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Chapter 17

After the game I went home, made my dad a sandwich, which he ate in between coughs, showered and headed to work. Being Friday, the dinner rush had already begun when I arrived. I worked my way through the five or six people waiting impatiently and stepped behind the register. Mrs. Han was busy taking a call and nodded for me to ring up the disgruntled guy first in line. He looked as though he were about to ring it up himself, I thought, and punched in his order.

After a few minutes, three of them were out the door and on their way to tasting the best Chinese food money could buy. I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t have time to get my own plate tonight. Mrs. Han had agreed to let me slip out a little before seven-o’clock so I could make it to Allison’s birthday party. Regardless, I spent the next several hours plotting and trying to convince myself that I could still wolf down a plate and make it to the party on time.

Anyway, seven-o’clock rolled around and the crowd kept coming. I felt bad leaving, but despite running around like a crazy woman herself, Mrs. Han reminded me that I had an important date to keep and pushed me out the door. For Mrs. Han and the people anxiously waiting, this was just another Friday. For us, it was a special memory in the making. Her insistence helped reduce the guilt and I appreciated her more for it.

Rushing out the door, I figured I could make it just in time with a little hustle. Dinner was at eight and because of that bit of fortune, I was able to put in a few hours of work and make it on time, not to mention the extra cash would help repad the dent Allison’s gift had left in my wallet. I had gotten her a one-year pass to the Crimson James Memorial and Museum with a special guest entry at the annual gala. I couldn’t wait to see the expression on her face.

I turned the corner at full speed and couldn’t believe my eyes. The Metro stop was shut down again and for a moment, I suspected the Colonel. He’d pulled a few strings with a government honcho and what do you know, Trenton might not be able to make it to the party. Ridiculous, I know, but thoughts like this shoot through my mind without warning regardless of merit.

Okay, I thought, six blocks to the stop I had to use earlier in the week. If I sprinted, I might still be able to cut it close, but could I sprint six blocks? I started off like an Olympic athlete during time trials and dodged and weaved through the sparse passersby. However, with two blocks to go, I turned the corner and ran right into the bald patch guy. Aside from my heart nearly stopping, I couldn’t believe it - the freaking bald patch guy had to be right where I was running! He flew back into the retail store wall, one eye blazing.

“What the...” was all I heard when the rush of pins and needles splintered through my extremities. His two cohorts looked at him like pitbulls on a leash waiting for the attack command, but wanted to know if he was going to rip me to shreds himself. I was pretty sure what this caveman was going to do, so I ran before his brain could connect the dots.

However, as I did, the tunnel vision seeped in and I was afraid of what was about to happen. Not because I knew what would occur, but for precisely the opposite reason: I had no idea what was coming. I just hoped I would wake up from the nightmare in one piece as I always had when this damn condition took over.

“Spider,” Eye Patch yelled, “stop that son-of-a-bitch!”

Who the hell was Spider, I thought, and instantly found out. Another thug, who had been in the Metro, was coming at me from the opposite direction.

I slowed down but kept running toward Spider – one guy was better than three, I figured, and decided to turn down the next street or opening I could find.

Three seconds later, I spotted a gap in the brick-lined retail row and turned, but immediately regretted my decision. I stopped and cursed the dead-end gangway ahead of me, completely deflated.

The howling gang of mercenaries stumbled over each other in pure triumph as they entered my over-sized coffin. Eye Patch approached menacingly, but before he spoke, the tunnel vision gave way to the frightening buzzing sound and everything turned black. It was happening again.

That was the last thing I remembered...

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