Saturday, May 28, 2011

Chapter 15

Oct. 19 – 12:25am

            The dark, filthy alley was silent; the guard’s stammering attempts to save his own skin fading into nothingness under the glare of the hypnotic golden eyes. He’d told them all he knew, of that the black-clad men were certain, but now the question was what to do with him while they infiltrated the warehouse. Erik looked to al-Zahir with one brow raised in question; reluctantly, the detective gave a nearly imperceptible nod and turned towards the door. They couldn’t afford to have the man catching them off guard or raising the alarm but that didn’t mean al-Zahir had to like it. The sharp snap echoed in the night making him flinch; he wasn’t looking forward to the paperwork for that one. Erik unceremoniously dumped the body in a large industrial dumpster and rejoined his partner at the door.
            Since the door opened into the alley, it was easy enough to block the meager light that might have filtered through when they eased it open. Erik, being the taller of the two, placed himself between the door and the dim streetlight as al-Zahir slipped in. Once he was given the all clear, the masked man slipped soundlessly into the room. The small chamber appeared to have once been an office of some sort, containing a beat up, rusty metal desk, a broken rolling chair, and toppled over filing cabinets. From the syringes and rubber hoses amongst the debris that had been swept to either side of the room, it had once been the hang out of drug users. Opposite the door they entered through was another that was barely hanging onto the frame by a single hinge. They both had crouched down to use the gaps to observe the room when the radio in Erik’s ear gave a crackle of static followed by Alex’s quiet voice.
            “Erik…police are responding to a domestic disturbance call two buildings north of you.”
            “Roger that.” At the detective’s nod, they both settled behind the door to wait. The sirens should be close enough to provide adequate distraction for them to enter the main section of the building.
            True to the curiosity intrinsic to human nature, the guards all turned to watch the police cruiser as it drove past the warehouse with lights and sirens; one even opened the front door to see where it was going. Like a pair of living shadows, Erik and al-Zahir slipped soundlessly into the room and made for cover on opposite sides. They hoped to make their way to the stairs on the southern wall unseen, but if that wasn’t possible, the cross-fire would give them an advantage over the greater number of guards. They were within twenty feet of the stairwell when one guard stepped out front to light up a cigarette. The light through the open door swallowed up the shadows hiding al-Zahir as he moved from pillar to desk to garbage pile. Before he could drop from view, the smoker directed the two at the stairs to investigate. With their cover blown, a soft entry and exit was no longer feasible.

Oct. 19 – 1:15am

            Alex moved from the desk to pour yet another cup of coffee. It had been a long day and she was struggling to stay awake. The police radio crackled with non-stop chatter but nothing was within a two block radius of the warehouse since that initial call. She hadn’t heard anything from the detective or Erik since then either and hoped the silence on the earpiece meant everything was going smoothly. She was standing in kitchen preparing a fresh pot of coffee when both the police band radio and the earpiece exploded with noise and caused her to drop the carafe on the slate floor. Letting loose a string of curses that would embarrass the most hardened of sailors, Alex returned to the Library and tried to sort through the information coming through. The glass would have to be cleaned up later.
            Turning down the police chatter, she concentrated on Erik first; even through the tinny earpiece his voice was supernal. There had been problems which made a ground floor exit impossible. They needed a quick exit from the second floor.  Quickly poring over the blueprints, she found two possible means of escape though one was far riskier than the other.
            “Ok…the police traffic has increased exponentially so you’ll probably be hearing sirens soon. If I’m reading this thing right, I found only one exit from the second floor; however, there’s another on the roof. The second floor has access to the stairwell on the western side of the building facing a small alley.”
            “Right, we saw it on the way in and should be able to gain access to it. What about the roof?” Erik’s voice was hushed but she could hear what sounded like gunshots in the background.
            “How far can you jump?”
            “What?!” This time it was the detective who broke in. “What does that have to do with anything?”
            “The building to the south of you is approximately the same height with a narrow alley separating them; maybe five-six feet wide at the most.  From what I’m seeing on the satellite maps, they both have flat roofs which means you could jump to the next building and exit onto the street from there.”
            “You’re crazy.” Al-Zahir stated flatly.
            “Perhaps but those are the only exits I see unless you’ve suddenly sprouted wings or can shimmy down the walls like Spiderman.”
            “Great job, Alexandra.” Erik’s smooth tones broke in. “We’ll try for the fire escape at first and use the roof as a back up plan. If I’m not back by 6:00am…”
            “You’ll be back.” Her voice shook; she didn’t want to even contemplate facing alone the person who could get the drop on Erik Devereaux.
            “But if I’m not,” his voice was gentle yet firm, “there’s a key in my bedroom that goes to the basement. Take the photos, flash drive, papers, and yourself down there and lock the door. There’s a phone that has a direct line to someone who will take care of things from there. Understand?”
            “Do you understand?” The question was both impatient and annoyed; she was wasting time he didn’t have. Resigned, all she could do is answer quietly in the affirmative and pray they’d both return safely.

Oct. 19 – 2:45am
            Erik supported al-Zahir back to his vehicle, placing him in the passenger seat while he drove towards the Estate. He’d have to come back for the bike later if it wasn’t stolen by then. There were policemen surrounding the warehouse already; it had been a close one. They had managed to get to the window that opened onto the fire escape without incident; however, there were iron bars over the glass. Cornered and on the opposite end of the roof access stairs, the two advanced slowly. As one moved to the next pile of debris or abandoned furniture, the other provided cover fire. By the time they’d made it to the stairs, Erik had only four rounds left and al-Zahir had none. Bodies lay strewn along their path like abandoned toys but they could hear more arriving.
            The stairs no longer had a door so they couldn’t bar it behind them but there was one from the stairwell to the roof. While the detective checked the distance and plausibility of the jump, Erik kept watch over the door. If anyone opened that door, he’d be able to take the first four with him at least. Since there didn’t appear to be a ledge on the other building and there wasn’t on the warehouse they currently occupied, they decided to make the jump. As Erik was the more agile and strong of the two, he would go first in case al-Zahir fell short of the mark and needed a helping hand. Before jumping, he walked to the edge to gauge the distance then gave his weapon to the detective in case someone tried to come through the door. A quick run up, a jump, and the masked man landed on the other roof and fell into a roll to ease the impact on his knees as well as slow his momentum. Al-Zahir tossed him his weapon and then followed suit. His landing wasn’t quite as graceful, however, and both men heard the snap that signaled a broken bone. Erik half carried, half dragged his friend into the building to splint the detective’s leg and wait for things to calm down a bit. This was a complication they did not need.
            Unfortunately, the only thing they’d found in the warehouse had been gunmen. Either there had never been anything there to begin with…or it had been moved already.

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