Chapter no 7

Quantum Radio

Ty turned and began running out of the alley.

The large German man charged after him, shoes clacking on the cobblestones like horses galloping in the night. When he reached Ty, he shoved him from behind. Ty stumbled and fell, and by the time he got to his hands and knees, the man had come around to block his way out of the alley. He held a gun at his side, careful to avoid anyone passing by from seeing it, angling it upward at Ty’s chest.

Penny arrived then, hands held up. “Take it easy,” she said, panting.

The man motioned with his gun toward the rear of the shop, where they couldn’t be seen from the alley. “Move.”

Ty raised his hands, got to his feet, and shuffled sideways, never taking his eyes off the man. He was clean-shaven, with close-cropped blond hair and hazel eyes that never blinked. A low-simmering hatred radiated off of him.

Penny stayed between the two men, and when they were behind the shop, she said, “Relax, Ty. We just want to talk.”

Turning to the German man, she said, “Heinrich, put that away. You’re scaring him.”

He sneered. “Don’t bother with the charade. He heard us.” He motioned to Ty with the gun. “Hand over the drive.”

On instinct, Ty lied, his own words surprising even himself. “I hid it.” “Liar,” Heinrich practically spat. To Penny, he said, “Search him.” She didn’t move.

“Search. Him. Or I shoot you both.”

Penny took a step forward, eyes locked with Ty’s, hands rising. When her face was inches from his, she reached out and touched the pocket on his shirt, her hand flat, fingers pressing toward his heart.

Slowly, she slid down his chest and abs, moving toward his pants—and the pocket where the USB drive waited.

Her eyes betrayed no emotion, only stared at him as her hands moved over him, her breath warm on his face.

Her right hand slipped into his left pocket, feeling the thin cloth next to his leg and groin until her fingers brushed over his phone and closed around the length of the drive. She held it for a moment, and Ty could feel her squeezing it, mentally sizing it up to be sure of what it was.

Still staring at him, she put her other hand in his right pocket and felt his wallet and keys. Her fingers rattled them, the jingle the only sound in the night.

And then, to Ty’s surprise, she released the drive and withdrew her hands, empty. She stared at Ty, not turning around.

“He doesn’t have it on him.”

Heinrich pointed the gun down at Ty’s feet. “Remove your shoes.”

Ty stepped on the back of one shoe with the other and kicked it off, then repeated it with the other.

“Back away,” Heinrich said. “Both of you.”

With the gun pointed at Ty, the German bent down, turned the shoes over, and shook them.

“Move away from him,” Heinrich said to Penny. “You don’t trust me?”

For the first time, Heinrich smiled, an unhappy, hateful expression that dripped with contempt. “There is only one man here stupid enough to believe your lies.”

Ty watched the impassive expression on her face turn hard—for only a fraction of a second—before vanishing. He wondered if Heinrich had noticed it. And if he even cared.

Penny took a step back. “I said move.”

She took another step away.

Heinrich crept forward, eyes drilling into Ty. “If you so much as blink, I shoot you.”

Against his will, Ty felt himself swallow hard. The beat of his heart grew louder, like rain on a tin roof growing stronger, the knocking blotting out all sound. When Heinrich reached him and found the drive, it would all end. Ty

was sure of that. He would die here, in this dirty alley behind a coffee shop where he had been lured into a fake relationship.

In his entire life, Ty had never struck a stranger with his fists. Growing up, he and his twin brother had gotten into a few scuffles, but rarely enough to draw blood. Now, he sensed that he was about to fight for his life. When Heinrich found the drive, he wouldn’t hesitate to kill him.

With the gun in one hand, Heinrich reached out with his other and felt behind Ty’s collar, pressing the fabric to his skin, feeling for the device.

He would find the device in a few seconds. Ty glanced down at the gun, mentally preparing himself to act.

In his peripheral vision, he saw a flash of movement—Penny, reaching out, grabbing Heinrich’s gun hand, slamming an elbow into his face, connecting just under his cheekbone with a snapping thud that brought the man down onto his back, Penny on top of him.

The gun flew from his hand and clattered across the cobblestones.

Penny screamed out as Heinrich belted her with his free hand, propelling her off him.

Her cry was like a light switch turning on inside of Ty. He dove on the man, raised a fist, and buried it in Heinrich’s already-swelling face, the contact sending a sharp spike of pain through his hand and arm, the impact like striking a thin steak on a hard counter. The ache shot through his body, reigniting the places that were still tender from the bomb blast. The effect momentarily paralyzed him.

Drawing his right arm across himself, Heinrich flung the backside of his forearm into Ty, propelling him off.

Heinrich rolled and pushed up, onto his feet. But he was too late.

The crack of a gunshot shattered the night.

Heinrich’s head jerked, and he collapsed to the ground.

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