Yegor found the task of losing the sedan a dreadful one. Though the combination of heavy traffic and his more manoeuvrable vehicle gave him the upper hand his pursuers were steadily, and calmly keeping him in sight. He spun a sharp turn into another alley, but to his dismay, this one led to an enclosed courtyard. He glanced around frantically for an exit. The car had at that moment behind him pulled in behind him, and one of its doors opened so his pursuers could continue on foot.
At the same time a lady walked out of one of the buildings in front of Yegor. Through the door, he saw a hall that led straight to the glass front entrance, and out to the main road.
He shouted a warning to the mid-aged woman, “Izvinite, gaspazha!” and pedalled straight towards the door. She screamed and ran to the side. His front tire hit the door wide open, and his tires skidded on the waxed floor inside. As he approached the glass door he yelled a battle cry, ready to feel the pain of impact. Fortunately, a customer opened the door in the nick of time, and he flew through entrance.
“Spasibo!” he shouted back at the startled customer as he skidded and turned down the street. With the bought time, Yegor continued to divert into alleys, putting as many turns and intersections between him and them. He had no desire to rely on another kind coincidence. He laughed to himself, fear turning into exhilaration. He felt like he was in some sort of crazy cinema. He not five minutes ago he drove his bike through a grocery store, being chased by two secret agent sorts, while helping his friend who had some sort of superpower, rescue his super-powered sister. “No one is ever going to believe me,” he mumbled, suppressing another chuckle.
Arriving just across the street from the bridge, he waited on the side-walk, watching for Aleksei.
He did not have to wait long since Aleksei rode up behind him panting. They paused a moment to catch their breaths.
“Ok, Yegor,” Aleksei gasped, “I need you to do something.”
“You need to head back to your house. I'll go it from here.” Yegor was about to protest, but Aleksei interrupted, “Listen, I need you to draw them off. We are not going to both make it to Mashka.”
“I could still help you though.” Yegor pleaded.
“You already have,” Aleksei assured him, then looked behind them to see the black sedan. “We have company. Just do as I say!”
They pedalled their bikes with the traffic and to Aleksei's dismay, Yegor followed him across the bridge. Initially he was angry that his friend didn't follow instructions. However, Yegor turned right while Aleksei travelled on north. If Yegor had broken off sooner, Aleksei realized, he would have obviously been just a decoy. Now it looked like both of them could be heading in the direction of the hospital.
“You’re a genius at times, Yegor.” Aleksei said to himself.
However, the car did not turn off this time. It followed Aleksei. He turned into an avenue and out of their view, then pulled into the closest yard, which had a dense evergreen hedge. Hiding behind the hedge, he made a small hole in the foliage so he could watch. The car had to decelerate considerably to make the sharp turn, so it seemed to crawl by his hideout. They looked around for as they crept by, but finally accelerated, and continued on their search.
As soon as they were out of sight, Aleksei emerged and followed.
They wouldn’t search their route twice over, he reasoned.
He was only a few blocks away from the hospital and could see the large buildings. To assure that he was not found, he took an indirect route, travelling though a trash filled alley and across a small park.
At last he arrived at the hospital grounds.
Now what? He thought to himself. The campus was much bigger than he had imagined.
Thankfully, his first clue was quite forthcoming. He saw three black sedans parked in the west side of the parking lot. If he was going to find out what was happening, there would be a good place to start. As he approached, he saw two men sprinting towards the hospital, again dressed just like the men who had been chasing him. Mashka appeared around a building. Any moment they would spot her.
As she hid between the garden shrubbery and the cement wall of the parking garage, Mashka groaned as pain coursed through her body. Her long nails were retracting back into her hand, and she felt her teeth also return to their normal dimensions. The pain was incredible, and every muscle in her body ached.
The time before her current state was all a blur. She had a vague image of throwing a man, through a wind-shield. The sound of his yelp and the shattering glass echoed in her head. Last thing she remembered clearly was being pressed into a wall and seeing Dasha, the girl she had rescued, smiling maliciously. Beyond that, everything else was fuzzy. She couldn't seem to remember who had pressed her against the wall, or what lead up to it. The clearest memory was her thanking Iosif in the hall, for offering to take her home. For some reason the thought of Iosif gave her such immense fear, it didn't make sense. Why am I hiding? What happened?
She heard two sets of men's footsteps on the side-walk and pressed herself even lower to the ground and listened.
“I heard something over here. I'm certain of it. And this was the direction she ran.” one of the men said.
For some reason, Mashka recognised his voice, and knew he was blonde, even though she couldn't see him. It was like a faint memory in her blurred state of mind.
She waited for them to pass, then emerged from the shrubbery. She was not sure what she was going to do, but she did not want to be seen. The besides the men with their backs facing her, the coast was clear, so she cautiously walked in the direction of the parking lot.
“There she is!” the blond man yelled. She glanced over her shoulder as they started running towards her. She bolted, but felt as though lead had been placed in her shoes.
Two more men rounded the corner of the hospital before her. She dodged to the left. She was near out of breath and willpower. Finally she dropped to her knees on the side=walk. The young blond man stood in front of her as his partner breathed a sigh of relief, and bent over in exhaustion several paces away. “Now don't try anything stupid, Gzha. Sharova.” the blond warned.
She looked up panting, “What... do you want?”
The man turned to face the accusatory voice, and was just in time for his abdomen to meet Aleksei's bike tire. This threw the blond to the ground hard, knocking both sense and wind out of him. Aleksei look a split second glance at his surroundings. There were more men running towards them. He dismounted his bike and put his hand on Mashka's shoulder.
“Are you ok?” he asked.
Kneeling, Aleksei touched the ground. There was less humidity today but the sprinklers had just been on, so the soil was damp. Aleksei raised his hand and a single column of vapour rose from the ground. Then he sprang up, violently rotating his wrist. The column surged upwards, pulling with it all the nearby water, causing a thick fog screen to rise like a circus tent, engulfing a vast area of the parking lot. In the fog Aleksei situated Mashka onto his bike, then got on in front of her. They sped out of the cloud just as their assailants entered. Aleksei pedalled for all his worth, but he realised that he was not nearly as fast with a passenger.
“Where's your car?” Aleksei asked.
Mashka thought a moment, then replied, “Umm, it’s probably still back at the construction site.”
“Wonderful,” Aleksei scanned the area. They had placed considerable distance between themselves and their pursuers.
Spotting a distinguish doctor getting into his vintage jaguar convertible, Mashka spoke up, “You think what I’m thinking?”
“Da,” Aleksei said hesitantly, “not happy that I am, though.”
The bike came to a halt by the car and Mashka grabbed the door before the man could close it. “Get out!” she ordered.
The man stared back at her menacing yellow cat-eyes. He complied.
“Spasibo doctor,” she smiled, climbing in. “We won’t forget this!”
“Good thing you were here,” Aleksei said gratefully to the older man, “I think I bent my bike wheel on that guy’s abs.” He let out a disappointed sigh, “I guess I'm leaving you here.” He said regretfully to his bike, rolling it aside.
The doctor looked on, in bewilderment.
They got in the car, at first trying to casually drive out of the lot. They were not so lucky. A familiar black sedan pulled in front of them, so they swerved left. It followed them and soon they were almost cut off by another. They swirled around, twisting through the parking lot, narrowly missing the parked vehicles. Finally a window of opportunity presented itself, and Mashka accelerated to the exit. They thought it was open skies from there, until two agents stood in the way.
“I guess this is it.” Aleksei sighed.
Mashka set her jaw, “Nyet, it’s not!” and she moved her foot to the gas.
“You're not going to run ov--!” Aleksei was thrown back in his seat as Mashka pressed the pedal to the floor. The men drew their guns, still holding their ground.
Aleksei was sure they would hit them. He glanced at Mashka's face. Judging by her expression, she really did not care. Finally the men leapt to the side, but Mashka still hit one of the men's legs mid-air, causing him to spin like a saucer and hit the pavement tumbling.
Out on to the street Mashka swerved the car, trying hard to avoid hitting the buildings on the opposite side. She almost did a one-eighty then pulled into the left hand lane with barely enough time to miss oncoming traffic, followed by a chorus of angry horns. She glanced in the mirror at the two black sedans pulling out of the lot. As she came to an intersection, she swerved to the right.
“Mashka, that's illegal!” Aleksei cried in terror. All of a sudden, he was discovering that his sister should have been a demolition derby driver.
“What do you call stealing a car?” she asked.
“But where are we going to go? They know what the car looks like and they probably have some way of watching the roads. We can’t go home, and I would prefer it if we did not die in a spectacular pileup!”
“Perhaps we could go to the authorities.” Mashka mused, after a few moments.
Aleksei's eyes snapped open. He was reciting a prayer he had heard at a funeral in an attempt to calm his pounding heart, “I think not. The men chasing us had badges. I didn;t see them up close, but they are probably something like the F.S.B.. They would simply show those and we’d be toast.”
“Then what do we do?!”
“Don’t you think they watch the trains?” she asked, as she made an illegal pass glancing back, still seeing the sedans a few cars away.
After his stomach did another somersault, as his sister swerved into an avenue, Aleksei calmed down enough to calculate their location. “I can’t think of a reason why they would. There's a train station a few blocks away. It's mostly cargo, but we could hop into one of the cars.”
“Aleksei, you're a genius.”
“Nyet, I'm not. I just have an excellent sense of self-preservation.” He replied, laughing weakly.
After making a few more turns the jaguar convertible slowed to a legal speed. Their pursuers had been lost in the bustle of the city.
Aleksei let out a relieved sigh and allowed himself to ask a question which had been bothering him, “So, why were you at the hospital?”
“Do you want the unabridged or Reader’s Digest version?”
“Good old R.D. sounds fine.”
“Well, it all started with a sparrow…”