The Escape (Short Story)



Part 1: The Chase

The rain pattered lightly on the asphalt of the town’s main road, a small silver river forming down its length. Everything was bathed in orange light, the only thing paving the way large lampposts, looming over the road like great concrete beasts. Through the haze of rain a small figure dressed in a long overcoat was visible, making her way down the road with her hands tucked tightly into her overcoat pockets, on her back a battered rucksack hanging from one shoulder.
            She walked quickly, her large black high heels clicking lightly as she did so. Passing under the beam of a lamppost her face was momentarily visible. She wore a small woollen hat, pulled tightly over her forehead and over one of her ears, a small amount of dark brown hair protruding from the sides. On her left ear a small silver earring gleamed, piercing into the darkness with a bright orange tint. She wore large circular glasses, her large eyes barely visible behind them. Then suddenly the beam was lost, and she was once again bathed in inky blackness.
            She turned into a dark side alley and knocked on a battered wooden door, everything was deathly silent, save the buzz of a small glowing fly zapper to her right. She knocked again, there was a pause, then it opened a fraction of a centimetre.
            “Who is it?” came a sharp male voice.
            “It’s me, Angela." She said calmly "They’ve come for me.” 
            The door opened quickly with a loud creak and she slipped inside, it closed with a slam behind her, she winced in the half light.
            “So it’s finally happened.” said a dark figure standing in front of her.
            “Yes.”
            “Then you must run.”
            “I know...”
            There was a pause as she thought about it.
            “I am.”

*

            There was a slight squeak of metal as a long thin tube of steel was screwed onto the barrel of a rifle. The man doing it was large and tall, hunched over in the darkness he stared into the street below him as he clicked a folding stock into place. The section of the road he was watching had an alleyway jotting away from it; it was pitch black there save a tiny fly zapper, radiating an alien blue glow onto the bricks around it.
            He carefully clipped on a scope and levelled it on the crumbling bricks in front of him. The hair-thin tips of the cross-hairs wavered slightly and then settled onto a shop window. Through it he could see the silhouettes of two people, one male, one female. They where talking.

*

            “Why have you come here then?” said the figure.
            “I have no where else to go.” She said “plus I know you have a sneaky way out, ‘just in case the pigs come knocking’ yea?.”
            “Yea, but why not just run? Take a plane, fly to another country.”
            “They'll follow me; I already have one tailing me. I need to escape through here, make him think he’s got me cornered, then disappear. It should set him off the scent for just enough time.”
            “To do what?”
            “I don’t know… but I’ve got to get away. Where is it?”
            The figure stood still for half a second, then walked over to the counter.
            “Over there.” he said, bending down and lifting a large wooden trap door. A sudden rush of air blew up a thick cloud of dust.
            “It leads out to the river” He said.
            She lowered herself down and looked into the massive expanse of darkness that lay before her. It was just large enough for a child or a thin woman. She slipped off her coat and pushed her rucksack in before her. The dark figure watched her.
            “Thank you” she said. He nodded.
In the freezing night there was an explosion. And Angela stared in horror as the silhouette of her friend was blown forwards. She saw a bullet rip through his chest, exploding outwards and showering her face in blood. The bullet whizzed onwards and ricocheted off the wall beside her ear, she dropped down and quickly slammed the trap door shut above her.

*

The assassin grunted. He had missed. He never missed. He picked up the still smoking bullet case and slipped it into his pocket. Getting up without a whisper of a sound he flicked his weapon onto safety and slung it round his back. They said this one would be tricky.
He walked silently to the edge of an apartment building, assessed his route, then jumped. The first fall was long and the wind whistled in his ears as he went, the lip of his coat flapping madly in the downfall. He saw his destination, a large canvas overhang, and in the split second before impact braced his body. He hit it with a force enough to break a mans legs and did a forward roll onto an apartment garden where he righted himself again. He stood up, brushed himself off, and jumped again.

*

Angela could see nothing in the crudely dug tunnel. She felt around at the damp earth and found the area where there was no resistance, crawling forwards on her hands and knees. The assassin was probably still after her, the people they sent from the Stadford institution never gave up until they know with absolute certainty that the subject was dead. At this thought she sped up, her hands and knees sloshing in the wet mud and god knows what else, her only goal at that moment was to get out of the tunnel and into the river. She would work out what she would do next when she got there.

*

The assassin landed heavily on the asphalt of the road. He picked himself up, quickly checked his weapon for damage, and sped towards the shop, a dark ghost in the night.
The broken window had showered the room in fragments of glass and they crunched under his large black boots as he ventured in. In one dark corner a dead body lay, his face frozen in a look of pained shock, the assassin ignored this and searched the room with his hand on a pistol.
She must have escaped the room, there was only one obvious exit and he had been watching it the whole time. He searched for ladders or stairs. Nothing. That left one option. He crouched down and surveyed the floor, his large coat spread out around him like a thick shadow in the dust. Some way away there was a darker, square patch of floor. He got up and examined it. A trapdoor. He smiled, very intelligent; it was likely that it led to the river that bordered the back of the building. She wouldn’t know what hit her.
He reached into his coat and pulled out a large yellow incendiary grenade. Lifting the trapdoor with his foot he pulled out the pin and rolled it into the tunnel that it revealed. He shut it again and walked calmly away, avoiding the body and strolling into the freezing night, his feet crunching glass.
“Boom.” He whispered. And the building behind him burst into flames.

*

Angela sighed. She still couldn’t see the end of the tunnel, and was beginning to wonder whether it simply didn’t end, forming a constant circle under the town. There was a clink some way off, she wasn’t sure what it was, and it was quite likely she didn’t want to. She redoubled her efforts and was rewarded with a dim circle in the distance.
She smiled in the grey light, at last. She crawled forwards a few paces and felt a warm heat on her feet.
Oh no.

*

The water in the murky river trident was perfectly still. On the banks surrounding it on either side birds nested, their faint squawks and shuffling the only sound in the freezing night. Next to one was a small hole, it seemed to go on some way, a child could probably crawl through, or a thin woman.
The faint silence was broken by a slight burst of sound; it seemed to be coming from inside the tunnel. There was a faint scream and then flame shot out of the hole, brilliantly illuminating the river and its surroundings in a bright orange glow. A small bird squawked its alarm and was swiftly turned into roast moorhen

*
            All Angela could remember was a searing heat and now the freezing shock of water. She snapped back into consciousness quickly and assessed her situation. She was underwater, she was alive and she was running out of oxygen. With a sudden burst of energy brought on with the prospect of being drowned she pushed herself upwards.        
She broke the surface of the river with a riveting intake of breath. Bastard. He’d tried to burn her alive! That wasn’t right, surely. And he’d killed one of her oldest friends. It was personal now. She pushed herself forwards and swam for the shore.

*

            “The subject may still be alive, missed a shot and perused with incendiary grenade, one civilian casualty. Requesting permission to send in a search team.” Said the assassin into his small black microphone. There was a static pause before the answer came.
            “Permission granted.” Came a woman’s voice “Continue to pursue subject until dead.”
            “Understood.”

*

She reached the shore with a thud of wet mud on skin and pulled herself out of the water. Laying there for a couple of seconds as she caught her breath, she pulled herself up and grabbed her backpack, sitting on it with a damp thud. She sighed deeply, at least that had survived…
After a seconds pause she'd formulated a plan, she stood up slowly and unzipped her bag, picking out some clean, much less recognizable clothes, and quickly pulling them on. She stuffed her old clothes into the rucksack and hid it under her shirt; she could live with people thinking she was pregnant if it meant staying alive.
She turned around and headed for a gap in the large buildings. Slipping into the street, hoping nobody had noticed, she made her way down to the bus station. When she arrived a bus was already waiting.
“That’ll be three fifty” said the driver. She fumbled around in her rucksack and considered using her bus pass. No identification she thought, and paid with cash instead.
The journey to her friend’s house was enjoyably uneventful. The bus arrived at the street she was looking for with a hiss and she stepped out into the freezing night. Her friend’s house was a semi-detached Victorian model, and stood ominously tall, a towering dark structure in the faint drizzle of rain. She walked up to it and tapped lightly on the door as the bus drove away behind her. There where a couple of seconds of silence, then a faint shuffling and a groan from within.
“Who is it?” came a drowsy voice.
“It’s Angela. I need a place to stay for the night.”
There was a small grunt of recognition and a clink of a latch being opened. The door swung open.
“You’d better come in then.” said the dark silhouette of a tall woman.

*

The assassin watched as Angela was let in to the house. Very clever. She’d almost got away; he would have to attach a tracking device. But first he needed a warrant to coax her out of this house. Admin would not be happy with another unauthorized civilian casualty.
He slipped out of the comforting shadows of an alleyway and made his way back to the Stadford building. This wasn’t over.

*

“What happened to your hair? is that a burn mark on your cheek?”
Angela didn’t answer; she simply walked through into the kitchen and pulled out a long sharp blade from the wooden knife holder.
“Angela, what’s going on?" she eyed the knife "Why do you need that? Have you lost your mind? ANGELA! I demand you answer me.”
“Ok… look" she sighed "I’m being hunted, people want me dead. I need a place to sleep, only for the night, then I’ll be out of your hair.”
“They want you dead!" She exclaimed "Who? Surely they will come here… am I safe?”
“They don’t know I’m here." She slipped the knife into her bag "I’m hoping they think I’m dead…”
“Angela, are you sure you’re ok, you seem pretty highly strung.”
“Of course I’m highly fucking strung! Do you have any idea what’s just happened to me? They killed Dan! They killed fucking Dan and they where aiming for me! I saw him get shot Maggie! I saw the fucking bullet rip through his fucking chest! And then they tried to roast me alive as I escaped! I’ve nearly died so many times tonight! So excuse me if I’m highly strung Maggie! I’m just trying to stay alive.”
“Dan’s dead…”
“Yes… and it’s my fault. They where aiming for me, I came to him for a way out, they shot him. And now their coming for me.”
“Ok… right… Follow me; I’ve got something that could help.”
Maggie walked out of the room. Angela frowned in the gloom, her glasses shining a bright red in the gleam of a street lamp, what could she possibly have that could help.
“You coming or not?” came a voice from down the hall, Angela sighed and walked after her.

*

            The bursar sat at his desk typing a letter to a former employee, his face and torso where bathed in the cold light of a computer monitor, the only visible things in the gloom of the night. There was a slight shuffle of noise from somewhere in the darkness, he stopped, his face forming a deep frown.
            “Hello?” he said into the darkness. There was no answer. He sighed and went back to work, the click of keys the only sound in the consuming silence.
            “I need a warrant.” came a whispery voice from directly beside him. He jumped and let out a yelp of fright. Turning slowly to his side he saw a dark figure in a long black coat, he sat in a chair directly beside him, staring at the screen of his monitor with a vague interest. “I see old Joe’s been letting out illegal secrets again. Is this another job for me?”
            “Look, I’ve told you a million times. You need an appointment if you want to come and see me.” He said, visibly shaken.
            “But the receptionist is asleep”
            “No she isn…” he looked out into the hallway and stopped. “Oh.”
            “She threatened to call the police.”
            “I see… you haven’t?”
            “No.”
            “Good…”

*

            When Angela found her, Maggie was waiting beside a stairway that led down into the basement.
            “Down here.” She said, and walked down it. Angela followed, slightly cautious to the re-enforced concrete that surrounded her. They reached the bottom and Angela marvelled at the large iron door that met her there.
            “Maggie?”
            “Just wait and see” she said, and punched in a 10 digit code into a keypad beside it. There was a clink of steel cogs and the door rumbled slowly upwards. What it revealed would be burnt into Angela’s memory for the rest of her life.
            “Oh my god” she said.

*

            “So I get the warrant?” said the shadowy figure.
            “Yes, yes, go ahead then.” He typed fervently into his computer for a couple of seconds, hit enter with a sigh and the printer beside him buzzed into life. “Here is a warrant to destroy one and only one house in, erm…” he looked quickly at the monitor “15 shedford street. And for the authorized death of a one “Margaret Slater”; turns out she was wanted as a priority three anyway.

*

            “Erm… Maggie?”
            “Yes?”
            “Why do you have an arsenal of what looks like over two hundred weapons hidden under your house?”
            “Erm… ex-military. You know how these things go…”
            “Not really, no…”
            “Look, do you want the guns or not.”
            “Not all of them! But, yea… thanks anyway”
            “Just pick whichever one takes your fancy, none of them are technically mine anyway”
            “Ok… thanks”
            Angela walked forwards a couple of paces and inspected the room. It was made completely of re-enforced concrete, lining the walls where stacked hundreds, if not thousands of rifles and pistols, shotguns and explosives. In a corner was what looked like… no… It couldn’t be.
            “Maggie”
“Yes?”
“Why does that crate have ‘napalm’ written on it?”
            “Well… because it’s got napalm in it.”
            “Right…”
            She walked forwards and selected one of the meaner looking guns.
            “You sure you want that?” said Maggie, looking at it with a frown.
            “Yes. Why not”
            “Well… It’s a high explosive grenade launcher you see…”
            “Ah… I think you’d probably better choose me one”
            Maggie smiled and led her over to the assault rifle section.
            “Here” she said, sporting an AK 47. She passed it over and Angela struggled with the weight.
            “What is it?” she asked. Hefting it up to waist height, Maggie smiled.
            “It’s a Kalashnikov AK 47. Very popular weapon, been used in every major war since its invention by the Russians in world war two as a compact machine gun for tank commanders.”
            “I see..." she lied "how exactly do I operate it?”
            Maggie smiled.
            “Just fill this up with ammo like this” she said, lifting a magazine from a table beside her and pushing in some bullets “stick it in here...” she took the rifle and slotted the magazine into place below it. “Cock it…” she pulled back a lever on its side and released it, letting a bullet into the chamber. “And fire”.
            She took the rifle and lifted it easily into position.
            “Just line up the rear and foresight and point it at the thing you want to shoot” She took a deep breath and shot a round off with a loud bang, the bullet whizzed through the air and knocked off a can from a near by bench, ricocheting off and taking a chunk out of the wall. The empty shell flew into the air beside her, smoking lightly. It hit the concrete floor with a clink.
            “Now you try” she said, and handed Angela the rifle, she took it and stared at it. “Just do what I said.”
            “Ok…”
            She hefted it up to eye height and moved it until it the front sight met up with the rear sight.
            “Now pull the trigger once and fire.”
             She squeezed the trigger and there was a loud bang as a bullet was flung spinning out of the barrel. It whizzed through the air and hit the can with a ping.
            “You’re a natural.” said Maggie, looking at her with an encouraging smile.
            “Well… I have had basic weapons training, you know, handguns excreta.” She replied, handing back the rifle.
            “Ah… you should have told me”
            “Well, it was a long time ago… you know”
            She smiled.
            “Just take this and some spare ammo. Oh, and a pistol” she reached into a crate and pulled out a short black handgun “This nine millimetre colt should do.”
            She smiled again and handed her a holster.
            “Put this on.”           
            She did, and Maggie slotted the pistol in. After that she handed her the AK with a strap and she flung it around her back.
            “Now for ammo, that pistol’s loaded by the way. The safety’s on, don’t worry.”
            She rummaged around in a large green crate and re-appeared with three small black magazines and three large curved ones.
            “This should do you.” she said, and handed them to her with a large black belt. “Slot them in there.”
She did so, and after a short while of sorting out weights and adjusting the placements of things Angela stood in the harsh lights of the vault, struggling against the weight of a rifle, a pistol and about two hundred rounds of ammo.
            Maggie smiled.
            “You’re ready.”

*

            “So we have to leave now?”
            “Yes, It could be very dangerous, the whole neighbourhood is being evacuated”
            The owner of the house looked out into the orange darkness of the street, a small group of bewildered citizens where being led away by orange clad bomb marshals. He looked at the two police officers, then down at his slippers.
            “Ok” he said eventually “just let me get my stuff”
            “You have ten minuets, thank you for your co-operation”
            The door closed on them with a soft click as the house owner disappeared into the din. They walked off, heading for the next house.
            “All seems like a lot of fuss to me” said one of them, his boots crunching lightly on the gravel of their next evacuee’s driveway.
            “Well, I suppose it’s better to be safe than sorry, unexploded bombs are probably quite dangerous.”
            There was a low ringing from somewhere inside as he pushed the doorbell.

*

            “So, what’re you going to do now?” Said Maggie, handing her a long black overcoat.
            “I’m going to the stadford headquarters, sort all of this out, find out why I’m being hunted.” She paused and looked at the coat “I don’t think that’s really necessary… it looks a bit… big, to me”
            “It’s common sense, you’re holding enough weaponry to raid a bank, you don’t want to get nicked walking down the street do you?”
            She looked at it for a second, then put it on.
            “Plus, you look good in it”. Said Maggie, she smiled.

*

            “Everyone has been evacuated” said the lieutenant, facing the dark street with his hands clasped behind his back. “You may plant the explosives.”
            The assassin nodded and glided silently over to the quarries house. He reached the door and pulled a brown package out of the recesses of his coat, inside where 10 pounds of plastic explosives, timed to detonate in two minuets. He flicked the timer on and slotted the package into the letterbox.
            There was a damp thud as it hit the carpet.

*

            Angela waved again as she reached the end of the back lawn, this would probably be the last time they would ever meet, and she had been so kind. Maggie smiled, watched for a couple more seconds, then disappeared into the house.
            Angela sighed, things were looking up, all she had to do now was break into the most heavily fortified and guarded area in Britain, find the head of the institution and persuade him not to kill her. Easy.
            But first she needed to prepare for the journey to London, and that required walking because she didn’t dare take public transport and her car was most likely being tracked. She shrugged up her backpack, pushed her large round glasses further up her nose and made her way through the back alley that bordered all of the gardens in the neighbourhood.

*

            Maggie walked back into her house, her eyes glistening. She hated goodbyes, even if it had just been a brief encounter. She made her way into the hallway and noticed a small brown package lying on the carpet in front of the door. She frowned and picked it up.
            It was unmarked. She shook it and nothing happened, it was quite solid, and heavy. She put it to her nose, it didn’t smell of anything. She frowned and put it to her ear; from somewhere inside there was a muffled beeping.
            It was getting faster.
            “Oh” she said, and laid it back down on the floor. She walked into the kitchen, put the kettle on and sat on one of the chairs. There wasn’t much point in running, with the amount of explosives and napalm she had stored in the basement the ensuing blast was likely to include the whole neighbourhood. Stupid bloody assassins, need to do their paperwork.
            She took the kettle off and poured herself a cup of tea. Maggie was not a religious woman, she did not believe in a god or higher being, but often when man faces his own fate it helps to pray. She prayed that Angela would survive.
            There was an explosion from in the hallway
            She died instantly and without pain.