So close to the end... But will it end in victory? Read Part One here.
Time seemed to slow as I burst through the door. Puffs of concrete exploded at my feet. The zip of bullets seared past my head. I saw the muzzle flashes in the darkness. That’s where I aimed. The distance between me and the crates that represented shelter yawned before me. I ran in that dream-like molasses crawl towards a safety that seemed to be getting further away. I dived, firing as I went, and skidded to safety.
Bullets whizzed, but I only counted flashes from four different places in the dark. All were concentrated against the back wall: two from above, two from below. I scurried further along behind the crates to a set of barrels and peeped into the shadows. At the top of the metal stairs, there was an office. That’s what they were protecting. That’s where I’d find Jamie.
Through the darkness, I could make out the four silhouettes, but in my mind, I knew that I was short on ammo. I checked the clip. Two rounds. Two Bullets + Four guys = Problem. I’m sure I’ve read that somewhere. In the background I heard the wail of sirens, from at least two squad cars. I knew that it would be at least ten minutes until my guys came. If they were coming at all.
I was fucked. Done for. The occasional rat-a-tat of bullets splintered the crates. They didn’t even know I’d moved. But eventually they would. And they would eventually make a killshot. They might not check my birthmark at all. But if they did, that would be it. Maybe I could cut the hand off and hide it. I’d just be a one-armed corpse thrown into the river. When I came to, I’d be alive, and the wound would be on its way to healing. A few weeks later it would have grown back. I could start again. I still had the knife. I grabbed it and rolled up my sleeve. I’ll never be able to explain why, but I wanted to see what I was doing properly. The piss poor light inside wouldn’t let me. I grabbed my zippo, thoughts immediately turning to a last cigarette.
Then I saw it. The sign on the barrels. Flammable.
I took the knife and stabbed a hole into the side of the drum, as close to the top as I could. The stench of paraffin hitting me as the liquid inside spilled out. It ran and pooled by my feet. Enough for me to light and run. The diversion would give me time to get across the floor. I could get off two shots. One for each of the guys downstairs. Then I’d have their guns. The popcorn crackle of gunfire still burst overhead. I tucked my knife back into my sock, opened my Zippo, and lit.
I put the flame to the puddle and ran. More shots rang out. I broke from hiding just as the barrels went up. A huge warmth exploded at my right as I ran into the firing line. I saw the shock in the faces of the two gunmen down stairs as the fireball illuminated the huge room. I fired at the man closest and missed. As I fired the second shot the explosion carried me off my feet. I was flying when I watched that second bullet land between his deep-set eyes. I felt the flames engulf my back and when I landed, it was at the feet of his comrade. The barrel of his M4 pointed at my face.
He froze. I can’t say why. It’s almost like some people have never seen a guy on fire before. I reached up and grabbed the barrel of his gun, steering it away from my face a split second before the bullets oozed out. I jumped to my feet and dived on him. We flew backwards and rolled. I think that was the moment the fire on my back went out. Somewhere in that struggle I knocked the rifle from his hands and plunged the cold steel of the knife into his side, as I had his friend outside. During the struggle I heard the clatter of feet on the steel of the staircase. The unfolding mayhem of explosion fuelled flight had taken a matter of seconds. I reached the rifle and loaded a fresh clip from Dead Guy’s belt. I turned to see the guys from upstairs. The first fired and hit my shoulder. The force threw me back. Landing on the burned from the explosion, a bolt of pain exploded across my back.
Then the lights went out.
I was back in that place. The place of a thousand eyeless faces. I was dead. For the second time. I was at the feet of the undead and once more they reached for me. They dragged me to my feet. But this time, it wasn’t to pull and tear at me. Now, they raised me up, over their heads. Crowdsurfer of the Dead. Then I was floating. High above them. First towards, then into, the light. Into the light and out of their world. Out of their world and back into mine. To the warehouse.
The first thing I noticed in the blackness was the smell. My seared flesh. The burnt paraffin. Then I felt the pain of my shoulder. When my eyes opened, the two thugs were still here. Walking away. I’d only been gone for a moment. I did the same gasp for air as I did when I came back the first time. The two gunmen turned as one. Their mouths dropped open. I raised the gun and fired. Too quickly for them to react. They slumped to the floor, legs bent at odd angles. No way these two were coming back.
I slowly got to my feet, my shoulder screaming in exquisite agony. I shambled over to the staircase and dragged myself up as best I could. I rounded the corner halfway and peered up at the office door. It gave me extra energy and I pushed onwards to that door, ignoring the sickening pain that overtook the upper half of my battered body.
As I neared the door, I heard the crying. Two voices. I ran. There were more kids here. I knew that the door was the only thing between me and their freedom. I smashed it open. Three kids, all bound to the pipes, two sitting upright and screaming. And I saw him. I don’t know how but I knew it was him. Jamie. The third kid.
Perfectly still. At peace. I was too late.
If you enjoyed Infinity (Part 9/10) please share it with your friends! Be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ so you don't miss Sunday's thrilling finale!! Read that finale here...
After leaving the rest of the group behind, our hero goes to rescue Jamie... Alone...
I put out what may have been my last ever cigarette, and stalked down to the grass embankment that lead to the river, and as I did I noticed that the sky had lightened, just a shade, since I left the hangar. I felt bad for not letting the others know, and I reached for my phone, toying with the idea of telling them where I was. Now it was too late. They had two options. Come and help me or leave me be. Knowing that if I did get caught, the killers would see my birthmark and do whatever it took to make sure I didn’t come back. I’d be stuck wherever I ended up, and all I could hope is that my efforts here would be enough to ‘balance my check-book’, as Iggy put it.
I pulled out my phone, but I didn’t call one of the guys. My heart thudded in my ears as the monotonous dial tone buzzed.
“Hello, I’d like to report an emergency. I’m down on the waterfront, and there’s a big green warehouse. I just heard shots fired.”
The operator asked for my name and I hung up. The cops would come, and I knew for a fact that the ones who did come, knew exactly what the fuck was going on here. They wouldn’t risk sending anyone who wasn’t in the know, and anyone they did send wasn’t going to be going home tonight. Not if I had anything to do with it.
I opened a text message, set the send option to Dax, Sadie and Iggy.
“I’m at the warehouse. I’m rescuing the kid. Come if you want. If you don’t I’ll understand. Cops are on their way.”
I watched it send and threw the phone into the river before heading to the tall, grey, rusted fence surrounding the compound. It was twelve feet of corrugated steel and before I went over the top I checked I had everything. Gun in my belt, knife in my sock, and I patted my pocket like I was frisking myself, just to reassure myself that the piece of paper I’d printed was still in there. I toyed with the idea of one last cigarette before making a move. Now or never. Get on with it.
A palette up against the fence helped me see into the compound. I counted the guards. One by the gate, one walking along the east wall, and another keeping sentry along the rear wall closest to me. I can be pretty certain there’s another along the west wall, and I can be damn sure that, just like the others, he’s carrying an Uzi. I looked below and there was a set of three oil drums. The only place to hide once I was inside, but I couldn’t hide for long. The guard along the east wall would see me once he was heading back this way. The window of opportunity was short.
Before the thought really could settle in that I’d never killed anyone, and that I was a lousy shot, that window of opportunity opened. I had to go. The guard walking the east wall was about halfway along, and the one closest was walking away.
I climbed over and dropped, landing behind the barrels. And I knew it wasn’t silent.
“Who’s there?” The guard shouted.
‘The fucking Avon lady’ is what I wanted to reply, but this wasn’t the time. I reached into the belt to grab the Glock. It had gone.
This can’t be happening.
I heard the thud of boots on asphalt as the guard neared and the horror set in that if I was to kill anyone, I’d have to do it up close and personal. I grabbed the knife out of my sock and gripped it just like Dax showed me.
Just as the guard’s head appeared around the corner, before I had time to think, my training kicked in. I launched. I felt the blade go in, under the rib cage. I felt the sickening scrape against bone and knew that however long I survived past tonight, that feeling was one I’d always remember.
He coughed, sighed and slumped, dead. Unfortunately for me, he’d already squeezed the trigger. The bullets missed, but his pals were heading for me right now. So much for surprise.
I grabbed the dead guard’s Uzi and pointed it at the west corner. I fired before the guy realised what was going on, and despite the range, I hit him in the gut and he went down. I ran at him, waiting to get closer before firing again. He stopped writhing.
I threw the Uzi I was holding and exchanged it for his. I peered along the west side and saw nothing. Everyone else had taken the shortest route to the action. I waited for them to appear, heart thudding in my ears, adrenaline coursing through me, acutely aware that I’d killed two people. What surprised me – what scared me – was how little remorse I felt. I walked calmly towards the other corner, able to hear the rumble of another freight train drifting over the water. Then I heard the approaching guards and waited. The first ran around the corner, and straight into a bullet. Headshot. I was close enough to see the light in his eyes go out. Before I could react another guard appeared. He fired. I heard the bullets cutting through the air.
I felt the now familiar burn of a bullet ripping through the flesh of my upper arm. I opened fire. Bullets ate up the ground before him. One hit his leg. Another his gut. He fell as another guard appeared. I was fifteen feet away and I shot. Two rounds. The first hit him in the shoulder, spinning him like a top, making the second completely miss. I squeezed the trigger. Nothing. I ran and scooped up the Uzi of one of his fallen comrades. The wound in my arm burned. The sleeve of my hoodie was soaked with blood, but the gash was now a graze, already on the way to healing.
I peeked around the corner expecting to see more coming, but there were none; just the long shadows cast by the rising sun and the groans of the mortally wounded behind me. As I neared the entrance to the warehouse, I wondered if my own comrades were on their way, or even if they’d got my message. The police would surely now be on the way, alerted by those left inside, if not by me.
As I rounded the corner, I saw that the door to the warehouse was open. Not wide, just enough for me to stare past the cracked and peeling red paint and into the black abyss that lay beyond. The square chicken-wired window smashed into a spider-web revealing nothing of what lay within. I heard hushed, harried voices. Barked orders and tactics. The scurrying of feet on concrete. The minute I entered it would be into a barrage of bullets. I took a few steps back; then ran.
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Our hero is at breaking point. Will he stick to the plan and gather the evidence Dax wants to brings
the scumbags down, or give in to his conscience and go back to the warehouse and rescue Jamie?
Missed the beginning? No worries, read Part One here! Read Part Six here.
I worked flat out for two days straight and slept for another. But it wasn’t good sleep. When the cops left that place without doing anything, we knew it was bad. Dax and Sadie came back. I got them in on the computer work, trawling through an extensive email history. Emails that contained coded language about the horrors they were carrying out. One name led to another, and I knew that the road we were on would soon lead to the big fish. The wheels were in motion now, and the Man Upstairs himself couldn’t stop them, not that he’d want to.
My sleep after that first day was haunted. Haunted by the ideas that I’d found in the emails. I knew that soon, working back through time, we’d have the information we needed to take these sick fucks out. But in my dreams my subconscious filled in the gaps in my knowledge with nightmarish imagery. I heard the agonised screams and implacable fear, and one thing, over and over on a loop.
Whatever horrors were in my head all I heard was a young mother – lost, harried, and unravelling – screaming the name of her son, over and over and I knew that the moment I awoke, I had to do something about it. I had to save Jamie.
I sat bolt upright in bed, sweat lathered my t-shirt clinging to my heaving chest. Dax was working at the computer and span around. I guess I’d screamed myself awake. Apparently not loud enough to wake Iggy or Sadie. It had been a tough few days.
Dax nodded too, signalling that he understood. I guess it was par for the course.
“I need a break,” I said, swinging my feet to the cold concrete floor.
Dax was already back at the screen. “Sure. I got more while you were asleep, Sadie too. It’ll keep though. Get out of here for a while, clear your head.”
I’d already dressed, pulling my black hoodie over my white t-shirt and stepping into my black sweat pants. While Dax’s eyes were glued to the screen, I’d slipped my Glock into the band of my sweatpants.
“You should take a break too. We’ll get them, but we need to stay sane while we do it.”
Dax nodded. “I hear that. I’ll turn in soon. See you later.”
I scooped up the keys to the 1977 Ford Mustang II Cobra II and marched out into the night.
Pure white moonlight gleamed from the cool black metal of the Cobra, and off in the distance, a freight train rattled to wherever, unaware of the secrets this city hid in its darkest corners. I unlocked the car and for a moment, I sat checking and re-checking the Glock, making sure that when I did get to the warehouse, there were no nasty surprises. Dax leaves nothing to chance; something I picked up from him I guess. I fired the engine into life and took off; not in a screech of tires and trail of smoke and burning rubber. Slowly and deliberately. Like a man running a simple errand. In the end, that’s all it was.
It took me twenty minutes to get to the waterfront, smell of algae floating in through the windows as I approached. I flicked off the lights and rolled slowly along to the warehouse, the gentle grind of the tyres the only sound in the predawn stillness.
I pulled to a stop a hundred yards away. I’d expected armed guards to be manning the gate, but there were none. It would only draw attention to the inconspicuous. To the nondescript. Like a flashing pink neon sign that says “Don’t look here.” But I knew there would be something. Armed sentries surely walked the perimeter inside. As long as they hadn’t upped sticks and fucked off in the last three days. And as sure as they were there, they almost certainly had more firepower than me and my Glock with one solitary clip. If I’d planned ahead instead of acting on impulse, I could have brought an Uzi. Or an M4.
My stomach fluttered at the thought of what lay ahead. Had it been a mistake not to tell the others what I was planning? From the point of view of the mission, I thought not. We were in. We could go back through an almost infinite number of emails and find out exactly who was involved. Even if my stupid impulse did draw attention to the fact that we were coming, they couldn’t escape. Even if I got dumb ass killed here, the others would not stop. It just wasn’t in their nature. Dax and Iggy were too focussed on the mission to deviate from the plans. They would never have agreed to come here. But if I did get killed they would carry on. They were as dogged as they come, but it was Sadie who would have scared these sick bastards the most. The fire in her eyes when she told me they were after revenge said more than any words ever could.
I never asked her what she meant about that. I didn’t have to. Just because her birthmark showed infinity, didn’t mean her kids would have. And I’ve seen enough loss in the eyes of those around me to recognise that when I see it.
There were no guards on the gate, but this wasn’t a mission where you ring the doorbell. I would have to find another way into the high-fenced walls of the compound, and that way would be guarded. I pulled up my hood and stepped out of the car.
This was it. Hang in there, Jamie. I’m on my way.
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After a small child is kidnapped at a local park, our fab four are on the trail...
The race is on to catch the abductors before they disappear back into their seedy underworld.
Missed the earlier parts? Don't worry! Find Part One here, and Part Five here.
So we’re there, driving around the park. Iggy and me in one car, Dax and Sadie cruising the opposite side in another; both cars scouting the surroundings for a third car, speeding away. Inside the third car is a kid, probably one who’s only expected to live for another couple of years. A kid and some scumbags. If our theory is correct, a couple of scumbags only expected to live a few years themselves. Paid huge sums of money to do exactly what they’ve just done. So that they can live the high life and still have enough left over to leave some behind for their families.
Then I spot it. A banged up saloon. Green, bodywork rusting, in need of a wash. It pulls up a side street.
“There!” I scream, and Iggy’s nodding and following.
I get on the radio to Dax so him and Sadie can follow us. We’re around the corner just in time to see it disappear around the next. I relay every move to Dax.
“Do you think they know? That we’re following them?” I mean the kidnappers.
Iggy gets me. “Don’t think so,” he says, as the car we’re tailing weaves in the traffic, like a raindrop coursing down a window.
So we follow, weaving through the same traffic, Dax and Sadie tailing us. Heading down to the waterfront, close to the club where Sadie caught up with me a few months back. And in my mind I go back. Not to that night and Remy’s Last Party: Way back.
I’m not sure why, but I go back to the day my secret got out. My girl. I told you she asked about the birthmark: that infinity symbol on my wrist. The same one my new friends share. But I didn’t just blurb it. It wasn’t pillow talk: I had to tell her. When the glass you try to catch because you’ve just dropped it smashes before you get there and gashes your palm, unleashing enough blood to make a surgeon gag, and by the time she convinces you to let her take a look, the cut has healed, well, it tends to raise questions.
Reality fades back in when Iggy jerks the car to a stop and I see the car we’ve been tailing turn through a gate on the docks – a gate that closes as soon as the car’s inside. Now the scene has that strange twilight glow. The sky is a wash of orange, coloured by the setting sun.
“Did you get it?” Dax. On the radio.
Before I open my dumb mouth to ask what he means I realise he’s talking about the licence plate of the car we followed, and for a second I still don’t know the answer. I have to glance down at my notepad and see the scribbled sequence of numbers and letters scrawled there. I can’t read it properly, but I say ‘yes’ anyway.
Iggy starts the engine and we go.
“What about the kid?” I ask.
Iggy says nothing. He just drives. He doesn’t speak again all night. Dax and Sadie stay behind to case the warehouse, they’ll note any car that comes out, or goes in.
Back at the hangar, the only thing Iggy says is “That enough?”
I just nod. I go to work.
I run the licence plate through every database I can access, which with my skill-set, is basically all of them. Including the one used by the cops. None of us really got a good look at the driver, so I know I can’t cross-reference him with mug shots of known felons. But then I get a surprise. The search I ran comes back with nothing. No owner. Not stolen. Not listed or recorded. Anywhere. Like it’s been scrubbed from existence.
All Iggy says when I tell him is “Thought so.”
I’m not sure what that means, for all I know, it’s Iggy being Iggy, but I see something in his eyes. It makes me guess it means that the people we’re dealing with are powerful enough to make a car disappear.
My eyes are dry and tired, but I can’t sleep. Whenever I’m not thinking about the job at hand I’m thinking about the kid. About Jamie.
Running the address of the warehouse the jalopy pulled into comes back with a similar result. No official owner. I go back as far as I can. Last record I get, it belongs to the city.
The sun is coming up again and I’m just about to go to bed, and the radio squawks. Iggy doesn’t budge. If anything, he snores louder. Dax speaks, and it’s just one word:
“One car. Went straight in. No lights. No sirens.”
So I stand there. Twenty minutes crawl by. The only words exchanged back and forth come one at a time.
I wait. Expecting him to tell me that a squad of cop cars has arrived. To bring swift justice to the kidnappers. Or that the car has left with two guys in the back. Or expecting to hear ‘Shots fired.’
But I don’t.
Then Dax speaks. “Cops are leaving.”
He said that, yes they were, and gave me the licence plate, asking me if there was anything I could do with it.
Fuelled by the knowledge that whatever hell was taking place in that warehouse, the cops were a part of, I was reinvigorated. The need for sleep was gone. I had work to do.
“Already on it.”
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In part 5 of our story, our fearless four are now waiting for their moment to pounce. And it's coming very soon...
Missed the beginning? Don't worry! Read Part One here!
According to the guys, where we go from here is pretty straightforward. They spot suspicious characters, and their cars, and they know who to follow. Problem we’ve got now is, we’ve been here weeks and spotted jack shit. No shady cars. No shady people. Sadie told me that she can feel when it’s about to go down. There’s an electricity. It’s intuition. And it’s never wrong.
According to her, today’s the day. We’re just waiting for a signal.
Our disused old hangar is conveniently located a couple of miles away from a kidnapping hotspot. Dax leaves nothing to chance. So we stake it out: A cute little park, trees, cut grass, swings and shit. Since my training back at the hangar the weather has changed. Thank Christ. Gets dark at around 7:30 now. And with the warmer weather, come the families.
So we hang around at the park. In pairs. Probably looking as suspicious as the guys we’re tailing. And we’re here for a few weeks. It’s boring. I get paired with Iggy. We don’t have data on the times most of the kidnappings happen, so we’re on alert the whole time. And when nothing happens it’s as relieving as it is frustrating. Because we know that when it isn’t happening here, it’s happening elsewhere. Kids are going missing from other parks.
The kids taken are the ones with no time to spare. The ones who won’t live to double figures. The ones whose parents have nowhere near enough time with them anyway. And because of their short lifespans, the cops don’t put in as much effort into recovering them.
“Lemme ask you something, Iggy,” and I don’t wait for a reply. Iggy is not a talker. “How come you guys waited for me to start?”
“One, it was winter, so the parks were all empty. Two, sure, we could have followed the kidnappers, got as much info as possible. But then what? Maybe we save a kid. More likely we know where the kids are and we can’t do shit. We move too early, they know we’re onto them. They shut down the operation and move on. We have to start from scratch.”
“So we’re supposed to just follow them and do nothing? What about the kid?”
Iggy looks like he’s not going to answer, then he looks at me and says, “We’re not going to have a problem with you are we?”
“What the fuck does that mean?”
“Listen,” he stops. We’re surrounded by barking dogs, and screaming kids, and picnics, trying to blend, stopping isn’t so good. “We can stop the kidnappers, rescue the kid, and go back to the hangar. Great. But in a couple of weeks another kid goes missing. Then another. We have to find out where the top of the tree is. Then we can chop it down.”
And he’s right. I know it. But the idea of leaving the kid… I’m struggling with.
Like he’s reading my mind, Iggy says, “I don’t like it any more than you do,” and starts walking again.
The plan we have is not foolproof. In fact, it’s easier for it to go wrong than it is to go right. We wander around in pairs, waiting for something to go down. Then we get to the cars, one parked by the swings and shit, the other, our car, parked by the pond. We walk around the park and wait for something suspicious. If we see something, we follow, radio the others and we go. We follow as best we can, hoping not to be seen. We find where they end up, get as much data as possible, licence plates, addresses, photos. That’s when I go to work. But first we’re waiting for a signal.
Then I hear it.
A mother’s voice. Loud, touched with a panic that somebody without kids couldn’t replicate.
“Is this it?” I ask Iggy, but he’s already walking to the car, talking on the radio.
“Dax. Go time. By the pond.”
I follow. And I know just as we’re on the way to our wheels, Dax and Sadie are heading for theirs.
“Jamie?!” The mother again.
In the few seconds between shouts she’s gone from panic to desperation. We’re further from the mother, but the shout is the same volume, that ready-to-crack-any-moment tone cranked up to eleven.
“You see anything?”
Iggy shakes his head and gets into the car, firing it to life.
“So what now?” I ask, ducking into my seat.
“Now?” He steps on the gas, “We hope we’re lucky.”
Will our heroes find Jamie? Read Part Six of INFINITY here!
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In this blog I'll be bringing to you short tales of things that go bump in the night, true stories of weird and unexplained events, and the real-life news of all things odd and macabre, and entertain you along the way.