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Time is Running Out

Staten Island wasn't even within Mack's mind at this point. Everything had happened so rapidly, and he had to piece everything together as best as he could.

The encounter with Jade the day before did not sit well with him for the rest of yesterday. What did she mean when she said that he had gotten himself into something? To what extent did the seriousness of the situation stretch to?

Mack was not unfamiliar to the dangers of the world and the way things would happen in an instant. He thought he had gotten away from it when he returned home from the army, but things made a turn for the worse right before his eyes.

The day started routinely for Mack except this time, he headed down to a local coffee shop to start his day.

He ventured out to the heart of Herald Square to spend his morning at Intelligentsia Coffee, one of his favorite places to visit when he had gone to New York with his wife. The memories flooded his mind as he sipped on his cup of classic espresso. It felt like yesterday that he and his wife had been together at this little coffee shop they once called their haven away from home.

With the whole Donnie and Jade situation laid out in front of him, how could he concentrate on getting the rest and vacation he aimed to receive in the first place? The one person he would go to for advice wasn't with him anymore. He knew that he needed to be strong and push on, nonetheless.

"Sir, someone by the front would like to speak to you. He says you two are friends?" A waiter informed him as they halted in front of his table, balancing a tray stacked with empty mugs on the palm of their hand.

Mack glanced back at his supposed friend, already dreading that Donnie had flown to New York to bust him. That was something he was sure Donnie would have done if he knew Donnie at all.

Mack noticed a man standing by the door, but he was facing the opposite direction. The figure donned a plain gray hoodie with an ebony-colored snapback, and he had the hood of his sweatshirt over his head.

The man was shorter, thinner, and younger than Donnie was. Whoever this person was, Mack did not recognize him.

"I'm sorry. He must be mistaken." Mack faced himself back towards his coffee cup and sent the waiter off.

The server walked back towards the man at the front and explained that the entire situation had been a mistake. Mack couldn't help but rotate his body around again to observe the encounter, making sure that any existing issues were handled.

From afar, Mack could make out that the man nodded his head then began to walk away. He pulled his phone out of his sweatshirt pocket and held it up to his ear, most likely to make a call. Mack wasn't able to get a clear look at the individual's face because his eyes were well-shielded by a pair of aviators that the sun adequately reflected off of.

Abruptly, Mack's own phone started buzzing with a text from a blocked number:

Sorry it had to be this way.

He immediately brought his attention up towards his surroundings, but before he knew it, a monstrous burst came from the coffee shop's exterior causing the glass windows to shatter concurrently. Fortunately, Mack was facing away from the hazard and got to the ground safely.

His heartbeat was the most dominant sound ringing throughout his ears, as muffled screams coming from the people out in the open and the people from inside the shop accompanied it.

"Everyone, please exit towards the back of the shop and get to safety." Employees in the shop were escorting people away from the explosion, and everybody rushed out with alarming looks on their faces.

Instead of escaping with the rest of the customers, Mack sat up and focused at the ground. Whatever was left of the tile floor was now overtaken with broken glass and wood as steam comprehensively filled the atmosphere.

"Sir, I need you to exit now." The same waiter from earlier had come by to alert him to take himself outside. The server was more panicky than Mack himself.

"Who was that man from earlier?"

"I'm sorry?"

"The man at the front of the shop. Did you get a good look at his face?" Mack stood up from the ground, brushing away the server's assistance.

"No, sir. I'm sorry."

Mack bolted outside the shop and made his way around to its anterior, but the entire avenue had been blocked off by firetrucks and various law enforcement vehicles.

In the distance ahead, he recognized a soaring geyser of hot steam wreaking havoc in the neighborhood of Midtown Manhattan. There were swarms of people emerging out from the explosion all covered in mud and debris, their clothes torn and tattered, and their faces overruled with emotional distress.

Everywhere Mack brought his eyes to exhibited catastrophe. He heard sirens, car alarms, cries of horror, and so much more that he felt he lost the capacity to comprehend within that moment.

He thought about the text he had gotten. Who had sent it to him?

Of course this was linked to that. There was no way around the fact someone was out for him, but who?

Mack repeatedly remembered what Jade told him the day before.

You don't know what the hell you've gotten yourself into. You shouldn't have come.

He thought the warning was unconventional, but he was beginning to doubt it now. Everything was happening so suddenly for it all not to be associated.

"We are receiving a report from officials saying that there are four dead and more than fifty injured in today's steam pipe explosion down in Midtown's Herald Square. It is unclear whether this was an act of terrorism, but officials have said that it is highly unlikely."

Everyone clustered around the TV screens within the New York General Medical Center to take in the scene of the outburst that had just taken place a few miles away.

In the back room of the ground floor, Jade was front and center as she peered up at the television screen, digesting whatever information she could absorb from the media. She was astonished by the scenes that had played right before her eyes. No way could the city have failed that poorly. Not on its own.

"We have discovered that the pipes had been replaced only a few years back, so that could rule out the failure of the city's infrastructure."

All of the medical personnel around her had troubled looks upon their faces. Many were also attempting to contact loved ones to be sure that they had not been in the area during the time of the explosion.

There were people being rushed in on gurneys as doctors and nurses hurried over to give them the necessary medical attention they required.

Jade was silent. She felt uneasy, but she didn't let her emotions get to her. At least not in that present moment. This was no accident, and she was sure of it. It had all been too familiar.

There was a commotion coming from the front lobby, and she turned her attention out towards the noise. She was not able to see anything past the crowd of people, but once she focused long enough on the voice that stood out above all the others, she knew exactly who it was.

"I need to see Doctor Paul right now." Mack stood at the front of the desk like he did the day before. His palms rested on the countertop as he leaned forward, demanding the receptionist to let him through to the halls.

"Sir, if you need help, please get on a gurney and someone will pull you into the ER."

"Please, this is very important. I have to speak with her now." Mack was out of breath. He had travelled all the way to the medical center on foot because that was the only way he would reach his destination. That text message was connected to the explosion, and he wasn't going to wait around for answers any longer.

"I'm sorry, but-"

Before the receptionist could finish her thought, Mack saw Jade emerge from the hallway. She whispered something into the ear of the receptionist, and everything was taken care of just like that.

Jade noticed that Mack's clothes were frayed and unraveled. His dress shirt had holes all throughout, and he was coated with dried up mud and debris that he failed to wipe off from the explosion.

"Come with me," Jade permitted. She stood right where the hallway began and glared at Mack. He felt almost as if she already knew everything he was going through.

Even after she took off, Mack stood motionless for a few brief moments before commencing. She knows. Of course, he thought.

The third floor of the hospital had a number of patient rooms. Both Mack and Jade stayed mum the whole way up the elevator and through the hallways.

When they reached one of the rooms, he sat on the bed, and she shut the door behind them.

"Let's get you patched up." Jade made her way to the cabinets on the far wall of the room and took out a cohesive bandage roll, antibiotic cream, and a suture kit.

She brought the materials to the bed and placed them beside Mack. He eyed her, thinking about how easily she let him into the facility after he caused the disturbance in the waiting room.

She slipped on a pair of vinyl gloves before proceeding to examine Mack's wounds. "Unbutton your shirt."

Mack did as he was told. He didn't once look under his clothes for any wounds, but now that he thought about it, he could feel much deeper damage.

"So, are you a real doctor or is this all just an act too?"

"I told you not to come here." Jade noticed several little cuts on Mack's arms and back, both deep and shallow, so she grabbed a towel and disinfected them as best as she could.

"I'm still questioning what's going on, but I feel like you already know." Mack felt the burn from the alcohol that Jade dabbed onto his cuts which caused him to grunt here and there. "I feel like I have the right to know."

"I don't think we should discuss it. Not here." Jade grabbed the suture kit and began stitching up any open wounds.

"I think we got off on the wrong foot."

"Oh yeah?" Jade cut off the extra thread when she finished stitching.

"Tell me something: How do you know Donald Tesla?"

Mack brought his shirt back over his arms but left it unbuttoned, as Jade brought the materials back to their original place.

She sighed as she made her way back towards Mack, her eyes pointed at the ground.

"Let me guess: you can't tell me."

"I'd rather not let anyone else get involved." Jade leaned onto the counter behind her, facing Mack's direction as he started buttoning up his shirt.

"Involved with what?"

Jade exhaled once more, but this time, it was a lot deeper and more prolonged. She looked at Mack and the distance that stood between them. Something was undeniably wrong. Was he smart to ask?

"I can't say," she denied him a worthwhile reply once again.

Mack drooped his shoulders down, still left hanging with his unanswered questions.

A pause before either of them spoke again. The tension was immense because one person knew more than the other and the information Mack sought was not given to him.

"The explosion at Intelligentsia. You know something about that."

Jade walked to the door and opened it to allow Mack to exit. "If anything goes wrong, you come and find me. Understand?"

"These past few days of my life haven't fallen into that category?" His tone was mild, as he felt as though he had frightened her enough already.

"I have to be sure."

With that, he took a step out the door, but turned to face her once last time. There was this essence in her eyes that assured him that things would be fine, but even she wasn't so sure herself.

Finally, the door shut.

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