Yellow angled rays shone in through the lounge window onto the hard timber floor. Larry stood amongst the dust streams rising in the sun’s warmth and watched his son play under the sprinkler with his friend. They ran from one end of the green lawn to the other screaming, their hands waving in the air, the clicker-sprinkler spraying cold water across their bare skin.
Water splashed against the window. Larry stepped back and blinked, then laughed at his fright. The smile did not stray from his lips, he shrugged off the thought of the high water bill that would follow. Bah, humbug, as his brother would say.
A warm familiar hand touched his shoulder. He didn’t look up, he knew her. She smiled and also gazed out of the window. Her heart beat against his back and her lungs expanded and contracted, pushing against him, warm air fluttered against his neck scented with mint.
More water splashed against the window when the sprinkler began its cycle from the beginning again, soaking everything in the front yard and the boys in turn. The splashing water increased and the sound became more distinct with each loud splash, hitting the window pane with loud cracks. Larry could barely see the boys now. He squinted through the drenched window and upwards to see a spring shower also adding to the mix.
Seeping water gathered in small puddles around gaps in the timber ledge and spilled over to the wooden floor. Larry looked to his wife to get a towel but she had already gone. He pressed his hands against the seeping areas and partially stemmed the flow. But only for a moment before more water found its way inside.
He opened his mouth to yell to the boys to turn down the water, but only felt like vomiting at a terrible smell and taste that entered his mouth and nose. The water continued to dribble in until it become a steady stream. One corner spat water out as if his house had become submerged and leaked from water pressure. Then every corner shot water, until it became a steady stream squirting him in the face no matter which way he turned.
Larry continued to put his hands up against the window to try and stop the flow like the little Dutch boy trying to plug the dike with his finger, but it would not stop.
He yelled again, but gasped and choked.
He raised his head and spat out rubbish. He wiped scraps of rotting food from his mouth and turned his head left and right. Bags of forgotten trash covered him and ground around him. Heavy rain crashed down all around. His whole body wet through.
Unsteadily, he used the wall as a brace to climb to his feet. His memories came back. Tech Dynamics, the destroying of the viruses, and foolishly injecting himself with any of the viruses he could find.
Larry brushed the filth and maggots from his chest and legs as best as he could, repeatedly gagging at the stench of the food remnants sticking to his clothes.
Barely satisfied with his messy appearance and still smelling like a dead animal, he began his clumsy walk back along the alley, trying to remember which way he had come. He spied a discarded jacket, clamped between two soggy boxes, and pulled it out with enough force to throw himself into the opposite wall.
The jacket felt sticky inside and smelt poorly, but it would be better than shivering and getting sick.
The rain continued although had already begun to dwindle. The sweaty street smell washed into the drains with the aroma of a thousand wet rats. He turned at the next street, remembering that he had stumbled into theses parked cars at the end of the alley almost knocking himself out.
As for Tech Dynamics, he had smashed everything he could, but also remembered that it wouldn’t be enough. The off site server had to be found.
One virus in particular, which he had taken, had tipped him over the edge and knocked him cold. He should not have taken it with the others, but he had felt rushed, and not been thinking clearly. Instead, that if he was caught it would be impossible for him to continue his search.
The virus required a base rewiring of the brain to be able to work correctly. Once the virus completed its alterations, the person could go without sleep for longer periods. It manipulated the conscious and subconscious and unused areas of the brain to allow the person to rest without making them fall fully asleep.
A shortcut to be used for short periods. The subject did not have to enter proper REM sleep for days, although sustaining activity without sleep caused its own problems, such as delirium, anxiety and problems with emotions and stress. When the test subjects were first injected, many had needed to sleep for an hour or two while the virus made necessary changes to the body.
The second virus he injected increased bone density. Previous tests had been very promising for people with calcium deficiencies, also giving osteoporosis sufferers stronger bones than even before the disease had set in.
Limb regrowth for the handicapped and amputees had been his third injection. This virus sapped massive amounts of resources from the body to regrow any part of a missing body part previously written into the genes.
Larry stopped at the corner of a building that lead back to Tech Dynamics. He poked his head around the corner, resting his cheek against the cold concrete building. A security vehicle sat outside the broken window. Two heads moved within the front of the vehicle. Larry rubbed his icy hands together, then removed his jacket, not wanting a rustling of jacket to make his presence known.
Thick black plastic covered the broken window and blew convex, then concave, with each breath of the wind.
Donuts, and what may have been a cappuccino, wafted from the car security car.
Larry crept close to the ground and kept to the middle of the car, away from the rear view mirrors. He reached the window of the front passenger side. The window rolled down. A hand came out and dropped part of a snack bar. Larry stopped breathing as the window rolled up again.
He would have to do something about the security guards. No matter which entrance he used to get back in, they would see him. The alarm would have been reset. The security guards could be inside in seconds.
A jack-in-the-box, Larry leapt from his hiding place and smashed through the glass with his fist, knocking the first officer out. The second yelled, then gasped and screamed as hot coffee poured into his lap.
A gun appeared in the guards hand. The safety clicked off. Larry dived further inside, his fist taking lead again, and knocked the guard out.
Now lying across both men, he checked their pulses. Both strong and steady.
He clambered back out over the two guards and made sure he took the leftover donuts with him.
In the alcove above, he flipped off the power switches for all the air conditioners, then turned the main power off as well. All the viruses would die without refrigeration. And to be extra certain, he broke through the lock of the power box and destroyed the meter.
Larry left the alcove and jumped back down to the sidewalk next to the security car. The wind died to nothing and the street stilled. As quiet and lifeless as he would make Mr Green.
He searched the security vehicle for anything of use. In the back he found a jacket and an umbrella. He retrieved those and tossed back the now empty donut bag, then hurried away, not really sure what he should do, or go next.
Sunny entered Detective Bradbury’s new office in the Healesville Police station and waved as he approached. Bradbury eyes narrowed at the sight of his partner and he shook his head as Sunny sat opposite.
“What the hell are you doing here? You’ve still got bandages around your head, for Christ’s sake,” Bradbury said.
’The doctors gave me a clean bill of health.” Sunny smiled. “I packed up and checked myself out. I felt so good I walked here. Sure, they said more than once that I needed to go for further tests and I should stay under observation in case something happens, or whatever. They were only protecting themselves, so I told them to cram it, and I left. Also, Boyle told me the case is done with. Thought I better come in and see for myself.”
Bradbury sat back and clasped his hands across his middle
“I’m glad. Boyle’s right, we don’t have anything more to go on. My main witness is in San Francisco and wanted in connection with two deaths in Brisbane. And Tech Dynamics has become untouchable. Not just because we can’t get them for more than a permit violation, but because governments have been lining up to be their best friends, and they’re bringing truck-loads of cash.
After only a moments pause, Bradbury’s phone rang.
“Mr Emerson, I hope you’re getting your things packed to get on a plane and back here,” Bradbury said, his voice neutral.
“I can’t yet, something unusual came up. I’m in New York.....”
“In New York!”
All heads in the station turned. Sunny raised his eyebrows.
“At Tech Dynamics, they’re producing and selling my viruses.”
Bradbury said, They own it and can pretty much do what they want. There’s nothing you can do.”
“I know, but it’s what they’re using alongside it that’s illegal—they’re adding a drug called Carotranine...”
Bradbury sighed. “Never heard of it.”
Larry continued and explained the drug, then said, “I’m sure the serum has been refined. There were originally side affects, some worse than others. But the thing is, it was produced by Vera Gorbenko, Vlad Gorbenko’s grandfather, Vlad, as you know, is Simon Green.”
“Interesting,” Sunny said, overhearing the conversation.
“There’s more. I think he intends to use Carotranine on the entire United States and anyone else he ships the drugs to. The more dangerous viruses I researched, I think are going to the military. I think they’ve already begun tests. Money may not be all Simon wants.”
Bradbury looked to his partner, who still had his eyebrows raised. He lowered his eyes back to his desk. “I can’t just go to the sergeant and tell him Tech Dynamics is trying to poison everyone, what evidence do you have?”
“That’s why I’m calling, to get evidence. I need Simon’s address from the file you said linked him to Tech Dynamics. I think all the evidence is being kept with him somewhere. I didn’t have any luck with the New York office, so the best place to start would have to be at Simon’s home, right?”
“Hmm, I’ll inform the New York Police or FBI, let them take care of it. I don’t want you getting involved,” Bradbury said. “And the Brisbane cops are wanting to talk to you ASAP.”
“I already am involved, detective—this is my work and I want it back! There’s no evidence, as you said, and as soon as someone goes snooping around, he’ll just transfer the data elsewhere. This needs to be done now and it needs to be done without the police to spook him.”
Bradbury stayed quiet, this time not looking to see what Sunny thought, although he could feel his partners eyes on him.
“Larry, I’m sorry, but no. You’re the only one who has information on Tech Dynamics and the only one who I trust will decipher it correctly once we got our hands on it. If something were to happen to you then we could be worse off than a spider on a burning log. I need you back in Australia right away.’
Bradbury disconnected the call.
Larry shivered in the icy wind blowing through his still damp clothes and hair. With his hands deep in his pockets, Larry turned back to the steak house where he had eaten his recent meal.
His phone beeped. A text message from a number he did not recognise. It displayed an address and a short message.
Don’t get yourself into anymore trouble. I’m trusting you to do the right thing with this. Simon Green’s address. 618 W 249th St Bronx New York.
Larry read the message again. Bradbury decided to come through with the goods after all. Now he needed clothes that weren’t covered in blood and filth.
The rain had stopped altogether. The cold still embraced him, but at least he had the chance dry off a little. He walked through the streets to Broadway. With nothing better to do, he wandered along the site of the World Trade Centre. He had not seen it after the disaster. Actually, this had been the first time he had returned to the US since his parents died when he was a teenager.
It felt strange to walk along Church Street and not see the two buildings, now just a single one. The streets stayed quiet, only a single car passing occasionally, or a stray person double timing it home or to work. Downtown will be bustling in a few hours before the sun rose. Right now he wanted to be one of those lucky people still in bed waiting for their alarm. Weeks ago he supposed he had been. With his full memory and great job... What kind of person had he been?
He walked longer and further and came to Wall Street, which had become more of a tourist attraction. He stayed south of the Stock Exchange and away from the main area, lest he appear to be a derelict that a cop might want to question.
A small group of men hurried from a building, their shined shoes echoing off the pavement like trotting horses. Not chatting, just swinging their brief cases as they made their way to a car. All wore nice suits and had an air of touched-by-wealth about them, although the more he watched the more he did not believe their facade.
Larry walked on. They seemed to be having trouble accessing their car. Larry turned toward them. Helping them might gain him a ride, at the very least. And the distraction from the cold would be welcome enough.
A security guard approached from the other side, so was the first to offer his help—his jacket similar to the one Larry had taken. Larry shrugged, better that he didn’t head over then.
Larry turned away, and began walking the way he had come.
Then there came a loud crack, like a timber beam snapping. The sound reverberated off the closely-knit buildings.
A gun shot. Another. Glass smashed.
Larry crouched and scurried to the nearest wall.
The men got in their car. Possibly not being their car in the first place. The engine revved and the car skidded away from the injured security guard, heading directly toward Larry.
Larry pushed himself hard up against the wall as far away from the road as possible, while trying to make himself appear insignificant. The car sped up, crashing up alongside the wall. Metal sparks sprayed in glowing embers, taking paint from the length of the car’s panels. Clattering and broken, screeching in the night.
Another gun shot, and another. Glass smashed, spraying inside, also tinkled to the ground behind it.
The injured security guard held his gun in both hands keeping his aim steady. He fired again.
Larry ducked as the bullet whistled past him and ricocheted off the building wall.
“Hey!,” Larry yelled.
The guard collapsed. His gun clattered to the road. It was his last ounce of strength.
Sirens wailed. It would be a few minutes before they arrived.
The car continued to pick up speed and headed toward Larry.
Larry readied himself by taking a few deep breaths. These people wanted no witnesses.
Larry sprinted at the car.
A gun appeared out the front passenger window. Automatic bullets sprayed out and sparks burst all around Larry. A bullet slammed into his chest with the force of a cement truck and he stumbled back and to the side. Seconds later, he was up again and running directly at the car.
Still a good distance away, Larry leapt, feet first at the car. In that moment he saw himself as if he stood on the sidewalk watching a dead man about to be pulverized by an oncoming car.
Another bullet hit him as he soared through the air, this time not hitting bone, and instead passing through skin and muscle.
Larry’s feet smashed through the windshield and into the driver, crushing the man’s neck and chest on impact. The three other occupants put up there arms to protect themselves from the breaking glass and imminent car crash.
Larry struck out with his fist into the front passenger’s face, his automatic weapon not even making it back into the car. Instead clattering to the ground from the still moving vehicle. They crossed wildly from one side of the street to the other, mowing down signs and scraping building walls.
The two men in the back punched and kicked at Larry. Both of them managed to find weapons and began shooting even before aiming. The car smashed against a wall again, throwing them left then right. Sparks lit up the street. Flashes of light lit up the inside of the car like on a ghost-train at a fun park. Larry lashed out with a kick to one of the men in the backseat, collecting him in the face before he could aim properly. The second got off three shots before Larry could swing his other leg around into the side of his head.
A bullet hit Larry in the head and bounced off and through the broken windshield. Another bullet went through the seat and hit the front passenger in the back. Blood spurt out from his chest onto the dash. Larry leaned over and pulled on the handbrake throwing the car into a spin, the rear wheels skidded and threw the car sideways, then they crashed into the wall.
Long streaks of red painted the windows and bodies and everything else inside. The now silent car ticked as it cooled like a panting racehorse.
Police vehicles still approached, their whining sirens coming closer. Larry pushed himself free of the inside of the car and back through the front windscreen. He hadn’t forgotten about the security guard, and ran towards him.
Larry felt something crack inside his leg as he ran.
With each footfall he gritted his teeth tighter.
He fell next to the guard and lay down. Blood dribbled from the man’s mouth. A large pool had already gathered around the man’s stomach. Even if an ambulance arrived soon, the guard would not make it.
“Are you alright.” What else could he say?
The guard panted as if he could not catch his breath yet. His face continued to become pastier.
“Ahh,” he replied, wincing, “stomach hurts. Not been shot before. Feels... hot.”
The security guard studied Larry’s face.
“You look worse than me. You’ve been shot?”
“Just concentrate on keeping your eyes open, help will be here soon.”
Larry touched the side of his head where the bullet had skimmed him. It felt like he had just woken to an almighty hangover. His ears still rang from the shots and it felt like his head hadn’t stopped vibrating from the impact.
“I don’t think I’m going to make it,” the guard said. Blood covered his teeth and lips.
“You will.” Larry said.
The guard was right, he would die in the next few moments.
Larry touched his finger to one of his own wounds, then put it on the guards stomach wound.
“Hey, what’re you... hey!” The guard tried to shuffle away. He did not get far. Seconds later he blacked out.
“Hopefully it gives you a fighting chance.”
The police arrived first, then an ambulance not long after. By the time they had the guard in the back with the paramedics, they were using the paddles. Larry hoped the guard would survive, but knew the healing virus needed time, so it would probably be too little too late.
The police asked him a lot of questions, although none of which related to his stolen security jacket, thankfully. But found it astounding he had smashed through the front windscreen and lived. The holes in his chest had not been spotted by the police, but once the paramedics looked over him it became an immediate concern.
“You may be standing upright now, but you’re in shock, you’ll on the ground if we don’t get you on a cart right now.”
“I can feel it, I just—”
Larry was not allowed to finish. Two Paramedics moved him onto a gurney in the back of an ambulance and the siren blared as they shot off to the hospital.
Larry shrugged. A comfortable bed and clean clothes and sheets could be nice.
Larry had his wounds cleaned and bandaged, this was again repeated when he arrived at the hospital.
They later moved him to the recovery room once the doctors determined he had no bullets to pull, and his cuts and holes had been stitched.
The morning began frosty with the first hint of sun from a clear blue sky shining down on the newly sprouted green tree tops, a full story below Larry’s window. Dew painted the warming pavement and became a white mist, rising inches high, then blowing away when a light breeze blew along the streets and amongst pedestrians.
Seeing sunshine reflecting off the damp grass and roads outside, reminded Larry of home. His Melbourne home. The two cities had a lot in common, he decided, the people seemed similar and the culture of restaurants, cafes, bars, pizza, and arts were shared. The only major characteristic difference being the size of the two cities.
Breakfast arrived from a smiling nurse and his clothes had been cleaned and dried over the four or so hours he had been at the hospital. Without talking to a doctor he got himself up and put his freshly pressed clothes back on, and looked himself over in the mirror.
“Sir, you’re up? Your bandages need sing to,” a nurse said staring at him from the door. “You can’t leave.”
“I’m checking myself out. I’ll sign whatever forms, but I have to go,” Larry said, stepping into the hallway.
“I’ll get the doctor.”
Larry did not wait. There would be no answering of questions today about his healing so quickly.
On his way out he asked at the nurse desk about the security guard.
She looked up seeing he also wore a security jacket, and smiled.
“He’s still classed as critical, sir, but it appears as if he’s stable for now. Did you want me to get the doctor for you.”
“No, no. Thanks.”
Larry continued along the hospital hall with his head down. When he finally reached the exit he hurried to the curb to find a taxi. The sun warmed him as soon as he left the shadow of the hospital building. A feeling he had not thought he would ever enjoy feeling again after being so thoroughly sun burned, blistered and dehydrated, in the outback.
Sweat built up under Larry’s jacket and trickled down the middle of his back. He ignored it, all his thoughts instead on what he would find at Mr Green’s home in the Bronx.