Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 18)

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 7.11.29 PM.pngGiven the events of the evening, the doctor’s words were not surprising. Another death sentence.

I pushed my head back into my pillow, taking it all in. My head was throbbing; I had been prone to headaches for months before I had been diagnosed with a grade two glioma, as it progressed to grade three, and ever since; but tonight, the pain was a fork digging into the innermost parts of my brain, scrambling its contents.

There was something else, a profound sense of uneasiness washed over me. Yes, there were still questions that I needed answered – all to do with Lila and her involvement with the doctor and his team of cloned assassin women – but this was something else, something urgent and vital. My survival instincts kicked in; as adrenaline surged into my bloodstream, it came back to me.

“The man in the Mercedes … he saw the address,” I blurted.

“What?” The doctor looked startled.

“He had a gun,” I offered, a sheepish expression on my face.

“Why are you only telling me this now? It’s been over an hour since you arrived at the compound. That man in the Mercedes, he is,” the doctor paused, correcting himself “was, the second in command of the senator’s security detail. We have to assume that he got the word out …”

The doctor did not need to finish the thought; he darted out between the curtains. A second later, the scarred head poked back in, a fierce scowl furrowing its forehead: “What about the Russians?”

“The Russians?”

“The clean-up crew that Edward arranged. Genevieve found out that they were working for a Russian general. That’s what she came in to tell me before you fainted.”

“No, Genevieve’s … sister … took care of them. They never got to me or the address.”

The doctor’s head nodded, before retracting behind the curtains.

I lay there on my back feeling both bewildered and foolish.

I should have told them. But there had been so much to take in. No one can blame me.

A minute had passed as I wallowed in self-pity before Not-Exactly-Lila pulled back the curtains.

“Put these on,” she said, her voice icy, thrusting a change of clothes at me. “We are leaving in five minutes.”

“Where are we going?” I asked, sitting up and taking the clothes from Not-Exactly-Lila.

“To another safe house. Thanks to you, this one has been compromised.”

Not-Exactly-Lila ripped off the medical tape and cannula from my arm in one motion.

“Ow!” I yelped.

Not-Exactly-Lila gave me a withering glance before proceeding to switch off the medical equipment.

I wondered whether I should ask her to leave before I changed, but concluded that would be pushing it.

Damn, she looked so much like Lila, the love of my life…who had plotted to save me with bio-nanites.

A wave of dizziness hit me as I slid off the bed and I grasped the handrail to steady myself. Was that a look of concern from Not-Exactly-Lila? It was impossible to say as she looked away as soon as I caught her eye.

As I slipped on the pants over my bare buttocks, my back to Not-Exactly-Lila, I wondered if there could be anything of Lila’s personality, her soul, in Not-Exactly-Lila.

“Did you know Lila?” I ventured.

“Yes,” came the reply from behind me, the voice softer than normal. “In the eighteen months that I have been alive, she used to visit me once a month.”

How could that be? Lila used to visit her parents once a month. And eighteen months, that’s shortly after my glioma was diagnosed. The neuro-oncologist had told me the cancer was slow growing but too deep in the brain – surrounding my hypothalamus – to treat through surgery or radiation. Had Lila discovered the medication that I used to hide in my grooming kit?

I took in this startling revelation as I pulled on the black t-shirt over my lean body.

Then, I felt her touch on my arm. I shuddered involuntarily.

“She was my sisterb…” Not-Exactly-Lila’s voice wavered, her fingers lingering, “… and mother.”

I turned around to face Not-Exactly-Lila. She was wearing the same shade of ruby red lipstick that Lila loved.

“I’m sorry. Lila was the only real person I knew, from outside the lab,” Not-Exactly-Lila’s voice cracked.

I placed my hand over hers. “Lila …” I whispered.

In an instant, the hand was pulled away. I looked up at Not-Exactly-Lila, the emotion was gone; her face was a mask and her eyes steel. All business again, she thrust out her arm, holding two white pills in her hand: “Take these.”

“Another experimental medication?”

“Tylenol.”

I took the pills and swallowed them without saying another word. My head was aching. I swore I could hear my heartbeat getting louder and louder as blood coursed through my gorged temples.

Not-Exactly-Lila looked up and around. Could she hear it too?

“Helicopters!” she shouted.

PART 19

Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 11)

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The sight of it snapped me out of the trance I was starting to fall into. “Not exactly.” What did she mean by that? Lila hadn’t mentioned siblings.

Not-Exactly-Lila reached into the car and unlocked the door. Just then, another figure appeared. Standing next to her was a younger version of Ms. Cold Smile. Except, her smile was warmer, flirtatious even. She couldn’t be older than 18 or 19. “Get ready, kid,” Not-Exactly-Lila said to her. The girl winked at me as she made her way to Mr. Mercedes’ side of the car. I turned back to Not-Exactly-Lila, just as she nodded to someone in the distance.

The sound of mumbling whipped my attention to my right. Mr. Mercedes was stirring in his seat, the pain in his movements obvious. His eyes opened slightly, but looked like they were rolling back. Panic started to rise within me. Before I could say something, the car lurched back into an upright position, the sound of groaning metal making my head throb.

Not-Exactly-Lila calmly walked to Mr. Mercedes and said, “Looks like you’re still conscious. Shame.” She bent down, and as she straightened her spine, I saw a shard of glass in her hand. “You could’ve gone more peacefully.” Without wasting another second, she jammed it in his neck. Mr. Mercedes’ body spazzed as blood gushed from his throat. My breath quickened as the contents of my stomach threatened to make a messy introduction of its incomplete marriage with bile.

With eyes widened in fear, I trembled as the girl approached me. She flashed a quick, reassuring smile. Confused, I looked on with furrowed brow. I watched as she tore the door open, and cut me free from the seatbelt. “Can you move your neck?” she inquired. Before I could try, she gently held my neck and slowly moved it side to side. “You’re a lucky guy, Caleb.”

“I believe this is as lucky as he’ll get,” said Not-Exactly-Lila, her voice void of emotion. She reached into a pocket and took out a piece of black fabric. “I’m going to blindfold you.” A rush of energy flowed through me, allowing me to shift away from her. I winced in pain at the sudden movement.

“Why?” I asked. “You don’t want to see where we’re going. That way, you’ll have plausible deniability should someone question you,” she answered. She gave me an impatient glare as she held up the blindfold. I stayed put, not wanting to relive the pain I had felt when I moved before. As if she could read my thoughts, she redirected her eyes to the girl. I followed her gaze to see the girl step forward. She held out her hands to help me out of the car, and I hesitantly let her. Not-Exactly-Lila got behind me, and securely tied the surprisingly soft blindfold in place.

After a minute of standing in complete darkness, the girl guided me to their vehicle. I felt the soft interior of the car as I sat. The warmth of another person’s body hovered over mine for a second until I heard the click of the seatbelt.

“Have you left all personal effects in your hotel room?” Not-Exactly-Lila asked.

I swallowed, my throat feeling suddenly dry. “Yes.”

“Good. Give him some water,” she commanded the girl.

“If you’re not Lila, who are you?”

“Open up,” the girl’s polite voice rang. I did as I was told. Small amounts of water flowed into my mouth in intervals. “Good?” I nodded in response.

“Are you going to answer me? By not exactly, did you mean that you lied to me about your identity all this time? If so, did you not trust me?” I pushed, trying to keep the hurt from being evident in my voice.

Minutes passed until Not-Exactly-Lila gave an answer. “I’m a duplicate. I was created in a lab. No further questions until you are given permission. Understand?”

I felt a sensation akin to whiplash from being hit with her answer, but managed to say, “Yes.”

The rest of the ride to this mysterious destination was silent, save for my ragged breaths. When the purr of the engine ceased, I knew we were here.

PART 12

CLICK HERE TO HEAR A NARRATION OF THIS PART

 

Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 10)

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He shoved the barrel of the gun into my lower back, directing me towards the waiting Mercedes just up the street. Blaring sirens and flashing lights overwhelmed my already shaky senses as I shuffled forward like a man walking the long mile. For all I knew that was exactly what I was, a dead man just waiting for the bullet in the back with my name on it.

Mr. Mercedes casually opened the drivers side door and motioned me to sit.

“Would you believe me if I said I can’t drive?” I asked wryly, momentarily surprised at the calmness of my own voice. Shock. Had to be.

“I’m afraid not,” he replied. “Get in.”

I did as I was told sitting down behind the wheel, wondering for a moment if I could speed off before he entered. I hesitated too long and felt the car shift as he sat across from me, his gun leveled at me as he held it casually just in front of his stomach. He seemed to be scanning the scene of chaos up the road, possibly looking for something in particular or just surveying the scene. I couldn’t tell which.

“Drive,” he said, tilting his head towards me. “Carefully. Do nothing to attract attention.” Gone was the mirth in his voice from moments before when he laughed at the mention of the sexy assassin’s death. I felt an involuntary chill, not just from the prospect of being in such close proximity to an armed man in a strange country, but the uncertainty of what lay ahead of me.

I put the car in drive and slowly edged it past the emergency vehicles and onlookers who were pointing and speaking amongst themselves. The hotel visitors shuffled about in the cool night air with looks of confusion and panic on their faces as emergency responders rushed to inspect them. How I would have loved to have been standing with them at that moment instead of sitting behind that wheel.

Once beyond the scene he told me to speed up and we started to put distance between ourselves and the hotel. It occurred to me that sitting in the car with a gun pointed at me was the most peaceful moment I had experienced since it all began.

“I don’t suppose you would like to tell me what this is all about?” I said, my knuckles white as I tried to keep the vehicle moving in a straight line. The streets were thankfully quiet leaving few obstacles for me to avoid and the orange glow of the street lamps gave the city a haunted look as we drove through the night.

“Not particularly,” he replied, still scanning the night. “Unless, of course, you want to tell me where it is?” I knew he must have meant whatever it was that Lila had possessed.

“I don’t know, honestly,” I replied, keeping my voice calm and hoping I sounded convincing. I shuddered to think what the man would do if he suspected I knew something, which of course I didn’t.

“She didn’t have it,” he said casually. “My guess is it’s either on you… or in you.”

“What?”

“Take the next left.”

I did as he asked and brought the car around into a poorly lit street. Is this it? I thought to myself. Is this where I die? Sure seemed like a likely place to get murdered.

“Pull over…” he started to say. There was a bright flash of light through his window from an adjacent alleyway. The world erupted into a chaos of broken glass and numbing pain. I felt myself become momentarily weightless, then blackness.

As I came to all I could sense was a sharp throbbing pain in my neck and pressure on my chest. It wasn’t long before that pain was joined by others all over my body. Disoriented, I dared to open my eyes. The car was on its side, passenger side down, leaving me half slumped half hanging from the seat belt that held me fast in place in the drivers seat. I groaned as my body shifted waking a whole new batch of painful sensations.

I glanced over and saw Mr. Mercedes, his head bloodied and eyes closed. His chest was rising and falling causing small fragments of glass to tumble clinking to the ground. The gun was nowhere to be seen, but the scrap of paper with the address lay partially crumpled on the cement showing through the shattered window. I felt an urge to reach for it.

Headlights faced me through what remained of the windshield forcing me to squint. Through barely open eyelids I saw a figure approach, backlit by the white glare. It was a tall lean figure moving with grace and confidence but I could not make out any fine details in the silhouette as it approached.

As the figure came closer I began to make out more. It was a woman, that much was sure, in a long coat and high heeled boots. Whoever she was she closed the distance quickly and finally stood before me, her face just hidden by the rim of the window shield. She leaned forward and looked at me with a face ringed by red locks of auburn hair.

“Lila?…” My heart skipped a beat. It was her. The face of the woman I loved. In every detail the same. Her full, red lips. Her skin like silk.  All of it the same. Except for the hair… And the eyes. The eyes were cold, like those of a predator.

“Not exactly,” she replied, a slender blade appearing in her black gloved hand.

PART 11

 

Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 9)

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Everything in me, wanted to jump over the barrier that separated the walkways from the water. If only to drown away the emotions from the day. I could still smell the acrid stench of smoke hanging on my clothes. I could still see Ms. Cold Smile’s grin taunting my subconscious, as she fell to her death.

Just what the hell had Lila been hiding? Peering down at the paper I noted the address, which may have been in a foreign language, for all my knowledge of the area. The bustling of people around me hadn’t slowed, though it was near nightfall. Perhaps, if I could manage to be brave enough, I could find someone willing to help me.

The faces around me all had the same thing in common. They were unfamiliar, and I knew one thing. I was low on money, and I had nothing to prove I was who I said I was. Damn. I turned to face the water, resting my elbows on the wall, and buried my face in my hands.

“What the Hell am I to do?” I said aloud. I felt something hard jab into my back, and Mr. Mercedes voice slithered like a snake to my ears.

“Well, you can start by coming with me, and not making a fuss… You see… Killing a man in broad daylight is minuscule compared to setting off a bomb in a building full of innocent people. Have I made my point?”

“Damn.” I muttered, and nodded my head up and down. “How the Hell did you find me anyway?”

“Wasn’t hard. You came running from that building like ants from an ant hill. Did you really think it would be that easy to be rid of me?” I shook my head ‘no.’ “Which leads me to ask…” He glared at me.

“What?” I responded indignantly.

“Was there a lady assassin in there with you? Sexy? Lethal?”

“Yeah.” I paused. “She didn’t last long.” The look on his face was one of total surprise.

“You mean, they got to her?”

“Actually, I would say ‘you‘ did. That nifty little bomb you planted sent her plummeting to her death.” I waited to see the look on his face. He stepped back from me at that moment and then, for no reason at all, started chuckling.

Mr. Mercedes laughed and laughed, tears coming out of his eyes. His cheeks reddened from the blood flow. Had he absolutely lost it?

“Oh, oh… I’m sorry. What a way to go…” He paused for a minute, regaining his composure. “Well, that takes care of that, I guess. One less person for me to deal with.” He was still chuckling, and without warning, yanked the paper with the address out of my hand. He quickly flashed the barrel of his gun at me. I nodded my understanding. “Well then, let’s go, shall we? Things to do and people to kill,” he said jovially.

Hot damn, what was about to go down? 

PART 10