In the hall, Angel caught the barest glimpse of the nurses’ station to her left. The nurse was on the phone, her back toward Angel, her attention focused down the opposite hallway. Angel saw the edge of a cart disappear behind another door halfway down the hall marking the other nurse busy on her rounds. Voices drifted into the hall from rooms where visitors were saying goodbye to patients. The hallway itself was empty.
The man guided her away from the elevator and both nurses. At the end of the hall, she saw a red exit sign and another that said “Stairs.” She walked with him. Without her hospital gown, no one would notice a couple walking out of the hospital. They would easily blend in with the others leaving at the end of visiting hours.
She slipped one hand in the jacket pocket and felt the slender smoothness that was the pen. Her feet kept moving. She pried off the top and gripped it tightly. As soon as one of his hands left her to push the stairwell door, she shoved the pen into his neck as hard as she could.
His hands went to his neck, releasing her. She rushed through the door, turned and kicked out, but missed as he sidestepped. He grabbed her foot and twisted. She fell hard, her breath left in a rush. Her head cracked on the floor. She heard the door close behind them.
For a second she caved into her body’s wish to lie there. When she felt him tugging at her leg, she blinked away the shadows and gasped for air, forcing it into her lungs one breath at a time despite the stabbing pain ribs until she could focus on him. She twisted and jammed her foot against the bottom stair of the ones going up just as he began to pull her down to the next level.
He staggered and lost some balance. To catch himself he had to let go with one hand.
She yanked her foot from his grasp and unleashed it in the direction of his groin. He teetered. She kicked his knee and heard a sickening crack.
She kicked again at his other knee. He fell backward in slow motion. She flipped and crawled to the stairs leading up and away.
Her ribs screamed and threatened to steal her breath again. She gritted her teeth against the pain and stood, taking the steps two at a time.
She heard his ragged breathing behind her.
She heard him calling her a bitch and more.
She heard his footsteps speed up.
She heard the wicked snick of metal sliding on metal as he chambered a round. She slammed through the door at the next landing and her heart fell.
Tarp hung in doorways and newspaper littered the floor of bare concrete except for random patches of tile. Apparently, they were refurbishing this floor. But not today.
She was alone.
The duffel bag caught the handle of a mop next to the door. It fell with a clatter. She picked it up and jammed it into the door handles. Not perfect. Not a true barrier. But it would slow him down.
The sneakers squeaked when she walked. They echoed through the empty halls. She ran on, knowing that for a little while, she could run faster than the man who chased her. She ran on, knowing that it was harder to hit a moving target.
One hand held tightly to her ribs. The other pulled the bag close against her body to keep it from catching on anything else and headed for the other end of the hall where the elevator should be.
Angel heard the man slam against the door behind her and ran faster. Ahead, where there should have been a desk or something marking a nurses’ station was empty floor. To the right was the elevator. She pushed the button.
She pushed the button again.
The little light did not illuminate.
She heard the man slam into the door again.
A loud crack echoed through the hall. The mop handle erupted into slivers of deadly projectiles. She was far away from them.
Angel left the elevator, turned right and ran down another hall out of the man’s line of sight. There had to be a stairwell at the end of this one too. She begged God with each step. Please.
The sign was off, but as she got closer, she saw without a doubt that it was an exit sign. Another sign on the door said, “Stairs.”
Just before she reached it, she heard the man behind her. “He wants you back,” the man called.
She slowed so that her footsteps would not be so loud, so that they would not echo and cover the man’s words. She turned into a room on her right, pressed herself up against the wall and pressed her lips tightly together to stifle the sound of her breathing.
“He forgives you, you know,” the man said.
She knew when he reached the intersection. His vehement, “fuck me” told her he didn’t know where she was. Good.
Angel leaned the back of her head against the wall. “Say my name.” She mouthed.
He either made a good guess or was more efficient than she credited him. She heard the sound of his ragged breathing turning down her hallway. He footsteps sent jagged beats down the emptiness as he limped.
“No one knows why he forgives you. Every fuckin’ time.” He kept talking although his footsteps paused at each doorway down the hall. She knew he was peering into every one.
She closed her eyes tightly, praying, then opened them and looked for a better hiding place.
There was nothing. The room she’d chosen was empty.
Fight. Flight. Freeze.
Freezing would get her killed.
She’d tried flight.
“You’re so much trouble.” She heard him coming, his voice closer.
She waited. Her fingers fiddled with the tiny pocketknife, opening it.
“I would have just slit your throat a long time ago.” His footsteps stopped.
“Say my name,” she mouthed again.
“I can say that I found you in the morgue.”
Something about his voice told her his back was to her. She peered around the door frame.
He was so close. She could reach out and touch his black hair. She switched the knife from her right to her left hand.
One silent step forward…
Before she could change her mind, she stabbed him in the neck twice.
He turned to face her, the gun pointed at her chest and smiled.
Blood from the hole left by the pen already coated the white shirt. Unfortunately, the pen had missed anything fatal. The slits where the knife had gone actively pumped more blood out, spraying on the floor. His face lost color. The hand holding the gun went limp. The gun clattered on the concrete and tile.
His smile faded but he reached for her anyway, the directive he’d been given blinding him to everything else. Even his own death.
Angel took a step back and watched him fall.
She dropped beside him and whispered in his ear, “What is my name?”
Blood pooled beneath his head. She watched it cover the broken tiles of the floor, filling the cracks.