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Thick tension filled Bette’s crowded undercover sedan. Only the blasting siren broke the dead silence among the four passengers. Over the last forty minutes, Bette had glanced at Tina only once or twice, keeping her eye on the road as she roared through the predawn traffic. Minutes away from the meeting place, an uneasiness gripped her with each passing mile. A sense came over her that no matter what happened in the next twenty minutes, her life would never be the same.
The last time she and Tina drove on the road leading from Santa Rosa, fire had engulfed the surrounding hills. A heaviness weighed on her as she passed the first remnants of the wildfire’s destructive force. Lit by a handful of undamaged city street lights, the fire had reduced once-bustling neighborhood businesses to charred frames and piles of twisted black metal and lumpy ash.
They’d escaped that night with their lives and Bette with her character intact. If not for Tina and the memory of Avery, she would have crossed that line from cop to a killer. Bette shook her head hard to clear out the cobwebs of that horrible ordeal.
“You okay?” Tina laid a gentle hand on Bette’s arm.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” She turned off the siren, then checked her rearview mirror. Joyce and Prichard had kept up. “It’s just this place.”
“It’s getting to me too.” Tina grinned. “If it weren’t for those two in the back, I’d suggest singing.”
Bette rechecked her rearview, this time eyeing Eric and Quintrell. Eric had on his serious, yet relaxed game face, the one she’d seen dozens of times before. She didn’t have to ask. He was ready for this to start. Quintrell, on the other hand, had a distant look about him. Was it regret or fear of death? Either way, Bette could tell he didn’t want to be there. She shared that feeling and couldn’t shake the sense of dread that had sunk into her pours.
“Maybe later.” Bette tapped her brakes three times, the signal she was about to make the final turn before they separated from Joyce and Prichard. “Radios guys.”
Eric and Tina both turned on their radios as did Bette.
“L-T, you there?” Bette said through the mic.