The room is simply furnished, with blocky chairs, a square end table and a sharp-angled twin bed with what look like military-issue linens. There’s a small adjoining bathroom no bigger than a coat closet. It looks like a college dorm room, or an economy motel.
But they can’t hide from Jack that it’s a prison cell. Why don’t they think he’s safe in his own house? What do they know about it?
Jack knows it’s all bullshit. They didn’t read him his rights. They didn’t give a lawyer, or a phone call. Half of what that lady said was probably a lie. Maybe they have him for piracy, and they’re just making up stories to get him to go along peacefully.
Jack has to get back home. He has to look after Grandpa. He can’t count on anyone else to do it. He also has things there that he needs: his backpack, his drives. The bastards took his phone as soon as they got him in the SUV, so he has to get online and download it and erase it as soon as possible. He doesn’t need them snooping in his stuff.
They can’t do this. I’ll show them.
He peeks through the curtain covering his only window. It’s dark outside. There aren’t many city lights. This building abuts some kind of river or marsh.
He turns off his lights.
The guard standing in front of his door has a radio that squawks now and then. Jack gets down on all fours and looks under the crack of the door. A pair of feet blocks the light in front of it.
The feet shuffle to one side. Jack moves back, momentarily afraid the guard is coming in to check on him. But he doesn’t.
Jack looks out the window again. He’s on the third floor, he figures. He thinks he can climb down. It’s one of those big square buildings with ridges and handholds.
He pulls up on the window. It’s locked.
He unlocks it.
Not much of one.
He lifts it slowly, trying not to make a sound.
There’s no window screen, just a second pane. And there’s no lock on that pane. This one he’ll have to break.
They probably have this room bugged. He knows there’s a camera in here somewhere, and probably infrared, too, so they can keep an eye on him all night. These guys aren’t kidding around.
He cases the room for anything he can use to cover a camera. There’s almost nothing loose, except the towels and the bed sheets. He figures there’s a camera in the sprinkler on the ceiling. He wraps it with a hand towel. A vent over the bed gets a bath towel. The lamp gets a sheet over it.
He pulls the curtain all the way to one side and wraps his shirt around his fist in a tight ball. He winds up for a good swing, but then thinks better of it.
He asks himself if he really wants to do this. Does he really have to? Can he live with himself if something happens to Grandpa when he’s supposed to be watching him? Grandpa could hurt himself tomorrow morning. He could be up walking around right now, doing God knows what. Grandpa is the only family he has left.
It’s not his smartest idea. He knows that. But he feels he has no choice. These people are probably playing him. He has to get home and at least check on Grandpa, no matter what happens to him.
He winds up, and then, as cover, coughs loudly as he slams his fist into the glass with a thud. It doesn’t break.
He buckles from the dull pain and stifles a yell. It’s like somebody hit his knuckles with a sledgehammer. He coughs again—involuntarily this time—mixing a yell and a cough. Breaking windows looks a lot easier in the movies.
He looks around the room for something hard. The lamp base looks chintzy. The coat hangers on a wall hook by the door would never work. He moves slowly and carefully through the room so the guard won’t hear any of his rustling.
He has to think fast. He expects they’ll be coming in here any second. Their security cameras are all showing blank screens by now.
His best option is the leg of the bed frame. It’s not too far from the window. He slides the end table out of the way, then moves the bed over. It makes a loud squeak. He quickly covers it with a cough.
He checks the shadow under the door. The feet are moving. Looks like they might be turning around to face him this time.
He slowly lifts the head-end of the bed frame and mattress, trying to tamper the springs underneath from making any loud noises. He gets it standing on end, and then he walks it back from the window and angles it so that one of the frame legs will go straight into the window when he lets its own weight bring it down. He doesn’t take the time to wrap the shirt around it.
He drops it.
Slam! The leg goes through the window. He quickly takes off a shoe and uses it to smash out the remaining glass.
Behind him, a key fumbles in the door.
He pushes the bed aside roughly. No need to dampen his sound anymore. He slips his shoe back on and climbs up on the windowsill. Out the window, he clings the mullion under the upper window frame. A cold breeze hits him. Judging by his distance from the parking lot lights below, he realizes three stories might have been a low estimate. There are a few parked cars and a couple of dumpsters down there, but nothing but hard pavement directly under him. His feet tingle from the sudden realization of how close he is to being a big mess on that pavement.
The door flies open and the tingle in his feet is obliterated by a powerful charge of adrenalin that shoots through his entire body.
He mantles against the sides of the window indentation and then drops straight down, grabbing onto the window ledge with the tips of his fingers. His feet dangle just above the top of the window of the floor below.
He hears the guard on his radio: “Subject has climbed out the window, over.” A voice on the radio shoots back, “On our way!”
Jack’s face is planted hard on the cold exterior of the building some three stories up. The stucco chafes his skin. He strains to look down. He thinks he’s just a couple of inches from the trim of the next window, which has a little lip that sticks out maybe an inch or two from the side of the building. Not quite enough to stand on, but it’s his only hope.
He looks up, blows the hair out of his face, and sees the guard reaching for his hands.
“Come on now. Don’t do anything stupid.”
Jack lets go of the ledge.