Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 28)

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The gunshots frightened me… I was frightened!

The realization that something which not so long ago would have been pedestrian in my nanite form made my heart race with anxiety. My fight or flight instincts were in overdrive and I realized I was hyperventilating. I tried to focus my thoughts and control my breathing, not only to calm myself but also to keep my position secret from the woman in red heels and whomever else was in here with us.

My mind raced in a thousand different directions as I slowly brought my breath under control and strained my ears for any sign of the other shooter in the building. The light was low and shadows draped every angle and surface making it hard to see anything.

I had heard the gunshots then the sounds of bodies hitting the ground. From where I was hiding I couldn’t make out anything but I did hear breathing. Actually it was more like gasping, the struggling last breaths of someone clinging to life. I dared to peek around the corner of the stack of pallets I hid behind and saw the woman splayed out on the ground, her chest slowly rising and falling in ragged breaths.

She was clearly very badly injured and near death. She stared straight up at the ceiling, her legs and arms splayed from an awkward fall after being hit. I couldn’t tell how many bullets she had taken but one is usually enough. Scanning the area for any sign of the other shooter I found nothing but glimpsed her handgun loosely grasped in her hand. I made the decision to act and scrambled towards her.

It wasn’t the most stealthy maneuver in the history of stealthy maneuvers but I was relatively quiet and nobody shot be from the shadows so I assumed it had worked. As I crawled up beside the woman her eyes darted to my face and a weak smile crossed her lips. A small trickle of blood meandered out of the corner of her mouth dripping to the oil stained concrete floor beneath her.

I grabbed the handgun and inspected it quickly making sure there were at least a few rounds in the clip. I didn’t know much about guns but it sure felt good to be armed while preparing to fight for my life.

“Do yourself a favor…” The woman whispered to me, clearly in a great deal of pain. “Use it on yourself. It will… hurt less than…”

She let out a last gasp and her body went limp, all tension and life fading away before my eyes. How many people had I seen die since this all began!

A sound! A clicking, shoes on concrete. I had started to think that I might have been alone after all but no such luck. There was nothing I could do for the woman now so I hastily shuffled to the cover of another stack of pallets a few feet away. The layout of the place made sound travel strangely and the echoes of the footfalls bounced around confusingly. I needed to find somewhere to hide until I could figure out what to do next.

As I scanned the huge space I caught sight of a crane across the warehouse floor extending like a skeletal arm from its base. It must have been used to load transports at one point but now looked as derelict and decrepit as the rest of the building around it. Seeing nowhere else that offered the same degree of cover I decided to make for it.

Taking a deep breath I started along the line of pallets that took me in the most direct route towards the crane. Crouching low I stopped periodically to scan my surroundings and listen for the footfalls of the other or others in the warehouse with me. I occasionally heard a footfall but never too close to my position. Soon I was a mere ten feet away from the safety of the cranes cab, with only a few feet of open space between me and the steps leading into it.

Taking one last look to make sure I was clear I ran across the open space and dove behind the crane’s base as a figure emerged from behind a stack of pallets. I froze in place with my back to the wall, holding the gun I had taken from the woman close to my chest. No shots rang out and after a few moments the footsteps continued on to the pallets beyond the crane.

I scrambled up the steps as quietly as I could and slipped into the cab gently pulling the door closed behind me. I stayed there for what felt like an eternity before peeking over the rim of the cabs window ledge. I had a pretty good view of the shadowy space and the stacks of pallets that lined the place like the walls of a maze. I squinted and strained to spot the one that hunted me and finally saw a dark garbed figure lurking through the darkness with a sub machine gun at the ready.

I knew that my hiding spot would only work for so long to conceal me and that I needed to decide my best move. Before I could collect my thoughts, however, I saw from across the warehouse three more figures enter the building dressed and armed much the same as the man who hunted me this far.

I felt the panic start to return. How could one man with a half empty handgun possibly take on four heavily armed professional murderers in an enclosed space like this?

Then I noticed that the key was still in the ignition of the crane.

PART 29

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