There was no reason to stop running and let a bullet catch up with him. Divine Fury.
May 16, 2013
A VG Serial: Divine Fury
REPORTER ENZO LEE could hear Walberg chasing him. He got to the next corner and turned right. He reached the end of that block and went left. Then he reached Sansome and went right. He was changing direction whenever he could in the hope that Walberg would have less chance for a clear shot.
Lee had been running all out for two and a half blocks and Walberg had kept up with him. Finally, he sensed his pursuer was slowing down. Lee was winded, too, though. Fatigue overtook the initial fear. Lee slowed down to a pace he could keep for a couple more blocks.
This was a neighborhood Lee knew. It was on one of his jogging routes. Telegraph Hill ran along his left. The cliffs were so steep here there was almost no access. As he ran past Filbert Street, he glanced toward the cliffs and saw in the shadows the bottom part of the long series of stairways that ran up the hillside. The Filbert Steps. They formed a steep, serpentine route that crossed several streets and eventually reached Coit Tower at the top of Telegraph Hill.
That was his way out of this! In another block there would be a second set of steps on Greenwich Street. More than 500 steps ran straight up the hillside in flights of stairs. Winding pathways connecting the stairways. There was heavy tree cover much of the way and foliage so thick it was almost jungle. It would be pitch black up there now. You wouldn’t get lost but it would be slow going if you didn’t already know the route.
Even if Walberg chose to follow him up there, Lee was confident he could stay safely in front of him and gain some ground with his knowledge of the steps. It also occurred to Lee that if he could get Walberg far enough up the hillside he could get trapped there, provided Lee could get help.
Lee turned down Greenwich. At the end of a short block, he reached the bottom of the steps and started climbing. He pulled out his cell phone and flipped it open. He stopped just long enough to find Bobbie Connors’ number, hit the dial button and put it on speaker. Then he started climbing again as he heard the phone dialing.
“Yo,” said Connors.
“Bobbie…Enzo…Just listen,” gasped Lee. “I think it’s him…Walberg…he’s shooting at me. I’m at the bottom of the Greenwich steps, on Sansome, heading up to Coit.”
“Okay, Enzo,” Connors said quickly. “Keep moving. Stay away from him any way you can. You’ll have cars all over there in a few minutes.”
Lee closed the phone but kept it in his hand. Below him, he could hear the sound of someone starting up the steps. Walberg had followed. Lee probably seemed close with his shoes slapping the concrete steps not that far away. Walberg probably thought he could quickly catch up now and get a clean shot. But he’d quickly find out that maintaining any speed up the steep stairways was impossible for anyone but a track star. And, without street lights, it would be hard to see anything clearly that wasn’t immediately in front of your face.
Lee increased the gap, using his knowledge of the darkened route to his advantage. He was stopped momentarily when he ran into something big that jumped up right in front of him and bounced off his chest, scaring the crap out of him. It continued off into the tree tops above him. Goddamned parrot, he thought. It must be one of the wild ones that had colonized the hillside.
He was two-thirds of the way up when he saw the first police car. It was above him, on its way to Coit Tower. In the darkness, he could see the flashing lights go past. Soon, he saw another set of flashing lights on a lower road that crossed the steps. Lee slowed. Safety was just ahead – 20 or 30 yards. Now, he was thinking about how to let the patrolmen know quickly that he was on their side.
Walberg missed the first police car. It was beyond where he could see. But when he saw the flashing lights of the second car, he stopped immediately and started back down. Two minutes later, he saw more flashing lights far below him. He knew then that he was in danger of being caught.
There were options, but he had to move fast. He’d passed a couple of small streets on the way up. And there were houses all around, including several with back entrances just off the stairways as if the path was part of a communal backyard. Walberg knew that in another 20 minutes, the whole area might be sealed off. He could hide. But they might comb the whole hillside. They could even wait until morning and drag him out of whatever hole he’d found. He had to get away now.
Walberg walked back down to the nearest street – really an alleyway – that intersected the steps. He tried to catch his breath from the run. He surveyed the houses around him. They were all dark except one. He moved closer, leaned over a waist-high fence and peered into a window at a well-lit kitchen.
He saw a young Asian woman cooking. She was moving back and forth. Taking something out of the refrigerator, moving it to the counter. Going back to the sink. Leaning down to get a pan or something. Filling it with water. Then, Walberg heard the sound of a baby crying. The woman disappeared for a few seconds. When she came back, she was holding a baby on her hip while she went back to cooking, mostly one-handed but occasionally trapping the infant in place with her arm while she used that hand as well.
This was it, then. He needed a house with someone in it to get him out fast. He didn’t have time to search an empty home for keys, garage, door opener, whatever. He had his hands on the fence, looking for a place to set his foot so he could jump to the other side.
Then, he saw car lights come around a curve and head down the narrow street toward him. He paused. It was moving slowly. He saw no flashing lights on top. It was small – probably an Asian import. This could be even better…faster. He’d just take the car. He couldn’t let the driver call 911 right after he drove away. He’d either kill him or just take the cell phone. Either way was okay. He only needed five minutes to get out of the area.
The car slowed as it neared him. Walberg put the Beretta back in his jacket pocket. He reached in and held it ready in his palm as he held up his left hand, signaling the car to stop. It came to a rest with the bumper three feet from him, headlights blinding him. He heard the electric whir of the driver’s window coming down. Then, from behind the blinding lights he heard a voice.
“I’m the Deacon,” the voice said. “Get in.”
Chapters of the serial are published Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
You can learn more about Divine Fury on Amazon.