Nobody Runs Forever - Part 20

Part 20

"There's too many choppers out," Dalesia said. "Why not put them across the road, beside the house there?"

"It's empty," McWhitney objected. "The locals are gonna know they don't belong."

Parker said, "Nick's right. From the helicopter, our cars look as though we're trying to hide. Next to a house, they're normal. Tomorrow, we'll get them out of here."

"Not in the morning, though," Dalesia said. "This heat isn't gonna go away for a while."

McWhitney said, "I tell you what. I'll put my pickup in front of the church, and Parker puts his car next to the house across the street. That way, during the day tomorrow, I'm a guy doing maintenance and he's the real estate broker."

Dalesia laughed. "I like your story lines," he said. "Parker?"


They stepped out from under the lean-to, but then, from far off to their right, they heard the flap-flap again, and moved back inside. The helicopter never came close, but the noise of it ricocheted from the ground for about three minutes, while that thin vertical light moved over there like a pendulum made of a fluorescent tube.

At last the helicopter moved on, out of sight and out of sound, and then they moved the cars, Parker leaving the Dodge in front of the separate garage at the end of the driveway on the left side of the house.

He was about to turn back when he saw headlights approaching from the right, the same direction they'd come from. He dropped to the ground beside the Dodge and watched a car with a bubble light on top, unlit, hurry by; SHERIFF SHERIFF could be faintly read on the door. could be faintly read on the door.

After the sheriff's department car left, Parker stood and went back across the road, where Dalesia had the church front door open and called to him, "Come in over here."

It was very dark inside the church. There were too many large windows down both sides to permit them to use a light. Parker shut the door behind himself and spoke into the dark: "That was a sheriff's car."

"Well, they're out and about," Dalesia said. "You got that flashlight?"

"For what?"

"There's got to be a bas.e.m.e.nt in here," Dalesia told him. "For Boy Scout meetings, ladies' auxiliary, AA."

McWhitney said, "Maybe the coffeemaker's still there."

Parker held his fingers over the flashlight lens, switched it on, separated the first two fingers slightly, and by that faint light they moved around the church, which had wide straight lines of dark wood pews and a central aisle, a railing across the front, and beyond it a bare plaster wall. Whatever altar and decorations had once been there were gone.

A door to the left of the entrance opened on stairs up to a pocket choir loft and down to a U-turn a half flight below. "That's what we want," Dalesia said.

It was. They went down, past the U-turn in the stairs, and below the church was a long, low-ceilinged rectangular room with cream walls and a pale, worn linoleum floor. Shelves and counters filled the wall along the back, amid s.p.a.ces where stove, refrigerator, and dishwasher had been. The double sink was still there, but when they twisted the faucets, nothing happened.

The most interesting part was the windows, narrow horizontal ones down both sides of the room, high up near the ceiling, that cranked out and up. To each window had been added two narrow wooden strips, attached to the wall above and below the window, with a sliding cream-painted sheet of thin plywood between that could be moved either to block the window or to clear it. The system looked crude and homemade, but effective.

Looking at the windows, Dalesia said, "They showed movies down here. Close them, we're gonna be fine."

They slid all the plywood panels shut, and McWhitney said, "Shine your flash on a couple windows on that side, I'll go up and see does anything show through."

He was gone, up into the darkness, for about three minutes, while Parker shone the light at two of the plywood panels, and when he came back down, he said, "Dark as h.e.l.l up there. Nothing showed."

"Good," Dalesia said.

"Also," McWhitney said, "another chopper went by."

"Not good."

"You know it. I just got back inside before the light went right over this place."

Dalesia said, "It did? We didn't see a thing."

"So that's good, then," McWhitney said, and looked around, saying, "Do you suppose the power still comes in here?"

"The panel's back there, where the refrigerator used to be," Dalesia said, and they went back to take a look. When they opened the circuit breaker box, the main switch at the bottom had been moved to Off, and all the circuit switches were also set at Off. A paper chart pasted to the inside of the metal door showed which breaker ran which circuit.

Dalesia studied the list. After a minute he said, "Rec. That would be rec room, right? Suppose there's any law going by out there?"

McWhitney said, "I'll go up. When I get there, you throw the switch. If I holler, switch it off again."


Parker said, "Let's make sure something's on," and he walked back to the stairs with McWhitney, where a set of four light switches was mounted on the wall. He flipped one of them up and said, "We'll see what happens."

"Give me a minute," McWhitney said, and went away upstairs. Parker stayed by the light switches, and Dalesia, with Parker's flashlight, stayed by the circuit breaker box.

McWhitney called down, "Try it now."

Parker said to Dalesia, "He says, now."

Dalesia moved first the main switch and then the circuit breaker switch marked "rec," and fluorescents in the dropped ceiling, down at his end, began to sputter into life. Parker called up to McWhitney, "It's on. Anything up there?"

"Nothing." McWhitney came back down and said, "I had to close the door at the top of the stairs, some light comes up there. But now we'll be fine." Looking out at the rec room, he said, "Snug. We're gonna be snug."

Parker flipped on one more switch, so now they had pockets of light at both ends of the room. Dalesia came over to give Parker back his flashlight and to say, "No coffeemaker, though. In fact, no water."

"We got bottled water and candy and stuff stashed out back," McWhitney said. "And now we got light and a roof down here. Come on, we'll get the stuff and bring it down, and then we'll just wait it out till morning, see what we got then."

They started for the stairs, Parker flicking on the flashlight, and Dalesia paused to say, "You know what we got here? It's not just light and a roof. We're in a church, Nels. What we got, we got sanctuary."


Parker woke first. The original idea had been, they would come here and divvy the boxes from the truck right away, Dalesia taking Jake's piece with him, Parker taking Briggs's. They might sleep a while in the vehicles, but then they would leave early in the morning. McWhitney would drive the rental truck, because his name was on the paperwork, while Dalesia would take McWhitney's pickup with his and McWhitney's shares in it. Parker, finished, would head home, while McWhitney dropped off the truck at a nearby office of the rental company and then drove Dalesia to the parking lot in Rutherford where the Audi had been left.

Except it wasn't going to work like that. Law enforcement in recent years had come to expect an attack from somewhere outside the United States, that could hit anywhere at any time and strike any kind of target, and they'd geared up for it. Because of that, the few hours Parker and the other two had been counting on weren't there.

They couldn't leave this place, not yet, not with the money from the bank on them, but they couldn't stay here either. Having electricity all by itself wasn't enough. They needed food, they needed water, and they needed a better place to sleep than a wooden pew in the church, which was at least a little less hard and cold than the linoleum floor downstairs.

When Parker opened his eyes, lying on his back on the pew, pale early morning light gleamed in through the windows on the left side of the church, and darkness seemed to be drawn out through the windows on the right. His body stiff, he sat up and saw that Dalesia and McWhitney still slept on nearby pews. He got to his feet, stretched, bent, and then went to the front door. He opened it, made sure no traffic was going by, then went out, moved around to the rear of the church, relieved himself, and washed face and hands with bottled water. Far away, he heard the flap-flap, but then it faded.

Back inside the church, he went up to take a look at the choir loft, and saw that it had a round window at the back, above the front door. As he looked out through it, a state police car drove by. He watched it, then stepped back and looked at the s.p.a.ce.

It was very cluttered. As wide as the church below, it was a narrow area with a railed opening at the front, above the main church. At one time, it had been lined with rows of wooden folding chairs. These, along with a lot of cardboard boxes of the same sort as the ones they'd taken from the bank, were now stacked up almost everywhere. Parker opened one of the boxes, and it was full of hymnals, heavy books with thick shiny paper and speckled dark red covers.

Was there anything to do with these boxes? They weren't exactly like the ones from the bank, though very similar. It was a style of box with a separate cardboard top and fairly long sides that was sold to be used as storage. A dull white, they had handholds cut into the two narrow ends. When television showed U.S. marshals carrying evidence into federal courtrooms, they used these boxes.

How could Parker and the others make use of these things? Put a top layer of hymnals over the cash underneath? But at a roadblock, any cop was likely to lift at least one book.

Parker heard movement downstairs, looked over the front railing, and saw the other two starting to rouse. Dalesia looked up, saw him, and said, "Anything interesting up there?"

"I don't think so."

Parker went downstairs, and McWhitney said, "After I go out and take a leak, I'll drive somewhere and find us something to eat. Then we gotta figure out what we're gonna do around here."

"How we're gonna get away away from here," Dalesia said. from here," Dalesia said.

McWhitney shook his head. "With the profits? I don't think so. I'll be back."

"I'll walk you out," Dalesia said.

They left the building, and Parker went back downstairs, switching on the lights. There were closets and cabinets down here, and a storeroom and a room with the furnace and water heater. Parker searched everywhere and found nothing of use. Anything that could be removed without structural damage had been taken out of here.

He went back upstairs, and Dalesia was in the choir loft. He called down, "You see these boxes?"


"Like ours."

"Doesn't help."

"Yeah, I know. Only it's like a coincidence."

Except it wasn't; those were the boxes you got when you needed boxes and when, like a bank or a church, you didn't get your boxes from your neighborhood liquor store.

Dalesia came downstairs. Inside the chipper manner, he looked worried. "It wasn't supposed to go like this," he said.

"I know."

"We were supposed to get out right away."

"We couldn't."

"But the longer we stick around, the worse it gets. What if it's a week before they call off the search?" With a gesture at the open, empty church, he said, "We can't stay here here that long." that long."

"I know it."

"We don't have a base, Parker," Dalesia said. "We need a base."

"We need to get out out of here," Parker said. of here," Parker said.

McWhitney brought coffee and pastries and news: "I heard it on the radio in the pickup; they got Jake."

The three were sitting on pews at the front of the church to eat their breakfasts. Dalesia said, "What do you mean, they got Jake? He's in the hospital."

"He went outa there last night," McWhitney said. "Don't ask me why. The cops found him this morning, wandering around in his hospital pj's. They said he was disoriented."

"Sounds it," Dalesia said.

"But then," McWhitney said, "they said he was cooperating."

"Oh?" Dalesia frowned. "Disoriented and and cooperating?" cooperating?"

"His sister's with the cops," McWhitney said. "She's the one they quoted on the radio. Her brother's cooperating."

Parker said, "She's cooperating." cooperating."

"Sure," Dalesia said. "Trying to help her brother, soften the blow."

"Well, what do they know, those two?" McWhitney asked. "They don't know me at all. They could describe you guys."

Dalesia said, "Jake could make a little trouble for me. Not for Parker. But I'll have to move around some."

Parker said, "They'll sink the wife."

"Christ, they will," Dalesia said. "And the doctor, you think?"

Parker shook his head. "The doctor didn't do anything. He thought he was gonna do something, but then he didn't have to. If he just keeps his mouth shut now, he's fine."

McWhitney finished his coffee and threw the plastic cup at the wall where the altar used to be. "He's fine," he said. "What about us? Parker, every move we make outside this building is full of risk. The cops are fine," he said. "What about us? Parker, every move we make outside this building is full of risk. The cops are everywhere. everywhere. It said on the radio, they're bringing in cops from out of state. It said, if they don't find us in three days, maybe they'll bring in the National Guard. The weapons we used, and the fact it's a bank, the feds are part of it." It said on the radio, they're bringing in cops from out of state. It said, if they don't find us in three days, maybe they'll bring in the National Guard. The weapons we used, and the fact it's a bank, the feds are part of it."

Dalesia said, "We've got to get out of this part of the country. We've just got to."

"You haven't been out there," McWhitney told him. "I was just a few minutes each way, stayed on little nothing roads, I was stopped twice, show ID, search the car, thank you very much. One of the cops, I said I'm headed back to Long Island, he gave me a friendly advice, stay away from the Ma.s.sPike, it's a horror scene down there, roadblocks every exit, traffic backed up to Boston." He laughed, without much humor. "There's a lot of drivers out there this morning, Nick," he said, "don't like us guys at all."

"But there's still no choice," Dalesia said. "We've still got to move on away from here."

Parker said, "The problem is the cash. We can't carry it, and we can't stay here, so the only thing to do, we leave it. We can scoop out a handful each, but that's it."

McWhitney looked deeply pained. "Leave it? After what we went through to get it?" it? After what we went through to get it?"

Parker said, "You put even one of those boxes of cash in your pickup, on the seat beside you, or I put it in the trunk of my car, the first roadblock we come to we're done."

"I know that, Parker," McWhitney said. "I was just out there. But there's got to be some way we can move that cash around the cops or through them or something. something."

"Nothing," Parker said. "There's nothing."

McWhitney hated this. "So whadda we do, then? We just leave leave it all here? I can't walk away from that truck out there, Parker, I rented that in my own name. So what are we supposed to do, just dump it all out on the ground?" it all here? I can't walk away from that truck out there, Parker, I rented that in my own name. So what are we supposed to do, just dump it all out on the ground?"

"No," Parker said. "We stash it."