Cold air blasted Mary and Paige the moment they pushed through the revolving door of the office building and hit Locust Street. Mary felt her nose turn instantly red and her cheeks chap on impact. She finger combed her hair into place, knowing it was useless. She shouldn't have been worrying about how she looked anyway. Here she was, going to visit a client. Well, not a client anymore. Did that make it okay to have a crush on him? 'Let's get a cab,' she said anyway. 'It's too cold to walk.'
The hotel is only ten blocks or so. Dad left the name of it on my machine.' Paige flipped up the collar of her black jacket and squinted against the harsh wind. 'We can walk.'
'Of course we can, but we don't have to.' Mary squinted up and down the street but there were no cabs. The street was dark, and traffic heading toward Broad Street was sparse. A man walked by in a wool topcoat and a knit cap, his muffler flying at his neck. At this time of night he'd be heading toward Suburban Station. Not a cab in sight. 'Why are there more lawyers than cabs in the world? Cabs are more useful and often smell better.'
'Come on, Mary,' Paige said, buttoning a latch at the top of her coat. 'Walking is good exercise.'
'All right.' Mary turned reluctantly toward Market and the hotel. Tm not the type who cares if my hair looks like shit.'
'Me neither.' Paige fell into step beside Mary. 'I've wasted too much time worrying about my hair. And my weight. And my eyes. And my hips.'
Mary caught a faceful of city wind that would drive soot
into her contacts and redden her eyes, for that Cujo look. 'I never worry about what I look like.'
'Kind of weird to think you've spent your whole life on all the wrong things. With the wrong people.'
'You're only sixteen.' Mary put her head down against the wind. If this kept up, she'd have bugs on her teeth. 'Your whole life hasn't started yet.'
'And I've screwed it up already,' Paige said, her tone quiet, and Mary looked over, since it sounded strangely like something she would say. Paige's head was down, and her hair blew back in a silky sheet of red, as if she were standing in front of a photographer's fan. But she didn't look like a model anymore, with her hand carried protectively in front of her tummy. Behind her was a dark, closed-up store, and Paige seemed so alone that Mary took her arm impulsively.
'You know, I don't agree with you.'
'No?' Paige didn't remove her arm.
'Not in the least.' Mary kept walking with Paige's arm in hers, enjoying the chumminess of it. She missed working with Judy on this case, but this was almost as good, and for once, Mary was the smart one. 'I think you have made a rather large mistake and are trying like hell to correct it. You walked into a police station today and begged them to arrest you for a murder that it turns out you didn't commit. That takes guts.'
'Like father, like daughter/ Paige said, and Mary laughed.
'You think it's genetic? You Newlins run around confessing to major felonies? Have excessive guilt complexes?' Mary's teeth chattered against the cold, and a crumpled newspaper blew down the sidewalk like urban tumbleweed. Another man hurried by on the street, his tartan scarf wrapped up to his nose. The cold and wind seemed suddenly hostile to Mary. She decided she didn't like the city in winter after all, and squeezed Paige's arm protectively. 'You sure you're not Catholic?'
Paige smiled. 'Can I ask you a question? It's kind of personal.'
'That's the only kind I answer. The rest is all small talk, and who cares about that?'
'It's about abortion.'
'Okay, I'm all ears.' So much for feeling smart. Mary had her own views, but it was so personal. The wind blew harder on the other side of the street, making it rough going, or maybe it was the conversation. They reached the corner and crossed against the traffic light, since there were no cars. Tire away.'
'Well, you know I'm pregnant. What do you think I should do?' Paige looked over just as a gust of cold air hit them, and Mary couldn't take the cold anymore. She turned reflexively to put her back to the wind, which was when she saw him. A tall figure in a black ski mask and parka stood halfway down the block, aiming a gun at them.
'Get down!' Mary screamed. She didn't have time to think, only to react. She threw an arm around Paige, who was turning to her in confusion, and yanked her down to the sidewalk just as a gunshot rang out. Mary's chest slammed into the sidewalk and the heel of her palm skidded against the cold concrete. The explosive crak reverberated down the street, and she covered Paige's head with her arm.
'Mary!' Paige shouted in panic. 'What's happening?'
'Stay down!' Mary raised her head to look back. Another shot sounded, echoing with a sickening report, and flame spit from the gun. Mary ducked reflexively. She had no idea where the bullets flew. Fear gripped her. She couldn't think. It was so sudden. The figure began to run toward them. There was no one else on the street. He would kill them. They couldn't stay here.
'Get up! Run!' Mary shouted and scrambled to her feet, yanking Paige up by her arm. 'Help!' she kept screaming, and so did Paige, terrified, but there was no one around. They tore down the block, their coats flying.
Mary's chest heaved with effort. Her pumps slipped on
the frigid sidewalk. Ahead lay the lights of the city center. She looked frantically around for escape routes. There were none. It was a straight line and they couldn't outrun a bullet. He'd hit them for sure.
She bolted down the street with Paige. Ahead lay an alley on the right. It had to go through to the street. Most of them did.
Mary glanced over her shoulder. The figure was running full tilt, holding his gun stiff at his side. He covered ground fast, his stride long. He was big and strong. His eyes were black holes. Who was it? Trevor, had to be. She should have known. Paige had blown his cover and now he was after her. Them both.
Mary streaked ahead with Paige running beside her. Trevor was gaining on them, a half a block away. The alley was steps ahead.
'Faster!' she screamed to Paige, who was lagging. They were at the alley. 'Go!' she shouted. She grabbed Paige's sleeve and shoved her into it. Another crak sounded, closer this time, and she almost jumped out of her skin. She prayed the alley was the right move. It was too dark to see if it had an end. Had she steered them wrong?
It was dark inside and Dumpsters overflowed on either side. They ran through trash and frozen garbage. Mary didn't hear footsteps or gunshots behind her. Were they safe? She could see lights at the end of the alley. People!
'Help!' she screamed and so did Paige. The people at the end of the alley looked up, two young men in white uniforms. They were smoking outside the screen door of a restaurant kitchen. Golden light shone through the screen and the aroma of roasting lamb wafted into the night. Mary ran closer and heard voices inside. They were safe! Trevor couldn't shoot them in front of witnesses. She ran flat out, and even Paige put on the afterburners.
'Let us in!' Mary shouted to the uniformed men, but they turned and ran off down the other end of the alley. In the City of Brotherly Love, you're on your own. She ran
straight for the door with Paige, threw open the screen, and darted inside, fumbling for the main door and slamming it closed behind them.
'Quoi?’ said a startled sous-chef, from behind a glistening stainless steel counter, but Mary was bolting the door locked.
'Call nine-one-one!' she called out, but Paige had snatched her cell phone from her handbag and was flipping it open.
Mary sagged against the door, her chest heaving. Relief flooded over her so powerfully it brought tears to her eyes. She was never so happy to see such a scummy metal door. Trevor couldn't shoot through it even if he tried. The kitchen was warm and safe, filled with pungent smells and snotty cooks. She was alive. Paige was alive.
Mary didn't know how she had picked the right alley, but she whispered a silent thanks to anybody who was listening.