For a moment the world seemed to stand still. Fragments of glass froze in the air, refracting the dim office lighting out in all directions. I had the sudden irrational thought that, if I wanted to, I could reach out and pluck one from the air. It was all too much… too surreal.
It wasn’t the first time I’d been shot at (and it amazed me how, seventeen years later, I still remembered the feeling of it) but this… this was too convenient, like something out of a mystery flick. Something about it just seemed wrong, and it left a burning bile-taste in my mouth.
Remembering the direness of our situation, I pushed the whole thing to the back of my mind and sprung into action. Ducking low to avoid more shots, I grabbed Jason and dragged him into the hallway. A few more bullets whizzed by a few feet above my head. One of them struck the coffee pot and shattered it, sending molten blobs of liquid out in every direction. A few bullets thunked into the filing cabinets, boring holes straight through the flimsy metal exterior.
Jason had fallen unconscious, the bullet was one extra shock that his system just didn’t need. It was the wound, it seemed, that broke the camel’s back. Blood seeped from his shoulder and I checked the wound. He was relatively lucky. The bullet had gone all the way through his shoulder and didn’t seem to have broken anything unrepairable, although he was certainly losing a lot of blood. I quickly pulled off Jason’s tie and ripped my own in two. Within a minute, I’d made a makeshift field dressing that held back most of the blood.
Bullets were still coming in through the window, which again struck me as odd.
Cover Fire. My instincts screamed at me, perhaps a bit later than they should have. I ran to a nearby door, tested the lock, and threw it open. Seconds after had I dragged Jason behind the door, I heard the front door to the office building open and close, and a few bullets shattered the glass right above my head.
I pulled my gun, pointed it through the now-empty hole in the office door, and squeezed of a few blind shots. The first one was met only with the solid sound of wood splintering, but the second one was greeted with a satisfying squishing noise and an even more satisfying yelp of pain. My luck didn’t hold, though — I heard a few more gunshots from the hallway and a few holes appeared in the lightweight office door right in front of me. One of the bullets grazed my left arm.
I’d had worse.
Two of them, I thought. There were two of them at the door. Thinking quickly I moved inside the office and dragged Jason behind me. Reaching around the corner, I fired off a few more blind shots. None of them hit, but hopefully those shots would make the one still standing think twice about advancing down the hallway. Moving quickly, I raced to a nearby window and opened it. I dumped my gun into my pocket, grabbed Jason by his coat, and heaved him over my shoulders in a classic fireman’s carry. Muscles seventeen years out of practice screamed in outrage, but they grudgingly remembered the move and allowed me to get us out the window. Once there, I set Jason back on the ground and crept along the side of the building to look around the front corner. My car was sitting there, unharmed and unguarded. And barring about twenty feet of open air with no real cover (unless you counted the millions of tiny raindrops falling all around), it seemed like it wouldn’t be too hard to get to.
I raced back to Jason only to find him muttering to himself, struggling with some nightmare. “Can’t… let him get… No. No. Not again.” I hoped against hope that his muttering wouldn’t attract any undue attention and dragged him across the mud and grass to the front of the building, where only cement remained. I dared my muscles to tell me no and once again hefted him onto my shoulders. It was a bit easier the second time.
And then I executed my master plan.
I ran like a little bitch, tossed Jason into my back seat (perhaps a little more roughly than I’d intended), leaped into the drivers seat, jammed the key into the ignition, and fired her up.
Well… at least I tried. In reality, it took me three tries to get the engine to turn over, and by the time I was tearing off down the street I had three bullet holes in my rear window, one in the headrest of the passenger seat, and a spider-web crack in my front window.
Combined with the pouring rain, I’m surprised I didn’t run the damn thing into a fire hydrant.
I pulled about sixty miles an hour down residential streets and blew through about five red lights before I dared slow down. After a few more minutes of twists and turns, I was relatively sure we weren’t being followed. I pulled into an empty car wash and took stock.
Jason looked terrible. His shirt was soaked in blood and rainwater, all color had left his face, and his eyes and mouth were contorted into an expression of pain like I’d never seen before. I was just about to take off again when I heard him cry out.
“No, damn it! NO! You can’t have her!” His voice was loud and clear, and his eyes were open, staring hatefully at something I couldn’t see. He leaned up slightly and, practically screaming, said “Stop laughing. STOP FUCKING LAUGHING!” His face contorted into a howl of rage and he fell backwards against the car door with a thump and started coughing up a sick yellow grime.
Going insane, indeed…
“Don’t worry, pal” I said, partly to him and partly to myself. “I’ll get you help.” My mind was racing. Jason needed a doctor, but I wasn’t entirely sure I should take him to a hospital. I wasn’t positive that our attackers had seen Jason take the bullet, but it was still a slight possibility that they might be watching the emergency rooms. Waiting.
My other alternative would be to find a doctor who could treat Jason on the down-low, but I didn’t know any — not that lived in Vegas at any rate. It was possible that a friend of mine in LA might be able to point me to one, but there’s no guarantee he’d be trustworthy. Plus I’d have to stop somewhere, find a pay phone, and make the call. I wasn’t sure if I had the time…
I was about to start driving — either to find a hospital or a pay phone, when Jason abruptly stopped coughing. I looked back one more time and saw him staring at me. His eyes were focused, and he seemed rational — but I couldn’t be sure.
“There’s no time. He’s already there. She doesn’t stand a chance!” His breath whistled through gritted teeth.. “We have to get to Lompoc High Shool. It’s in North Vegas… about seven miles.” His voice broke and he began to cough sporadically again. “If we don’t…. he’ll… he’ll…” Jason devolved into a fit of coughing and said no more. After a few moments, he began to breathe laboredly and seemed to have lost consciousness again.