Running from Zeke

I hopped over the seat in front of me, trying to stay low and unnoticed.

“Mack? Where are you going?” Lyra asked, her voice full of confusion.

“Sorry, gotta go,” I whispered and scuttled down the empty row of seats toward the opposite aisle.

Lyra had been a little louder than I would’ve liked, and Zeke heard her.

“There you are, you fucker,” he bellowed, his deep voice easily carrying across the noisy theater.

I gave up any attempts at stealth and ran for the emergency exit in the corner on the left side of the massive movie screen. The glowing red letters of the sign called me, and I ran for them.

I heard yells and squeaks of indignation behind me as Zeke came after me.

Not daring to look behind me I sprinted for the exit. I had only a moment to read the sign which said “Emergency Exit Only—Alarm Will Sound” before I slammed the bar down and was through into the plain white corridor beyond.

A loud, old-fashioned bell began ringing behind me, but I ignored it. The corridor stretched both left and right, a boring, well-lit space with tiled white floors. Without thinking much about it, I ran left.

I’d ran past two more closed exits from cinemas when I heard the clack of pursuing boot heels on the floor behind me.

The corridor branched to my left and I took it, trying to lose him. If I could get out of sight long enough, I could switch back into the light.

A door with an “Employees Only” sign appeared on the wall and without hesitating I twisted the knob and was surprised when it turned in my hand. While Zeke was a big man, he wasn’t slow. It sounded like he was right behind me, so I yanked the door open and rushed in.

I was only somewhat surprised to find myself in a storage space, surrounded by boxes of candy and buckets of unidentifiable theater food supplies. It was a surprisingly large storage space, full of long shelves and dim lighting. The one thing I didn’t see was an exit. Without hesitating I rushed further in and ducked behind a fully-laden shelf out of sight just as Zeke barreled through the door.

“I’ve got you now, rabbit. There’s nowhere left to run,” he said, his deep voice filling the space.

I was fairly sure Zeke couldn’t see me, but through a tiny gap in the goods on the shelf I was hiding behind I could see him. He wasn’t quite as imposing as Magnus, but there was definitely some sort of physical fitness requirement for the Fatally Hip. He was big—imposing and muscular. He closed the door carefully behind him and drew a boxy black pistol from the small of his back.

He held it low in a practiced-looking grip and scanned the shelves.

“Here’s how this is going to go, Mack. You and I are going to leave here, get in my car and we’ll go see Magnus. If you’re lucky you might even live to see another day.”

As he spoke, he was prowling forward, his boots not making a sound. If I hadn’t been able to see him, I would’ve been certain he hadn’t moved from the door.

The shelf I was hiding behind was long, and completely loaded. He couldn’t see me, but with the way he was walking he would soon enough. I needed to move.

I reached back and pulled my pistol free of the holster. Its weight felt comforting in my hands. Holding it up to my eyes in the dim light, I flicked the safety from S to F with my thumb.

I crept down the shelf to my left, moving as quietly as I could, which still didn’t seem as quiet as Zeke in his work boots, for some reason. He wasn’t showing a job, but it seemed likely that his supernatural stealth might be due to a skill of some kind. Was there such a Job as Hipster Ninja?

“I can hear you, Mack. Let’s not draw this out. I prefer to take you back to Magnus alive, but I don’t have to. He’ll be disappointed, but he’ll understand. If you waste any more of my time, I’m going to get angry.”

I ignored his bloviating threats and continued to move. Seconds later I reached the end of the shelf and ducked around it just in time. Through a tiny gap I saw Zeke emerge at the opposite end where I’d been less than a minute earlier. He looked left and right, the pistol low but ready to come up and fire. He held it like he knew what he was doing with it. Completely unlike me, who still had never fired a shot.

I had really been hoping that Zeke would continue further on into the storage room and I could sneak out, but my hopes were dashed when he started to walk down the aisle toward me. He moved like a ghost, completely silent. His pace was deliberate as he stalked forward, scanning his surroundings with his mouth slightly parted.

My hands were shaking as I used my left hand to reach into my pocket and extract a loose quarter. I was quite sure that simply sprinting for the exit wouldn’t work. He’d hear me and either shoot me before I got to the door, or catch me quickly.

With that in mind it was time for the old ‘distract the patrolling guard with the thrown coin’ trick.

It was a total cliché, but I’d used it quite successfully in several table-top campaigns. Maybe it would work in real life. If that’s what I was going to start calling my life in San Tadeo. It certainly was feeling pretty real right then.

With a short, underhanded throw I winged the quarter toward the door I’d come in. The quarter smacked into a white five-gallon bucket, making a loud plastic clonk.

I’d been watching Zeke the whole time and he immediately spun and rushed toward the other end of the shelf, showing me his back. My trick had worked, but without any way to escape it was time to get aggressive.

I stepped out into the aisle and aimed the pistol directly at the center of Zeke’s back. Imitating what I’d seen in uncounted cop shows, I cupped my left hand around my right. My hands were still shaking, but both of them together and it felt like I was fairly steady.

“Drop the gun, Zeke,” I yelled.

I thought I did a rather good job of keeping the panic out of my voice, but maybe he’d heard it anyway. He didn’t even hesitate.

He spun back toward me, his black pistol coming up as he did. I panicked and pulled the trigger. The gun barked in my hands, but Zeke kept moving. I kept pulling the trigger, firing off what felt like dozens of shots.

Zeke’s gun clattered to the floor, a hard, plastic sound. He fell to his knees, his left hand pressed on the rapidly growing bloodstain on the red and white flannel of his shirt. He coughed, weakly, and I could see a spray of blood fly through the air and drool down his chin.