Lara could not force herself into the taxi next to her friends. She remained rooted to the ground even as everyone around her ran screaming for the cover of Rua Augusta and the surrounding shops. The cab driver was yelling at her in Portuguese. Still she couldn’t move, she couldn’t get in the cab but she couldn’t bring herself to turn and face what she had done. At some future time—her own death perhaps—would she have to return to the graveyard in her mind and look at the new tombstone of her making bearing the name ‘Ryan Caruso?’
No. I can’t stand by. “Go!” Lara shouted to the cab driver. She shut the door on her bewildered friends before they could protest. The tires squealed on the wet cobblestone street and the Mercedes-Benz sedan tore off honking noisily at the screaming pedestrians. Lara, however, was not really aware of any of those sounds. She had already made a decision and her tomb raider mind had switched itself on. Never mind the obvious, that’s just there to distract you from the secret, the important and the dangerous. She was focusing on other sounds more important to her now than screams and honking: the throaty chatter of large caliber rifles both German- and American-made. The sharp report of pistol fire. The pffft-pffft of silenced submachine guns on full auto and the mounting wail of police and ambulance sirens.
Lara shed her sodden trenchcoat as she turned back to face the statue where she assumed Ryan Caruso was either dead or dying. The sight that greeted her was both heartening and horrifying. Carlos’ men were taking cover around the statue’s pedestal. From the surrounding rooftops long, bright muzzle flashes were popping from what Lara guessed were sniper rifles. Despite impressive firepower of their own, Carlos’ men were taking quite a beating. Lara could not tell from this vantage if Ryan Caruso’s body lay among the carnage.
With a desperate resolve, Lara unslung the Uzi from her shoulder and ran for the pedestal. However, before she could close enough to begin firing, Carlos’ men made a break for the cover of the western arcade about 50 meters away. The fierceness of their counterattack caused the sniper rifles to go silent for a moment as the gunners reacquired their targets. Lara felt confident that the operatives of the Shadow Kingdom had met their match so instead of following she tacked carefully for the statue’s pedestal. The area was slick with the blood of several dead men. Lara heaved a sigh: Ryan was not among them.
Before she could dwell on her good fortune a blast rocked the plaza. The rooftop post of one of the snipers was now engulfed in flame. Pieces of tile, wood and stone rained down on the rain-soaked ground. All at once Lara was confronted with the turn of the tide in this small war. The once-superior snipers were now being harried not just by rifle fire from the cluster of Carlos’ survivors on the ground but by a helicopter swooping in from the river side of the plaza. Through the open bay doors Lara could see the unmistakable silhouette of a man holding an RPG.
A second blast was followed closely by a third. The remaining snipers were now in full retreat. The vanguard of the police arrived from the east via the river boulevard as the chopper began to descend onto the plaza. Lara noted with horror that whoever had bothered to call the police had not been very clear on the details. The first cars on the scene were little Fiats with a pair of regular officers to a car. Yet another RPG exploded the lead car tossing it onto its side. The two remaining cars tried frantically to evade this unexpected bird of prey landing in the plaza. One swerved and crashed into the top of the seawall that framed one side of the boulevard’s wide sidewalk. The other pulled into reverse in a desperate attempt to get out of range but only made it a few meters before being picked apart by rifle fire emanating from the chopper.
Within seconds the chopper had landed between the statue, where Lara had taken cover, and the arches where Carlos’ men were hiding, its rotor kicking up an icy cold spray as it did so. Once the wheels were on the ground, the beleaguered Carlos rushed forward surrounded by his remaining killers. Nobody had taken notice of Lara. She took advantage of their mistake and crouched low and to the side of the pedestal giving herself a nice, protected field of fire. The chopper was mostly obstructing her view of the oncoming Carlos but once he entered the rear bay she would have a clean shot through the open doors. With luck she might even cause him to drop the case holding the Idol, but either way she would have done with him. The man who had tortured her friends would be dead. The man who had probably killed Ryan would be dead.
Lara shoved the rage and the remorse to the back of her mind. There would be time for that later. She steadied her weapon and focused her breathing. A shot at 20 meters with an Uzi and a pounding heart and trembling hands would be extremely difficult. The first of Carlos’ men climbed aboard. Lara waited. There was more movement in the rear bay. Still no sign of Carlos. The engine throttled up and the chopper began to lift off.
Show your face, damn you.
Her wish was granted as the helo lifted a few feet off the ground. Flashing his shark smile, Carlos peered out at the destruction in the plaza. Lara eased off a few rounds. They missed their mark. She adjusted and loosed several controlled bursts into the helo’s bay. She was rewarded with a cry of shock and pain as Carlos crumpled to the floor. Even through the white spray kicked up by the rotor Lara could tell several bullets had found their mark in his chest.
The Shadow Kingdom’s vengeance was swift. Multiple rifles chattered from the confines of the helo. Pieces of stone and cement were spraying all around Lara. One bullet caught her in the inner thigh. She took cover behind the pedestal. With one hand she reloaded the Uzi and with the other tried to staunch the bleeding. It was bad but not spurting: the bullet had missed the femoral artery. She could hear the helo angling as if to swing around and deprive her of cover. Lara realized that her success was about to be short lived. She was alone, wounded, facing off against a helicopter filled with trained killers. She would not be able to hide for long.
Lara prepared to move. The arcades along the buildings surrounding the plaza were too far for her to reach even without a leg which was already on fire with pain, but she would continue to run around the pedestal until they got wise and hit her with an RPG. She caught sight of the rotor blade coming around the statue but instead of circling in it circled out and darted up and out towards the river. Lara soon saw why.
It looked like every police car and officer in Lisbon had descended on the Praça de Comércio. Several large black vans and trucks roared up and disgorged their squads of heavily-armed soldiers. Dozens of ambulances and fire trucks fought for space with small squad cars that choked up the surrounding streets.
Police will look for evidence that confirms their initial assumption. It’s easier for them that way. –Lott. Lara’s mind switched into overdrive. What would the police find it easiest to believe? That she was there in the plaza to trade an ancient artifact chock full of demons and the life of a man who belonged to an organization that had been extinct for half a millennium for two of her friends and had just been caught, unfortunately, in the ensuing bloodbath? Or that she was a complete psychopath who had just escaped from an asylum in London? There was no two ways about it—Lara could not afford to be detained by the police. Not with her friends and Ryan still unaccounted for, and the Idol in the possession of the Shadow Kingdom.
Lara shoved her Uzi under one of the dead men surrounding her. Then, with some short-lived regret, she unfastened her gun belt and stashed her twin H&K USP .40s in the same fashion. She fought to move quickly without attracting attention. Already she could see that the police had strung a barrier around the plaza. Next, she ripped the sleeves off of her top and wrapped them loosely around her wound. She stood shakily and began to limp to the nearest ambulance. When she was about 30 meters away Lara completed the act. I am Lott’s chameleon.
“Oh, God! I’m shot! I’ve lost so much blood! Those men are murderers! Oh my God, I’m going to die aren’t I?” The paramedic she was screaming at probably couldn’t understand what she was saying but there was no mistaking her hysterics. He caught sight of her leg—now thoroughly soaked in blood, to Lara’s grim satisfaction—and rushed to her. He offered her his shoulder and guided her quickly to the ambulance. Before he could place her on a stretcher though, one of the police officers intercepted them. He spoke rapidly to the paramedic while motioning back toward the statue where she had just come from. He pointed from her to the statue and then gave a vague wave of his hand around the plaza. The paramedic rejoined by pointing at her leg and then the ambulance. Lara knew very little Portuguese but she could tell exactly what was being said. She was starting to feel light-headed. The ruse with her poorly tied bandages was now working too well and unless she got attention soon…“Aagghh! I can’t stand the pain! Are those maniacs coming back?! Please get me to a hospital! Hospital!” She screamed and buckled half-dramatically against the paramedic. That settled it. The officer motioned for the paramedic to place her in the ambulance but not before he summoned two of the black clad SWAT officers to ride in the back with her. He himself got in his squad car and made to follow the ambulance. The SWAT officers sat one on either side of her and, with a caution that bespoke excellent training, cable-tied her wrists to the sides of the stretcher just as a precaution. Lara groaned inwardly: if they were this careful without knowing who she was, what would happen when they discovered her identity? Her vision began to swim. Temporarily resigned to her fate, she leaned back on the stretcher and lost consciousness.