Megan took a deep breath and held it for several seconds before releasing it. She glanced at her phone resting in the cupholder. It was still flashing a tiny light at the top letting her know she had a new text message.
But it wasn’t new, not since she first saw it over an hour ago. She just hadn’t read it. Because once she read it, she’d have to respond to it.
And Megan didn’t want to respond to it.
She looked out the windshield, the wipers working frantically to keep up with the snow. Before the text Megan didn’t want to respond to, there had been another text. After seeing that text, Megan hadn’t been able to concentrate, her thoughts too scattered.
When she realized this storm would be worse than the weatherman had predicated, Megan knew she had to get out while she could. She responded to the first text and packed up her work. She wouldn’t be able to focus at the dojo.
Not after that first text.
She told Carol she was leaving, which seemed to have sparked a discussion among those in Carol’s cardio class whether or not they should cancel the class or cut it short.
Megan let out a sigh as she drove around the car in front of her. They kept drifting back and forth and wouldn’t pick a lane to stay in. Not that anyone could see the lanes. Getting out of Boston was always a fun event on a bright sunny day, but factor in a snowstorm and people rushing to get home, it had turned into a shitshow. Especially since a lot of places were already closing for tomorrow too. Which meant a three-day weekend for many people. Certain exits were already backed up and several cars had slid off the road.
Fortunately for Megan she had left at the right time and once outside the city and heading north to Maine, she broke away from the traffic. She had slowed down since getting away from Boston as the storm got worse the closer she got to Maine.
Megan looked at her phone. The tiny light was still flashing. It shouldn’t be that hard of a decision for her.
But it was.
Megan put her blinker on to change lanes. The High Level Bridge that connected New Hampshire to Maine coming into view, even with the reduced visibility.
She wondered again if she should have offered Carol a ride back to the ‘Walker Compound’. Megan had thought about it before leaving the dojo but decided against it after considering several factors. First, Carol still had appointments at the dojo and couldn’t just cancel, despite what her class may have wanted. Second, Carol would want to drive. Third, they would spend most of the ride in silence not having much to talk about. And if Megan was going to be driving in a snowstorm in silence, she might as well be alone with her thoughts. And fourth, if Carol stayed at the dojo, then that meant it would just be Nick and Megan at the Compound and the two of them hadn’t spent any one-on-one time together for a while now.
Megan allowed herself a smile as she unlocked the titanium gate that surrounded the Walker Compound from her car. She drove through the main gate and parked in the driveway next to Nick’s Trailblazer. Judging from the amount of snow on it, he’d been home for a while now.
Megan found Nick in the kitchen.
“That smells incredible,” she said and took off her coat.
“Thanks, it still has about forty minutes to go,” Nick replied.
Megan looked at the Crock-Pot Nick was cooking the beef stew in. She couldn’t wait for dinner.
“Want me to get a bottle of wine?” Nick asked as Megan sat down at the large cream marble top island across from him.
“No, Dew’s fine.”
Nick grabbed two Mountain Dews from the fridge.
“So what’s up?” He asked handing her one.
“Nothing, why do you ask?”
“Cause you have that look on your face,” Nick said taking a sip of his Dew.
“What look? I do not.”
Nick shrugged and started peeling potatoes. Megan remained silent for a moment as she took a long drink of her Dew and tried not to think of the text she hadn’t responded to yet.
“You’re making mashed potatoes too?”
“I always do with this version of my beef stew.”
“Yes but it’s just us tonight. I didn’t think you’d take the time.”
“Do you not want my mashed potatoes?” Nick teased.
Megan made a face and Nick laughed.
“Carol informed me you had her take over one of your lessons with Karla Gricenko this week,” Megan said changing the subject.
“I did. I had plans with Michelle.”
“Karla was fine with it. It’s good to train with other partners. Mix up the routine. Keeps you from getting complacent with your technique.”
“I see,” Megan repeated.
Nick stopped peeling potatoes and looked at her. Megan looked back.
Neither said anything.
“I have a surprise for you,” Nick said changing the subject.
Nick walked into the dining room and came back with two bags full of comics.
“I took a drive up to Jetpack Comics in Rochester since you missed New Comic Book Day yesterday. I picked up your hold stack. You never picked up last week’s either. So I got those too.”
Nick put the bags down on the clean part of the island in front of Megan. There was about eighty comics between the two bags.
Megan smiled. “Thank you Nick.”
Nick smiled then went back to peeling potatoes while Megan browsed through the first stack of forty comics. After peeling three more potatoes, Nick cut them up and placed them in a pot with water.
“So how come you never got last week’s stash?”
“I was busy,” Megan replied without looking up.
“You’ve been saying that a lot lately.”
“Well, it’s true.”
“I know but don’t you think you should slowdown some? Take a break?”
“Take. A. Break?” Megan repeated slowly.
“Yep. You are allowed to.”
Megan rubbed her temples.
“You know that loud-mouthed billionaire is still somehow in the Presidential race, right?”
“Can’t turn the TV on without being reminded. That’s why I don’t watch TV much.”
“Yeah, that’s the reason.”
“I told you about that missing transport?”
“The German gold?”
“The Crimson Horizon, Blue Oni, CJ Chambers, The Corsairs, that thing with the Racines, plus what happened in Cape Town, that order of Platinum. And there’s my BitCoin shipment.”
“I know about all of that because I read your briefings,” Nick said with a grin.
“Then you know that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s still Alcot Aviations, The Trisen Corporation, not to mention-”
“Megan,” Nick interrupted.
“Take a deep breath.”
“Do it,” Nick said sternly.
Megan glared at him but did so.
“All that stuff will still be there tomorrow. The world won’t end if you stop to read a few comic books or play a game for a few hours.”
“It could,” Megan said softly.
“Then we’ll deal with it,” Nick said and held her hand. “But we’ll deal with it a lot better with you recharged and not stressed out.”
“I’m not stressed out.”
Nick gave her a look.
“Fine,” was Megan’s response.
Nick smiled and took a sip of his Dew.
“You’re still doing my Bitcoin job for me tomorrow night, right?” Megan asked putting the first stack of comics back in the bag.
She hadn’t touched the second stack.
“Yes ma’am. This snowstorm is actually a good thing for that. I even got Jin Chenghu to help me before she left town.”
“You know I don’t like it when you involve her or the Chenghu family in things.”
“Didn’t we just agree that you worry too much?”
Megan took another long drink of her Dew.
“Do you want to eat here or in the dining room?” Nick asked,
“Okay. After dinner, we can retreat to the den and relax in there. Phones and anything electronic stay here.”
Megan looked up at him. Her brown eyes getting drawn into his big blue eyes.
“Fine. I’m going to go make sure everything is secured then. This storm’s not stopping soon.”
“Welcome to Maine. Expect 0 to 24 inches.”
Nick laughed and said, “Okay, have fun securing everything.”
Megan glanced back at him but said nothing as he finished with the potatoes then started forming rolls with the homemade bread dough he made earlier.
She put her coat on and hat back on and started to walk away only to pause and come back for her phone.
A phone she hadn’t touched once since coming into the house.
Once back outside, Megan slid her phone into her pocket then put on her gloves, zipped her coat all the way up, and pulled her hat all the way down over her tiny ears. She also put up her hood.
The snow was coming down fast as ever, the wind worse here than Boston. Megan was glad she had her contacts in and not her glasses on, as the visibility was poor and the snow smacked her in the face. She would have spent the entire time trying to clean off her glasses and not been able to see anything anyway.
By the time Megan had walked from the house to the hanger, her cheeks were red and cold. She pulled on the hanger doors but they didn’t budge. They were locked up good.
Just like she knew they would be.
Nick knew it too as he had already done all this before the storm started. But Megan had certain routines she liked to follow, which is why he said nothing to stop her from going back out into the storm.
After the hanger Megan walked down to the nine one-bedroom log cabins also on the property, past the house’s backyard.
Despite the cold and blowing snow, and that it was now almost dark, Megan took her time, her thoughts on hold. The snow was up past her ankles but she didn’t care. Each cabin was checked from the outside and secured again. After the last one Megan walked back to the main road of the Compound.
She looked to her right, down the road. It ended at the woods where it became a trail that led to the training course the team used. There was also a mock up village in the course.
If it had been a nice summer day, Megan would have gone to check on that as well. She liked walking in the woods, especially alone. Sometimes that’s all she needed to clear her mind or solve a problem. But it wasn’t summer and the snow was making her cold, so she started back to the house, her pace slow, her thoughts still on hold. She continued to look around. Her mind only focusing on the here and now. And right now it was quiet.
Megan knew snow affected the way sound traveled and that it muffled noise. Snow stacks up with plenty of space between flakes. Therefore sound waves have less surface area to bounce off of. But there was something about the peacefulness that came with a snowstorm she had enjoyed since she was a kid. And it was the main reason she wanted to take her walk.
Megan let out a deep breath as she approached the house. None of the upstairs lights were on. Bobbi more than anyone else, tended to, not only turn every light on she could find, but also never shut them off afterwards.
She reached into her pocket and pulled out her phone finally looking at the text from Haley. By now there was a second and third text after that one.
Megan closed her eyes and thought of all the stuff she said to Nick. Then thought of all the stuff she could have added. Next she thought about what he said to her.
She could slowdown. For a bit.
But she couldn’t stop.
Not now. Not with everything going on in the world. They needed to be prepared. They needed to be ready. No matter the cost.
She texted Haley back. She got a response less than sixty seconds later.
Megan replied then put her phone away. She let out one more deep breath and composed herself before going back inside to wash up for dinner.
They had to be prepared.
No matter the cost.
The Merc Series
A Merc Series Short Story