Scounger stumbled into Sandra knocking her off balance even as he let out a piercingly high squeal that was entirely out of character. Sandra stumbled and, like a short but viscious game of dominoes, bumped into an older woman passing by. All three ended up on the ground.
Scounger grunted with effort as he rose to his feet, sweat beading on his forehead. With an awkward quickness, he retrieved the revolver from its holster at his hip and Sandra heard the first retaliatory shot just as the suns reflection flashed off of the barrel of the beast and into her eye; for a moment she thought it was aimed at her. Scounger let off three shots and then began hobbling toward the library at the north end of the small park surrounding the fountain.
Sandra followed close behind him, feeling at the same time revolted and grateful for his presence. She was revolted by the sweat already forming shapes of a different shade under his arms and by his loud, soggy wheezing. She was grateful because she didn't know who was shooting or why or even who they were shooting at.
Behind them, Sandra could see no pursuers. People were still running, ducking for cover wherever they happened upon it. And the senior. The woman Scounger had knocked her into. Blood stained her bright flowery blouse a darker, less cheerful color. Too much blood to be from a mere fall. She wasn't dead, but Sandra knew the woman wouldn't make it. The fall alone might kill a woman that age, let alone a fall and a gunshot wound. The woman's head lulled side to side, searching for help and danger as frantically as her frail and injured body would allow.
Another gunshot resounded through the park, and then another. Scounger didn't return fire; instead, he relied on the fact moving targets were more difficult to hit and tugged Sandra in the direction of the library only fifteen yards away now.
He slammed his bulk into the door, forcing it to give way and then entered, pulling her in behind him. They took an immediate right, bypassing the turnstyle and then rushed down an aisle lined with non-fiction. The musty scent of the air and stately wooden architecture lent a feeling of grandure to the interior of the library; a stark contrast from the grey stone exterior. Hidden beyond the line of sight of the enormous main lobby were dozens of small rooms used for storage of bulk texts, rare editions, and the various supplies needed to maintain the building. She knew why he brought her in here: there's a hundred places to hide.
"Who the hell is trying to kill you?" she said to him. He didn't reply.
At the end of the aisle was a staircase, and at the top of the staircase a hallway lined with doors. Scounger pulled her--though he hadn't needed to, she would have followed just as closely without his aid--to the second doorway on the right and into the room behind it. It was far too small and cramped to be in alone with Scounger. There were no windows, and a single bulb dangled from a wire in the center.
"You." He said. It was barely audible over his now emphatic wheezing. He looked ready to fall over and die at any moment.
"They aren't trying..." he started, then stopped. He took several slow, deep breaths, followed immediately by more intrusively loud wheezing. The small room was becoming stuffy and humid quickly. The single incandescent bulb left steep shadows on his face, making him look menacing.
"They aren't trying to kill me. They're trying to kill you."
"No way. Why would they? I don't have any enemies anymore. Not since Garith and I..."
She paused, realizing she was answering her own question. He wiped the sweat out of his eyebrows and then nodded to her.
"They saw you with him."
She felt a sudden emptiness in her abdomen, as if all at once all of her vital organs went to a different place. How could she think he really wanted to change? Why would he get her involved in this? Especially after what he said to her before he let her go to live a normal and happy life? She had no answers for herself. No amount of intuition would help her here.
"That's why..." Scounger said, and then tried again to slow his breathing. He failed. It took him an eternity to get out his next words, and as it happened they were his last.
"That's why I'm here." he finished between deep, wet wheezes. The room was uncomfortably moist now and rank of Scounger. She hated being uncomfortable. She wanted to leave, to get away from him, but she knew she couldn't. He was both the reason she was uncomfortable and the reason she was here--and not laying dead out there. At least the empty feeling in her stomach was gone. It had been replaced by a rising brew of stomach acids.
Scounger leaned back against the wall and slid down it into a sitting position. The sweat was already running through his eyebrows and into his eyes again, and his breathing intensified further, and then further, and she watched him die in front of her as she waited for her doom to walk through the door or enough time to pass for her to feel safe enough to leave.