I woke up to someone nudging me in the ribs. “Hey,” a voice said. A real voice, male, undeniably present and unfathomably painful. My head buzzed. My body ached. “Hey, come on! Get up! You can’t be here!”
I groaned and rolled over. The pain in my chest wasn’t as sharp as it could have been, so I assumed that my ribs were merely bruised and not broken. My head swam, though. Buzzed.
I felt groggy. Weak. Impossibly weak. I looked up to the person addressing me, an elderly man with a sour look on his face and a dark uniform that said, “Private Security” on it. I reached out my hand, hoping that he would help me up, but instead he just snorted in disgust.
“Come on, you junkie. Get out of here. There’s decent folks coming by, and we don’t need you scaring them.”
I pushed myself up from the ground, the stone rough beneath my hands. I was just about to mutter, “I’m not a junkie,” when I saw my arms. Y-shaped cuts ran up and down their entire length. It seemed like every uncovered inch of me was marked by the cuts. I imagined my face was, too, and I considered it a testament to either this man’s deep stoicism or his complete lack of compassion for “junkies” that he didn’t recoil at the sight of me.
“I must look like Manny,” I thought. “This is what had happened to Manny.” I dragged my legs underneath, pushed myself to my knees, and tried to stand up. I stumbled, nearly fell over, braced myself on the wall behind me. I looked around and saw that the figure had left me where I’d fallen.
But why not just kill me?
“You need to–” the guard began. I put my hand on his chest, as much to steady myself as to silence him.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m leaving.”
I staggered around the observatory, across the lawn, back to my car. I was gasping for breath by the time I collapsed into the seat, my vision swimming, my body burning, my head buzzing incessantly.
The first thing I had to do was get out of the city. I’d leave the car in a deserted alley somewhere, torch the thing, take some cash and fake papers and get to a small local airport. From there, I’d leapfrog my way across the country, and then head someplace else entirely. Manny Rotundo and his family wouldn’t chase me past the West Coast, probably, and certainly not to another country.
Europe. Asia. I had contacts. I knew how to disappear.
But would that stop the thing in the trench coat? Would it chase me? If it did, was there anything I could do?
I shook my head. If it came for me, I would address the problem them. Or fail. Either way, there was nothing I could do about it at that moment.
I prepared my things and went to the airport. A couple of days, some short flights, and some drives in rented cars later, I found myself in a non-descript New York City hotel. The kind of place you might expect to find someone who was traveling on business and whose company had tight pockets. It was the kind of place most anyone could blend in. The kind of place where nobody was paying any attention to anything, because nobody wanted to be there. It was a good place to disappear until I left the country. I went to bed content that
I woke up that next morning covered in the bites. And the morning after. And the morning after. And the morning after.