Acrobat

Gonzalo Lira

St. Martin's Press

PART I
Ideas of Order
We don’t have enemies anymore, said Tom Carr. The whole world’s on the same page—even the Commies in China are coming our way: Democracy, capitalism, human rights, all that other good shit. That can be bad for Central Intelligence.
You figure? asked Duncan Idaho.
Tom Carr nodded. It robs us of a reason for being. When people don’t have a purpose, they get ideas.
CHAPTER 1
Tuesday Morning at Times Square
Tom Carr was the first to arrive at the rendezvous point: The Red Line platform at the Times Square subway station in New York City. It was not quite ten in the morning, a Tuesday, the platform lightly populated with the after-rush-hour crowd—messengers on their way to deliver packages, random tourists getting a leg up on their Manhattan excursions, retirees waiting to do whatever lonely tasks they’d set for themselves this sunny spring morning. In the dark recesses of the subway platform, trains were coming down the tracks a little less often than just a few minutes ago. And as the subway doors opened and closed, people flowed to and fro in a soothing, uncluttered rhythm, unconscious of Tom Carr.
He wasn’t one to stand out. At fifty-three, Tom Carr had a comfortable potbelly that oddly suited his five-foot seven-inch frame—a fighter’s frame: Bantamweight. He had sandy brown hair touched with gray at the temples, parted to the left and thinning on top; thick fingers and stubby feet; and, by the way he carried himself, you could tell he ordinarily wore conservative suits and ties. As it was, this morning he was wearing a sports jacket and khaki slacks, looking a bit like what he was—an out-of-towner, dressed down.
He discreetly looked around the platform, looking for the members of his work-group: The CIA work-group known as Acrobat.
Deep in huddle-cuddle mode, standing about twenty feet away, Duncan Idaho and Monika Summers stood waiting in the middle of the platform for Tom’s signal to get going.
“I missed you,” Monika was saying quietly, squeezing Duncan’s waist.
Duncan Idaho looked down at his girlfriend. “Yeah?” he asked, amazed.
“Yeah,” she said. “Did you miss me?”
“No, not really,” he teased.
Monika gave him bright and shining eyes before hiding against his chest, murmuring and squeezing his body until she got him to squeeze and hold her in return.
Monika Summers was American sunshine—blonde and happy, athletic and uncomplicated. A scholar-athlete, a sorority sister on a corporate detour before suburban bliss, she didn’t put much stock in things abstract or intangible, Monika being one of those very practical people who looks at the world directly, and without undue complications.
That straightforwardness was probably why she and Duncan Idaho were together.
“We made it,” she was saying quietly, looking up at her boyfriend as he scanned the platform, Monika resisting an urge to brush his tousled blond hair out of his eyes.
Duncan Idaho looked down at her and then sighed before looking around the platform some more. “Almost, but not yet,” he said, making Monika tense in his arms. So he turned back to her and soothed her with a smile. “But it won’t be long now.”
“Mmm,” said Monika, taking a deep breath of his leather jacket as she tried to relax, leaning into him, loving the solidity of him.
Duncan Idaho looked like he was used to the rough and tumble, willing to get banged up by the ways of the game. A little over six feet tall, he was good-looking without being perfect, a decent, playful guy: A guy’s guy, with deep-set eyes that squinted in the sun and a wide-open smile that could drive any woman to distraction.
Of the six members of the Acrobat work-group, Duncan Idaho was the only one who hadn’t gone to college. Instead, he’d spent seven years with the Army, six of them with Special Forces, before moving on to the CIA. In fact, Tom Carr had been his CIA recruiter.
“Do you think he’ll find us?” Monika asked him quietly, her voice muffled against Duncan’s old leather jacket.
“Who, Denton?”
Monika nodded against his chest.
Duncan exhaled. “He’ll find us only if we let him. So we can’t let him. We won’t let him. Not if we stay sharp anyways.”
“Duncan, I’m so tired,” she said. “I was so scared.”
“I know,” he said, rubbing her back and breathing in the smell of her maple blonde hair, hair that was such a warm color it gave the impression that it must be dyed; it wasn’t. “I know I know I know—but it won’t be long now, okay?”
“Okay.”
Beyond them, about twenty feet farther down the platform, the other Acrobat couple, Russell Orr and Ljubica Greene, stood together, looking bored, like a couple who’ve been together for a while now, now used to each other’s company, now not quite so lovey-dovey this early in the morning.
“Tom’s here, but I don’t see Tobey anywhere,” said Russell, a big, hulking man of thirty-two, with a completely shaved skull and perfectly round, gold-rimmed glasses.
Ljubica didn’t say a thing, standing there and staring at Monika Summers and Duncan Idaho through the thin crowd of people waiting for the subway train. Monika and Duncan were in the middle of a kiss. Blinking, Ljubica turned away, her eyes flickering on Russell as she scanned the subway station platform.
Ljubica. Though she was an American girl, through-and-through, her name was Croatian, and it was pronounced “you-vit-za,” a name that sounds as absurd in its way as cartoon characters running fast enough to cross an invisible bridge spanning a yawning canyon. But that was her name, a name that required a kind of faith in the manipulations of the tongue. You-vit-za: Ljubica.
And then there was Russell, Russell Orr. He stood about six feet five, his body as massive as a linebacker’s, easily tipping close to three hundred pounds, none of it flab. He wore round John Lennon glasses not because he needed them—he had better than perfect vision, tested in flight school at 20/5. But glasses eroded his height and his size in the minds of the people who encountered him. There was so much of him too—he was so big, he needed something to bring him back down to a manageable size. Hence the glasses with clear lenses. His father had been black, his mother white, so his own skin had turned out a creamy café au lait color, perfectly splitting the difference, his features narrow and sharp, his body bulky and athletic.
Ljubica (“Youvitza”), on the other hand, was so white that her skin could have been mistaken for flexible porcelain. And like a porcelain figurine, she seemed perfect, possessing a poise, a coolness, an aloofness that was a little eerie, as if she’d been carved from stone a little more precious than most mortals. She had lazy eyes shaped like upturned almonds, and her hands, her limbs, her entire body seemed stretched somehow: Somehow too impossibly long and tall and thin to be real, her arms and legs looking as if they were too fragile to stand any but the gentlest weight.
But she wasn’t fragile—she was a woman: She only seemed so. Though her body might look like a faggot of twigs, snap-breakable at the hint of pressure, there was an impossible distance in her eyes that turned her very being into an optical illusion: The closer you were to her, the farther away she appeared, like a hard and chiseled statue that is so perfect it seems animate from afar.
That hardness, that distance was what had attracted Russell to her. There used to be a soft center there. But now, for Russell, she was all hard as stone.
“Transportation’s all set,” he said with the self-conscious eagerness of a teenager. “What about gear?” he asked a little too quickly, wincing at his words.
“God you’re annoying,” said Ljubica a little more sharply than she’d meant to, her deep, smoky voice lashing out like a lazy whip through the air between them. “You saw me get the gear. You saw me stow it. We were there together.”
“I didn’t mean it that way,” said Russell. “I meant—Let’s just drop it,” he said.
Ljubica said nothing as she stared down the tunnel of the platform, her straight blackish brown hair coming over her face like a curtain.
Russell looked at her, feeling as if a spot on his brain had been scraped raw. Like the other members of the work-group Acrobat, they had been on the run for the last four days, ever since Nicholas Denton, their boss at CIA, had blown them out of the water.
But unlike the others, Russell and Ljubica had been together during that whole time. And it had taken a toll.
Russell took a breath, as if about to say something more, then thought better of it, the right side of his face flinching as he turned away and stayed silent.
Ljubica turned to Russell. For a fraction of a second, her face seemed to collapse in upon itself. She looked as if she was going to cry. Then she looked away.
Monika, hiding in Duncan’s arms, saw the whole thing with one eye. Still staring at them, she said, “Russ and Yuvi are at it again.”
“Mmm,” said Duncan, without looking at them, kissing Monika’s hair as he looked around, as if to tell her that that would never happen to them.
Monika continued to stare. God help her, a flash of satisfied glee zipped through her body: Glee that it was them—and not her and Duncan—who were busily chopping and hacking away at the love between them.
With a guilty wince, Monika looked away from her best friends, spotting their work-group boss, Tom Carr, who was looking around the platform.
Where’s Tobey? Tom Carr was wondering, slowly turning around to scan the platform, hitching up his khaki trousers beneath his little pot-belly as he looked for the last member of his Acrobat work-group.
Speak of the Devil, just then, Tobey Jansen came down onto the subway platform, looking tall and geeky and ridiculously high-strung, twenty-five years old and clueless, rubbernecking around the platform and unable even for a second to hide the relief he felt when he caught sight of all the other members of the Acrobat work-group.
He might have gone right up to his friends and yelled, “Hiya guys!” if Tom Carr himself hadn’t shot him a look and given him a short, furious little wave.
Tobey stopped and stared, his face wide open and as easily read as a billboard: “Oh, okay, yeah, sure, I’ll stay put, you betcha—I can pretend we’re not all together, sure, I’m a CIA employee, a field agent, I can fake stuff, sure I can!—absolutely! —no sweat!”
Tom Carr frowned, then sighed and shook his head: Fucking moron.
“God what a geek,” said Duncan Idaho.
Monika Summers smiled and squeezed her boyfriend’s waist.
Duncan—surprised at how relieved he was that Tobey was okay—gave a shaky sigh and murmured, “A total super-geek.”
And indeed he was. Tobey Jansen had started life at CIA as an analyst, which was why he wasn’t too bright. In fact, he was an accountant, though he didn’t look like one, what with his shaved head and his six-inch-long goatee that stuck out straight from his chin like a spike, the gelled goatee dyed platinum blond. He looked like the love child of Sid Vicious and Martha Stewart.
In a gesture that was sort of like the reset protocol on some temperamental machine, Tobey Jansen pulled back his maroon red baseball cap over his shaved skull before pulling it back down again. Then he shoved his glasses up the ridge of his. nose with the tip of his middle finger, looking as if he were flipping the world the bird as he looked around the platform.
I’m here, guys, his posture seemed to be saying. Now what?
To Tobey’s left, Tom Carr stood alone. To his right, Duncan and Monika were gently swaying in each other’s arms, slow-dancing to a tune only they could hear. Russell and Ljubica stood together, though without touching or looking at each other, about twenty feet farther on down the platform.
Tobey, Duncan and Monika, Ljubica and Russell—everyone was there. So Tom Carr hitched up his pants one last time and looked up and down the platform, confidently slapping his potbelly.
Okay, he thought. Time to go.
None of them saw Amalia. She was standing in the shadows behind one of the platform stairs, watching Tom Carr and his work-group, as unnoticed and lethal as an incubating disease.
Even if she had been spotlit, it would’ve been hard to notice her. Small, mousy-looking, Amalia had straight, shoulder-length, field-mouse brown hair; and with her wide-eyed face and her flat breasts and narrow hips, she looked younger than she was. She looked almost like a girl pretending to be an adult in her severe, unadorned gray flannel suit.
If you’d happened to run into her on the street, you would have paid her no mind; and if you’d managed to corral her at some party she never would have gone to in the first place, all her answers to your prodding or flirtatious questions would have been monosyllables. She would never have asked you a single question in return, just as she never would have allowed herself to spend any time with you. Which might have been just as well—for you.
Casually, as if she were covering a discreet cough, Amalia said into the transmitter tucked away in her sleeve, “I’m in position. What’s going on.”
A voice, out of breath and running, said into her ear, “We’re up top at Forty-fourth and Broadway—give us ninety seconds.”
“I don’t have ninety seconds,” she answered right back. “They’re all here, and they’re about to move.”
On a different frequency, a different voice, a voice full of a weird, funky humor, said into her ear, “If they move, function. Priority list”
“Yes sir,” said Amalia as she stood there, waiting for either her back-up to arrive or her targets to move.
Just then, the rattle of a downtown Number Two train started to fill the platform of the station, deciding things for everyone.
“Okay,” said Monika Summers with a smile, looking at the others on the platform. “Fuck you, Nicholas Denton,” she said to Duncan.
“Absolutely goddamned right,” said Duncan Idaho.
“A train is arriving, sir,” said Amalia into her transmitter, waiting for the man with the funky voice to give her her orders.
“Go to it,” was all Nicholas Denton said.
“Yes sir,” she said as she began to walk toward the work-group Acrobat through the scattered civilians standing around on the platform.
Everyone seemed to converge. As the express train rattled closer, the people standing on the platform gently surged forward, getting ready to board it.
Without a break in her stride, with only a quick glance down the platform at the other targets, Amalia walked straight toward Tom Carr, her primary target.
Foolishly, in Amalia’s eyes, Tom Carr and the members of his work-group were all looking at the approaching train, not at the platform around them. As she walked toward Tom Carr, she changed direction slightly as she aimed for Tom Carr’s blind side—just behind him and to his left.
Duncan Idaho was the only one who saw Amalia. Glancing to his left, over Monika’s head, he saw a small woman he had seen somewhere before but could not place, a woman in a conservative suit walking quickly toward Tom Carr, accelerating as she drew closer. Duncan only had time to frown as suddenly this small, mousy woman raised her hands and gave Tom Carr a terrific shove.
“Tommy!” he screamed.
Tom Carr never knew what hit him. All he heard was the clicking, the clicking of a woman’s heels on the concrete of the platform. And then suddenly the surprise of falling into the path of the oncoming train.
He fell on his side, his head bouncing on the farther rail, inches from the electrified third rail, his knee slamming hard against the nearer track rail. He could feel that the rail ties underneath his belly were wet, the combination of water and oil soaking his shirt. As he put his hands on the ties to get up, he felt the terrible rattle of the approaching subway train. Looking down the length of his body, behind him, he saw a subway rat huddled under the platform. The rat was watching Tom Carr get to his feet.
His left knee was killing him, and it nearly buckled under him as he stood up and turned around. On the platform, people were staring down at him, their eyes and mouths in Os of surprise. He looked to his left. The train was screaming toward him, not thirty feet away. Though it was hard to see him through the glare of the oncoming headlights, the subway engineer was staring at Tom Carr. The engineer was screaming.
Tom Carr bobbed on the tracks, the blow to his head and the surge of adrenaline making him dizzy as he took a quick but unsteady step forward and put his palms flat on the platform. The platform’s edge had yellow concrete bubbles to prevent people from slipping when they stood on it. They dug into the heels of his palms as Tom Carr jumped up with all his strength and speed, trying to get back up onto the platform. The edge of the platform scraped into the bottom curve of his potbelly; his hips and his legs were still in the well of the subway tracks.
Then the train hit him.
It collided against his hip, spinning him around as the subway car ground his body against the side of the platform. Tom Carr’s arms thrashed the side of the car and the edge of the platform as his body was spun around and around, the subway car twisting him like a child’s top. His legs, completely shattered and turned to mush by the force of impact, twisted themselves into each other as he was spun down the length of the platform, braiding into each other like strands of a young girl’s ponytail.
There wasn’t any sound, or at least none that Tom Carr could hear. He felt as if he were in a washing machine, twisting around with only the hum of his heart to keep him company. Though there was no time to make even a single logical thought, time seemed to have turned malleable and plastic, almost jelly-jam-like in its crazy rhythms as Tom Carr continued to spin against the subway car and the station platform. It all seemed to go on forever, and with no hurry, yet quickly too, and impatiently.
When the subway train finally came to a stop, it was leaning slightly away from the platform. And when the automatic doors opened, the surprised passengers, about to step off, looked down to see a middle-aged man seeming to come out of the gap between the platform and the subway car.
The man—Tom Carr—looked up at the passengers disembarking. He blinked, then frowned, not quite clear as to what had just happened.
“Hello,” he said automatically at all the surprised eyes that were staring down at him.
Then everyone screamed.
The screaming was not high pitched and abrupt, but rather, it began like a low moan that quickly rose into a terrified peal, like the sound a man makes when he has been set on fire. The passengers of the car screamed this way, as did the people on the platform. Monika Summers screamed, and so did Russell, and Ljubica, and Tobey Jansen, too. Everyone was screaming uncontrollably, staring at Tom Carr, who looked like a jack-in-the-box come out of the subway to play, a child’s toy designed by some supremely malevolent demon, looking for a laugh in a world underground.
The screaming didn’t sound like it was going to end anytime soon.
And in the middle of all of this, there were only two people who were watchful and sensate—Amalia and Duncan Idaho.
This is what happened.
“Get down get down get down!” Duncan screamed at Monika, pushing her out of his line of sight as a GLOCK 9 mm appeared in his hand as if by magic, Duncan quickly squaring up in a policeman’s stance as across the platform Amalia was ready for him, Amalia with a gun in her hand, firing before Duncan had the chance—PLACKPLACKPLACKPLACK—going right for Duncan’s head and missing, one of her bullets neatly nipping off his earlobe, taking his earring and a pinkienail piece of flesh with it, her bullets shattering the tile wallcovering behind him as Duncan goes for Amalia—
WEET—he fired back, a single shot, missing Amalia altogether and Duncan now not daring to fire again, too many real people in the way and in the background as the entire platform became a mess of panicked mushrooms.
Russell Orr too squared up, moving extraordinarily quickly for such a big man, a gun in his hand, pointing down the platform and trying to get a line of sight on Amalia—but he was farther away, with even more civilians blocking his firing line.
“Getouttatheway! - Getouttatheway! - Getouttatheway!” Russell screamed at the civilians.
“Go!-Go!-Go!” Duncan shouted at Russell, dealing with Amalia.
“What?” shouted Russell.
“Go!” yelled Duncan.
Russell turned and grabbed his girlfriend, Ljubica Greene, pulling her behind him as he led the way away.
Tom Carr—pinned between the subway car and the platform—turned to see geeky little Tobey Jansen running toward him—Tobey squatting in front of him—Tobey trying to pull him out—Duncan behind him and trying to get a line of sight at Amalia through all the screaming, stampeding civilians running in a panic on the subway platform.
Tobey was grabbing Tom’s arms, and he was pulling.
“C’mon,” Tobey grunted, yanking at Tom Carr.
“Go, I’m dead already,” Tom said calmly into Tobey’s frightened eyes.
“Huh?” was all the boy managed to say, still yanking at his boss and friend.
Tom Carr twisted his arms around Tobey’s, grabbing his biceps and pulling him to his face.
“Tell the others,” he said, suddenly fierce, “27-13.”
Tobey’s face crinkled into a frown. “What?”
“Listen!” Tom Carr hissed. “It’s at box 27-13. Tell the others; they’ll know what to do. Remember: 27-13. Repeat it.”
“27-13.”
“Good. Now go,” he said, knowing full well what he was saying, understanding it all very, very clearly now. “Go, Tobey—you can still get away.”
Tobey frowned down at Tom, his eyes blinking behind his glasses, his gelled goatee vibrating like a tuning fork.
Looking over Tobey’s shoulder, Tom Carr saw blonde Monika Summers running up to Tobey and grabbing his shoulder as she looked right at Tom Carr.
“Come on!” she shouted at Tobey as her eyes continued to stare at Tom’s shattered body, her eyes wanting to linger as the rest of her wanted to get away.
Tom released Tobey, who fell on his backside before he turned and got back up, running down the platform and away from the firefight between Amalia and Duncan, never once looking back at the dying Tom Carr.
Duncan couldn’t get a shot as he kept screaming at the mushrooms, “Get-down-get-down-get-down!” to no avail, the civilians on the platform and the train too terrified to listen, as frightened as stampeding bison, running without sense, making it impossible to shoot and kill the calm, well-dressed woman-child assassin.
Amalia had no such qualms—PLACKPLACKPLACKPLACK—she fired again, again missing Duncan even as she clipped the elbow of an older lady in an avocado-green cardigan, the old bird caroming and falling and—
—Amalia fell to the ground, tackled from behind by a civilian, a big burly construction-type workman, his panting breath in her ear as he tried getting the gun away from her—
—Amalia screamed, enraged and panicked, slithering in the construction worker’s arms’til she had turned around, solidly connecting her knee to his groin, getting up, losing a shoe, picking up her weapon, firing into the construction worker’s head—PL-PLACK—killing him on the spot, whirling around—
—Duncan gone, the rest of Acrobat gone, lost in the panic on the platform—
—Amalia—PLACKPLACKPLACKPLACKPLACKPLACK— the corpse of the construction worker, she starts running up the plat——
—“Drop your weapon—DROP IT!”
—NYPD SWAT surrounding her, black helmets and bullet-proof vests, frightened eyes behind clear visors, and automatic barrels aimed right for her heart—
—“Not ME!” the diseased Amalia screams in frustration, pointing up the platform with her gun arm. “THEM!”
—but they are gone.
Through the Red Line platform, up the concrete stairs, through the lower level of the station, across the wide expanse of columns and people and flower vendors and street musicians, they are running, running, running to get away from Amalia and whoever else will be joining her, running and running away in a long thread of souls that Russell leads fif teen yards ahead, Ljubica behind him, Monika pulling at the terrified Tobey Jansen, Duncan tail-gunning as SWAT give chase, Duncan yanking and tripping passersby to the ground and into the path of the rushing SWAT while Russell runs far ahead, Russell looking for the exit, looking for the getaway, looking for a way out, looking and looking and finding the staircase that will lead up and away, up and away, and Russell follows it, rushing up the electric escalator into the sunlight, the shiny steel turnstiles there, up and over them in a single leap, bursting out of the glass doors and into the sunny spring morning outside—
—Times Square’s full of people and cars and tourists and hot dog vendors as Russell, the first outside, is looking for transportation, people everywhere, the light and sun flooding his eyes this bright and dazzling morning as he looks up and down Forty-second Street, the colorful street-signs and advertisements as psychedelic as a trip, his gun at the ready, inconspicuously at his side as he steps off the curb and looks for a way—
BLAAAAAAAAHHHH!—screams a yellow taxicab—horn—screeching to a halt—behind him—whirls around—gun in hand.
“Out of the car—NOW!” shouts Russell Orr—a gigantic café au lait man aiming a firearm at the taxicab that has nearly run him over—the cab’s front bumper just two feet from his knee as he goes’round to the driver’s side and opens the door, using his enormous bulk and his ugly gun to bully the terrified Russian cabby out the passenger-side door—“Out out OUT!”—and out of the cab the driver goes, falling to the ground and slithering backward on all fours, like a man pretending to be a spider.
Ljubica, Monika, and Tobey rush out of the station, and when they see Russell in the taxicab, they stop, waiting for Duncan, who’s been covering their flank but is now nowhere to be seen, Russell roaring, “What are you waiting for—get in get in get in!”
The three of them jump into the back of the cab just as Duncan reappears, Duncan getting to the top of the electric escalator and running to the turnstiles, getting to the turnstile and leaping over it, getting to the doors of the station and—
—Duncan stops suddenly and deliberately turns around just as two SWAT officers come rushing toward him just beyond the turnstile, their automatic weapons rising to aim at him, ready to shoot him, Duncan’s own weapon ready to kill—(—I won’t kill them, I won’t kill them, I’ll lie down before I kill them—)
Duncan Idaho tosses his hair out of his eyes and pops both SWAT twice on their bullet-proofed chests—WEE-WEET!– WEE-WEET!—both of them going down in two untidy heaps, their weapons flying out of their hands, the two of them yelling—
—“Aw—SHT!”
—“God that HURTS!”
Right as rain.
—“Duncan, come on!”—
Duncan Idaho nods and runs out of the station and into the shotgun seat of the cab—
—Russell floors it, the taxicab screaming like an agonized refugee.
The oblivious civilians out and about this sunny May morning haven’t yet realized what is happening, many of them stopping and looking and staring at the taxicab, its sound ricocheting against the placarded canyons of Times Square, the cab tearing away from the grip of all those eyes that have latched onto it as it races down Forty-second Street, newly regentrified and Disneyfied, the cab on its way crosstown to Grand Central Station.
“Tom’s dead,” Duncan Idaho says out of breath, still not having realized that he is bleeding from his nicked earlobe as he checks his weapon and begins to reload.
“Yeah, I know,” says Russell, concentrating on the road and casually noticing that his door is still wide open even as the cab starts passing the sixty mile an hour mark.
So he closes it, the five inside.
“We got company,” says Ljubica in the back, her low, smoky voice even and relaxed as she looks out the rear window. The rushing wind makes her hair billow thin black-brown serpent strands across her face as she loads a round into her firearm and checks the safety with quick, practiced motions that are all arms and legs and elbows, impossibly long and thin.
Behind them, two cop-cars rush at them like hulking metal monsters, their sirens blazing red eyes that clear out the traffic in either direction.
Inside the cab, everyone’s attention turns behind them, just as Russell casually says, “Up ahead.”
Up ahead, at Forty-second and Sixth Avenue, two more cop-cars slam to a halt just at the intersection, thinking they’ll block the cab—they think wrong.
“Hold on,” says Russell as he pumps the gas and accelerates into a ramrod, smashing both cop-cars ahead of them—front end—rear end—both cop-cars spinning around in the middle of the intersection—out of their way, sweat-droplets of glass showering off of them from the collision.
“They’re still behind us,” says Ljubica as the cab screams through the city.
“Well then do something about it,” says Russell to his girlfriend as Duncan beside him pounds his knee in frustrated agony, agonized because the dividing wall in the cab keeps him from getting into the backseat and dealing with the two chasing cop-cars—
But Ljubica and Monika can deal.
“Get down,” says Monika Summers to Tobey Jansen, who is between both women, totally useless and in the way since he doesn’t have a gun; Tobey crouching as Monika and Ljubica begin firing out the rear window, their first bullet shattering the glass, their subsequent bullets aimed at the two cop-cars that are chasing them, now joined by two more—
—FLAK-FLAK-FLAK-FLAK-FLAK-FLAK-FLAK-FLAK!— go their weapons as they fire on the four cop-cars, aiming for the tires and the engines, and something must have exploded on one of the cop-cars because its hood bursts open amid sparks and a smoke cloud, the cop-car drifting away with losing interest. Another one of the cars, one of the recent additions, takes a bullet in the wheel and falls askew like a drunken sailor as it too starts to fade as surely as a man who’s had all the whores he can handle for the night—but that leaves two more cop-cars, and they are relentless.
Down on the floor in the rear seat, Tobey is looking up, covering his ears to the drum-splitting sound of the weapons being fired, his gelled spike of a goatee completely mushed, his maroon red baseball cap askew, Tobey happening to look up to see through the rear door window a helicopter—a helicopter? —pass by—a police helicopter?
“There’s a helicopter up there!” he shouts, no one but the idle Duncan in the shotgun seat hearing what he has to say.
“What?” shouts Duncan.
“I said there’s a helicopter chasing us!” Tobey shouts calmly above the roar of the firefight, making his soft and excitable geeky-kid’s voice go hoarse.
Up in front, Duncan leans forward and looks out the window and indeed there is a cop-chopper buzzing around, joined by another chopper with white markings—
“We got a fucking, a fucking news-chopper, too,” says Duncan, amazed.
“Pictures at eleven, great,” mutters Russell, who is concentrating on the traffic on the road—
traffic, traffic like a river chockful of logs, jammed up in both directions, Forty-second Street a vehicular nightmare of frozen patience as way down on the other end of the block, Fifth Avenue, more traffic, more cars, more nightmares—
“Watch out!” yells Duncan, Russell Orr turning this way and that, trying and failing to find a way to bypass all these stuck cars, the sidewalks brimming with pedestrians, the static traffic zooming at them at seventy miles an hour.
“Hold on,”Russell shouts as he hits the brakes and twirls the steering wheel with all his strength, the cab sliding hard, slip-sliding across the pavement, smoke rising from the tires as the right side of the taxicab goes right to the rear ends of the stuck traffic—
Crau-HIH!!! goes the taxicab, the whole right side smashed, everyone inside getting tossed around—
—but they’re already moving on, dealing with it, Duncan in the front seat slithering out the open window of the cab and onto the trunk of the car they smashed—“I’ll cover!”—his gun in hand, he stands on the trunk’s hood and aims his gun at the approaching cop-cars, Duncan not firing—not daring to—real people everywhere—but the cops in the cop-cars don’t know about his self-control—the cop-cars swerve out of the way, their tires almost on fire as they brake to avoid Duncan and now Russell, who, too, has burst out of the cab with his gun in hand, both men in policemen’s firing stance, using their guns and their stance to intimidate the cops, giving cover to the others—Ljubica, Monika, Tobey—so they can get out of the busted-up taxicab and run down Forty-second Street.
The pedestrians out and about: The drivers of the stuck cars: They’ve seen the crash, but now they see the men with guns, and they know enough to get out of the way, ducking and running, ducking and running and shouting and afraid.
“Go!” yells Duncan to Russell, Duncan knowing the pedestrian panic is the only thing that will save them.
Big Russell Orr turns and runs around the cab, following the others down Forty-second Street, the screaming, running, freaking civilians distracting the cops, who only have eyes for Duncan Idaho.
The two chasing cop-cars have stopped a good distance away—ten, fifteen yards—they’re both regular NYPD, sirens blaring—Duncan hears more sirens on the way, the two cop-cars in front of him with two cops each, all of them hiding behind their open doors, Duncan, the last one there, with that perfect aim he learned when he was getting his master rifleman’s badge at Fort Benning, gets a bead on the closest cop-car, aims, fires once at the engine radiator—WEET!—all the cops flinch and duck some more as the radiator explodes white steam, the hood buckling, Duncan Idaho takes the opportunity to look over his shoulder at the members of his work-group, making sure they’re getting lost amid the panicking pedestrians down Forty-second Street—
—a crazy-brave rookie punk, one of the cop-car drivers, makes a break for it when he sees Duncan look away and over his shoulder. This idiot of a rookie runs a zig-zag pattern (as if that would help!), running out from behind the open cop-car door as he rushes at Duncan, the moron-fool thinking that his Kevlar vest will save him, his speed will save him, his will and bravery will save him, this fool-rookie thinking he can tackle Duncan Idaho—
(—tackle ME? That surely is some funky dung, look here—)
WEET goes a single, perfectly aimed bullet, right to the cop’s sternum, breaking all his ribs with a single shot—the rookie’ll be on the disability list for three weeks, desk duty for six more, but during the rest of his long, long life, he’ll grow to love that perfectly round, half-inch-deep hole in his chest, the little hole he’ll think of as his second belly-button.
Now, though, it hurts. “MotherFUCKER!” screams the downed rookie, his entire chest feeling like it got squeezed by an angry giant—
—but Duncan Idaho’s already away, arms flapping like condor wings, running after the others down Forty-second Street.
The whole scene is taking place about a third of the way from Sixth Avenue to Fifth, one of the long blocks of Manhattan. So a funny thing happens: Though the mushrooms at this stretch of Forty-second Street know that a shoot-out is going on, the ones down the street have no idea. Not yet, at any rate. They’ll get an education presently.
Acrobat’s running. The stuck traffic’s so thick, the sidewalk’s so congested, it’s easier to just run across the hoods and roofs of cars, leaping from car to car, hood to trunk, their feet never touching the ground—Ljubica, Tobey, Monika, Russell, Duncan: Acrobat.
The rookie-punk cop is down, rolling in non-fatal agony, but his three buddies are all chasing Acrobat, running like rats through a maze as they go between bumpers and then between columns of cars, neither side daring to let loose a single shot, the bright sunny sky big and wide, the canyon of the street filled—ant-like—with innocent pedestrians who have no idea what the commotion is all about, tourists automatically filming the action with their camcorders, ordinary New Yorkers averting their eyes and speeding along to their next appointments as the cops give chase, Acrobat running and jumping and leaping from hood to trunk to roof, suddenly all of it boiling down to who’s in better shape and who is more desperate—
—Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street, the lions of the Library just down the block, and up ahead, traffic semistopped—slowing—stopped—red light, the intersection empty as Acrobat run through the empty intersection—
—a high-pitched scream—“AghYEEah—I’m hit!”—Ljubica, her elegant face turned into crags of pain—her thigh gushes blood in rhythmical spasms—a sharp shard of glass-sensation zipping through her leg like an electric current that throbs before turning it numb. Unbelievably an idiot-idiot-idiot cop let go a shot as they were crossing the empty intersection, right in the middle of all those goddamned fucking civilians (someone ought to outlaw them altogether), a crazy, lucky shot, the slug is buried deep in Ljubica’s thigh—she’s lying on the ground, bleeding out at the intersection of Fifth and Forty-second—
—Monika Summers’s there, holding her gun with both hands, firing—plu-pluck!—right at the three chasing NYPD, who dive for cover, her bullets blowing out a couple of windshields, sending out the message—“Stop it!” snaps Russell Orr, yanking Monika’s arms down, keeping her from shooting again, the sweat droplets on his shaved café au lait dome shining individually as if they were each a tiny little light.
Geeky Tobey Jansen is already kneeling beside Ljubica, tearing off his own T-shirt, his maroon red baseball cap the exact same color of the blood coming out of Ljubica’s thigh, Monika and Russell standing over them, covering them as the NYPD yell at each other, “Don’t shoot! Watch your civilians, don’t shoot!”
The civilians are wigging. Now they know what’s going on.
All over the intersection of Forty-second and Fifth, people are running to get away, people ditching their cars, the whole intersection turning into a total mess—it looks like one of those pictures of the Russian Revolution, people running to and fro for no apparent reason other than mere survival.
Up above the impassive gray buildings that see it all with the indifference of elephants, news-choppers are alighting like flies, buzzing around with tethered cameramen standing on the running rails, catching all the late-breaking action.
Tobey has ripped his shirt into one long strip and tied it round Ljubica’s wounded thigh right there in the middle of the street.
“Tighter, tie it TIGHTER!” shouts Ljubica, as Tobey tightens the knot of his shirt as hard as he can, his T-shirt now drenched in Ljubica’s blood.
“You good to go?” Tobey asks her.
“I don’t think it’s broken,” says Ljubica, meaning “Yes,” as she struggles to stand up.
Russell Orr doesn’t say a word as he bends down and scoops Ljubica into his arms, picking her up like a bridegroom carries his bride, a bloody wedding night as her thigh continues to bleed.
He doesn’t notice the bleeding—he just runs with her, running just as fast as if he were carrying nothing, running as if he knows exactly where he’s going: Running down Fifth Avenue.
“Where are you going?” Duncan Idaho yells at Russell.
Russell Orr stops, unsure. “This way—”
“Come on!” Duncan yells, waving his hand at Russell and Ljubica in his arms, forgetting that he’s got a gun at the end of that hand. “This way!”
Russell, confused, turns away from Fifth Avenue and runs after Duncan, who is running down the north sidewalk of Forty-second Street, running through the pedestrians, running toward Madison Avenue, crossing the street at a dead run—
—running toward Grand Central Station.
Just before Forty-second hits Park, on the northeast side of the street, tucked away, hard to see, there is an entrance to Grand Central Station: A half-dozen double doors made of thick oak, the top third of each door having a pane of clear glass.
Duncan Idaho, the first to the doors, yanks one open, getting immediately swallowed up by all the pedestrians, who have no idea who he is. As soon as he’s inside, he knows they’ll be safe here.
One of the other doors has one of those handicapped signs, a big blue flat button beside the door. As Russell Orr with Ljubica in his arms gets to the entrance, he kicks the button, making the mechanical doors instantly swing open like the cave doors to a magi’s fortune, Russell rushing in with Ljubica as behind them, Monika and Tobey cover their rear.
Tobey’s ahead of Monika, and he gets to the handicapped door just as it begins to close. Once inside Grand Central, he slows down and stops.
The station is all champagne marble. Where Tobey is, oblivious pedestrians are swiftly walking along, paying shirtless Tobey no mind. The ceiling is high and distant, the hallway he is in about forty feet wide, lined by a couple of thick columns a good five feet in diameter.
Down the hallway, Tobey watches as Russell and Ljubica go to the very end, some three hundred feet away, to the top of some electric escalators that take them down. Tobey is about to follow when he thinks about Monika, wondering if she’s okay, Tobey about to open one of the doors and see if maybe a cop tagged her, when she suddenly bursts through the oak doors, pedestrians flowing swiftly between them.
“Hey,” says Tobey.
“Go, go, go,” says Monika, waving Tobey forward to the electric escalators down the hallway as she looks around.
Perfect, Monika Summers thinks as she looks around, noticing the columns that can give her cover, looking at the volume of mushrooms passing her by, looking at the thick oak doors, thinking of the three cops still chasing them.
Perfecto-mundo.
Monika’s tough. To look at her, she’s a KKG sorority girl, but to know her, she’s a CIA utility player. She has no one particular duty, no particular task, but all the tasks she does, she does exceptionally well.
Leaning against one of the champagne marble columns, Monika slips her firearm between her knees and reties her maple-blonde ponytail with an elastic scrunchie, keeping her eyes nailed to the half-dozen oak double-doors.
“What are you doing?” asks geeky Tobey Jansen, Monika not having realized that he’s stayed behind with her, Tobey looking gawky as a teenager.
“What are you doing here, go,” she says, taking her firearm and waving it at Tobey—too late.
“Okay, stay, but watch out.”
Manhattan: Not a single pedestrian even notices she’s waving a gun.
The fleetest NYPD cop gets to the closed doors of the station and not waiting!—stupidly not waiting, Monika dashing to hide behind the marble column, her eyes on the door, the lone cop yanking open the wooden door, no hesitation, huffing and puffing and dumb as a post as he runs in pursuit—
Plück-plück-plück-plück!—Monika nails him right on the chest as she comes out from behind the column, her bullets not piercing the Kevlar vests, but so what? Know what a mule kick feels like? Know what four kicks in a row feel like? This NYPD cop knows: He’s shouting pain, all the pedestrians suddenly very aware that Monika has a gun, everyone rushing to be gone—it’s like a hundred particles suddenly deciding that here is not a place they want to be.
The cop flies right off his feet, the shotgun he was carrying flying out of his hands and clattering to the ground fifteen feet away, too far for Monika to reach for—
—Tobey Jansen’s there, the super-geek with the zero cool. Using his toe, he flicks the sliding shotgun up off the floor and right into his expectant hands, the Gods of Grace smiling as they give him perfection this one time on spec, his goatee humming while his hands check the action of the rifle, Tobey walking right to the double-doors of the station, walking right outside—
“Stay away!” he yells to no one in particular, the civilians freaking out at the sight of this punk-rocking anarchist with the scrawny milk-white chest and the black shotgun, the cops in the distance running directly at him, diving for cover as they see him with a weapon, Tobey casually firing into the soft asphalt of Forty-second Street—PAHM!
Loud as he can (though not quite as loud as the shotgun), Tobey yells to the world, “STAY AWAY!”
No one contradicts him.
He lets the door close as he comes back inside Grand Central Station, he and Monika running down the hallway after the others, Monika’s ponytail flopping like it would after a big win—she’s looking like she’s forgetting her pompoms.
“Smooth!” she tells Tobey, who pumps all the shells out of the shotgun as he jogs along, then takes the empty shotgun and slides it far across the brilliant champagne marble of the station, out of casual sight.
They get to the top of the escalator—just three hundred feet away from the action, and no one here has a clue what’s happened: The beauty of a crowd in a fluid environment.
Monika and Tobey make their way through the civilians on the escalator, people shooting them angry eyes but not much else as they elbow their way down to the station proper.
“Pull up,” says Monika, stopping on the escalator.
Tobey stops and looks at her, confused. “What?”
“Take a breather,” she says, taking a deep breath herself.
“But what about the others—?”
“Be cool; they’ll wait,” she says calmly. “Take a breath. Relax.”
Tobey considers this. “Okay,” he says. He takes a breath and wipes his face. He realizes he has no shirt on, though he isn’t cold.
Monika takes another deep breath, and then a last one, until her heart has stilled. By this time, the electric escalator is almost at the bottom, on the south side of the main area of the station.
Across it, the others are waiting for them: The work-group Acrobat.
They’re right there at Grand Central where the brass clock shines the time at the round information desk. Up above, the ceiling is painted like the night sky, all the stars in place, the constellations ordered, while on either side of this pretty mural, towering windows glow with the morning light. The place is chockful of people, so no one’s noticing a tousled blond man wearing a biker’s jacket or his buddy, a big, bald, cocoacolored man with a shaved head and gold-rimmed glasses. They certainly aren’t noticing a thin, pale woman with stringy, black-brown hair who is standing between both men, carefully not putting any weight on her left leg. They’re not noticing the blonde sorority sister who walks up to silently join this trio, nor the shirtless punk rocker who’s walking with her, a rocker with a maroon red baseball cap, a spiked goatee, and a tattoo of a tumbling acrobat on his left shoulder blade.
Why would anybody notice them? Everyone is minding their own business, doing their own thing. No one sees which way they go. No one cares. They’re there, yes, but then they’re not there. The blindness of the crowd. The invisibility of being anonymous.
By the time the NYPD shows up in force, combing Grand Central Station like they really mean it, Acrobat is gone.



Down deep in the tunnels of the Times Square subway station, Nicholas Denton was a happy man.
He arrived alone, walking through the empty tunnels of the station with a big-fat-happy smile on his face, almost skipping on his way to see the dying Tom Carr. Not even the odd spookiness of the empty subway station could distract Denton from the sheer glee that he was feeling.
Boy-o-boy-o-boy, he kept thinking to himself.
Nicholas Denton was the Deputy Director for Counter Intelligence of CIA. He stood about six feet even, and he was rather slim, his blond hair slicked back, and a natural smile always on the verge of breaking out. It was his job to uncover, monitor, and if possible control foreign intelligence assets, and of course to police the Central Intelligence Agency itself. And though he himself was always the first to point out that he was just another Federal bureaucrat, underpaid and underappreciated, there was a look of money to Denton; of money and casual, effortless ease. The best schools, the best breeding, all the accouterments that money and class could buy—that was Denton all the way: Choate, Yale, Oxford on a Rhodes, of the Social Registry Dentons of New York and Maine. Nicholas Andrew Denton III—the pleasure was all his.
He was that rarity, a naturally content man. He always looked as if he had just heard the funniest damn story, and there was an aura to him that made you want to be around him, maybe go up to him and ask him, “What was that story you heard again?” He looked happy, but he also looked like a man who knew his way around the world, like someone who could eat an artichoke or make a death happen without getting his hands dirty.
Like today.
“Oh boy!” he said to himself.
A nasty kind of morbid curiosity was making him go see Tom Carr; he couldn’t believe the man wasn’t dead already. And though he knew he shouldn’t be here, he couldn’t help himself. Because as surely as he knew his name, he knew he had to go see Tom Carr and gloat while he still had the chance.
The hard tattoo of Denton’s leather heels clicked and clattered and bounced around the tiled subway station tunnels like a squash ball. As he got to the top of the stairs leading to the platform proper, hearing the firefighters talking and moving equipment around, Denton stopped and collected himself. He wiped the smile off his face, flicked his cigarette away, then slicked his hair back and adjusted his Paul Stewart suit. A tiny smile kept trying to break out, a smile at the thought of watching Tom Carr die. He wiped it off his face for the sake of propriety, then walked down the stairs to the subway platform.
The corpse of the construction worker Amalia had killed was gone, as was Amalia herself. The elderly woman who had been caught in the middle of the firefight was also gone, shot in the arm, the arm treated on the spot, hordes of newspeople waited to interview her.
But down on the platform, there were no news crews. The entire station had been evacuated and sealed off by the NYPD—an amazing feat, considering how crucial the Times Square station was to the whole New York City public transportation system. With no one around, the place was downright spooky, the ghosts of countless passengers hovering silently around, while Tom Carr waited to join them.
Tom Carr lay where he had stopped, the doors of the subway train left open so as not to crowd him, his right elbow on the subway platform, his left on the formica flooring of the subway train. A uniformed policeman in his mid-thirties was squatting next to him, talking soothing nonsense as Tom Carr lay there without much to do.
“You want me to go get somebody?” the cop was saying. “If you want I can go get somebody.”
The cop squatting beside him was some beady-eyed little freak, one of those icky, ferrety little sons-of-bitches you just hate on sight. Joey Goldman was the name he’d given, and from the fatness of his face and his short, fat, grotesque little body, you just knew instinctively that this was one evil little demon. Now, though, the little fucker looked green and speechless, except for that one line he kept repeating: “You want me to go find someone? Go find your wife or kid or girlfriend or something? I’m serious, you tell me—you want me to go find someone for you?”
Find someone, thought Tom Carr. That’s a hoot. There was no one left to go find.
Wife? Gone, both of them. Kids? Grown-up strangers he didn’t have much to say to or much use for. Hometown friends and family? Left’em going on near forty years ago, back when he had gone off to Vietnam and then to college. In fact, Tom Carr’s only close relationships were with his Acrobat kids—Ljubica and Russell, Tobey and Monika. And of course, Duncan Idaho. Especially Duncan, his boy in all but name. The Acrobat kids were his kids … and from the way the New York City cops around the subway platform were acting, Tom Carr could tell that his kids had gotten away.
Just a few feet away from him, firemen were placing a hydraulic press in the seven-inch-wide gap between the train and the subway platform. None of the firefighters looked at Tom Carr if they could help it. They just concentrated on the machinery, all of them intensely, uncomfortably aware that Tom Carr was staring right at them.
“You sure you don’t want me to get in touch with anyone?” the ferrety-looking cop kept asking Tom Carr.
“I’m sure,” said Tom Carr, feeling no pain.
He heard someone behind him come onto the platform, and with difficulty, Tom Carr craned his neck around—
—and what he saw literally took his breath away—he simply could not believe what his eyes were registering.
About ten yards away, Nicholas Denton had come down the platform stairs and was now talking to a couple of firefighters and a policeman. The little group kept glancing at Tom Carr as they talked, but Denton stood with his back to him, his head bent, one hand covering his mouth.
He’s laughing, thought Tom Carr. The fucker’s laughing.
“You know he’s laughing, don’t you?” he managed to croak to the cop squatting beside him.
“Save your strength,” the policeman said inanely.
Tom Carr sighed and let his chin slump onto his chest.
Presently, the ferrety little cop squatting beside Tom Carr was called away by the policeman speaking to Denton. And then Denton himself turned from the huddle and approached Tom Carr.
Only Carr could see his face. It was sharp and narrow, with clear blue eyes and an invisible nose. He changed his hairstyle, Tom Carr thought absently, as he noticed Denton’s hair was slicked back over a head that was narrow at the jaw and wide at the brow. His lips were pale, and as he approached Tom Carr, those lips began to stretch into a smile.
Don’t let me go like this, Tom Carr thought crazily, steeling himself for Denton. Don’t let me wimp out.
“Well well well,” he said, mustering all his courage to deal with his boss and enemy. “If it isn’t Nicholas Denton, CIA’s resident bogeyman.”
“Hello Tom,” said Denton, squatting to be at eye level with the dying Tom Carr. “You’re looking good,” he said, his evil smile growing all the wider.
“Amalia’s getting sloppy,” said Carr. “I should be dead already.”
“You will be, soon enough,” said Denton, smiling as he said it. “This way is almost better. A last chance for me to give you a merry sendoff before you go on your way.” The two men stared at each other without a word as, around them, the firefighters heaved and grunted and positioned the hydraulic press.
Finally, Denton broke the spell. “You know what’s going to happen, don’t you,” he said casually, a leer on his face. “That hydraulic press is going to push the subway car away from the platform. And when that happens—tock!” said Denton, making a clicking sound with his tongue and the roof of his mouth. “Your insides will fall right out of your body. Fairly disgusting, and unbelievably painful, or so those fine gentlemen back there have told me,” he said as he motioned vaguely to the firefighters behind him.
“You’re sick,” said Tom Carr disgustedly.
“Yes, I know,” said Denton pleasantly. “But I can’t help it. You had it coming, Tommy,” he said, wagging his finger good-naturedly at Tom Carr. “You had it coming.”
Denton. Nicholas Denton. He was smiling. He was laughing. It was all a big joke to him. He shook his head as he took out a silver cigarette case and offered it to Tom Carr, in a motion as casual as if they’d been down at the park, having a chuckle over some office adventure. Carr didn’t even see the case as he stared at Denton, wanting above all else to kill him but knowing he would never get the chance.
“I can’t feel anything below my chest,” he said.
Denton hunched his shoulders in a wordless “Too bad” gesture as he took a cigarette out of his silver case and lit it with a white-gold DuPont lighter.
“Not a goddamned thing,” Tom Carr repeated.
Snap! went the DuPont lighter as Denton replaced it in his jacket pocket and took a drag on his cigarette, staring all the while at Tom Carr. Denton’s gold wedding band was half as thin as a key ring; his wristwatch—subdued and elegant, Swiss and expensive—had a black leather strap.
“How?” Tom asked finally, looking at Denton, afraid of the answer just as he suspected its shape already.
“How what?” asked Denton. “How did I know you’d be here?”
Tom only nodded with a grimace, as if the answer was going to hurt.
“Why, because one of your Acrobat kids belongs to me,” said Denton.
Tom squeezed his eyes shut, blindsided even though he’d suspected as much.
“Mine from the start,” said Denton easily. “I mean, really, you didn’t think I’d let you go running around without knowing exactly what you were up to, hmm?”
Suddenly, it was too much for Tom Carr. Though he felt no pain, it was just too much. He started to cry as he lay there, his broken body twisted beneath him.
“It’s not fair,” he said softly.
“‘Not fair’?” said Denton, genuinely surprised by what he heard. “‘Not fair’? Oh-ho, that’s a good one, Tommy. ‘Not fair.’ I’ll be remembering that when I’m pissing on your grave.”
“Mr. Denton?” one of the firefighters called out.
Denton stood up and turned around. The firefighter spoke to him briefly, his eyes constantly going to Tom Carr. Denton nodded solemnly, then he turned back to Tom Carr and squatted to whisper to him.
“It’ll be soon now,” he said to him. “Any final words? Last requests?”
Tom Carr looked up at the evil blond man staring down at him with a smile.
“My kids got away,” he said.
Denton casually nodded as he took a drag on his smoke. “We have people looking for them,” he said.
Tom Carr kept on staring at Denton as the smoke from the man’s cigarette stung his eyes.
“Someday,” said Tom Carr, unable to stop himself from crying, “someone will come looking for you.”
Calm, relaxed, completely detached, Nicholas Denton said, “I’m sure you’re right, Tommy. And when that day comes, I’ll be sure to give them your regards. But right now, no one’s here for me. Right now, I’m here for you.”
“We’re ready,” said the firefighter as the hydraulic press was turned on, the sound a high-pitched whine that made the platform vibrate.
The two men stared at each other, the one crying, the one smiling.
“Good-bye, Tommy.”
“Fuck you.”
Denton’s smile turned into a happy grin as he stared at Tom Carr. The hydraulic press must have changed a gear or something, because suddenly it whined powerful loud. With that, it began pushing the subway car away from the platform. And as it did, Tom Carr’s entrails fell out of his body, and he died.
Copyright © 2002 by Gonzalo Lira.