Monday, December 3, 2012

Freedy Filkins, International Jewel Thief, 27.

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Sheila's words ringing in his ears, Freedy ran down the dark corridor.   He ran until he couldn't see more than an inch in front of his face.  There didn't seem to be any obstructions and the scared energy inside him demanded it be expended and the corridor seemed straight and he just kept running.  Finally, gasping, he slowed down but kept walking.

He started to hear shouts and movement behind him.

He nearly toppled down the stairs, but he felt his toes go over an edge at the last second.  He froze.  Now what?  He couldn't go back.

He put his back to the freezing wall and inched his way downward.

Where was he heading?

'Away,' was all he thought.  Away from Sheila and her FBI badge and her betrayal; away from her soft eyes and warm smile, her blond hair and tight pants and....away from everything.  The darkness felt right, the isolation was just what he wanted.  He'd crawl into this hole like a wounded animal and just die.  No one would miss him, no one would care.

Maybe he'd never realized until that moment how inconsequential his life was.  Or maybe he'd always known, and that's why he'd agreed to this Adventure.

And see how that was ending!

The stairs went down farther than he would have ever expected, about forty steps after he started counting, and he'd been descending a long time before he thought to do that.  It was getting colder and wetter.  He could hear dripping now, as if all the runoff from the massive air conditioning in the data center was finding it's way downhill.

He saw a faint light.  The corridor at the bottom was perpendicular to the stairs.  To the right, a dim light bulb with about as much illumination as a Christmas tree light dangled from the wall on a wire, followed by another light every twenty feet or so.  The corridor seemed dryer in that direction, but just as he was about to turn that way, he heard the pursuit from above.  It sounded like hundreds of men, clanking with what he assumed was armor and weapons.

He turned instead toward the damp darkness of the corridor to the left.  He looked back.  A dozen guards tumbled to a stop at the bottom.  They peered into the darkness as Freedy froze against the wall.  After a few heart-stopping moments, they turned in the opposite direction.  They were carrying flashlights in their hands, so Freedy didn't take anything for granted and hurried into the darkness.

There was another round of steps where it seemed the blackest, and this time he counted seventy-five of them.  Leading down into more dank and humid concrete corridors.

The darkness was absolute.  So it took but a tiny pinprick of light for him to notice it.  It must have been hundreds of feet away and very dim, but his eyes sought it out.  As he approached, he realized it was a small crack at the base of a doorway.  The outlines of the doorway were only visible when he got to within a few feet.

The light made him overconfident, and he tripped on something hard and sharp.  He fell to the ground.    He cried out, and grabbed his shin and rocked back and forth for awhile, until the pain subsided.   In the dim light, he could see the corridor outside of the doorway was filled with old, dumped laptops and keyboards, most of it in the corridor where it extended past the door.  Mixed in were disintegrating cardboard boxes.

He put his hands down on the moist, slimy concrete to push himself to his feet, and his fingers closed on a flashdrive.  It must have fallen out of his pocket.  Not sure it mattered anymore, he nonetheless plopped the little device back into his pants pocket.

He pushed open the doorway.

There was a space heater humming near the door, and the room was warm and dry.  It smelled like old wet socks, however -- as he sniffed, he realized the whole place had the odor of unwashed laundry.

At first, he mistook it for a storeroom.

It was stocked with Rice Krispies, boxes and boxes of them lining one whole wall, every once in a while punctuated by a box of Twinkies.  Another wall was stacked with Doritos and white cheddar popcorn and row after row of Coca-cola, and a third wall was apparently the health food wall -- filled with cans of chili and Spaghettio's and Campbell Soup.

Above the stacks, the walls were plastered with movie posters.  Unless his eyes deceived him, Freedy thought these were vintage posters, the real deal.  Bogart and Cagney.  Bogart and Bacall.  Gary Cooper in High Noon.  Astaire and Rogers.  Bob Hope and Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour On The Road.  Dozens of them.

At the center of the room was an old mattress and some blankets.  A few beat up boxes full of clothes, but though the boxes had logo's of canned foods on the side, the clothes were all new and all the same -- Levi 401 jeans and black t-shirts and gray sweatshirts.  Bags of new underwear and socks.  Near the entrance was a pile of dirty laundry.  When Freedy wrinkled his nose and looked closer, he saw they were dirty but nearly new, as though they'd only been worn once and then discarded.

But overwhelming everything else with its sheer size and shimmering tech, was a huge workstation against the far wall, filled with monitors and keyboards.  State of the art, it looked to Freedy.  All the monitors were on -- showing different T.V. channels and websites.   CNN showed on one.  Another of them was showing an old black and white movie with the Barrymores.

Here, far beneath the surface of the earth, was an eye on the world, and a window to the past.

But it was a screen at the very center that caught his attention.

It showed his friends with their hands up, surrounded by armed guards.  Sheila was standing with her hands on her hips, staring up at Garland and saying something vehemently, while the tall hippie looked away as if bored.

Sheila's authoritative posture was something new to Freedy.  He really didn't know her at all, did he?

He heard someone coming.

There was no backdoor to this hole in the ground.

He was trapped.

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