Sullivan blinked slowly as the red light in front of her came into focus. 2:43. 2:42. 2:41. How long had she been unconscious? She tried moving her arms. Rope fibers scraped against her skin. It was tight, but nothing she couldn’t handle. The real problem would be her legs. One knee was crusted with blood. She was bruised all over. Even if she did escape, how far could she get? She leaned forward as far as she could in the chair to get a view out the window. Her ribs ached. This trip hadn’t gone nearly as well as she had planned.
Through the shutters, she could see a pale pre-dawn sky. 2:28. 2:27. Behind her back, Sullivan’s hands began clumsily unraveling her restraints. The whole world was silent, aside from her strained breath and her fingernails digging at the rope. No hushed whispers or shuffling steps came from the hallway. No birds chattered outside. Even the wind had quieted down.
She focused on the countdown. 1:55. 1:54. 1:53. A bomb, more than likely. The red numbers blinked at her. With each second, the room was bathed in a dull glow. If she hadn’t passed out, she would have been in a better position against this threat. It didn’t make any sense. She never lost consciousness like that. There had to be… a needle. A memory of a gloved hand and a syringe edged in from the depths of her mind. They drugged her. Did she talk? How much do they know? Sullivan shook the thoughts from her head. She was too well trained. There was no chance of slipping.
Her hands fell limp. Whoever tied the knots was very good. It also didn’t help that her captors had broken three of her fingers. Sullivan glared at the clock. 1:31. 1:30. Maybe it was a test, or mental torture, and there was no real threat to the countdown. She heaved a raspy sigh and forced her fingers back to work. She couldn’t risk calling their bluff.
Sweat was beginning to bead on her forehead. 0:59. Her nails dug into a knot and wound their way through. The space grew larger by fractions of an inch each time she attacked it. She pulled her arms again. The rope groaned as she flexed. It would be enough. Sullivan tugged and squeezed her hands free and began untying her feet. It was easier to do when she could see the knot. 0:36. The frenzied pace led her finger to slip and snag on the thick fibers. Her nail snapped down the middle. She bit back the pain and pressed on. 0:32. Pulsing red light reflected in the fresh drops of blood on the floor.
If she could get a look at the mechanics of that clock, she would be able to tell what the danger was. Released from her bindings, Sullivan sprang up from the chair. Her legs immediately crumpled beneath her. Desperation was a killer. Only a calm, even mind would get her out of this. She dragged herself up to the machine with the clock display. 0:25. Prying the panel open, Sullivan’s fears were confirmed. She couldn’t disarm the bomb and didn’t have the strength to try shoving it out the window.
Sullivan scrambled for the door. 0:17. It was sturdy, metallic, and locked. Perhaps she could jump out the window instead. She pressed her shoulder against the shutters until they gave way and leaned against the sill. A five story drop onto a stone road was not exactly ideal. Sullivan scanned the room for anything that could help in her escape. Nothing. 0:13. The countdown winked mockingly at her.
Several blocks away, a tall building was caught in the first rays of sunlight.
A slender figure lurked just inside an open window.
The figure held up a pair of binoculars and lazily peered out.
Behind the shaded figure, a man with black gloved hands waited patiently for new orders.
In the distance, a blast erupted from an old apartment complex. Smoke was rising gently into the pink dawn sky. A papery smirk tilted beneath the figure’s thin nose. Everything was falling into place.