I walked noiselessly down the dark hallway. To my left was a wall made entirely out of panes of frosted glass that were letting in the evening gloom. To my front and right were doors, all open, all leading into darkened rooms – all save one. The room directly up ahead had a little glow coming out of it. As I reached the door, I saw that the source of the glow was a small fluorescent reading lamp resting on a table. I poked my head through the doorway and looked around. A second lamp was burning on a similar table at the far end of the room. Either the occupants had left in a hurry, or someone was here just now. I turned around, retraced my steps down the hallway and stopped at the first door (now to my left). It was open. I could hear breathing in the pitch-black room, and then something like a smothered whimper. Realising that I must be silhouetted clearly against the milky frosted glass and would have been shot by now if the occupant of the room had wanted it, I raised my left hand and said, “Can you see me? Please step forward very slowly – and don’t try anything rash, I’m armed.” Almost instantaneously my wrist was clutched by two soft hands and the woman stumbled forward, not bothering to stifle her sobs anymore. She was about 25, with chestnut hair cut short, and wearing a dark business suit. She clung to the lapels of my raincoat, shaking and crying.

“What happened?” I asked softly.

“I-I don’t know. They were he-here, just ten minutes b-before closing time. I don’t know why, but I hi-hid behind the table with th-the big printer. They shot ev-everyone, and dragged them o-out. I wouldn’t dare m-move…”

I looked down at the gleaming white floor. It was spotless.

“How many did they shoot?”

“About eight in th-this room. There were t-twenty in all, this being a S-Saturday.”

I hadn’t seen any bodies in the front office or in the hallway, nor could I discern any bloodstains on the floor.

“How did they carry them out? In body bags?”

“No, just d-dragged them away by th-the legs. I must have fainted, I d-didn’t hear them leave. Oh g-god, I’m scared…”

I helped her walk to the reception area, made her sit down on the visitors’ couch and poured her a cup of water from the cooler in the adjoining room. As she sipped from it, her breathing became more normal. Presently, she spoke again.

“I think I should go home now.”

This was good news for me. She was not of much use as a witness, and I could now search the rooms without having to babysit her.

“You do that, Miss… er…?”

“Kyle. Lisane Kyle.”

“Miss Kyle. I’m sure you’ll be alright.”

As she exited from the office apartment and walked towards the elevators, I watched her pensively from the front door. Something in her walk was not right; as if she was dying to break into a run, but couldn’t for the fear of arousing suspicion. As the elevator doors thudded shut, I turned my back and went inside.

I walked towards the streetwise side of the apartment and looked down. In about three minutes, she came out onto the snow-smeared sidewalk, and looked up. Her gaze was not visible from eight stories up, but something in the hunch of her shoulders was not right, just like her walk a while back. I decided to follow her.

As I stood in the elevator, I checked my pockets for a weapon. All I could find was a penknife. The street was deserted when I came out and I could see her in the distance, walking fast, dark against the snowy backdrop. I followed her at a normal walking pace along the left sidewalk. After about 200 metres, the streets split. To our front, there was a big avenue running at right angles to the street we were on, and to our right, a small lane jutting out at an angle of about 20 degrees (to the near side) and ending in a cul-de-sac. She was running by now, and it was this lane she took at top speed, crossing the street in a blind panic, her long Manara legs kicking up dirty snow. Fortunately for her, there was no traffic. As I crossed the street and reached the first house on the lane and looked around the corner, I saw her standing unsteadily at the cul-de-sac. Presently she turned back and started running again. I crossed the street and came back to my old position, ready to intercept her. She came into view at full tilt, her crop of hair obscuring her face yet letting the stark panic there show through. As I ran towards her, I was surprised to see she didn’t even care to look around. She hit the big avenue, spattering dead snow at every footfall. I let her have a 5-second lead, and then turned the corner. And skidded to a halt. She was not running anymore.

I pulled myself back into an arched doorway and watched her. She was standing under a battered ‘Bus Stop’ sign, shivering. Just at that moment, a black car pulled up alongside her. So she was running not for the fear of being followed, but that of being late for her appointment. And the aimless detour at the cul-de-sac must have been a ruse to shake off any pursuer (and instructed by the people she was meeting, indubitably).

The back window on the passenger side rolled down, and I could see a gloved hand resting on top of the pane. She was talking to the occupant of that hand, talking fast, and pointing wildly in the general direction of the apartment where I was supposed to be right now. The window rolled up, the car took a U-turn and drove off towards the building we were in not ten minutes ago. She stood there. I walked up noiselessly and grabbed her by the arm.

“Alright,” I said, “I want some answers. Who are they and why are they going to the apartment right now?”

She looked at me with dark, frightened eyes. She was trembling again. “I-I’m cold.”

“Let’s go for coffee. I know a good place one block west from here. There you can sit and tell me all about it.”

 

 

 

 

 

[An actual dream I had on the afternoon of 8th September 2010, with a little embellishment for dramatic purpose]

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