Anna adjusted the rearview mirror as the sun set behind them. “Something up?” Lisa asked, sitting up.
“Mae’s here,” Anna said. “She flashed a signal with a mirror. She’s posted up on the hill behind us.”
“That does make me feel better,” Lisa said, sighing heavily, “as much for her as for us.”
A buzzing noise in Anna’s jacket made Lisa jump. Anna removed an older phone from a pocket, and checked it. “Mitchell’s clear.”
“His team had a phone?”
“A burner, like this one. They were at the highest risk. Multiple stops, any one of them potentially compromised…”
“And if they didn’t make it away clear?”
“From the sounds of it they were nearly made, at the bolt-hole. But to directly answer what I think you’re asking… I’m not going anywhere. Aside from Jezebel’s source telling us BH was blown, it’s been a beautiful day in the neighborhood. So I’m going to give her until midnight to show.”
“And what about me?”
“Hypothetically?” Anna asked, eyeing her.
“Generally, I’d say if you want off the mission, you can make it out of here on foot with relative ease. Pretty much as soon as you clear the lot, you can pretend to just be a lost little girl.”
“But less generally…”
“Less generally, the more traffic there is in or out of this place, the more likely some concerned citizen calls a cop. You’re probably safer staying put.”
“But I still have a choice?” Lisa asked uneasily.
“Just checking. I’m not going anywhere… but I get twitchy being told I can’t go anywhere.”
“I get it. Even after what happened to me- even though I can’t get pregnant- it still pisses me off to be told that I couldn’t choose to terminate if I did. And barring pretty egregious examples of internalized and self-destructive misogyny, the name of our game largely is choice.”
“Do you… think we’re going to be okay?”
“I think we’re past the worst of it. Even if the cops found us here, it’s trespassing, at worst.”
“I don’t mean tonight,” Lisa said.
“I know. But tonight is all I can answer with any real certainty. All romanticism aside, we are criminals resisting a violent, fascist regime that is buoyed by the largely silent complicity of the world around us. It’s possible the police will develop another mole in our ranks; they may have already. Tonight, I think we get to go home with our family; tomorrow we could all conceivably be lined up against a wall.”
“You probably could have lied to me,” Lisa said wryly.
“No, I couldn’t, not after the conversation we just had about choice. Hold up.”
“What’s going on?”
“Mae just flashed. Someone’s approaching, on foot.”
“She flashing in morse code?”
“God, no. Nothing so complex- or interceptible. Two flashes was for her arrival, three if she has to leave. Four is a person approaching on foot, five in a car. One single, solitary flash is get the hell out of there. That’s the approach of more than one vehicle, or a car that obviously belongs to the police. In that case, I’d wait, until they stopped and parked, so she could put a few shots into their tires.”
“What’s the phrase, you can’t outrun a radio?”
“That’s true, as it goes. But that’s why disabling the vehicle’s so important. If there’s a cop car disabled in a field with a sniper, the cops will go there. They likely won’t even bother calling us in- and even if they do, we’ll be a much lower priority. In the meantime, Mae can put another round or two into the car, maybe into the radio, if we’re lucky and she can get an angle on it, then drive off. It’s not a perfect set up, but it’s solid. Jezebel put together a solid extraction plan.”
“Unless this is a cop approaching our car,” Lisa said, as they watched a figure cloaked in shadow walking along the tree line at the edge of the property.
“It’s not,” Anna said, smiling. “Because a beat cop wouldn’t be carrying their weight in a duffle bag. Help her get it into the trunk, would you?”
Lisa hopped out as Anna started the engine. She jogged towards the woman moving towards them with increasing speed. “Let me help with that,” she said, and they shared the weight as they walked through gravel and pock-marked earth. Anna popped the trunk as they approached, and the two women lifted the duffle inside. Lisa closed it. “You take the front,” she said. “I insist.”
Lisa hopped in the back, and buckled up. The older woman wasn’t exactly what Lisa expected. Her clothes were pretty, but conservative, and likely expensive. Her hair and makeup were flawless, and aside from the strain of hefting the duffle around town, she was very well put-together.
“That your supply run?” Anna asked. She didn’t wait for confirmation. “You should have left them. That is contraband up the ass, probably life in prison, if they caught you with it on the street.”
“That is lives, period,” the other woman replied, still fighting to catch her breathe. “That is autonomy, and freedom. From abusive boyfriends. From bosses who will dislodge a woman’s career the second she gets knocked up. It was worth the risk to me, because I know what that freedom is worth to those who need it.”
“God, you’re stubborn,” Anna said, and threw her arm around her as she pulled the car onto the street. “It’s good to see you made it. Lisa- uh, by the way, this is Lisa-“ she stuck a thumb in the direction of the back seat, “and this is our Black Hoe.” The older woman grinned broadly. “You know that callsigns are supposed to obscure your identity, right?”
“I think if the other side could see past their pecker envy I might have taken them more seriously. But I have never met a man who wanted to shackle a woman didn’t have something to prove.” She turned back to Lisa, and waved. “It’s a pleasure. And I appreciate the risk you both took to come and find me.”
“Wasn’t just us,” Anna said. “We had half the Shelter crawling all over town trying to intercept you, and get warning to the clinic.”
“I checked the dead drop this morning, before a client meeting; I thought I was clear, until Jezebel drove by my hotel, blasting ‘Born to Run.’ So instead I booked another couple of regulars, and took my time, pretending it was just another ordinary day.”
“That was clever of her.”
“She’s a clever girl; would remind me of you, if she were more ornery.”
“She’ll get there,” Anna said with a smile, “likely when she finds her own Jezebel.” But her smile faded. “You know you’re going to have to move on.”
“Yeah, you said that last time.”
“Things are worse, now. And because of last time, you’re even more of a liability, this time. We have to assume you’re blown, maybe even twice over. That puts any job we put you on at risk. Any supplies we entrust with you. Any associates. I can’t let you keep working for us. And you shouldn’t freelance anymore- not around here. You want, I know people who do similar work to us a few counties in either direction. The other alternative is you retire from your day job, and you work with us full time.”
“I’ll think about it,” she paused. “I meant what I said. I know what you risked coming to get me. I don’t want to keep putting you at risk like that.”
“It’s good to see you. It’s good you’re still in the world.”
“Try as they might, they ain’t killed me yet.”
“So,” Lisa said, from the back seat. “Maybe it’s because you’re old friends, and that has me feeling like a third wheel, or maybe it’s just because Anna brought it up earlier, and it’s been effectively driving me up the wall since. Why should I be glad it isn’t Friday?”
“You been talking out of school?” the older woman asked, eyeing Anna. “I expect she’s mentioned that my code phrases are all old vices. Fridays happen to be John’s johnson. Uncircumsized, amongst other descriptors.”
Lisa frowned. “And that was a vice because…”
“Because we had great chemistry, sexually. But personally? We had a different kind of chemistry- a combustive kind.”
“Oh,” Lisa said. “But why vices as code words at all?”
“I’m not so spry a chicken as I used to be, and it helps me remember. But the deeper answer… there’s two ways to quit something. The one way is to carry its loss, and hurt when you remember it. The other is to remember the parts of it that soothed you, to remember the good with fondness. That doesn’t mean you can’t keep perspective about why you quit it, but you can remember the things you had, too. Me and John, we had some good times. Too few, but they were good.” She sighed, long, and heavy. “You got me reminiscing about an old lover. Makes our introduction inadequate. You should call me Mimi.”
“That your given name, or a…”
“Nom de foutre?” Mimi asked, and laughed lightly, delicately. She extended a hand somewhat awkwardly over the back seat. “It’s what my friends call me. And I got an inkling you and me are going to be fast friends.”
Lisa shook the hand warmly. “I’d like that.”
“She’s more polite than Mayday, course, I’ve known bulls more polite than Mayday. Sweet girl, but before I met her I didn’t know a soul who could make me blush…” she laughed, but it turned heavy. “I was sorry, to hear about Maria. She deserved better. Hell, we all deserve better.”
“We do,” Anna said, and nodded.