I stuck to alleys and side streets, turning corners at random, not stopping until my legs burned and I was gasping for breath. All the while, I tried to figure out how that man was able to pinpoint
my location so accurately. Obviously he had a pretty good idea I was tucked away in one of those fitting rooms, but I couldn't imagine how he knew. They could only trace me within one hundred feet,
and while that wasn't anywhere near a wide enough area for my peace of mind, it wasn't that precise either. The odds of him zeroing in on me so closely, given the crowded area and the fact that I
was hidden, had to be a million to one. And he seemed pretty sure I was there. I doubt he'd have been locked in a confrontation with that sales girl otherwise.
So how had he done it? Not knowing wasn't just aggravating, it was dangerous. How could I avoid them, if I didn't know what not to do? And what hope did I have of keeping my freedom if I couldn't even stay hidden while I was concealed?
Somehow over the next several hours, I stayed in the clear. I was on edge and compulsively checking over my shoulder, but I hadn't seen that man again or anyone else to worry about.
And I felt a little better when I was finally able to eat something. Since my spot in the 24-hour diner allowed me a nice clear view out the front window as well as access to a nearby back exit if needed, I could relax somewhat and draw out cups of coffee through the early morning hours.
When sunrise came, morning light flooded the restaurant and I stopped feeling so secure and more like a sitting duck, easily spotted by anyone strolling along. So I decided it was time to move.
I had this awful premonition of the way my life would be if I managed to survive like this forever. I would constantly be on the move, always checking over my shoulder, and living on the hope that I'd be able to find somewhere safe to sleep. At best, it was a pretty terrible way to have to live.
I almost felt as if I were putting off the inevitable of getting sucked back into that twisted laboratory for the rest of my life. Eventually I was going to run out of money and I couldn't think of a single way to earn an income. Not even a sporadic one. And once my money was gone, how long until I became too weak with starvation to run?
There were ways to make money, living as a vagabond, of course, but nothing I was going to be able to do. Even if I were willing to sink to prostitution, it wouldn't be feasible. And anyway, if I was going to do that, I may as well go back to Wescott.
Stealing wasn't an option either. At least, not anything that would be guaranteed. Plus that would most likely be inviting police attention.
All in all, things seemed pretty hopeless. But not wanting to dwell on it anymore since that wasn't helping, I pushed it from my mind.
Throughout the day, I wound up passing all the popular tourist sights and getting a good feel for the city. I decided that Times Square was probably my best bet at night for a while. No matter the time of day, it was always bustling with thousands of people and there were plenty of stores open all night long.
At one point I found myself standing outside a Sovereign bank. I'd been a patron there before the world assumed me dead, and I couldn't help wondering if there was some way to access my account.
I had no idea how long it would take for an account to be closed after a person died, but if there was a chance that mine was still open, I had a few thousand dollars in there that would give me a much better chance at surviving. A prolonged chance at least.
Unfortunately, Wescott deprived me of my ATM card along with my driver's license and everything else that might be helpful.
But then, maybe they wouldn't even ask for identification. Sometimes bank tellers were lazy and only asked for the account number. And of course, I had that memorized.
Resolving to give it a shot, I pushed through the glass door and approached the first bored-looking teller, hoping she wasn't too anal about the rules.
"Can I help you?" The middle-aged woman with a bad dye job looked up when I reached the counter.
"I need to make a withdrawal." I took one of the red slips from the stack and quickly filled it out before handing it back to the woman.
"Identification?" She asked, glancing at the small paper.
"Well, I don't actually have any." I tried.
"Feel free to come back when you have it," she said dismissively, laying the paper on the counter for me.
"I can't." I quickly put a story together. "You see, I'm visiting the city and my purse was stolen."
The woman watched me skeptically and I mentally kicked myself for not picking the naive-looking girl, smacking her gum, three windows down.
"Isn't there someone you can call?" She didn't seem very sympathetic to my fabricated dilemma.
"They got my cell phone too." I attempted to look pitiful. "Numbers and all. I know you normally need ID, but I'm stranded. Can't you just take my social security number?"
She watched me skeptically, and was obviously not going to be easily persuaded.
"Please, just pull up the account," I tried. "You can ask me any of the security information you want. I just really need my money."
She pursed her lips, silently deliberating, and I worried she might say no just to be difficult. But after a minute she gave in. I waited nervously while she clicked away on the keyboard, and noted the deepening suspicion in her expression when she examined the screen.
"It says here that you're deceased." She raised an eyebrow.
I couldn't keep from muttering a curse, which didn't help my case. The woman grew visibly more suspicious and I glanced away, quickly trying come up with something to explain why the computer would think I was dead.
"My ex must have done that." Boy this imaginary former boyfriend of mine was a real jerk.
"We shared the account, and he must have done it to get back at me." I rolled my eyes for effect. "But obviously I'm alive and well. Isn't there something you can do?"
I don't know if she bought it or not, but it didn't matter. I could tell by the look she gave me that she either couldn't help me or she wouldn't.
"I'm afraid not," she said. "You can speak with the bank manager if you'd like, but the account's been cleared out already."
My shoulders slumped. All that for nothing. And I really could have used that money.
"Alright, thanks." I muttered, turning to leave. I wondered if Wescott had done it to cut me off or if my mom took care of it because she believed I was dead.
I suppose I wasn't any worse off than before, but I had started to make plans for that money. I could hold out for a while yet, but even more pertinent than the food issue was shelter. Soon I'd be in desperate need of sleep again, and I wasn't inclined to allow myself to get to the point where I might pass out again like I had in that fitting room. That extra money might have gotten me a few decent nights sleep in a hotel.
I headed down the block and came to St. Paul's Chapel. I never made up my mind about religion. My parents always thought it was important enough, but I just hadn't decided. Although considering the way my life was turning out, I probably should give it some serious thought.
But religion aside, I appreciated the historical aspect of this place. It was the oldest public building in the city, still in use. And it was where George Washington had attended.
Not having much else to do at the moment, and more than willing to get off the street, I decided to go exploring.
It was beautiful and ornate, the way I would have expected, but the only features that held my attention once inside, were the wide open balconies that no one seemed allowed access to.
The stairs were easy enough to locate, but actually making it passed the roped off area unnoticed was going to be a feat. However if I managed to do it, this might just be the perfect place for me to hide out. Public, but still private enough. And what was safer than a church that locked it's doors at night? I was just grateful that I had the foresight to buy bottled water and granola bars along with some basic toiletries including baby wipes in lieu of an actual shower.
"Can I help you with something, my child? You seem troubled."
I'd been sitting in the back for quite a while, zoned out and didn't notice the priest approach. His voice was soft and unthreatening, but I was so on-edge, he startled me anyway.
"No, I..." It was a reflex to deny it and try to brush him off. But how did you lie to a priest in church? For a minute, I couldn't think of what to say.
He must have seen something in my expression because he sat down in the spot next to me, giving me a piercing look.
I tried not to let my discomfort show as he continued to watch me.
"This is a beautiful building," I spit out, hoping that he would stop looking at me like that. It felt as if he could see what I was planning.
"That it is," he agreed. "You know, most people think that's all it is. A nice historical building. Interesting but out of date. But it's always been a place to assist those in need. A place for the weary to find rest."
I swallowed hard, sure he could read my mind.
Seeming to be finished, he stood and gave me a kind smile. I found myself half smiling, and for a second, I wanted to tell him...well, not the truth, but I was tempted to ask for help anyway.
I kept my mouth shut, though. There was no easy fix to my situation, and what I had in mind was probably illegal. No matter how nice and willing to help he might seem, I had a hard time imagining that this man would break the law.
He began moving away, but stopped after a few steps, turning back slightly.
"The doors will be locked for the evening in about five minutes," he said. "Be sure you're not on the wrong side when they are."
I was sure I wasn't imagining the twinkle I saw in his eye as he left me sitting there, speechless. He knew! He knew what I was planning and he wasn't going to kick me out.
I smiled, almost unable to believe it, as I watched the priest walk out of the auditorium, leaving that roped off area completely unguarded.
Not intending to waste the opportunity, I jogged to the steps and climbed over the rope, as soon as the room was clear of the few people who had been milling around. I took the creaking stairs quickly and ducked down behind the small wall, satisfied that I was completely hidden from view.
I risked a peek over the edge of the wall just in time to see the same priest reenter the auditorium and walk briskly down the aisle to lock the gate outside and then the front door. As he strode back the way he'd come, I noticed that he visually swept the room without once glancing upward.
"I don't see anyone, Father Aaron," he called as he reached the doorway once again. I grinned at his carefully chosen words. Rather than lie by saying no one was here, he deliberately didn't look where he guessed I'd be.
The door closed behind him and I waited a few minutes to move, just in case. When I was satisfied that no one was going to be coming back to check, I stood up and looked around.
It was obviously not built for comfort up here. Certainly not for sleeping. Everything was hard wood except for the small patch of carpet toward the wall.
I sighed, going over to get as comfortable as possible, thankful that my bag could double as a pillow. I'd have to get some kind of blanket later. But if I was able to keep this up, I guessed it wouldn't be an issue for a while. Despite the coolness of the temperature outside, it was stuffy up here.
Searching the area, I spied a small window toward the front of the building and a door that I assumed to be a side exit toward the rear.
I went to prop open the window while it was still light enough to see and returned to my place on the floor. Before, the city sounds floating through the window would have undoubtedly kept me awake. But getting by on such little decent sleep was leaving me completely exhausted, so noise didn't seemed to be problematic any longer. At this point, a marching band surrounding me, wouldn't even bother me.
And the prospect of actually getting to lie down in a safe place to sleep, felt like Heaven. Even if it was on the floor.
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