I threw the bolts on the heavy steel door and, gasping to regain my breath, peered out the squat, reinforced window set high in the steel. I didn’t see them yet, but I knew they would follow and I had precious little time to get my shit together. I turned to survey the room in which we had sought refuge, and assess the damage the squad had taken. There were only two others left. “Where’s Spencer?”
Johns looked at me and shook his head.
“Fuck! Fuck…okay. Are any of you guys hurt?” It was a simple question, but pregnant with meaning.
“You mean besides Spence getting his guts ripped out and used as garnish for his liver?” Molly growled from the far side of the room. She was a small women with short blond hair and a short gun. Leaning for support against a huge desk, she hugged the Mossburg to her chest and shuddered. I knew that she and Spence had been close; their camaraderie was often laced with innuendo. I turned away from her grief to survey the rest of the room.
It was a large space, but fully occupied with plain utilitarian desks and equipment of a sturdy functional type. Most of the furnishings and fixtures were gleaming stainless steel, and the room was stark and sterile under a wash of unforgiving fluorescent overhead lights. It looked like a lab of some sort, but I didn’t recognize any of the equipment. Across the room on the other side, Johns leaned casually against a bay of large stainless steel sinks that butted up perpendicularly to the only other entry point in the room- a triple reinforced glass door, steel framed with large bay windows on either side. Beyond the glass was a featureless hallway that terminated in another steel door. There was a huge flat screen monitor mounted high on the wall above Johns’ head.
Back at the opposite side of the room, Molly was shuffling through papers on the desk, haphazardly discarding handfuls of them when she was through. I crossed from the rear entry door to where Johns was now busily inventorying his ammo. He held a black .44 Magnum in one hand and was cursing under his breath. “Only five fucking cartridges left!” His 9mm was still tucked in his belt. He threw an almost empty box of Parabellums onto the counter beside the sink, and the few remaining shells rolled around inside. “What kind of damage can I do with this?” he asked as he surveyed his lack of ammo.
I eyed the way he was punctuating his question by waving the Magnum around and said, “Could probably take that TV right off the wall…” No sooner had the words escaped my lips, than he raised the Magnum and a thunderous roar echoed off the walls. The TV exploded in half and a hail of sparks rained over Johns’ head.
“Johns! What the fuck are you doing?! We need that ammo and you’re wasting it! Besides, you’ll draw them with the noise!” I hissed.
Johns’ eyes seemed to glimmer at the prospect, and he bared his teeth in a humorless grin, once again raising the Magnum in a gesture that was almost Freudian.
I struggled to unwind the cold knot of desperation in my stomach. “Jesus…both of you just start looking for anything that could help.”
Molly spoke up from across the room. “What the fuck do you think I’ve been doing over here, playing Yahtzee?”
I opened my mouth to retort, but Molly suddenly held up her hand. “Shh. Did you hear that?” She crossed to an adjacent desk and began digging furiously in the papers piled high on one side. Buried under the mess of papers was a fax machine, and the noise she had heard was the machine. It was receiving a fax. She snatched the fax up and, reading it, her brow furrowed. “What the fuck?”
“What is it?” I asked her, utterly perplexed. Johns had already lost interest in us and was scrutinizing his weapons. I crossed to her side of the room.
“It’s like…a riddle.” Abruptly, she turned on her heel and strode around the other desk. Strangely, as if it had appeared out of nowhere, I noticed the wooden slatted door there at the corner of the room. Molly grabbed the knob and shoved it open. The door opened into tiny office completely unlike the cold florescent environment of the rest of the lab, except that the desk in there was also hopelessly cluttered. The office was warmly lit by a low wattage bulb in a small desk lamp, and a worn leather chair on rollers sat cast off to one side. Behind the desk, hanging on the wall was an old oil painting about two and a half feet wide.
Molly leaned over the desk and casually flipped the corner of the painting with one hand. I stifled a small gasp thinking it would clatter noisily to the desk, but instead, it fell off the hook on the right side and swung askew, revealing a hidden cubby behind. This time I did gasp. The cubbyhole was set in the wall about a foot deep and mounted in the back was a cache of weapons, the largest of which was a riot gun.
“Jackpot!” Molly reached for the large shotgun. “Who sent the fax?” I scanned the room. Someone knew we were here.
“Who cares?” Molly exclaimed.
“Uh, guys….” I heard Johns calling to us from back across the lab. “We got trouble.”
My stomach plummeted. “Shit!” I grabbed a handgun, a 9mm, off the wall and, running out of the office, prayed that the magazine was full.