I fire my gun. People around me turn swiftly, some duck and take cover. No time to explain. Plastered on the building straight ahead is a movie poster. Your typical will-they-won’t-they edge-of-your-seat romantic comedy. A bullet hole in the male character’s washboard abs. I curse.
In the corner of my eye I see the man dashing across the street. My gun hand outstretched I run after him. Cars honk, people swear, but all I’m thinking of is the bright red shirt I mustn’t let out of sight.
He takes a sharp turn after the Beaumont Hotel, and few seconds later, so do I. Breathe in through the nose. Exhale through the mouth. I remember my basic training. But damn he’s fast.
I squeeze through a couple holding hands. No time to apologize. Buzzing in my ear, the hoarse voice of the captain gives me directions.
“He’s probably headed for the subway. Cut through eleventh street and third.” I pay little attention to his words. My instincts guide me.
He’s at an intersection, jumping over passing cars with an athletic ability I can’t rival.
Shit. A torrent of cars blocks my way, and he’s already on the other side. He turns, waves, his face contorted in this big fuck-you smile, then disappears behind the next building.
Through the tsunami of traffic noise I hear my cell phone ringing.
“Be careful, Campbell. He’s a time-shifter.” A familiar voice.
Click. The droning sound of a dead line. I gather my thoughts, eyes straying from side to side for any sign of my chase.
The pedestrian traffic light turns green. I dash across the street, head for the same street he took.
Time-shifter? I shrug it off. Our department’s dealt with much worse.
The subway, I remember, and sprint off towards the nearest entry point. I almost trip over the legs of a homeless man lying on the sidewalk. He yells after me. I’ll remember to give him spare change next time I find myself here.
It’s almost noon and the City is very much alive. Everything’s in motion. All the things I love about it now make me swear. Sweat trickles down my face.
After another intersection I reach the nearest subway station. I grip the iron-wrought railing and sling myself over it, then down the stairs, four at a time, into the coldness of the underground. Sliding across a turnstile, an old security guard sees me and protests but I point my gun in his direction and he shuts his stupid mouth.
Through the PA I hear Train A’s due in two minutes. I walk across the tiled floor, scouring the surroundings.
“He should be around. Look in the bathrooms.” The voice of the captain in my ear.
Adrenaline pumps through my veins as I kick the bathroom door in. I tighten my grip on the gun and try every bathroom stall one by one.
“I know you’re in here.”
I move to the girls’ restroom. Smells just as bad as the other one. Silently, I look under the first stall. Nothing. The second, then the third.
“You bastard,” I scream out as he kicks open the door, hitting me straight in the face. The red cardigan sprints towards the exit, leaving me with a bloody nose. I take aim, fire. He topples over right before reaching the door.
I get up, one hand pinching my nose, the other pointing my .44 Magnum at his body.
He stirs. With a groan he turns over.
“Captain, I got him,” I say out loud.
His eyes are pitch-black, stare straight through me. I don’t like it. Not one bit.
That sheepish smile again. I see the blood gather itself from the grimy floor, back into his body as the bullet wound heals itself. The small round bullet clinks to the ground. I’m about to shoot him again, but I sense myself dissolving, slithering out of the scene like smoke. Last I see is him getting up, sprinting out of the stinky bathroom.
A thundering noise splits my brain. I hear klaxons, chatter, tires screeching. I look around and there are people. The sign next to me says I’m on fourteenth street and third. A small Japanese restaurant to my right. I recognize the joint. Great ramen.
“Think fast, Campbell.” I rub my eyes.
It’s then I remember the phone-call. I pull up my sleeve and look at the time. It’s four minutes early.
The slimy bastard. Brought me a couple of minutes back.
Think fast, think fast. My heart’s pounding. I’ve never been time shifted before. Bruce from sector seven says he has been once, on a job in Pittsburgh, but I think he’s full of it. What do, what do? I must turn this into an advantage, I realize. The bastard was hurt, that’s why he shifted me minutes and not years back in time.
I see a payphone nearby. I remember that call I got earlier.
Without hesitation I insert a coin and dial my cell number mechanically. It feels weird, but I must go through with it. The cell-phone in my pocket doesn’t ring.
I hear myself pick-up, breathing heavily into the phone.
“Be careful, Campbell. He’s a time-shifter,” I say and hang up.
All of a sudden I get the urge to laugh. Stupid mutant. Joke’s on him. This means now there’s two of us. Twice the chance of catching his ass.
“We can do this all day my friend,” I say to myself, then head for the nearest subway station.
Damien Krsteski is a science-fiction author from Skopje, Macedonia. His work has appeared in numerous publications, links to which can be found on his blog: http://monochromewish.blogspot.com
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