“What the hell is this?”
Jake peered over my shoulder.
“Oh, those.” His nose wrinkled in revolt. “You haven’t heard the news reports?”
“I saw them,” I said. “I know what they’re capable of—probably more so than you. Why are they here? They need to be destroyed!”
“What makes you an expert on Premature Senescence Anaemia?” he asked warily.
“Because the people who made me what I am made them…” I paused. “Wait, what did you call it?”
“P.S.A. It’s what they’ve named the condition. Do you know anything about biology?”
I shook my head. Biology wasn’t considered necessary for my education.
“It’s a blood disorder,” he said with a small shrug.
“We need to get out of here, now.”
“We?” Jake’s fear became more pronounced.
“You’re not safe here. You have proof that they’ve gone out of their way to cover up two murders, maybe more.” I said. “Your own father would have let them shoot you. Why would you want to stay here?”
“What about school? And my career?”
“It’s up to you. But hurry up and make your choice because I’m going now.” I turned and stalked toward the door “These men are not alone, there are more coming. Do you want to stay here and take the chance that they might leave you alone? Or do you want to come with me?”
He looked lost, like he was about to cry; I really couldn’t blame him. In a single hour, his whole life had been turned upside down.
“These are all connected,” I said, my voice gentler, “the men chasing me, the beheadings and the disease. It’s not safe for you here anymore and I’m sorry that you’ve become involved, but you need to decide now.”
I couldn't help but pity him. I knew the expression on his face right now. His whole world was falling apart.
“I never meant to drag you into this,” I said. “I didn’t think they would find me.”
Blankly, he nodded his head.
“Does that mean you’re coming with me?” I asked.
The doors swung open again and this time ‘the chief’ stepped through them, gun extended. Before I’d had the chance to draw my own, he fired twice. I heard them fly into the wall behind us. Jake yelled in pain.
I drew my gun and fired, sending a single bullet into the man’s forearm. He, too, fell to the ground, grasping his hand.
“Come on.” Grabbing for Jake’s arm, I paused as I saw the blood dripping from his shoulder, soaking the blue fabric of his scrubs in the front and back; the bullet passed right through.
He hugged his injured arm to his body with his good hand, wincing in pain. I helped him to his feet and when we passed his father, I kicked the older man, sending him spinning across the ground.
On the first floor we passed a few consulting rooms. I grabbed a handful of gauze from a supplies cabinet and pressed it to either side of the wound. I didn’t have time to clean it. I wrapped an elasticized bandage around his shoulder, holding the gauze in place. It would have to do for now.
He stood, pulling several small packages and vials from a trolley and shoving them into his big pockets. He grabbed some fabric wrapped in plastic too. His injured arm hung limply at his side.
The whole time I kept my eyes open for the scientists. They were around here somewhere and I wasn’t going to be taken by surprise again.
We hurried toward the exit. I discreetly lifted a coat lying over the arm of a plastic chair so he’d have something to wear over his scrubs. We couldn't walk around with the blood staining his clothes.
He stumbled slightly at the threshold, looking back over his shoulder. He seemed to know it’d probably be the last time he’d lay eyes on the building.
I helped him into the coat and we hastened past the patients just outside the hospital grounds, some in wheelchairs, some trailing poles with IV bags still attached. All of them puffed away on cigarettes.
We reached the intersection that had first directed me to the hospital without trouble. He stood, his toes on the very edge of the pavement, waiting for the traffic to stop. I half expected him to launch himself in front of the next passing car. He didn’t. As the road cleared, we picked our way across, his eyes downcast.
I flagged down the first cab I saw and went directly to fast food joint, where Mouse was sitting inside with a milkshake. I stood up and waved at her. She got to her feet, came straight out and climbed in beside me. She didn’t say anything when she saw Jake, although she did give me a pointed look.
We didn’t bother getting out to catch a bus back to the station; we stayed in the taxi the whole way instead. The driver dropped us off at the taxi stand, around the corner from the interstate terminal, and we strolled back to the parking lot.
There was only one other person in sight, but we waited until he’d gotten into his car before we moved to ours. Mouse and I climbed in the front. Jake folded himself into the back.
“Are you even old enough to drive?” he asked as I took the wheel.
“Of course I am.” I glanced in the rearview mirror at him. “Oh, by the way, Mouse, this is Jake. Jake, this is Mouse.”