Previously: Digger and Twain went to the Traveler’s Tavern to borrow gas money from Jill, where they encountered detectives Merrick and Grayson. And now…
Jillâ€™s mouth opened, but she couldnâ€™t make any sound come out. And at the same time, she couldnâ€™t stop blinking, as if something deep in her brain had short-circuited, making her lose control of her body. Finally, she managed to say, â€œWhy would you need money? You just robbed a bank.â€
â€œI had to give that to the kidnappers,â€ Digger said. â€œIâ€™m broke, and we need to get to New York.â€
Jill was pretty sure that she would be able to stop the blinking in just a few seconds, if only Digger would say something that made sense. â€œKidnappers? Whatâ€™s going on?â€
Digger turned to Twain. â€œYouâ€™d better go get the van started,â€ he said over the sound of approaching sirens. He turned back to Jill. â€œI donâ€™t have time to explain. Itâ€™s just, youâ€™re the only person I know who would trust me even if you had reason not to. So please, whatever you can.â€
Jill shook her head again as she reached under her counter for her change bag. At least the blinking was coming under control. â€œI donâ€™t know why I put up with you,â€ she said. She pulled out two bundles of fives and a bundle of tens. â€œHereâ€™s a few hundred. I donâ€™t know if itâ€™ll get you all the way, but itâ€™s the best I can do. Are you sure youâ€™re doing the right thing? How do you know you can trust that guy?â€
â€œIâ€™m pretty sure I canâ€™t trust him, but heâ€™s my only link to the truth.â€ Digger let his fingers touch hers just a hair longer than was absolutely necessary as she handed him the money. â€œThanks, Jill. Iâ€™ll…â€
â€œDonâ€™t say youâ€™ll pay me back,â€ Jill said. â€œWe both know you donâ€™t have a job. And Iâ€™m out a mirror and a bottle of Scotch.â€
â€œCall Davey Lopez,â€ Digger said as he headed for the door. â€œTell him how much you need and that Iâ€™ll owe him a favor. Talk to you soon.â€
And then he was gone, leaving behind the smells of gunpowder and Scotch, plus two groaning detectives on the floor. The sirens were growing louder. Pretty soon, sheâ€™d have to answer all kinds of questions. She considered telling them that Digger had robbed her at gunpoint, but no. She wasnâ€™t a good enough liar, and she had better ways to make him suffer.
Like cutting him off until he paid his bar tab.
â€œOkay, finish your story,â€ Digger said to Twain once he was back in the van. â€œWhy does the Cobalt Czar even care about me?â€
Twain pulled out quickly, driving away without even a glance back to see if any police were following him. He drove completely without concern, as if he were sure the police would never stop them. â€œNot a lot to tell, really. When I came to, I was in a dark cell with a dirt floor. They fed me this nasty gruel with greasy rice and stringy meat that might have been dog, might have been rat for all I know. And every couple of hours, they would pull me out and ask me questions.
â€œI told them I was an archaeologist searching for the City of the Moon. They didnâ€™t believe me, so they beat me up. Broke both my arms a couple of times.â€
â€œHow long ago was this?â€ Digger asked. Twain didnâ€™t look as if he had a mark on him.
â€œFew days ago,â€ Twain said. â€œThey had a healer who would fix me up when they broke me too much.â€
â€œThatâ€™s not too bad, I guess,â€ Digger said.
â€œYou ever had an arm force-healed in just a couple of minutes?â€ Twain asked. â€œHurts worse than breaking it. And it always left me dehydrated and weak after. Iâ€™m pretty sure I would have died in a few more days if I hadnâ€™t gotten away.â€
â€œHow did you?â€
â€œThey asked me about you, and I said that I knew you,â€ Twain said. â€œNext thing I knew, they ran me through a shower, gave me fresh clothes, fed me real food and left me in another interrogation room. And then he came in.â€
â€œThe Cobalt Czar?â€
â€œYeah. He asked me if I knew you and I said yes,â€ Twain said. â€œThen he says, â€˜Digger. Everyoneâ€™s hero. Saved the planet while the world watched. Everybody knows him. Everybody loves him.â€™ Then he slammed his hands down on the table and said, â€˜I hate him.â€™â€
â€œWhat did I ever do to him?â€ Digger asked.
â€œYou made him look bad,â€ Twain said. â€œHis people stay in line because they know he canâ€™t be beaten. But man, when you appeared everywhere and stopped Hell on Earth, you changed things. I mean, nobodyâ€™s rebelled or anything, but everyone has that look.â€
â€œHope,â€ Twain said. â€œSo I told him he was preaching to the choir, and then he started asking me about how I knew you, and if you had any weaknesses he could exploit. And when I told how Iâ€™d run rings around you before, he got really friendly and offered me a deal. I help him disgrace you and he brings me back to America and lets me go. He was even going to throw in a cash reward if I did a good job. And Iâ€™ve got to admit, I did a pretty good job.â€
â€œIf you and he are such buddies, whyâ€™d he strap a bomb around your chest?â€ Digger asked.
â€œIncentive,â€ Twain said. â€œHe apparently studied business management here several years ago, before he turned blue, so heâ€™s got all kinds of half-assed ideas about how to motivate people. He was supposed to take the bomb off once I delivered you. But instead, he just let me go and said heâ€™d release it remotely after a week.â€
â€œYou believe him?â€ Digger asked.
â€œNot now,â€ Twain said. â€œWhich is why Iâ€™m helping you.â€
â€œAnd what exactly do you think I can do to him?â€ Digger asked. â€œI’m not really in his league.
What is Twain’s plan? What will happen next? Find out next week as we continue Run, Digger, Run!
To read from the beginning, click here
Or to read the next episode, click here!