What is this about?

Countdown

“At least tell me who wants me dead!” Halloray yelled. “Do me that meaningless favor so at least I’ll know who to haunt.”

“OK,” Derek said smugly. “I can give you that much,” turning and walking toward the hotel room door.

“It was Manesian. All along.”

And then the building shuddered and groaned. And then it was a miracle. A goddammed pope on a rope hallelujah brothers and sisters, blessed be thy name made to order miracle.

Four floors up in the abandoned Ambassador Hotel, roped and duct-taped to a secretary’s chair and staring at the ass of the evil freak who was walking away, maniacally laughing and leaving Halloray there to die in the demolition that was set to take place in, oh three minutes, he didn’t believe his eyes when the floor of the suite gave way beneath the goon and his ass and laughter suddenly turned to screaming and Derek was gone in a cloud of dust, shortly thereafter the screaming was cut short by a slam and a crack and became a strangled and very wet gurgle and gasping for a few moments before silence resumed. The hotel groaned again.

“Shoulda watched your step, you dead fuck!”

And Halloray laughed while blinking in dumbfounded amazement at his good fortune before realizing the clock was still ticking and inspite of that momentary bit of luck he was still taped to a fucking chair in a room of a long-dead landmark that was about to go boom.

He struggled against the bonds at his ankles, wrists and waist. They all held firm. He screamed in aggravation and did the only thing left he could do.

He fucking went beserk. Flailing his body and screaming, he managed to tip the chair over into a roll with enough momentum that he went end over end until he crashed into the wall below the windows.

Of course, in one of those sick tumbles he crushed his nose against the hardwood floor and felt a pain that could only be a separated shoulder, but none of that mattered. It was all adrenaline and getting out alive or dying trying.

And sure enough, the fit helped. Wiggling against the tape, he found a little slack around his right wrist. He exploited it.

From far off outside, he heard the conservancy protesters chanting in a final effort to rant and rail against the destruction of the historic place where Hollywood once lived and Bobby Kennedy had died.

And then his wrist was free.

“Fuck yeah!” he yelled. Blood poured down from his ruined nose.

Reaching over he tore through the tape around his left wrist. Then the rope around his waist. In a few more seconds, his ankles were free and he was standing.

He let out a sigh, but it was cut short by the intense pain in his left shoulder. Then there was the matter of the voice on a public address system, perhaps not quite as far away as the protesters. Or maybe just louder. His heart stopped at the news.

“All personnel must achieve minimum safe distance immediately. Clear the area now. Attention. Attention. The area must be cleared of all personnel. If you have not yet done so, go to the designated minimum safe distance zone without delay. Ignition sequence commencing in 90 seconds. Repeat, 90 seconds starting now. 90. 89. 88. 87…”

The countdown continued and Halloray got a move one. Cutting short his relief he ran first to the nearest wall and slammed his shoulder against it. And again. He almost passed out from the agony. On the third try, there was something of a loud soggy THWOP! And suddenly his arm had some range of motion. Turning, he jogged over to the edge of the hole that had flushed his captor away.

Twelve feet below there he lay. Looking completely fine except for the huge pool of blood and the piece of copper pipe that had run itself through his neck.

“83. 82. 81…”

“A fucking answered prayer,” Halloray muttered and spat down on the corpse. He would’ve shot it had he had a gun.

The floor of the gutted and weakened hotel shimmied and groaned beneath him and he jumped and scrambled back just in time to avoid another chunk of floor giving way beneath him. They don’t have to blow this place up, it’s falling down fine on its own, he thought.

“71. 70. 69. 68…”


And now Halloray saw another predicament. With the latest piece of floor to go crashing away, Halloray would have to make like Bob Beamon and long jump about 15 feet to get to the door to the hallway.

“That’s not gonna happen,” he said.

So the only way out was down. But not through the hole to the floor below because who knew what obstacles would present themselves there. And it’s not like he was at all fucking familiar with the layout of the decrepit place, having been brought here blindfolded.

Instead, he would take the express. Making his way to the window he heaved up and shoved it open about halfway where it stuck. Sticking his head out into the cool night air, the forty foot drop to what might have once been a grassy knoll looked like a mile.

“56. 55. 54. 53…”

But there was no time to lose and his choices were few. Stay and die. Jump and die. Or maybe live. At least with the latter option he stood a ghost of a chance. So out went his legs and he turned on his stomach and slide out, hoping for some sort of foothold, but finding none.

In a few more scoots, there he was, dangling from the window ledge.

“38. 37. 36. 35…”

And then he was falling. For what seemed like forever. He tried to brace for the impact that would surely end him. But it never came. Instead, he hit a pile of insulation and old mattresses that had been stripped out by the demolition team from the wing to prevent any absorption that might mitigate the explosion and leave the old hotel still standing.

He sank deep into the pile until he came to a stop. Again he blinked in dumbfounded amazement until the countdown brought him back to reality.

“30. 29. 28…”

In a beat he was up and running away from the building. He could hear the sound of network and local TV helicopters no doubt with cameras rolling to capture the controlled devastation and broadcast it live during interruptions in their regularly scheduled programming.

Putting his head down and sprinting against the pain and the blood and the fear, Halloray hoped the cameras wouldn’t pick him up as he bolted south behind the hotel toward what he prayed would be beyond the minimum safe distance. But he was wrong — a Fox camera did pick him up and send him out over the airwaves.

Some thirty miles away in his home in North Hills, Tyler Manesian, watching the telecast on Fox and hoping the explosion would finally put the elusive period on the end of the sentence that made up Halloray’s overly lucky life, saw a figure dart across the screen and knew the period wouldn’t be placed tonight. If ever.

Or if it did it would be up to him.

Manesian’s heart skipped a beat. He didn’t know how, but he instinctively realized that Derek was dead and that the scampering figure was Halloray and that he would be coming for him now. Hard. That luckiest son of a bitch’ll bringing hell and vengeance with him.

“3. 2. 1…”

Halloray was across 8th Street by the time the sequence of explosions began and were strong enough to shake the sidewalk he ran down for all he was worth.

Which wasn’t very much, but who’s counting.