New York City
The gutters of the megalopolis gurgled softly. Pounding sheets of rain washed down the darkened, sewage-stinking pavement as I scrambled silently for cover. Finding none, I rolled over on my back, doing the very best to steady the constant rhythm of my burning lungs.
‘Well, well, well,’taunted my assailant. The sound of his glistening Italian shoes breached my ears. My bleeding nose detected the stench of his cigarette’s burning tobacco. There was no need to use my special abilities to know that he carried a loaded gun in his gloved hand. ‘What am I to do with you, Michael?’
It was a rhetorical question. Both of us knew perfectly well what it was that he planned to do. What Victor had been sent to do.
He kicked aside a heap of malodorous refuse matter.
‘It’s a pity that you and I have to end our friendship on such an ugly note, Mikey. Really is. I wish you would make this easier on yourself and disclose the location of those flipping documents. But you’re one of those die-hard types. You always have been. I can ply you with questions all night long, but I won’t get to hear a single word out of your mouth, will I?’
Concentrating hard, I tuned out his voice, summing up the last reserves of my strength as I did so. Although it was immensely difficult, considering my horrid physical condition, I managed to glance into the future for a few short seconds.
Nothing to help me trick death or buy time, Only Victor leveling the gun to my head and squeezing the trigger. Nothing could be done to ameliorate the situation.
My heart accelerated with his every nearing step. Every cell in my body was fraught with rising alarm.
His golden lighter made a faint sound as he flicked away a cigarette and lit another. A crooked grin spread below his pencil thin moustache. He chuckled to himself, euphorically inhaling the poisonous fumes. He was going to enjoy this.
‘Ah, what a pity,’he said dramatically. Victor had always been an artist. Since the moment we’d met, I had always opined that he would have been better off freelancing as a dramaturge. ‘This is my last one. I guess I’ll just have to get some more on the way back.’He crumpled up the empty pack of smokes and chucked it away carelessly.
I knew that I was running out of time. Before Victor was done having his last cancer stick I would most definitely be dead. He took a long drag, carefully and patiently attaching a custom-made silencer to his deadly revolver. He made sure to take his time, savoring every moment.
This time it was him unlocking the safety catch on his handgun.
That damned revolver had always been his only weapon of choice, the reason probably being that it left no shell casings at the crime scene.
Pure panic washed over me, my mind began to race, injecting fresh waves of adrenaline into my veins. I commanded my exhausted brain to foresee the future. But again, all I managed to extract was a gloved finger pulling at a smooth, vicious trigger.
‘Not trying to play your little tricks on me, are you, Mikey-boy?’Victor asked. He sounded like he had just caught a small child red-handed in the process of stealing candy. I still didn’t answer, trying to look past the barrel of his gun in order to grasp something, anything which would help me escape the dratted lunatic.
In my mind’s eye, I foresaw a black feral cat scamper across the dirty, empty alley where I lay and Victor sneered. It appeared to be headed our way, looking to scavenge the nearby scuffed garbage cans for food residue. Somewhere in the immediate vicinity, an angry, severely inebriated derelict mishandled his one and only bottle of wine. It slipped from his hands and exploded all over the cold pavement just like a child’s water balloon. Then police sirens undulated in the night, but they were too far off to safely see me out of the quagmire that I found myself in.
My heart sank like a stone at that realization.
All of those readings were useless. With an aching head and unsteady hands, I was about to withdraw and accept defeat, when it suddenly dawned on me exactly how I had to act in order to turn the tables on Victor. Working under pressure, my mind quickly concocted a course of action that couldn’t even be called a plan, for its multiple flaws and drawbacks. All I needed was a touch of good fortune, which was a gamble, really, as I seemed to be out of luck for the day. Victor’s deadly revolver was a testimony to that.
Pulling it off would be a long shot, but despair galvanized me into action. I hesitated a tenth of a second, then filled my chest with air and yelled as loud and cheerily as possible. ‘Money! Money falling from the sky! I can’t believe this! Hundred dollar bills! Lots of them! They are everywhere!’
Victor’s bushy, raven-black eyebrows knitted together in confusion. ‘What? What the heck are you saying? Have you gone mad with fright?’
‘Money! Lots and lots of cash!’ I kept shouting zealously, perhaps sounding like a complete moron, which I dearly hoped only added realism to the note of exuberance in my voice.
‘Good God, man, pull yourself together and summon enough courage to die with dignity!’
My trick had worked.
The homeless drunk I had previsioned came careening into the alley, with a hopeful, out-of-this world expression on his smeared, bulldog-ish face.
‘Wha?’ he demanded.
‘Hundred dolla bills?’ He looked around quizzically, tucking away tufts of disheveled hair behind a pair of begrimed ears, and expecting a heavy shower of promised cash.
‘Where? Where’s the money?’ His eyes glinted with recognition and reason at the unexpected sight of Victor’s gun. Victor, without thinking twice, pulled the trigger before the man had even managed to fully lift his hands in a defensive gesture.
The silencer flashed, whistled and disembogued a trail of white smoke into the dank air. The wino stumbled forward, legs all rickety, one hand clutching at the expanding stain on his grungy old jacket, and the other greedily wrapped around the half-empty bottle of alcohol. With a bloody cough, he fell face forward, shattering the long-neck into glittering slivers and several larger fragments of sharp glass, in close proximity to where I lay sprawled on my back. Victor sneered, the police sirens came into life, probably chasing down some juvenile delinquent – the city never slept. It was an improbable stroke of luck, but the black tramp cat from my recent vision produced a loud yowl, and acted in exact accordance with my calculations. It was scared off a large, silver trashcan by the sound of the breaking bottle, and during its blind flight, had managed to get itself tangled up in between Victor’s feet. Caught by complete surprise, Victor lowered his gun to execute the unexpected guest, not a dreg of pity in his dark eyes.
Using the distraction to my advantage, I snatched the biggest shard of dark, shattered glass glinting close-at-hand and jumped to my feet. With my arm stretched out before me, I accelerated right into Victor like greased lightning. Overcome by a blinding surge of energy as well as the natural instinct of survival, I slashed at his stomach, instantly splitting it open. His neck cords strained and his face became a mottle of red and white shreds as he tried to raise his armed hand for protection, but I grabbed it with my own, and drove the sharp glass into his shoulder.
He misfired a couple of rounds and cried out in pain. The formal black fedora, which had been nestled on his head at a rakish angle, seesawed to the ground in a manner analogous to a falling feather. He himself sagged to his knees, shivering spasmodically as if from ague. For one brief moment, I stared down at him, my bloody hands and the defunct vagrant’s face, which was frozen in a horrible rictus of stunned horror. Being caught up in the moment, I seriously contemplated administering the coup de grace. But then my anger simmered down, and I reevaluated my thoughts, deciding that Michael Fleming wasn’t a murderer. At least, not yet.
My heart thumped with shock, every muscle in my body trembled, every nerve in my system burned. I dropped my makeshift weapon, then doubled back and turned around before floundering over to a concrete wall. I felt sick and waited for the nausea to pass. Once that was out of the way, I broke into a sudden and purposeful sprint. I left the dark alley running like a madman through the driving rain, never daring to look back.
I was worn out, but there was still some urgent business I needed to attend to. And time was of the essence. A person’s life was at stake. All that stood between them and eternal rest was me, and on the dot punctuality.
However, the person in question had no idea of the impending threat to their life.
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Genre – Young-adult, Action and Adventure, Coming of Age, Sci-fi
Rating – PG-13
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