They stood in front of the main entrance that loomed before them.
Ray thought this was, like, a vision out of the most basic horror movie – you get the dilapidated building, the two good guys almost out of ammo and a maniac inside just waiting for the right moment to finish them off, one by one, in the dark.
“Do not say “I’ll be right back” Fraser,” Ray joked lamely – he felt unaccountably nervous.
“Why should I say such a nonsensical thing?” Fraser asked confused.
“It’s part of this movie, it’s—never mind.” Ray looked at the big entrance door. “We can’t take the main entrance that much is for sure. If we use that we can just as well advertize our arrival with a floodlight and a megaphone.”
Fraser nodded. “However, there should be a back entrance for the cleaning stuff or even an entrance the curling players used to avoid the public when it was still an ice skating rink.”
They searched around the back until they found a door that was boarded up with rude planks of wood. They nodded at each other and Ray went and searched for something they could use as a crowbar. He found an old metal pipe around the corner near the trash containers.
The planks were wet and rotten – they made hardly any sound at all when they pried them away.
Ray cocked his gun and entered the building first. The door led to an old changing room. It had at one time obviously been the changing room for a sports team but some left over items clearly indicated that it had been used by workers since.
He tried the light switch but except for a short humming of electricity nothing happened. Ray sighed. Of course, they would have to do this flying blind – why should it have been any different?
Fraser was already wedging something into the door to keep it from closing so that they could at least use what little light was filtering in from outside. Ray crossed the rest of the room and pulled at the door but it wasn’t budging; it was locked.
Ray considered their options: they could either go back and take the main entrance – and be immediately discovered— or they could shoot the lock open, which might also warn McKinnley of their presence, and then take their chances with their entrance.
He shrugged. Taking his chances was better than erasing even the slightest chance right from the beginning. Ray fired a bullet at the door lock. It connected with a clear ping and the door moved open an inch.
Two bullets left, Ray counted with some measure of trepidation.
Ray’s eyes needed a moment to adjust to the dim light that came from dirt stained windows to the upper right and left. The room had probably been the ticket area at one point but it had been turned – albeit badly – into some kind of break room. There was still an old pinball machine at the left-hand side and a moldy couch in the right corner.
Two doors were leading out of this room; one straight ahead and one to the farther right side. Judging from the layout the door to the right side probably led to an entrance area whereas the other should be leading to the old ice rink.
“It’s probably best if we check that everything is clear first,” Fraser whispered quietly, gesturing toward the door to the right. Ray nodded.
He moved to the door and pushed it open. There was a corridor which was almost pitch-black safe for the daylight that came from the window of the entrance door at the opposite end. Ray’s eyes scanned the area; they were completely alone. There was an old attendance clock rusting away right next to the door but except for that the hallway was almost completely bare.
They turned back toward the last remaining door – the one that led to the heart of the factory. Ray squared his shoulders and opened the door as quietly as he could for a fraction of an inch.
When no immediate gunfire answered the movement he pushed the door slightly further open. Ray had never been inside of a paint factory and his mind had still been stuck on the ice skating rink so he wasn’t at all prepared for the row of big, steel cylinders that lined the room – preventing a deeper look into the room.
Everything looked so old, no wonder the owner went bankrupt if he had thought he could compete with this outdated technology. The tanks also blocked out most of the light that came from the grimy windows along the ceiling.
Fraser’s head came up in one swift motion and Ray followed his line of sight—there it was again, a shuffling sound, like feet dragging over concrete, somewhere behind the rows of paint barrels.
Fraser nodded and they started to sneak around the first row – careful not to trip over any of the junk from broken machineries or glass from one of the windows. They had just passed the second row when Fraser’s arm stopped him from walking further.
Fraser pointed quietly between two tanks one row further back and Ray squinted. If he concentrated he could just make out some darker shape moving between those.
They inched closer and heard McKinnley’s enraged whisper, “You shut the hell up!” There was the sound of skin connecting with skin, a groan of pain and the dull thud of something—or someone— hitting the ground.
Ray cursed silently, exchanged a short nod with Fraser and flung himself around the corner of the last row of tanks.
James Conroy was lying on the ground but he was stirring again, a low groan escaped his lips and Ray sighed in relief.
“Step away from him!” Ray shouted. Fraser was right next to him in an instant. “I’ll take Mr. Conroy to the exit,” Fraser said and Ray nodded.
“Yeah, I’ll keep an eye on our friend here.” No way was he marching this crazy bastard around in the dark while Fraser was busy keeping an eye on the hostage. There were simply too many possibilities for McKinnley to pull a vanishing trick in this junkyard.
Besides, Ray had his gun trained on him – what could he do anyway?
McKinnley was holding his hands up in surrender, a sour expression on his face. Fraser knelt down next to James.
“Are you alright, can you stand up?”
James held his hand to his rapidly swelling jaw and nodded carefully. Fraser gripped him around the upper arm and helped him up. Apparently James had put up a good fight, he had another bruise along his left cheekbone and he was limping slightly. Ray winced in sympathy at the sight – but James had unknowingly provided them with the distraction they had needed to get him out of there.
“I’ll be right back,” Fraser said quietly.
“I got it. Everything’s under control.” Ray sighed relieved. Maybe his hunch had been wrong after all.
Fraser’s retreating figure had already vanished from sight; his footsteps could still be heard echoing quietly from the far side of the room.
The seconds ticked by in exaggerated slowness. Ray’s hands were slightly sweaty; he was expecting McKinnley to do something stupid the minute his concentration slackened.
Suddenly the sound of police sirens filled the air and Ray jerked in surprise – what the hell was going on here – a tinny voice resounded from a speaker outside: “This is the FBI. You are surrounded. Throw down your weapons!”
Ray couldn’t belief his ears – yet the moment of confusion was all the time McKinnley needed.
His breath left Ray in a rush when McKinnley’s shoulder hit him into the solar plexus. He doubled over, gasping for breath and McKinnley moved a safe distance away again.
Ray heard the release of the safety catch of a gun before he even managed to straighten up again.
Ray looked around feverishly, there, a few inches away from his boot was a small metal cap from some kind of cylinder. He picked it up and while he moved to stand up again he made a small movement with his hand, throwing the metal cap away.
It resounded with a ping where it connected with one of the steel tanks a bit to their left –it had the desired effect. McKinnley automatically looked in the direction the sound had come from and Ray wasted no time.
He pulled the trigger and managed to hit the gunbarrel of McKinnley’s gun and McKinnley couldn’t keep his grip on it–he was too surprised by the force of the impact.
Ray had just opened his mouth to say “No funny business” when the sound of splintering glass from the other side of the building drew his attention. Fraser! Shit!
He realized too late that he had followed the direction of the noise, he was just about to turn his head again but he only had time to register steel glinting from the corner of his eye before pain exploded in a white hot flash over the back of his head.
Ray didn’t feel it when his face hit the concrete floor.
And he didn’t hear McKinnley’s retreating footsteps either.
When he came to the pain in his head was almost enough to knock him out again. Ray groaned and put his fingers gingerly to the back of his head –they came away bloody. Fucking great!
Ray heaved himself up on all fours and fought against the wave of dizziness that assaulted him. He staggered to his feet and instantly started dry heaving.
Ray didn’t manage more than three steps before he started retching and getting rid of the remains of his breakfast.
He wiped his mouth and took a slow look around… what was he doing here? He pressed a hand against the side of his head which was trying to split in two.
The last thing he remembered was McKinnley taking Conroy hostage.
This looked like some kind of factory. How did he end up in a factory? Most logical explanation was that this was where McKinnley had taken James.
It didn’t matter, Ray decided. All he needed to do at the moment was find the exit.
Patches of black danced before his eyes and Ray fought hard to stay conscious. He stumbled around the next row of tanks—hadn’t he just passed this exact row? He swallowed against another wave of nausea. This stuff all looked the same to him.
He didn’t even know from which direction he had entered this hall. And what had happened to Fraser?
The throbbing in his head cut him off. Thinking hurt too much. But there were definitely patches in his memory, or at least pieces missing from the most recent events.
Suddenly there were sounds of a scuffle one row to the left. The cop instinct took over and Ray moved as quietly as he could toward the noise. He blinked hard and took several deep breaths in an effort to stay focused and not to give in to the pain.
He stopped behind another big steel contraption and looked around it, trying to make out what was happening on the other side of it. There was Fraser, panting harshly, with a dirt streak along his cheekbone and to the left, there was McKinnley and –when had McKinnley gotten Ray’s weapon?
Ray couldn’t remember that but the fact that it was trained on Fraser was more pressing than the similarities between Ray’s short time memory and a sieve.
He looked around for inspiration—looking down wasn’t a very good idea he thought when the urge to vomit threatened to overwhelm him.
There was a lever or something but Ray couldn’t see to what it was connected. Next to that, however, was something that looked as if it would tilt the big steel tank behind which he was hiding. It was worth a try, Ray figured.
He pulled on the latch but it wasn’t budging and Ray felt the exertion sapping his strength, he stumbled a step forward—only just catching himself again, his hand on the other lever and this one gave way—there was the grinding of a link chain running through metal fasteners – and then a horrible crash—just to the other side of the tank.
Ray’s head swiveled in the direction of the crash, praying that Fraser was unhurt, when the sudden movement caused pain to flare through his head in a hitherto unknown intensity. Ray moaned in pain and surrendered to the darkness pulling on him.
He regained consciousness to the feeling of being spread out over the cold floor.
“The paramedics will be here any second now. You’ll be fine, don’t worry,” Fraser was whispering frantically, “the ambulance is on its way, everything will be fine”– reassuring himself or reassuring Ray—Ray didn’t know but opening his eyes took way too much effort.
“’m fine…” he mumbled instead. He wasn’t sure if he indeed produced a sound but he felt his lips move.
Fraser’s fingers were suddenly closing over Ray’s.
“Ray,” There was a catch in Fraser’s voice. “You’ll be fine, do you hear me? Everything will be alright.”
Ray wanted to smile, tell Fraser that he could just stop freaking out—that it didn’t become a Mountie— but it took too much effort. The pain in his head was blinding and talking only made him realize that he felt like puking.
So he smiled in his head and gave in to the pain. Sleep sounded good, sleep was greatness.