Chapter Twenty-Nine: Ashe
Running from the Crime
He wanted to beat at the walls around him that pushed in on him like his father’s hands, pushing him to be something he didn’t want to be. I need the sun, the open sky. He’d been cooped up too long, and he was starting to climb the walls. Sex had only been a temporary antidote.
The passage was lit only by a long row of old incandescent lightbulbs hanging on thin cords. That and the bare concrete walls made him think of nothing so much as a dark interrogation room, where a lone lightbulb swung overhead as the interrogator asked pointed questions.
Not a comforting thought.
Between each room was a small side passage—that must be where the one way mirrors looking into the interview rooms were. In fact, several of the glass panels had been broken out, dark glass scattered across the floor of the passageway.
He didn’t stop to look inside those rooms.
Jaxx followed him, squeezing his hand tight.
Ashe frowned. This was all his fault. If it weren’t for him, Jaxx—his beautiful Jaxx—wouldn’t be in danger.
What he had done to protect Jaxx, back in the interview room, made him feel even worse. He had used his power to kill someone. Maybe two people.
He chastised himself. Done was done, and they weren’t out of this yet. Time enough for self-recrimination later.
Out. I need to get us out of here.
The hallway turned right and he sped in the new direction, dragging Jaxx after him.
“I think they came this way,” someone said far behind them, the voice echoing down the hallway.
The passageway before them split in three directions. Ashe skidded to a halt.
Ashe looked at Jaxx, who shrugged. “Left?” He mouthed.
Ashe nodded. Left it is.
They headed down the new passage and came quickly to a closed door.
It was locked from the other side. Ashe jiggled the lock, but it wouldn’t budge.
His claustrophobia pressed down on him, and he started to hyperventilate. He turned back towards Jaxx. “I can’t… we can’t… it’s locked…” The world twisted and his stomach churned at the same time. Out!
Jaxx held Ashe’s face in his hands. “Ashe, Look at me.”
Ashe looked in Jaxx’s eyes. “The walls are too close. We need to get out of here.” His voice sounded ragged, even to himself, and his eyes darted back and forth, looking at the confining ceiling and walls.
“It’s okay.” He leaned forward and kissed Ashe’s cheek. “Close your eyes. Take my hand.” Jaxx took Ashe by his left hand. “Give me the gun.”
Jaxx led Ashe back the way they had come. Ashe kept his eyes closed, concentrating on breathing slowly, on the touch of Jaxx’s hand.
They stopped, and there were two short, sharp gunshots. at close proximity. There was a thump in the distance.
“Okay, run!” Jaxx pulled him down the passageway, taking the other hall.
If there was a locked door this way too, they were screwed. Ashe opened his eyes just enough to see where he was going so he wouldn’t stumble and fall. The hallway swirled around him. He closed his eyes again.
Soon enough, they reached another door, but thank the gods this one opened at Jaxx’s touch.
They tumbled through into someone’s office.
Ashe opened his eyes again, and the world steadied.
The office was very tidy; a heavy wooden desk, leather chair, and a couple dark wood bookshelves filled with black binders.
Ashe breathed in deeply, feeling some relief at being out of the enclosed passageway.
“Help me push this desk against the door.” Jaxx heaved against it, and Ashe joined him.
They maneuvered the heavy desk up against the door they'd just exited, pushing it hard up against the wall.
Jaxx grabbed the laptop from the desk and shoved it into his pack. “You never know. It might come in handy,” he said with a wink. Then he took Ashe's hand again. "You all right?
“Better.” He took another deep breath. The walls still felt way too close, but the hammering of his heart had slowed a little. “Let's move. That won't hold them for long."
Indeed, someone in the passageway had just discovered that the door was blocked. The handle turned from the other side, and there was muffled cursing.
Jaxx led this time, opening the door from the office to peer out into the hallway. He whistled.
"It's like a red wedding out there. Lots of bodies. But it looks quiet at the moment."
Someone banged hard against the other door, behind the desk, which inched forward just a little.
The shared a look. ”Let's go!”
Ashe needed no more encouragement.
The hallway was littered with debris—chunks of concrete and dust and rubble—and scattered bodies, mostly dressed in black.
Once, they saw someone with green skin, and Ashe felt sick to his stomach until he realized it wasn't Tibo. He'd grown a certain begrudging fondness for the goblin rock star, and he would be sad if Tibo should come to harm.
Gunshots and sparks of magic floated around the next corner, bringing him back to the here-and-now.
Ashe pulled Jaxx through the next doorway, which led to a stairwell. Up. The sky was up. An alarm went off, but it was just one more noise in the cacophony. “This way!”
They ran up the stairs two steps at a time, one, two, three flights, coming out at last onto a wide roof—the top of one of the lab buildings, apparently.
Ashe breathed a great sigh of relief. Air. Oh God, fresh air. And the big beautiful sky above them.
The door slammed shut behind them, startling him.
Jaxx tested the handle. It was locked.
No way back into that rat hole. Thank God. “Come on!” Ashe ran across the rooftop, gravel crunching underfoot, the whump whump whump of a huge exhaust fan providing a white noise in the background. It felt so good to be under the sun again. It was mid-afternoon, the sun slanting away toward the west.
He reached the edge of the roof. There was no way down.
Jaxx came up behind him, his sure footing catching him before he plummeted over the edge. "What now?"
Ashe pulled him down into a crouch. He pointed, putting a finger over his lips.
A group of guards dressed in black were dismounting from a jeep that had just pulled up in front of the building.
"Akemi's men?" Jaxx asked.
"How would we tell?” They could just as likely be reinforcements for the other side. “Can we trust her?"
Jaxx looked at him, his ears drooping. "I don't know."
This whole thing had been a clusterfuck from the very start.
Ashe looked around the area from behind the safety of the low perimeter wall. They needed someplace to hide, to figure things out.
The forest. They’d marched through it in their first assault on the castle.
He pointed at the copse of trees that ran around the lake.
Jaxx nodded. "But how do we get there?"
"First class." He pulled off his shirt and tucked it into his pants, and stepped back from the edge of the roof where anyone below would have a hard time seeing him. His wings extended out from his shoulder blades with a triumphant whoosh.
Jaxx grinned and put his arms around Ashe's neck, and Ashe held him tightly.
Thank God his Satyr was light.
When the courtyard below was clear, Ashe spring off the roof and into the sky, making for the temporary safety of the trees.
Free to fly!