The Price of Entanglement - Chapter 8, pt. 1

Transient

They froze, waiting in the dark, eyes closed. Jo wasn’t sure what she expected to happen; some assailant to leap out of the shadows and strike, maybe. Instead, her blood froze at the sound of the floorboards creaking, long and slow. It seemed to go on forever, to set her nerves on edge.

Mike picked up the box and started moving slowly toward her. “C’mon, we’re getting out of here. We can’t just sit here and wait for something to happen.”

Jo gulped but nodded, whispered “Okay,” though she wasn’t sure she was entirely okay with it. He did have a point though. Waiting would only get them so far, and if there was someone there, gave them the advantage.

Mike took the stairs first, moving as slow as he could, feet landing on the steps right along the wall where the wearing of the concrete was minimal. Jo followed behind, scanning the doorway ahead of them anxiously. Once they’d gained the doorway, they kept low and looked around, expecting a hail of weapons fire at any moment.

Another creak sounded from what Jo could’ve sworn was the second floor, though the acoustics in the building made it hard to be sure. It was shorter and sounded much more like a footstep. Mike cursed under his breath. “Upstairs,” he said. “Let’s go. Now!” Without waiting for a response, he took off at a run, Jo close behind.

Three sets of pounding footsteps; that’s what Jo counted. Mikes, hers—and someone behind them. A detached part of her mind noted that that was all she heard, no extra labored breathing, no weapons, no shouts, no fourth or fifth sets of footsteps. Then they were at the door, and the first gunshot rang out. She felt something whiz by faster than she could process, felt a tiny sting on her neck.

Her hand reflexively clamped to it, but she kept running. Mike was breathing like a winded horse, bu was muttering under his breath; she hoped he was calling a ride to get them out of this. She took her hand away and looked. It came away red, but it was only a trace; the round had scratched her, no more. Her knees threatened to go weak in relief. She kept them moving instead, pounding down the street.

She dared a look back after they’d run almost to the next property; a solitary figure stood, weapon in hand, but lowered, watching after them. He looked possibly male, was covered in long, dark, flowing clothing that told her very little about the figure within. She snapped her eyes back to the sidewalk ahead.

“Got a way out of this one?”

“C-called … a cab,” Mike said, slowing slightly. “Gotta get this back to HQ. Who the hell was that?”

“I don’t know, barely saw him.” She slowed to match his pace. “He didn’t follow us out of the building, just watched us go.”

“He must know we took something out.”

“You think he was after this?”

“He was after something, and probably doesn’t know what we have.”

A few minutes later, they were safe in a cab and headed back to the office. Another cab followed their route some distance back, unseen by either of them.