the train and the wall. As the train breezes past us, I hit the gas harder as the mafia begins to close in on us.
"They're getting closer!" Lucy isn't the only one concerned, not that I voice my fears to her or anyone else.
"It's fine. We've got this," I say, trying to reassure her. "A little left," I navigate, telling her how to steer while we roll along the tracks until we reach a break in the wall and an open road. "Hard right," I say as we veer off the tracks.
There are dozens of train tracks up ahead and another wall, this one much higher than the last at the end of the road.
The rail yard.
Getting out and running isn't an option. We can't outrun the mafia with our hands tied behind our backs. "Lucy, I need you to spin the wheel all the way around."
"What?" I swear I can feel her heart pounding against mine as she trembles in my lap.
"We need to turn around," I say. "This is a death trap." If we stay here, we're as good as dead. Either the mafia kills us, or another train slams into the vehicle.
She exhales a heavy breath and inhales sharply. "When?"
I give her a second until I'm sure we're ready, and as I hit the brakes, I shout, "Now!"
She whips the steering wheel, winding it through her hands, and I work the brake and accelerator as we spin around. We make a good team, even if our driving is rough around the edges. What do you expect with two people handcuffed?
"A little to the right," I say, directing her as we whiz by the black SUV chasing us. My foot is heavy as lead, pressing the gas to the floor as we hurry over dozens of train tracks, including one with a train coming toward us.
I exhale a nervous breath, push the gas to the floor, and we sneak by before the train breezes along the tracks. We narrowly miss getting creamed.
She gasps, and with each breath, her chest heaves—Lucy trembles against me. I don't let up on the gas, but the train has stopped Antonio's men from chasing after us with a quick glance in the rearview mirror. It's bought us time. It's more than I could have hoped for, given the circumstances.
"Now what?" she asks, staring at me. "We need to warn your bratva leader. Won't they go after my son?"