I sat up quickly, momentarily confused about where I was. It seemed I was getting used to that feeling because I wasn't terrified this time.
In a few seconds I was able to recall falling asleep on the balcony floor and I looked around, yawning. Everything was dark and quiet, and I vaguely wondered what woke me since it was obviously still the middle of the night.
Not caring to think about it too much, I lay back down, already feeling myself ease back into oblivion.
Before I could drift off, a noise got my attention. It wasn't terribly loud, just out of place. And the crash of metal sounded very nearby. Right outside building, if I had to guess.
I sat up again, more alert. I had no idea what the noise was, but it must have been the reason I woke up in the first place. Surprises were never something I looked forward to, but now I understood just how bad they could be. Wanting to investigate, I quickly crept over to the window to look out.
The view from the balcony window didn't offer much information. It was a narrow opening and was at an odd angle. Even so, the wall outside protruded from the building, blocking any hope I had of seeing what might be causing the commotion.
But going off assumption, I guessed that the clanging metal I'd heard had come from the gate surrounding the building. Was someone trying to break in? Who even did that? Wasn't breaking into a church the tenth deadly sin or something?
I strained to listen and a deep voice reach my ears, barely louder than the late-night city sounds.
"Maybe she isn't here," the man said. "If they lock up at night, they probably check the building too."
I gripped the window ledge as my pulse sped up. Someone was trying to break in alright. To get to me. How did they find me? Again!
"She's here," another one answered confidently.
"What makes you so sure?"
"Camera showed her coming here and not leaving."
I was on camera? How?
"There's a back exit," the other one said. "Coulda gone out that way."
"There's a camera on that door too. She's here."
I was getting that trapped feeling again. I managed to evade them for an entire day, but somehow they tracked me down again. Which told me they could do it over and over. There were cameras all over the city. But how did Wescott know which ones to check? How would he even have access to them? And how did he know it was me when he shouldn't have any idea what I was wearing?
What was I supposed to do now? I didn't think the locks were so secure that these men couldn't get passed them. And then it would only be a matter of time before they found me. Running might be an option, but I would never outrun them while they were armed with remotes.
"Well, we can't break in. Boss said we gotta be discrete," the other one said to my great relief.
"That's okay. She's not going anywhere. She's locked in and probably sound asleep. We'll come back when the building opens. Grab her then."
The voices faded away and I couldn't believe my luck. They were actually leaving? Why did being discrete matter?
Deciding I really didn't care, I made my way back to the makeshift bed and checked that my few possessions were secure in my bag.
So much for a safe place to sleep, I thought, throwing the bag over my shoulder. But at least I actually felt rested this time. It was still fairly early when the doors were locked, so I was estimating that I'd gotten five or six hours of sleep.
Once I stood up, I had to worry about actually leaving. Automatically, I went for the door to my left, since obviously either of the main exits were out. I just prayed there would be no camera on this door.
I was glad that there was only a simple lock to get passed on this door, so I wouldn't have to break anything to get out. Hopefully the priest or whoever would think to check it later.
Ready to fly, I opened the door but had to stop short when I almost ran into the railing that surrounded the landing outside.
This wasn't an exit. It was a balcony. Just great.
I looked down, uneasy with the height. I was on the second floor and didn't have a sheet to get me even part of the way down this time.
I wasn't sure how soon those men would return, or if they'd even gone very far, and I had no idea how long it would be until the doors were opened for the day, so I couldn't waste time searching for another exit. Besides, there was no guarantee I'd actually get through the locks on a different door. And just because I didn't see any cameras in here, didn't mean they weren't anywhere else. There were plenty of other places in the building, including a gift shop, where it wouldn't be that outrageous to find one.
So either I risked being trapped too long as well as being spotted and hunted again, or I took my chances with the balcony.
Groaning, I secured my bag across my shoulder, knowing this was my only choice. I had to jump.
I took another look down, hoping to find anything able to be used for support, but there was nothing. Just a straight fall to the ground.
I suppose I could be grateful that it was grass and not concrete, though.
Still, once I made it down there, assuming I didn't kill myself, I still had to make it passed the fence. It wasn't any easily climbed chain link fence either. It was solid iron bars with no convenient footholds.
"Worry about it later," I muttered, throwing one leg over the railing and then the other.
I sat there for a good five minutes, clinging to the edge and thinking about how much this was probably going to hurt. I wasn't afraid of heights per se, but I wasn't a huge fan of them either.
Briefly closing my eyes, I took a deep breath. "Stop being a baby, Sam."
I pushed off, allowing gravity to take over, and for a few terrifying seconds was caught in free fall, plummeting to the ground. This was why I didn't like heights, I suddenly remembered. It was the total lack of control that I couldn't stand.
Despite keeping my knees bent and allowing myself to drop and roll as soon as my feet touched down, I still landed wrong thanks to the bag I carried, hindering my movement.
I almost made a full rotation, but was forced to stop with my left leg twisted beneath me, and it absorbed the momentum. I didn't feel anything snap, but the pain radiating through my ankle told me that I probably earned a pretty bad sprain.
Clumsily getting to my feet, I gritted my teeth against the ache and momentarily reached for the wall to steady myself.
Well this certainly wasn't going to make things easier. Perhaps jumping wasn't the best choice after all. But I guess it was too late for that now.
I hobbled to the gate, wondering how I would ever make it over the bars that came up to my shoulders. If I hadn't sprained my ankle, it would still be difficult to climb over.
After a minute of scanning the area, I noticed what I assumed to be some type of generator set just inside the fence. It was small enough for me to get on top of easily, and large enough to act as a step to the other side. It was perfect but I hesitated not comfortable with its proximity to the back entrance of the church. Remembering my ankle, I realized that I didn't have any other option. Even the thought of hopping the fence with assistance had me cringing, knowing how much the landing would hurt. Besides, better they saw me escaping on camera than to find me here in a few hours. I could always find somewhere to blend in and hopefully be lost on surveillance.
Unsure of how long it would take for me to be noticed once making myself visible on camera, I couldn't afford to waste time. Ignoring the pain in my ankle, I hurried over to the box and hopped on top of it, depending greatly on my upper body strength.
I stood up and positioned my good foot on the high iron bar, wobbling uneasily as I attempted to get my other foot in place. The process was taking much too long, thanks to my injury, but I didn't dare rush. I was already nervous about one wrong move sending me sprawling and really damaging my ankle. However the sharp prongs at the top of the fence added extra incentive to be overly careful.
My caution got me as far as standing up straight before a sudden gust of wind slammed into me, taking whatever balance I had right along with it. I flailed my arms trying to stay upright, but knowing it was a losing battle, I decided to jump while I still had a modicum of control.
In the split second it took to hit the ground, I was torn between wanting to baby my bad foot and wanting to land on both feet, in hopes of sparing my only good side the risk. One injured leg might be manageable, but two would make me completely helpless.
Of course, my indecisiveness cost me any kind of control, causing me to touch the ground with both feet before slamming onto my side. Which hurt a heck of alot more on concrete than the grass would have.
I felt myself go crimson with the effort to stay quiet as pain shot through my left leg as well as the arm I landed on.
Only taking a moment to recoup, I forced my body off the ground and began limping down the sidestreet, absently rubbing my sore right arm. My original intent had been to head toward Times Square, but that was a few miles away. A simple goal with two good feet, but injured as I was, it would take much too long. Particularly in light of the fact that people would be after me as soon as they got a glimpse of my less than graceful escape on that camera.
My only hope was to come across some helpful alternative and soon.
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