YOU CAN'T RUN BUT YOU CAN HIDE

Written in response to: Set all or part of your story in a jam-packed storage unit.... view prompt

0 comments

Adventure Fiction Mystery

This story contains sensitive content

Sensitive content: blood-mention of abuse



“Bad move, bad move, bad move,” the idiot mutters -that idiot being me.

Running for my life, and THIS is the place I chose to hide?

“Bad move.”


I’m not claustrophobic. The fear of the breath being slowly squeezed from my lungs and the darkness folding sickeningly around me is just the terror of being chased by someone who is out for blood. My blood.


Why did I choose this place?

The clutter is suffocating. Boxes upon boxes crowd in on every side- half burying me. I could just as easily die by being crushed or from the lack of oxygen than be stabbed by the killer.


The headlines will read: LACHIE (PADLOCK) DAMON -RUNAWAY AND FORMER JD - MURDERED BY CARDBOARD.

What a way to end.


My shirt sticks to me, my sweat gluing the fabric to my heaving chest. My jeans feel oddly tight around my legs. I carefully brush my bangs from my eyes. The floor is uneven beneath the black boots tightly laced around my dirt-invaded feet, lumpy with the strewn possessions of whoever owns this rotten shed.


This storage unit is a bigger one in comparison to the maze of others I ran past. I thought -if my pursuer does search them for me- a larger one will take longer to hunt and would be less crammed. I didn’t expect it to be literally bulging at the seams, and that I’d likely drown in the contents before they could get their hands on me.


Thing is, I have no idea who it is following me.

If they are a man or a woman, if I know them or not. All I do know is that, well, I have something I’m not supposed to have. That the owner is the one chasing me, or they have sent someone to. That I have the opportunity to let people know about the thing that I have stolen. And they do not want that.


So much so, that I may very well die this sad night, in the middle of a storage place, with nobody knowing I am here. Except the one who will murder me.

______________________________________________________


My legs cramp up, and every 30 seconds I readjust to relieve the pain. I am crouched between what I’ve now identified as a new, right out of the factory fridge, and a box containing something of a mystery. I wish my phone worked, but it died before I’d even driven a mile. And at the stage before, I hadn’t been thinking clearly enough to contact someone. But honestly, who would I contact? There isn’t really anybody I can trust.



You see, I am a criminal. I pick locks for a living, (sad, I know) and people pay me to crack safes, make fake keys and lockpicks, and break into buildings for them, if they are that lazy.

But one thing that I am not, is lazy. I don’t slack with my work. I’m stealthy, undercover and leave not a trace – a right old con artist.

The only time I failed really badly, was when I got caught committing multiple accounts of Breaking and Entering, at the age of 9. Such an innocent boy at so young. After being ratted out enough times, I was locked up for a bit. Suppose they thought I would stop after that. They thought wrong.


In my line of work, I deal with a lot of different people. One thing we all have in common is that we do illegal stuff. You want to open a top security padlock to a secluded shed? I’ll do it, no questions asked. You need an artificial key to a secret lockbox? It’s done, just name the price.



My customers don’t care that I am 17. I’m good at what I do. And I don’t only pick locks and such, I deal with a lot of other hardware. Whatever you need – same story.

But occasionally I stumble across stuff I’m not meant to see, and have to deal with the repercussions. I must find a way to prove I am trustworthy. Though seriously, I live an undercover con life – no one is trustworthy. But I do know not to say a word. Keep everything I know a secret.


Sometimes, the consequences are brutal. When I was growing up in the business, I wasn’t prepared for the violent outcome of one mistake. Once, I let slip to a girl that my dad was a street thief. When he found out from her mum, he plastered over it quick enough, but gave me a beating to teach me ‘the way our world works’, as he put it. I received two broken bones from that and had to learn to deal with it.


We lived -and I still do- in the city. Not my dad though; he got caught a while back. And not by the cops, but by an angry client.

That was a sure lesson I learnt, and it hardened me. But I’m not like most in my profession- I don’t hurt people if it turns out they lied to me, didn’t pay me, and all that. It happens. Like I said, nobody is honest here.


In my case now, I finished a job early. The customer I planned to meet hadn’t arrived yet.

I had unlocked a heavily secure briefcase for them, and it was sitting next to me in the second-hand van I got from the car wrecker outside of the city. The vehicle had just been brought in, and I swindled them with my charismatic personality into giving it to me.

…okay, they didn’t care, and I just took it, but I like to imagine myself to be more of a trickster than I really am. Makes me feel like I’m not just some throwaway rat who can be used, paid, and then forgotten.


Anyway, I had it beside me, in my van, crouched in the dark alley -as you do on your average Saturday afternoon- and I maybe, supposedly, perhaps, just might have, taken a peek inside, and sealed my fate, as my client arrived at that very moment.


Dang it.


They had their jumper hood up, a face mask over the bottom half of their face (like, man, those things are useful when going incognito) and stared me right in the eyes, then glanced to the briefcase just casually sitting on my dashboard… open.


I had torn out of there instantly. I saw the murderous rage in that dude’s eyes. And I had also seen the gun appear in his hand.

By the way, he owes me some money for the puncture holes in my bumper – I don’t have insurance.


I couldn’t return to my apartment, so I drove out on the highway and ditched my van when it ran out of gas 20 miles afterwards. And where did I end up? Here. A storage place. With a hundred storage units, a con artist hiding in one, and a killer hunting for him and the briefcase he stole.



With bated breath, awaiting death, I lie here. Huh, that kinda rhymes. I’ve been stuck here so long I’ve become a poet.


The walls feel like they are closing in. My lungs are burning. Dust motes drifting through the air are torturing my nose. My ribs are on the brink of breaking.


Regrets scuttle across my mind. I know I shouldn’t have fled. But fear does things to a person, and I was freaking out. This has never happened to this extent before. Quiet, sinister threats, yes, but I’d be given time to comply. Never an immediate weapon pulled on me like that.


Hours tick by.

My fingers twitch, my head lolls.

Nope! I am not falling asleep, or doing the dreadful thing that happens in the movies where the main character is hiding and the bad guy strolls past and doesn’t see them, but then they sneeze and the bad guy whips around and charges at them…


…wait. Oh no.

Footsteps. Barely a whisper on the other side of the wall. Shuffling against the dirt. Stunted strides. A limping lope.

Hold on. If they are injured, then maybe I stand a chance.

Maybe, I can get out and contact someone so they can take this briefcase and info, and tell the police and get this guy caught and… who am I kidding? No mode of transport. No hope.

I really am gonna die tonight.


The door creaks wide open -but so so slowly- and my heart leaps to my mouth. The killer’s silhouette drapes across the floor, outlined by the moon’s glow.


Full moon tonight. At least an element of my death will be beautiful.

I mock myself disbelievingly. I’m delirious. I need to get out. I don’t want to die. Not even two decades into my life and look what I’ve done with it.


Boots tap louder towards my little nook. The hush of the stranger’s jacket. Their ragged breath, closer and closer.


I suddenly feel guilty for every crime I’ve committed. I need to do some good, something to be proud of, before I die. My life can’t just be one big crime spree.


I stand up. The bootsteps halt. And I face my killer.


My pursuer is dressed in all black, and I instantly see it is not my customer. He must have notified this person to do his work for him.


She is my height, her pose side on, a hand edging hip, casual and menacing in one package. And gorgeous. Her hair is tied back, but swishes like a cascading waterfall of black across to her other shoulder as she steps forward. She is favoring her left side.

I examine her leg, and in the mottled light, I can see her pants’ fabric is torn, and her skin is bloodied.

Her dark eyes watch me from out of a perfect caramel face. Her lips are curved in a futile attempt to suppress the pain.

She doesn’t speak, but addresses a hand to the case on the floor beside me.


Then I realize… her hands are empty. I glance to her waist for a holster- no gun. No sheath for a knife… maybe a hidden one. But it doesn’t appear that my ‘killer’ wants to kill me.


I’m still searching for some sign of hostility when she clears her throat, “Um, mate, can I please have that briefcase? I’ve been looking for it for ages now, after it was stolen. And look at the trouble I’ve been through.”

She gestures nonchalantly to her wound, shrugging like it’s no big deal, but the motion causes agony, I can tell.


I decide she isn’t evil. Let’s just pray I’m right.


“You need help,” I leave the case where it is and ask her to sit down. She rolls her eyes, lashes fluttering in annoyance, but complies. It clearly eases the pain, and she exhales slowly.


“How did that happen?” I question, hurriedly taking her jacket and tying it around the leg with way less understanding about this than I wish I had. The clothing stanches the flow of blood. Well, at least I hope it does.


“Bullet,” she hisses, through gritted teeth.


“Somebody shot you? You mean there’s someone else out there?”

She nods.


“Do you have a phone?” I mutter desperately. She nods again, and points to her right pocket. I scramble to it, find the phone, and pull up 911.


The ringtone sounds, and then a female voice, “911, what is your emergency?”

I rapid-fire through all the information I know, without revealing too much of my identity.

They say that a car is already stationed nearby for traffic, and it will be here in a few minutes. The ambulance will come a bit after. Thank gosh.


I turn to the girl. She looks a year or two older than me.

“What’s your name?”


“Kylah.”


“I’m Lachie.”


I tear my gaze from her to the doorway. Whoever is actually following me, I need to stop them. And find them before they can hunt down and corner us in this shed.


Clearing the space, avoiding all the other obstructions in the room, I leave Kylah and her phone -hopefully hidden- inside.

The air has grown cold, much colder than it was before, although that could be the chilling terror I am feeling.

Not being aware of where the real villain is, is worse than knowing.


Dirt and leaves are disturbed by my quick-paced feet. I duck and weave and stalk around each corner. Paranoia wracks me with every movement. The crick in my neck from nervousness increases. Disquietude consumes me.


Then I hesitate. There. Exiting a shed with a gun in hand, is the dude. My client.

I try to shuffle back behind a unit, but he catches me. Those hawk-like eyes fall, with evil, hideous triumph, upon me. And the firearm lifts.

I duck and a bang reverberates around.


Right on cue, sirens join the night chorus and the man is suddenly running. Not away, but towards me. The gun fires again and I attempt a dodge, but burning agony spreads from my left arm.

I scream, the bullet sinking in through my flesh and searing like fire.


Whipping around, I somehow throw my body to the ground as another bang explodes behind me to my right. I scramble -driven by adrenaline- to my aching feet and run.

______________________________________________________


Thank goodness the road is so close. Lights flashing, red and blue, and instinct commands me to hide and take cover. To slip away and escape. But this scenario is different.

I dash into the relative safety of the police huddle. Three cars are sitting on the curb. An ambulance occupies the small parking lot.

I stammer for help and before I know it, I’m sitting beside Kylah at the back of the ambulance, being treated by paramedics. My client -apparently a wanted criminal named Aadir Patel- is locked up tight in the back of one car.


I breath out. It’s over.


A crunch of steel capped boots alerts me, and I glance up to see a police officer. She draws out a notebook and pen and starts interrogating me. This goes on for a while until they have 'gathered all the information they need.’ Then, they give me a ride home.


______________________________________________________


Okay… so I guess the headlines were a little bit different:

LACHIE (PADLOCK) DAMON - RUNAWAY AND FORMER JD - HERO. RECOVERED PRICELESS CONTRACTS. CITIZENS GRATEFUL.


I was let off easy -bit of money to pay and some community service- but so long as I obey the law from now on, I’m somewhat free.


I suppose I have to come up with another way to earn a living, now. Well, I’ve always had a passion for engineering. And as it turns out, so does Kylah. She owns a garage. I’m gonna go check it out today. Wish me luck!






February 17, 2023 08:18

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

0 comments

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.