“Huh.” Karl wasn’t sure what to think. “It’s still there.”
“Yeah it is.” Elliot unbuckled his seatbelt. “Should I get it?”
The Walmart bag was still tucked under the dumpster behind the bar where they’d hidden it the night before.
Karl shook his head. “Shit, I don’t know. I mean, if they traced the comm, and they found it hidden there, then they could be waiting somewhere, watching, just like we’re doing.”
“So we leave it?” Elliot asked. He sounded as confused as Karl felt.
“No. Yes. Maybe? Shit!” Karl thumped the steering wheel. “I don’t know what’s the right thing to do here!”
Elliot arched a brow at Karl before looking in the back seat at Ian. “Do you ever get the feeling he understands us?”
“All the time,” Karl said dryly. “I talk to Ian all the time, too. He’s my best friend.”
Ian whined and thumped his tail against the seat. He pawed at the window.
Karl had a bad moment where he almost freaked out when he realized that Ian was sure looking in the direction of the comm. Then he decided why should that freak him out with everything else that was going on?
“Okay, Ian, here’s your chance to prove me not crazy.” Karl got out of the Jeep. “So, should we get the comm, or—“
Ian leapt over the front seat and darted out the driver’s side. He snorted like he was proud of himself, then he struck a pointer’s poise, nose aimed at the trash bin.
“Are you serious?” Karl whispered, goose bumps pebbling his skin.
Ian trotted over to the bin and tugged the bag free. He picked it up, catching the plastic between his teeth, then strutted back over.
“I think he’s proud of himself,” Elliot observed. “He looks like one of those fancy, dancing horses.”
Karl didn’t know what Elliot meant, and managed a, “What?” before taking the bag from Ian.
“You know. The horses that do the sideway steps and…and it looks like they dance,” Elliot was explaining. “Dressage? Maybe it’s dressage. That’s a weird word.”
Karl shook his head. “Elliot, Ian just went and got the comm. That’s weird.”
Ian butted his head against Karl’s thigh.
“No,” Elliot drawled, “That’s a dog who’s smarter than we are. He figured out what to do.”
Karl opened his mouth to argue then shut it again. It was impossible to argue effectively against a solidly proven point.
“We should reach the point on the map in about six hours,” Elliot said several minutes later when they were on the road.
Karl had been gripping the steering wheel so tightly that his fingers ached, but he was beginning to relax and believe they might not be attacked or found or whatever it was that could have happened. Honestly, he wasn’t sure what he feared at that point. Something bad, that was the best he could figure.
“It’ll still be light, too, so—you know, I don’t know why we’re going there,” Elliot said. “I mean, the AI’s told me to, but why? And why didn’t I ask them more questions?”
“Guess we’ll see what’s what when we get there.” Karl just hoped it wasn’t some kind of a trap that they were headed for. “I wish we knew who we could trust.”
“Each other,” Elliot said promptly. “And Ian, of course.”
The emotional warmth Karl experienced was much more pleasant than the heat he was used to, living in the desert. “I do trust you both. It happened quick with you, Elliot, but I—“ Did he dare admit it? Karl remembered his grandma saying, Nothing ventured, nothing gained. “But it felt right, everything about you. Like we’ve known each other longer, like…like…”
“Like destiny,” Elliot finished for him. “We were meant to be right where we are, together.”
Karl chuckled. “Yeah, though we could do without the threat of being captured or worse.”
Elliot waggled his eyebrows. “Sure, but it adds that little extra sense of adventure. Wouldn’t want you to get bored with me.”
“Never happen,” Karl vowed, feeling happier than he had in a very long time. “You know, I’m having more fun, and I’m happy in a way I can’t remember being before. Who would have thought that would be the case, what with people trying to get us? Or you, and me in the peripheral? Maybe I was made for a life of adventure!”
Elliot sat back with contemplative expression as he stroked his chin. “Maybe you are.”