I had to force myself to stay calm as the train reached Penn Station.
I was now sitting in the first train car, near the exit, and was ready to bolt as soon as the door was opened. I managed to catch a pretty clear glimpse of myself in the window at one point, and Lily had done a good job of disguising me, but I still felt totally exposed. Like Wescott would somehow know what to look for.
I had to keep reminding myself that there was no possible way he could know, though. All he knew was that I was on the train, dressed in the clothes that I was. But they were just black yoga pants and a black shirt made of the same material. I'd made sure to pick clothes that were indistinct, so I'd be able to blend, and with the goth make up, no one would be paying attention to the fact that I was all in black.
Still, I couldn't get out of my head that, somehow, he'd spot me.
I fidgeted nervously as I waited to be let off the train. The fact that I couldn't see much of the station, outside the window, wasn't helping, either. There were alot of people in the way, and I honestly didn't know if I was grateful or not that I didn't recognize any of them.
I wasn't looking forward to seeing any of Wescott's guards, but I knew they were there and I'd rather see them before they saw me.
After an eternity, the doors opened and I had to force myself to let a few people out before me and walk at a normal pace as I got off the train. Even if I didn't look anything like myself, a girl, running off the train, like she was on fire, was bound to send up a red flag.
I made my way through the crowd, trying not to make eye contact, but still watching for any guards.
As I pushed my way through a group of noisy teenagers, I noticed a man, standing, inconspicuous but watchful, by a big pole. I didn't recognize him, but the little black remote in his hand, gave him away as someone I needed to avoid.
When he looked at me, I quickly dropped my eyes and went in the other direction, making my way over to the stairs.
I took it as a really good sign when a minute passed without anyone grabbing me. The disguise must be doing it's job. I was completely unrecognizable and it was worth every bit of that hundred dollars that I'd given Lily. More, even.
I walked a little further, now watching people's hands, rather than their faces, and realized they were everywhere.
I'd known Wescott would have some guards watching out for me, but I hadn't realized just how many he would have. I must have passed at least ten more in the few minutes after noticing that first one. I only covered a small area and couldn't even imagine how many more were spread around the station.
I needed to get out of here now. I wasn't sure if the train was empty by now, and no doubt they'd be searching it when it was.
When they didn't find me, and realized they hadn't seen me exit the train, they'd probably realize that I'd disguised myself, somehow. And then, knowing it was the only way to identify me, they'd use the remote and wait to see who reacted. My disguise wouldn't be any use if they did that.
There were still plenty of people around, but at this time of night, it wasn't nearly as crowded enough for the guards to miss me if that happened.
I glanced down over the ledge, at the train and could tell that it was empty. I saw a few people, dressed all in black - more guards - getting on board, searching for me, like I knew they would be.
But I still had a seemingly-endless walk to get to an exit. I'd never make it before they became aware that they needed to find me with the remote.
Looking ahead, I spotted another two guards, standing along my escape route.
I stopped, needing to think of something else. There were some restaurants and little travel shops around.
That wouldn't work. There were too many people.
The bathroom might be an option if the line wasn't out the door...
I looked around frantically, knowing I was running out of time, and my eyes landed on a tiny door that I guessed was a janitor's closet. It was barley visible passed the fake plants and the people, and it was painted to look like the wall. I'd only noticed it in the first place because someone had just closed it, on their way out.
It was perfect. At least, if no one was inside, it would be perfect.
Even if there was someone there, I could explain any odd behavior. The important thing was, there wouldn't be any guards in there. And they wouldn't see or hear me when I reacted to the remote.
I quickly made my way over to the door, careful not to run and raise any suspicion. I paused at the pole, a few feet away from the door and looked around to see if anyone was paying attention to me.
Feeling satisfied that I'd gone unnoticed and sure I was almost out of time, I quickly walked the remainder of the way to the door and slipped inside.
I barely had time to close the door before the debilitating pain, started in my head, making me crumple to the floor.
Guess I'd been right.
The bursts of pain, came in erratic waves. Like too many people were hitting the buttons on those stupid remotes and not synchronizing their efforts.
Sometimes it was just a quick spurt, as if someone just tapped it to call me out, rather than cause me actual pain. Other times, it went on for a few minutes. Possibly, someone was holding the button down, but I thought it was more likely that it was just lots of little hits, overlapping.
I'd managed to crawl a little further into the closet amid all the head-splitting agony, but I hadn't gotten very far in the eternity it took for my head to finally clear.
As soon as I had the chance and was able to think straight again, I scrambled as far into the closet as possible. I wound up sitting on an upside down bucket, out of direct view of the door.
Knowing I wasn't anywhere near safe yet, I huddled into the corner and braced myself for more torture.
I waited tensely for a few minutes, while nothing happened. I was just about to allow myself to relax, thinking it might be over, when it hit again.
Even though it didn't do any good, I clamped my hands over my ears and, not wanting to give myself away if someone happened to look in here, I forced myself to stay quiet.
It didn't get any less painful, but it seemed that the more I was exposed to it, the easier it was to take. I was getting, somewhat, used to it.
When it finally stopped again, I cautiously uncovered my ears and opened my eyes. I was covered in sweat and shaking from the effort of staying quiet through that.
Feeling nauseous, I put my head between my knees as I tried to calm my ragged breathing.
I jumped and shot up off my bucket, sure I'd been caught.
And then, I immediately lost my balance and fell against the wall.
"Whoa!" The dark-skinned man said, as he reached out and grabbed hold of my arms. I was immensely grateful to see that he was wearing a janitor's uniform and not all black.
"I think I should call someone to help you," he said, as he helped me sit back down on the bucket.
"No!" I said, panicking and still having trouble breathing right.
He looked surprised and stepped back, releasing me.
"Alright..." he said, holding up his hands as if I might be mentally unstable.
Well that certainly wouldn't help anything. I took a few deep breaths and then tried again, calmer.
"I mean, thank you, but no," I said. "I'm fine, really."
He looked at me skeptically. "You didn't seem fine a few seconds ago."
"I..." Of course I hadn't. I wracked my brain trying to think of what to say.
He just watched me, apparently still trying to decide if I was crazy.
"I get seizures," I said, remembering the excuse I thought Wescott might use.
He still didn't seem convinced. Of course not. Who hides in a closet to have seizures?
"And...I'm hiding from someone."
He raised his eyebrows. I was, clearly, not helping my case any.
"An ex-boyfriend," I added, mentally thanking Lily for that idea. "He's a real stalker," I went on. "And he'd spot me right away if he saw me like that. So I came in here when I felt it coming..."
His face softened, but he still seemed worried.
"This man must be dangerous," he said and I thought I detected a foreign accent. "For you to hide like this." I could tell he was still thinking of trying to help me by calling someone.
"No," I lied and tried to look like I thought it was no big deal. "He's just...really clingy and doesn't know when to leave me alone. But I'm fine, really. I don't need you to call anyone."
He still didn't look convinced, but said, "alright."
I mentally sighed in relief.
"Here," he said, handing me a white cloth.
I looked at him curiously.
"You must have hit your head," he said. "You're bleeding."
I automatically touched my fingers to my forehead and winced as I felt a tender spot. Pulling my hand away revealed that, sure enough, I was bleeding.
"Thanks," I said, reaching for the cloth.
I dabbed at my head, while he exchanged some of the chemicals on his cart with ones from the wall. All the while, he watched me curiously.
"You're new to the city, aren't you?" he asked, pouring clear liquid from one bottle to another.
"Why do you say that?" I asked, checking the cloth.
"You don't have that look yet."
"Look?" I asked, meeting his eyes.
"Like you think I might try and mug you," he said with a small smile.
I watched him warily, berating myself again for being so unguarded. Sure this guy seemed ok, but I didn't know him. We were alone in a closet, at the moment, and I was prone to having more 'seizures', any second. How did I know he wouldn't try to rob me? How would I make it, if he did?
"That's the one," he chuckled and started loading different supplies onto his cart.
I wasn't sure if I should relax a little, seeing as he thought it was funny, or still be on guard because he was talking about mugging, at all.
He stopped what he was doing and looked at me. "I'm not going to," he assured me.
Keeping him my main focus, I absentmindedly dabbed at my head and winced when I applied a bit too much force.
He watched me for a few more seconds, obviously guessing that I didn't trust him.
"If I'd wanted to, I had a very good opportunity before," he said, raising an eyebrow and going back to his supplies.
Well, that was true. I relaxed a little and took another look at the rag. At least the cut on my head didn't seem too bad. It already stopped bleeding.
"You sure, I can't call someone for you?" he asked, seeming to have finished with his task.
"No, I'm fine." I said. Who could I ask him to call?
"At least let me help you get to a cab," he pushed.
I opened my mouth to refuse again, but stopped. A cab was exactly what I needed. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to get to it, even with his help. It would only take a second for them to spot me, reacting to one of those remotes again. Help, from this guy, or not, they'd catch me within a few seconds.
"Come on," he tried. "You can't stay here all night, can you?"
Probably not, no. And then what? What if there were guards stationed here for weeks, pressing those buttons every few hours or something? The sooner I got away from here, the better.
"If you're still worried about being seen," he said. "I can sneak you out in my cart."
I raised my eyebrows and looked at the cart skeptically. It was certainly big enough, but it was also a garbage cart.
Then again, I was pretty desperate...
"You want me to hide in the garbage?" I asked, even though I knew that was probably the smartest and easiest way out of here.
"You got a better idea?" he asked, a little annoyed. I couldn't blame him for that, though, he was going out of his way to help me.
"No," I shook my head. "But..."
"It's a clean bag," he said. "You won't have to actually touch anything."
"Ok," I said, giving in and standing. "Thanks."
"Besides, I don't think your disguise will be very effective anymore," he said, offering me a hand to help me into the cart.
"My...?" I'd forgotten all about my new look. "How do you know this is a disguise?"
"You mean besides the fact that you forgot all about it until I reminded you?" he smiled.
He shrugged. "I can just tell."
I grabbed his hand and hoisted myself into the cart.
"And like I said, I don't think it'll be effective anymore," he said. "You did a pretty good job smearing that stuff all over, when you had your seizures." The tone in his voice, told me he knew everything I'd told him was a big fat lie.
"And you didn't make it any better when you had that rag on your head," he went on. "Looks pretty gruesome, actually."
I grimaced. So much for my disguise. At least I still had the wig.
"You might want to try to wipe that junk off your face before you scare someone," he laughed and sprayed the cloth that was still in my hand, with water.
I smiled and began scrubbing my face with the now wet rag. As long as I would be hiding in the cart and getting right into a cab, my face shouldn't need disguising, for now. And if he was telling the truth, the mess on my face would only serve to call attention to me anyway.
After he assured me that I looked human again, I crouched down in the cart and he closed the lid over me. I had to fight the new sensation of claustrophobia. I'd never been afraid of being trapped in small spaces before. But I guess, given what I'd just escaped from, I was lucky not to be hysterical. I closed my eyes and tried not to think about being trapped in a cart and at the mercy of a complete stranger.
Survival was all that mattered right now. I know Lily warned me not to trust anyone, and I wasn't really. I mean, this man had no way of knowing who was after me, even if he wasn't taking me to a cab, like he said. As long as I got away from the guard-infested train station, I'd be able to take care of myself, just fine.
It was a long, bumpy, and thoroughly uncomfortable ride, but, thankfully, it was also 'seizure' free. I wasn't sure if that was really a good thing, or not, though.
Wouldn't it be better if they still thought I was hiding in the station somewhere, when I was actually outside it? But then, if they were still using their remotes to look for me, how would I manage to make it into the cab? I had no idea what kind of range those things had and if some decent person saw me convulsing or whatever for no apparent reason, wouldn't they call an ambulance?
I just had to hope my good luck held out for a little bit longer, so I could get away. I was so close to real freedom, I could practically taste it. With every second that I spent in the cart, presumably going to meet a cab, I felt my adrenalin and excitement building.
Finally, the cart stopped moving, and I waited anxiously for the lid to be lifted, feeling as if I might bust out of my skin.
It wasn't long before the man's face appeared in the now wide open space, above me.
"Here we are. Thank you for choosing Zamir's shuttle service," he joked. "I hope your accommodations were comfortable.
I smiled, enormously relieved. "Very," I lied. "I'll be sure to recommend you to all my friends."
He chuckled and offered me a hand again.
My answering laugh died in my throat, as I emerged from the cart and noticed that we were nowhere near any cabs, but down a dark, quiet alley where the dumpsters were located.
Noticing my sudden mood change, he rushed to explain. "I thought it might look strange for me to pull a person from my cart on the busy street. More privacy here," he said. "But if you head that way," he pointed toward the busy street at the end of the alley. "And turn left, at the corner, you'll find the cab station."
I felt terrible for misjudging him again. There was nothing untrustworthy about this man. He was just a kind person, trying to help out a desperate stranger.
"Thank you," I said. "You have no idea how much you've helped me."
He pursed his lips. "I have an idea..." he said, vaguely. "And you should still let me call someone for you."
I bit my lip and shook my head.
"Alright," he said. "Then, I wish you luck. And I hope you get away from whoever it is."
"Thanks," I said before I turned and left him to head for the cab station.
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