Devon Pikker hammered furiously the keyboard, he had very little time and it was running out. The security room was dark, lit only by the dull blue light from the wall of monitors that arched in front of him.
Devon looked up, scanning the images on the screen. Searching. He never thought that one of his hair brained theories would ever be true, mostly he expected to die holed up in an RV somewhere, crazy, and in a tin foil hat; his last act being a rambling post on the CrackPots forum about how the lizard people had infiltrated his local dispensary in an attempt to stop his work. Now only one thing was for sure, he was going to die if he didn’t get out of here soon.
Devon glanced at the monitor closest to him which he kept permanently set to the camera down the hall, he could see nothing but a darkened, empty hallway. “Come on, come on.” pleaded Devon, even though the hallway was empty Devon knew it wouldn’t stay that way for long. He grabbed the dial next to the keyboard and spun it hard to the left and watched as the days prior flew past him.
Devon watched as children begged their mothers to take a toy of the counter and return it back to the shelf it came from before calmly walking out the door. He saw princesses, pirates and bipedal animals violently shove children back into the arms of their parents then walking backward to another kid to do it all again. Then he saw something truly horrible: an overweight family from Milwaukee vomit their lunch into perfect, overpriced, cheeseburgers and hot dogs, then returning them to a disinterested waitress. That’s when he saw it, up in the far upper left corner of the wall of monitors. Devon grabbed the dial and turned back slightly to make sure he got the whole thing.
It showed two people, one dressed like a normal business executive, tall, late forties, salt and pepper hair walk up and address another man. This man looked far different then the first, he looked more relaxed, more casual, not like the business man didn’t. He was a slightly heavy set man and tried to hide it with the flamboyant Hawaiian button up shirt that he wore. He walked up slowly to the clearly nervous business man and smiled softly to him; the business man extended his hand to the Hawaiian, who grasped it warmly. This seemed to pacify the business man. The Hawaiian began talking, his words were muted and slightly speed up. Devon had already heard the tape before and was just verifying that it hadn’t been erased since he first saw it.
Devon’s phone began to buzz, shaking the phone and a discarded box of Mike and Ike’s causing two to role out in an attempt to escape. He looked over at it. It was Carolinne. Her smiling face, Devon had assigned to her contact did nothing to convey the fear and worry she was no doubt feeling. Devon didn’t have the time to answer and let it ring.
The business man was talking now and the Hawaiian had reached into his pocket of his tan cargo shorts and produced a silk cloth. He nodded to the man as he took off his half-moon wire frame glasses and began to wipe them off. The business man stopped talking and was looking at the Hawaiian expectantly; he put his glasses back on and looked up to address the man.
Devon made a quick glance at the other monitors, there was some activity on camera seven but that was far enough away that it didn’t matter. Devon minimized the conversation between the business man and the Hawaiian and looked at the download timer. It seemed to be held up on eighty-five. “Dammit!” shouted Devon in a horse whisper, slamming his fist on the desk, knocking over empty Red Bull cans sending one rolling of the end of desk, hitting the floor with an empty clang. Quickly Devon switched back to the two men, the Hawaiian had a reassuring hand on the business man’s shoulder, looking over his glasses, locking eyes with the business man.
Devon let out a sigh of relief, the computer didn’t freeze, that was a good sign. As high tech as this place was the camera system was oddly archaic; prone to frequent crashes, video loss, and other things that would make Devon’s life harder. Devon’s phone began to buzz. It was Carolinne again. He hit ignore and went back to the video. He switched back in time to see the pair shake hands and part ways. Devon plugged in another flash drive and copied the last five minutes of the tape. Devon’s phone made a quick buzz as he checked the progress on the download, 90…91…Once that bar hit a hundred percent, the alarm would go off alerting every agent that wasn’t already following him to his presence.
The phone buzzed a third time.
Devon opened up the window showing the flash drive’s storage as he moused over it the cursor turned to a swirling blue circle. The widow stuttered and the words “(Not Responding)” appeared in the window frame. “Shit!” growled Devon. He shook the mouse violently, sending the spinning cursor blinking across the screen, that seemed to work and the file copied successfully. After the fourth buzz, Devon finally looked at his phone, the notifications told him he had two missed calls and two texts, all from Carolinne. He swiped to his phone, careful no to mess up the twenty character long password he had to unlock his device. This proved to be a difficult task, the combination of the stress and the fact that obsessively changed his password daily caused him to mistype it twice before he got in. The messaging app automatically opened revealing Carolinne’s most text, all it said was “RUN!”. Devon looked at the adjacent screen and saw two normally dressed figures approaching from the end of the darkened hallway.
They were here, almost at his door, he had to work fast quickly yanked out the flash drive and and closed out all his windows before grabbing his things. Devon took one last glance at the monitor, the men were about a quarter of the way down the hall.
Devon kept low as he ran down the hall way, he could hear the men’s footsteps as the alarm went off, it hardly mattered at this point they already knew he was there. Now the only objective was to make it out before he was caught.
Devon looked back to see the two men running behind him, light glinting off the identical watches they had on their wrists, guns drawn. “Hey you, stop right now!” They shouted.
The hallway seemed to keep going forever, all Devon could see was the identical decent into darkness that mirrored the other side. Still he persisted,. He then came to a fork in the path, and without thinking made a hard left. “I said stop!” shouted the man again, as Devon turned right and continued running.
Devon knew this part of the complex like the back of his hand, but so did his pursuers. The footsteps grew louder as he rounded yet another corner before opening to a door to an empty staircase. The door shut behind him, echoing through the stairwell. Devon’s breathing was getting heavier, the years of sitting behind that desk, cramming all manner of junk food down his throat had taken its toll. Sweat was pouring down his face, his throat burned, and cafes were screaming out in pain. Devon tried to push that out of his mind as he grabbed his phone, and hit the emergency call. He needed to let someone know about what had happened, should neither him or Carolinne make it out. Among the modifications he had made to his phone, one of them allowed him to call anyone from the emergency screen, in case he ever needed to make a call in a hurry. He heard the door open behind him.
Frantically Devon punched in the only number he knew would help him; the only person he trusted more than Carolinne. Devon continued his assent, the phone rang once, twice, three times, then voicemail. This must be what Carolinne felt like, he thought as he dialed again with the same results.
Devon could hear the men behind him as he looked at the doors behind him. He was on floor B-2, two more flights and he would be home free. That proved to be the shot in the arm Devon needed and with renewed strength, powered through the last two floors.
Just as Devon was about the open the door when a shot rang out. It just missed him, barely grazing his ear before embedding itself in the concrete wall behind him. The men had given up on verbal warnings and began shooting, looked over the railing. They were only two flights below him, one of the men was gearing up for another shot, Devon didn’t wait to see if he would take it.
He opened the door to see a row of quaint colorful buildings all lined up each with cutesy old fashioned names like “Ye Old Shoppe” and “Old Man Murphy’s Handy Craft Store”. Devon paused for a second, darting his head back and forth, trying to figure out the quickest route out of the park, the muted siren still blaring somewhere below him. He was in Old Town, a more popular section of the park, filled to the brim with overpriced “specialty” foods and touristy junk that was made to look homemade, but was actually bought and shipped wholesale from Indonesia. It was about 1 AM and the park was closed, but there were still Sheep casing the park looking for him. Devon made a snap decision and ran though Old Town, passed the stone fountain in the shape of Micheal Howell, and into the center of the park, he would decide where to go from there.
As he entered the center of the park, he could see Howell Castle looming in the distance, several powerful flashlight beams searching in the darkness at the castle’s base. Devon could hear the distant sound of dogs barking and more Sheep approaching, and ducked behind the massive brass statue of Wally the Wolf with his signature smile, waving at all who entered the park. Devon dialed his phone and waited while it rang.
“Yea, hello, it’s me. I’m in the center, behind Wally.” whispered Devon in between his deep gasping breaths. He turned his head saw the perfectly polished golden gates that served as the park’s entrance. “I’m pinned but I can see the gates. Just meet me there, I’m going to make a run for it.” Slowly Devon raised his head up, high enough to see between the legs of the Wally statue, and about fifty yards out he saw the a group of three Sheep brandishing a flashlights and guns, two dogs in tow. He waited for his moment and, when the guards weren’t looking, made a mad dash to the gates.
The gate, while functional, was largely for decoration and the bars were wide enough for Devon to squeeze through. He was halfway to the gate when spotlight coming from behind illuminated the path in front of him, then another, then another. The lights brought with them the dueling sounds of two angry dogs, the guards had spotted him. He turned his head, they were still about fifteen yards out. Just enough time to hopefully make it. The barking grew louder and the lights danced around the ground in front of him. Devon reached the gate to the crack of gunfire and wedged his way through as bullets whizzed past his head. Devon made it through just in time to see the dogs run into the gate behind him.
He didn’t have time to admire his work and continued running into the deserted Howell Park parking lot. There was the dull hum of an engine in the background, Devon heard it and stopped, looking around the parking lot, and zeroing in on a growing pair of head lights. Devon leapt out of the way as the black, unmarked van came to a screeching halt in front of him. Devon recovered and flung the passenger door open before diving in.
“Why the hell didn’t you answer your phone!” yelled Carolinne, trying to glare at Devon and watch the road at the same time. “We had a plan, you were suppose to keep in contact. This all could have went a hell of a lot smoother if you just answered your damn phone the first time I called; now look at us.” she said looking at the side mirror and seeing the two Howell Security vans in hot pursuit.” We have people following us, do you have any idea how hard it is to loose a tail this rape van you call a home?”
Devon took his time, he needed to catch his breath after that adrenaline and fear fueled marathon he had just ran. “Sorry.” he said after a few deep breaths “I just–I just had to make sure we got it.”
“Did you?” said Carolinne shortly, pulling out of the Howell parking lot and on to the empty street.
“Yes, I did.”
“Well good, so what do we do now, take it to the police, post it on YouTube?” Carolinne asked making a few quick turns down deserted alleyways and empty parking lots.
“No, we can’t do anything. This isn’t going to be enough to prove anything Archie’s lawyers will have the video pulled before it gains any traction and the cops won’t do anything without more evidence. At most we’ll get in the local paper, at worst we would just be another group of crazies babbling about their favorite conspiracy theories.”
“At least we wouldn’t be killed.” added Carolinne making a left into a residential neighborhood.
“Oh no, that’s a given, we need to take them down before they get a chance to kill us.”
“What do we do then?”
“We wait, figure out what their plan is and put a stop to it. In the mean time I’ll look after the flash drive.”
“I think we lost them.” said Carolinne as she pulled out of the neighborhood, onto another street.
Devon looked back and couldn’t see any sign on the security vans. “I think you’re right, whew, that was close.”
“You’re telling me.” Carolinne said.
Devon and Carolinne rode in silence most of the way until they approached Sheltered Grotto apartments, it was neither sheltered or a grotto but it was were Carolinne called home. She drove up to the door and put it in park before looking over at Devon. “What’s next?” she asked softly.
“Now we wait, I’ll call you in the morning, you should be safe, they don’t know you’re involved and I want to keep it that way.”
“Where will you go?”
“I’ll keep moving.” said Devon, motioning towards lumpy inflated mattress and ratty sleeping bag he kept in the back of his van. “They can’t find me if they don’t know where to look.”
“OK good.” said Carolinne, relived as she got out of the car. Devon followed and met on the driver’s side. “I want you to remember something.” said Devon “Should anything ever happen to me, I want you to look for someone, a friend of mine, he works at the park, but you can trust him. He’ll help you finish this, he may not want to, in fact you might have to actively force him, but he’ll help. His name is Oliver Wolcott and he hates Howell Park more than anyone I’ve ever met.”
“OK, I will.” Carolinne handed Devon back the keys to his van, Devon held on and pulled her close and kissed her. Devon made sure Carolinne made it into her apartment before driving off. As he drove away looking for a good place to park for the night, he made a mental checklist of everything he needed to do for tomorrow, and it started with gathering a few things.