Chloe drew in a deep breath of the crisp March air and coughed as her lungs froze. Cold wind whipped her face as she turned on to the Black River Parkway. Slush and snow churned under her bike tires threatening to make her slip as she peddled. Dodging around a guy staggering along the road, she turned into the parking lot of the old Emphalls Plaza building. Stopping at the doors she hopped off the bike and rolled it into the building. Lifting the tenspeed she carefully jogged up the stairs minding her footing. All she needed was a sprained ankle or worst broken one.
Paul would throttle her, he’d finally started training her in ernest for the amature MMA fights. Wheeling the bike across the second level, she took the stairs to the third. Paul’s gym was on the top floor a hidden gem tucked behind a gymnastic studio and an insurance place. Pulling open the door, she rolled her bike inside and behind the counter. Looking around she frowned, Paul was usually out getting the place ready for the day. Taking off her jacket she headed toward the back where her bosses office sat.
“Hey Paul, you back here.” She called sticking her head through the doorway. A gasp escaped her lips as she saw the big man laying face down in a pool of vomit and blood. Fighting her gag reflex, she moved over and knelt next to him. Placing her fingers on his thick neck, she tried to find a pulse and failed.
“No, no, nooo. You are not dead.” Jumping to her feet she ran to the desk and picked up the phone from it’s cradle. Hitting the button, she dialed nine-one-one and heard nothing. Turning it off, she tried again and still nothing. Tossing the useless handset onto the desk, she dug her smartphone from the Flipbelt hidden under her clothes. Frantically swiping at the screen she called up the phone function and realized she had no signal. “Oh, come on.”
Shoving the phone in her sweatshirt pocket, she stared at Paul’s lifeless form, running through her options. Guilfoyle was just down the street, there had to be someone at the ambulance garage that could help. Taking a step toward the door, she decided that was her best option. Then Paul’s fingers twitched, his eye’s opened and he lifted his head.
“Paul, are you ok?” She asked tentatively edging closer to the door.
His head snapped toward her, blood and bile ran down his face and had soaked into his shirt. A look of rage crossing the ex-boxers features. Chloe had never been on the receiving end of Paul’s anger and had never wanted to be. The man had a good foot and a half on her plus over a hundred pounds of mostly muscle. Despite her training he could crush her no problem. She darted for the door slamming it shut as he lunged for her. The wood vibrated as he slammed against it. Chloe backed away from the office, stumbling over a barbell. Snatching up the ten pound metal bar, she held it in front of her like a staff. There was a crack and a beefy arm emerged from the door. It swiped at her the door shimmying on it’s hinges.
Chloe continued to back up, her eyes on the wood as it bulged and heaved. As her back hit the door to the plaza the latch gave and Paul stumbled out of the office. He lurched toward Chloe but his arm through the door prevented him from going anywhere. Using the borrowed time she yanked open the door behind her and ran for the stairs. Racing down the steep steps she missed one and slide down the rest her ankle turning at a painful angle. Losing her grip on the barbell it rolled down the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs she got to her feet wincing at the pain in her ankle and forced herself to move. Above her there was a crash. Trying not to think about Paul coming after her she struggled to the next flight of stairs and made her way down. As she walked out the door to the building, Paul rolled down the stairs slamming into the glass doors. His head lay at an unnatural angle, his back twisted and legs askew. Yet he continued to try to stand and come after her. Swallowing she pushed herself to jog across the parking lot and down the road to the ambulance bay. The garage doors were closed, and she entered the only door unlocked. It lead to an office, with no one around. Limping she made her way toward the garage, all the bays were empty save one with a ambulance up on a lift.
“Hello, is anyone here? I really need some help for my friend.” She called, cautiously moving through the building.
A slow shuffling sound coming from the other side of the vehicle caught her attention. A mechanic lumbered slowly from around the ambulance. His face contorted in rage as his milky eyes fell on her. Blood stained the front of his coveralls, oozing from a gaping wound in his neck. Again Chloe found herself backing toward a doorway, only to bump into something fleshy. Arms grasped at her and she instinctively fought. Bring her elbow back into the person's ribs, it knock them off balance falling to the floor. Chloe turned, jumped over the body grappling for her and raced out of the building, sprained ankle momentarily forgotten. Pushing herself she ran back toward the square hoping to find someone to help her. Ignoring the pain radiating up her leg she jogged up the steps next to the plaza building minding the snow and ice.
At the top she looked one way then the other, looking for vehicles. A car whizzed by ignoring her and the red light completely. Not bothering with the cross walk she limped across the road toward Washington Street and the hospital. A tractor trailer screeched to a halt in front of her, the driver hung out his window.
“Hey you need some help?” He called.
“Get in.” He replied, nodding toward the passenger side.
Wincing Chloe limped to the vehicle and climbed in. “Thank you.”
“Hospital’s closed, so are all the Urgent Cares up that way. The cops are closing the road, I just barely got through.” His hands gripped the steering wheel, in a white knuckled grasp. “I think things are going downhill fast. So it’s best we get out of the city. How bad are you hurt?”
“Not bad, it’s just a sprain. But my boss… something's really wrong with him.” Her hands began to tremble as she thought about Paul and then the people at the ambulance bay. “He attacked me and the people at Guilfoyle… the man was all bloody…” She trailed off.
“Did they hurt you?” The driver asked as he put the truck in gear.
She shook her head, then stared out the windshield. “His legs were broken and he was still trying to get up.” She whispered as things finally began to process.
Chloe blinked, and looked over at the man who had saved her. “Paul, my boss... my friend. The man, I think he was a mechanic at Guilfoyle, his throat was all bloody.” She reached up touching her own neck, then her fingers went to the stainless steel disc hanging from the chain there.
He flexed his hands on the wheel then said, “I’ll take you to the Lewis County Hospital, it’s right on my way home. Is that ok?”
Author's Note: Unedited Version