A Relationship Beckons: Escape and Execution (#22)

To read this serialized blog of A Relationship Beckons from the beginning, click here: Crisis Averted #1. Then navigate to subsequent posts using the links in the upper corners.

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Jake

Jake darted from the intensive care unit. Behind him, he could hear the near-frantic voice of the charge nurse on the phone with security informing them of an unauthorized visitor. He sprinted toward the same bank of elevators on which he’d arrived. Checking the ceiling and upper walls, he spotted at least two cameras along the way.

He had no idea how many security personnel were on duty at this hour. But he imagined a cadre of uniformed enforcers would be headed toward the north tower shortly. He slipped past a set of double doors hallways delineating the exit to the unit just as the doors had begun to close. Jake realized this would be in response to the perceived threat of an intruder. The doors to clinical and administrative areas were being closed. At this very moment, the building was being locked down.

The second set of doors allowing access to all clinical areas on the floor also began to close. Jake turned his body sideways and again sidled through the shrinking gap. At the elevators, he pressed the down button. Then thinking better than being trapped in a metal box, he opted for the nearby stairwell. Crashing through the door, he raced downward, touching every other step. Adrenaline had taken over, pulsing through him like electric current. Despite being in superb physical condition, he was short of breath. Panic threatened to burst forth. It was everything he could do to tamp it down.

He spiraled down the flights of steps reaching the second floor. Coming up through the center gap creating by the stairs, Jake heard excited voices and heavy footfalls ascending from below. Hazarding a glance, he saw the blue-sheathed arms of three uniformed security personnel intermittently clutching the rail and climbing quickly.

He hesitated briefly on the landing to the second floor option racing through his mind. Flinging open the door, Jake slipped into a carpeted corridor. The hallway was lined with offices and a conference room. As the door slowly closed under the power of the hydraulic arm, the overhead paging system chimed twice. This was followed by a unemotional female voice alerting everyone in the building, “Attention. Code Black. North Tower. Attention Code Black. North Tower. Secure all patient rooms.”

Jake expelled a nervous breath certain that overhead warning on the public address system was aimed at him. He walked as calmly as his nerves would allow to the elevator bank a few feet away. Pressing the up button, he watched the digital readout countdown the numbers as a carriage descended to floor number two with agonizing slowness. When the doors swung open, he stepped in. A young woman was in the car. Jake walked in and turned around.

“How do I get to the breezeway connecting the towers?” He asked.

She smiled and said, “There’s one on the fifth floor and the tenth floor.”

“Great,” Jake answered. “Could you press ten for me?”

The young woman did. The doors closed. They rode in silence. All the while, perspiration coated his skin. The elevator stopped on the seventh floor where the young lady exited. A couple were waiting to enter. “Is this going down?” the man asked.

Jake said it wasn’t. The doors closed and he rode the three remaining floors to the tenth. He exited and followed the signs to the breezeway connecting the two towers. Jake pushed through the door and strode quickly along the glass-enclosed hallway. The view of the surrounding area was magnificent even at night. But the serene, inky tableau was lost on Jake.

He crossed quickly and departed the breezeway, entering the south tower. Quickly, Jake double-timed his way to a stairwell and–once again–began a rapid, circling descent.

Security Office

The bored security officer who’d been at his desk for the last six hours bolted to alertness with the alert that there was an intruder in the intensive care unit. A Code Black was one level below an active shooter scenario. The suspect did not appear to have a weapon but had impersonated a physician and accessed confidential patient information. The individual was now under pursuit somewhere on the hospital property. Unfortunately there were only eight guards on duty at the moment.

A blurry image of the suspect had been hastily captured from the CCTV. The young man was rapidly scanning the various cameras and video shots available on the one hundred plus cameras on the property. The face was blurred, obscured. So the security man was used the man’s clothing to identify the fugitive.

“There!” The guard exclaimed. “There you are you SOB.”

He grabbed his shoulder mike and rattled off the location.

“Suspect was spotted exiting the tenth floor elevators in the North Tower. He accessed the breezeway to the South Tower. Teams three and four pursue. Three check the stairwells. Team Four camp out at the elevators on the ground floor. Team One move from the the North Tower to the tenth floor and squeeze him from above. Go!”

Jake

Jake had descend three floors using the stairs when he heard the voices and footfalls of more security personnel from below. He peered down the center opening of the stairwells. Two arms swathed in official blue clothed yanked at the railings. The bodies attached to those appendages were climbing rapidly.

Jake swore. The guards were five floors below. Quietly, he slid to the door and pulled on the vertical handle, cracking it a few inches. Sidling through the opening, Jake stayed on the inside and used his hand to gently slow the closing. The door silently connected with the metal frame.

Rather than moving along the corridor, Jake peeked with one eye through the vertical rectangle of glass. A minute passed before he heard the muted footfalls of boots and out-of-breath voices coming up the steps. The sounds grew louder. When he spied the first of his pursuers, Jake backed away from the small window and held his breath. His heart thumped inside his ribcage with the force of heavy iron clapper striking a church bell. Jake tried vainly to slow his breathing. He closed his eyes and listened. If the guards opened this door, they would practically stumble over him and he would be apprehended.

He held his breath. The footfalls slowly receded. Jake hazarded another glimpse through the glass. The second of the guards rounded the landing halfway to the next floor, then quickly disappeared. Jake counted to fifteen. Then he pushed open the door just enough to allow his angled torso to slip into the stairwell. With the care and patience of a bomb technician, Jake coaxed the door back into its frame.

He moved to the descending staircase and without looking up began moving down the steps. Panicked and afraid of capture, Jake did not want to go back to his car. Had the hospital officials had time to watch video? Had they been able to back track his arrival to his car parked in the visitor lot? He doubted it but couldn’t be sure. If they captured him tonight and charges were pressed, he would lose his job, especially in light of the fact that he’d been visiting the patient who was there because of an error of which he’d been accused.

He’d gone down three floors to the second floor landing. He did not want to risk being seen in the parking lot. He had no idea how people were pursuing him. He needed to call some. He needed a ride. Pressing his back into the wall, he took several deep breaths. Who could he call?

He rammed his hands into his pockets. His felt the wadded scrap of paper and removed it. He recognized it instantly. Caroline! Better than calling his sister or mother, the questions they’d have would be endless. Jake unfurled the note and punched the number into his phone. “Here goes nothing,” he murmured as he placed his thumb over the red send circle.

Caroline

Caroline nearly jumped out of her skin when the phone rang. The book she was reading nearly hopped out her lap. Her mother didn’t usually call this late. Her startled reaction turned to elation when she read the caller ID. She’d entered his name as “Jake The Pharmacist” in her contact list.

She expelled a long, calming breath which had little effect and depressed the talk button on the screen of her phone. As nonchalantly as possible, she said, “Hello?”

“Caroline?”

“This is she.”

“It’s Jake, your pharmacist. I hope this isn’t too late to call. I didn’t wake you, did I?”

“No, I was just reading.”

A short silenced swelled on the line. “I read your note. I was flattered. I’d love to get together again.”

“That’s great,” she replied, relief blossoming in her chest.

“I was also calling because I’m kind of in a jam. I need your help.”

“Oh?” Caroline’s heart soared. He needed her help!

“I’m at Tidewater Regional Medical Center–‘

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. I was visiting a friend up here. I’m having some car trouble. Everyone I’ve called is either not answering or unavailable. Would it be too much to ask?”

Caroline paused. Her first thought was for her sleeping son upstairs. “Well, Peter’s upstairs asleep.”

“Oh, right. Completely forgot about that,” Jake’s voice deflated. “Sorry.”

Without hesitating, she replied, “My next door neighbor might be able to come over to sit with him. Can I call you back in a couple of minutes?”

“That would be awesome.”

Okay,” she said. “We’ll talk in a few.” Four minutes later, she called back. “I’ll be there in twenty. I drive a white Cadillac Escalade.”

Jake

Jake had been waiting in the shadows in a darkened waiting are just off the main entrance to the tower. Evidently, the lights had been dimmed because of the lateness of the hour. There was a security desk nearby, but it was vacant. Perhaps that employee had been summoned to pursue the intruder. He had managed to evade the security personnel so far. They, he was sure, were combing every video feed they had and tracking and tracing his every movement. He was quite certain now that it would only be a matter of time before they tracked him to his current location. Jake checked his watch for the tenth time. Twenty minutes had come and gone. Twenty-six minutes…and counting.

Eventually, again using the video footage, they would determine who he was using his scanned driver’s license presented when he entered the facility. You idiot!

A white Cadillac Escalade slide to a stop under the port cochere of the north Tower. The outline of Caroline’s profile could be seen through the glass and under the overhead lights on the canopy. Her round face and silky hair moved in a searching fashion no doubt looking for Jake.

A security guard appeared from the stairwell. He turned away from Jake and appeared to be searching a nearby hallway. The guard probably anticipated that he’d beat Jake to the ground floor and was hoping to catch him hightailing it to the exit. Jake knew he had less than a minute before the man turned around and began searching the lobby area. Jake stood as calmly as possible and marched to the entry doors. The whole time he was consumed with the feeling that unseen eyes and camera lenses were drilling into his backside.

As he neared, the doors slid open. Jake slipped into the cool night air. Behind him he heard the squawk of a hand held radio or shoulder mike. It was not close. yet. The staticky sound disappeared as the doors to the facility slid closed with a hiss. Jake hazarded a glance behand him and saw the security person walking toward the lobby area, his eyes searching the interior space and not finding him.

At that moment, a white Cadillac Escalade braked silently at the curb. Jake smiled at Caroline who was surprised to see him right there. Jake waved and circled around the engine compartment because it kept him hidden from the security guard’s view. He opened the passenger door and climbed in.

“Hey, thanks so much,” he said quickly. “Drive. There’s someone back there I don’t want to see me.”

Caroline squinted with confusion then concern. But she depressed the accelerator and sped off anyway. Jake glanced over his shoulder to see the guard exiting the lobby and watching the Escalade move off. It appeared that He had not seen Jake climb aboard the vehicle.

When they were safely on J Clyde Morris Boulevard, Caroline asked, “So I am your getaway driver?”

Luca

Andre Balzac walked the perimeter of the human circle, stopping for a brief moment to look each person in the eye. He toted a large handgun in his right hand and the long-bladed knife dripping with Big Tommy Romano’s blood from his left. Most of the new team members of the L’Enfant crime family peered up at him with questioning, uncertain eyes. Most managed a hesitant nod acknowledging his new dominion over them.

Two members, however, of this dozen avoided his gaze. One was Enzo Guardia, Big Tommy’s consiglieri–or former consiglieri. Luca was the second. Luca’s mind raced with questions. Did this new capitaine know that Luca owed Big Tommy unpaid tribute? Did he know that Luca and Il Gigante had botched the assassination attempt on the Cuban crime syndicate? Balzac stopped in front of Luca. Luca looked up at the diminutive Frenchman for a brief instant then lowered his eyes, studying his own hands. Out of the periphery of his vision, Luca spied the Gaul wiping the bloody blade on his dark trousers.

Luca saw the lower half of the man spin away. “You,” he bellowed. Luca looked up to catch him pointing at Enzo. “In the middle,” he commanded pointing to the floor. Then he spun back to Luca who was stunned. The Frenchman’s eyes bore into him followed shortly by a slowly expanding grin that sent shivers down Luca’s spine. “You, too. Get in the middle.” He grabbed Luca by the jersey jerking him out of the metal chair. Luca was surprised by the small man’s enormous strength. With a fling, Balzac released Luca who nearly toppled from the momentum.

The criminel continued circling facing those still seated. He lectured as he made another circuit around the group. “You are now mine. Jacques L’Enfant in Paris has taken over Big Tommy’s operation. If anyone wants out, now is the time.”

No one moved. Most looked away or averted their eyes. After what seemed an eon but was more likely twenty seconds, Balzac spun and leveled his weapon. He pointed it alternately at the faces of both men who jerked in horror. They starred down the barrel of the massive hand cannon. Balkac ratcheted the gun back and forth between the men. He settled on one, smiled and squeezed the trigger.

The boom shook the walls.

To Be Continued

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