The riots must have gotten worse. A sheet of black was all Phil could see. He grabbed his phone from his pocket with shaking hands. He could hear his breath, and nothing else. He turned his phone on and went to the flashlight app. He would be able to find his car now.
The parking garage was so quiet Phil could hear his own heartbeat, punctuated by his new shoes tapping the concrete, echoing through the blackness. He knew that if anyone should come down here they would find him. He passed the giant fan that would have been running and shined his light at it. The sight of the broken fan suddenly made him pull at his collar. The air seemed unsafe now.
He found wall with the red line on it, the corner and then the pillar that took up a parking spot. He was at his car. The key was brought up like normal but Phil did not press the button to unlock it from a distance, it made too much noise. He scrambled to the car door. The key slashed against the door at least twice before he got it in the lock. It had been a long time since he had to open his car that way. When he was sitting down he found his hands flailing all over the inside of the door to lock the car. The thought of one of the rioters prying him from his car was making the task difficult. He held his phone up to the door. There had never been a need to lock his car with him in it.
He thought of the crowd that might still be up there. He had not seen an end to the people, even looking all the way down 16th ave. In that moment he made the decision that it would be best to run anyone down that tried to stop him. It was a matter of personal safety.
He turned the car on and another wave of panic shot into him through his nose. The cement wall in front of him almost blinded him. And the car was so loud he expected to have someone banging on the rear window in seconds. The car slammed into reverse. He pulled out of the spot and nicked the smaller car with his front as he turned. They would understand, he thought.
His car hit the car behind him. He turned again and drove away. The blackness of the basement garage was unnerving. He could feel the wideness of his eyes, the adrenaline rushing through his body. Slowly he made the 3 turns to get out, it took him a lot longer than he expected. The ramp out of the basement was like a beacon. The sunlight reflected through the room. He could feel himself brighten as he saw it. As he rolled the up to the top he began to relax. No bottles, no clubs, no droves of angry people were in sight. He sighed and brought the car level with the road.
There were hundreds of people in the street. The response to his car was immediate. A stranger in an oversized dirty red sweater turned to make eye contact. Only a moment passed before the stranger threw a bottle. Not even a second passed before another rioter hurled a chunk of concrete. Phil slammed on the accelerator.
“God damn it!” he shouted threw gritted teeth.
The rear of the car had drifted back onto the ramp while he had watched the strangers. There were too many people blocking his path now anyway. He slammed it into reverse and hastily made his way back into the dark basement. He hit the concrete walls twice on his way down, he had never gone his fast in reverse before. He made the sharp turn with a bit of a skid and kept going until he realized that the rioters had no light source, they wouldn’t be able to find him. And maybe they didn’t want to find him, he hoped. Maybe one guy wasn’t worth the effort. Phil parked and turned the car off.
He stared at the exit ramp for what seemed like an hour. He saw shadows and his breathing stopped. Six people were walking down the ramp. A bright light came from two of them, they had flashlights or a phone like his. He gripped the steering wheel with his left hand and the key with his right. He was breathing fast. The thought of running them all down flashed in his mind. He couldn’t, more would come for vengeance. He would have to run. The car roared to life with a forceful turn of the key. Phil drove straight until he saw the break in the parked cars. He would go left, deeper into the garage. One of the rear windows smashed, and the car was bathed in orange light. A molotov cocktail had gone through the window and was rolling around in the backseat. Phil knew it had not been broken by the impact but he could not stop now.
He swerved at the turn. The sudden fire had spiked his adrenaline, he found himself going faster. His car scraped the fronts of two others. Phil corrected a bit too much and scraped a truck on the opposite side. It had been at more of an angle and he lost some momentum. The orange glow was growing as the flaming bottle rolled around, the neck touching all sides of the leather interior. There was smoke now; Phil was forced to lower the windows as he made his way deeper and deeper into the garage.
He kept going, trying to ignore the fire. Turn after turn, his headlights flashed over the numbers on the wall. 3, 4, 5. He was well underground now. His left shoulder caught a lick of fire.
“Fuck,” he hushed himself despite the sound of the car, and the fire.
He saw no other option. He slowed the car down quickly and only half avoided screeching the tires before hastily getting out of the car. The door few open and bounced back at him. It hit his head.
He didn’t look back and ran deeper into the garage. He could hear the fire spreading, the windows on his SUV breaking. When he got to the bottom there was a door. “Maintenance” was printed on it in large letters. He had to get inside.
Ignoring the burning car, Phil rushed to the door and tried the handle. It moved, but was locked. His phone was in the car, it was too late to go back for it. No flashlight. He felt the floor and walls of the garage for anything. A crowbar, metal stick, anything that might help him get in that room. Phil froze. He heard a click followed by a squeak. The door opened inwards. It was dark in the room, and the fire did not supply enough light to see.
“Hello?” Phil tried to sound as pathetic as he could. Like the homeless on the way to the train.
“What the fuck is going on?”came an angry, commanding voice.
Phil felt a gun aimed at him.
“People chased me down here. That’s my car. If you don’t help me they will kill me,” he did not know if the last part was true but a little guilt might edge things his way.
“Fuckin eh. Get in,” the voice responded angrily.
A light turned on in the room and the man’s face was visible. He was black, and he was dressed like the rioters. Army jacket, gloves, hoodie and a winter hat. He looked dirty. Phil rushed past him and saw the shotgun. It was flat black. It scared Phil to see it but he knew without it this man probably would not have survived this long.
Although Phil was not tired he collapsed on the floor when he got inside.
“Why would you go lower? There’s no way out of here,” the man said with a growl.
He slammed the door shut and turned the light off. Phil heard him slump against the door, sitting down.
“I panicked. They threw a molotov cocktail into my car,” Phil said sheepishly.
Phil realized he was pointing at his car and neither one of them could see it. His hands fell on his thighs in the dark.
“If we’re really lucky they’ll lose interest,” he changed the subject.
The man’s voice suddenly became familiar.
“Do I know you? Do you work in this building?” Phil could not believe how relaxed he sounded saying that.
“I did. What’s your name?” the tone sounded lighter.
“Phillip Kelly, I’m with BP on the 30th floor.”
“Oh yeah? You’re going back in the morning?” the man jabbed at him.
“This will be over in a couple of days.”
The silence said that the man felt otherwise.
“I’ll need a new car though,” Phil chuckled to himself. He could hear it smoldering through the metal door.
The man laughed heartily, “Maybe an armored one.”
“So where are you?” Phil asked.
“I’m right here.”
“I mean what floor do you work at. What’s your name?”
“I worked at the coffee shop in the lobby. I remember you. Medium iced americano with no lid, right?” the man asked.
Phil felt himself make an approving face.
“But what’s your name?” Phil was getting impatient.
“Well Sean, thank you for saving my life.”
“They might be back, and I don’t know what I’m going to do if that happens,” he sounded afraid even though he had the shotgun.
“You’ll shoot them of course,” Phil almost laughed.
“Have you killed anyone Phil?” there was bitterness there that Phil picked up on.
“If they’re attacking us, why would we not defend ourselves?” he saw his hand make a patronizing gesture. His eyes had gotten used to the dark. The orange light of the car fire was trickling in under the door.
“I don’t want to kill anyone,” Sean said. He sounded pained.
“These people threw a god damned molotov cocktail into my car! They tried to kill me!” Phil could feel his temperature rising.
“Well you were rich, and they’re poor. You showed yourself to them and you’re everything they hate.”
“Look, I’m not rich. My bosses are rich. They’re the ones with fucking mansions and yachts,”
“You had a house?”
“I have a house.”
“How many bedrooms?”
Phil hesitated to answer, “Two.”
Sean laughed with his belly, “Two bedrooms? You lived by yourself?”
“Two bedrooms isn’t that much.”
Phil silently thought for a moment. He had an apartment in the best suburb in the area.
“It’s Oakdale, isn’t it? And you still don’t think you were rich?”
Phil’s voice grew louder.
“I know at least four managers upstairs with gates to their houses. And why the fuck are you saying all this in the past tense. This is a riot, not the end of the world. In three days the military will come in and fix this whole thing.”
“Suit yourself. But I’ve never heard of riots span cities like this. I haven’t heard anything from the government in a week. Have you?”
Phil said nothing.
“You seriously don’t think you were rich?” Sean pressed.
“Whose fucking side are you on, here? Should I be worried that you’re going to kill me? Why aren’t you out there with them? You obviously can’t stand me,” even as he said it he knew he shouldn’t have. He wasn’t the one with the gun.
“I don’t like killing. I don’t like hating,” he spoke somberly.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to lump you in with them. You saved me. I guess my adrenaline is still going,” Phil was nevertheless suspicious of Sean.
“Okay,” Sean’s tone was final.
The two of them listened to the car fire slowly die down. The soft glow coming through the bottom of the door disappeared. Phil imagined the Mercedes symbol melted on the cement floor next to a smoking pile of ash nicely boxed in the half-melted frame. He didn’t know how to hot-wire a car, but if he did he might consider talking Sean into getting out of here in one of the cars in the garage. There were plenty to choose from.
“Do you know how to hot-wire a car?” Phil broke the silence.
Phil could feel the contempt. Was it racist of him to ask that? Right now he didn’t care. Before he could speak again the sound of footsteps and a flash of reflected light under the door caused Phil to sit up straight.
Sean snapped the shotgun into a ready position and got up silently to crouch beside the door. Phil picked up on cue and mirrored Sean.
The footsteps ended very close. The voice enunciated each syllable with horrifying clarity.
“We. Are going. To kill you.”
Phil was staring at where Sean’s eyes were. He willed him to make the choice to fight back. His temperature dropped and he felt like he did back in the burning car. The adrenaline was in full swing. They waited inside in silence for a few moments before the same man spoke again.
“We either smoke you out or you open that fucking door you pompous prick. I saw your car before we burned it. I know you’re one of them,” the rioter said casually.
The more Phil heard him talk the younger he sounded. He stared at Sean, waiting for him to make a movement or say anything. His knees were shaking, his breathing was becoming hard to keep controlled. It was only a matter of time before he would beg them to spare his life. They waited again in silence. There was an exchange on the other side. It seemed to grow a little heated.
“Your time is over!” another rioter screamed. The others vocally agreed with her.
Phil could hear her mouth foaming with rage.
Sean stood up and took a stance about six feet away from the door, the shotgun resting on his hip.
“When you hear those footsteps come close again,” he whispered, “You open the door as fast as you can and plug your ears.”
Phil nodded, then realizing Sean couldn’t see him, “Good thinking.”
It didn’t take long for the moment to arrive. The footsteps came right to the door and despite his heart pounding in his chest Phil grabbed the door and pulled it inwards as hard as he could. He slammed it against himself and held it as cover. There was no time for speaking. Phil heard a shotgun blast followed by screaming, then another. Rapid gunshots, the shotgun and pained voices came from the room and the garage. It lasted longer than Phil had expected, and Sean had been shot. After a couple seconds of silence Phil closed the door as powerfully as he had opened it.
“God fucking damn it!” Sean cried out from the floor.
Phil searched frantically for his phone for the light. Sean beat him to it and pulled his from his pocket. The light blinded him even though it was pointed at Sean’s side. There was more blood than Phil had ever seen. He counted two wounds, each within a couple inches of each other. He knew nothing about saving people. He did not even know the Heimlich maneuver.
“Get them out!” Sean screamed but it came to Phil as a whisper, he had not covered his ears like Sean had told him to.
“How?” Phil said.
Phil had no tools, and thought he would only damage him further.
“Anything! Look around, there has to be something! Your hands? I need a tourniquet” Sean’s voice was getting quieter.
Sean pulled up his shirt while screaming. The holes weren’t big, but a lot of blood was coming from them. Sean was convulsing now. The phone slipped out of his hand and fell on the concrete face down. the room was dark again. Phil could hear the groaning and wailing. And not just from Sean, but from outside. It was only then that he covered his ears....