10. Escape

May 2008

It had been; well, maybe a day or so? It was hard to tell, but Melissa could remember at least a couple of meals, and she'd slept for at least one extended period. It was hard to tell, with the constant light and no windows in here. There wasn't much by way of external noise to give any indication of rises or falls in activity, either.

So there she was, kicking back on her bunk, as usual, when the door hissed open, and there was Jay, with some strange little guy in a fancy suit. Jay looked in control; Melissa jumped up off her bunk.

She was out in the corridor when she realised that there was something strange about him. He hadn't shaved for a couple of days now, by the look of it, but that wasn't it – wait, why on earth…? He had a tattoo right across and down one side of his face. She ran a finger over them. They were brown rather than green; maybe they weren't permanent ones? But what was he doing running around getting tattoos in the first place?

“Long story,” he said.

“It’d be a long story,” he said, “and I’m not entirely sure myself what happened. Anyway, time we got out of here, I think. Karl?”

“Sure.” Karl started walking, back the way they’d come.

Melissa looked at Jay, then looked at Karl questioningly.

“He’s helping us. He’s not exactly friendly, but he’s helping us out for now.”

“Okay. Thanks Karl.”

“How have you been looked after?” Jay asked.

“I was carted down here and locked in, and the only times the door has opened has been for food and water. I was beginning to think I was going to spend the rest of my life down there.”

“No escape plans?” Jay asked, teasing a little.

“Not after I punched one of the guards out; two men with guns out and ready might be possible, but there’s no way I could take down three.” Melissa grinned. “Ah well, could have been worse.”

They had reached the guard station on the corner. “Stop here a moment, Karl, there’s something else I need to do,” said Jay.

Karl stopped, frowning at Jay. He nodded slowly. Jay opened to the door to the guard station – the guards jumped up, but settled back down when Karl came through the door behind them and nodded to them.

Jay was reaching for the button to the doors when he felt the cold barrel of a gun in the back of his neck.

“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that, Jay,” Karl said. “I do appreciate the sentiment, but it’s just more trouble than I can allow. In deference to your good behaviour I’m going to look after you, but I can’t let you do that.” He motioned to one of the guards, who took his gun out, stepped through the door into the corridor, and took Melissa by the arm.

Jay slumped. “Alright, take me away then.”

The pressure of the gun ceased; Jay turned to look at Karl. The gun was still pointing at him, and gone was Karl’s previous harmless-accountant expression. He was all business, now.

“Back to the elevator, please, Jay. Her, too,” he said, nodding at Melissa. They started walking.

They reached the elevator and stepped inside, Karl and the guard with their backs to the back wall, Jay and Melissa facing the doors. Karl leaned forward and pressed the button marked ‘P,’ right at the top of the panel. Penthouse? Jay wondered.

He watched the lights closely, and as they passed two he reached forward and jabbed the ‘1‘ button.

“What was that?” said the guard, as the lift stopped. Jay turned, ducked under the guard’s pistol, and punched him in the gut with all his might. He turned back to Karl as the doors opened.

“Run, Melissa! This should be the way out. I’ll follow.”

He lunged at Karl, who was bringing his gun up, but he was too slow. Karl brought the butt of his gun crashing down onto Jay’s head, and everything went black.

Melissa darted out of the lift; she looked back just in time to see Jay collapse, Karl standing over him with gun in hand – handle-first, gripped by the barrel, thank goodness – then the lift closed. Crap. Jay better catch her up; she was sick of having to handle everything herself.

She dashed across the lobby, down a corridor, and out into the loading area she come in through. She ran through the double doors, and looked around the parking area for the likeliest looking vehicle.

She saw a truck, still in the process of being unloaded. The driver's door was open, and it was still running; that seemed like a likely bet. The driver was standing behind it, talking to a couple of other guys. She ran across to the truck, hauled herself up into the cab, slammed and locked the door, and leaned over to lock the other door. She pushed in the clutch, pulled off the handbrake, slammed the truck into gear, and slammed the accelerator down.

She turned left off the edge of the bridge – back to town seemed the best way. She looked around the cab for a radio of any set. There was a walkie talkie, but it'd be closed band, only good for talking to other members of the same – business? Death cult? Revolutionary army? She had no idea. She flicked on the stereo; it'd be something to keep her distracted, at least.

“…haven't heard anything yet, and I'm so worried…” Oh. God. It was her mother. “…want to know, what are the police doing? Surely it's not that hard to find two people with an aeroplane. What're my tax dollars good for? That's what I want to know.”

Melissa listened in sick fascination for a moment, then looked for a different station. Anything would be better than having to listen to her mother's righteous indignation. She flicked stations until she found a decent country music station; that'd do for now.