Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 8)

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The bomb went off and flames flew up the elevator shaft. I dove out of the way to the sound of twisted metal and screeching cables. The building shook and the fire alarms went off. Water sprayed out of the sprinklers. I looked back and the hall was on fire. I didn’t know what floor I was on, but I knew there was no way I could make it back to the room. Guests of all shapes, sizes, and complexion poked their heads out of their doors to check on the sound.

“Was ist passiert?” asked an old woman in a bath robe. Her hair was as grey as the smoke blowing from the elevator shaft.

I picked myself up from the red carpet and assessed the damage. The guests looked at me as if I worked at the hotel. “Everyone needs to get out.” They didn’t understand until I pushed the old woman and the couple in the next room over toward the exit staircase on the far end of the hallway. “Move.”

Smoke filled the hallway as I propped the exit door open and waited for the guests to depart. I yelled again a few times for everyone to evacuate the building and waited until I coughed to finally descend the stairs. Surely Mr.Mercedes wouldn’t know where to look for me. I could only imagine the chaos in the casino. Even if Ms. Cold Smile lived through the elevator drop, the explosion surely incinerated her. There isn’t such a thing as a fireproof vest, but who knows.

This was Zurich, and anything could happen.

Each flight of stairs I took down to the ground floor, a memory of Lila flooded my mind.

Our first kiss.

Our first road trip to Destin.

Our last kiss.

By the time I reached the exit, I decided to just leave, find a safe place, and reassess the situation. I didn’t have a passport, but I had the note with the address. My lungs welcomed the fresh night air. Hotel guests were crowding around watching the fire engulf the lower floor. I went up to a guy about my size and height and offered him a hundred swiss francs to swap shirts and to buy his blue cap. He was a British guy, who was evidently a fan of Arsenal.

By the time the fire department arrived on scene, I was almost around the block. I took a zigzag route away from the hotel, in hopes to avoid Mr. Mercedes. It wasn’t until I reached the embankment of the Limmat that I felt safe.

Then, I pulled the note out of my pocket and looked at the address.

PART 9

 

 

Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 7)

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The elevator scraped to a grinding stop. I tried to stand, my legs wobbled as I steadied myself against the now leaning wall of the lift.

The smell, a cross between gasoline and gunpowder, assailed my nostrils and my lungs burned with the need to draw in a full breath.

My thoughts scrambled. Lila…what were you involved in? Why hadn’t you confided in me? Why didn’t you trust me?

The woman, the Swiss Ninja with the pearly whites aka Mrs. Cold Smile was lying on the floor of the elevator. An open gash on her forehead bled profusely, quickly staining her grey blouse. Blood was smeared all over her face and neck. I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t think she was dead.

I shook my head violently trying to clear my thoughts. I needed to think, and I needed to do it quickly; my very life depended on it. The only way I would survive is to get clear off this elevator.

I tried to pry the doors open with my fingers, but it was futile. I had little strength and it was as if they were cemented shut. I looked around the elevator, but there wasn’t anything I could use that would enable me to open the tightly closed doors.

The elevator again shifted and groaned. I knew if I didn’t get out of here I would most assuredly plunge to my death.

I began to panic, a fine layer of sweat coating my skin. Looking up I spotted the escape hatch, and an idea quickly formed in my head. I began pulling each body Ms. Cold Smile had incapacitated and built an unlikely ladder. I carefully climbed on top of the the bodies piled on the floor until I was able to reach the hatch. Then I pushed on it with everything I had until it grudgingly opened.

Just then the elevator pitched and I don’t know how, but I garnered what little strength I possessed and climbed out on top. Within a matter of seconds, I’d spotted a ladder that ran the length of the elevator shaft. Without thinking, I stood back and took a running jump towards the wall. My legs flailed, as I landed with a loud grunt, but I made it and clung to the wall.

Then with a creak, and grinding of metal on metal, the elevator shifted. I entwined my arms in the ladder pulling my body closer to the wall and watched in shock as it shook again. I saw the bomb on top of the elevator and looked through he small opening and glimpsed the ninja woman’s eyes as they fluttered open. Like a deer caught in the headlights she glanced around trying to assess her situation while she pushed a body to the side, freeing her legs, but it was too late. Her eyes widened and met my own as the elevator, with one last protest, moaned as the metal cable finally gave way sending it falling seven stories, landing in a loud crash on the ground.

The last thing I saw before it fell were her eyes focused directly on my own.

I could swear I saw her smile.

PART 8

Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 6)

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The doors closed, shutting out the noise from the lobby.

Who the fuck was that woman? Like a Swiss knife – pocket-sized but very versatile and deadly. Some kind of Swiss Ninja?

And how the hell did she know what I was doing here? Was she connected to Lila somehow?

Lila.

The adrenaline dipped just a fraction – enough to let her in. The love of my fucking life. Hell, I’d even considered asking her to marry me –you know, all traditional, hunkering down on one knee. I’d take her to Tiffany’s on Bahnhofstrasse and we’d pick something together before strolling hand in hand to the lake and stopping for a hot chocolate – the things that lovers do. OK, I’d never have been able to afford Tiffany’s but we could have dreamed. I even knew what she’d have gone for – Lila had a thing for Rubies – blood red rubies; a single ruby surrounded by tiny diamonds. It would have looked perfect on her.

Now the dream no longer existed, replaced by a nightmare.

The elevator was filled with dead bodies. Only Ms. Cold Smile might have been alive but wasn’t sure.

Gritting my teeth to fight the darkness threatening to engulf me I jabbed at the button – Floor 10. It lit up, winking at me and my stomach lurched as the lift jerked into life.

Swallowing bile I wiped my forehead and took a deep breath. My body shuddered and the world tipped sideways. Oh shit, was I going to pass out? I couldn’t! I needed my stuff. What was wrong with me?

It wasn’t me. The lift had stopped but the doors were still closed.

I checked the panel. The number 10 still lit up, the orange circle forming a fiery ring. Looking up at the semi-circular dial above the doors, the hand sat between floors 9 and 10. I jabbed the number 10 again but nothing happened.

A deep rumble reverberated from above and the floor jerked sideways. Losing my balance I fell to the floor. As I struggled to my feet the lift was plunged into darkness save for the orange glow from the 10 button. The sound of metal grating on metal shuddered around me followed by a sharp thud on the roof and the lift plunged downwards before jerking to a halt, throwing me to the floor again. We were now on the 8th floor. The acrid smell of burning grated my senses and a thin stream of smoke crept into the air in the gap between the lift doors. I jumped up to punch open the access above.

Then I saw it.

The elevator cables were melting.

I moved to the edge to assess the damage.

Then I saw a clock. This only meant one thing to me.

A bomb.

And it didn’t take a genius to work out where it had been planted.

PART 7

Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 5)

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“Walk faster and do not look back,” said a soft voice behind me.

I turned my head just a little only to see a woman walking just one step behind me. Had I been less confused, grieved or burdened by any other of the million feelings fighting inside me, I would have seen she was an elegant, good-looking woman. But all I could focus on was her smile. Yes, she had fine lips and pearl teeth and all that but it was the cold amusement in that smile that made me turn away.

“Clean-up crew wants to make a mess, huh? Grab your stuff, go around back, be where you need to be. Don’t look back.”

I pushed the elevator door button and then I heard the commotion behind me. There was grunting and panting and some swearing. Still all my focus was on the elevator door as if all the world around me was of no importance. All my life hanged by that door and paid no heed to all that was going behind my back, acting like a rather sweaty ostrich. Finally, it opened with a whoosh.

Then I saw them.

There were at least 10 men inside the elevator. The woman leaped into the elevator with flying punches and kicks. It was so fast and quick, I could have sworn it was all choreographed. In less than fifteen seconds, most of them were lying on the floor. The one particular individual stood in a fighting stance against the woman … Miss Cold-Smile, with the black, soft tights the loose grey blouse and leather ballerinas. She could have been the girl next door if she didn’t have a man’s neck under her armpit. A tall guy in a blue suit slapped her but she just pressed the neck in a weird angle before letting the body drop. That was when the man she slapped had her full attention. One swift blow to his throat was enough to incapacitate him, giving her the opportunity to push her fingers straight in his eyes. The man yelled and took one step back. She twisted her body and grabbed a man coming at her from behind. The man was twice her size but she used his momentum to throw him over her head and onto two of her attackers. Another man stepped over the bodies and came at her with all his bulk. Her hands flew and she hit the man straight in the nose, making it bleed instantly. She grabbed the man by the arm, twisted it till there was a cracking sound and pushed him away. The man landed on the floor and he slipped over the marble floor of the elevator, half in half out.

As if by reflex I pressed the button and the door began closing until it reached the man’s body. With a ding it opened all the way back. The elevator was filled with motionless bodies. Outside the elevator were the men she vanquished from behind my back. She pulled  the unconscious man back through the door of the elevator and planted herself in the corner. Her face was stained with the blood of her enemies. Miss Cold-Smile looked and me for two seconds, likely noticing my frozen posture.

“Fly, you fool!”

PART 6

Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 2)

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Shocked as I was I answered it. My mind screamed a warning, but with the love of my life dead in front of me, I didn’t heed it.

Another man was at the door. He had dark short hair and a handlebar moustache. He seemed to be well-dressed, but at the moment details were not at the forefront of my mind.

With no hesitation this new man raced around me to Lila’s corpse. Although he had a grim look on his face he rifled through her clothing, her fingernails and her hairline as well.

Based on his scowl and deep grumbling he didn’t find what he was looking for. “It’s not here … maybe, I hope, it never was.”

He turned to me. He took a small piece of paper from his shirt, and a pen from the desk in the room. “Remember this address, and then destroy it. Go here and tell them that Lila is dead and she did not have it. You will be told what to do next by the people there.” He made a quick phone call.

“I’ll need a cleaning crew at –“he gave the address of our hotel and room number, and then hung up.

“You are in what are likely very unusual and sorrowful events for you, my friend. I am sorry for your loss and wish you luck. Goodbye.” He opened the room door, and after looking to each side, rushed out, closing the door behind himself, so that no one could see in.

Before he fully closed it, he reopened it to turn to me. “I nearly forgot: leave your passport and any personal IDs, and your phone if you have one. You should not be traceable.” Now he left – his destination unknown.

I was now alone with Lila’s body and an address on paper. I read it, but couldn’t get rid of it just yet. She was the one who knew Zurich, not me. I would have to keep it until I had something better to work with.

I took my papers from my pocket then looked at Lila’s form again. With a shaky voice, I said goodbye to her, then left.

PART 3