Robert went through the attacker’s pockets, putting their contents into his own pockets. He did not remove his gloves. Petra did as he told her to do, getting a pair of shoes she could run in and a skirt that did not trip her up. But there was no time and she barely got dressed before he was pulling her out of there. She grabbed her purse and followed him out of the door to the bank of elevators.
“Do you expect anyone you know to still be in the hotel, perhaps in the lobby?”
“No, they leave after the parties. They live in the city. But the workers in the lobby know who I am. They always speak to me.” He took a look at the elevators then kept walking, never letting go of her. He walked with her through a darkened ball room, and to the freight elevator, taking a chance on the one that got him up here. The thing about paying off the help is there is always someone around to pay them more to cross you. The elevator operator took them to the ground floor and gave them a verbal map of how to get through and out of the parking garage to street level. Robert thanked him after paying him some more. Petra was silent.
Outside the garage Robert grabbed her hand and yanked on her arm, and they started to run, going three blocks past what the man suggested. Robert hailed a taxi, pushing off any efforts by Petra to talk about the past, especially Niagara Falls. He didn’t want to hear what was her part in all of it. He did not even want to hear her apologize. He was not convinced that she wouldn’t just lie to him at this point. At home, he might be ready to hear it, but not here. Not yet. The sight of her pained him, every moment. But he also felt as if he was home in some way, that he had met her and seen and smelled and touched what he had been looking for when he left America to go and find her.
He had hired a P.I. after getting some advice. Not all advice turned to him retrieving Petra from Europe and her husband who would probably try to do away with her. But that was the advice he chose to follow. All this occurred after he got out of jail. He spent weeks there until they had exhausted the facts and the evidence and there wasn’t anything with which to hold him. The police knew that before they let him go. But he saw it and axed the whole bit. His lawyer came in and tore up the joint, threatened to press charges, and brought him home. That was the day he hired Margil to be his private detective. He had been on the police force before he scrapped that to go to law school. Robert had known that he would never find Petra on his own.
He had always been good at putting his cash on the right horse. He still saw Petra as a thoroughbred. He loved her. Maybe the criminal in her excited him in a perverse way he was not willing to explore. But he could not live without her. That was the one sure thing. Another thing that he believed was that Perkins was manipulating her.
“Pull over here Mac.” He pulled out a bill and handed it to the cabbie at the curb. When the driver went for his change, he yelled back, ‘Keep it!’
They got out and he took her hand, less roughly this time, leading her into an alley. From that alley they turn down the side street, then across the street to another alley. It would be light soon. She could just see a break in the clouds. She still didn’t speak. He was silent and she drew from his example, following him and believing everything he would occasionally tell her. As they stopped in an alley to take a breath, she thought about her daydreams earlier. She wondered if she concocted him herself.
“Airport. We are going to the airport. We have forty-five minutes still, to make it. C’mon.”
Down the next street there was what he was looking for-cars lined up along the curb in front of a row of brownstones, foggy as if they were parked there in the night. He picked one and gambled on finding a key in the ignition. No such luck. He leaned over on the seat and yanked out the ignition wires, hot-wiring it. He didn’t pray much but he prayed just then, while trying to start that car. It was the only thing stopping them now, to get to the airport on time. The engine turned over and there was a hum, a sweet, beautiful hum of a well maintained vehicle. He didn’t have to tell Petra to get in, she slid onto the passenger seat and shut the door gently. She would have to slam it when they got away from there.
On the highway, Robert’s eyes were on the road, watching the signs to the airport. Time was almost up. He worked out his plan in a very tight, close way. They would have had to wait for hours to get another plane to the states tonight, and they did not have hours, once Perkins found her missing. At O’hare, they would get on a flight to Paris and wait there for the flight to America in the morning. It was all set. Something little like sleep was not going to muck it up.
Petra looked relieved, but also sullen. He wouldn’t talk to her. He was cold and hard. She deserved that, but at the same time she wanted to feel him embrace her once more. It was all she had thought about for days.
“I am sorry. I was wrong to listen to him. I was wrong to hurt you.”
He jerked his eyes from the road for a moment, burning them into her head like coals.
“Who said I’m hurt?”