No Asylum – Chapter 1
August 26, 2010
“There you are!”
Pressing close against the soot-streaked brick wall to his right, Chris slipped closer to the end of the alley. Carlyle’s car was parked facing the ocean; the Bishada was all sleek scarlet curves amidst the industrial greys and hard angles of the wharves. Dirty, distorted guitar strains leaked from the stereo, quivering the air around the vehicle.
“What are you two doing in there? Bet I can guess…” He licked his lips unconsciously, shoving stray strands of titian hair back off his face as he ducked behind a stack of cardboard boxes left to rot in the rain and the sea air, finally close enough for the mic to start picking up. Without taking his eyes from the car, Chris started to wrangle his camera from the bag at his hip, the telephoto lens frankly gratuitous at this range but too cumbersome to remove without his full attention.
Whatever the couple in the car had been discussing, it seemed to have lost their interest. That happened a lot with these two, Walsaw noted, the detail on the heavy lens strong enough to pick up the sheen of moisture on Phorbes’ lips as she tipped her head back to sigh, closing her eyes, or the individual strands of light gold that wove through Carlyle’s fingers as he stroked her hair, mouth caressing the upraised line of her throat. The torn blue paper of an airmail envelope lay limply in the man’s hand. “Probably the only limp thing in that car right now,” Chris mused, as he reflexively pressed the shutter key.
In the car, the man froze, lifting his head and looking about. Phorbes seemed oblivious, murmuring some pleasantry that was drowned out by the sudden alarm klaxons in Chris’ head. He remembered what he’d said to his partner only this morning. “Be careful. Get anywhere near Phorbes while he’s there and he’ll kill you. No hesitation, no doubt.”
“Stay in the car!” The driver’s side door flew open and the Englishman was out, his N-TEC assault rifle all but leaping into his hands from under the seat, eager to see action again. Phorbes’ reaction was almost as slow as Walsaw’s, her eyes flipping open, body stiffening in fear. “Ian? What’s wrong?” The ex-cop had no time to watch her further as he abruptly realised he wasn’t zooming in; Carlyle was bearing down on him fast with his weapon ready.
The camera slammed hard into his chest as he let it drop and swing on its straps. Grunting in pain, Chris leapt to his feet, but they disagreed with his dignity and sprinted back down the alley. Bracing himself against the cover provided by the building wall at the corner of the alley, Walsaw cursed himself, dragged his pistol from its holster and swung back into Carlyle’s path.
An inch closer and he’d have been inhaling N-TEC. The two men faced each other across the barrels of their guns, eyes locked.
“You’re…. You’re under arrest!” The hesitation felt less than manly and Chris was mortified to find himself blushing. In all his time watching these two, he’d become too caught up in what they didn’t do – the casual murders, the reckless carnage, mayhem and destruction that was so rife in this city was missing from their lives and it had made it too easy to forget quite how ruthless they could be when the situation demanded it.
Images flashed through his head of the three bullet-riddled bodies the coroner’s team had dragged from the apartment over a Korean laundrette. They’d weighed in at three pounds over their natural weight from all the lead. The rest of them was splashed over the living room walls like a fresh coat of paint.
“They’re never more dangerous than when they’re protecting each other.” Chris grimaced at himself. “I should listen to my own bloody briefings.”
“I don’t know who the fuck you are, mate, but… Under arrest?” Carlyle’s eyebrows rose, whether in surprise at Chris’ identity or scepticsm at his ability to arrest anyone with a rifle up his nose, Walsaw didn’t know.
Past the liverpudlian’s broad shoulders, he could see one wide, blue eye peeking around the corner into the alley, half-hidden by a wind-swept mass of blonde hair. His stomach clenched in a flutter of hope before a slight shift in Carlyle’s weight brought his attention back to this mexican stand-off.
Somewhere in a dark corner of Chris’ mind, he wished he’d brought a bigger gun. The pistol was making him feel like the only entrant in a dick-waving contest that hadn’t been mistaken for a tripod.
“You shot at an officer of the law! That is a criminal offense!” Not his snappiest dialogue but that N-TEC made it hard to think.
“You were eavesdropping. What if you had a gun?” The Englishman’s stance hadn’t changed, but the adrenaline-shot climate was calming. Walsaw started to feel more in control.
“I have a badge, and a gun… and cuffs… Now put that gun down and surrender.” A tiny scrunch on the broken tarmac made him flick his eyes to the end of the alley as Phorbes stepped out into the open, the butt of a sniper rifle resting against her shoulder, the muzzle looking past Carlyle’s left ear, straight into Chris’ right eye.
…never more dangerous…
Carlyle’s head tipped quizically to one side, lips starting to quirk in a smile. Control was slipping away again.
“I said surrender!” He barked the command, more for the benefit of Phorbes than her mate, who seemed to be getting more cocky by the heartbeat.
“Why’re you following us, mate?” The N-TEC didn’t shift a milimetre. Chris steadied his hand on the pistol, which had started to waver left to answer the threat from the sniper rifle. Instinct told him that pointing a gun at Phorbes right now would cost him a lot more than an arrest.
She looked terrified. Portrait of a heavily-armed damsel in distress.
“You are harboring a fugitive…” His eyes flicked back to look at Phorbes and she wasn’t there. His head whipped wildly left and right. Nothing. “Shit!”
“I think you’ve got the wrong couple.” Chris whirled back to Carlyle, every fibre in his body wanting to punch that smug grin right off the man’s face.
“I have the right one… trust me. One last warning! Put it down!” He could hear the panic in his own voice. Where the hell had she gone? This was a fucking dangerous area, even for San Paro. Assailants could lurk anywhere in the empty warehouses and abandoned buildings.
The car. She must have gone back to the car, belatedly obeying her lover’s instruction.
“Okay, okay.” Carlyle gently set the N-TEC down, raising his hands obligingly, but the infuriating grin just got wider. Did he know where Phorbes was? “Nice ponytail.”
“Good, glad you know when to give up…” He craned his neck to one side. There was no sign of her in or near the car. “Shit! She ran!”
“Going for the porn producer look?”
Chris bolted forward, shouldering his way past Carlyle, running to the Bishada. Nothing to the left. Nothing to the right. She was gone. A howl of frustration tore out of him.
He spun back to the Englishman… only to find himself staring at empty space. On the road beyond the alley, a yellow Kurai burned into the distance, the sounds of laughter drifting back to him on the wind.