I always liked this scene–maybe because it was the first scene I wrote for PATRIARCH RUN. Because the scene birthed the rest of the story, it's special to me. But it didn't make the final cut.
Washington, D.C., Last Week
When he came to, he shut his eyes to alleviate the nausea.
The silence was ruptured by a horn blast.
Jack opened his eyes and saw the white, fluted columns of a courthouse. Pedestrians on the sidewalk.
His head was ponderous and difficult to turn.
A man in a black suit–a briefcase in his lap–was sitting beside him. The vehicle they were in was at a stoplight in heavy traffic. His tongue was stuck to the roof of his mouth. It felt swollen and chalky, as if he had ingested a narcotic. He sucked his teeth but could not swallow.
The mass of people huddled at the street corner began to cross the intersection. A pale-skinned man in a leather coat stayed behind. They made eye contact.
The left side of Jack’s head pulsed so violently from the drug the vision in that eye went white.
The SUV accelerated. Jack noticed the driver for the first time, the Ford Oval on the steering wheel. Then he bent forward and vomited between his knees. The man beside him in the backseat didn’t respond.
His attention was drawn through the crowd at the next intersection to a man talking on a black phone.
He tried to press his palm against the side of his head, but couldn’t.
A white van slowed to a stop beside him. The driver of the van had the same black phone against his ear. Beads of sweat dripped from the driver’s nose; his jaw muscles were knotted.
Jack leaned forward to get a better look. But the van’s door was now open, the driver gone.
Compelled by decades of training, he shouted, “Bomb.” The warning resonated with an unemotional authority he did not anticipate or comprehend.
The Ford he was in jumped forward, accelerating at full throttle into the heavy cross traffic. Tires screeched in the intersection. A white Civic swerved. He heard metal smashing metal. The Ford kept accelerating and punched the rear quarter panel of a blue Camry, pushed through the lanes and T-boned a silver Tahoe.
He was coughing and tried to sit up–but couldn’t. He couldn’t move his arms. Hit his head on the steering wheel and lay his cheek on the leather-trimmed door panel, in too much pain to curse.
He kept his eyes shut to stop the skewer of light from plunging into his brain.
Bursts of automatic rifle fire punctuated the wailing and screams of terror.
He allowed his right eye to squint–saw jagged glass in a window frame. He closed the eye. Slowly turned his head. Opened the eye again and saw black asphalt and shattered glass beneath him.
The Ford was on its side.
He put one knee on the asphalt, pressed his back against the roof and stooped, his feet in the broken-out window.
His hands were bound behind his back.
Eight rapid, semi-automatic pistol shots fired from close by were followed by the clinking of a steel magazine against the pavement. He heard the familiar snap of supersonic projectiles passing close to his head and saw in the roof three newly created pinholes of light.
He dropped, curled up on the broken glass–still coughing.
He couldn’t recall how it was he came to be in the vehicle. He didn’t know where the two men in suits had gone.
When the automatic rifle fire ceased, he kicked out what remained of the windshield.
He remembered the briefcase and squeezed into the backseat. The pistol shots were slower and more controlled than before. The combination briefcase was lying on the door. He used the sides of his feet to stand it upright between his ankles, dug his elbow into the leather-trimmed seat for balance, squatted–his hands behind his back–and picked it up.
He threw himself into the front seat and stepped out the windshield.
Civilians were calling for help. Others were crouching. A man prone on the asphalt, his hands shielding his head. From every direction came howls of pain. The air was black with smoke. Vehicles on fire.
He found the driver of the Ford Expedition–bullet holes in his face, neck and chest. Gray ashes speckled his cheek and black suit.
The Camry was upside down, on top of another sedan. The windows shattered, paint blackened, three of its tires ablaze like torches over the carnage.
A man thrashed his arms: his hair, back and sleeves on fire. A teenage girl ran out from behind the barricade of an overturned Prius, knocked the burning man down and beat the flames with her cotton trench coat. Another rifle burst drove her to her belly. She lay on him, smothering the flames.
He heard sirens. Everyone was coughing.
By the time he located the source of the rifle fire through the black plumes of soot and smoke, the rifleman was dead, splayed over the yellow hood of a Dodge Charger.
It was the man he saw on the phone at the intersection.
He searched for the suit who was beside him in the Expedition. An old woman, face covered in blood, sat rocking on the curb, hugging her chest. Gray ash fell from the smoke. Another man crawled toward the sidewalk, coughing, dragging his right arm–a splintered, white bone protruding from his pant leg.
He stepped forward to help the man then remembered the handcuffs on his wrists and looked around.
The keys, he was certain, were in the locked briefcase he was holding behind his back.
A fire truck, sounding its air horn, pressed through the clogged street.
Then he found him–the man from the backseat–laying prone in a pool of blood beside the burning Tahoe, a Colt Commander in his hand. By the position of the slide, he knew there was another round in the chamber. The pistol’s thumb safety was off, the hammer cocked, the man’s right hand was wrapped around the grip, his index finger still on the trigger.
He set the briefcase in the street and sat in a pool of the man’s blood. The blood was hot and soaked through his cotton pants. He eased the Colt out of the man’s hand. Stood, brought the weapon to his left side–where he could see the muzzle–held his breath to suppress the coughing and shot the brass lock on the briefcase.
Then he sat down–his back to the briefcase–opened the latch, twisted his neck to look inside and squeezed his eyes against a pulse of white pain.
The key hung against the interior wall.
The man in the black suit was moaning. He rolled him over, unbuttoned the suit jacket, seized the bloody, silk shirt in both fists and pulled the shirt apart. Buttons sprung from their threads. The man was going to die. He pressed his bare hands against the wounds.
The man coughed.
Blood misted his face. Sirens. Howls filled the street. The inconsolable wail of a mother. He wiped the man’s blood from his eyes, tore strips of silk from the shirt, wadded the fabric and plugged the holes in the man’s chest.
But the life–no matter how hard he pressed–welled up through his fingers.
The cries for help grew more insistent with the arrival of the first emergency crews.
The man in the suit was dead for minutes before he took his hands off his chest. He felt confused, stood and pushed a sticky palm into his temple.
Barely visible through the sooty smoke, a uniformed officer, his weapon drawn, was making his way toward the Expedition.
It was time to leave.
He pressed the magazine release, counted the two remaining .45 ACP cartridges, a third in the chamber. Four spent stainless-steel magazines lay in the blood. He slammed the nearly empty magazine home, put the Colt in his waistband, searched the dead man for spare magazines, for identification. Found nothing.
He staggered away from the approaching officer, past the yellow Charger. The OGA had a red hole above his ear. An M4 carbine lay at his feet.
The dizziness nearly overwhelmed him.
Whoever the man in the black suit was, he had known what he was doing. Laying prone in a pool of his own blood, he shot through the Charger’s rear driver’s-side window. The bullet passed through the cabin, exited through the roof–near the passenger-side windshield pillar–and struck the rifleman in the head: a target not in the shooter’s field of vision.
He staggered past the burning vehicles in which sat corpses–charred arms and grimacing faces–past emergency crews delivering aid to the shocked and bleeding, past ambulances and fire trucks, past approaching patrol cars and turned down the first street he came to.
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