Sam and Scarlet had driven for three straight hours before finally pulling off for a gas and bathroom break. Back on the interstate, they drove for a further two hours when Sam took an exit for a local highway. Scarlet said little during the trip. She slept in the seat some and gazed out the window. North of the city there had been farmland dotted by small towns along the highway. Soon the landscape changed. More trees and less farms and towns. For the last hour on the interstate there was nothing but Pine trees. Scarlet had never seen country like this. She was a city girl who had no desire to leave it. They drove another hour on the state highway before turning off on a gravel road. It wasn’t kept up the best and Sam’s car bottomed out a few times on the ruts. Slowing down, Sam turned onto a one track road, defiantly worse than the gravel road had been. This road led, after a quarter mile to a small cabin in the woods, overlooking a lake. Scarlet’s breath caught.
“This is beautiful,” she said.
“I don’t get here as often as I need to. But it’s here when I do. A good place to hide.”
“That’s what we’re doing, isn’t it? Hiding.”
“Yeah,” said Sam. “We’re hiding. C’mon, I’ll show you around.” Now, sitting in the comfortable cabin, Sam thought it was time he found out what was going on.
Scarlet, wrapped in a blanket and with her own coffee, sighed deeply. Six hours North of the city the air was crisp and cool. “I don’t know where to start.” she said. “Okay. First of all, ‘Lee’ is not my real last name. It’s a name I took for myself when I started working in radio. Sounded better than my real name, and my brother thought it would be wise not to use our real name anyway.” That statement raised about a thousand questions in Sam’s mind, but he kept them to himself. “You see my brother, is, well, to put it plainly, he’s a criminal. He started out doing petty stuff like robbery and grifting. He kept getting better at it and started doing riskier stuff. I’ve always loved him and I’ve tried to get him to give it up but he said it was so lucrative that he couldn’t possibly make that kind of money going straight. And he never got caught. That’s what’s so crazy about him. He’s never been caught for the probably thousands of crimes he’s committed. Anyway, we haven’t talked in probably a year or more. I don’t know what he’s into now, but these suits with the fancy car, they want to find him. That’s why they came to me. I guess they found out he has a sister and figured the best way to flush him out is through me.”
“So they smashed your door in and kidnapped you? Why did they let you come back to your apartment? When I was there.”
“They said they didn’t want to draw attention with keeping me hostage. They wanted people to see me. They didn’t count on you being there but you were. They were watching me the whole time. They had a lot of questions about you. By now they probably know more about you than you do. Are you sure they won’t find this place?”
“The property is owned by a corporation I set up that has no connection with my name or business. I tried to trace it after I bought it. The computer trail keeps running in circles back to the corporation. There’s no connection to me.”
“That was smart considering the company you keep,” Scarlet said.
“So your brother must be into something heavy with these people and they can’t find him. Can you find him?”
“Well, maybe,” Scarlet said. “He lives off the grid, nothing connected to him, kind of like you with this cabin. But I have an email address he set up for me. If I need to get in touch, I can email him. I’ve never used it so I don’t know if it’ll work. I don’t suppose you have internet here?”
“No, I don’t.”
“The suits took my smart phone from me so that’s out.”
“Too easy to trace. You wouldn’t want to use it if you had it. I’ve got an idea. About an hour North of here is the Canadian boarder. We can drive up there tomorrow, find an internet cafe or whatever you call those places, and send your email. We can get some clothes while were waiting. You have your I.D.?”
“Yeah I do, and my passport. They went through everything I had on me but gave it all back. I guess they didn’t think any of it was important. Except my phone. That they kept.”
Sam stood and stretched. He loaded some wood into the fireplace and lit a fire. They had picked up some sandwiches and beer when they stopped for gas, and ate those in front of the fire. At dusk, Sam took Scarlet down to the lake. “I’ve fished here a couple times,” he said.
“You, fishing?” Scarlet asked.
“I haven’t always been a private eye you know. I did have a childhood.”
“Ha! I can’t imagine you as a kid,” Scarlet laughed. “You’re always so stoic and serious. What kind of a kid were you anyway?”
“Being a detective and witnessing the kind of world that I work in, has a tendency to sober you up. I was just a regular kid. Rode my bike, went fishing, you know, kid stuff.”
Scarlet laughed again. “Wow. You were a kid!”
They sat in silence for a while, watching the sun go down. Finally, Sam asked, “What is your real last name?”
“It’s McCree. It’s Scottish.”
The stars came out and Scarlet marveled at the clarity of the night sky and the thousands of stars they could see. Too early for mosquitoes, they stayed out late. Back in the cabin, Sam pulled out some musty smelling blankets. “These will have to do,” he said. “You can take the bedroom. I’ll have the couch.”
A little while later Sam heard the bedroom floor creak and Scarlet opened the door. “Sam?” she asked.
“Yes?” Sam said.
“Will you come here?”
“Sure,” said Sam, as he got up.
At the bedroom door Scarlet asked, “Will you come lay down by me? I don’t want to be alone in here.”
They both climbed into bed, leaving the door open for warmth from the fire, and had the best night sleep either of them could remember in a long while.