Adele stood under the shower. Stood. No shower chair. She could hear the kitten batting around the wrapper from the soap. They did need to get an early start, or she’d have suggested they all spend some time at the hotel’s pool. Then again, Yala and a pool might not be a good idea. He could inadvertently switch forms, and they had no idea how he’d react to various pool chemicals. Did he switch when he got wet? Assuming Greg reminded him to shower, they’d know soon enough.
Reluctantly, she got out of the shower and pulled her clothes on. Natalya was still sprawled on the bed, and Octopus climbed up and made herself comfortable on Natalya’s back. Adele shook her head and headed out to grab them all some breakfast.
Halfway down the corridor she noted a familiar face. One of the handlers was talking to the desk clerk. Immediately she turned around and headed back. “Nat?” She rushed over and shook her friend awake. “Nat, they are here.”
“I’m not going to have to deal with any seahorse issues, am I?” Greg raised an eyebrow.
“What is a ‘seahorse’?” Yalathanil tilted his head.
“Suppose it’s too late now to worry about it.” He chuckled as he examined the faint red marks on his torso. Yalathanil’s biofeedback seemed to cause them, but they didn’t hurt and faded quickly. He suspected it was something akin to skin reddening during a hot shower.
Despite how little sleep they’d actually gotten, he felt energized. He wasn’t sure what he’d enjoyed more, fucking Yalathanil or being fucked by him. There had been a few weird parts. Yalathanil’s body temperature was at least five degrees lower than his own. Upon learning that humans had erogenous zones and that the biofeedback was particularly pleasurable in those areas, Yalathanil had promptly gone looking. He’d been very thorough in making sure he found everyone. A couple still felt like they tingled.
There was a noticeable beard-burn on Yalathanil’s chest. Yalathanil had found the sensation very appealing, and had been delighted almost as much by Greg’s chest hair and other areas. He had no body hair of his own, just the mimicry atop his head. Tickling was also apparently something new to the man, and there had been a moment in which Yalathanil had been simultaneously begging him to stop and to keep going.
“Greg, would you assist?” Yalathanil was frowning at the button-up shirt.
“Sure.” He chuckled, then took a closer look. “For starters, you have it on inside out.”
“Your species makes their outer—” Yalathanil caught himself. “Clothing is confusing.”
“Yeah, well, I think most humans would agree with you on —” He cut off when someone knocked at the door. They both turned to stare at it as the knock came again. “The girls would announce themselves.”
Yalathanil’s suddenly let out a hissing sound. “I know that scent.”
Natalya had just finished pulling her pants on when someone knocked at the door. She winced. Adele picked up the kitten, clutching it to her protectively. “Greg hasn’t responded to my text yet.”
“Shit.” Natalya stood. “Okay, we need —” She heard the sound of keys, and then the door was being unlocked.
The latch caught, and she started looking around for anything she could use as a weapon. Then the door was broken open. A half-dozen cops flooded into the room, weapons drawn. One got on a radio. They looked from Adele to her, and then back at Adele. The one in the lead frowned. “Sir…” The radio made a clicking sound. “Sir I think our information may be —”
All of them turned at the sound of gunfire from one of the other rooms.
Greg tackled him behind the bed just as the men entering the room started shooting. Yalathanil saw the projectiles destroy the television Greg had been standing in front of a moment before, and his eyes narrowed. “Are you hurt?”
“No, you?” Greg exhaled. “Fuck, I hate this…” He reached down and drew the gun he’d taken from the men Yalathanil had downed previously.
“This is the police. Drop your weapons and put your hands in the air.” One of the men coming.
“Yala, I think some of them are real cops. They’ve been tricked. They aren’t bad guys.” Greg exhaled.
He frowned as men started into the room. Though he understood what Greg was trying to tell him, that did complicate matters considerably. He took a deep breath, shifted position slightly, and then flung the bed to his left atop the men entering the room, knocking them to the ground. “Flee and we will not harm you.” He frowned when he realized the only man he hadn’t caught with the bed had ducked into the bathroom. “Greg, how do we get out of here?”
“You can fucking talk.” Yalathanil blinked, and saw one of the handlers staring at him. Next to him one of the men in black partway under the bed started to raise a gun at Yalathanil, and the handler grabbed his arm. “No, not that one.”
“What—” The man blinked at him. The man in the bathroom took aim at Yalathanil, and the handler fired first, shooting the man in black.
“You fucking fuck —” The man next to the handler started trying to bring his own weapon up as the handler started to turn the weapon on the man in black.
Yalathanil started forward to stop him just as Greg fired his own weapon, taking the handler right between the eyes. He glanced over his shoulder and saw Greg nod. Yalathanil returned the nod, then heard the girls shouting in the next room. “The girls.”
“Shit.” Greg exhaled.
“What the hell is —” The man partway under the mattress was pointing a gun at Yalathanil, but looked shocked. The gun was trembling a little in his hand.
“Problems.” Yalathanil sighed. Then he lunged forward and caught the man’s wrist, yanking the gun out of his hand. He pulled the man out from under the mattress and sniffed him. “Greg, real or not real?”
“I think he’s a real cop.” Greg went to the man in the bathroom and put two fingers on his throat. “Shit, he’s dead.”
There was shouting from down the hall. “Greg, they come.” Yalathanil kept his grip on the man despite the man trying to pull free.
“The window. Let’s go.” Greg pointed.
“I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.” Adele stared at the cop in front of her, slightly enjoying the look of shock on the face of the handler. Two of the cops were glaring at the guy.
“I don’t even fucking believe this.” Natalya folded her arms. “We drive out here to pick up my cat, and get our door kicked down.”
“Ma’am, I…” The cop in the lead swallowed.
Adele sighed, then gave the man a commiserating look. “I’m sorry, officer, you…” She reached out and put a hand on his shoulder. “Nat, settle down. This isn’t their fault.” She sighed. “I hope you catch the bad guys, officer. And recover your man safely.” And when she caught up with Greg, she was going to cheerfully murder him. What was he thinking, taking a hostage? “I’ll call my father, see if —”
“It’s appreciated ma’am.” The officer nodded. “So you don’t know these guys?”
“We talked to them a little bit in the parking lot.” Natalya sat up. “They were cute, we flirted, that was pretty much it.”
“They tried to get us to come with them, but frankly…” Adele shook her head. “They weren’t cute enough to be worth driving hungover and exhausted.”
“Sounds like you girls got lucky.” The handler was glaring at her. It took all her self-control not to glare right back.
“Good luck, officers.” Adele sighed.
“That man killed Arnold.” The cop was staring.
Greg put a hand on his shoulder. “Okay, for starters…” He winced. “I’m really sorry about the fact we just sort of took you hostage and it was kind of an accident. But you saw something they didn’t want you to and I was pretty sure you’d get shot by…” He exhaled. “What’s your name?”
“Phillip. Er…” The officer shrugged. “Phil.” He exhaled. “Okay, if you didn’t intend to take me hostage, I highly recommend letting me go right now.”
He exchanged a look with Yala, who shrugged. Greg exhaled. “Unfortunately, until we know what happened, we can’t. We might need to trade you for the girls.”
“The girls?” Phil blinked. “The ones you took hostage?”
“You are only hostage we have taken.” Yala shook his head.
“We were told that he…” Phil nodded at Greg. “Robbed a lab and took the three of you hostage.”
“Greg?” Yala blinked. “Greg wouldn’t take a hos…” He stared at Phil a moment, then glanced at Greg. “This is awkward.”
“Technically, you took him hostage.” Greg twitched his shoulder as he gave Yala a half smile. “I saved his life.”
“Yeah…” Phil gave a small shake of his head. “You did.” He raised his head. “He shot Arnold to keep Arnold from shooting you…” He glanced up at Yala, then exhaled. “And was going to shoot me because I saw him do it. Who the hell are you people?”
“We are the good guys.” Yala nodded.
“Okay, Phil. We aren’t going to hurt you. We just need —” Greg took a deep breath.
“What the hell?” Nat’s voice came from behind him. She and Adele emerged from the trees. “You did take a cop hostage?”
“That was me.” Yala shook his head. As soon as Adele glared at him he hurriedly continued. “It could be said I rescued him.”
“Is that true?” Adele folded her arms and stared at Phil.
“I…” Phil sighed and hung his head a moment before looking up at her. “Have absolutely no idea what is going on but if you let me go I can help you clear this up before anyone else gets hurt.”
“Why do you still have him if you rescued him?” Natalya frowned.
“We thought we might need to trade him for you.” Greg sighed.
“Don’t you watch TV?” Adele shook her head. “That never works.”
“It really doesn’t.” Phil shrugged.
“Okay, Phil…” Greg ran a hand down his face. “What exactly did you think the situation was?”
Natalya paced. “That matches what we learned. They said you took us hostage and were armed and dangerous and all kinds of shit.” She gave Greg a sympathetic look. Xue’s people had painted a giant target on his back, and recent events ensured it was glowing.
“They also told us to stick around. We won’t be able to get the car or the rest of our stuff, but we did grab our cash and Octopus.” Adele nodded. “We need to get out of Nebraska. We get across jurisdictional lines and they have to do a lot more justifying their shit.”
“They think he killed a cop.” Phil looked up. “There won’t be a lot of questions asked, especially as you still have another cop as a hostage.”
“You’re not a hostage.” Natalya shook her head at him. “You just…” She sighed. “Can’t go anywhere until we figure out what to do next and…” She pointed. “You can tell them Greg didn’t kill anyone.”
“Actually…” Greg winced. They both immediately turned to stare at him.
“He killed the guy that killed Arnold and was about to kill me.” Phil exhaled, then glanced down at his handcuffed wrists. “So, I am very predisposed to being sympathetic to your side of the story.”
“But since you are a hostage, they won’t listen to you. They’ll assume you are being coerced into saying whatever we want you to say.” Adele sided.
“And the longer you keep me hostage…” Phil gave them a pointed look.
“I am very confused.” Yala shook his head.
“We are all right there with you.” Natalya patted his shoulder. “Greg, where are the handcuff keys?” She accepted them when he handed them over, then began to Phil’s wrists. “Okay, look, you need to be careful, alright? Xue will absolutely kill you if he thinks you are in his way, and you did witness one of his guys and…” She sighed, then stepped back again. “Shit, you might be safer as our hostage.”
“Well, now they know you are with us willingly, so…” Greg sighed. “Him being with us makes it a lot less likely they’ll try shooting at whatever vehicle we…” He brightened. “Phil, you probably live nearby. Do you have a car?”
“You…” Phil stared at him. “You cannot possibly be that stupid. That is the worst idea I’ve heard in a day that has been made entirely of bad ideas.”
“That’s why it’s got to be the last thing anyone would expect us to do.” Natalya shrugged. “I mean, are you married or living with anyone cause we don’t want to cause a problem for them.”
“I am married to a cop and my parents are cops and I have six cop roommates.” Phil sighed.
“I think he is lying.” Yala tilted his head.
“Alright. That makes things easier.” Adele grinned. “Let’s take Phil’s car.”
“Adele…” Xue stared. “Was walking?”
“That was what he said, sir.” Genna nodded, her eyes wide.
“She was paralyzed from the waist down. It took a month for the first signs of nerve damage reversal to begin appearing.” Xue looked down at his hands. They weren’t trembling, but he felt like he could feel it. “She was in a wheel chair two days ago. She has only been in contact with the creature for two days.”
“Yes, sir.” Genna swallowed. “Sir, the situation is volatile. They believe Greg killed the men, but considering we told them Adele was paralyzed and she was walking, they are starting to ask a lot of questions. Sir, they may…”
“I don’t care. Genna, I’ve already arranged false identities in a country with no extradition treaty.” He smiled at her. “I hope you don’t mind, to make the cover story work more easily your new identity makes you my daughter.”
Her eyes widened, and she gave him a trembling smile. “I don’t mind at all, sir.” She took a deep breath. “We’ll get the creature back, sir.”
“If…” He slowly nodded. “The information you’ll need is in my top desk drawer, in the lockbox. Just in case.” He patted her hand. “We don’t know what they’ve told their prisoner or what that man saw. Too great a risk to take. Tell Seward to eliminate the hostage.”