Pattern Recognition: Part 2

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I examine my options.  Option one: take the car out of the parking lot and to the open road.  I can definitely leave the guy behind there, as long as I don’t screw up driving from the wrong side of the car.  It gets me clear, but it potentially puts other people at risk.  As a lesser consideration, it also leaves the museum unguarded; the fact that the current attack is coming at me in the parking lot suggests that I’m the target, not the museum, but it’s still a possibility.  Not that I intend to give my life for this job, but if I can avoid losing it, that’d be preferable.  Option one tabled for now, then.

Option two: circle the parking lot until the guy’s body gives out like the last one’s did.  Taking a guess, he might be managing twenty miles an hour right now, and surely he can’t sustain that for long.  If he gives up the chase, great; if he collapses entirely, that’s fine, too.  The problem here is that I don’t know how long he can hold out, and the longer this goes on, the bigger a chance of me making a mistake.  Keep going, brains!

Option three: ram him.  Callous but effective; it would end the situation in a timely fashion, on my terms, and without endangering others.  And then I’d have to explain to the police how I came to run a man down with my car; “he attacked me while I was driving in circles” doesn’t sound like the sort of line that they’re going to regard as a satisfactory explanation.  Given my current precarious driving posture, they might even believe that it was an accident, and I made up the attack entirely to cover my own lethal mistake.

This is clearly not the way to go, but the idea of an accident leads me to option four: trick him into the car and crash it with him inside.  It involves a certain level of risk, since I’ll have to let him get close enough to me to get into the car, and the whole procedure will require precision timing – but I think I can see how to pull it off.

The first thing I do, still accelerating away, is open the glove compartment and again try to break the door off.  This time, I raise my plaster-encased foot above the open door and kick down as hard as I can.  It’s an awkward angle, and it takes me three extremely painful hits to break the hinges, but I manage to snap it off just as I reach the far side of the parking lot.  I swing into a U-turn and hit the brakes, tapering off my speed as I head back toward my assailant.

Next, I grab the driver’s side seatbelt, pull it to its full extension, and loop it through the steering wheel, letting the buckle catch on the belt to hold it in place.  It’s a bit awkward to keep steering at this point, but my position on the center armrest actually helps right now.  My attacker is about forty yards away and closing fast now, so I pop open the passenger door and shove both feet out of it.  With my feet off of the pedals, I’m only doing about ten miles an hour right now, but the pavement is going by way too fast for comfort.

As the car coasts forward, the hair guy roars, swings the bumper in a massive arc, and smashes out the driver’s side window.  Glass shatters around me as I wedge the accelerator to the floor with the broken glovebox door.  The car surges forward, the guy roars again, drops the bumper, tears the entire door off of its hinges and leaps inside.

Time is supposed to slow down in situations like this as your processing power increases, but it obstinately refuses to do so for me; I suppose mine is already as high as it’s going to go.  So I’m stuck moving at normal speed, scrabbling for purchase on the broken glove compartment, and just as the guy’s entering the car, I find my grip and do a slide out the far side.

Put like that, it sounds pretty graceful.  Lemme tell you, it’s anything but.  As my feet kick free of the door, the door starts to swing shut, and it whacks me in the left knee, then again in the hip, the ribs, the chin and finally the elbow before I make it out to the parking lot.  The asphalt, meanwhile, isn’t exactly receiving me with a tender hug; as soon as my feet touch the ground, it’s dragging me out of the car, and I hit the ground hard enough to see stars.  I’ve been expecting this, so I still manage to roll with it, but even so the back wheel comes perilously close to my head.

Even before I stop rolling, I hear an enormous bang, which I’d expected.  It’s immediately followed by a noise that sounds like Godzilla attacking Tokyo, which I had not expected at all.  I slide to a stop just as there’s a second bang, and I figure I’d better look up to see where I miscalculated; if I’m extremely unlucky, that was the noise of my attacker tearing the roof off of my car.  If so, I’m going to want to know about it sooner rather than later.

I take a quick inventory.  I’ve got an all-over ache, which I figure is a thousand different tiny cuts and bruises all clamoring for attention at once.  My whole left side is banged up from that stupid door, but nothing feels broken, so I sit up to assess the situation.

The first bang I heard was my car hitting the cement base of a light pole.  I’d timed it perfectly; as soon as I let go of the steering wheel, the seatbelt I’d wrapped around it had started pulling the car to the left.  When my assailant jumped in and grabbed for me, he’d gotten himself tangled up in the belt and finished the turn, just as I’d been counting on.  What I hadn’t counted on, and what explained the metallic screech and second bang, was the light pole shearing off at the base and coming down on the roof of the car like a guillotine blade.

Even from where I am, I can see that the car’s totaled, and the chances of anyone having survived in it are nil.  Still, I limp over to make sure anyway.  The same rank stench of blood that I’d smelled yesterday rises up to meet me again, and I take a deep breath as I continue my approach.

The man’s feet are hanging limply out of the driver’s side of the car.  Both arms are tangled in the seatbelt, the airbag’s laying over him like a shroud, and the pole’s driven the roof in far enough to have pinned him in place.  I walk around to the passenger’s side, planning to check his pulse, but the amount of gore I can see showered across the floorboards tells me that it’ll be be a wasted gesture.  Like last night, it appears that most of it was due to internal damage, not external; the light pole might have dealt the blow that caused him to cough up ragged chunks of his stomach, but the damage had been done to his system well before.

I circle the car, take another quick breath, and slide my arm under the steering wheel, past the body, so I can snag my keys from the ignition.  His leg is still warm to the touch, and I have a hideous feeling that he’s going to reach out and grab my hand at any minute.  I free the keys and start to pull my arm back, but something catches my wrist, and I let out a strangled grunt of fear before I realize I’ve only caught my hand in the seatbelt.

With keys retrieved, I then reach in through the shattered back window and fish out my crutches, so I can begin the walk back to the museum.  Despite my earlier analysis, it takes me longer than five minutes to get there.


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