Chapter 4

Jordan grabs Karen by the arms as they race up the stairs with officers in hot pursuit. Two steps at a time, sometimes three, they hop their way up the skeleton of the building in a flash, desperate to flee. They arrive at the to the top of the stairwell, only to discover the door is locked from the other side. They bang and smashed against the old wooden board, fearful of the army swiftly approaching. Jordan takes a step back, runs up and slams the broad side of his shoulder against the door, flinging it open and stripping the lock in process. They rush in, only to find all the windows bricked shut. Dead end.

 

Karen looks back. “They’re coming!” Abby slams the door shut. “What now?” she asks in a haze. There is no longer a lock to keep them out, just a door to slow them down.

 

“Open this door, now!” an officer yells emphatically from the other side. The group looks around feverishly for a solution. In a surge of adrenaline, Annette grabs a filing cabinet and slams it down in front of the door. “Woah…” Phil remarks in admiration. “She’s got the right idea.” Everyone tears off through the room, searching for anything big and heavy to block off the door, the banging continuing from the other side. Phil and Jordan grab a table. Abby and Karen return with a bookshelf. Greg sits back and watches. Annette takes metal cart and firmly wedges it between the door and the wall, cementing the door in place.

 

“I think that’s good for now,” Jordan claims. “How do we get out of here?”

“This way,” answers Greg, as he leads them through a complicated maze of furniture and old paperwork, decorated with cobwebs, seasoned with dust.

“What is this place?” inquires Karen. “Some kind of attic? It looks abandoned.”

“Not abandoned. Forgotten, by anyone with secrets they want buried.” Abby grabs a newspaper clipping from off the floor, and reads the headline.

 

Rookie Cop Cracks Down on Police Corruption

 

She looks for a date. February 19, 1986.

 

The group pulls itself out of the jungle of antiquity and crawls to the first sign of daylight since lunch. The banging on the door behind them grows dull and distant. “There it is,” Greg says, pointing to the open window. “Almost there. All we have to is-”

 

“All we have to do is what?” Greg is interrupted by the mysterious voice from the darkness. He looks to his left. Deep within the shadows of the corner, a form appears. Emerging from the abyss is the mysterious man from before, cloaked in black. “Find some long lost evidence you’ll never get to use?” he inquires, with a half burned piece of crumpled paper balled up in his fist.

“Where are your goons?”

“I don’t need them. I can handle this by myself.” The man drops the paper in his hand, smushing it beneath the soles of his jet black loafers. He cracks his knuckles, ready for a brawl. “It ends here.”

“Try me,” Greg dares him.

 

The man charges forward. Jordan grabs a piece of wood, jumping out in front of Greg. He swings. The man grabs the weapon with his right hand, sucker punching Jordan in the stomach with his left. He falls to the ground dazed. Abby grabs the man from behind in a choke hold, trying to squeeze the life out of him. Karen goes for his front. He kicks, hitting Karen in the side. He grabs Abby’s hair and yanks her from his neck. Annette grabs the plank and aims for the man’s legs. He jumps, dodging the attack. Annette swings again, this time, aiming for his torso. He takes a step back just in time. A miss. Phil runs forward, jumping over Karen, and headbutts the man square in the nose. Blood leaks from his face. Abby charges, assaulting the man in a flurry of quick kicks and jabs. Karen throws an elbow, then another, landing blows on the temple. Annette grips the plank and swings one last time with all her might. The wood shatters against the man’s rib cage. He coughs in pain, now reaching for the gun in his holster. They pause. He raises the gun towards Karen. Jordan scrambles to his feet. He lunges forward, arms outstretched. He shoves the man forcefully. The man stumbled backward, trying to regain his balance. He inches dangerously close to the open window. He grabs for the wall. He misses. Karen reaches to grab the man’s hand. He slips, out the window.

 

They wait to hear the decisive CRASH before moving a muscle. They stare at each other in disbelief. “We.. we just killed a cop…” Phil stutters forward.

“No, that cop tried to kill us! This was self defense!” explains Abby.

“I tried to save him!” Karen exclaims.

“No, we have to say he fell. We cannot go down for this,” contests Abby.

“Who is going to believe that, exactly? No one,” Annette retorts.

“It doesn’t matter we did, it doesn’t matter what we say, and it certainly doesn’t matter what we believe anymore. Don’t even act like we have a defense anymore. We need to move,” explains Greg.

 

They climb through the window and pull themselves up onto an adjacent ledge. They step forward and inch themselves across the small walkway that bridges the gap between the police station and the building next door. “Don’t look down,” Phil says. “Let’s agree to not look down. Heights are bad enough. Dead bodies are worse.” Karen is consumed with curiosity. She peeks downward, gasping deeply.

“Guy’s OMG!” says Karen, exasperated. “Guys!”

“Karen, you weren’t supposed to look!” replies Annette.

“No, for real, look down!”

“What is it, Karen? It’s just a dead-” Annette is stopped in her tracks.

“What is it?” Phil asks, before looking down for himself. “No way…”

Jordan, Greg and Abby abandon the agreement and look for themselves. The body is nowhere to be found.

 

~

 

“I’m exhausted,” says Karen. “We’ve been at this for hours. When can we stop and take a break?”

“Eventually. We have to wait until night,” explains Greg.

“Why exactly?”

“You really don’t understand the concept of not asking questions, do you? We need to keep moving. It’s too dangerous to stay anywhere for too long in broad daylight. It’s even more dangerous to go to any of our homes or old hangouts right now. That’s the first place they’ll look for us. Right now we need to lay low.”

“It’s kinda hard to lay low when you’re on the roof,” Karen jokes. Abby giggles. Greg stops, staring Karen straight in the face. Her grin grows. There is an awkward silence.

“Don’t talk to me,” says Greg. They continue.

 

The group finds a sturdy fire escape several blocks away from the scene of the crime and descend to the city streets below. They look around nervously. “I think we’re in the clear,” says Annette. The sound of sirens swiftly approaching causes a quick panic. Greg stands still against the wall. Jordan dashes across the street. Karen follows. Abby hides in an alleyway behind a dumpster. Phil concedes defeat and waits patiently on the sidewalk to turn himself in. Annette is halfway back up the fire escape before the police cruisers fly by in a hurry to reach another crime scene. Hearts racing, they regroup back beneath the fire escape, having experienced their first real taste of paranoia.

 

“I don’t think I can do this man,” Phil remarks. “We should limit our suffering and turn ourselves in.”

“I’m with Phil,” Abby agrees. “If we just explain what happened, they will let us go.”

“If I had a week, I couldn’t explain to you everything wrong with that plan. You don’t know these people, this police force, the way I do. If this were some petty crime, we would have no problem. But these people think you’re with me. That’s as good as a death sentence,” Greg explains. “Your only option is to run and hide.”

“Or stand and fight,” says Karen.

“Is that really your plan?” Annette asks. “Because if it is, I’m here for it. I have a lot of pent up aggression and am in need for healthy release.

“No.. but still, it sounds nice.”

“These aren’t people you want to fight,” says Greg.

“What is the deal with all this shadiness?’ inquires Abby, annoyed. “Who are these people and what do they want with you? Why do they think we’re with you, and why are they so bent on ‘taking us out’ or whatever? You dragged us into this. You owe us answers! We saved your life for God’s sake! Someone pulled a gun on us and all you did was stand there quietly while we fought for our lives!”

“Even if you don’t realise it, you just answered part of your own question.”

“… What do you mean?”

“That man, the one you thought you killed, tried to kill you first, without probable cause. It really doesn’t matter who he thinks we are. What matters is that he’s willing to kill us because of it. That alone is reason enough to run.”

“Perhaps you have a point. Maybe, I don’t know. But that does nothing to answer my other questions. What is going here?”

“Now is neither the time nor the place to be discussing this. We need to split up. They’ll be looking for a group of six: three guys, three girls. We need to make sure they can’t find that.”

“Split up?? In what movie is this ever a good idea!?” demands Phil. “We’re basically already dead.”

“If we stick together, you will be,” Greg responds.

“Well where do we go? What do we do?” Jordan asks.

“Stay on the move. Don’t eat, don’t sleep, don’t even breathe too loudly.”

“We can meet back at the restaurant. I know where they keep the spare keys,” suggests Abby.

“Won’t that be like walking into a trap?” Annette states. “Like that’s where this all began. They’re bound to be there waiting for us.”

“You have a point,” Abby replies.

“Which is why it’s perfect,” Greg points out. “They won’t see it coming. We meet there, around back in the alley, tonight, say around 1 am. Until then, stay out of sight.” Everyone looks around at each other, gripped by the uneasiness. They all nod, take a deep breath, and walk away in their own directions.

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