About to open the front door and run like hell, David shuttled the safety lock into place with sudden premonition. He opened two inches… straight into the flat, not inexpressive, eyes of the man from the car. His adversary’s deep-centered movement against the bulk of the door was like heavy waves against broadside timbers, the chain pulling taut and straining at multiple pressure points. Throughout the length of stressed brass rings, the older man’s eyes were steely, his nose bent, the reek of cigarettes oppressive––broadcasting fixation on getting in by any means necessary. The message in his movements, and in his unwillingness to engage in conversation, did not need any translation––once the chain gave, he owned David.
What David needed to do was to create separation––the problem was that, with the amount of force at work against him, he could not make the door budge. This stasis would last until reinforcements arrived or it finally broke. Unless… concept of light and shadow, maybe this apparent disadvantage could be turned into an advantage. His feral opponent’s options were constrained, he could not let his weight up without giving David an opportunity to slam the door shut.
David, on the right side of the chain, did have that option and he fell from the door fluidly, like a pitcher going into a deep windup, trusting that the chain would hold for the critical second needed to gain a running start and kick the door into doorframe submission. Despite the tenaciousness of his adversary’s thrust, David's kick was solid and there was a satisfying sense of blunt force being inflicted as the door resisted and then backpedalled enough to click shut. Throwing deadbolt, David caught his breath in the tense silence that followed, sorting out options… with each passing moment, the chances of reinforcements arriving increased.
The theory did not hold. The moment David appeared at the balcony rail the man’s hand went to his jacket and stayed there, and there was something gun-like in the bulge. Face expressionless, he appeared to speak into an earpiece. That was all David had time to see.
Retreating to the obscured end of the balcony, he took hold of Eve’s oversize luggage. Relatively heavy, this hard plastic pull-behind could potentially do significant damage. No time to think, no way out but forward––he grasped the luggage in a bear hug and raised it overhead, into Greco hurling stance. Hands set firmly, he bounded to the end of the balcony and let momentum take over, directing the arc toward where he thought the man might jump. Years of soccer experience against goalies expecting attacks paid off as this improvised device fell toward a heavy who was not doing anything but guarding a perimeter. As expected, the man jumped out of his skin a split second before impact––if he did not jump in quite the expected direction, neither was he fast enough to avoid the luggage, which hit him squarely on the left hip. He went sprawling, gun scattering on concrete as his hand came out from blazer breast to cradle his fall.
Putting his full focus into maintaining balance, David went up and over the rail, reaching the bottom rung and transferring grasp slowly to hands at foot level, keeping them evenly spaced and tightening wrists around rail. He let himself measuredly down through extreme muscle burn, and let his legs hang out in the air for a second before finding a tiptoe perch on the rail below.
David pushed off from the top rung, as on monkey bars when creating that first enabling swing, and fell toward the balcony on the return arc. The release of his hands came slightly too soon and he hit the top of the rail with calves and and clung frantically to the rail in sideways sloth mode before finding a hold and falling balcony-side. Crawling forward, he hefted himself gingerly up––beyond a painful new bruise over an already aching knee and overextended muscles, there was not much damage. Looking over the balcony David took in a surprisingly young face grimacing at him in semi-crippled agony, attempting to stand up on one knee––hand on hip, as if trying to pop something in…. seriously injured or not, he was just a couple moments from finding some degree of stability and covering the distance to his weapon. David estimated that by the time he was within jumping distance of the street, the heavy would be squaring up for an easy shot.
Nothing for a long moment, then a cat appeared, stretching as if from a nap, tail raised in half interest. I’m a scary intruder he pantomimed, trying to make the cat run away in alarm, create a meow that would wake up the owner. No such luck. Play with me, I’m bored, the cat telegraphed, rubbing butt against window and pawing a few times before walking away… if no one appeared in a couple seconds he’d have to exploit the diminishing window of opportunity offered by the gimp’s gunless immobility. He visualized a Hail Mary jump of a kind unknown outside of old Batman serials, using the heavy’s body as a cushion and somehow walking away unscathed. As he turned and gulped, realizing the enormity of this decision, an older woman shuffled into sight, peering at him through the window with sharp, perceptive eyes. Surprise was writ large on her face, but like the cat she showed no fear––let me in David pantomimed, I’m stranded.
There was only one proper response, a quick call to security or the police, and he watched as this woman took out her cell phone. She stopped for just a second in her dial, giving him a cool, hooded look, as if weighing whether she could trust him.
At that moment of truth, sensing just a little human give, David did the only thing he could think of. In a move taken directly taken from the feudal Japan of samurai overlords, he fell to the floor and bowed deeply, arms outstretched in supplication. Aiming for a level of sincerity that Japanese leaders had once expected of subjects––a show of complete fealty and a symbolic invitation for beheading. To a deep-thinking Japanese, the seriousness of the message David was broadcasting had centuries of weight behind it.
He braved a glance up and saw something change in the older woman’s eyes––a recognition that, for whatever reason, no matter how implausible, he was not a threat and did not have any choice in his actions. She hesitated one more second and fixed him with penetrating, professor’s eyes. Life-saving click, as the door rolled slightly ajar. He rushed in, bowing without stopping, the cat screeching pain as he stepped on its tail on his way out the door. Invisible from the landing above, he took the stairs two at a time, reaching the lobby in 10 seconds flat.
Critical decision point. Right or left…. which had fewer quick-footed reinforcements, drones, heading his way? Right. The direction of the park he had waited in––he remembered a half-hidden gate among the trees bordering the fence beyond the play structure. It seemed open onto a small lane, most likely a warren of Edo-patterned alleyways, old Japan beneath the grid––designed to confound intruders. David looked up and down the street and saw a pair of figures start running. I must run also, he thought, and he did.
All Rights Reserved - Damon Shulenberger.