99 - Rome
PRESENT DAY Roaring past Michael and barely swerving to avoid Cerberus–it bounded over me in a single leap, which helped matters somewhat–I gunned the engine, considering all the while just how much trouble I would be in if I hit Lazarus with the Jeep.
It wasn’t nearly as terrible if I just hit him, was it?
After all, so far as he’d said, I wouldn’t actually be able to kill him if I wanted to?
But something inside me pushed back against that. Despite serving my tour of duty in Iraq, I’d only ever intentionally harmed another human being to the extent that I was considering one time. It just didn’t seem right to start now, not unless the stakes ramped up significantly.
After all, so far as I knew, Lazarus wasn’t willing to hurt them either. He hadn’t shown any signs of carrying any sort of weapon and had relied on Cerberus to do his dirty work back at Amira’s flat, so what was to say that he wouldn’t do much the same thing here and now?
So I gunned the engine, but not with the intention of hitting Lazarus but rather just scaring.
He took that decision right out of my hands though when I was only about a block behind him. He turned to look over his shoulder and saw me coming. Neither the expression on his face nor the speed of his walk changed one bit, but ever so suddenly he swerved into a tight alleyway between two buildings.
It was barely wide enough for him, no where near what I would have needed even if I had wanted to chase him in the Jeep. So a decision made by default. Lucky me.
I looked after him as I drove by, but the alley was too dark. I sped past and had to jerk my attention back to the front to avoid the tables in front of a corner cafe, closed for the night. I thanked God that there were so few people out and about. Even more than not hurting Lazarus, I didn’t want to hurt any innocent bystanders.
A minute later, I’d caught up with Father Antonio and Amira. It turned out that they had been the ones running ahead of me the entire time after all. Thank goodness for small favors least.
“Come on, get in.” I yelled at them.
Father Antonio didn’t seem to recognize my voice and just kept running, but Amira must have. She stopped dead in her tracks, turning to look back at me. Her chest was heaving up and down from the effort of running and a thin sheen of sweat glimmered in the street lights.
“Father…” she gasped. “…wait.” It was obvious to me at least that she was referring to Father Antonio, but it still took a bit for him to slow down.
When he finally did, he looked back and did a but of a double take to see me sitting there in the Jeep. “But I thought…” I heard him say.
“Long story,” I said. “Come on, get in. We can catch up on the road.”
Amira had already hopped in, sliding into the back so as to save Father Antonio the time of doing the same. “And just where are we going?” she asked.
“I have no idea,” I said as the car shifted as Father Antonio climbed in. “I figured that we’d just drive until Michael caught up with us.”
“Michael?” they both said nearly on top of one another. Amira sounded significantly more surprised; Father Antonio just sounded as if he wanted to confirm something that he already expected.
“Yeah, he’s back that way dealing with a bit of a dog problem.” I jerked a finger back over my shoulder while at the same time letting my foot off the gas. There was less of a sense of urgency now, but by no means had it gone away entirely.
We cruised along for a few more blocks, just heading straight in the direction that I’d been going. I had no sense of direction in the best of times and it was even worse being in this unfamiliar city half a world from home. But on the other hand, it really didn’t matter where we were going, just so long as we kept moving.
That thought came to an abrupt end about a minute later though when the shadowy figure of a man jumped out of an alleyway a dozen feet or so ahead of me. My body reacted without my conscious input and it was all I could do to stomp on the breaks and come to a squealing stop, my bumper inches from hitting him.
I looked up, dreading what in my heart of hearts I somehow knew that I was going to see.
It was Lazarus.
100 - Rome
PRESENT DAY “I’ll be taking what’s mine then,” he said, holding out a hand, completely unconcerned. It was as if we were standing in a coffee shop, surrounded by the ebb and flow of ordinary life rather than in a semi-lit street in the middle of the night with me just having nearly run him down. “Sooner rather than later, if you don’t mind.”
“Just go around him,” Father Antonio said under his breath while at the same time Amira said much more loudly. “Just hit him.”
Well, I still didn’t particularly care for the latter option and the former wasn’t looking particularly good either–there just wasn’t enough room on either side of him, a fact that I was sure Father Antonio had to be aware of. So I did the only other thing I could think of.
I shifted into reverse.
Turning to look over my shoulder, I stomped on the gas, accelerating backward.
“Look out!” Amira called out, a look of panic in her eyes.
I didn’t even have time to think about what she could possibly have meant before something solid and rather fist-like collided with the side of my face. A flash of light seemed to feel the world for a second and I felt myself slipping to one side, bringing the wheel along with me.
I heard Father Antonio crying something out and reaching over to try to steady the wheel, then there was a shuddering bumping sort of feeling as we jumped up onto a curb. Then a terribly loud grinding noise from what sounded like inches away as we crashed against an already crumbling brick wall. I felt shards of stone peppering my skin as we skittered along.
The extra light faded from my eyes. I looked up, looking right into Lazarus’ eyes. In that fraction of a second, he must have clambered up onto the hood of the car, getting hold of the top of the windshield to keep himself from being thrown off. He was holding on for dear life now and it took me a moment to realize that I was still accelerating backward.
“Get off!” I yelled.
Not expecting him to actually follow through with my request, I slammed on the brakes, watching him smash against the windshield, cracks spider-webbing out from where his head struck the top of the glass.
There was a cut on his forehead now, and blood starting to run down his face.
So he could be hurt then. Just not killed.
I stomped on the gas then, not even looking where we were going. A savage sort of glee had entered my mind. I didn’t like it at all, but I also didn’t fight that hard against. I could deal with that later.
Lazarus’ weight flew back, resisting the inertia, trying to remain where it had been. Only a rock solid grip on the top of the windshield kept him hanging on and that only barely. He was lying partially against the hood now, he lower half partially dangling out into open air.
I stomped on the brakes again.
“What are you doing?” I heard Father Antonio asking, but I ignored him.
Hit the gas again. I could see the whiteness in Lazarus’ fingers. I had just about beaten him.
“Who is that man?” he asked. I realized that they had run when Cerberus had shown up with her sword and had been long gone before Lazarus had come to. “And why is he after us?”
“This is Lazarus…” I said, stomping on the brakes once more. I saw Lazarus’ grip on the window loosen.
“And he’s after that piece of cup you have.” I hit the gas one last time. Finally, Lazarus lost his grip and fell to the pavement in front of the Jeep. A hundred feet back, I hit a cross street, backing around it at a reckless speed. I shifted back into gear and once again we were off.