Chapter 20 - A Bounty On Our Heads

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We ran until we could no longer see the town buildings were lumps on the horizon, blocked by the rolling land and the fall of evening. We slowed, and I walked, hands on hips sucking in lungfuls of air.

"Did you kill him?" The question had been blaring in my mind as soon as I had seen the man laying behind the building, still.

Tobin stopped next to me, breathing hard as well, staring at the ground. "No. He had a heartbeat." Then he turned to me and reached a hand for my arm, but I shied away. Those hands had almost killed someone right in front of me.

He may not have murdered the man, but I was still in shock. I thought I knew who Tobin was, but maybe I didn't. How much had he told me about himself? The most personal conversation we had had about him was about his tattoo only an hour or so ago.

He ran his hand, the one I backed away from, through his hair, and he let out a frustrated sigh. "I couldn't let him lead us back to the town square, and if we ran, he would have raised an alarm. I had to do something."

"We could have tied him up and gagged him. You didn't have to almost kill him." My voice was getting higher and louder, and I stopped speaking to take some deep breaths.

"We didn't have the luxury of time on our side." He cocked his head to the side, his voice dry.

He had a point, and I had done things I didn't think I was capable of until I was desperate. Thomas' image floated in my mind; the reason the bounty was now crowning my head along with Eluena and Mindy. I turned and kept walking in the direction of the airplanes, not quite ready to go back to how we had been before I watched him strangle a person. The hands that had caressed my face were the same ones used to silence that man.

The walk back was quiet, filled with tension. It was taut and fueled by paranoia. Could Gene be following? Would we get back to find Eluena and Mindy ok? My mind raced in circles, and on top of the questions, I kept playing the almost-kiss and then shattering the image with the old man laying still in the streets of Willow's Grove.

Tobin kept his distance as he had on the way into Willow's Grove. I caught him stealing furtive looks at me a few times, but we both left each other to our own thoughts.

When the old airplanes came into view, we circled to make sure we hadn't been followed or wouldn't be caught unawares. Tobin had been right. At least Mindy or Eluena was being smart. They were quiet and with no fire lit to give them away.

Once we both convinced ourselves that no one else was near the abandoned airfields, we climbed the ladder to Eluena and Mindy. I went up first. My bow and arrow greeted my head, grasped in Eluena's hands. Mindy was on the other side, holding one of the syringes from the Hole.

Since I hadn't wanted to scare them, I had ascended the ladder slowly, which I was glad for. Mindy looked ready to pounce, and I shivered at remembering the feel of that needle and its effects.

"It's Talia," I whispered.

"Oh Thank God," Eluena said.

Followed quickly by Mindy's words. "I was about to stab you if you didn't announce yourself soon."

I lifted my hand to push the arrow out of my face, ignoring Mindy, and then clambered over the edge and controls to make room for Tobin to come up.

"Anything happen around here?" I glanced into the main cabin of the plane. It looked like they had settled in before we came back.

Eluena shook her head, "Nothing. It's been quiet." She hugged herself.

Mindy only turned and headed back to the seats. Tobin was climbing over the controls. I was turning to follow Mindy and Eluena when he clamped a hand on my shoulder.

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