Excerpt from Chroma Hearts

Bullets were still pouring haphazardly into the room. The man by the window stumbled backward, his back falling flat on the floor with a loud thud. Another bullet zoomed above my head, followed by a spree of shots. I heard a groan from the direction of the bed. Hurriedly, I finished loosening the chain around the table’s foot and was starting to pull it, when suddenly, a bloodied, half-naked body dropped to the floor beside me. 

Cold fear gripped me. I was afraid to move. The body was just a foot away from me. It was clearly on the point of death, struggling hard to breathe. Sprawled on the floor, neck angled awkwardly to the left, its face was covered with stringy, thick hair with only an eye barely visible, half-closed, glassy.

I held my breath as trembling, blood-streaked fingers groped and fumbled aimlessly, nearly missing my hand. Slowly, I shifted myself out of its way. To my horror, its fingertips found and grasped my watch instead. The bronze outer casing with the embossed anchor design glinted under the flashes of blaring car lights.

Realizing its find, the eye snapped fully open, its pupil dilating. I stifled a gasp. It focused its vision on the watch, which was literally under its nose. Shaking, blood-smeared fingers tip-toed over the surface of the watch’s casing, then slid up and down over the raised outline of the anchor, carefully, almost reverently. As if committing it to memory.

Suddenly, the eye shifted its line of vision. It flickered beyond the watch. It focused on me.

I almost had a heart attack.

It was looking directly at me.

It recognized me.

Or not.

Of course not! It cannot see me. It wouldn’t recognize me. My head was covered with a hood. My face was hidden by darkness. Struggling to calm my wildly thumping heart, I leaned further backward, just to make sure.

Suddenly, generous blood coughed out of the person’s mouth, followed by shallow, labored breaths. The sound of dying. I almost shouted with joy. Dreadful wheezing. Ragged groaning. A short grunt, much like an animal being slaughtered. And then, stillness.

Dead at last.

I yanked my watch. It was full of blood. I hated blood. I dug into my pocket and took out my handkerchief. I wiped the blood off feverishly. I was doing a good job at it too, when the front door was whacked forcibly, repeatedly, its hinges almost breaking loose. It was only then that I noticed the shooting had stopped. The police were trying to get inside the room.

Scrambling to my feet, I opened the back door, stumbling outside. I closed it just as I heard the front door crash down with a deafening bang. Without looking back, I ran.

The darkness of the night and the trees shielded me. I ran fast, down the narrow, rugged path of the rocky hill to an off the beaten road, sliding a few times down. But I got up, kept on, panting, stumbling, and running again. At last, I came upon my car at the foot of the hill, parked and concealed by tall, wild grass. I slid inside, shaking off dirt from my pants and fired up the engine.

About a kilometer away, I put my foot down on the brake. I got out and roamed my eyes around. The night was pitch black with only the sound of chirping, local crickets for company. The mountain range loomed tall, dark, and formidable all around me. I didn’t wait long. The sound waves reflected by the towering summits were carried to my ears by the wind. Echoes drifted, persisted for some time: “Sir! They’re all dead, sir!” “No one’s alive!” “All clear!”

Well, how about that? The police did all the work for me. I’ve been told their motto was to serve and protect and did they deliver! They served me by killing off the people I was planning to eliminate from my life, and they protected me by getting all the credit for doing it.

Pulling down the hood from my head, I slid back inside and stared at myself at the overhead mirror to find my hair was a mess. I grimaced. I hated mess. Removing the gloves carefully, I wrapped them in old newspaper, reminding myself to dispose of them later. I ran my fingers through my hair for some semblance of order. My watch told me the time, and I grinned. I was right on schedule. I didn’t have to drive like crazy to catch my flight.

I was already safely and comfortably seated inside the plane when I realized I was missing something.