“Lainie,” Mom said, her voice a little gentler, “we have to follow the rules, whether we like them or not.”
“The rules are nuts, Mom,” I protested. “Like making us keep our old initials. So the Mafia is too stupid to check the passenger lists for trains and planes leaving Southern California? You think they won’t look for two A.F.’s and an L.F. with one‑way tickets to the same place?”
Mom moved to the right to let a tailgating Jeep speed ahead. “That’s one reason we’re splitting up,” she said. “WITSEC has never lost anyone who followed the rules,” she said.
“WITSEC?” I yelped. “Who the hell is that?”
“The Witness Security Program. That’s its other name.”
Sheesh. WITSEC. Like the FBI was such a buddy, we needed to give them a nickname. My face itched, and I rubbed it hard.
“Don’t do that,” Mom said. “You’ll rub off your makeup.”
“It feels like dirt. I don’t know how you put up with it.”
“You get used to it. Especially when you have more important things to worry about.”
Well, we had that, in spades. I’d just dumped someone I really wanted to go out with. I wouldn’t be going to art school next year, because that’s what Linda Farley would have done. I had to be someone else, probably forever. Compared to that, grease all over my face really was a detail.
I gave up and quit talking about it. Whining wasn’t going to do any good. Mom kept quiet too, watching the traffic. In the front seat, Alan sang some dumb song from a TV kids’ show, over and over. But, as Mom had said, I had more important things to worry about.
We took the Alameda Street exit and pulled into the train station.
“What are you going to do with the car when you get to the airport?” I asked.
“Leave it in a parking lot with the window down and the keys in the ignition.”
Even the Mafia wouldn’t have a chance if she did that. The locals would have that car in a chop shop faster than the Godfather could blink.
I got out, staggering a little in my high heels. Mom unloaded my new suitcase, and I waved as she pulled away.
Finally alone in the huge, echoing main hall of Union Station, I thought about calling Nicholas. If I could figure out who might be a federal marshal, I could make a call without being seen. But no one looked likely. I could probably rule out the lady with the screaming twins. Maybe the down-at-the-heels man, checking the ashtrays for smokeable cigarette butts? I gave up. Hell, for all I knew, it could be one of the pigeons flapping around the rafters high overhead.
I snorted. The melodrama was getting to me, but just the same, it was creepy to think of trained watchers out there—the good guys and the bad guys. Like some TV show you wouldn’t watch any longer than it took to find the channel-change button on the remote.
Bye, Nicholas. I tried to think it hard enough to reach him.