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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 42: Brown 116
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As they moved through the corridors of the mall, their formation became less formal. Thus when Calloway stopped Derek noticed it, and also stopped. It was obvious that the Lieutenant heard something he did not hear, and it took a moment for Derek to realize that he was listening to the radio.
“They know we’re here,” Calloway said after a moment. “Correction. They know someone is here. They’re doing a head count now, and they’ve got a report that one person was seen alone.”
“That would be me,” Derek said, but a raised finger from Jim silenced him.
“They’ve dispatched a team--assigned three men to hunt us.
Derek waited until Jim no longer had the look of intense listening about him, then shrugged. “I think they’ve seriously underestimated me,” he said. “Any suggestion in that chatter concerning where they’re going to start looking?”
Jim shook his head. Derek bit his lip, and thought. It was information, but it wasn’t really sufficient information.
“All right,” he said, “they know someone’s here, and they’re looking for us. We expected as much, and should be surprised it took them as long as it did. They’ll find out that the two at the back door are dead, plus the three in the break room, the two downstairs and the two who were moving the hostages; and that the one on the upstairs door was disabled, but they won’t know what to make of his story, and anyway he’ll only report one. Unless they recapture the hostages--reasonably likely but not certain--they won’t know how many of us there are.”
He started walking again, a bit more briskly. “We should assume for the present that they don’t know, that either they haven’t caught the hostages or the hostages haven’t given them full information. After all, if they knew there were three of us, they would have sent at least five to catch us. There’s too great a risk if they send three that we’d get the jump and kill them before they could report anything, so they’d want their hunting party to outnumber the prey. That means they don’t know more than that someone is in the building taking out their men, and it gives us time to take out a few more before they figure it out. In fact--“
He stopped almost abruptly.
“Can they figure out that we’ve been working our way up?”
“We killed three on the twenty-third floor. Then we killed two on the twenty-fourth floor. Then we killed two on the twenty-fifth floor. If they can figure out the order in which we killed them, they’ll know we’re going up, and they’ll be waiting for us. Otherwise, they’ll have to guess. Still, the logical guesses are the twenty-sixth floor and the twenty-second floor, and since they know we killed the guards on the back door, up is the likely direction.” By this time he was almost talking to himself, and he trailed off. Then he came back to his thoughts.
“We need to move away from this level. Down is better, and skip some. Let’s find a stairway that doesn’t have a smiley sticker, and head down to the twentieth floor.” He didn’t wait for agreement, but turned in the direction he thought would bring them to the nearest stairwell.”
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #226: Versers Adapt. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: