Seeing Red

I hit the pavement and army crawl under the bus, leaving its tag incomplete. That’s going to bother me all week - I hate having my work interrupted.

The dark underbelly of this beast reeks of grease, gasoline and motor oil but it is keeping me safe from unfriendly eyes, so I remain still and watch and listen. The sudden light and rushed movement have got me disoriented, I can’t figure out where I entered the yard. All I see are bus shadows, tires, pavement exposed to glaring spotlights, more tires and bus shadows… left, right and directly in front of me all look exactly the same.

My ears strain to catch a footstep, a whisper, a rustle of clothing. No shouts of, “Police!”, no screams to, “Come out with your hands up!” No sirens, no ringing alarms. Only silence.

I should not have come here tonight.

What was I thinking? That I could just leave my tag all over the city and waltz into the yard without anyone wondering if I would show up here before the night was over? Did I really believe my movements were unpredictable? I set up my own trap and then came strolling right into it. All they had to do was wait for me to show up.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Okay, deep breath, calm down. Beat yourself up later. They don’t have me yet - they know I’m here, but it’s a big yard and I know it well. I just need to figure out which direction I’m facing and then I need to get moving.

Black boots and the bottom of blue jeans appear underneath a bus fifty feet to my right. One slow step, then another, then a slight pause before the man crouches to bring his head, handgun and flashlight into view. I flinch as the light is beamed in my direction but I’m far enough away to remain hidden. That’s one.

The sound of a boot scraping against pavement brings my eyes to the left. A matching pair of black boots and blue jeans are advancing slowly down the aisle of buses in my direction. Another pause, another light slashing into the shadows, another slow step. That’s two.

This is just a big game of hide and go seek and I’m it. I loved being it when I was a kid, I was never found before mothers came calling their sons to dinner. This will be too easy.

I look directly in front of me once again and brace myself to move - I can’t wait for them to find me here, I‘m no sitting duck. Just as I’m about to make my break for it, my eyes fall on a third pair of boots, only two bus lengths away.

I allow myself the luxury of a murmured curse and slowly, ever so slowly, turn myself to face the opposite direction, like a cornered, slightly panicked spider. My backpack snags on something protruding from the bottom of the bus and images of being found stuck here, like a skinny kid hanging from a hook in a locker room, flash through my head.

I take a deep breath, flatten myself against the cool pavement, and try again. A gentle tug and I’m free to complete my turn. Sweat drips into my eye and I blink rapidly to clear my vision.

No more boots greet my searching eyes, but a small aluminium trailer does. The security shack, maybe twenty feet away. Paulie’s home for the night, full of cameras, a small fridge and… a phone. I shoot quick glances left and right, say a quick prayer to whoever might be listening and move.

I reach the door without hearing any raised voices or gunfire but don’t linger outside to celebrate. I rip open the door, slip inside and close it quickly, but quietly, behind me. I rest my forehead against the warm metal and count to five before turning around.

“Paulie…?” Oh Jesus, they killed him.

He’s tied to his swivel chair with a black nylon rope, dried blood at the corners of his mouth, vicious purple bruises forming underneath both closed eyes. His thin grey hair is matted and stained the color of his own blood. My vision blurs as rage swells up from my chest and gets caught in my throat. These bastards will pay.

My eyes scan the four monitors arranged on the desk beside him, counting two more men with guns at the ready on the other side of the yard. So five in total. I’m going to need help.

I pick up the phone and pause, my fingers hovering over the number pad. I can’t call the cops, the mayor has his dirty hands all over them - for all I know these guys could be cops themselves. So who can I turn to… and what can I really expect them to do against five armed killers?

I need to get out of here - revenge will have to wait for another day. I need a distraction. I chew my lip, make my decision and begin to dial.

The End

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