Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Untitled short story

This is something I did for some reason. My first short story, enjoy.

I turned off the sidewalk and into an alley as naturally as I could, and paid close attention to the sound of the puddle as its splash echoed lightly in the dark. Someone was following me. Or maybe no one was. When you've lived like me for long enough, and you've walked down the same alleys I have, you always think someone is following you. Just in case, I turned left into another alley, one between two apartment buildings; one I knew.

My legs itched with misgivings as I tried to maintain my casual gait and step pressure, while straining to focus on the sounds coming from the alley I left. I almost missed the soft sound of someone taking a jumping step over the puddle I crossed. I was being followed; and he was better than the others.

I began to talk larger strides with the same timing, making my way to the two doors at the far end of the alley. I got half way there before he figured it out, and started running. I started running, and knew I'd have more than enough time.

This was one of my escape alleys, I set up at least 10 whenever I get to a new city. They're pretty much alleys with multiple possible exit points, and one good hiding place. I usually have to make the hiding place myself, but as long as I find a place neglected enough, my setups remain undisturbed. This particular spot was a dead end with a pallet set up against a brick wall, and two doors. One door was a fire exit to some stores on the lower level; it lead into a hallway that branched off three or four times. The other door lead into the dark, unused laundry room in the basement of an apartment building, with steps going up to the first floor. This was where I had my hiding spot; a large intake vent facing the door that was mostly covered by one of the old dryers so it couldn't be pulled out. I had bent back the fittings on the vent so it could slide up and down freely, and glued screw heads to the corners. I had a latch inside in case someone wanted to tug on it, and an old black shirt I found that I could put over myself if someone tried to look inside.

I ran full speed to the first door, it creaked loudly as I threw it open, and continued past it. The heavy door only opened part of the way as it banged against some metal trash cans in the way, and creaked shut quickly with a slam. I dragged my jacket against the wall sporadically as I ran to sound like shoes scuffling over the wall, and opened the laundry door and threw myself in. I almost slipped on something gritty on the linoleum floor, and got into the vent with only the slightest scraping sound as I heard his steps echo into the alley. He may be good, but I'm better.

Now I wait. I never had a problem waiting before. I'd waited for hours in the past, but I didn't think I'd have to this time. I heard him slow to a stop. "Good bye, my friend." I thought to myself as I heard his steps retreating. I had decided to wait a bit longer just to be sure, when I heard his steps return.

He stepped twice and stopped for a while, then took another two steps and stopped again. I tried to imagine what he was doing stopping so frequently and so early in the alley. What was there to see? Was he trying to find the direction of my footprints? Was he tracking me like an animal?! I searched my memory from a few moments ago to remember what was on the ground of the alley; was there dirt or trash? Was it just asphalt? I chastised myself for jumping to conclusions, and forced myself to calm down as I heard his footsteps resume normally and stop. The fire exit door creaked slowly as he opened it, then clammored against the trash can and slowly creaked shut again. I was sure he was taking the bait when he opened it again, but faster this time. The door creaked open, hit the trash cans, and creaked shut with a slam. Now I was starting to worry. He was trying to copy the creak to see how fast I opened it. He was very good. Maybe the best I've had after me. I tried to remember how long the door was open when I threw it open on my way in when he opened the door again, but this time it sounded more like when I had opened it. The time between the first creak and the final slam could have been enough for me to get through, but I wasn't sure. I swallowed hard as he closed the door, and resumed his two step walk down the alley. By the diffused light through the two dirty alley windows I could see his dark figure cautiously step forward, and bend down. He was tracking me.

He stepped beyond the windows, and I returned to my imagination to determine what he was doing. A hard step; a slight creak. He was on the pallet, looking over the wall. Shit, I didn't make a creaking sound; but maybe it was quiet enough that he wouldn't have heard it. What if there were trash cans on the other side of the wall? Damnit, I'll never set up in another dead end like this. I heard more scuffling, which could either be him straining to look over the wall, or him actually going over the wall. Would I hear him land if he did? I couldn't remember if the ground was the same level it was on the other side. Did I even check?

I heard the sound of feet landing on pavement softly. Was it soft because he jumped over to the other side, or because he wanted me to think that? It was silent for some time, but I wasn't moving; I didn't want to take any chances with this one. I knew I was going to spend a few hours in here; if only for piece of mind.

I had sat silently for about 20 minutes. At first I stared intently at the doorknob, fearing that he was just moving slowly enough that I couldn't hear him, but now I was just trying to keep from cramping up. I was thinking about the black shirt, and whether or not it would withstand close scrutiny with a flashlight, when I heard the metal-on-metal grinding of the doorknob being slowly turned. My mind focused like a laser, and I carefully readied the shirt to cover me.

It was overcast outside, so the light that crept in was grey and dim. The door made a short, hesitant squeak as it opened half way. A man in a beanie with a pale face took a quick look through the opening, and pushed the door in all the way. He stood outside, holding the door open, and slowly scanned the dim room behind an odd pair of glasses.

His clothes were plain. Perfectly plain. The kind of plain you can only accomplish by spending days watching what people wear in the target area, and hours finding used clothes to match. Rookies usually wear a trench coat or a gun or an expensive watch; something slight that distinguishes them. He wore no such wear. Everything about his attire made him no one in particular. He was a professional; but a professional what?

His hard eyes and shrewd expression were the only thing that identified him as a professional, though I'm sure he rarely wore them when on the hunt. His stance appeared to be somewhat casual, but his dark eyes flickered back and forth beneath his hard features. Then I realized; my trail was cold. He tried to trick me out from hiding by being silent, but it was obvious to me now that this was one of his final efforts. I wondered what made him initially excuse this room?

I watched his gaze soften as it shifted to the stairs. I sighed with relief as he sighed angrily, and stepped into the room in the direction of the stairs, when the linoleum crunched under him. I instantly recalled almost slipping on something on the floor, and held my breath as he looked down at the floor. He produced a flashlight from his pocket and shone it on the floor. His glancing eyes squinted, and he kneeled. I gripped the shirt.

He jerked his head up in my direction, eyes hard again, and shone the flashlight on the wall. I raised the shirt, and held my breath.

He took a step and stopped. The faint light danced through the vent against the shirt, he was shining it back and forth on the wall looking for someplace I could have hidden, then it came to rest on the vent and the shirt. He was going to find me. The light turned off and I brought the shirt down slightly, he was standing right in front of the vent. Should I give up? No. I won't be found. I'll never be found. *BAM* My startled jump inside the vent was masked by the metal ringing the vent made as it was kicked. The latch held. I saw his shoes go into an wide, sideways stance. The shrill sound of the metal feet of the dryer dragging along the concrete made me grit my teeth as the groaning echoed in the vent. I heard him groan, and knew it was heavy, but then the movement stopped abruptly. They hadn't spread the linoleum under the dryer; lazy fucks. He stood facing the vent again, and I heard his flashlight click on, and saw him begin to kneel. I drew the shirt up; this was it.

I was horified as light poured through the shirt, illuminating my cramped, sad frame, and blinding me. I slammed my eyes shut, and awaited my judgement. I guess 11 years was a good run, but now I was going to have to go back, and face the past; my past. I wondered if he worked for the people who wanted to save me, or the people who wanted to screw me. But quickly cast the thought out; it didn't make a difference. I was found.

But still; there was silence. Then the light began to move across the shirt. I was lit up through the shirt, but he still couldn't see me! The light bounced around the edges of the shirt, and then clicked off as he stood up. "Sheise!" exclaimed a German accent, accompanied by a hard sigh. He began walking to the door, and said with no detectable accent, "I will find him. He IS good; but I'm better!"

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