Author's Note:  This was posted before as "Running," but then I realized how unoriginal a title "Running" is, so it got changed.  I settled with "Chainlink" because a) it has nothing to do with the story in any way, b) there are not a million stories that already have that title, c) that's what it was published as in my school's literary magazine, and d) it's a cool word.  It makes me happy  J  In fact…the only thing that makes me happier is…REVIEWS!!  Sooooo, if you review my story, I'll love you forever (in that platonic, non-stalker kind of way), and all of my reivewers will get a pat on the head and some virtual cookies.

Chainlink

By Beppo

            We've been running for weeks.  That is, I've been running for weeks, and Simon . . . well, as far as I can tell, Simon's been running forever.

            I guess you could call him a professional.  I don't even know what he originally did, but he's been trying to get away from it for ages now, if his experience level is some indication.  That makes me think it must have been something pretty bad, because otherwise why not just go to jail for a little while, if it won't be a long time?  Either he thinks if they catch him, he'll never get out, or he's just unbelievably stubborn.  No one is that stubborn.

            I've asked him what it (the infamous it) was that he did a few times, and now if I even try steering the conversation (what little there is) in that direction, he gives me the patented Simon 'shut up' glare, and that's the end of it.  So I figure it must have been something pretty major.

            I hadn't been running for very long when Luke started calling me.  How it happened is I was dumb enough to bring my cell phone, and so some cop (that would be Luke) began calling me, trying to bargain with me or something, saying that I would be let off if I told them how to get Simon.  I didn't know if they really would or not, because cops can be like that, but just to be safe I didn't want to bargain with them at all. 

            Besides, Simon's been hauling me with him, and I figure, as much as he hates me, he probably wouldn't turn me in.  Honor among thieves, or something like that.  I don't claim to understand it; but then, I didn't even understand The Sixth Sense the first time I saw it, until eventually some obliging patient person explained it to me.

            Sometimes Simon's almost nice, or something like that, to me.  The last place we were at was some crap motel, and Simon had his laptop out and was hogging the room's phone jack.  Why he carries a laptop, I don't know, but knowing him it's probably so he can put up a post on some message board telling everyone where we've just left, and drive the cops crazy with it.  I know he does that sometimes, or something like it, or maybe there's just some way they can track him, because there have been times they've almost caught us.  Mostly they miss us by hours, or even days.  A few times, it was by minutes.

            So anyway, he's just punching buttons on his laptop, and he motions me over to him.  "Cade," he says (that's me, by the way), "let me see your license and passport."

            I don't know how I'd react if a normal person asked me that, probably just hand them over without thinking about it, but coming from Simon it makes me suspicious.  "Why?"

            He rolls his eyes, like I'm too dumb for words.  "I can make you fake ones.  We might be able to travel easier if we had aliases."

            That makes sense to me, so I dig out my wallet and hand it over to him.  It strikes me as odd the way he handles my cards and stuff, kind of careful and gentle, not like most people do.  Most people sort of abuse the lamination on them, or at least I do.  His fingers catch my attention.  They're dangerous, for some reason, maybe because they look so unused, like a gun locked in a closet.  His nails look manicured, but not in a girly way.  It makes me think of the scene in Schindler's List when the Nazi guy is making the Jewish girl do his nails.  Hands that dangerous shouldn't look so . . . cultured, or refined, whatever.

            He sees me staring at his hands, and he gives me this weird smile.  It unnerves me, for some reason.  I'd have to say, I've seen a lot of insincere smiles in my time, but this is the first one that actually scares me a little, although I really couldn't say why it's so disturbing.  The intensity, maybe, like every time he looks at me he's somehow sizing me up.  I think it's pretty likely that he hates me.

He talks like he hasn't noticed how freaked out I suddenly am, even though I think he probably has.  "On top of everything else, I'm a rather accomplished forger."  So that makes me think it isn't that he's done one big illegal thing, it's that he's done a bunch of stuff that's all piled up by now. 

            He gets out a magnifying glass and starts looking at the edge of my card, and it's all so detailed and slow that pretty soon I get bored and wander outside.  I'm walking around in the parking lot, kicking dust around and wishing for a magazine or a Gameboy or something,when my phone rings.  I dig it out of my pocket and flip it open.  It's Luke.

            "Cade, why do you keep running?" he asks.  I don't really have an answer, so he continues.  "You're only a pickpocket.  Petty theft.  We can work with that.  If you help us, we might even be able to overlook the . . ."

            I cut him off.  "I don't think so."  I'm a full-blown robber, not a pickpocket, and we both know it.  Besides, they don't want me for anything I've done.  They want me because they think it'll help them get Simon.  I flip my phone shut on Luke's voice and stomp back into the motel room.  Simon glances at me but doesn't say a word.  I've still got a death-grip on my phone, and I think he knows what happened.  He hands me back my stuff.  I look through it, but it's all the same as it was before.  I give him a skeptical look.

            He shrugs, and almost seems good-natured for a second.  "It'll take a while.  Longer than one afternoon."  He checks his watch (a Rolex, or a good knock-off) and folds up his laptop.  "We'd better get going.  They'll pick up on us pretty soon, if we're not careful."

            So we're back in Simon's dusty black car, practically alone on the highway, when he actually starts a conversation.  "So, what'd you do, anyway?"

            I'd forgotten that he didn't know.  I never told him.  I just told him, when he was pointed out to me in the bar, that I needed to get away fast, and he took me at that.  I feel like I should repay him for trusting me like that, and if he wants to know my history, he can have it.

            I shrug.  "I stole stuff."

            He's driving, looking around for cars that aren't there, and he doesn't even glance at me.  "Like what?"

            I can feel myself starting to smile.  I'm proud, kind of.  "Jewelry, mostly.  I got some really sweet jewelry this one place . . . diamonds, a watch . . . everything you could want, all in one place."

            Now he does look at me, carefully, out of the corner of his eye.  "You'd better not have any of that stuff on you now.  I don't want that crap in my car if they catch us.  Might make me look bad."

            I shake my head.  "Nope.  I stashed it at my cousin's.  Upstate New York.  I stuck it in a bag, and then a box, and then I buried it."  I chuckle  "He has no idea what's hidden in his back yard.  It would probably double the value of the place."

            I feel pretty safe telling this all to Simon, for whatever reason.  I mean, he doesn't know any of my family, and I don't think he'd take the trouble to look them up, just so he could take my stuff.  It just isn't something I could ever see him doing.  He's too above it all, in some way.

            We don't talk for a while after that, and eventually he pulls the car into some crummy little diner.  "I want some coffee," is his reason.  We sit inside at a booth while he drinks it, and when he gets up to throw the cup away he walks by a window and freezes.

            He drops the cup and in about two steps is back with me.  "Cade," he says in a low voice, "we need to leave.  Now."

            He makes for the door, and I'm right behind him.  We run around the back of the little place, and it turns out that there's a fence that runs along behind it, stretching out forever over the flat landscape.  It's kind of high, and it's made of wire that's too close together to get your foot in the holes to climb up over it.  We both stop, and Simon runs over to the edge of the building and looks out around it. 

            "They're here," he says ominously.  He looks around frantically, and gestures toward the fence.  "Run!"

            "Hey!" I hear someone shout behind us, and from the voice I know it must be Luke.

            We're sprinting along the fence, with them chasing us, when I see a break in the wire ahead, big enough that we might be able to fit through.  Simon sees it too, and shouts, "The fence!"

            I nod that I see it.  I'm panting.  "Do you think we'll make it?"  I can hear the cops right behind us.  I look back for Simon and realize that he seems to be slowing down, instead of speeding up.

            He gives me his strange, chilling smile.  "No."

            I run back to him and grab his arm.  "What're you doing?!" I yell between gasps.

            He's still smiling at me, and I begin to feel sick.  "Cade," he says calmly, as if he were in his car, or at the greasy diner, or anywhere except here, being cornered by cops, "you have to be careful who you annoy.  There are some people that don't tolerate it as well as others."

            Still smiling enigmatically, he walks back to the cops.  I'm in shock or something, and I don't even realize I'm surrounded until the handcuffs are on.

            I'm still watching Simon.  He walks away from me, over to a couple of them that are standing by the cars, and the cop I know is Luke claps him on the shoulder.  I'm still close enough that I can hear when he says, "Looks like your work here is done, Detective."

A/N: Are you clinking the review button?  You know you want to!  *holds out handful of cookies* Come on…come on…niiiiiiice reviewers…