Chapter 4A Chapter by Domenic Luciani
Continuing from Tyler's perspective for a bit.
Twenty seven blocks away, the wail of the sirens reached the school building where Tyler had fallen asleep with his head propped up on his hand. The sirens startled everyone in the classroom and the teacher had even stopped the lesson to look curiously out the window.
Everyone was looking out their windows, trying to get a glimpse of the scene. People too far away, like Tyler and his classmates whipped out their phones and called people who might be closer, or had heard something about it.
An announcement came on over the loudspeaker that some sort of malfunction the MedTech building occured and an explosion had resulted. Nobody had died, but a few people had minor injuries and were being transferred over to the hospital. The voice then went over a list of the people currently being treated at there. If a close relative of yours was listed, you were allowed to leave on the grounds that you had to go straight to the hospital. No detours.
Tyler held his breath, waiting for his father’s name to be called, but the list ended and Beck Huxley was never mentioned.
“Excuse me,” he said, walking up to the professor. “My dad wasn’t on the list, but I was wondering if I could go anyway.”
The professor was on the phone talking in a hushed voice. With her gaze still fixated on some distant object out the window, she waved Tyler off. He took this as a sign of consent and left the room.
A few other kids were packing onto the elevator when he reached it. A girl named Shannon, whom Tyler had had a crush on for some time, was there as well. She had long and curly dark hair that flowed down her back, and sharp but feminine features. He had never actually talked to Shannon, but he saw his chance and squeezed into the space beside her.
He took a few moments to work up his courage and said, “So who do you know who was injured?”
“My aunt,” she whispered sadly. “She has asthma and the smoke hurt her lungs.”
“What about you?” She asked after a pause.
“Uh, my dad. I don’t think he was hurt, but my professor said I could go see him anyways.”
Shannon nodded, understanding. “That’s cool.”
Cool. Tyler remembered his father going off on a rant about the word, back when his mom was still alive. It’s an overrated word. It means nothing. Don’t use it anymore"such a big deal over something as simple as a word. Tyler didn’t understand his father’s contempt, and so he would repeat the word over and over again just to spite him. Cool.
The elevator doors opened and everyone got out. Tyler took the lead and walked out the double doors of the school’s front entrance. The sirens continued and traffic had come nearly to a standstill. None of the cars were moving, which meant the city was on alert for something. A universal remote override was installed on every car, so that when the city went on alert, the cars were all shut off. It was meant to ensure that if a criminal had somehow slipped inside the walls, he would have to get around on foot. This, unfortunately, also meant that the subway system would be on lock down.
With the cars frozen in place, Tyler walked haphazardly through the streets, ignoring the signs advising otherwise. Some of the other kids were hesitant to follow, but most, including Shannon, were right behind him. Even some of the other street-goers were following his example.
The crowd around MedTech laboratories had grown enormous. So much so that Tyler could see the crowd before he saw the building. The sirens were deafening, and the myriad of flashing lights disorienting. Tyler climbed partway up a streetlight pole three blocks away in order to see if there was a more reliable way through than diving straight into the sea of bodies. No go. People had flocked in from everywhere to get a look at this phenomenon.
Tyler hopped back down. Shannon gave him a questioning look, but he shook his head and frowned. Nothing else to do then, he thought. He grabbed Shannon’s wrist and began pushing through the crowd. The others tried to follow, but they quickly got lost or disappeared from view.
They got to the front door of the building with only a few bruises to show for it. A line of police officers stood in their way. One of the officers listened to Tyler explain the situation for about three seconds before directing both of them to a side entrance that led into a quarantine area. All those injured from the explosion were laying on gurneys and wearing the generic white smocks. Some were groaning in pain, others were having a light hearted conversation with on another.
Shannon rushed to the bedside of a plump middle-aged woman with short dark hair and glasses who appeared to be sound asleep. She sat down in a chair beside the bed, taking her aunt’s hand into her own and looked very solemn.
Tyler felt as if he were intruding, so he started off among the beds to the exit, hoping to get into the lab to see his father.
“Hey, you,” said a raspy voice from one of the beds. Tyler didn’t think the call was being made to him, so he continued walking. “You’re Tyler, aren’t you?”
Tyler turned to look at who the voice belonged to and saw a man on one of the beds with short blonde hair and a clean shaven face. The right side of his face was covered in bandages and a few spots of red were beginning to show through.
“Uh, yeah,” Tyler said, frowning. He edged closer to the bed cautiously. “Why?”
“My name is Andrew Kuch, I used to work with your father before he got his promotion.”
A small level of recognition occurred to Tyler. He might have remembered his dad mentioning him, but it was in the back of his mind and he couldn’t recall anything specific.
“Oh, yeah. I think dad said something about you before.”
Andrew leaned forward, grimacing with pain, and looked quickly around the room before grabbing Tyler by the jacket and pulling him in close.
“You have to get out of here,” he whispered. “Now.”
“What?” Tyler said in disbelief, “why?”
“Listen.” Andrew was sounding more and more hostile by the minute. “Find your dad and get out of here"out of the city, I mean. Something crazy is going on, and it’s got some pretty big people spooked.”
“Is dad in the lab?”
“No. He isn’t. I used a couple of charges to blow up your dad’s department so he could escape.”
“Why’d you do that?”
“He asked me to. I don’t know the whole story, so your dad will have to fill you in. But he’s in trouble and so are you, once they start putting two and two together.”
“What about you?”
“Oh, don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. Besides, I owed your dad some pretty big favors.”
“Yeah. Get out of here.” Andrew released his grip on Tyler’s jacket. “Make sure you stay out of sight as much as possible. There’s no telling what they might do to get a hold of you.”
Tyler nodded as thanks and left immediately. Andre put his head back and pretended to be sleeping. Nothing had happened, nothing at all.
Tyler walked by where Shannon was still sitting with her aunt. She looked up at him as he passed and asked him where he was headed. He told her he was thinking of going down to the coffee shop to pick up something to drink.
“Can I come with you?” She asked. “They told me she was on medication so she’ll be out for a few hours at the least.” Shannon looked down at her aunt who hadn’t moved a muscle since Tyler had last seen her.
Tyler hesitated for a moment. He couldn’t take her with him. If what Andrew had told him was correct, then he had to find his dad and get out of the city. However, he couldn’t just say no; he didn’t want to raise suspicion . . . and he really didn’t want to put Shannon off.
“Yeah,” he said, already walking to the door. “Sure.”
The police had managed to disperse some of the crowd, but there were still quite a few people standing around talking on cell phones. The rain was just starting to pick up again, prompting many more to clear out. Black umbrellas unfolded and opened like a flock of crows readying to take flight.
Tyler felt that taking Shannon’s hand again would be unnecessary, so he resisted the urge. He pulled the collar of his jacket up so that his neck was better protected from the rain and cold, but Shannon had an umbrella, and after she had opened it he quickly ducked under.
The walk was silent and uneventful. He kept glancing sideways at her, hoping to catch her eye, but she seemed focused on something else. They didn’t see many police officers either, and those they did pass paid them no attention. Maybe Andrew had been lying after all. Still, Tyler always maintained that he was never entirely sure of anything, no matter how likely. He would never say for certain that the sun would rise the next morning, or the moon the next night, therefore he refused to believe that the possibility that the police were after did not exist. He clenched his teeth, furrowed his brow, flared his nostrils, and did anything to try and look different than he normally did. Even with all that, Tyler’s heart began to pound whenever he spotted an officer.
Maybe they weren’t noticing him because Shannon was there. Andrew had said they would be looking for his father and him, not some constipated-looking kid and a girl. This gave him a little hope. He moved closer to Shannon, now because she might have been saving his life right then. There was still the matter of how to get away from her though. He could ditch her at the coffee shop to go look for his father, but walking the streets alone might be dangerous. Play it by ear, he thought. Everything will be just fine.
Of course, he wasn’t entirely sure of that.
It took them quite awhile to find the coffee shop. With the subway system shut down, they were forced to head through parts of the city that Tyler wasn’t entirely familiar with. There was some benefit to that, however. Tyler was able to cover a large area without appearing suspicious. He kept his eye open for Beck and the sound of his quick shuffling steps, but he didn’t see him.
Every once in a while they got lost and had to consult a map or a stranger for directions. Once, Shannon had stepped up to a police officer to ask where a certain street was, but Tyler had quickly pulled her away.
By the time they found it, the thick layer of clouds overhead had dispersed somewhat, allowing patches of soft rosy twilight to peek through. Tyler held the door for Shannon and then followed in behind her. The place was packed and Tyler had to shout to get any words across.
“The line looks pretty long,” he said, nearly yelling into Shannon’s ear.
“It’s not the line. Nobody is actually buying anything, they’re just standing around,” she yelled back.
Tyler pushed through a few people and got to the front counter. True enough, the general space in front of the register was clear and the cashier was waiting patiently. Tyler ordered two sandwiches for him and Shannon. He took out his wallet, letting his fingers move past the debit card Beck had given him for his birthday"he had no idea if the police could track a debit card"and handed the cashier a few bills.
They left the coffee shop, and now Tyler was desperately thinking of a way to lose Shannon, but letting her down nicely. He was so deep in thought that it did not occur to him that it was she who lost him. He stopped walking when he came to an intersection and Shannon was nowhere to be found. This should have been a sign of good luck, but Tyler couldn’t help feeling that something was wrong. He looked around suspiciously, but no one was paying him any attention, and so he doubled back the way he had come, quickening his stride.
Tyler stopped dead in his tracks. Her tone was so casual, he found it disturbing rather than comforting. Shannon was crouched in a narrow alleyway, looking down a storm drain. When Tyler came nearer, she pushed herself up but continued looking intently at the drain.
“Hey. What’s up?” He said.
“Nothing, really. It’s just"and don’t laugh at me because I feel like I’m going crazy here"but I could have sworn I saw something shiny fall down that drain pipe.”
“Something shiny?” Tyler said, leaning over the grating to get a better look down inside. “Like what?”
“I really don’t know. I just thought I saw it out of the corner of my eye. I’m not even sure if I saw anything at all.”
“Well, I have no idea what it might have been. I think you’re just going crazy.” Tyler forced out a laugh after he realized he might have let slip something vaguely offensive, but his comment apparently went ignored. Shannon was holding up her hand to stop him.
“I think I just saw it again.” Shannon went deathly quiet for a moment as if waiting for some invisible creature to make a sound.
“I didn’t see anything,” Tyler said. He was starting to get a little uncomfortable. Even the most attractive of girls can put a guy off when they start seeing things.
“Come on.” She grabbed his wrist before he could say anything and started off at a run through the alley. The buildings grew so close together that they had to turn sideways and shuffle between them. When they reached the next street over, Tyler tried to stop her, but she seemed to be in a trance, following the lead of an imperceptible guide.
This isn’t good, he thought. We’re running, which means we look suspicious, which means the police will have a reason to stop us, which would mean we’d have to explain why we were following some girl’s imaginary friend, which would definitely not roll over well with them, even if they weren’t after him. Oh s**t, this is really not good. Tyler tried to catch up with her to grab her or something, but as it turned out, she was a lot faster than he thought she was. She rounded a corner and disappeared from view. He stopped to catch his breath when he didn’t see her anymore. He checked around the corner, but Shannon was nowhere to be seen. He backtracked a few yards and looked down the previous street just in case. No sign of her.
Where the hell could she have gone? He tried to keep a casual pace and look around for her, but the rain was picking up and it was becoming hard to see. He didn’t have an umbrella either.
To make matters worse, he was also very lost. Maybe while they were running they backtracked somewhat towards the hospital, but he couldn’t be sure. He thought about asking for directions but people were clearing the streets and he was very nearly the only one left. He ducked into the nearest alley so he could have a somewhat dry place to think when a hand shot out of the darkness and grasped his shoulder. Tyler’s heart nearly stopped and his immediate reaction was to attack whatever it was. He threw out a quick jab. Contact; someone grunted in pain.
He moved quickly to the opposite wall and put his arms up in front of him like he’d seen boxers do on television. He glanced over at the open street and started edging towards it. The figure emerged from the shadows, clutching his nose.
“Tyler"Jeezes"what the hell was that for?”
Tyler got a good look at the figure and smirked halfheartedly. “You scared the crap out of me, Dad.”
“And I’m paying the price for it, I guess,” Beck said. He pulled his hand away and inspected it, but there wasn’t any blood. “Anyways, we need to get off the streets.”
“Yeah, I met your friend Andrew at the hospital. He told me we were fugitives or something? Care to elaborate on that one?”
“You saw Andrew? How was he?”
“He had some bandages on his face, but it didn’t look too serious. He didn’t seem mad at you either, just so you know.”
“Well that’s good to hear.”
“I know, I know. We’ll talk in a bit. We have to go now though. It’s not safe.” Beck started walking. “And don’t walk next to me, stay a little ways behind.”
Tyler followed his father in silence.
They took so many side streets and detours that Tyler had to wonder if his father had any idea of where he was going. It didn’t appear at all that they were headed to the city gate. Tyler was getting anxious for an explanation. With his hands in his pockets, he rapidly traced the outline of his thumb with his middle finger: a nervous habit. Whenever he saw a police officer, he tensed up, and he could clearly see Beck doing the same thing. Sometimes they would walk right by, and Beck would slow his pace down to a crawl until they passed.
By the time they reached their destination, Tyler felt like he had aged fifty years. They had walked calmly the whole way, yet he was out of breath and his heart was pounding. Beck was the same way.
They were outside the main door of an apartment building. There were several doors into the building, and the one in the middle was a revolving one. Beck turned to Tyler and said, “I’ll go in first. Wait like thirty seconds then follow me. I’ll be in the stairwell at the far end of the lobby, okay?”
Beck went in through the revolving door. Tyler counted to forty five for good measure then followed in. The floor was marble and the walls were some elaborate black and green granite. There was a nice sitting area with black-leather armchairs and couches. All in all, it was fairly middle-class for a city apartment. He and his parents had lived in an apartment building just like it before his mom died.
Tyler saw a clerk look up at him from behind a counter, and he did his best to contort his horrified face into a cheery smile and said hello to the man. The clerk seemed uninterested and after saying, “Good afternoon, sir,” he looked back down at the newspaper article he had been reading.
Beck was waiting in the stairwell just like he said he would be. First Tyler checked to make sure nobody else was in it, he blurted out, “How did you find me?”
Beck looked genuinely confused. “I saw you walking around,” he said. “Really, you found me.”
“Oh.” Tyler went silent for a moment. “Did you see Shannon--uh, the girl I was with--where did she go?”
“A girl? You were alone the entire time I saw you.”
“No I wasn’t. Shannon was with me. She disappeared only a moment before you got to me.”
“Tyler, I was tailing you for like five minutes, I didn’t see a girl with you.” Beck started walking up the stairs.
“Then you’re going blind. I was running after her and everything.”
“I didn’t see you running. I just saw you walk down the street and turn into that alley. And I am not going blind.”
Tyler decided to drop the subject. He was still curious though, about what happened to Shannon. It was as if she vanished into thin air. And how did his dad see him walking? He had run all over the place before he wandered into that alley.
Beck opened the door to the next floor and stepped into the elevator adjacent to it. Tyler got in next to him. They rode up to the hundredth-something floor and got out. Beck walked all the way down the hallway and took out a card. He approached the door farthest on the left and swiped it through the lock. The light came up red. He tried it again with the same result. He muttered a curse under his breath and jiggled the handle a bit before trying again. Tyler took the card and moved Beck out of the way. The light came up green on the first swipe.
“I always hated these damn things,” Beck said. Before Tyler went inside, Beck pulled him away from the door. “I almost forgot to tell you, we have a guest.”
“What kind of guest?” Tyler asked. But just then the door opened and out flew a girl bearing a knife. She barreled into Tyler, knocking the wind out of him, before realizing that Beck was there. He pulled her back and helped up his son who was doubled over against the opposite wall.
“Tyler, this is Sam,” Beck said, placing a hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Sam, this is my son, Tyler.”
Tyler clutched his stomach and mumbled, “Ouch.”
Sam merely said, “Oh, come on. I didn’t even hit you that hard.” She sheathed the knife in her pants pocket and walked back into the apartment.
“What, did you break her out of a mental hospital?” Tyler groaned.
“Something like that, yeah.” Beck said, helping him into the apartment and locking the door behind him.
© 2012 Domenic Luciani
Added on February 22, 2012
Last Updated on February 22, 2012
Forest of Men
AboutThat is my real name, and that is really me in the picture. Like Patrick says, I'm not in the witness protection program. I mostly write books and stories. I like fantasy, or fiction, but if.. more..