Short Shot Winner based on a prompt showing a couple hugging in the street. 6/15/2014
I hurried across the deserted street with a single focus in mind. Just as I approached my destination, an unassuming woman stepped onto the sidewalk. Without breaking my hurried stride, I managed to line my trajectory to intersect the woman.
While I knew intimate details about her medical health, and that her first name was Grace, I tended to think of her by her nickname, Amazing Grace. Her last name as far as I was concerned was test subject 562. She was an average woman with graying hair bound in a practical pony tail at the nape of her neck. Everything about her seemed ordinary, making her the perfect foil for what I needed. She couldn't have arrived on the sidewalk at a better time.
As she stepped toward the street, her eyes focused on an unassuming navy Buick parked at the opposite curb, I advanced quickly sweeping her into a huge bear hug. “Hug me like you know me or we’ll both be killed!” I whispered into her ear.
She had tossed her head back and gasped in surprise when I’d initially reached her, but her thin arms found their way around my neck and I think our affection looked genuine to the tail I’d picked up.
I wasn’t sure how long to hug a person to remain convincing to onlookers, and I could feel the heavy file dig into my ribs as we struck our pose of mock intimacy. The folder was thick and undoubtedly showed under my thin oxford shirt, but it would have been invisible to the car that slowly drove by from the opposite side.
“I think that’s good,” I whispered releasing my hold once the white car had passed.
I let my hand slide down to her wrist as though we were life-long friends and this was a common occurrence.
“Please don’t hurt me,” Grace whispered, pleading with her watery blue eyes. She tried to withdraw her hand, but my grasp was firm and desperate.
“I won’t hurt you, but I can't say the same for the people following me. We’ve got to get off the street,” I said tugging her hand toward the navy car.
She fumbled with the key fob, clicking and locking the doors several times before being able to unlock the passenger door.
As soon as I heard the double click of the locks on my side, I slipped into the car. The thick pack of documents dug again into my ribs as I slouched down in the seat. “Just drive,” I directed as Grace fussed with her seatbelt. She then began fiddling with her rearview mirror seemingly oblivious to my increasing concern of being shot and killed in broad daylight.
“Please just get us out of here!” I said more urgently as I wrestled my seat into a reclining position below the window. I was able to straighten my leg, which eased some of the discomfort from the thick documents stuffed hastily into the waistband of my pants.
My companion started the car, but didn't shift it into drive immediately. “Just take the car,” she said quietly. “I don't want any trouble.”
“You won’t be safe on your own right now,” I warned from my reclining position. “You were part of Phase 3 development for a biosimilar that has had …. Unexpected results.” I stealthily checked the side mirror. “It’s just a matter of time before the people following me, realize what your test results mean.” While I didn’t speak it aloud, I knew they already had realized the significance of her miraculous recovery from stage 4 cancer. They would have shot me in the street were it not for the risk of hitting my companion. I crouched further, ensuring my head wasn’t above the window. To them, I was expendable. She was not.
Grace frowned, but nodded her head. “Well, I was headed to town to the market,” she said hesitantly as she pulled the heavy gear shift into drive. “I'll take you as far as town, and then you're on your own from there.”
I nodded, choosing not to point out that the white car had appeared again, having merely circled the block. It was approaching slowly, visible in my side mirror. It was obvious our pursuers hadn't given up. Although they were circling in my peripheral vision, I was temporarily comforted by the creaking motion of the large car as Grace signaled and pulled cautiously into the road.
“So what 'cha smuggling there?” Grace asked quietly. She didn’t remove her hands from the 10 and 2 position on the wheel and instead pointed with her chin toward my abdomen and the protruding test results.
I couldn't blame her for being curious. It undoubtedly wasn't every day that Grace was hijacked by a bear-hugging stranger. I hadn’t even realized until she drew attention to the file under my shirt that I had unconsciously been gripping it to my side.
“It doesn't look like much,” I said as I relaxed my grip and patted my side, “but because of your results, I have here the ultimate cure.”
Grace's bemused smile spoke volumes. “The cure to cancer?” she prompted.
“The cure to EVERYTHING! If these results are right, there is nothing that couldn’t be cured with the biosimilar antibody you are carrying.” I could hear the excitement increase in my voice as I continued to explain, “Imagine a world where antibodies could be designed to fight off any ailment from the common cold to HIV.” I looked proudly in her direction. “Thanks to this trial - - and you,” I amended, “That IS the world we live in today! We don't have to imagine it any more -”
The sound of an unexpected engine acceleration punctuated my statement and warned me of the eminent impact. I felt the car shudder as the mirror was torn from the passenger side. The white car I had been previously watching shaved the entire side of our sedan as it flashed past. Brakes clashed in a cacophony of noise as Grace jerked the steering wheel toward the sidewalk. I had only a brief glimpse of the dashboard seconds before my head collided with it and everything went black.
I heard distant voices as I came to. I couldn’t tell how long I had been out, but could tell from my blurry surroundings that I was still in the same car. My head rang and I could taste the tangy iron of blood as I grew more alert. It smelled like hot rubber and there was a dusting of air bag resin on the upholstery. We had been hit hard by someone who meant business.
“You didn’t have to hit my car!” I heard Grace exclaim. I knew it was her voice, but had trouble comprehending what was happening. I struggled to raise upright. My arm flopped uselessly from the shoulder having shattered from the impact on my side of the car. My brain worked feverishly to put the chain of events together, but I was still dazed.
“Christ Grace, how many times did we go through the plan? You were supposed to stay put!”
The door against which I’d fallen creaked ominously as someone attempted to wrench it open. I was surprised there was even a door left based on the impact I had felt.
“I couldn’t very well go back into the house when he was intent on dragging me to the car!” Grace huffed in the distance. “I improvised… Oh, and now look at my poor car.” I could hear her concern just on the other side of the door. She was undoubtedly inspecting the damage up close.
The door to the drivers’ side swung open and a rough hand probed my body. “Well, we got what we came for in the end,” the stranger mumbled before snatching the documents from my side. I immediately felt the loss as the cooler air circulated over the spot where the documents had lain. I shivered as the rest of my body seemed to grow cooler in reaction to the loss as well.
The door slammed and I was left crumpled on the floorboard in a pool of my own blood.
“Stop worrying about your damn car,” I heard the man say as he walked away. His shoes crunched on the road, crushing headlight plastic and other debris from the wreck. “Besides, with the money we’ll make auctioning off your antibodies to the pharmaceutical industry, you can buy a fleet of new cars!”
I heard two car doors slam, one followed by the other as the hope of a “new disease-free world ” died before my fading eyes.
Word Count: 1470