Note: Second part of the Systems excerpt. Somewhere in an imaginary world, today marks the death of the first generation of characters from my novel, Systems. Also (really a note to self), the header image from the original colour scheme of this blog has been restored, but I’m keeping the current colour scheme otherwise.
First part of the excerpt is here. Enjoy! – SK
From Systems, Chapter Eleven (Leon’s Promise)
16 January 2014, St Mary’s Cathedral
‘G-get out of here!’
Leon scrambled to his feet. He turned to David lying a few feet away from him, in front of the central arch, grimacing in pain and holding his abdomen. David had taken the bullet intended for him. Joanna was kneeling by her fiancé’s side, sobbing hysterically.
‘Now!’ yelled David.
Another bullet flew past with a sharp crack, and hit one of the stone columns supporting the arch behind them.
The sound jolted Joanna. She tore herself away from David with a futile cry and ran as fast as she could to her car, parked some fifty metres away. She had to pass the fountain to get to it. Adam got a clean view of her, and took aim.
Gasping in panic, Leon remembered the pistol he’d brought along with him for protection and took it out of his inner coat pocket. Hastily he aimed at Adam and fired. The gun gave out a thunderous report and the recoil jerked his arm. He missed by a couple of metres. Adam flinched, and then grinned.
Leon’s attempt however had granted Joanna a few valuable seconds, and she reached her car. Adam aimed at her again and fired. The bullet bounced off the roof of the car, missing her by a mere few inches. She screamed and quickly got in.
Adam stepped backward and waved two men forward as he and a partner headed back to his own vehicle.
‘Take care of them!’ he ordered as he got in.
Joanna had already set off down the road. She was fifteen or twenty seconds ahead by the time he gave chase.
More bullets came at Leon and David from behind the fountain. The shooters used the statues in the centre as cover. Leon shot a couple of rounds randomly in their direction, and then ran to David and helped him up. Together they hobbled up three or four steps and into the relative safety of the colonnade.
Still clutching his abdomen, David put his back against one of the pillars and slid to the ground, breathing heavily.
‘Drop your weapons and surrender!’ shouted one of the men.
‘Never!’ bellowed an enraged Leon.
He poked his head out from behind the pillar and took another
shot. They returned fire, and he pulled back in.
‘Leon!’ said David, his voice strained and desperate. ‘You go! Leave … me here!’
Leon stared wildly at him. ‘I won’t! You’re coming with me!’
‘You … h … have to save Jo! And the data …’ He took a DVD case out of his pocket and pressed it into Leon’s hand. ‘I didn’t give it to her. I-it’s up to you now.’
David’s expression said it all. The plan was coming apart, but giving up wasn’t an option. Tears came to Leon’s eyes and he put the box in his pocket.
‘I promise I’ll protect the data,’ he said, choking with emotion, ‘whatever it takes.’
‘You’d … better! I’ll c-cover you,’ said David with a tense frown, moving his bloodied hand from his stomach. He took hold of the pillar with both arms and hauled himself upright. ‘Now go!’
Leon ducked his head and sprinted past the fountain, giving it a wide berth, as more bullets whooshed around him. As he reached the car, he heard a couple of piercing gunshots from a weapon without a silencer. David had opened fire. Leon turned and saw one of the men sprawled out on the ground next to the fountain. He turned his face away from the scene and got into the car. He started up, flicked on the headlights and raced down the street.
Leon was too far behind Adam to see his car, but he quickly worked out the direction Joanna must have gone. In accordance with their plan, she would be aiming to get to the city exit. Hegel Boulevard was the main road out of Coppice Gate and at the end was an intersection. If he went on from there, he would go directly toward Cape’s End at the east coast. If he took a right turn, he would end up at Penrose Fjord, a small sea inlet which was little more than a fishing village. The left turn was the likely one Joanna would have taken. The road wound back into Soren Forest in Wheeler Park, technically remaining in Coppice Gate district, and then westward all the way through the forest, back to Rock Moor. From there she could get to the city exit.
He reached the intersection and steered left. As he approached Wheeler Park, he left the lights of the main road behind and moved onto a lane without any streetlights. A line of Catseyes was all he saw for the next two or three miles.
Suddenly he spotted the rear reflectors of Adam’s car. The vehicle was parked off the road. Leon slowed down to get a better look and soon saw why Adam had stopped there. Rammed up against a tree a few feet away, hood smashed, was Joanna’s car.
He quickly pulled up and got out. The moon had just come out from behind the clouds. He went up to Adam’s vehicle and noticed that the car was unattended. Leon looked into the dense black woodland and wondered which way Joanna might have gone. It was too dark to see anything properly. He crept in cautiously, holding his handgun tightly in front of him, eyes wide as he peered into the darkness, listening for movement, and praying that his feet, which seemed to have a knack for snapping every twig on the ground,
wouldn’t give him away.
After a few minutes he reached a clearing. Moonlight broke through the trees and cast its milky light over the rough vegetation. It revealed a human form in grey lying on the ground. It was Joanna. Another person in a suit and tie stood over her, holding a gun with a mounted light in one hand, and what looked like a syringe in the other. It was Adam.
The two laid eyes on each other at exactly the same time. Adam dropped the syringe and automatically raised his weapon, as did Leon. The tactical light flashed in Leon’s eyes. He yelled and blindly fired straight into the beam.