After eating, she thanked Uta stiffly for the meal and rose to leave. “Karl, we need to be on the road immediately. Please have your men meet us outside in fifteen minutes.”
“It will be as you say, Hannah.” He looked furtively at Uta as he walked out to give orders to his men.
Fiddlestix stalked out of the house to find herself surrounded by muscular men dressed in camouflage uniforms. Karl was giving final instructions as she emerged. She recognized most of them, all of them friends from her youth.
Before she left, Karl kissed her cheek, hugging her tightly to him, not wanting to let her go. “If you need me, you know how to contact me, Hannah,” he whispered before releasing her.
She turned abruptly from him, flinging her long leg over the motorcycle, kicking it into action. The Harlich men flanked her and her companions, setting a fast pace. Once they were on the road, she approached the man in charge, talking to him on her headset, explaining what had happened the night before with the Noir. His perfunctory nod punctuated the conversation.
“So, Hannah,” he said finally, switching to a private channel. “Does this mean you’re coming back?”
“No, Dirk, I’m not.”
“Because of Karl?”
Dirk was Karl’s best friend. He knew about her disgrace, though many didn’t.
“I can’t go back to how things were. I’d fooled myself into thinking I could recapture my past. That doesn’t work.”
He whispered into the microphone. “Do you still love him?”
“I thought I did, but no.”
“There are many other men around, Hannah. You don’t have to be alone unless you want to.”
The road was good, maintained by the Harlichs. This was the longer route, but safer than heading north, through the heart of the Noir territory. They made a sharp turn to the right, heading west. Spying a downed tree in the road, the team of riders slowed their bikes warily.
“That wasn’t here two days ago,” Dirk reported. “Heads up!” He told his men.
“Fresh cut,” Buzzard reported after sniffing the wind.
Buzzard scanned the surrounding woods with his goggles. Two red blips appeared just south of the road, high in a tree.Using hand signals, he told the others.
The Harlichs moved into attack formation, fanning out. If two were visible, Dirk was sure there were others who weren’t. On his signal, one of his men took a rocket launcher, aimed and fired into the tree. The explosion set the woods aflame. Both targets fell with a soft thud.
Machine gun fire erupted from the ditch to their left, and behind the tree. Bullets zinged past, by some miracle, none found a target.
“These guys couldn’t hit a barn! We’re safe as long as they are aiming at us,” Blacksmith quipped.
“What’s that sound?” Buzzard’s head came up, listening. He filtered out the noise of the guns, listening. “Jesus, move!” He roared, urging the group to maneuver around the fallen tree.
By now, a rumble could be heard coming from the rear. Fiddlestix recognized that sound from the battlefield.
“Tank!” She bellowed, gunning her motor.
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