"Where to?" The bored-sounding driver asked after I was comfortably seated in the back of the cab. Thankfully, I hadn't been noticed in my trek from the alley to the cab station. I hadn't even seen
any guards milling around out here yet.
But now that the driver asked, I had no idea where to tell him to take me. I'd only visited the city a few times. And each time, I'd had a very specific destination, like Broadway. I didn't think that was going to cut it, now, though. I couldn't just hang out there, could I? Were they even open at this hour?
After a minute, the driver turned around and peered at me, impatience evident in his heavy sigh. I tried to remember street names, but I couldn't think of any. Besides, I wouldn't have a reference point for them either, if I did know names. I wouldn't know how far away they were or if they'd be crowded right now. And those were both pretty vital things to know. I had to get far enough away from the train station, but try not go too far and alert them to any specific direction. And, of course, it was mandatory that I stay in crowded places.
All I could think of were the names of the burros, but I seriously doubted that was specific enough for a cab driver. And there were still those other problems to think about.
He threw his arm across the back of the bench seat and drummed his fingers loudly on the ancient looking leather. I ignored him and glanced out the window, trying to think of where to go.
When I looked outside, I finally spotted a guard. He didn't look like the others I'd seen. This guy was in a suit - a nice one - and he looked like he could be an accountant. He was carrying a briefcase, which is probably why he seemed like an accountant to me. Well, that along with the glasses and dorky haircut. But he was holding that unmistakeable remote in his hand, marking him as someone to get away from.
Thankfully, it didn't appear as if he'd seen me yet. He was busy searching the crowd, but I knew he'd probably throw a glance at the cabs pretty soon. He wasn't that far away.
"Just drive!" I quickly looked back at the driver and brought my hand up, to shield my face. I suddenly didn't care where he drove, as long as it was away from here. I could just stop him when I found a nice crowded area to blend into.
He continued to look annoyed and didn't move right away.
"Go!" I demanded.
Throwing me a dirty look, he turned around and started driving.
I peeked back over my shoulder, after a few seconds, but wasn't able to see the guard any longer. He'd been swallowed up in all the activity of the city.
Well, I thought smiling, this is the city that never sleeps, after all.
I let out a breath, turned around, and finally started to relax for real. I knew they'd still be after me, but it was going to be like finding the needle in the haystack. Especially once I changed my clothes.
"You want to let me know where I'm taking you?" The driver sounded as if he couldn't wait to be rid of me.
I rolled my eyes. "Just take me somewhere crowded," I said, starting to form a plan. "Somewhere I can shop and preferably near a pawn shop."
"I don't know how much is open at four in the morning," he grumbled.
"Well then somewhere I can shop in a few hours, when they open," I said, irritably. I was not a bad passenger. Would it kill him to be even a little bit pleasant?
He drove for a few more minutes before pulling the cab over.
"There you go," he nodded out the window. "Pawn shop's on the corner."
I looked around, noting several small shops in addition to the pawn shop he mentioned. It wasn't very crowded, but there were still people around. I guessed that in a few hours the sidewalks would be packed.
Satisfied, I dug the money out from my pocket, before I glanced at the meter.
"Are you kidding me?" I asked in disbelief, seeing the outrageous total displayed. "It was a five minute drive!"
"And you took your time, making up your mind and wasting my gas," he threw back.
I scowled, gave him a twenty dollar bill, and held my hand out, waiting for the change.
Fifteen dollars for a ten-block cab ride. Ridiculous! It was a good thing I still had the ring. Just getting to this point, had almost completely drained me of the cash that Mark had given me. I only had about fifteen dollars left now.
"Thanks," I grumbled, rolling my eyes when he handed me my four dollars and change.
I got out of the car, but before I could close the door, I swear I heard him cuss me out, under his breath.
Welcome to New York, I thought cynically as I slammed the door harder than necessary. I wished that it was customary to tip cab drivers just so I could snub him for his attitude. Jerk.
After checking the sign on the pawn shop window, I realized that I had no way to keep track of time.
I turned around, feeling a little lost. It was going to be a few hours until the shop opened at eight, and just like before, I wasn't comfortable not knowing the exact time.
Glancing around, I knew that probably every shop that might be useful to me, would most likely keep those security bars locked in front of their doors until around the same time as the pawn shop.
What was I supposed to do for a few hours? I couldn't just sit here on the sidewalk. Even without the ick factor of sitting on a city sidewalk, it was much too public. Crowded or not, I wouldn't be that difficult to spot if I were just sitting out in the open. I was already feeling too exposed, standing here.
I'd seen at least fifteen guards while I was still at the train station. Which was probably only a small fraction of how many there actually were, and I wasn't dumb enough to believe that they'd stay put. They were probably already spreading throughout the city, looking for me.
And sure, maybe it would be really difficult to find me, but maybe it wouldn't be either. The odds of me remaining hidden wouldn't increase if I just sat here, waiting for the wrong person to happen by.
I began walking, not having any idea where I was heading. As I walked, I realized something else. I wouldn't be able to just keep moving indefinitely. Adrenalin had been coursing through me since I climbed up into that air vent. Now that I felt relatively safe, I could tell by how heavy my eyelids were becoming, that I was most definitely crashing.
I hadn't gotten all that much sleep to begin with, but after the excitement and terror of escaping, my body was starting to really feel the effects. My legs felt a little heavier with every step and I knew I wouldn't be able to keep walking even until the shops opened.
And then, what was I supposed to do? My fatigue was already becoming a major issue. What about in another four or five hours? What about tomorrow? And after that?
Suddenly, surviving in the city didn't seem quite so easy. I was eventually going to have to rest. I was going to have to eat and bathe and do all the normal things people needed to do. How was I supposed to do any of that if I couldn't stay in one place for very long?
There were enough pizza places and hot dog stands around, so that I'd be able to grab something quick, often enough. But how long could I live off of that junk? Not to mention, that wasn't really breakfast food. And at this hour, running on almost no sleep, it just sounded disgusting.
Still, that was only one of my problems. How was I supposed to sleep? Anywhere I'd be able to go would be public and therefore not an option. I could get a hotel room I supposed, but it would be expensive and I know I didn't have anywhere near enough cash for that yet.
The only other place with potential would be a shelter, not that I'd know where to find one. I also had a feeling that would be exactly where they would start looking for me.
So, what was I supposed to do? If I didn't figure something out pretty soon, I was going to wind up collapsing on the street. If that happened, I may as well go find one of those guards and turn myself in.
Think, Sam, I scolded myself, trying to force away the fog that was starting to cloud my brain. There had to be somewhere I could go. People survived on these streets all the time. Of course, none of them were being hunted like I was...
Well, maybe anyway. There had to be a few people who desperately wanted to hide from the world, right? So where would they go?
Maybe, like I had just a little bit ago, they hid wherever they could, like in janitor's closets. Of course, I didn't stay hidden in there very long. It would have to be better than that.
I walked for a little longer, realizing that the cold was going to be a problem as well. I wasn't sure of the exact date, but I guessed it was around the end of September right now, and even though it wasn't freezing yet, it was chilly. It wouldn't be getting any warmer as the days progressed either.
I paused at the mouth of the alley I was passing, getting an idea when I noticed the just barely visible row of doors and windows.
Casting a guilty look around to make sure no one saw me, I quickly slipped into the darkness of the alley, keeping close to the wall.
As I got deeper down the alley, I retrieved my tiny flashlight from my pocket and peered into the darkened windows. It was hard to get a good idea of what I was looking at, having only a tiny beam of light to work with, but as best I could tell, they were small shops like the ones on the street where the cab driver brought me. It was sort of hard to tell since all I seemed to be looking at was back rooms. But some had boxes with different logos printed on them.
I passed the first three windows, not seeing anything helpful. The rooms I could see were tiny and a had doorways leading out to what I assumed was the slightly larger store. Being so small, I doubted there would be many places to stay unnoticed.
The fourth window seemed to have some potential. It looked like a restaurant of some sort. There was a counter...but no. I shook my head, realizing that was a bad idea. As soon as someone opened the shop they'd head right for the counter and spot someone who was hiding there.
I was about to move on to the next window, when I noticed a smaller window by my feet. Throwing a quick look over my shoulder, I knelt down to see what was on the other side of the window.
I could barely see a thing though. The light was mostly reflecting back in my face, since the window was so dirty. Besides that, there didn't seem to be much to look at on the other side of the filthy glass.
It did seem to be a better option, though. At least it didn't seem to be as open as the other rooms I'd peeked into. And anyway I could check out what was down there better, once I was in.
But how was I supposed to get inside? I'd never picked a lock in my life. I certainly never broke in through a window. I didn't even see a lock to pick.
I looked closer around the frame of the window, trying to see if there was anything I could work with. I supposed I could just break the window. But I didn't particularly want to. I really didn't want to vandalize someone else's property if I could help it.
But I guess this was an emergency. I couldn't stay where I was for very much longer and I had no where else to go. And with as tired as I was, I wasn't sure how far I would even be able to go.
Vowing to only break one pane of glass, I momentarily leaned on the frame, preparing to actually do it. Too bad my flashlight was plastic. I'd have to kick it.
Standing up, I took a few practice swings with my foot, wanting to do as little damage as possible. Just as I was about to break the glass, I stopped completely, realizing something I should have sooner. If I'd been more alert, I would have payed more attention to the fact that when I leaned into the window, it moved!
I dropped to my knees again before I tried the window one more time. Sure enough, when I pushed on it, it wiggled enough to let me know that it wasn't even locked. All I had to do was figure out how to get it open.
Of course, I had nothing to work with. I assessed the ground, searching for anything useful, but found nothing.
After a few minutes of wondering what to do, I remembered the dumpster that was roughly ten feet away, and felt stupid for not thinking of it immediately. Sleep deprivation really was not something I could work with. How was I supposed to survive like this? I'd never felt so weak and vulnerable before. At least never due to my own shortcomings. I didn't like it. I was used to being capable and resourceful. And awake.
Well, there was one more reason to hate Wescott, I guess.
Aggravated with myself, I darted over to the dumpster and lifted the lid.
"Eww." I muttered, getting a nauseating whiff so potent that I flinched away. I didn't even want to imagine all the disgusting things I might have to touch in there.
I mentally added another reason to my list of why I despised Wescott and sucked in a lungful of fresh air, before I ventured closer to inspect the contents of the garbage. Of course the darkness was not an asset for this, and my tiny beam of light was almost completely swallowed up, making it difficult to tell what anything really was. Forget about visually spotting anything to help open the window. If I was going to find anything, I was going to have to dig.
Maybe I should just break the glass. If I did, maybe they'd get better security. I'd really be helping them. I'd get them to protect themselves from real criminals. Who left windows unlocked in this city at night? Wasn't that practically inviting someone to break in?
I looked back longingly at the window, trying to reason with myself. It was totally logical, unfortunately, it was also a crime. I let out the breath I was holding, irritated with my conscience. I would break the window if I really had to, if it meant survival. But I couldn't do it if I had another option.
I groaned looking back at the dumpster. I didn't even know if I would be able to wash my hands after this. Maybe if I opened the lid further, I could see a little better.
Gasping in another deep breath, I threw the lid open all the way to decipher anything useful. After a few seconds of searching, I saw something close to the side. It was thin and sticking up like a candle in a really disgusting birthday cake.
More than happy to not have to touch anything else, I grasped the mystery object and yanked it out.
It felt like some type of plastic, but I had no idea what it was. Even if I could see it better, I'm not sure I would know. Whatever it was, it was thin enough to fit into the crack between the window and the frame, and long enough for me to try to maneuver it open. It was perfect. Even if it did have a glob of something I most definitely did not want to identify smeared on the end, pulled from the refuse.
Careful not to touch any more of the stick than necessary, I went back to the window and stuck the clean end in the crack, trying to pry it open.
It took a few tries. It was a heavy window and the stick wasn't that strong, but after a couple of minutes, I had it open just enough to get my fingers in.
Happy to be free of the unknown object, I tossed it to the ground, pulled the window open the rest of the way, and stuck my head inside.
The flashlight helped with the extreme darkness, but not that much. I was able to make out some things though. There were shelves on the walls with what looked like alot of boxes and clutter, as well as some bigger boxes and shapes I couldn't identify scattered around the room. Maybe it was some sort of storage room?
Satisfied that it was definitely my best option right now, I shimmied through the window that was, luckily, a little bigger than I was.
Of course, if I'd been more awake, I might have given a second thought to what would be directly under the window. But not having done that, I stumbled awkwardly from the table I hadn't expected to be there, and thudded to the concrete floor, accompanied by plenty of clanging and crashing caused by my less-than-graceful entrance.
I stayed completely still, praying that no one heard that. But after a few seconds, I remembered that the window above this had been a dark and empty restaurant, so most likely there wasn't anyone around to hear.
Pushing myself up, I retrieved my flashlight from the spot it rolled to when I crashed to the floor, and tried to get a better look around.
Walking closer to the clutter around the room, it seemed like it was all supplies for the restaurant upstairs.
Good. Maybe whoever ran things didn't come down here all the time. I might actually have a shot at staying hidden for a little while.
I went deeper in and discovered a crevice in the wall. It wasn't exactly out of sight, but it wasn't directly in front of the door either.
I opened the few boxes on the floor in the small space and discovered they were filled with some kind of folded cloth. Probably table cloths or napkins or something. Well, at least it wasn't anything that might attract rodents or bugs. And it wouldn't be anything I'd have to feel bad about crushing.
Thinking about the kind of vermin that might be down here, I shined the light along the wall and groaned when I saw the spider web up in the corner.
I despised spiders.
But at least that was all I spotted. The rest of the room seemed relatively clean for a basement.
Grabbing the broom I'd seen behind the door, I destroyed the web and brushed off the wall as best I could before dropping the broom against the wall and wedging myself on top of the boxes.
Normally, I was pretty particular about how I slept. I couldn't have noise or light and I had to be in a bed. I was never able to sleep on a couch or anything else. But at the moment, nothing mattered but that I felt safe and was actually able to rest. I could practically feel my body shutting down.
I hoped that by leaving the flashlight on, I would discourage that spider or any friends he might have from coming near me.
Resting my head against the wall, I yawned and closed my eyes, promptly falling asleep.
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