"So, you're, like, a private investigator or something?" she said, pulling into the reserved parking place at my apartment which was, amazingly, not occupied by someone else's car.
"Well, not really, but you could think of it that way if you want to," I said.
She killed the engine and turned toward me, leaning back against the driver's door. "So, who do you work for?"
"I work for people who need me," I sighed. "It's a little complicated, Sam, and I'm really tired."
"It's only twelve-thirty, Simon. Don't be a wuss."
"Not for me it's not. For me it's like, forty-five thirty. I haven't slept for almost two days."
"Oh," she turned back to the front and put her hands on the wheel. "Well, you should go then."
"Right," I said, turning to look at Amy in the back seat. She was still sound asleep. "Could you give me a hand with the doors and stuff?"
"Sure." Sam took her huge, jingly keyring from the ignition and hopped out of the car. Envious of her energy, I reluctantly climbed out with a groan and opened the back door. I considered for a second the best way to pick Amy up without waking her and then leaned in to get her. "Wait," Sam said. "First give me your house key."
"Good idea," I said, and I dug my tiny keyring - holding only two keys - from my pocket and tossed it to her. "It's the one that's not a Chevy key," I said, leaning in to get Amy.
"Oh, thank you, Simon. I would never have figured it out. We'd have been here all night."
"You're welcome," I groaned, lifting Amy as gently as I could from the car. "Let's go."
Sam closed the door behind me and then walked ahead of me toward the stairs. "You're going to live in this dump forever, aren't you Simon," she said.
"No," I said. "Eventually I'll die."
"Ha! You're hilarious. You know what I mean. Don't you want to have a house and a family and a normal life, dude?"
"I haven't really thought much about it," I lied. "Why? Do you want to marry me?"
"It's tempting, Simon. It really is, but knowing that something might happen one day and you might end up smelling like you do right now gives me the resolve to say no, painful though it is."
"Sorry," I said. I probably was pretty ripe after all that walking around. "Is it really that bad?"
"Dude, you don't want to know." She reached the bottom of the stairs and bounded up them.
"Great," I said.
"Lighten up, dude. I'm just... Holy shit, Simon!"
"What?" I was coming up the stairs after her. She was already around the corner.
"You really aren't that kind of repairman."
"What?" I asked again. I reached the top step, my legs killing me, and walked around the corner. "Shit," I hissed.
My door was hanging open with a huge hole in it like someone had kicked it. The door jamb was broken inward. For an instant I was angry, wondering about all my things inside. Then, almost immediately, a chill ran up the back of my neck, and I knew we were in danger.
"Come on. Now!" I said to Sam, turning to head back for the stairs.
"What?" she asked, standing there. "Dude, don't you even want to check on things?"
"No! Let's get out of here. NOW!" That got through to her and she scrambled up behind me as I tried to get down the stairs as quickly as I could with Amy.
"What is it?" She sounded nervous.
"Let's just get to the car."
"Simon, you are freaking me out, man!"
"Shh!" We got to the bottom of the stairs and, feeling a sense of urgency, I held Amy tightly and ran as best as I could, jostling her around pretty badly. She started to wake up as I ran to the back door on the driver's side. Sam was right behind me, unlocking the car with the remote. I slid quickly into the back with Amy still in my arms as Sam jumped into the front. "Don't start the car!" I said. "Get down!"
"GET DOWN!" Just as I said it, I saw headlights turn into the driveway. Pushing Amy down into the floorboard, I hunkered down in the back seat.
"Ouch," Amy moaned.
"Shh!" I said. Amy looked up at me groggily, and, seeing my face, her eyes opened wide.
"SHH!" I snapped. She closed her mouth.
A car pulled into the parking lot slowly and pulled into an empty space on the other side of the lot, near the building. I peeked, keeping as low as I could, through the side window.
"Simon? I'm scared," Sam whispered from the front.
"Me too," said Amy.
"Just be very still and stay down," I said, trying to see the other car. It was a black car. I didn't recognize it.
"What's going on?" Sam asked.
"I don't know. Hold on." Nothing happened for a few minutes, and then the lights on the black car went off and a guy got out. I couldn't see him very well in the dark. He looked like a small guy. He was in a suit. I didn't recognize him.
"Simon?" It was Sam.
"Shh. There's someone out there. He's going up to my apartment."
"Oh shit!" she whispered. "Can't we just get out of here?"
"No," I said. "I don't want him to see us. Let's just sit tight."
We sat in terrified silence for a few minutes, and then I saw him on the stairs. "He's coming." I said.
"OVER HERE?" Sam gasped.
"No. No. He's coming back down the stairs." He walked to his car and quickly drove away. "He's gone," I said, sitting up.
"Oh my god, Simon," Sam said. "What the hell did you get me into?"
"Nothing," I said. "You don't have to get involved." It occurred to me then, however, that we had nowhere to go. If this guy had something to do with Amy and her mom, and I knew somehow that he did, then they'd be watching her place too.
"Simon, who was that?" Sam asked.
"Who was who?" said Amy, sitting up. "Where are we?"
"We're at my apartment, Amy," I said, "but we can't stay here."
"Who was that, Simon?" Sam asked again.
"I don't know," I said, "but let's get out of here before he comes back."
"Hell, yes," Sam said. "Put her seatbelt on." She started the car, slammed it into gear and took off with a lurch while I helped Amy into the seat and buckled her in.
"Don't go toward Campo," I said. "He went that way. Turn into the neighborhood and take back streets. Do you know the way?"
"Yeah," she said, pulling out of the parking lot.
I turned to look at Amy. She was wide-eyed and awake, but she wasn't crying. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," she said, and she relaxed a little. "Where are we going?"
"Uh..." I didn't know what to answer. "I'm not sure."
"Why don't we go to my house?"
"No, I don't think we can do that," I said. There was silence for a few minutes.
"Damn you, Simon," Sam finally said. "If I die I'm going to be really pissed at you."
"Thank you, Samantha," I said.
"If you die, you'll go to Aphter," said Amy.
"Shh!" I clapped a hand quickly over Amy's mouth. She looked over at me in surprise and I put a finger to my lips, shaking my head. "No," I whispered, and took my hand from her mouth.
"What?" Sam asked?
"Nothing." Amy said.