He was in trouble. The pain from his side radiated into his gut and down his back, driving him to his knees. Pressing a hand to the wound, he forced himself to his feet, lurching as a wave of dizziness accompanied the ascent. He caught himself against the alley wall, leaning hard, waiting for the world to stop tilting and trying to catch his breath. His brain told him he had to keep moving, but his body begged to differ. The searing pain accompanied by an alarming shortness of breath made a strong argument in favor of simply passing out.

Indeed, blood loss and pain were quickly overtaking him, to say nothing of the armed guards who by now had surely concluded his choice of exit and were likely only moments behind. At least they hadn't seen him, and as long as that remained the case he'd be okay… that is, as long as he could make it to his car before he bled to death.

Pulling together the last of his strength he pushed off from the wall and staggered forward. A bloody handprint and a trail of crimson heralding, 'He went thataway.'

It had been such a stupid mistake. Where had his head been? He had not even considered a silent alarm and was oblivious he had tripped it. He had heard them coming, of course. It had been what saved him. Their rushing steps and shouts of alarm giving him the time he needed to formulate his exit. He had jumped from the second story window, landing in a dumpster he'd calculated would break his fall. He had calculated wrong. Another mistake.

Instead of the standard bags of trash and empty boxes, someone had chosen to throw away a broken bar stool. On this he had landed, and a piece of broken spindle had pierced his side like so much butter. A year ago he would have already scoped out that dumpster, filing it away as a 'just in case' quickie exit, removing the bar stool and any other obvious hazards… just in case. A year ago he wouldn't have needed to jump anyway because he would have spotted the silent alarm. He was slipping. And slipping got you dead.

Shaking his head he brought himself back to the here and now. He'd have to psychoanalyze later. Exiting the alley he tried to straighten to a more upright position. Attempting to blend in with the steady crowd of tourists, he hoped no one would notice this particular one was dripping blood like a stuck pig.

Making his way to his car, he fumbled in his pocket for keys, sighing with relief to find them still there. Not so his cell phone. That was long gone. Had he still had it, he'd have help by now. Opening the car door he eased himself in. Glancing into his rear view mirror he could see his pursuers had reached the sidewalk. They were looking intently at the ground and moving at a trot, obviously following his blood trail.

Time to go!

Leaning his forehead against the steering wheel as a wave of nausea hit, he put the key in the ignition and started the car. Beads of sweat now lined his forehead as he swallowed hard and made a futile attempt to take a deep breath. Straightening himself, he put the car in gear and eased out into traffic. One of so many other cars, he pulled away unnoticed.

Unfortunately he wasn't going far. Along with the nausea and dizziness, he was beginning to feel disconnected, his vision graying at the edges. Pulling into the first parking garage he came to, he found a dark corner and parked. Resting for a moment to gather himself, he reached a hand under the dashboard, searching for a cell phone he hoped was still there. It was. Not only that but it was charged and, miracle of miracles, had a strong signal. Dialing Sam's number he was relieved to hear him pick up.

"Yello! Sam here," came the cheery voice.

"Sam, it's Michael."

"Hey, Mikey! What's up?"

"I'm in trouble... I need help, Sam."

"Where are you?" Sam's voice came back, his tone instantly serious.

"In a parking garage off Sunset and Key. Third floor… "C" I think," his voice catching as he rode out another wave of pain.

"I'm on my way, Mikey. Just hold on. Mike? Hey, brother, you still there? Keep talking to me."

But Michael was no longer responding. He had used up the last of his reserves to get this far and could no longer combat the effects of his injury. Though the bleeding had stopped his breathing was now reduced to short quick sips of air. His vision was tunneling, his lips tingling from lack of oxygen from forced hyperventilation. He stared down in morbid fascination as the cell phone slipped from his hand and fell to the seat beside him, resting in a pool of his own blood. He could still hear Sam calling to him through its speaker as he sagged against the wheel and let the darkness take him.