Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Coin (Part 9)

The Coin  (Part 9)

Vanna was emotionally drained and ready to abort the mission even though two of her original targets were left.  Reggie was one, but the other person she didn’t know.  She was afraid of Reggie and she knew something had to be done about him.  The other man was a mystery and she didn’t want him killed. Her anger had dissipated long before the judge had died.

 In spite of her reluctance the coin had become active and was willing her on again.  Its mission and her mission seemed to be going in different directions.  Where was she heading now?  She didn’t like having blind faith in a coin, especially one she couldn’t control. She was glad when the coin directed her to a bus going out of the city.  Maybe the killing was over.

The bus stopped several times to pick up riders or let them off.  When the bus stopped at a small mall in the suburbs the coin began vibrating again.  Vanna was surprised because the location seemed so unlike the bustling downtown office building or the court house.

She disembarked in front of a small grocery store and looked around.  The stores and businesses were mostly chain stores and unpretentious. The parking lots were almost full and people were arriving and leaving.  Two security police cars patrolled the lots while two security cops strolled through the mall.  With all the things that had taken place Vanna felt safer knowing they were there.

Suddenly two men burst out of one of the stores, each carrying a bag and waving a gun.  “Get out of our way!” one man yelled. 

A clerk emerged from the store.  “Stop them!” he yelled.  One of the gunmen turned and fired but the clerk jumped back inside unscathed. 

Vanna realized the men were running in her direction.  She wanted to dash into a store but she stood frozen.  The one in the lead grabbed her arm and spun her around.  Vanna’s purse swung out and up, catching the second gunman by surprise and throwing him off balance.  His head hit the pavement and he lay still.

The other robber stood there, momentarily shocked by the turn of events.  Without thinking, Vanna drove her knee into his groin.  He collapsed to his knees next to his accomplice.  Vanna stepped back, watching the man, knowing he still clutched a gun. 

Recovering quickly, he staggered to his feet and raised his gun.  His eyes met hers.  Her eyes widened in recognition as one thought raced through her mind.  “They’re just boys and this one is my brother!”

“Karl, what are you doing?” she hissed through clenched teeth. 

“You shouldn’t be here interfering, Vanna!” he snapped.  His eyes hardened and he pointed the gun at her.  “Goodbye, sister,” he said slowly.  

 She heard two shots and closed her eyes. Expecting pain, Vanna waited for the agony but nothing changed.  Death must have been swift.  She opened her eyes and realized that nothing had happened to her.  Karl stood there, his eyes unfocused and his face pale. Vanna watched in horror as blood dripped from his arm.

The other boy clambered to his feet and put his arm around Karl’s shoulder. “Come on, Karl! Let’s get out of here!”

 With a quick meaningful glance at Vanna, Karl warned weakly, “Don’t say nothing!”  Then he followed his friend into one of the shops and out the back. 

A mall security coop ran towards her yelling excitedly, “I got him! I got him! I can see drops of blood!” He was right.  Spots of blood marked a clear trail, one that the police could follow later.

Ten minutes later two squad cars and an unmarked car pulled up to the main entrance of the mall.  While policemen secured the area and looked for any gunmen or victims, detectives began taking statements.  “Lady,” a detective said, “You’re both a hero and very lucky.  You could have been killed.” 

She mulled over what the detective said and realized he was right.  During this whole time the coin had been still.  It had not protected her. 

The coin stirred and began vibrating.  Her head ached and her knee was throbbing.  She knew she couldn’t chase after Karl.  He would only become angrier.  She would have to wait until he calmed down.  He might listen to her then, if he went home, and if he could get home.

Vanna hobbled over and leaned against a wall.  She noticed the name “Sports Therapy” on a nearby door.  A man came out and looked around nervously.  “Miss, are you all right?” 

“My knee hurts.”

“Come inside and I’ll check it out.”  He extended his hand.  “I guess I should introduce myself first.  I’m Steve.  I’m a physical therapist.”

Vanna followed him inside and sat on the edge of a bench.  At his direction she flexed her knee forward and backward.  “You’ll probably have a bruise but I see no swelling. Don’t get up yet.  I’ll get some ice.”

Vanna looked around the room.  Various kinds of equipment were spaced strategically.  There were weight machines, a stationary bicycle, other benches that were fitted with sheets and pillows, large elastic bands, and other equipment she couldn’t identify.

Her gaze settled on a framed picture on a desk nearby. “Is that your family?” she asked when he returned.

Steve smiled.  “Yes.  My wife, my son, and my two daughters.”

As he placed a towel filled with ice around her knee she noticed a small tattoo. Suddenly she knew why she was there. Her thoughts raced. “He had helped her.  He had a family.  She didn’t need or want revenge anymore. She needed to go and find her brother. How could she have forgotten him?”

The coin was humming.  “No!”  Vanna stated emphatically.  “No!”  This has gone far enough!” But already the coin was out of her control.

Steve looked at her oddly.  “Did you hit your head or get bumped outside?  Lady, I think your knee will be fine.  I think you should go now.”

He took the ice pack and hurried her towards the door.  The mall was quiet.   Yellow tape stretched around the crime scene and police swarmed everywhere.

Off to her left a man stepped back into the shadows and she had the impression he was avoiding her.  Even so, he was vaguely familiar. 

In front of her a security cop twirled his gun as he told anyone within listening range the story of his heroic act.  One of the detectives looked disgusted.  “Put your gun away, George, before you hurt someone.”

George twirled it one more time.  The gun slipped from his hand, fell to the concrete, and fired.

Steve followed Vanna to the door and as she stepped outside Steve unexpectedly gave her a push.  As she tumbled to the side the bullet from George’s gun whizzed by and struck Steve in the chest.

The world stopped for an instant.  Vanna watched horrified as the police raced to the stricken man. There was little they could do as his life ebbed away.

The police turned their attention to the security cop.  As they led him away he began crying, “It was an accident.  Something knocked the gun out of my hand.  I didn’t mean to do it!”

Vanna knew he was right.  The coin had killed Steve. She shivered as other questions began popping up and nagging her.  “Was Steve the real target?  The bullet had barely missed her. Was the coin working for her or against her? Was it a coincidence that Karl and the coin picked this mall?  And finally, was that Reggie she saw step back into the shadows?”  Vanna had much to think about and she had to get answers quickly if she wanted to stop any more violence.  Or if she wanted to survive.

(To be continued)


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