Scraping By: Part 7 (Serial Flash Fiction)

Will knelt next to Angie’s body, wondering why she had collapsed. She lay on her side with her eyes open wide and her breathing sounded raspy and wet. Will began to roll her onto her back, but stopped when he saw the red circle on her chest.

dialled-999Blood. The popping sound. Why was his brain working so slowly? She’d been shot and here he was frozen on his knees like an idiot.

Angie moaned and closed her eyes. Will took a deep breath to calm himself. She was alive. The hole in her chest was on her right, so the bullet had missed her heart. Probably punctured her lung. A bullet. The shooter was still out there. Out there with Stephen and Tish. Or coming to finish the job the blond cop had started.

His phone! He pulled it out, flipped it open, and hesitated. The shooter must have seen them on the stairs and knew they walked to the boat together. If he heard Will talking with emergency services, he would know Will was still on the boat. Better to remain silent and keep him guessing. Will sent a text to Stephen and Tish. Man with gun inside. Call 999. Angie shot in lung in house boat.

He had to move. If the crazy bloke was still out there, he would come finish Angie off. Angie had mentioned her people. Maybe Will could lead the shooter away; distract him until help arrived. If she worked with Double Oh Seven, her people should be fast, right?

The houseboat replica was only a front half; there was no back to sneak out of which left Will a sitting duck. He thought about hiding Angie, but dragging her past the fold down kitchen table and stuffing her into the house boat’s sleeping area seemed like it would do more harm than good. He pulled a tablecloth off the table and covered her torso to keep her warm.

Will crawled to the boat’s entrance and tried to listen for movement, but all he could hear was the pounding of his own heart. He pulled the knife Angie had given him out of his belt and held it at the ready, but it didn’t make him feel better. He crawled back to Angie and slipped the pistol out of her belt. She was in no shape to pull a trigger.

Back at the entrance, Will stuck his head out of the boat slowly and scanned the immediate area. Clear. The museum appeared to be empty, though he could hear the voices of children just beyond the front door. The school group would be coming in soon if Stephen didn’t check his phone.

images (1)Will closed his eyes and pictured the layout of the museum exhibits. To his right was cartography; if the shooter was hiding there, he’d have shot them as they came down the stairs. To the left were old fashioned boat engines. Not large enough to conceal a man completely; Will should have seen him hiding there as they came down the stairs. Of course, Will hadn’t been looking for him, so maybe he hadn’t noticed the obvious. The exit lay twenty yards behind him. Will turned right toward cartography.

He stayed close to the side of the boat, turning his head to see ahead and behind him. He moved slowly, even leaning over to check for feet showing under banners and tables along the wall’s exhibits. With the pistol in one hand and the knife in the other, he edged his way along the dividing wall that held a huge plaque explaining the challenges and joys of living on a house boat. When he got to the end of it, he stopped.

On the other side of the wall were barrels of clothing for the children to dress up like boat men and women. Three yards straight ahead was a two yard tall triangular stack of wooden barrels representing trade goods bartered along the canals.

Will got down on his knees and reached into the first barrel of clothes. He pulled out a handful of cloth. A floppy brown hat caught his eye and he put it on. He stuffed the rest of the clothes partway into his jeans pocket; they stuck out like a gingham corsage.

Will waited and watched. Nothing moved, nothing made a sound.

Maybe he was wrong. Maybe the Pakistani tourist had only been a tourist and had left the building and Will was being paranoid for no reason. Then again, maybe the tourist had been a terrorist and was watching Will right now, waiting for a clear shot.

Will fished a pound coin out of his pocket and tossed it high into the air in the direction of cartography. When he heard the coin land with a loud clink, he ran for the barrels of trade goods in front of him. He crouched beside the display and looked around.

Silence. He was running from his own shadow.

Will stood. He should get back to Angie and call the authorities himself.

The wooden barrel near his head splintered with a loud crack. Will crouched instinctively and a moment later he took off running toward the exit. Something pulled his feet together and he fell hard onto his arms and chest. Angie’s pistol popped out of his hand when it hit the ground and clattered across the floor out of reach. He felt rubber heel scrape the back of his hand and the knife was pulled from his grip.

Will rolled to his back and sat up. A short rope with balls on the end was wrapped around his ankles. He heard a click.

1920x1440 - gun barrelWill froze. The Pakistani tourist stood over him with a gun aimed at his head. Gone were the camera and pocket map of the morning. His dark eyes were hard and his hand was steady. Will stared down the barrel of the gun and all of the puzzle pieces suddenly clicked into place. The reason al-Qaeda and MI6 were in Gloucester. Why they needed a double agent from MI5. Why they had been unsuccessful so far. What had the young man said? “I didn’t ask permission.”

Will smiled. “I know where he is and you don’t.”

The man with the gun hesitated. He lowered the barrel and aimed it at Will’s knee. “Tell me.”

Will chuckled, more from nervousness than anything, really, although it was kind of funny how it had turned out. He grabbed one of the balls and began to unwind the rope from his ankles. “You had a great plan except that he went rogue on you before you could nab him. Princes are pesky that way. Good thing for him, though, or he would be in a hole in Pakistan right now, wouldn’t he?” He set the rope aside.

The Pakistani redirected the gun back to Will’s face. Will glanced at the cartography corner and widened his eyes in surprise momentarily. He mouthed the words “Double Oh Seven”. The terrorist fell for it beautifully. Keeping his gun trained on Will, he turned his head for the briefest of moments to look at cartography and that’s when Will tossed the handful of clothes from his pocket into the air between them and ran.

The front door was closest, but also the most expected target. Will ran for the side room with the computers and model canals and its emergency exit. He heard two pops, and the thud of a bullet hitting a wall near him. He put out one hand to catch the doorpost as he entered the room and swung himself around to the right toward the exit. As he burst through the emergency door, he heard the alarm sound. Its pitch matched the sirens approaching from the main road.

Before he could turn toward the approaching cops, strong hands grabbed his arms and pushed him into the open door of a car.


Images courtesy of: (gun), (phone), (gears)