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The Burnout Chapter Forty Six

As soon as the door slammed shut, Patty looked at the zip ties and shifted her hands around so the wrists were parallel. She bent her left leg slightly, raised up her joined hands and brought them down hard on her outstretched knee. It took two more attempts before the zip tie snapped apart.

"Hey, that's pretty neat!" said a man across the room who's hands were also tied in a similar manner.

Patty ignored him and scanned the room. No doors other than the main one and no windows. She looked up at the ceiling, climbed on the table and reached for the ceiling panel closest to the wall. The first one popped up easily and revealed a nest of wires and a thin fire sprinkler pipe. The next one she popped up was not blocked and opened up to a rectangular window of inky blackness.

Patty reached up and grabbed the edge of the hole along the back wall. Raising herself to an upright chin up using the edge of the wall, she pulled herself up and adjusted her eyes to the dark. Just ahead, slightly to the right, she could see the faint glow coming from another office. Maybe one with an unlocked door.

She carefully drew her knee up on the edge of the wall and strained to see the area around her. Using her fingers, she traced the top of the wall to the right and found where it ended and turned left. She could have killed for a lighter, a flashlight, anything.

Suddenly, the area brightened slightly. Two more tiles were pulled out behind her and the emergency lights from the conference room transferred their glow inside the ceiling pocket. She turned to see two other figures following her lead; a man and a woman.

"You're leading sweetheart, just let us know what to do." the man said.

"We need to get over to that office just ahead. The door may be open and we can escape. Be careful." replied Patty.

Gingerly feeling her way along, she climbed to a squat and slowly inched forward. At one point, a tile to her left caved in and partly broke loose into darkness, but she ignored it. A few more feet and she was over a dimly lit tile blocked only partially by ethernet and electrical wires.

She barely moved the tile to once side and found herself looking down on the top of a shelf in what appeared to be an office supply closet. There were stacks of copy paper and ink cartridges lined up on the shelves and there was nobody evident in the small space.

"Here goes," she said and lowered herself into the room and onto the shelving unit. It held and she climbed down to the floor, pausing to look up as the other woman decended followed by the unknown man. Once they were all down, she went to the door and put her ear against it. She could clearly hear gunfire and small explosions coming from outside but could not hear anything else.

Patty carefully opened the door a crack and looked in the hallway. It was dark, but there was light coming from both an office across the hallway and from windows further down the hallway. Patty held up her hand to the two behind her and checked down the hallway in the other direction. It too was clear. Either there were fewer personnel than she assumed in this facility or they were tied up with whoever was shooting at them. Their loss, her gain.

Patty stepped into the hallway and orienteered herself to the building and all the places she had been. She was about to go to the right, when she heard gunshots coming from down the hallway. Not hesistating for a moment, she dodged across the hall into the office with the light one and stepped quickly inside. Again, it was deserted but was piled with various items.

Looking around for anything useful, she saw the office was nothing more than a storeroom for furntiture, lamps, boxes of files and a something piled in the corner. Waving in the couple behind her, she closed the door most of the way shut and hissed to the man and woman,

"See if you can find anything we can use. A weapon, anything."

Patty went to the corner to see what was piled and saw it was a mixture of bags, suitcases and clothing. Lifting the top suitcase up in order to see what was inside, she immediately saw a familiar colored backpack buried underneath two other suitcases. Ripping it out, she was overjoyed to see it was hers. She pawed through the remainder looking for her fanny pack, but could not find it.

"Anything?" asked the man.

"Yeah, my bag they took from me out on the road. Feels the same weight it was when I had it last, so maybe they didn't take anything or ran out of time. Whatever, I'm taking it." she replied.

Patty was about to pull the bag on her shoulders when a thought dawned on her, something filed away in the back of her mind. She opened the bag and dug through the dirty clothes and odd food packages until she reached the bottom. She found it, cold, heavy and metallic - the derringer. She held it in her hand and checked the loads once more, just like on the highway.

"You better let me handle that." said the man reaching for it.

"Back off. I can manage fine and it's not like the two of you were doing anything to get out of there." said Patty.

They went to the door, peeked out again and stepped into the hallway. Patty motioned to her left now and the couple followed her with a shrug. No sooner had they gone around the corner when they heard the loud sound of gunshots no more than a few feet in front of them. Patty pushed back the couple, dropped to the floor and peeked around the corner in the hallway.

Standing by a broken out window was a beefy man firing an M4 at  some unknown target below. He stopped and turned so quickly, Patty did not have time to dart back to cover.

"Hey! What are you doing out here?" he shouted as he fumbled to remove the magazine from his rifle.

Patty pushed backward and told the couple to run. She started to turn herself when the man yelled from only a few feet behind her,

"Stop! Hold on there!"

Patty turned and saw the man was still trying to reload the rifle. Patty drew the derringer and turned the tables.

"No, you drop the rifle or I'll shoot!" said Patty.

"Huh? You got to be kidding me. Put that thing down..!" he replied coming toward her.

Patty held the gun with both hands and squeezed the trigger. A twelve inch tongue of fire exploded from the barrel along with a tremendous boom. The round struck the man squarely in the chest and sent him to the floor where he let out an audible oomph as he hit the floor.

Patty carefully walked toward the man on the floor and found him moaning, but no blood as far as she could see. She assumed his protective armor was enough to stop the round, but not he velocity. He probably had a broken rib or worse. Patty grabbed his dropped rifle off the floor and pulled two magazines from his vest before hurriedly jumping up and running down the hallway after the couple

"Come on!" yelled the man from further down the hall.

Patty ran after the pair as they went through a stairway door at the end of the hall. They went two flights of stairs noting the floors marked on the doors as they went. They came to the door marked 1 - Ground Floor and paused. Patty put her ear to the door once more, but heard nothing, not even the gunfire.

She pushed it open and saw they were in a parking garage lit with flickering white lights along the walls. There were no cars in any of the ranks and they could clearly see outside of the garage through slits along the walls. They ran across the lot to the upward sloping ramp, pausing only when they reached the top which fed into a ground parking lot. There was nobody around and the gunfire was now only coming sporadic from the other side of the building.

Patty sprinted to the edge of the lot which was bordered by a seven foot high chain link fence with rolls of concertina wire along the top. She stared at at dejectedly at the fence and did not see any sort of entrance in either direction.

"Here, let's try this," said the man. He squatted on the ground and tried pulling and pushing the base of the fence. It rose about six inches off the ground in either direction.

"I think we can shimmy under this if we take turns." said the man. "Flo, we'll hold it up and you give it a go."

Patty and the man pulled up on the fence and 'Flo' squeezed underneath and to the other side.

"I'm skinny, but you're gonna have a problem, Paul." she said.

"To get out of here, I'll make it work. You girls pull it up high." he replied.

Patty pulled while Flo pushed and after several sweaty minutes, Paul grunted under the fence and to join Flo.

"Come on and hurry," said Paul.

Patty pushed her backpack through and started to slide under the fence having her shoulders and upper body on the other side when Flo hissed,

"Look! Here comes someone!".

The couple dropped dropped the fence they were holding and it scraped painfully across Patty ripping her shirt and making three jagged cuts down her back. Patty gasped out a shriek in the pain as she heard foot steps coming toward her. Flo and Paul were no where to be seen.

"Ungrateful jerks." thought Patty.

Patty squirmed her backside under the fence and ended up ripping the fabric on her cargo pants in several places as she squeezed under. The last thing she did was pull the M4 under a barely three inch gap in the fence and hurriedly got to her feet as several footsteps and voices came her way in the darkness.

Patty ran full on away from the fence into the darkness and promptly tripped over something concrete which sent her sprawling down an incline and into something wet and slimy. Her arms and face were torn by branches and limbs as she slipped into a creek or open storm drain badly barking her shin on a rock. Picking herself up, she managed to limp out of the ankle deep water and onto the muddy bank.

She climbed halfway up and started down the bank in complete blackness paralleling the BNSF facility and staying out of sight, or so she hoped. She heard voices nearby, less than twenty yards away or less but kept moving, the rifle tight in her hand.

"Something moving down there...!" a voice yelled.

Patty froze and brought the rifle around, trying to control her breath in deep pants which would give away her location.

"We know you're down there! Come out with your hands up or we'll shoot!" came the voice again, this time much closer than before.

Patty froze and considered her options. She could move back into the ditch behind her or she could continue parallel along the short bank. Or she could open fire and hope for the best. She slowed her breathing and thought about Elena, so close and yet so far away. She could feel the burning tears forming in the corners of her eyes at the magnitude level of frustration and pain caused by so many others.

And then the helicopter came. She could hear the chopping sounds vibrating the air around her as it came in low and close. Of course, they had called in a chopper to locate her and the others who might have escaped. Patty could outrun someone on foot, but should could not outrun a helicopter, not one this close.

Patty checked the safety on the rifle with her finger, brought it to her shoulder and whispered,

"Elena, baby. Mama loves you, mama loves you, baby..."

As she fired the first round, the parking lot exploded.

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