This story started as an entry for a contest.  I missed the
deadline date, but the story had already 'pulled me in'.  I
knew that I had to continue it.

Later, I decided it was a perfect tie-in with Flight 213!


The Sewer Rat
by Xander Riley

Silence.  It seemed as if the roaring thunder of noise had been blasting for ages, yet it had only been a couple minutes.  Cautiously, I peeked around the
corner again, ready to pull back at the first sign of danger.  I was not disappointed.  The window behind me suddenly shattered as the bullets started flying
again.  These people were not giving up easily and I was sure that the police would not arrive in time to save me.  My only hope was to find another exit
from the narrow alley in which I had taken refuge.

My first thought was to climb on top of the dumpster in order to reach the second story windows, but all of the openings were barred.  The only doorways
leading into the alley were bricked over completely.  A chain-link fence blocked the far end of the alley with barbed wire stretched across the top.  In other
words, it looked like the set of a war movie.  On the other hand, maybe a gangster film would be more appropriate.

I knew that I could not overpower them, even if I had been armed.  I was outnumbered, overpowered, and trapped.  The only resource I had that was
superior was my mind.  I'm not a brilliant genius or anything like that, but these goons would make the Three Stooges seem like MENSA members.  That
became obvious when I slipped past them earlier.  They had no idea that I was the one in the robe and turban that strolled past them out of the restaurant.  
It was not until the waiter ran outside to give me my change that the light bulbs came on.  I made it half a block to the alley before they opened fire.

There was only one chance for escape that I could see: the sewer.  I only needed to distract them long enough to pry off the cover and find my way through
the pipes to another exit.  That is where the stolen robe and turban could be used to my advantage.  That and the rolling dumpster.

I hooked the robe to the hinge for the lid and then tied the turban to the lid, just over the robe.  The dumpster was nearly empty and moved easily.  As it
sailed out of the alley, the robe billowed out behind it, making it look as if I were pushing it all the way into the street.  I did not wait to see the result.  I was
too busy trying to pry the grate away from the crumbling concrete surrounding it, but I could hear the screech of tires on asphalt and a horrendous crash
as the first vehicle struck the metal dumpster.  Above it all was the sound of gunshots.  I smiled as the goons proved once again that they could be fooled
by a fake.

As I dropped into the putrid sewer, I heard one of them yell that it was a trick.  The metal grate lowered back into place mere seconds before their voices
closed in on the alley.  I made my way through the slime and filth, keeping as quiet as possible.  I knew that it would be a while before they figured out
where I went.  After all, they were three men with the combined IQ of a fourteen-year old.  Yet I had no doubt that they would eventually puzzle it out and
search the sewer.  So I continued to feel my way forward, the light dimming as I moved further away from the grate.

The first manhole cover I came to must have been in the middle of the street.  I could see and hear the cars racing along on the road over my head.  To
make matters worse, it was getting darker.  The sun was setting in the world above me.  The deep shadows grew darker and more ominous.  It was times
like this that I regretted being such a fan of horror stories.  My overactive imagination was in overdrive.

Moving faster through the slush, I began to panic.  Every sound that echoed through the tunnel sent my pulse racing faster.  Was that a monster?  Some
creature of the night, just waking to search for its evening meal?  The walls were slick with slime.  Or was that blood?  Before I realized it, I was nearly
running to the next potential exit.  Then I tripped.

Face first in the garbage and waste from the city above.  Luckily for me, my mouth was closed when I fell.  I nearly gagged at the mere thought of
swallowing anything in this gruesome stew.  Struggling back to my feet, my hand brushed against hair.  I froze, paralyzed by fear.  I was not alone.  Perhaps
my imagination had become reality.

I did not want to see the thing beside me, but I had to know what it was. &nb.  I don't know if he had to use the restroom or just wanted some smokes, but I
didn't really care at this point.  I sprinted across the lot and laid rubber as I left the lot.  It would be at least ten minutes before the cops would arrive.  That is
if he called the cops.  He was probably drunk and on his way home from the bar at this hour.  But I could not chance it.  I had to assume that I would be
tracked down.  The truck would serve its purpose to get me to the next town, but I would dump it for another mode of transportation at the first opportunity.

***************************************

I remember the good old days when I had a job, a family and friends.  Those days are long gone.  I watched helplessly while my wife and children were
gunned down.  I can’t go to any of my friends for help without putting their lives in danger, too.  And my job…well, that’s what caused all my problems.

It seemed like a dream job at first – working as the personal chef for a millionaire industrialist.  Life was perfect at the time.  Perfection in naiveté.  
Unfortunately, although every cloud has a silver lining, some of the silver can be tarnished beyond recognition.  If something seems to good to be true, it
probably is.

Five months on the run can really take a lot out of you.  I’m not the same person I used to be.  Brad Renton is dead.  He died in the explosion that was
engineered to cover up the deaths of my famnths.  Even my own mother wouldn’t recognize me.  She wouldn’t claim me as her son, anyway, since I’m
wearing dirty underwear.  I’m not sure how The Family knows that it’s me.  They alwaysily.  To the world, I’m dead.  But the people who want me dead know
that I’m still alive.

I’ve lost my tan, grown a full beard, lost (probably) twenty pounds, and I haven’t taken a real bath or shower in mo seem to show up wherever I settle down
for a couple of days.  Then there’s gunfire and running again.  The cycle is endless.

I tried going to the cops for protection after the first attempt on my life.  They locked me in a cell to keep me safe until morning.  Then, they would move me
to a safe house until a trial could be arranged.  Fortunately for me, the guard they paid to silence me was not experienced and extremely overconfident.  I
escaped, but barely.  I couldn’t trust the police after that.

So, I run.  I hide.  And I live.  If you can call this living.

***************************************

The truck didn’t make it to the next town.  A flat tire stranded me midway.  I would have to walk the rest of the way.  Or maybe not.

A police car parked behind the truck.  His lights were flashing, but the sirens were off.  Perhaps he would offer to help change the tire.  But the odds were
just as good that he was on their payroll, too.  There was nowhere to run.  I had to take my chances with the cop.

He was a middle-aged man, paunchy around the middle, but he had a friendly face.  He looked like Santa Claus in a cop suit.  I held my breath, waiting to
see if he was my savior or my executioner.

“So, it’s true.  Chef Renton lives.  The Family has put out flyers across the state with your photo – wanted dead or alive.  Preferably dead.”

I had no choice but to stand my ground.  There was nothing but open field surrounding us for miles.  But if I was going to die, I was going out with dignity.  
“Do your worst.  I’ve already lost everything and everyone that matters to me.”

“Whoa!  Hold on there, bucko.  I’m not working for them.  I’m one of the few on the local force that wants them brought down.  I’m on your side.”

My mind struggled to understand the implications of what he was saying.  Was it possible that I could finally stop running?  Was I safe?  Could it be true?

I blacked out.

When I finally regained consciousness, I was on a boat sailing to my new home.  Officer Santa was good to his word.  He had turned me over to the agents
investigating my ex-boss.  They promised to keep me safe until I could testify.

My life has changed, but at least I am still living.  No wife.  No children.  Instead of my two-story Victorian house, I’m now living in a log cabin.  My golden
retriever and Persian cat (both killed in the explosion) have been replaced with some stray dogs that run wild in the woods.  

Life is simple now.  A wood stove, an outhouse, no electricity, no phones.  I wish that I never had to go back to the mainland and face the real world again.  
But I have to.  They can’t be allowed to put anyone else through the hell I’ve lived.  They have to be stopped.  All of them.



© Copyright 2009 Xander Riley
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