I turned the corner into another alley and heard two gunshots behind us. They were muffled, coming from inside, probably from my apartment. Whoever had gone to find me hadn’t been to my room before or they wouldn’t have shot the full length mirror that hung on the wall opposite of my door. More than one visitor had been startled by seeing themselves upon entering, so it didn’t surprise me that some thug would squeeze off a couple rounds after breaking down my door. It wouldn’t take long to figure out I wasn’t there and they’d start asking my neighbors.
“What the fuck…”
“Shut up! They’re already here,” I whispered angrily as I clamped my hand over her mouth. “Damnit! I thought we’d have more time.” I looked around, hoping to find something that might help out, but sometimes an alley is just an alley and it’s filled with nothing but other people’s refuse. I pulled my hand from Julia’s mouth. “Get on my back. We need to get out of here.” I turned my back and she climbed on board. ‘Thank God she’s small,’ I thought to myself as we jogged into the darkness away from my escape plan.
“I’m sorry, but we’ve only got about ten minutes before somebody checks my place for us and I’d really like to be gone before they get here.” The door to my apartment was in sight and I felt a wave of relief come over me, but it quickly crested and crashed down about me as a long grey sedan rounded the corner up ahead. It should have been too soon, but something in my gut told me it was no random occurrence. I turned down the alley on my right, pulling Julia after me. We were too screwed, too quickly.
The bus jerked to a stop about a block from my apartment. I stood up and dragged Julia after me, passing Charlene as she stood up. Subtly was out of the question, speed was all important and I knew the clock was working against us. “Come on, we’re running out of time,” I whispered roughly to Julia as we left the bus. She struggled to keep up, her high heels making it hard for her to walk on the crooked, broken sidewalk of my neighborhood.
“I know, I know.” She was scared and I’m sure I wasn’t helping her either.
The twenty minutes it took to get to my apartment dragged on for an eternity. The hooker, Charlene was her name I think, even looked back at us, but I kept my eyes on her just the same. I hoped that she didn’t even notice us, but I knew she had been on the street too long not to have. In the movies street people claim to see nothing, but the reality is that they notice everything. Survival depended on not getting caught unaware, so you learned to take note of every little detail, no matter how insignificant they seemed.
The bus heralded its arrival with the screech of over used breaks. We hurried into the bus, showing our bus passes and quickly moving to the back of the nearly empty bus. The only other passengers were a drunk couple furiously making out, a homeless guy who smelled of wet garbage and urine, and a prostitute. The amorous drunk couple and the homeless guys were just the regular window dressing for a two A.M. bus trip, but I knew the hooker. She lived in my building and worked for one of Albert’s vicious associates. We were leaving a trail already.
Time slowed as we huddled in the dark. Julia talked tough and acted the part, but she was new enough to the street to still feel the fear. I had surrendered my fear years ago. I had been down low so long that anything more than survival was a shadow of a dream glimpsed in brief, but forgotten as soon as reality crashed back around me. I didn’t have much hope of succeeding tonight, but I had to try. If nothing else I wanted to find a way to get her out of this sewer, give her a real life.