It took several long seconds for the echoes of the gunfire to die away. A mist of dust wafted down from the basement’s ceiling, settling thickly on the floor.
Griff became dimly aware of a far-off voice speaking his name. He pried his eyes open and saw the cell phone lying beside him. For a moment, he wasn’t sure what to do about it: there was too much noise and fury still reverberating through his head.
Then the fog cleared, and he reached for the phone and spoke into it: “We’re still here. I’m still here. Francis is…” He looked around. He was alone in the cell.
“Can you sense the perps?” asked Hawthorne. “We took a shot, but can’t confirm a hit.”
“Um.” Griff rubbed his temple and tried to concentrate. He’d felt the two women running out of the garage this way. “I can’t sense anyone else around, besides us and you guys,” he reported.
“What does that mean, then?”
“Either they’re already out of my range…”
“You can sense up to two kilometres away, right? They’re not travelling that distance in under a minute, not unless they sprouted jet engines out of their butts.”
“…Then I guess you killed them.”
Hawthorne turned her head away from the phone. “We’ve got a negative from Radar Boy,” Griff heard her say. “Two tangos in one shot! Callahan, you’re something special.” The officer came back onto the call with Griff. “Hang tight in there. Evac’s inbound. Sixty seconds.” She hung up, and Griff did the same.
Griff stuck his head out into the hallway to find Francis and give her the update. She was kneeling in the hallway, tying a bandage around one of the guards’ legs. The other guard was slumped against the wall, holding his shoulder and breathing heavily with his eyes squeezed tightly shut. A thin trickle of blood was escaping between his fingers. Bullet holes were pockmarked across the walls of the concrete entryway from the countless ricochets, and the ladder was chipped all over.
Francis was muttering through her teeth as she performed her First Aid: “Fools. Stupid fools. Lucky you didn’t get yourselves killed, spraying bullets into an enclosed space like that…”
At the foot of the ladder, Griff saw some thin, twisted shards of metal—the remnants of the dud flashbang, maybe?
“Sniper got both of the ladies,” Griff said, by way of reintroducing his presence.
Francis looked up. “Good riddance. They’re sure?”
“Pretty sure. They’ll probably send someone to confirm, but I can’t sense either of the women anymore.”
“They’ve disappeared once before,” Francis pointed out, “about five minutes before they started tearing us apart.”
Oh. Right. How could Griff have forgotten that detail? “Well the ERT is coming in to evacuate us. If the sniper did miss, let’s just hope we’re gone before they decide to reappear.”
Francis finished tying off the bandage and moved to attend to the other wounded man. “Fools,” she muttered. “Stupid fools.”
The physical world reasserted itself, plucking Naomi and Sky out of the timeless purple void and pressing their faces into the dewy moss. It took Naomi a moment to remember how she’d gotten into this position, face-down beneath a bush with Sky’s arm wrapped firmly around her waist.
Then it came back, the running and the panic and the gunfire, and she gasped and tried to roll away, but Sky clamped a hand down over Naomi’s mouth and held a finger to her own lips. Naomi fell silent.
There was a voice in the woods. “…Completely vanished. No blood, no footprints, nothing.”
A response came crackling back over what sounded like a walkie-talkie. “They may have laid low, dodged you, and doubled back. Check around the house again.”
Now Naomi could hear footsteps crackling over the twigs and leaves. Two sets of feet, sounded like. The kidnappers must have left a couple of people behind to look for them.
“If you still come up empty there,” said the woman on the other end of the walkie-talkie, “head back into town for a debrief.”
“Roger that, Serg—”
Sky sprang to her feet and snapped her fingers twice. Naomi heard two shouts, followed by two thuds.
Naomi drew herself up onto her hands and knees, trembling. More killing? She’d lost count of Sky’s tally so far this morning. Did Sky herself know how many lives she’d taken? Did she even care?
Before Naomi could stand, Sky grabbed her shoulder. “Don’t look this way. Don’t look. Get back to the garage. I’ll be there in a minute.”
“But what if they’ve left more people behind there?”
“They won’t have,” said Sky. “Trust me. Just go.”
“Okay…” said Naomi. She began to stand, but Sky twisted her by the shoulder and turned her around, pointing her downhill towards the wreckage of the house.
“I said don’t look,” repeated Sky.
“—Do you want to see another corpse?”
“…No,” said Naomi, but as she fixed her gaze forward and made her way down the hill, she wondered what that strange note of urgency in Sky’s voice had meant. She’d had no issue with Naomi seeing the results of her previous handiwork. What was different this time? Maybe the results had just been more gruesome, and Sky wanted to protect Naomi from the sight.
Maybe there was something else going on.