3. On the Run

August 2007

Once at the bottom of the stairwell, Brian carefully pushed open the fire door at the back of the building. The alleyway beyond seemed deserted. He stepped out of the door – a quick glance in both directions – and made for the street.

Once he was mingling with passersby on the footpath he felt able to breathe again. He glanced behind a few times as he walked in the opposite direction from his apartment building, but didn't see any sign of pursuit.

But what to do with himself? He couldn't go home anytime soon. He stopped a moment, leaning against a wall to think. The library was only a couple of blocks east, he realised, and would give him somewhere to rest while he sorted out his next move. He turned down the next side street, heading in that direction.

He was about halfway down the next block when a white limousine pulled alongside him, slowing to match his pace. A window rolled down, and the man stuck his head out the window.

Figures, muttered Brian under his breath. “Why won't you just piss off?” he asked the man.

“You're sure you don't want a ride? Where are you headed?” said the man.

“I said, piss off” said Brian.

“Have it your way then,” said the man. He reached out the window, an impossible distance, and grabbed Brian's wrist. He pulled Brian towards the car, causing Brian to stumble as he tried to keep pace with it.

“Let go of me, you freak!” shouted Brian.

“I just want to try something,” said the man, his half-smile not slipping for a moment. “Stop the car please,” he said, glancing forward. The car stopped.

The man reached down into a pouch in the car door and pulled out a pistol, held by the barrel. He placed the handle in Brian's hand, pointing the gun at his own stomach.

“Are you mad?” said Brian.

“Are you going to get in the car?” said the man. “I suggest you take careful stock of the position you find yourself in.”

Brian looked at his hand, holding a gun pointed into a limousine. He looked left. Noone, thank goodness. He looked right. Not there either. His lucky day. He looked left again – at the cop coming around the corner.

The cop saw him pretty quickly, too, and judged the situation much the same as Brian had.

“FREEZE!” the cop yelled, going for his gun.

Now would you like my help?” asked the man.

“Oh, whatever,” said Brian. “Let's get this over with.”

The man gave a mighty tug on Brian's wrist, pulling Brian through the window, across his lap, and onto the floor. Brian heard the cop yelling, then the sound suddenly subsided with a shunk as the window shut.

He felt the anger well up, and this time it didn't die down. It was fierce.

“Not much happening in here, Brian,” said the man.

Brian looked up, anger slightly tempered by confusion.

“Oh, Brian, such a slow learner. Look out the window.”

Brian looked out to see the cop still running after the car, which was travelling as if this block was the most interesting block in the city. He watched the cop dodge a rubbish bin, run past a dairy, then some empty warehouse, and across the entrance to a junkyard.

The cop tripped on something, and went down hard. A dog started barking; Brian heard a chain dragging, then a sharp yell, and suddenly the gate to the junkyard was shoved open from the inside, and a dog's snout pushed around the edge. The dog saw the cop – trying to push himself to his feet – and leapt.

Brian turned away, sick inside. He pulled himself up on the seat.

“Why?” he said.

“Because you're a poor listener, Brian.”

The man leant towards him, across the car. He reached out his arm, then brought his hand down sharply.

“Ow!” Brian looked with fuzzy terror at the needle sticking into his thigh. He yanked the needle out.

“Horse tranquiliser. You've got about 5 seconds of consciousness.” The man chuckled.

Brian looked up, defeated. “Who are you, anyway?” he asked, as his vision dimmed.

The man shrugged. “Call me Lucian,” he said.

“What is that, French?”

“Something like that.” The man smiled, a slow, toothy smile, and Brian passed out.