Considering that Steve was the only one who had any luggage, it took only minutes to clear out of the motel room. Steve scanned the hallway and parking lot as best he could from the window and peephole in the door.
"If they're out there," Jon struggled to keep the nervousness out of his voice. "You're not going to pull any cowboy shit." It was supposed to be a statement, but it had come out more like a question.
"Yippee eye oh ki ay, motherfucker," Steve smirked, eyes as cold and brilliant as obsidian.
Jon opened his mouth, but Neal cut off the protest before it could start. "There won't be anyone out there right now. Our new friend won't come back alone, and his friends don't want to come around in the daylight."
Steve looked at Neal with a new admiration. "You're already starting to think like someone who's been in the program too long. You're right. That's why we've got to get as far away as possible before dark."
The three stepped out into the brightness of the late afternoon. Steve and Neal kept hands on the guns hidden in their jackets, while Jon clenched the bag of junk food with a death grip.
Once in the car, out of the parking lot, and onto the highway, they gave a collective sigh of relief.
Jon held the hem of his shirt away from him as much as the seatbelt would allow. "Wherever we're headed, do you think we could find me a change of clothes along the way?"
"Yeah, I can't believe you've waited this long to complain," Neal said.
Steve didn't look at either of them, instead alternating his attention between the road in front of them and the mirrors. "We'll pick something up. Even if any of your stuff is still at your house, we can't chance it. All of the gray guys will have an eye on the place."
They found a Wal-mart nearby. Steve instructed Jon and Neal to use cash to buy a couple pairs of jeans and t-shirts, while he disappeared to another part of the store. By the time Jon and Neal had paid for their purchases, Steve was waiting by the front door.
"Come on. You'll have a chance to shower and change clothes in a little while." He handed his bag to Neal, crossing his arms and putting his hands inside his jacket. Feigning an air of casualness, he walked behind Jon and Neal to the car, keeping his hand on the gun.
Once on the road again, Neal checked Steve's bag. "Two different shades of haircolor. A home perm kit?" he laughed. "Jay, looks like you're going curly again."
"No, moron, we're going to try to straighten that brillo pad on your head," Steve answered. "What did you think, you were going to waltz up to your own funeral without even trying to change your appearance? Any of _your_ family that's there would faint, the fans would mob you, and whoever _'The Family'_ sent to keep an eye on things would get a couple shots off unnoticed."
Jon considered the thought for a few minutes. " I guess everyone wonders what people will say about them when they're gone. We'll be there to find out."
"Not so fast, Tom Sawyer," Steve cautioned. "You two are going to have to be incognito. That means staying as far as possible away from anyone who would recognize you: family, friends, or fans. Keep your fingers crossed, because it's supposed to rain."
"I hate funerals in the rain," Jon and Neal said at the same time.
"Well, next time you die, make sure the forecast is for good weather," Steve shot back. "Did you keep any copies of the computer disks or the 'Journey' file or anything?"
Jon glanced at Neal in the backseat, who was frowning as well. "No, we gave everything to the cops. Why?"
"We're missing something here," Steve shook his head. "The mob is putting out way to much effort to silence you two. They could create a motive for Guido to kill Leroy that didn't involve them. Real easy, since he's dead now." Glancing over at Jon's look of shock, he continued. "That was while you were in the safehouse. He hung himself in jail. Really convenient for the
dark gray guys, if you ask me. Wouldn't be the first fake suicide. Anyway, even if they were to lose Bayside, it got seized because of the money laundering, they have enough other shit going on that it wouldn't ruin them. So what else do they think you guys know?"
Neal snorted. "I don't wanna hear another fucking word..."
Jon was already off and running with the next thought. "If Leroy was an embezzling, money laundering accountant for the mob, what else was he into?"
Steve nodded. "Seems like the people who know the answer to that $64,000 question keep ending up dead."
"Well, hell," Neal leaned forward, into the front seat. "We're getting pretty good at this breaking and entering shit."
* * *
Now that she had solved the riddle of Ross' note, Dina still wasn't any closer to being able to sleep.
_...Move them again and send in a clean up crew._ She played Raff's words over and over in her mind, trying to find an innocent explanation.
_He's going to have to be handled._ *WHO?*
Downstairs, she heard the sound of the dining room chairs being moved. _He's looking for the note._ Dina thought, terror surging through her.
_I've got everything we need right here...Not going to let their families go..._ There was no doubt that Raff meant her and Sarah, Dina and the kids. She was more frightened than she had ever been in her life, even more than when Wheeler's voice had screamed across the radio that Jon and Neal hadn't made it. She and Sarah were in immediate danger.
_This makes no sense. Who is Raff talking about? If he's on the wrong side, why has he kept us safe so far?_ There were no answers. _What about Corey? Where does she fit in with all this?_
There was a creak from below as Raff sat in the recliner, and then the noise of a television show. Just as Dina willed herself to relax, she realized that she heard another voice, one that was not coming from Letterman. _Damn!_ The voice was too muffled to make out words. She crept out of bed again, tiptoeing just far enough down the stairs to be able to make out what
Raff was saying on the phone.
"...Crazy son of a bitch playing Rambo is gonna get all three of them killed!" he hissed.
_Three of who?_
"You better come up with some kind of a plan, because three guys from Journey make it to the big concert in the sky in one week, there's gonna be a lot of questions asked."
"Especially since two of them are already dead!" Raff added.
Dina nearly sank to the floor as relief washed over her. _It's true! They *are* alive!_
"He's never out of touch with Anderson for long, but she'd never let on if he does tell her what he's doing." A pause. "Yeah, definitely cover the funeral. That's gonna be your best chance for finding him. He's been running for too long. He's damn good at it." Another pause. "Yeah. Do it.
Over and out."
Dina silently dashed back up the stairs. _Neal and Jon are with somebody from Journey, but who? If it was Ross, he wouldn't tip his hand by sending a coded note. Smitty, bless his heart, just doesn't fit the Rambo type. That leaves Steve. Ross, honey, you weren't kidding about the world going crazy._ She began to dress in the dark, as quietly as possible. She offered a silent
prayer of thanks that Neal had refused to carry a pink diaper bag, and so Sarah's things were in a green backpack. She had a front pouch carrier for the baby, too. _Now to just get out of here._ She lifted Sarah gently from the crib and strapped her into the carrier, careful not to wake the sleeping child. Raff had explained that this was one of the most secure safehouses in the
country. The windows were bulletproof, and the doors were specially reinforced to keep them from being broken down. The entire premises had a state of the art security system. Because of all these safety features, to keep the secrecy of the safehouse, and because almost no one knew where they were, there were not any additional agents posted outside. All of the doors
also had deadbolts which could be only opened with the key that was probably in Raff's possession. _Damn!_ Fortunately, the downstairs windows were close to the ground. Believing that she had no reason to want out, Raff had let his guard down earlier, and not noticed that Dina had seen him enter the alarm code. She had only remembered it because the numbers were the same as her brother's birthday. _Thanks, God, for small favors._ She slipped down the stairs and into the entry hall. She paused for a moment, holding her breath. No sound came from the den, except Letterman's Top Ten List. She slowly entered the code into the alarm keypad. When the light changed from red to green, she had to consciously keep herself from letting out a sigh of
relief. Mentally crossing her fingers, she silently slid a window open, stepped outside, and closed the window again. It took every ounce of strength she had not to run at that moment. _Got to stay inconspicous._ Like that was possible for a woman walking down the street with a baby after 1 am.
A mile away, Dina hit jackpot. A twenty four hour Wal-mart. Using Kristine Palmieri's Visa card, which the marshalls had so thoughtfully provided, she bought an infant car seat, a few essentials for the diaper bag, and a change of clothes for herself. She then used cash to buy three boy's outfits.
Fortunately, Sarah was still young enough that she could pass for a boy. Dina wasn't worried too much about herself; the hair cut and color had changed her appearance dramatically.
Dina then took a cab to the airport, where she used Kristine's credit card again. A young woman was about to buy a plane ticket to Dallas with cash, so Dina talked the woman into letting her buy the plane ticket with the credit card, and giving Dina the cash. Then she rented a car. _That should give them plenty to chase._
Before leaving the airport, she called Ross.
"What?" he barked into the phone, obviously roused from sound sleep.
"Ross, it's Dina," she said.
He bolted upright in bed, reaching to turn on the lamp, but instead knocking it over. "Dina! Are you okay? Is Liz with you?"
"No, they separated us. I don't know where she is. I ran away. I overheard part of a conversation, and I think one of the agents with me is working with the killers." She glanced around nervously. Not too many people in the airport at this hour, but it still was better to be safe than sorry.
"You did the right thing. Where are you? Do you need money or anything?" Ross sounded like a concerned parent.
"I'm in Kansas City. I'm heading back that way, and I should have enough to get me there. I'll call you again later and give you an update. I want to get moving before anyone realizes I'm gone." She looked around again, afraid that Raff and Anderson would be showing up at any moment. "But they are alive. Part of that conversation I overheard confirmed it."
"Yeah, but I don't know where they are or what's going on." Ross sighed. "Get going. If you need anything at all..."
"Yeah. Thanks, Ross." She hung up quickly and headed to the rental car.
Abandoning the car at a downtown parking garage, Dina walked to the bus station and bought a ticket for Los Angeles.
* * *
Neal was asleep by the time they reached Steve's house.
"I'll wait out here with him," Jon said, thumbing at the sleeping guitarist.
Steve realized that it was the first time Jon had spoken in several hours. He had been _too_ quiet on the trip back.
"Nah, we're all coming in. Neal, hey, wake up, Sleeping Beauty." Steve reached into the back seat to shake him.
"What are we doing here?" Jon asked softly.
_There's definitely something on his mind._ Steve thought. Aloud, he said "We're hiding in a place so obvious that no one will think of it."
Jon didn't answer again until the three of them were safely inside. "How long can we stay here?"
Steve shrugged. "How long can we stay anywhere?"
Neal and Jon planted themselves in kitchen chairs while Steve surveyed the house, made coffee, and checked his answering machine.
There were three messages. The first was from Ross, demanding to know what was going on. The second was from a mortgage company who would be glad to offer Steve a great low rate on refinancing his house. The third was a female voice, one that was familiar to Jon and Neal, but they couldn't quite place it.
"Steve, I don't like any of this! You're putting them and yourself at too much risk. You had better check in by 8am, or I'm coming to look for you. And you know that _I'll_ find you, buster."
Jon panicked. "Who knows we're with you?"
"It wasn't Wheeler," Neal thought out loud. "Definitely not Raff. Anderson's your 'in' with the department?"
Steve nodded. "Corey and I go back a long way." He looked over at Jon. "Don't worry about her. She's loyal to me, maybe even more than you are. And she would never let anyone know that you two are alive."
"Who else is loyal to you?" Jon asked softly.
_Here it comes,_ Steve thought. _We're about to find out what he's so worried about._ "What do you mean?"
"We've each got a wife and kids in there," Jon pointed at Neal. "We got out, but they're still there. Someone found out where we were, so how hard would it be to find out where they are? And if anyone even suspects that we might be alive, would they hesitate to hurt one of them to flush us out?"
Steve hesitated before answering. Neal let out with a string of curses worthy of a real Marine.
"We got a lot of angles to work in this case," Steve finally said. "We need to know why the mob is really after you, whether Stacy is ok, and where the leak is, so we can try to make sure everyone's safe. Dina and Sarah are with Corey, and she'd never let anyone get to them." He took a deep breath. "But I don't know where Liz is."
Jon nodded silently, clenching his fists.
"Okay, so if you're so sure about Anderson, or _Corey,_ should we say," Neal almost snorted in derision. "You thought Roundtree was a nice guy, and Switek was slime. Ok, so you were right so far. What about Raff and Wheeler?"
Steve shrugged. "I checked 'em both out when I found out who was with you. I never met Wheeler. She's out of the New York area, came here to help escort you clowns back to Buffalo. She's _the_ senior agent for that region, been with the department 20 years or so. I had never met Raff either, but I had heard about him. He only transferred here about a year or so ago. From
Minnesota or someplace. He'd only been with the agency a few years there. He's a retired military police investigator. Incredible service records, never even disciplined."
The shared brain engaged at that moment, and Jon and Neal stared at each other in horror.
"'Computers are amazing things,'" Jon quoted. "'Records can be inserted anywhere...'"
"Oh, my God." Neal turned to Steve. "Who's he with?"
"I don't know," Steve shook his head, eyes wide.
"Shit," Jon said, "unless they switched places, Raff and Anderson had Dina and Sarah when we left. You suppose he's still with 'em?"
Steve shook his head. "Even if he is, Corey won't let anything happen to them."
"Until something happens to _her_," Neal said angrily. "What are they gonna do, to get our attention? Leave one of our kids--" He stopped abruptly and looked at Jon, refusing to finish the thought. He didn't need to. Jon had spent the car trip thinking along those lines, and it showed on his face.
"You're using us as bait, now, aren't you," Jon said softly without looking at either of them.
"I've had the feeling you're trying to get something else done, along with keeping us alive," Jon said. "Whatever else you're into, I'd appreciate it if you didn't play around with my family's lives while you're doing it."
Neal kept quiet, watching Jon, afraid to question. Steve didn't add anything or attempt to deny what Jon had said.
_When I tried to call him, his answering machine never picked up_, Jon thought. _And when a federal agent comes out in the open and leaves a message anyone could interpret like that, something is beyond fucked up._
"You're not just in the program," Jon said finally. "What else were you trying to tell us, at the hotel?" Steve started to answer, and Jon quickly added, "Don't lie. Not now. I'll just walk on out of here and try to figure this out for myself, if you do. You can have that on your head, if you still care."
Steve tilted his head back to the ceiling and examined it with great interest for several seconds. Then he said, "Sometimes, to keep things straight and see who's who, a few of the various government agencies clean house. You can't always tell from the inside when it's happening. Sometimes they just flush the system, to patch the leaks. It has the potential to turn in to a real mess, if it isn't done right. This looks like a mess. This looks like the feds can't decide amongst themselves. When they're doing this--you can't tell for a long while who's _playing_ straight and who really is. Or who's playing the field. I'm beginning to think....the feds were gonna let the Family have you. To keep something else from being screwed up."
"Then why go to all that trouble, of moving us around?" Neal said.
"Looks good, doesn't it?" Steve said. "They do all they can, but lose you anyway. You guys were put into the program for show. The Family could have been taken care of at any time. Jesus, they don't even need your testimony. They were trying to flush something out. Except this time..." He paused. "I wasn't in it. I usually am."
"What...do you mean?" Neal said, like he didn't want to know but couldn't help asking.
"You've done a hell of a lot of lying," Jon said. "Make it good, Steve."
Steve shook his head. "I wasn't lying, about growing up in the program, about the stuff that happened on the road. But somewhere along the way, if there was a leak, I got good at finding it. You wouldn't believe the things people sell themselves out for."
"Yeah, I would," Jon said pointedly.
Steve ignored him outwardly, but the remark hit home and he began pacing. "My point is, I'm usually at the other end of something like this. Not being chased. The Family usually does things pretty direct--the guy at the hotel was proof of that. But the feds are all about hitting from behind. Doesn't it bug you guys that even after they advertised your funerals in the paper--which shouldn't have happened--the Family still found you? And knew you were in the program."
Neal straightened. "Shit. He did know. He said 'the feds'."
"Damned if we do, damned if we don't," Jon said. "Who wants us dead worse? The dark gray guys, or the light gray ones?" He paused. "What shade of gray are you, Steve?"
Steve paused in his pacing to look at Jon. "They don't let anything get out that they don't _want_ out," he said. "Information. People. Or anything else. Unless things are so bad that they don't have it together anymore."
"Which is where we come in," Jon said. "We need to find out what else Leroy was into. And we need a little more backstory on Raff. But I think you know who he is already."
Steve frowned. "What, maybe. But not who. Someone's out of bounds."
"Besides you," Jon said.
Steve whirled on him. "You're still alive, aren't you?" he snapped. "I didn't set you up for this."
"You think maybe someone set _you_ up for this?" Neal said suddenly.
Steve looked at him with genuine confusion on his face.
Jon said, "Uh huh. It's way after 8, 'buster'. Maybe someone knows you'd check your messages here, after awhile. Convenient."
"Looks like you been distracted real good," Neal said. "If you're usually on the other side of this, what are they doing while you're busy with this?"
"This is too much trouble, too much mess, for a smokescreen," Steve said.
"You just said--" Jon began.
"Someone told the mob where we were," Neal said. "Better, easier, to have the mob wipe us out, then to have to come deal with us? Or do they have some kind of deal with each other?"
"Maybe Leroy wasn't the only one laundering," Jon said. "Maybe the channels that the program provides are the best kind for running just about anything under someone's nose. Maybe we stumbled on something that was working good for everyone--until now."
"God," Steve said. "I knew it was dangerous to let you think that long." But he was on the verge of grinning when he said it.
"I can be as paranoid as the next guy," Jon said evenly.
"Christ," Neal said. "next thing you'll be telling us is, the guy who was running drugs through the studio we recorded ROR in was involved, and the master tape for ROR was confiscated for awhile only so someone could put a secret code on it."
"Yeah," Steve said. "The CIA put sensitive national secrets on it." He laughed. "You guys are crazier than I am. And that takes real work."
"Well, Raff's our guy for altering records," Jon said. "Depends on what you consider records, I guess."
"We'll have to see what Ross says, about who's altering what," Neal said, then grinned when the others looked at him.
* * *
Dina stared out the window, making sure she kept her head down. Sarah was still asleep, and she wondered how long her infant daughter would tolerate the constant traveling. She'd been good, and quiet, but a little girl needed real quiet sooner or later. The humming of wheels on asphalt were a comfort so far. Hell, it was putting her to sleep, too.
_30 hours from here to LA,_ she thought. _But no one'll think to chase down a bus right away._
She realized that they'd catch on to her sooner or later, and she'd have to hop busses at an in-between station, or plan other transportation. But they were fine where they were, for awhile. She still had no idea what the hell she'd do; she had no idea where Neal or Jon were, but she figured she knew how they thought. If it was Steve who was with them, she could at least check his house. There was no way they'd be dumb enough to be hiding there. She'd drop Sarah off at her parents' on the way.
_No, wait....no one would look for them there._ And if they weren't there, _she_ could at least hide in plain sight....
* * *
By two that afternoon, the plan to crash the funeral was basically set.
The next hour was spent trying to straighten Neal's hair, which only partly worked. Jon ended up with dark hair of an indeterminate color. At one point, Steve suggested Neal go bald, which met with a less than enthusiastic response.
"We'll just tell everyone you're Bruce Springsteen and Ben Stiller, come to pay their respects," Steve said, and Jon chucked a perm kit at him.
"What exactly do _you_ plan to do about how you look, wiseass?" Jon said.
"Not a damn thing," Steve said. "I'm gonna stand out there in the middle of everything and wait for someone to lose their cool."
Neal stared at him.
Jon said, "So we're back to the cowboy shit."
"No, we're back to drawing someone out enough so I can hear what they have to say."
"And make one of your 'points'," Neal said. "Not to be confused with the Thousand Points of Light."
"We got any say in this?" Jon said.
"If you got any better ideas, fine," Steve said. His tone of voice told Jon he didn't care what the hell the keyboardist thought. "Let's hear it, now, or forever hold your peace." He walked away, and they heard him run back up the stairs to the landing.
Jon looked at Neal expectantly.
"Nah," Neal said. "Hopeless. You wanna come up with something only the two of us know about as a backup, fine, I'm in."
"I think he's cracking," Jon said. "I'm not willing to bet our kids on how right he is about all this. There's gotta be someone who can get us out of this, legit." He sighed. "I don't wanna think along these lines. But at this point, I'd sell him to get Liz and my kids back."
Still hovering just around the corner from the bathroom, Steve nodded to himself and made his way silently up the stairs. When he got there, he heard the faintest _thud_ on the roof and paused on the landing.
Corey had given him the code; 8 translated to how long he was being given before she figured they'd move on him, so they were a little early.
Just like the government, to screw you on time like that.
He went back down the stairs just as silently and said, "We have company."
Jon startled, sweeping his hair back with one hand.
"At least one guy on the roof, which means snipers. We're gonna have to crash the funeral the hard way." He gestured at the closet adjacent to the bathroom. "Out."
"What the--" Neal started to say. Then they heard the back door being kicked in.
Steve opened the closet, shoving a box of Christmas decorations out of the way and shoving the rightmost side of the back wall. It gave quietly, and what had looked like a typical wall turned out to be an entranceway that sat flush with the wall. Steve grabbed Jon and yanked him into the closet as feet pounded above them. "Out."
Jon took a step into the darkness beyond, then turned back uncertainly. "What the--"
Steve gestured Neal in. "Flashlights on the inside wall. Five stairs down, then it's totally underground."
"You'll see," Steve grinned, and pushed Neal in behind him. He pulled a cell phone out of his back pocket and handed it to Neal. "Call Ross. His 'alternate' number is in the memory."
"You had this planned," Jon said angrily.
"Make sure the door is closed all the way," Steve said, shoving the Christmas box back in front of the entranceway and backing out of the closet.
"_Steve_," Jon said, trying not to raise his voice. "You're--"
"Making a point," Steve said, still grinning. Then he waved at them and shut the closet door, leaving them in blackness.
Jon cursed vehemently. "Goddamn him...I was just..." _Panicking, I didn't mean anything..._
"Go on," Neal said. "He knows. Don't waste the gesture." He felt along the wall, then down with one foot and found the first stair. "Let's close this thing, find out where it goes." They both felt their way down the first two stairs, then felt along the door and put it gently back into place, feeling the seam to make sure it sat flush with the wall. Then they felt their way down the rest of the stairs and along the wall, running across the flashlights. Clicking them on, they took in their immediate surroundings. The tunnel itself was narrow and confining, a damp space lined with concrete. But there was enough room to walk. The darkness ahead was unnerving.
Neal shrugged and sighed. "Come on. Sooner we get out, the better."
Then they heard the first shots.
* * *