Around him, the party was still going strong. Vinnie realized he had lost the concept of what time it was. Probably around ten, if he had to guess. No one seemed to be ready to pack it in. If anything, the party was getting rowdier. People were getting a little bit tipsier, talking louder, pushing into each other as the train wobbled and laughing about it. Despite it being distracting, it was also a relief. The busier the party cars were, the better chance he had to lose the guard behind him.
Vinnie wasn’t even sure he was being followed until he saw Verna ahead, slipping in from the second party car to the first. She skirted around to the side, leaning up against a table with her martini glass.
“What’s he look like?” she asked into her drink. From where he was he couldn’t even see her lips move.
“Short and thin,” Vinnie muttered. “White hair. Chunky rings on his fingers.”
“See him. And he sees you. He’s keeping his distance. But he’s following.”
Various groaned as cusses came through the tin ear. Vinnie tried to fight the blush creeping up his face. Of course he had let this happen on his first real time out. He was supposed to find all the guards in the first place. It was his fault he had missed one, his fault he had let himself get noticed.
“Relax, kiddo,” Verna said. She was looking at the string band in the corner but he knew she could see him out of the corner of her eye. “Everybody makes mistakes. What matters is how you get out of them.”
Vinnie almost tugged on his ear. Stopped himself. Fixed his tie.
“Right, got it,” he said. “So, what, play it cool?”
Joey’s voice came through, cold and quick. “I’d prefer it if this guy doesn’t have a face to remember. Right now he’s just seen you in passing. If you stay, he’s going to remember your face and you could be burned. Time to disappear. Make your way back to me. Casually.”
“I can distract him,” Verna said. “Give Face time to get out of the party car.”
“Don’t go near him,” Joey snapped. “Tail him. From behind. Tell Face when he can slip through to the kitchen car. But do not get spotted.”
Vinnie had completely failed to keep his blush under control, and knew his face was red all the way up to his hair. Hell, even the tops of his ears were burning. He’d fucked up. He’d fucked up, and now Joey was mad about it. Mad at him, specifically, and oh, boy, did Vinnie hate it when people were mad at him.
He slipped through to the second party car. Knowing that guard was behind him somewhere, watching him, and Vinnie couldn’t look back was dizzying. Or maybe that was just the combination of the train and the way he had pushed himself with the punch box. He’d never been able to do that before. He should have been able to have a little celebration. Instead he was very casually running, potentially for his life.
“Stop near the door. Admire the artwork or something,” Verna said. “He’s just watching. If he sees you go through he’ll actually start chasing.”
Doing as he was told, he stopped near the back of the car to stare at a vase. It was a very fancy vase. Glass blown, maybe. Colorful. Not so colorful he could forget that a figure of the law was behind him, following him. Because he was breaking the law. He was stealing. And if he got caught, they could throw the book at him. He could go to jail. Never see the sun again. The colors of the vase were not enough to make him forget that he was a criminal and-
“Go now,” Verna hissed.
Fighting the urge to look back, Vinnie practically leaped toward the train door. It slid open at a snail’s pace. Why was this door so much slower than any other door on this forsaken train? Still, he forced himself to stand there until it was fully open. If he pushed through he might look as desperate as he was.
The second it was comfortably wide enough he walked through. A waiter was coming through the other way. He didn’t even glance at Vinnie as he scooted by with a tray of some gray paste on a croissant, and then Vinnie was past the second door and into the kitchen.
“Did he see me?” Vinnie asked as he wove his way past the waiters and the cooks.
“No, no, he was distracted.”
An echo of his own sigh came back to him through the earpiece.
“He’s just realized you’re not here anymore. He’s going for the kitchen.”
“Face, keep moving. Come to the sleeper cars.”
Beyond the kitchen car was the First Class dining car. Then the First Class sleeper cars. Then the general dining car, three general seating cars, and finally the cheap sleepers. Joey was in one of those, all the way in the back. Not that he could remember which one, but at that exact moment that didn’t qualify as his biggest worry.
Nobody really paid attention to him as he passed through the First Class cars. After all, he was dressed like he belonged there and, as Vinnie was finding out, First Class passengers apparently got to do whatever they wanted. It wasn’t until he got to the general dining car – really just a bar with bottles of beer and an automat – that people started giving him glares. He remembered the times he’d been just a passenger on a train, sitting in a general area, and the few times he’d seen someone who’d obviously wandered out of first class he’d glared at them, too. They had nice spaces, why were they invading theirs?
Out of the dining car and into the general seating cars. Mostly full, a lot of them were dozing. He let the door shut behind him, and counted how many rows he got past before he heard the door open again.
“He’s calling me.”
“Don’t stop,” everyone said at once.
“Sir, I just need a word.”
Vinnie picked up the pace, trying to get space between the slim guard and him. Trying to remember which sleeper car Joey was in. Trying to remember his cover name. Oh, Christmas, he didn’t remember his cover name!
“Sir, this is security, I-”
The door slid shut behind him, cutting the guard off. The hallway jagged to the left to hug the wall, allowing room for the sleepers. For the first time, he was out of sight. He still had to run, but at least he couldn’t see him.
Someone grabbed Vinnie’s grabbed arm and pulled.