Lost Asunder

Following a near nine hours on the road, Dana and her three male subordinates are finally almost at their destination. In fact, they have just entered the town of Kayenta, a small eleven thousand soul community which sits some twenty five miles south of Oljato-Monument Valley. The only problem is they have no idea as to where Sanjiv might be in Monument Valley. That, for all Dana’s resources, she has never been able to ascertain and having sat for so many hours with not enough to occupy her mind she is not thrilled by the prospect of having to hunt for her old friend. In fact, she doesn’t actually know if he’s even got her message. It’s possible he hasn’t. There was nothing that could’ve informed her either way. It humours her to know that for all her power, resources and assets she can struggle to find one single man. Perhaps that should worry her. It doesn’t. Only because Sanjiv Khatri is not a man who wishes to be found; and being a former Datastar he is much better versed in avoidance than most normal people, including the ex-cop and two ex-soldiers in this SUV with her.

To make matters worse the sun, not surprisingly, has departed for the day having sunk behind the horizon to illuminate the other side of the world in daylight. It strikes her that perhaps she should’ve left earlier or later. Really any time other than when she did, but her mind was made up and nothing, not even time or daylight was going to stop her. It’s funny for her to think now that her insistence could be the cause for a delay in her plans of finding her old friend.

The director wonders when she became so impatient but concludes as they roll, slowly, through the streets winding deeper into Kayenta, that she has never been impatient, unless it involves… She trails off; the thoughts aren’t worth the consideration. Her mind is better suited for other things. Like what? She doesn’t know. Her feeling is that she needs to keep herself occupied or… Or what you might actually start to regret things you said? She’d give anything to sigh as a result of such a thought having entered her head, it’s because you’re tired she reminds herself, but she cannot afford to. If she were alone it would be quite different but she isn’t. She is fully aware of that largely due to the fact that if she were she wouldn’t feel so drained. Keeping up an appearance, however much of a second nature it may have become will always be exhausting. That is doubly so when there is no opportunity for a break. You didn’t want one? I know, she thinks answering herself. The insinuation that might follow is a chastising one. Thankfully, this time, her tired mind is merciful and offers no such berating.

“Just over twenty miles remaining, Director.” Taren feels obliged to apologise, as well as keep her abreast of progress, but somehow manages to avoid issuing the apology.

Director Marcello hates it when he says sorry without their having been a timescale forced upon him. In truth he couldn’t really have gotten to this point much quicker than he has. If they were accompanied by a motorcade it would’ve been different, but for whatever reason his boss was not inclined to suffer such a gaudy display. That means this has to be sensitive or personal. Taren doubts personal factors into anything with Director Marcello. She doesn’t, and hasn’t ever, struck him as the personal errand type. She’s all business. Yet, why they are out here near the border between Arizona and Utah he continues to find baffling.

“Thank you Taren.” Dana feels obliged to utter in reply. She does so absentmindedly and fails to realise the words she has spoken until they have passed her lips. Noting them and the silent nod that they are answered with brings a flicker of a smile to her face. Her hand again shields her reaction to ensure she maintains appearances. She truly is thankful for what these three men do for her though. Without them her time as director would’ve been considerably harder, as contrary to popular belief people can be irreplaceable. At least in her line of work that is true. And most fail to realise it until it’s too late.

In that moment Dana concludes that she’ll give Roderick, Taren and Silas not only some much deserved extra time off but a fifteen percent raise. The accountants will balk but she holds the purse strings ultimately and if they want to keep their own overpaid and under ignored positions then they will deal with it.

The black SUV with its piercing dipped white headlights makes a turn. Kayenta is quiet, deathly so, not out of the ordinary given its size and the time. Yet, Silas, eyes studying the buildings as they pass thinks he catches sight of movement. If it were at street level he’d be inclined to keep a watchful eye but do nothing further, however this movement was along the rooftops. His hand instinctively wraps around the grip of his concealed weapon in the seconds prior to him informing, “Rooftop movement.”

“Nothing up front.” Roderick announces while Taren continues to slowly drift down the street toward the next crossroads.

“It could be nothing; maybe just some locals getting fresh air or a look at the stars.”

Silas grumbles making it known that he feels such a thing is highly doubtful. Then suddenly there is the loud screeching of tyres. Instinctively Taren brings the SUV to an abrupt halt. They were close to the crossroads. Had he ignored it would’ve potentially put them in a dire situation that could’ve resulted in a t-bone. No way, if that happened, would it have been an accident, but with him having stopped before any potentially disastrous outcome the worry of such a fate died in that moment.

Alas, it soon transpires the screeching tyres were nothing to do with the upcoming junction as proven when no vehicle goes hurtling from left to right or right to left across it.

Taren’s eyes narrow in the moments after but try as he might all he can see is darkness and whatever happens to fall within the twin cones of the SUV’s headlights.

Kayenta has no street lights and Taren can imagine the locals must hate that they’re driving through in the dead of night polluting this little town with the glow of the white piercing lights from this vehicle.

With more than forty seconds having passed and no movement having been seen or heard Roderick feels inclined to query, “You got anything Si?”

“Nah, it’s clear. You must’ve been right about the rooftop movement being locals. There’s nothing now.”

“With the excitement over, Taren please.” Dana orders in the least demanding tone of voice anyone could imagine from a woman with essentially limitless capabilities at her disposal.

Following a curt nod to confirm the order has been received, Taren depresses the pedal. The SUV moves off again, still at a slow glide. It crosses the crossroads and continues down the street as dictated by the onboard navigation visible to everyone via the large square panel, in dark mode, which is nestled into the dashboard between Roderick and Taren.

Dana checks her emails, forty thousand, but hasn’t the energy or in the inclination to peruse them at this late of an hour. Not surprising given how close they are getting to Sanjiv, relatively speaking. Without doubt she is going to need all the energy she can muster to convince and negotiate with the man. Doubtful their reunion will be a happy one. If it were to be he would’ve contacted her upon receiving the message she left. He might not have picked it up as yet! Dana is fully aware but while time is not of the essence, seeing as Warren and the consolidated fragments he is housed upon are going nowhere, that does not mean she is inclined to fritter away more time than is absolutely necessary. Is that a director thing? She can’t be sure but something tells her yes, it is.

“No new movement so that’s a good…” Roderick begins to say. Before he can finish there is an almighty bang. Everyone in the car jumps, but it is Taren who reacts most. He begins to judder, shake and cough. Roderick looks to the man, only to see a patch of red. He snaps his head toward the windscreen. There, dead centre of the driver’s vision but near the base of the windshield is a hole. Roderick’s eyes go wide; he says something that doesn’t register in his ears. Right after he lurches for the wheel. He manages to grab it and wrench it the opposite direction it had begun to drift. It’s an overcorrection, a severe one, but does result in the second shot, which was aimed for Taren’s head, missing and glancing off the armour plate that is the bodywork. Though, before the round pings away it does gouge a long trench in the metal.

Unfortunately, with Taren now unconscious there is nothing and no one to stop his foot from stamped down on the pedal accelerating the SUV seemingly without end. And while Roderick’s actions did avert Taren losing his life with a bullet to the head he cannot do much to change the fact that the SUV is now headed toward the wall of a building.

Dana’s eyes are wide; she doesn’t know what to do. Screaming seems pointless as it strikes her the last time she felt this helpless was watching from the sidelines as Warren fought and gave his life to save the construct. More memories fire through her head, then she hears a second bang. Her eyes, unaware that they had closed, spring open. She anticipates what she’ll find is that they have crashed. They haven’t but Roderick and Silas are both slumped. Roderick is splayed across the centre console, Silas against the door next to him. Panic fills Dana’s chest threatening to suffocate the air from her lungs the grip is so tight. Somehow she manages to push past it, release her seat belt and seeing the wall fast approaching slide to the middle of the rear bench seat and then dive through the gap toward the front of the vehicle. Her efforts are half successful, but try as she might she can’t reach the wheel to grab hold of and turn it.

Bullets begin to pepper the SUV. She ignores them but does look up. The wall is almost upon them. Dana has no idea if anyone else in the SUV with her is still alive, she hopes so but… Now is not the time! The exclamation wrenches her from her thoughts and thrusts her back into the moment. It happens in the nick of time.

Dana throws herself backward onto the bench seat before desperately pulling the seat belt out and across her. It works but she is still left with securing the metal clip into the mount. Try as she might she can’t manage to secure her seat belt while the sound of bullets pinging against the shell of the SUV continues to fill her ears. She dares not look to see how little time is left before the SUV will plough into the wall. If it were daylight Dana might be aware of the composition of the wall but it isn’t and she isn’t. Regardless, it’ll be a sudden sharp deceleration and why she has to get her seat belt into the mount if she has any hopes of… Dana succeeds in driving the clip of the belt into the mount. Relief and joy fill her only to be cut short when the SUV slams at speed into the concrete wall. Dana is thrown forward. She never had the chance to brace herself and so her head collides with the rear of Taren’s headrest.

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