Emily turned the knob in the shower with a considerable amount of hostility, ending the rush of cool water against her body, and jumped from the shower, wrapping a towel around her shaking body. Their shower water wasn't hot, really it wasn't even warm, and the electric heat, lacking as it was, left the apartment with a brisk chill.
She missed California, she missed her job, she missed her life. This was the fifth or sixth shit-hole apartment that her and Matt had stayed in. At the moment the crappy little roach magnets provided everything the couple was looking for: a landlord who asked few questions and accepted cash, a month-to-month rent plan, and anonymity. The last of these was the most important.
This was their seventeenth month of hiding. At least she was pretty sure it was seventeen, sometimes it felt like they'd been gone so long that everything just blended together. But, she was pretty sure that it was seventeen months ago that she and Matt had each thrown a bag together and fled town, with not only a group of gunrunners after them, but also but Homeland Security, the CIA, and even their own FBI after them. And quite possibly the military.
The gunrunners were interested in capturing and/or killing Matt and Emily (ultimately, they kill them anyway) for revenge; two of their members had been killed during a negotiation with Matt and Emily. The CIA, Homeland Security (and maybe the military) were pissed that they broken a kid they thought was involved in the group out of a federal prison, and the FBI was pissed that the agents embarrassed them in front of everyone else. Needless to say, it was a miracle they hadn't been found or killed yet.
This is what led Emily to her current position freezing her ass off in an east coast winter, in a tiny, smelly, rat and roach filled apartment. Matt would have been freezing his ass off too, but he was at his less than legitimate job, down at the docks. In the last almost a year and a half they had a variety of questionable occupations; basically they'd take anything that paid by the hour, and didn't request an ID before hiring. That didn't leave them with too much that didn't make them stretch their ethics.
However, Matt had firmly drawn the line at stripper. When she'd suggested that in a moment of complete desperation, he'd practically blown his top. He swore to her that he'd go crawling back to the FBI begging for a deal or whatever, before let her degrade herself that way. Her response had been to tell him that it 'wasn't like it was prostitution,' which unfortunately upset him even more. He'd told her that he wouldn't allow her to spend 50 hours a week being fondled by a bunch of sleazeballs sticking cash in her panties.
A large part of her had been relieved; she wasn't prepared to go that far yet. Instead she was working as a secretary for the escort service run out of a different strip club. Her job pretty much consisted of booking the girls or 'bitches' as her boss called them, and collecting the cash, or on rare occasion taking credit card numbers, which were run through the bar register.
They were in Boston now, where they'd been for three months. They started their nomad life in Ensenada, a Mexican city south of Tijuana, where they lived for five months, before moving again, through Mexico and up into Texas. They'd stayed in Waco for two months before leaving again, this time landing in Memphis, and another two months there, three more in Atlanta, then Roanoke for two, before landing in Boston. They had different names each time, and at first different wigs and different eye color, but they'd stopped that once they got to Roanoke. It was too hard to remember who they were in whatever city they were in.
Emily finished blow drying her hair, which in her frigid apartment had come close to freezing, and began pulling clothes out of her drawer. Throwing on jeans and a sweater, she applied enough makeup to keep her looking slightly more alive than a zombie, and grabbed her purse. Tossing her keys in her bag, she pulled open the apartment door and was nearly run over by a very frantic Matt, who looked at her surprised seeing her right in front of the door.
"Forget about work Emily, we have to go, now." He told her, dragging her back to the bedroom to pack.
"What?" she asked desperately, "what happened?"
"I saw a guy I know at the docks. I can't be sure he recognized me, but we can't take the chance. We need to leave now." He told her, pulling out their suitcases.
"Alright," she sighed, resignation filling her voice. Hearing the tone of her voice, Matt stopped his frantic moves, and went over to her, holding her arms, and looking into her eyes.
"I know you didn't want to move again so soon, and I know you hate this. I do too, but we know they won't care why we let him go, they'll just throw us in prison. I don't want to go to prison, and I sure as hell won't watch you go to prison." He told her, determination filling his eyes.
"I know Matt, I'm just so tired of this, all of this," she said hopelessly, throwing her purse on to the bed and grabbing her suitcase to pack.
"Hey, only one more time, okay? I'll find us a boat that will get us to somewhere they can't extradite us. I know I said I'd do that here, but we don't have enough money yet to pay them. A little longer, and then I promise, we can stop running, stop hiding." Matt's eyes held pain in them, as he took all the blame for their current situation.
Emily knew this, and tried to tell him a thousand times that they were both responsible for their situation. Of course it didn't make a difference, so now Emily simply wrapped her arms around him, holding him as close as she could, hoping to convey through this that she didn't blame him.
Moments later they released each other and performed the same packing tasks they'd done so many times in the last year and a half, they'd become increasingly monotonous. Tossing clothing into their suitcases-they each carried one-collecting toiletries and such, and stowing away the two or three keepsakes they'd been carrying around since they left California. Matt dug out the wad of cash they'd kept hidden inside the base of a lamp and stowed half of it deep in his suitcase, and handed her the other half to hide in hers.
Sighing tiredly Emily squashed her suitcase down and tugged at the zipper until it allowed itself to be brought around the length of the case sealing it shut. She righted the device on the floor, yanking up the handle so she could wheel it around, and turned toward Matt who'd finished only moments before her. The pair joined hands, and like they had so many times before, took one last look at the place that had become their home, and walked out, knowing they'd never be back.
They waited thirty minutes for a bus to come, the number 37 bus would take them to a subway entrance, and for the last time went through the ghetto that had become their neighborhood. They went down a flight of dirty steps that smelled of urine to one of Boston's less glamorous subway stations. The poorer the neighborhood, the less upkeep the station received. Dropping the tokens into the machines, they went to stand on the subway platform and waited for their train to come.
As they took their seats on the loud subway, Matt wrapped his arm around Emily, trying to give them a sense of the security that they both sorely lacked. The train screeched into Boston's main station, that had all the glory that most of the others were lacking, and from there caught the Amtrak to New York. They had to wait another thirty minutes for that to come, and then it would be a three and a half hours on the train.
The train seats were much more plush than the subway, and the couple was able to get a couple hours of nervous sleep. A man came by with a snack cart every so often and half an hour away from Manhattan, Matt and Emily gratefully paid for two cups of coffee. After sipping the scalding beverage and talking quietly for a while, the conductors voice came on announcing that they'd finally arrived in the city. The train stopped and a small crowd formed at the cabin exit, pushing and piling into each other in an effort to get out of the train. There had been few people on the train, it being near four o'clock in the morning at that point, but they still acted like something would pull them back into the small cabin if they didn't get out quick enough. Matt and Emily however, remained in their seats.
"New York doesn't seem like a great idea." Emily said flatly.
"Yeah, you're right. It doesn't feel right." Matt commented as the train pulled out of the station, the couple still on it.
"Philadelphia should be the next big city we hit, we can get lost there…" she said absently.
"Did you go there at all when you were at Princeton?"
"Sometimes, it was only a few minutes closer than New York, so we ended up in Manhattan more often. But I still remember Philly a little. It's been a while…" Emily was staring out the window as she spoke to him.
"Philadelphia sounds good, maybe there we'll have enough time to get the money we need to get out of here." He told her, grabbing her hand and giving it a light squeeze.
"How much do we have?"
"Around $3500. Another six months or so, we should have enough to leave."
"How much do we need to get on a boat?" Their voices had become very low, as they whispered about their very illegal plans.
"Six thousand if we're lucky. Part of that for fare, part is a bribe for whoever will take us and keep their mouth closed." Emily nodded at Matt, and yawned, leaning over and kissing him, before resting her head on his shoulder. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders, pulling her even closer, and rested his head against hers. They slept fitfully until the train shuddered and pulled into Philadelphia's 30th street station.
Disembarking with their suitcases they wandered until Emily dove into her memory and got her bearings, leading them toward one of the cheaper hotels. There they'd have just enough time to get some sleep before heading back out into the city, looking for a questionable apartment, and likely, more questionable jobs.
Their hotel was on the outskirts of a nicer section of the history referred to most as University City. Those familiar with the city knew that you could take one step off the Drexel University campus here, and you'd be in the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school. Both colleges were private, so there was plenty of money to keep the area in tiptop shape for the trust fund babies who inevitably went there.
Their hotel was way on the outskirts though, as the only hotels that would take them at this hour (way before traditional checkout hours) were the fleabags that rented by the hour. They handed the shady-looking clerk enough for six hours; they sleep for six hours, and be back on the streets searching for housing and jobs by one o'clock.
They let their now-worn suitcases drop to the floor, ignoring the stained carpet and went immediately over to the bed. Choosing to pretend that there wouldn't be traces from dozens of sexual escapes on the worn, tan sheets, they fell onto the bed. Only to find themselves staring at a warped and water damaged ceiling that extended in certain parts to the discolored walls. They were way too tired to care, and soon fell asleep.
By midnight they were moving into their umpteenth low rent apartment. They become pros at locating landlords who took cash, didn't demand the traditional first and last month rent and security deposit, and asked no questions. Their tiny little apartment had a kitchen with enough room for them to walk around, and behind it a bedroom big enough to house a bed, dresser, and desk. It was of course, already furnished. It was located in a section of the city known as North Philly, across the river (that being the Schukyll) from West Philadelphia, where University City was located.
It certainly wasn't considered a safe area, but those who lived in it knew it was safer than other areas of the city. In a time when the murder rate was continually on the rise in this particular city, you could never be too safe. It was perhaps not quite poverty-stricken, but still very much a ghetto. With broken down and abandoned building sprinkled throughout, garbage strewn all over the streets, broken sidewalks that were actually missing large chunks in some areas, and of course drug corners within walking distance.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of their new neighborhood were the words stenciled on row house next to the building that held their apartment. Toward the bottom of the house, stenciled white on a blue background were the words "Somebody Cares." The words seemed to be mocking the people that lived there, it was clear from the litter and broken bottles that nobody had cared for a long time.
That night they laid in bed, spooned tightly together, trying to forget where they were and why, so they could get even a fraction of sleep. It wasn't an easier thing to do, especially after they heard the hollow bang of gunfire in the distance.
I've had this lying around forever, waiting for me to figure out if I liked it enough to post. Indecisive person that I am, I'll let my readers decide for me- if I see interest, I post. Thanks for reading!