Jack grabs onto the guard’s wrist and hangs from it to lower himself the short distance he needs to cover to touch the top of the second-story window with a tenuous foothold.
The guard loses his footing as Jack’s weight pulls him partly out of the window. His face contorts into a look of abject terror as he turns sideways and reflexively slams his other arm onto the inside wall to keep from falling. Jack figures the guy weighs at least fifty pounds more than him, so there’s no chance he’ll pull him down.
Jack’s feet connect with the razor-thin trim, but there’s no place to put his hands. So, he lets go of the guard’s hand, bends his knees, and grabs the window trim he’s standing on. He clings to it by his fingertips just long enough to drop his feet to the thicker window balcony beneath him.
He huddles inside the window indentation. Its ledge juts out only a few inches, but it puts him in a far more secure position than hanging by his fingers or dropping onto the trim.
“He’s on level C. Need security at C12 on the double.”
Jack’s heart beats out of his chest. That was a stupid, risky move. He’s lucky to still be standing on something and not reduced to a puddle of bone and blood on the parking lot. But he has to do it again.
He thinks maybe if he does it quickly, it won’t be so scary. More men will surround him soon if he doesn’t reach the ground as quickly as possible.
“Come on back up, kid. You don’t want to hurt yourself,” the guard says.
Jack bends down again, grabs the ledge, and then lowers himself to the next window down, just as before.
But he goes too fast on this one. His left foot slips on the trim and he doesn’t quite get both hands on it. He loses his balance, dropping down to the window balcony where he can stand, but his body is off balance, and leaning backward, toward a fall he won’t recover from. There’s nothing to grab on the window, just the indent on all sides of about three inches.
Jack slams his hands to either side of the window, his palms flat, pushing against them with all his strength. The move stops him from falling backward, but he’s still leaning too far out. The stucco is tearing up his hands. His fingers are slippery from his nervous sweat.
He groans as he slowly contracts his elbows to pull himself in.
The light turns on in the room he’s facing from the window. Two men rush in and open the window.
Jack crouches again before regaining his balance. His hands get a weak hold on the ledge as he drops his body down. His feet dangle again above the next window, and he’s grateful at least to not be falling backward.
This next window appears to be the last story of the building.
He hears commotion outside. Men coming on the pavement below.
He’s only one floor up now. It’s going to sting like fire on the bottoms of his feet, but he decides he’ll jump—as soon as he gets the nerve.
The guards thrust their hands out for him, giving him all the nerve he needs. He pushes himself off the building, doing his best to twist his body in midair so he faces outward. He feels the hang time.
His shoes hit the pavement with a loud slap that reverberates up his spine. He rolls into the fall and shoots up into a sprint toward a wooden fence behind the building. It’s about eight feet high, made of flat boards.
He runs with a pronounced limp. He ignores the sharp pain in his feet and ankles. He can barely feel his lower legs. His knees are throbbing.
He looks both ways as he crosses the lot. Running footsteps approach from the right, but no sign of men yet. He shoots left. Above, he sees the men in the windows on each floor yelling into their radios.
Passing the first dumpster, he runs under an overhang supported on the outside by two large cement columns. The men in the windows are out of view. He ducks behind the dumpster. The footsteps get louder. Long dancing shadows approach from behind the far corner of the building. He runs just a little further to make sure he’s clear out of sight, and then breaks to his right and jumps onto the fence. The wood clatters.
He gets over it easily and falls into some thatch on the other side. Then he gets up and runs as fast as he can.
He hears a rear exit door thrown open on the building behind him. With it, scratchy radios and more footsteps.
As he runs, he tears up his legs in the bramble and thorns. Soon, he’s drudging through muck.
The radios fade into the distance.