This short story was originally published on richardholliday.co.uk on September 10th 2013.
by Richard Holliday
Damp asphalt crunched under Jaime’s feet as he ran across the rooftop in the drizzle. It was dark and covered in trash but the man was focussed on one thing – getting away. There wasn’t time to turn back or look at his assailants now, he had to keep jumping over pipes and boxes, dodging air conditioners and water tanks until he came abruptly to the edge of this particular roof. Jaime’s booted toes felt the air beneath them but his heels were resolutely rooted to the spot.
Down many stories was the street, bustling with the existences of countless people, oblivious to what was happening right above their very heads. Jaime had a few seconds to evaluate his next move. The footsteps were already closing on him, oddly and ominously overpowering in his own consciousness the sound of his own heavy breathing.
Warm, welcoming light shimmered from the building across the street – the one Jaime had been aiming for all this time! It was too near to be captured now. The window was so near but it seemed like safety, and his objective, was an asphalt gulf away. Taking a final breath, Jaime reached a decision. Taking a few strides back, Jaime ran toward the ledge and just at the moment he felt concrete was no longer beneath his feet he leapt into the air. The dark wall, punctuated by regular sheets of light, moved in unpredictable ways and wind rushed through his black hair. In the maelstrom created by gravity and a cool breeze, Jaime closed his eyes and braced…
Jamie opened his eyes. His ears rung with the sound of a crash followed by ethereal tinkling of tiny shards. He was lying down in a sea of fragments that stuck into bare skin. A fluid, warm and sticky, ran down his face in a few viscous rivulets. His face ached and his body moaned for rest but importantly, he was alive.
“Did ya see where he went?” a gravelly voice called from beyond the window.
“He can’ta got… look! The window!” another shouted angrily. A second later, the voices were gone, left with the distinct sound of distant footsteps racing towards stairs. Jaime realised that only had a little time was left. He reached into his pocket and pulled from his jacket a crumpled piece of laminated card – a picture of Sarah, his captive sister.
“Soon, sis. I’ll find you soon.”
The corridor outside was quiet and totally deserted. Room after room in the building, purportedly a corporate headquarters, was totally empty. The whole building was inhabited by nothing but ghosts. Every room looked identical in its emptiness to the preceding one and it became apparent to Jaime that this structure was just a shell that overlooked the Bay. He climbed up the stairs for the apex, and emerged into a great room. Through a panoramic window on the top floor the black water rippled under moonlight. Boats drifted past lazily in the distance, but did not approach this place.
Jaime noticed a desk perched awkwardly and artificially in the middle of this room, with a laptop screen beaming out directly to his pupils. Instinctively, he approached it and read the message. Two words, addressed directly to Jaime.
Jaime thumped the machine with a gloved fist and it shut off. He was being mocked by his sister’s captor, a man known only to Jaime as Mauve. Fucker.
The lens of a security camera winked from the high corner of the room at Jaime above the stairwell from which he’d just ascended. He swore at it loudly but the camera didn’t blink. Cameras don’t blink. Jaime approached it to wrench it from the wall in a fit of animalistic rage but as he did so he noticed the light went off at a precise point. He took a step back, the light went on again.
Loose chunks of masonry hung around every room in this shell building, and this grand room was no exception. Jaime took a piece in his hand and threw it toward the floor the camera was unceasingly observing.
Nothing happened, though the rock clattered onto the floor in a way Jaime didn’t think a solid concrete base should do. The floor there was different, and he examined it in the darkness created as he came under the watchful glass eye of the camera.
The floor directly in front of the stairwell was metal covered in a think faux-concrete base that was easily discarded. Wires fanned into this assembly, and the tell-tale heads of pneumatic rams shone in the milky moonlight. There was also a wire tacked to the wall between the camera and a junction box nearby. This got Jaime’s brain working in overdrive, though he stepped outside of the camera’s gaze so he could examine this discovery in bright but soulless fluorescent light. Jaime edged around the wall toward the junction box and jimmied it open with the barrel of the gun he carried in his opposite pocket. A standard plug revealed itself and a curious and reckless Jaime pulled it from the socket.
Again, nothing happened. The light in the room remained gloriously on. Not knowing what to expect, Jaime lazily backed into the area the camera had kept vigil on… and the light remained on. However, the sound of approaching footsteps on concrete stairs was the impetus needed for the connection to become consciously realised. With a glance at the assembly on the floor, Jaime found a similar plug and rammed the cable from the camera into it.
“Your rewiring really isn’t up to code, Mr. Galt,” a smooth but instantly grating voice called as a suited figure rounded the corner and stood in the arch underneath the camera. The colour of the crushed velvet belied this man’s identity: Mauve.
“And you’ve my sister, you sick bastard! I know what you’ve been doing to her, and I want her back!”
“Now you see, only one of us is going to get what they want in this situation,” Mauve taunted, “but I think you deserve a last look at your sister before I… dispose of this asset.”
Mauve laughed and brought Jaime’s sister, Sarah, into view from the stairway. She looked terrified but at seeing her big brother she felt relieved. Her face subtly but perceptibly relaxed. Mauve motioned to move her in front of him through the archway, but Jaime’s raised gun stopped him.
“Don’t move, dirtbag,” Jaime hissed.
“Either way, this is going to end badly for you.” Mauve chuckled condescendingly, looking beyond Jamie and through the glass window behind. “You should never have crossed me. Now you’ll both end up at the bottom of that Bay, though I’m yet to determine in what order”. Jaime’s remained resolute on Sarah, nodding ever so subtly and moving his pupils to her left, toward Mauve. It was Mauve’s own hubris that kept these signals imperceptible. Sarah nodded in assent.
Three… two… one… Jaime silently counted down with movements of his eyelashes. On one, Sarah let a burst of energy explode through her body, utilising every molecule of adrenalin in her muscles to shove Mauve through the archway and into the camera’s sight. It beeped and before Mauve’s heart could utter a beat activated the floor gear – a trapdoor that flung itself open. Mauve was first tossed into the air, hitting the ceiling before plummeting, just as the floor snapped shut, down fifteen stories of chute to a sticky end.
Jaime ran to embrace his sister, turning her around in his arms.
“Thank you! Thank you, Jaime!”
“No time for that now,” Jamie smiled mischievously, grabbing Sarah tight, “the fun’s only just begun!”
With a run, brother carried sister across the floor and through the glass edifice at the other end, which tore itself apart in an eruption of glass. Realising that this was only the beginning, Jaime ran on, but this time Sarah was his and safety was considerably nearer to their grasp. Together, they knew they’d get it.
© Richard Holliday, 2013