They’d found some cheap rooms in a very seedy five story hotel. It stood crammed and narrow between two other buildings as if the larger buildings on either side had slowly crushed it over the years, squeezing the poor little hotel into its current vertical orientation.
A garage where they could park the Kappy’s tub and Miles’ tractor was more important than their rooms however, and this hotel had one. They’d kept the robot under the tarp and fortunately there weren’t any other vehicles in the garage. Miles doubted the noise of the robot’s turning wheel would attract any attention once the doors were closed.
Kappy had flatly refused to pay for the hotel rooms and Miles had to oblige. It didn’t matter. The price wouldn’t be extravagant and he knew his dad wouldn’t mind if a little of the money he’d gotten from selling the produce went for a hotel. He’d helped earn it after all.
Even so he felt a pang of guilt. It wasn’t as if he’d given his dad any notice of this impulsive journey. Miles could take care of himself and his dad wouldn’t worry for a while yet, but even so… he decided to get a letter sent as soon as he could. Who knew how long they’d be on this adventure.
It was the first time he’d been completely alone since he’d met Kappy. He lay fully clothed on the bed, making sure to keep his dirty shoes off the blanket and thought about what he was doing so far from home.
The hotel rooms were old, but this area of town didn’t seem too bad. Traffic had died down soon after the sun set and the street below was silent. He couldn’t sleep though.
He hadn’t given much thought to his decision to follow the robot. Actually, he hadn’t given it any thought. He’d just decided. He knew he was impulsive of course, it was one thing his dad chided him about regularly. “You just don’t think, Miles!” It was something he was working on, he wanted to be levelheaded, but he hadn’t given his decision to follow Kappy and the robot a second thought.
A street light came on outside and shown with a reddish tinge through the curtains, the dingy beam falling across his chest.
Following the robot had just felt right. He’d never felt like that about a decision before, as if he’d been born to follow that robot wherever it was going.
But now that he had time to think, he was beginning to wonder just how far this journey might take him. And to what end? The world felt like a very big dark place just at the moment.
Outside an engine coughed to life.
The noise reminded him of Kappy. That crazy girl. She was a wild thing. He’d grown up on the outskirts of civilization, helping his dad with the farm, but that was nothing compared to her. He hadn’t ever asked her what she did out there, how she lived. He was honestly a little scared to ask her personal questions, but that was part of what made her exciting. He’d never met anyone like her.
And that engine sounded a lot like Kappy’s tub.
And it was driving out into the street below his window.
His heart leapt into his throat. Was someone stealing the robot again? Kappy would kill him if anything happened to if after he’d forced her to spend the night in town!
He jumped out of bed and wrenched the curtains aside, pressing his cheek against the greasy glass to see into the road below.
It was Kappy’s tub!
But it was also Kappy driving. At least, he thought he recognized the explosion of dirty hair in the street below.
He raced back to his door and threw it open, startling an old lady who was climbing up from the lower landing. He stammered out an apology and thundered down the steps to Kappy’s room. The door to 4A stood ajar and was completely empty. The bed was still made and Kappy was gone.
What was she doing? Was she running an errand? Getting something to eat? Or was she really so annoyed at him that she was leaving? Abandoning him here?
Miles rushed down the four flights of stairs to the lobby. There were a couple muffled shouts of anger from behind closed doors, but he ignored them. He emerged into the street, breathing heavily and stood under the light of the streetlamp.
The road was empty.
He swallowed and tried to regulate his breathing, tried to hold his breath so that he could hear. His heart pounded in his ears, but he definitely heard the rumble of Kappy’s tub.
He trotted off after it, listening hard between gasps for breath.
Fortunately the tub did not move very fast and as his breathing slowed he was able to hear the engine without any trouble. He was in a residential area now and the streets were empty. In the distance, towards downtown, he could hear the rumble of engines and music, but that was far away, in another world.
The last of the light was just fading from the sky and in the cool of the night it was actually rather peaceful moving through the neighborhoods, with just the background growl of the tub’s engine several streets away and the echoing smacks of his shoes on the pavement to break the quiet.
She was heading towards the bridge. Miles knew those men would still be there. She had promised him though! She had promised not to fight her way through.
Miles felt hurt. Even angry. How could she do this to him? Was he really such a liability? Couldn’t she accept good advice even if she didn’t agree with it?
Then he froze.
He held his breath listening with all his might, sure he must be mistaken.
But no, there could be no mistaking the direction. The sound of the engine hadn’t turned towards the bridge. It’d turned the other way.
She was heading towards Moughte ravine.