Chapter no 9

Quantum Radio

Ty rode into the night, through Geneva’s empty streets, away from the coffee shop and the dead man.

Away from Penny.

He once again crossed the Rhône River. This time, the sound of sirens was even stronger, the wails a sharp contrast to the serenity of Lake Geneva, which spread out to the right. On the other side of the bridge, he slipped into the side streets, avoiding the main roads where a street camera or retailer video security system might spot him.

He needed to get help, and quickly. When Penny had said those words, Ty’s mind had instantly flashed on a name: Gerhard Richter, a German whom Ty hadn’t seen or spoken to in thirty years. Richter might not even recognize him. But Ty felt certain he would help—maybe even risk his life to help. Ty was about to bet everything on that belief.

One thing was certain: no one would expect Ty to try to contact Richter. In fact, only four other people in the whole world even knew that there was any connection between them.

That connection between Ty and Richter had been a point of pain for Ty’s entire life. He had periodically looked the man up, out of curiosity mostly, but had avoided any contact.

Ty’s last internet search for Richter had been about a month ago, and it had confirmed that he was still in Zürich, Switzerland, which was three and a half hours away from Geneva by car, directly northeast.

The A1 motorway was the fastest way to get from Geneva to Zürich. Taking a train was out— buying a ticket would be risky, and if he did, Ty would essentially be a sitting duck. And: the next train to Zürich didn’t leave until morning.

He needed to get out of Geneva tonight.

That meant he needed a ride. Ty didn’t own a car. Renting one was out of the question. And taking a car service or ride share seemed too risky as well.

Many of his friends and colleagues at CERN owned cars, but he wasn’t about to call them, for two reasons. One: he was certain that it would put them in danger. And two: how would he even begin to explain something he didn’t understand himself? (“Hey, Mike, I know it’s 3 a.m., but can I get a ride to Zürich? Someone blew up my apartment, and Penny just shot a guy. Gotta get out of town for a bit!”)

That left a single option that Ty’s sleep-deprived, panicked mind could think of: hitchhiking. The practice was far more common in Europe than America. Ty had even done it several times while backpacking just after college.

At this hour, he knew there would be very few passenger cars on the road, but he hoped there would be some commercial vehicles. Truckers in particular. As he arrived at a gas station near the A1 motorway, he was relieved to find his assumption correct.

From the street, he scanned the perimeter and awning of the gas station, spotting the cameras. He didn’t know how likely it was that whoever was after him would have access to the video feed from the Shell station just off the A1, but he knew this: it was better not to be seen, not to take the risk that they could track him that way.

Staying out of the camera’s viewing range, he stowed his bike in the bushes of an office building and jogged to the truck farthest from the station and waited. When the driver exited the store, Ty held his hands up. “Hi. Can I get a ride to Zürich?”

The driver put his head down and barreled forward, shaking his head, not even bothering to reply.

Ty repeated his plea in French, then German. He was still learning Italian but knew it well enough to ask for a ride. The man’s only response was a mumbling in a Slavic language Ty couldn’t place.

The next driver who exited the store spoke English and would have given Ty a ride but was heading south to France.

The third and last truck at the station was pulling away. Feeling more desperate now, Ty stepped in front of it, leaving plenty of space to dive out of the way if the man didn’t stop.

He held his arm up, and the massive vehicle rumbled to a stop. The driver cocked his head and rolled his window down and leaned out.

Ty considered changing up his approach. He had no cash—and he didn’t dare use his credit cards to buy something to trade, but he had a watch his mother had given him for his high school graduation. For a moment, he considered slipping it off and offering it, but thought better of it, deciding instead to place his faith in the kindness of this stranger.

He walked closer to the cab and peered up.

“Sir, I could really use some help. I need to get to Zürich. It’s important.”

The man squinted at Ty. He appeared to be in his sixties, with short hair and a bushy black beard streaked with gray. An audiobook was playing inside the truck.

“Very well. Come on.”

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