"Yup, I went through every room and we haven't left anything behind. I think anyone would be hard-pressed to find evidence we were ever here."
"All right," he said, closing the trunk to his new used car. It wasn't much to look at, but it was roadworthy, which was important. He wasn’t certain how many miles he'd end up putting on it before ditching it for yet another one.
The two weeks had flown by. As tempting as it was to stay longer, they were taking a risk being here now. They'd both seen evidence the last couple of nights that other cabins on the lake were inhabited, which meant it was time to move on. All he could do was hope it was enough time for the Dollhouse to be scratching their heads over where they'd run off to. He had no doubt they would continue looking.
They'd worked on many things while here. He'd gone over how to use the various guns he had just in case the situation arose she needed to use them. She was now proficient with all aspects of fishing. Something that may not seem important, but on the run fishing and hunting could be the only means of survival one had. He hadn't the time to work on hunting with her, but when they got where they were going he could work on that. Although, he remembered vividly one of her personalities had been hunting and imagined that knowledge was still in there somewhere.
She'd also worked on cooking, which had been her idea. He didn't mind doing the cooking, but she had wanted to help. He'd also worked with her on driving. She took to it easily, but she'd been hesitant, almost scared of it when he broached the subject. He wasn't sure why, surely Caroline had held a driver's license.
And they'd worked on other, more basic social things that she was lacking. They'd watched movies, TV, and even music videos together. The radio was very rarely ever off and they'd changed things up as far as the type - as much as the rural area allowed them to anyway. She'd torn through the pages of the various magazines he'd purchased. She needed to be better acclimated to the society he was going to be thrusting her into. There was such a thing as too much lack of knowledge, so he wanted to ensure she was aware of basic things going on around them. Her not knowing who Britney Spears or Lindsey Lohan was could land them in hot water faster than her not knowing the difference between a lentil and a lima bean.
After the night of the storm, she'd managed to find her way into his room at bedtime for one reason or another. He didn't mind the company truth be told and had never told her to leave. Sometimes they didn't fall asleep for hours, talking until they could find nothing else to talk about.
That was something else important, he imagined. Whatever they were going to be to one another when they got to Cleveland, they had to be convincing that they actually knew one another and had been living together.
He'd debated about leaving his friend a note or some money. He'd forgone both for different reasons and knew if Cliff ever found out, he'd understand. Or at least not hold it against Boyd. They'd cleaned up after themselves and spent most of last night and this morning doing every bit of laundry from the house they'd used no matter how little.
He needed the money he had on him and could always send him something later to payback the use of his cabin. They'd spent very little while here, his only expenses having been the basic necessities and the new car. Once they got away from here, though, things would cost more and there was no telling when he'd find a job. Or how much said job would pay.
The note he'd decided against because they'd spent the morning thoroughly cleaning every inch of the place, including the fish cleaning table, so that no evidence of their being here could be found. Everything they might have touched was wiped down. He hated taking such extreme precautions, but he had to be safe in the event Cliff was ever tracked down. Leaving a note would just provide further proof they'd been here.
He threw the car into drive and watched Echo as they pulled away from their wooded getaway for the last time. They'd left a couple of times to make the drive to town, but overall they'd holed themselves up here for two weeks straight, having no one but one another to talk to.
"I like it here."
"I'll remember that."
She laughed a little, resting her head against the back of her seat. "Like we're going to be able to come back."
"There are other cabins in other woods, Echo."
"I thought we'd stand out?"
"Living some place like this, yes. Coming to stay at one of the several resorts around this part of the country for a week or two, no. We'd just be two out of several thousand that do it every summer."
"I'll hold you to that."
"I hope you do," he said.
They stopped at the local dump site to unload their trash and from there they were gone. He wasn't in as much of a hurry this time as when he'd fled the Dollhouse with a very confused Echo along for the ride. His plan was simple, or at least he thought it was and hoped that it would work. Stay on the major highways, keep the car at the speed limit or with the flow of traffic (within reason), and not straying too far off the highway when it came to filling up the car or getting their meals.
They'd packed a cooler before leaving with sandwiches, fruit and some other things, so they wouldn't need to stop much for a day or two. She didn't feel comfortable driving for long stretches, but she'd be able to get him a break here and there. That would allow them to drive further every day.
Their first stop was Detroit. He left Echo behind at their motel for his errand. He didn't want anyone he actually knew - no matter how remotely - to see her. If questioned they could say they didn't see them together. Not that he believed that would fool the Dollhouse's people. And this stop was to someone who dealt in all sorts of illegal activities. There was no sense exposing her to that, or making this contact fear that someone was going to rat them out.
This was the biggest expense he would be undertaking until he got a job. Identification. He'd come across this guy's operation on a case years ago. He'd never busted the guy because over the years he'd proven helpful. While not providing specific information, he had divulged to Boyd whether he'd seen a person. Anyone in this area who wanted to start fresh used Dmitri's services, though most of it was second or third hand so very few knew Dmitri's name, location, or most importantly his face. He was connected, how deeply Boyd never found out but Dmitri most definitely had ties to the mob.
"I see nothing's changed," Boyd said through the smoke infested room. "Haven't you heard about second hand smoke?"
"I figure," Dmitri said in his thickly accented voice, "most my clients don't care about a little exposure when their lives are so utterly in the toilet."
"Good point," Boyd said.
"Was surprised you called."
"You are last person on earth I ever expect to want to get off the grid."
"Things happen, Dmitri. You know how it is."
"You involved in something bad?"
"Something like that."
"Well, Dmitri fix you up."
"I appreciate it," he said, handing over enough cash to buy a small house in some locations of the United States. That money, however, bought everything needed to have a legitimate ID for both him and Echo. As legitimate as false ones could be anyway. There were even a couple of credit cards in there. He wouldn't use those until they got to Cleveland and needed to purchase things like furniture for them to live.
"This girl. She your girl?"
"Seems so, though it's rather complicated."
"She very pretty."
"Yes, she is. You keeping your nose out of trouble?"
"Good. Keep it that way, I doubt I'll be back."
"Good luck to you and the girl."
"Thank you, Dmitri," Boyd said, pocketing everything before walking to his car. He didn't know for certain Dmitri wouldn't turn on him, had no idea if anyone would even know Boyd knew him. He never put down on paper anything about Dmitri.
He used the pay-as-you-go cell phone to call the motel room, let the phone ring twice and hung up. He'd already checked out of the room and the car was packed, so as soon as he pulled up Echo got in and they were on their way. He handed her the envelope with her new information in it.
"You actually did it," she said, sounding rather excited as she thumbed through what was to be her last alias of her lifetime. Hopefully anyway.
"I did." He paused, glancing at her once he'd merged onto the highway. "You were serious, weren't you?"
"Well, yeah, it's just so odd seeing it in print, all official like."
"I couldn't choose your name for you, Vivian," he said, using her new name for the first time. He'd have to get used to it.
"Oh, I totally get that, and I appreciate you letting me choose."
"Why did you pick Vivian anyway?"
"I don't know," she said, setting the envelope and its contents in her lap for a moment. "The name came to me. I don't know if I knew someone who had it or what."
"It's a pretty name."
"And as far from Caroline or Echo as you can get."
He chuckled lightly. "Very true."
"Won't they be able to look in databases for our pictures?"
"The guy I know, he has the ability to distort the pictures just enough that it's not an exact hit. Alter cheekbones, eyes, jaws, noses, hairlines. I don't know how he does it exactly, but in all the years I've known him I haven't heard of a disappointed customer. The pictures still resemble us if we ever get pulled over or are asked for ID so we're good that way."
"You didn't have to get mine right away."
"I couldn't risk going back to him a second time, and you need to legally be able to drive. You don't have to if you don't want to, but I can't leave you incapable of fending for yourself should something happen to me. They'll take you back with them, likely kill me. Or worse send me to The Attic."
He slid a hand from the steering wheel to her arm, gripping her forearm a little too tightly. He had to ensure she was paying attention, though. He'd hinted around at this before now, but he was finally going to say it outright.
"Echo, you must, I implore you, if they find us and we can't get away you take one of my guns and you shoot me."
"This isn't a half-assed request. I've thought this through. I've seen what they do to someone who goes to The Attic. I'd rather be dead. So you have to promise me. A bullet to the head. A couple of them to be certain the job's done. That's my request of you in all of this."
He noticed her hand trembling a little and slid his hand from her forearm into her hand. He squeezed it, leaving them joined.
"All right," she said softly. "I don't think it'll come to that. I'd try to distract them so you could get away."
"I hope that's the case, but likely if they find us and come after us there won't be any room for me to escape. So, just have it in your head from this point forward I want out. And I want you to do it."
"But what if…"
"No what if's, Echo."
"I've put your life in danger."
"On the contrary. I've endangered yours."
"I don't see it that way."
"Perhaps not, but just remember my wishes if it comes to that."
She was quiet, her eyes focused out her window. He knew she was crying and he hated doing that to her, asking this of her. She didn't let go of his hand at least. She had to see he had no choice. He let go of her hand and left her alone. Eventually, she returned to thumbing through the various bits of information.
She pulled out the one piece of paper he'd been hoping she'd miss. It was as a precaution he'd had Dmitri create a marriage license for them. They'd talked about their living arrangements and while he hoped she'd adjust well enough to live on her own, he realized for the time being they'd be living together.
She ran her fingertips over the words, as if memorizing them.
He cleared his throat a little. "You know that doesn't mean we're really married," he said. "I mean, I don't expect anything from you. But with that certificate if something happens to me, you'll be able to access my bank accounts, our lease or whatever housing we'll have. Everything really."
"How did you come up with the name Emmet?"
He shrugged. "I'm not sure. I could say I'm an Emmitt Smith fan, but that's not it."
He laughed a little. "A football player."
"Oh," she said.
"I suppose it just came to me. It's simple like Boyd."
"They're both strong names."
"If you say so."
"So, I'm Vivian Barnes-Russell. I didn't think you wanted us to be married."
"Well, I don't want us to stand out and in the end I decided that our living together could possibly be a trigger. The Dollhouse might have operatives out looking for a husband and wife, but I'm hoping they won't realize that we can actually pull off the act."
"What do you mean?"
"I've worked cases before where I've had to be someone's husband, boyfriend, fiancé, or what have you."
"It hasn't worked?"
"Oh, for the short-term it works, people are getting to know you so they may not notice the body language that suggests you're not really intimate with the person you're supposed to be sleeping with every night. Eventually, though, people pick up on those things."
"Is that why you let me sleep with you?"
"Let you? As if it was a hardship on my part. But, yes, that was part of it. The more comfortable we are with one another the better off we'll be at blending in." He slid his hand to hers again. "But, that doesn't mean you have to keep doing that. We're going to get a two-bedroom place and you can have your own space. It's not like we're going to have company over to see that we're not sharing the same bedroom."
"You've been very kind to me."
"Not really. If I was really kind I would have gotten you out of there the moment I saw you were behaving differently than the others."
"You didn't know."
"No. You have no idea how difficult watching you on some of your assignments was."
She switched their hands so hers was on top of his, her fingertips running along his palm. "Were you jealous?"
"At the time? I don't think that was the emotion I was feeling. I just hated that I was helping someone pimp you out. The assignments where you were helping people, rescuing a kidnapped child or helping a severely abused child realize she can be okay weren't hard to stomach. The others, though."
"I'm glad I don't have to do that anymore."
"As am I."
"Is that why you don't want to be with me?"
"Why what?" he asked.
"I slept beside you and even asleep you didn't do anything improper."
"I'm glad to know that," he said, glancing at her. "But, no, that's not why. I mean, yeah, all right, I suppose there's that element of wondering how I could possibly measure up to some of the guys you've been with."
She slid a little closer to him. Ah, the benefits of a bench seat. She leaned her head against his shoulder, resting their joined hands in his lap.
"Want to know a secret?"
"You've already beaten them."
And that made him think that maybe, just maybe this would all work out.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com