Getting Back

“Oh my god!”

“Drop it.”

“What have I done?”

“Drop it!”

“I… How… This can’t be happening!”

“Drop it!” This time she slapped him. Still dazed, he turned from the bloody mess in front of him and looked at her. “Drop the gun. We have to go. Now!” The force of her command was sufficient for him to obey. He was too stunned to do otherwise.

They were off the platform and a dozen yards down the tunnel before he thought to object. “Wait. If I leave the gun, won’t they find my fingerprints? Won’t they know I killed him?”

“Yes.” She didn’t stop moving.

“Shouldn’t we go back for it?”

“No.”

He hesitated only for a moment before hurrying to catch up to her.

“I don’t understand.”

“I know.”

He grabbed her arm to force her to go back. “Look, we need to…”

She turned quickly, ripping her arm out of his grasp. “Do you want to stop here and discuss things, or do you want to get out of here before anything else goes wrong?”

The fury on her face quashed his desire for an answer. He looked down at his feet, invisible in the gloom.

“Good. Let’s go.”

She turned and resumed walking quickly down the tunnel, never once looking over her shoulder to see if he was keeping up. For his part, he tried to put his feet where she did so that he wouldn’t trip. But he could only guess where she stepped in the dark, so he had to pick himself off the ground several times before they came to a door hidden in the wall.

In truth, it was only the darkness that hid the door, but it was sufficient. He didn’t notice it until she had opened it, allowing a dim light to spill out. Despite the meagerness of the light, his eyes took several moments to adjust. The room was small. A cot, a desk, a cooler, and another door were all that waited inside. The lone light bulb could not brighten the dull grey concrete of the walls and floor.

She sat in the chair and motioned him to sit on the bed. “Now. Ask.”

“Who was that?”

“Why does it matter?”

“He tried to kill me! I killed him! I want to know who he was.”

“It sounds like you’ve already answered your own question.”

“What?”

“He tried to kill you, and you killed him instead. What else matters?”

“But it explains nothing.”

“He was trying to stop you from coming with me. Does that help?”

“Why?”

“You don’t understand?”

“Should I? I don’t even know who you are.”

“You don’t?”

“No.”

“Oh.” Her stony expression cracked, distress showing through.

“Should I?”

Before he could react, she grabbed his hand and stared into his eyes. Her hand on his felt… Right. Good. He almost lost himself in that touch. No. Not lost. Found. He almost found himself. It threatened to overwhelm him. Her name… it was…

Gone. The feel of the gun in his hand, the jarring kick after pulling the trigger, it ripped everything away.

“I’m sorry. I don’t know.”

One more pained glance, searching, and she dropped his hand and her gaze. “They did it again. They took you from me again.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“They forced you to kill one of them. To save yourself. And so lose yourself. I had you… I nearly had you back. I could almost see you, and then I saw the muzzle flash in your eyes. You’re gone again.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“No. No, of course not. You couldn’t.”

“Who are you?”

“There’s no point in telling you. Not now. Someday. I promise. Remember me. The next time you see me, ask again. I will tell you. Believe me. But for now, there’s only one thing to do.”

“Which is?” This whole thing seemed too absurd to be real. He trusted her, though he couldn’t say why.

“That door.”

He looked around the room. A cot, a desk… He couldn’t remember how he got here, but this woman was directing him to a door.

“Yes, that door. Go through it. You can only take two things with you. One is my face. Remember it. Trust it.” He looked at her face. His mind had trouble hanging on to what it looked like, but he forced himself to memorize it. “The other is the following information: you killed someone. They will try to arrest you, stop you. Don’t let them. Know you have to run as soon as you see someone representing the law. Run. Find me. We will get you back. I will bring you back. Now, go!” As if she had some power to command him, he jumped up and walked through the door.

He was on a street with office buildings. The sun was high overhead. Where was he going? Of course, back to the office after lunch. The afternoon meeting loomed large, threatening the rest of his day. Boring, useless, but mandatory.

As he headed back to his office, he noticed a police officer across the street. Was the cop staring at him? It made him nervous, and he began walking more quickly, while trying not to look suspicious. He didn’t hear anyone chasing after him but didn’t dare turn around to look. Reaching the door to his building, relief settled in.

“Excuse me, sir.”

He turned to see the officer right behind him, his hand on his gun.

“Yes?”

“Would you come with me?”

He couldn’t go. But why? He hadn’t done anything wrong. A voice screamed at him to go, to run as fast as he could. He obeyed, running away, shoving past people. The cop yelled after him, but he ignored it, kept running. Murder. They thought he had killed someone, and he needed to get away.

Running past a subway entrance, he saw a woman climbing up the stairs. Her black hair tied behind her head, her eyes… He stopped and grabbed her. “Please help me.”

She appeared startled at first, but the moment passed. “Are you certain?”

“Yes! You have to help me!”

“Very well. Follow me.” She turned and walked quickly back down the stairs. He followed, expecting to hear police behind him any moment.

The platform was empty as the occupants of the last train had already filed out. The next one wouldn’t arrive for several minutes, at least. Only a vagrant sat against the wall. “Where to? They’ll be here before the next train arrives.”

She turned to answer his question but gave a yelp. Before he could ask her what was wrong, the vagrant tackled him. Jumping up quickly he noticed a gun in the other man’s hand. From somewhere, he too pulled out a gun. There was no time to think, he had to…

“No!”

Her scream pierced him, and he turned to look at her. Her eyes were full of pain and pleading. Throwing the gun to the side distracted the vagrant enough for him to reach the man and knock him to the ground. A shot sounded, but it missed wide. The vagrant lay stunned on the floor.

“Quick! Follow me!” He heard the relief in her voice over the urgency. She led him down a tunnel to a door in the wall. He couldn’t imagine how she knew it was here. Once through, he found himself in a small room with few furnishings. A cot, a desk, a cooler… And another door.

“What is happening?” he asked, after sitting on the bed.

She grabbed his hand, a tenderness he didn’t think was possible. He got his first real look at her.

“Emily?”

She smiled and threw her arms around his neck, pressing her lips hard against his. How long had it been since she had last kissed him? Too long. After moments or minutes, she sat back and continued to smile.

“It’s a start. We have a long way to go, but you’re not injured this time. And you’re not wanted for murder. They will try other things. But it’s a start. I will get you back.”

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