“There is only one surveillance camera in the hall,” Victor says. “It’s stationary. Wait for my word.”
Keeping eyes on the one man sitting in the surveillance room of this building, without Victor as our eyes on the outside, we’d be completely blind to everything around us.
A full minute passes, then another, and all I can think about is how many minutes Nora and I have left to get this done.
“Now,” Victor says urgently into our ears—he was waiting for the man in the surveillance room to leave the multiple screens in front of him to take his nightly piss and make a coffee pot run, practically right on schedule.
Nora carefully swings open the door into the tenth floor hallway so as not to let it hit the wall, and she grabs the man standing guard on the other side, snapping his neck before he can reach for his gun. His heavy body slumps over into her arms and together we carry him into the stairwell and let the door close quietly, hiding him from view of the camera.
Wasting no time, Nora and I move quickly down the hall where just around the corner at the end, three more men stand guard at the elevator.
With our silenced guns drawn, we round the corner to see them staring back at us with wild rounded eyes and quick hands.
“STOP!” one man shouts just before Nora’s bullet zips through the air and drops him like a slab of meat.
Squeezing my trigger without even thinking about it, I put a bullet in another man’s head and he drops onto the white tiled floor in a heap of dead weight and black fabric. The third man raises his gun, but Nora takes him out before he can get a shot off. His gun hits the floor and slides several inches as he falls.
“Are we still clear?” I ask Victor as Nora and I drag two bodies by their ankles across the floor toward another door, the sound of their suits moving over the tile like a snake slithering through a bed of leaves.
“Yes,” Victor says, “you’re still clear, but move with haste; he won’t stay away from his post long.”
Pushing open the door with my back, I drag the body inside; the long, heavy legs hit the carpeted floor of what looks like an office, with a thump-thump. Nora comes in right after me, dropping the second body.
“Clean the scene,” she tells me as she grabs the last body by the ankles and hurriedly drags him away in the same direction.
I grab the man’s gun that had fallen, shoving it into my boot, and then I pull a square of cloth tucked away inside my other boot and mop up the small droplets of blood and one noticeable smear, that had stained the floor.
“You’re still clear,” Victor says.
Nora comes out of the office just as I’m setting the magazine that had fallen onto the floor neatly back onto the chair.
Without a word, Nora and I move fast past the elevator and down the hall to another stairwell. The sound of our boots hitting the concrete steps as we make our way down is now more audible. Our breathing less controlled, but only a surprise, or a gunshot wound can break our concentration.
Halfway down the ninth floor, Victor says, “He’s making his way back. There are two men outside the door on the ninth floor—”
“But we’re not going to the ninth floor,” I cut in.
That wasn’t in the plan. Why are we straying from the plan: use the stairwell straight to the eighth floor, bypassing anymore men in the halls? The only reason we came out on the tenth floor and took out those men was because they were stationed too close to the stairwell, our safest getaway route.
“I got it,” Nora says and rushes right out the ninth floor door, this time letting it smash against the wall, not caring, or not having time to control it.
“Who the fuck—”
She drops the man at the other end of the hall with a single muffled shot.
“Don’t move,” she says to the other just as he’s reaching for his gun in the back of his slacks.
His arms shoot up beside him, his tanned, lined face twists with trepidation.
“Move the body,” Nora tells me and I do as she says without question or hesitation. “Hurry.”
The man in the suit stares back at Nora with bright blue eyes framed by dark, messy hair.
“What do you want?” he asks with a shaky voice, and shaky hands.
I hide the body in another nearby office.
“He’s about fifteen feet from the surveillance room door,” Victor tells us about the guard downstairs just as I’m stepping back out into the hall.
There’s a single camera right on us, but I hold back the involuntary reaction to look up at it. It may not pick up our faces covered by the masks, but it can still see my eyes and that instinctively makes me cautious.
Having the same idea, Nora and I step out of view of the camera around the short corner next to the office, but her gun remains trained on the man. A knot slips down the center of his throat, moving his Adam’s apple. Her fierce brown eyes never seem to blink as she stares coldly into his blue ones just a few feet away.
“Drop your hands and look natural,” Nora demands, knowing that if the man in the surveillance room sees him like that, he’ll know right away something is wrong. “I said drop them!”
The man drops his hands immediately.
“Don’t look at us,” she says. “I said look natural.”
He does as he’s told, averting his eyes. He steps over and presses his back to the wall and then crosses his arms over his chest to look natural.
“He’s back in the surveillance room,” Victor warns us.
“Now,” Nora says to the man, “when you get that contact from surveillance downstairs, you better make it believable. And send him out of the room.”
The man’s eyes crease with confusion as he continues to stare out ahead of him rather than at us. His rough-edged jaw and disheveled dark hair moves side to side in a bewildered fashion.
“W-What do you mean?” he asks, now looking vaguely in our direction, but in a casual, unsuspicious manner.
“If you’re smart,” Nora says icily, “you’ll figure it out. If not, you’ll be dead in under thirty seconds.”
Suddenly his eyes shift from Nora’s as if his concentration on her has just been broken. Instinctively he goes to raise his fingers to his earpiece, but stops just short when from the corner of his eye he notices Nora’s finger moving in a threatening manner against the trigger: Don’t do anything stupid, it says. I’ll kill you on the spot.
Another knot moves down the man’s throat.
Very slowly he presses his fingers against the earpiece.
Then he smiles and looks upward at the camera positioned near the ceiling.
“They’re probably giving each other blowjobs in the stairwell,” he tells the man in the surveillance room; a tiny speaker is affixed to the front of his black tie. “Vance and me have had a bet goin’ on for a while now: how many men on floor ten can Carmen convert—looks like I’m gonna win.” He nods, looking up at the camera and then glances in our direction to indicate the office just beyond us. “Yeah, Vance is in the office talking to that girl again—I know, I know, I’ve told him about that shit, but seems the teenagers aren’t the only part of the population who can’t seem to unplug. Ha! Ha!” He throws his head back with laughter (I roll my eyes). “Yeah no shit.” The man glances at us briefly; we glare back at him coldly. Hurry it up, our faces, and the barrel of Nora’s gun tells him.
The man clears his throat and looks back up at the camera.
“Hey, since I’m the only one on guard on my floor right now,” he says, “would you mind bringing up something from vending?” He pauses, listening to the other man’s response. “Hey man don’t worry about it; shit’s been quiet as hell in this place for months. Pinceri should pay us more just to stay awake.” He laughs to something the man says into his earpiece. Then he nods. “Yeah, anything’ll do. I’m starving. Thanks.”
A few quiet and intense seconds pass where no one says anything. The man continues to act casual even though from this angle he looks on the verge of pissing himself.
“He’s leaving the surveillance room,” Victor says into our earpieces.
With that, Nora immediately steps from the corner with her gun trained on the man. A second later another bullet zips through the air and the man falls to the floor, dead.
“He’s getting into the north elevator,” Victor tells us as we’re dragging the man—me with his feet, Nora with his arms—into the office with the other dead man.
After hiding the body, Nora and I rush down the hall toward the north elevator and we stand in front of the silver sliding doors, watching the floor numbers light up above it as the elevator makes its way up slowly. Clock is ticking. Time is seeping through our fingers like water.
Nora rolls her eyes and sighs miserably as if the boredom from waiting is killing her.
“So, tell me what Victor’s like in bed,” she says so casually it catches me off-guard—and puts a territorial knot in my stomach.
“Huh?” It’s all I can manage, I’m so blindsided by her question.
She laughs lightly, glancing over at me, but keeping most of her attention on the elevator doors.
“Hey,” she says, gesturing the hand without a gun as if to calm a storm before it stirs, “I’m only curious because he’s Niklas’s brother. Can’t very well ask you how Niklas fucks seeing as how I doubt you’ve ever treaded those waters.”