Sam looked into the mall's entrance hall. He was in the front left corner of the expanse, the automatic doors that led outside to his far right and behind him a little. The section of ventilation pipe he'd dropped down from came out from the left hand wall and curved immediately, leading forwards into the building. In front of him, the room was open-plan on two levels, two grand escalators leading up to a balcony, which in turn was the edge of the upper level. Everything was off; the automatic doors were shut, and the escalators were not moving. The shops that lined the left and right walls were sealed off with metal shutters.
Suddenly, Sam noticed movement far up ahead. On the other side of the ground floor, past the escalators leading upwards, what looked like some sort of security guard was patrolling. He looked to be tall and broad, although it was hard to tell at a distance. His uniform seemed to be of a higher order than that of a standard mall cop or private security firm. It was patterned with greens and greys, and he was carrying a rifle. He was patrolling slowly down the wide main hallway, and was subsequently joined by another guard, similarly equipped.
"Lambert," Sam murmured into his pick-up. "This doesn't look normal. These guys are not a light night patrol."
"Agreed, Fisher. Keep your distance if you can."
The guards were coming towards the front of the hall where Sam was, and showed no sign of turning around. Sam still had a good minute or so, however, and he moved within the shadows, up against the wall leading to the automatic doors, until the escalators were between him and the guards, blocking any potential view they had. He then proceeded forwards and quietly climbed the left escalator.
The upper hallway was narrower than its lower equivalent, and had a large planter taking up most of its centre, stretching all the way along, with walkways going around the sides of it. Grass was growing on the planter, and a few miniature trees stood at intervals along it too. Accompanying the foliage on top of the planter was an inactive fountain and a long, red bench.
Sam heard footsteps coming around the next corner, but had expected a similar level of unusual activity to downstairs. He reacted quickly, running forwards and throwing himself up onto the shadowy floor of the planter. He crept forward, moving under the bench, and then froze as the sounds of the footsteps amplified slightly and changed in quality, meaning they were no longer echoing around the corner. The sound drew closer, and Sam noticed two pairs of shoes walking in step together. Closer still, and one of the guards climbed up onto the planter and sat on the very bench that Sam was lying under, while the other stood in the walkway nearby. Sam breathed as quietly as possible.
"I'm bored as hell."
The voice came above, from the bench's occupant. His colleague's feet moved, shifting weight.
"I don't blame ya. Still, the work pays."
"Maybe it would be worth it if something actually happened around here. This is a mall, for Christ's sakes! Why do they need so many patrols? Nobody has any reason for coming in here!"
"We're still only halfway through our shift. Come on, if you take a break this early it'll just make the rest seem longer."
"Not to me. It's long enough as it is."
"You don't wanna get caught. You wanna play I-spy as we walk?"
"Not cool, man."
"Excuse me for trying to make things more interesting. Are you coming or not?"
"I have cramp."
The standing guard exhaled, irritated. His feet then turned and continued along his patrol path. He turned left before the escalators and disappeared out of sight. The remaining guard's feet remained unmoving, and Sam took the opportunity to inch out from the bench on the other side, where he then raised himself to a crouch, just behind the sitting guard. He slid his pistol from its holster. The guard sighed and made as if to stand, but Sam struck him on the head with the butt of his pistol, sending him sprawling forwards onto the floor. Sam vaulted the bench and rammed his knee into the fallen guard's back before pressing the pistol to his head.
"You should have played I-spy."
"What th- Jesus!"
"What's going on here? Why is there so much muscle?"
"Aargh! Di - didn't you hear me say the same thing? I don't know! This is standard for malls now, I guess! We just follow orders from our contractor!"
"How many men are in the building?"
"There are about twenty patrols all over. Maybe more. We all travel in pairs, so upwards of forty men...Nngh!"
"Thanks. Here's some words for next time. Door. Wall. Leaf. Unconscious idiot. Goodnight."
A second blow, this time to the temple, rendered the guard senseless. Sam dragged and pushed his body up underneath the bench, obscured by shadows and leaves.
"Which way now, Grim?"
"Elevator, I think. Round the corner ahead. I'm just homing in on your position, I'll have the schematics up in a second."
Sam approached the corner, hugging the wall, and peeped out. The coast was clear and the elevator was in plain sight. Sam hurried up to the side of it and pressed the CALL button. The elevator arrived after ten seconds, and Sam immediately pushed the UP button upon entry. Nothing happened. He tried it again. Suddenly, Anna's voice sounded once again urgently in his ear.
"Sam! The camera! You didn't deactivate it?"
The camera? Sam must have missed one when he dived to the planter's floor. If there was one in the upper hall, it would have seen the whole business with the guard! The elevator suddenly started to descend of its own accord.
"...They overrode the system. You're in trouble, Sam."
All Sam could do was wonder at his basic error. He'd been doing this for decades. Then, the lift stopped. The doors opened and two guards piled straight in, armed with batons.
"TAKE HIM ALIVE!"
The first guard aimed a blow straight at Sam's head. Sam ducked and drove an elbow straight into the guard's stomach. He straightened his legs quickly, letting his head rise and connect with the guard's jaw, before grabbing him and smashing him sideways into the wall. The movement was interrupted by the second guard however, who charged them both and pushed them into the back wall of the elevator. Sam was driven off balance, but he regained his footing to headbutt the first guard in the face again. The second's guard baton came swinging in, however, connecting solidly with Sam's temple. Seeing stars, Sam tried to lunge for the second guard, but that was when a taser projectile suddenly pierced his chest, sending thousands of volts coursing through his frame. Sam fell, twitching, and more guards crowded the lift, replacing the injured first one, all armed with batons.
Anna's cries fell on deaf ears, as Sam's consciousness slipped away and left him.
Uh-oh! Stick with Sam for what is yet to come; I'll be away for a few days before writing the next bit.