Authors: Jonas Saul
Tags: #Mystery, #Thriller
Hank held the picture up in the air. Sarah caught a glimpse of it.
screamed in her head when she saw the image. Hank’s face was a mask of surprise and terror.
“Who did this?” he asked.
Joan was crying hard now. She stumbled on her feet.
“What happened to your face, honey?” Hank asked.
Then Joan lost her balance and Hank stepped forward to catch her. More women screamed. The guards beside Sarah stepped forward to help Hank.
Sarah spun around and locked in on the sporting goods store.
At least three of Hank’s men were lying on the mall’s tiled floor, white foam seeping from their mouths, writhing on the floor as if in an epileptic seizure. Then they stopped moving, their eyes open, dead.
Another man fell and started to writhe. Then another.
Detective Waller stood by the base of the escalator. He pulled out his weapon and aimed it at the roof.
“Everyone please calm down,” he shouted. “This is a police emergency. Move away from the area.”
On the level above, someone screamed. Sarah looked up as a Toronto cop fell to his knees, sputtering white foam.
What the fuck is happening? What’s killing everybody …
She held her breath in case it was an airborne agent. Then she breathed out because whatever it was, it seemed to only be going after the cops. Locked, rooted to her feet, her mind reeled. Nothing made sense. She couldn’t see the adversary. No one could. Yet Hank’s and Waller’s men were falling like they were being stung by a killer bee that caused a seizure and death within seconds.
Her hand twitched like Vivian had something to say. Sarah took that as her reminder to run and stay alert.
Hank held his wife’s head in his lap, moving his hand through her hair, tears falling onto her powder-white cheeks. The two guards had stepped away, their guns up and at the ready.
Sarah remembered seeing the two men watching them from across the food court. Their faces were unusually white. They had dressed in long black overcoats. She lowered to one knee and spun in a full circle, searching for anyone with a white-powdered face.
Now knowing what to look for, she located at least three of them, moving around and through the throng of onlookers.
Another man fell. Another woman screamed. A father grabbed his child and ran past Detective Waller. A woman with a stroller almost tripped over a dead cop by her table. A couple of teenagers had been sitting in the center of the melee with heaping plates of Chinese food, their iPhones held high as they recorded the action. Two policemen stepped close and shouted for them to run. They did.
More policemen fell. Sarah was paralyzed, not knowing which way to run, which way was safe.
Hank lay sprawled out beside his dead wife, shaking, foam bubbling from the corner of his mouth.
That was all the prodding she needed.
Sarah hunched over and bolted for the sporting goods store.
As she neared it, the window of the sporting goods store shattered beside her with a deafening shatter. Sarah dropped to the floor under the shower of glass and slid on her stomach as if trying to steal second base. She scrambled on hands and knees out of the range of the fallen shards of the display window until she was around the corner and then slipped inside the store. Behind a rack of hockey jerseys, she chanced a look back into the mall. Pandemonium.
People ran every which way, scattering and screaming as more men fell and twitched a death dance on the tiled floor. Powder-faced men walked among the shoppers and the dead as if their own shopping had come to an end.
Sweat pouring into her eyes, adrenaline spiking, Sarah watched, transfixed by the horror. The only man she recognized still standing was Detective Waller. She was sure he was the one who had fired at her. He’d barricaded himself inside the booth of a yogurt drink shop, his gun aimed at anyone who ventured too close.
Her arm twitched again. She had to get as far away from the carnage as she could. They had been waiting for Rod Howley to show but the only sign of Rod was the picture Joan had carried in. Unless the picture was altered, it showed a clearly dead Rod Howley. It had happened since the last phone call he’d made to Hank about today’s meeting. Rod’s face had been covered in white powder, eyes open in a death stare, and white foam mixed with blood dried on his cheek.
Then why set the meeting up? Who was behind it all and why go after Rod and Hank? Killing members of a black government operation was one thing—she was sure they had enemies—but killing Toronto police officers and local detectives would bring a lot of heat on whoever was behind this massacre.
One of the men in the long overcoats stepped up to the broken window of the sporting goods store and stared through the open space. His eyes stopped on Sarah. He was ugly, his forehead protruding unnaturally. His eyes were a piercing blue, like the eyes of a Siberian husky. He smiled, revealing bottom teeth that were tented, like small pegs, pointy. She shuddered at the image.
He beckoned with the wave of his hand. “Come,” he called out.
A policeman stepped beside him and held a gun to the man’s temple.
“On the ground,” the cop ordered.
The man slowly turned to face the cop, never losing his grotesque smile. He raised his hands slowly. Sarah caught the hesitation of his right hand as it passed the cop’s arm. He held something long and silver that resembled the tip of a syringe. Then the white-faced man’s hands were high above his head.
Sarah could’ve counted the five seconds before the cop fell out of her sight line. The man turned back to Sarah and beckoned again.
Sarah edged out and stood up on wobbly legs. She hadn’t seen this kind of violence and death in some time and wasn’t prepared for its sudden impact on her psyche. She asked herself if anyone could ever prepare for what had just happened.
The cop foamed at the mouth, thrashing in his final death throes.
Whatever the men in the overcoats had, it was silent and lethal and killed within seconds.
“Last chance,” the man said, his hand still outstretched. “Come.”
Sarah stepped back. He had to be wearing a mask of some kind. Padding over his forehead and nasty dentures. She took another step backwards. It was like Dracula was alive and well, asking for her hand in marriage. In any other circumstances, she would’ve laughed him off.
He shook his head animatedly as she stepped away, his chin almost touching each shoulder. She bumped into something and spun around in a crouch. Another man in an overcoat stood over her.
This is ridiculous.
The man reached out, trying to touch her with whatever was in his hand. She jumped away and bumped into a clothing rack. A female store employee screamed from behind the counter. The man lunged for Sarah. She dropped to her knees and dove under the rack, coming up on the other side.
He was fast, running around the rack, but it gave her enough of a head start to scramble down the aisle toward the back. She knocked over small displays to delay her pursuer. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him easily hop over the rack of sweat socks.
She ran past the tennis rackets, balls and badminton section. Then a quick jump over a discount golf ball section and she saw the baseball department in the back corner on the right. She headed for that, whipped a circular rack of sports bras into the aisle behind her and made it to the baseball bats before the overcoat man could catch up.
She grabbed a Louisville Slugger and without slowing down, spun on her heels, swinging the bat full circle. It connected with her pursuer’s jaw with a crunch. The man dropped like a sack of lead, his hands clutching his ruined mouth, moaning instead of screaming.
Another man with a white-powdered face stepped in beside her before she could raise the bat again. He jabbed a hand toward her arm, but she jerked out of range and brought her left hand up to ward off the attack, dropping the baseball bat in the same movement. She shoved hard, jamming his hand into his neck. Sarah held his arm there, pushing him away from her, screaming in anger. With her right hand, palm open, she rammed his hand deeper into his neck. His eyes widened as a small yelp escaped his lips.
She let go of him as he fell backwards over a display of baseball gloves. He looked at her in panic, brushing at his neck. A small dot of blood formed below his jaw and then his arms locked, followed by his legs. A moment later, he convulsed, white foam gurgling out of his mouth. She waited for at least seven seconds, watching the man die.
A gunshot rang out in the food court. Women screamed and a man, probably Detective Waller, shouted for everyone to calm down.
The lights in the sporting goods store went out. Emergency lighting came on.
That broke her stupor.
Sarah ran for the back and exited through the hallways behind the store that led to the garbage compacter the retailers used.
When she made it to the street level, she turned up Yonge Street, put the sunglasses that Hank had given her back on, and blended in with the street traffic as sirens shattered the mid-afternoon calm.
Simon Peter finished wiping the rice powder paste off his face with a wet nap and threw it in the trash can. He stared at his reflection in the dirty bathroom mirror, wondering how it all went wrong. How could they have missed their golden opportunity? Sarah had been right there, guarded by police officers. The area had fallen to chaos. His mission had gone as planned until Sarah ran. He hadn’t expected that.
His brother Matthew hadn’t told him to watch for her to run, but Simon should’ve been prepared for that. The information had been specific. Get to Sarah Roberts through Rod Howley. Once the meeting had been set, send Rod home. He had served his purpose.
But now Sarah was on the run. Mistakes had been made. They would have to regroup. He needed more information from his brother.
Simon pulled off his hairpiece and wiped his bald pate clean of any glue. He stuffed the hairpiece into a side pocket, adjusted his coat and lowered his head to whisper a silent prayer. Then he took his sky blue contact lenses out and gently placed them in their container.
A moment later, he checked his remaining two syringes to be certain they were intact, and exited the bathroom of the Royal York Hotel.
On the street, he stepped out to a line of taxis. The first one in line was a silver minivan. He hopped in and gave the driver the Dundas/Dixie corner in Mississauga as his destination.
In mid-afternoon traffic, he arrived forty-five minutes later. The driver had attempted small talk, even asked if Simon had heard about the shooting at the Allandale Centre. But Simon remained silent, watching the traffic outside the cab’s windows. He had a lot on his mind. How they had missed Sarah when they were standing right beside her was a sin. He had failed God. He wouldn’t fail Him again.
He got out in the parking lot of a coffee shop, paid his fare and slammed the door. The driver squealed away, evidently upset that his passenger hadn’t been more talkative.
Simon walked north on Dixie Road. Their prearranged meeting place was still over five blocks away at Dundas and Bloor in an apartment building. All surviving members of the Rapturites were to meet at apartment 1115 when Sarah’s rapture was completed, and Simon Peter, their leader, intended to be there on time.
In the Bible, of Jesus’ twelve apostles, Simon Peter actively brought people to Jesus, a mission this Simon took very seriously. He was the chosen one. He had changed his name legally and took on the role as head of the Rapturites three months ago. The movement was going in the right direction faster than he could have expected. His identical twin brother, Matthew, was very happy with him.
Getting access to the muscle relaxant, pancuronium bromide, better known as pavulon, had proven easy through one of his new members, a pharmaceutical employee who handled the ordering for a giant pharmaceutical company in southern Ontario. One hundred milligrams of the fast-acting muscle relaxant would paralyze the muscles in the human body, even the heart muscle, within seven to ten seconds. It was part of the mix they used on death row inmates during executions.
Simon had concocted his own variant, but knew eventually the experts would be onto what they were using. But they would never be able to track it back to the Rapturites in time. Simon had ordered enough of the death toxin to last him a month. Over three hundred syringes with 100 mg of his toxic mix were stored at a secret location that only he knew about. That meant, as this was end times and the Rapture was upon them, Simon and his faithful apostles could send hundreds of people home to the Lord. It was a mission ordained by the Lord. It gave him great joy to send his fellow man and woman home.
He turned left onto Dundas, his coat flapping in the wind. When he arrived and the Rapturites met, he would persuade them to regroup and re-attack. Matthew would offer the information needed and they would help Sarah Roberts get home. She was a good person. They needed her up above. It was Simon’s job, as the chosen one, to send home the people who were dictated to him. His followers were ready. They were armed with righteous knowledge and the protection of the Lord, yet something went wrong, and he couldn’t figure it.