Long Lost Page 18

The table landed flush on his face. At the same time I turned to the side, just in case he got a shot off.

No chance.

I kept the torque in my torso and shot up and over. If there had just been Scar Head to worry about, my next step would be clear: disable him. Maim or hurt or just end his ability to fight in some way. But there were at least three other men here. My hope was that they would scatter, but I couldn\'t count on that.

Good thing too. Because they didn\'t.

My eyes searched for the gun. As I expected, he had dropped it on impact. I landed hard on top of my adversary. The table was still pressed against his face. The back of his head hit the pavement with a thud.

I went for the gun.

People screamed and scattered. I rolled off and toward the gun, picked it up, continued to roll. I made it to one knee and aimed it at the sunglassed guy who\'d been waiting on the corner.

He had a gun too.

’’Freeze!’’ I shouted.

He raised the gun in my direction. I did not hesitate. I shot him in the chest.

The moment I pulled the trigger I rolled toward the wall. The green minivan was racing toward me. Shots were fired. Not a handgun this time.

Machine-gun fire raking the wall.

More screams.

Oh man, I hadn\'t counted on that. My calculations were all about me. There were pedestrians and I was dealing with complete lunatics who seemed okay with hurting any and all bystanders.

I saw the first man, Scar Head, who got whacked with the table, stirring. Sunglasses was down. Blood rushed in my ears. I could hear my own breath.

Had to move.

’’Stay down!’’ I shouted to the passing crowd, and then because you think of weird things even at times like this, I wondered how you\'d say that in French or if they would be able to translate or if, hey, the machine-gun fire would clue them in.

Keeping low, I ran in the direction opposite the van\'s movement, toward where it had been parked. I heard a screech of tires. More gunfire. I turned the corner and kept my legs pumping. I was back on Rue Dauphine. The hotel was only about a hundred yards in front of me.

So what?

I risked a glance behind me. The van had backed up and was making the turn. I looked for a road or alley to turn down.

Nothing. Or maybe . . . ?

There was a small road on the other side of the street. I debated dodging across, but then I\'d be even more exposed. The van was speeding toward me now. I saw the barrel of a weapon sticking out the window.

I was too out in the open.

My legs pumped. I kept my head low, as if that would really make me a smaller target. There were people on the street. Some figured out what was going on and dispersed. Others I bumped into, sending them sprawling.

’’Get down!’’ I kept yelling because I had to yell something.

Another blast of gunfire. I literally felt a bullet pass over my head, could feel the air tickle my hair.

Then I heard sirens.

It was that awful French siren again, the short shrill blast, and I never thought I would so welcome that horrid sound.

The van stopped. I moved to the side and flattened myself against the wall. The van flew back in reverse, heading back to the corner. I held the gun in my hand and debated taking a shot. The van was probably too far away and there were too many pedestrians in the way. I had already been reckless enough.

I didn\'t like the idea of them getting away, but I didn\'t want the streets riddled with more gunfire.

The back of the minivan slid open. I saw a man pop out. Scar Head was up now. There was blood on his face and I wondered if I\'d broken his nose. Two days, two broken noses. Nice work if you could get paid for it.

Scar Head needed help. He looked down the street in my direction, but I was probably too far away to see. I resisted the temptation to wave. I heard the sirens again, getting closer. I turned and two police cars came toward me.

The cops jumped out and pointed weapons at me. For a moment I was surprised, ready to explain that I was the good guy here, but then it all came clear. I was holding a gun in my hand. I had shot someone.

The cops yelled something that I assume was a command to freeze and raise my hands and I did just that. I let the weapon drop to the pavement and got on one knee. The cops ran toward me.

I looked back toward the minivan. I wanted to point it out to the cops, tell them to go after it, but I knew how any sudden move would appear. The police were shouting instructions at me, and I didn\'t understand any of them so I stayed perfectly still.

And then I saw something that made me want to go for the gun again.

The minivan door was open. Scar Head was rolling in. The other man jumped in behind him and began to close the doors as the van started to move. The angle changed and for just a second less time really, maybe half a second I was able to see into the back of the van.

I was also a good distance away, probably seventy to eighty yards, so maybe I was wrong. Maybe I wasn\'t seeing what I thought I was seeing.

Panic took over. I couldn\'t help it I started to stand back up. I was that desperate. I was ready to jump for the gun and start firing at the tires. But the cops were on me now. I don\'t know how many. Four or five. They leapt on me, pounding me back to the pavement.

I struggled and felt something sharp, probably the butt end of a club, dig into my kidney. I didn\'t stop.

’’The green van!’’ I shouted.

There were too many of them. I felt my arms being twisted behind my back.

’’Please’’ I could hear the near-crazed fear in my voice, tried to quell it ’’you have to stop them!’’

But my words were having no effect. The minivan was gone.

I closed my eyes and tried to conjure back the memory of that half a second. Because what I did see in the back or what I thought I saw right before the van doors closed and swallowed her whole, was a girl with long blond hair.

10

TWO hours later, I was back in my stinky holding cell at 36 quai des Orfèvres.

The police questioned me for a very long time.

I kept my narrative simple and begged them to find Berleand for me. I tried to keep my voice steady as I told them to find Terese Collins at the hotel I was worried that whoever had gone after me might be interested in her too and mostly I repeated the van\'s license plate number and said that there might be a kidnap victim in the back.

First they kept me out on the street, which was odd but also made sense. I was cuffed and had two officers, one holding each elbow, with me at all times. They wanted me to point out what had happened. They walked me back to CaféLe Buci on the corner. The table was still overturned. There was a smear of blood on it. I explained what I had done. No witness had seen Scar Head holding the gun, of course, just my counterattack. The man I had shot had been rushed off in an ambulance, which I hoped meant he was alive.


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