An alarm penetrated my eardrums. Muffled, but persistent. My eyelids opened and my eyes focused; I was lying on my side on a cold, marble floor. Alongside me, the Swamp Donkey glared at me out of one eye, as if I was to blame.
Her other eye was just a bloody hole.
I vomited into her face, but it didn’t stop the throbbing in my head. I raised a hand and touched the back of my head; my fingers felt sticky, and I upchucked again.
Until I was retching on thin air.
My first coherent thought: to get out of there — wherever “there” was. I hauled myself to my feet and looked around. A storeroom no bigger than Sandy’s restroom, stacked full of household items — kitchen utensils on shelves, buckets and mops underneath, with gallon jugs of Zoom cleaner stacked alongside. Sunlight was streaming in through a latched window above my head. Next to a closed door, blue coveralls on hooks lined the walls. I grabbed one, removed my sneakers, climbed in and zipped it up over my smelly, blood-stained clothes. I slipped my sneakers back on and tried the door handle.
Over the alarm sounds, I heard voices coming closer, and then the handle rattled.
‘Fuck, where’s the keys?’
I didn’t wait to find out. I levered myself up onto a shelf, reached out and unlatched the window. Keys rattled outside the door and I eased my head and shoulders out the window and looked down.
I guessed ten feet with no soft landing below. To my right, a red alarm bell stopped its clanging. To my left, a cast-iron drainage pipe; I stretched, caught hold of it, and hurriedly levered my body and legs out of the window and slithered to the ground.
The coveralls cushioned my fall. I didn’t look back. I sprinted towards the nearest palm thicket expecting to hear shouts, followed by men chasing after me.
I reached a high wall with coils of razor-wire across the top, sounds of the Pacific beyond, breakers crashing against rocks. I glanced back over my right shoulder and recognized the Kandoo building; I was still on their grounds, and I decided to follow the wall around to where I hoped would be a maintenance hut — and a ladder.
By the time I eased myself way behind the parking lot, I saw a fire truck, an ambulance and a police patrol car. One cop was resting by the hood and talking into a cell phone. I backpedaled and retraced my steps around to the far side, where I hit lucky.
A pathway leading to a gate in the wall; with a picturesque view of the Pacific and the smell of spray.
But no razor-wire. I hesitated; a dog barked, which had me monkey-climbing the gate and dropping several feet down a grassy embankment to the sidewalk below.
‘Going somewhere, kid?’
A shout behind me; I turned to see a fat-bottomed cop with a smoking cheroot hanging out the side of his mouth, leaning on the hood of a patrol car. He had a cell phone in one hand and a gun in the other. He waved the gun at me.
‘Over here. Put your hands on the hood, legs apart.’
I guessed I was at least ten feet away from the where he stood; I began to walk towards him. His cell phone warbled, and he took his eyes off me for a moment.
It was enough.
I leapt across the highway, the car’s trunk acted as a natural barrier, and I was over the opposite sidewalk and running along the beach before he reacted.
I dumped the coveralls and my sweats in a garbage can by the nearest john, washed up some, and jogged back to Sandy’s bar in my boxer shorts.
With a headache to beat all headaches.
‘Hey,’ said Sandy, as I crossed the front porch and entered the lounge. ‘What happened to Mr. Cool?’
I waved a Styrofoam beaker at him, crossed to the bar, and tipped out the contents. ‘Billfold, cell and car keys. Latest fashion.’
And then I blacked out...
When I came around, it wasn’t the Swamp Donkey looking at me, but a fresh-faced nerd with floppy hair. His blue eyes loomed large behind a pair of goggles.
‘Probably concussion, maybe a fracture,’ he said, touching the back of my head with an electric prod.
He held up nail-bitten fingers that swam in and out of focus.
‘Five… no … six,’ I said.
He shook his head. ‘Definitely. You should be in hospital.’
Shaking my head wasn’t an option. ‘Who says?’
‘I’m a paramedic.’
I struggled to sit up. ‘So, give me some painkillers.’
‘Sorry, can’t do that right now.’
He took off his goggles and rubbed a hand across his eyes. ‘It’s too dangerous. We need to evaluate your condition before we can prescribe the appropriate medication.’
Meaning, I could sue if he got it wrong.
I had left DNA evidence all over; blood and vomit at Kandoo, in the trash can on the beach — and if the cops came looking for me in hospital, I’d be facing a homicide rap.
‘No,’ I said.
Then he cited several reasons why I should be admitted. This one stayed with me.
‘Without treatment, you could be dead before nightfall.’