Author's Note: Starts with "Fugitive" chapter, takes a left turn . . . yeah, yeah, it's angsty. The whole damn thing. But then . . . so is Heavy Rain.
When the woman on the motorcycle came to a slow stop in front of them, Jayden was already hungry for more small instances of Blake's failures. It wasn't as though they were hard to find, but still.
"Probably lives there," Blake said, dismissing her as she disappeared into the building Ethan Mars was theoretically inside.
Oh, really? This place looks like its main rent holders are cockroaches and the homeless. "Lives there," my ass.
Restless, Jayden pulled ARI on and ran the plates from the bike. Paige, Madison. Journalist. Huh. Nope, she sure doesn't live here, possibly because she's not insane. He cocked his head as he speculated to himself what she might be doing there, what he should say to Blake about her. Specifically, maybe I should tell him to not shoot her. The noise in his left ear, of Blake grumbling over the radio, suddenly registered in his head: they were going in.
The bastard waited until I wasn't paying attention. He whipped off the ARI, closing his eyes against the blurred vision of his readjusted reality.
"Stay in the car, Jayden," Blake ordered, and the FBI agent decided he'd had enough.
"Fine." This is not my job, anyway. Let the lunkheads run for it; I'll just get into Mars' head when they bring him back. I'm done running into situations with a guy who doesn't have my back. Done.
The Ford continued to purr, keys in the ignition, while Jayden rubbed his temples. Policemen streamed by him, shouting at each other. That house is the size of a matchbox, why don't they have Mars out, yet? He scowled at the pandemonium. It went on forever. Much, much longer than it should have. Something was wrong. He opened the door and dragged himself to his feet.
Why didn't I demand a headset? I should have demanded a headset.
"You!" He picked an officer walking by at random, using his very best authoritative voice. "What's going on?"
"What?"Poor guy looks about sixteen.
"I'm the FBI agent assisting with the case," Jayden snapped. "I'm out of the loop. What just happened?"
"Oh, uh," the cop looked at the crackling radio in his hand; all Jayden could gather out of it at this point were officers rattling off their positions. "Sir, the suspect and an unidentified woman escaped into the subway station behind the building."
"They're still down there?"
"No, sir, they got on a train."
"They escaped on the subway?" Jayden exploded. "Jesus Christ!" The captain of the Titanic ran a tighter ship than this. I should've gone. Shouldn't have let Blake get to me.
"Sir?" The policeman looked startled.
"What tr– oh, here, just give me your damn radio for a minute." The young officer handed it over, numbly. Jayden jabbed his thumb at it.
"This is Special Agent Jayden of the FBI. I need to know which line the suspects are on, bound in which direction, ASAP. Over."
The radio let out an offended-sounding squawk. After a long pause, the words, "Say again, Agent Jayden?" buzzed out of its speaker.
Jesus Christ on a fucking crutch. "The suspects boarded a subway train. What train, going in what direction? Over." He knew he was wreaking havoc with their protocol, but couldn't have cared less.
There was a long burst of static, and then some minor squabbling and bits of conversation back and forth. Just ask one of the passengers down there, you idiots, they'll know. Jayden folded his arms to keep his temper under control, tucking the radio into his elbow. Don't lose it in front of junior, here. It's not worth it. He squinted at the cop's badge. Kinney. Remember that: Kinney, Kinney, Kinney.
"Agent Jayden," a voice finally buzzed. "That appears to be the eastbound yellow line. I say again, the eastbound yellow line. Do you copy?"
Bless you, anonymous competent man. "Affirmative. Over and out." He practically threw the radio back at the wide-eyed cop. "Okay, listen," he continued. "Officer Kinney. I have a job for you."
"I'm supposed to be – "
"No, this is very, very important. If Mars is already gone, anything else can wait. Tell them I threatened you with disciplinary action, I don't give a shit. You see that car? Mars' car? And the motorcycle in front of it?"
Kinney nodded dumbly.
"Your job is to make sure nobody touches them. Nobody searches 'em, nobody moves 'em, nothing. Not until I can come back and get a chance to inspect them. Got it?"
"Why can't you – "
"There's not a lot of time, Officer Kinney, and this might end up being the thing that tips the scales. The evidence in or on those vehicles could lead us to Shaun Mars. Do you understand me? That's why this is your new job until either I get back, or you find someone else to do it."
Kinney looked at the vehicles, then longingly down the street towards his fellow officers, then back at Jayden. "Yes, sir," he said, reluctantly.
"Good. If you need to get in touch with me, Lieutenant Blake has my number." Of the phone that I will not be answering. Jayden slid behind the wheel of Blake's Ford, pulled ARI back out of his pocket, and slipped the shades on. "ARI, give me the location of the next subway stop for the Philadelphia eastbound yellow line, relative to the current coordinates." Not too bad; just a few blocks. He memorized the directions, flipped the shades on top of his head, and pulled the car out into traffic.
When he came to the stop, he swore – there was a subway exit on each corner, and no free parking spaces. He fumbled in the glove compartment until he found a law enforcement parking notice, tossed it up in the windshield and left the car resting against a solid yellow curb. Slipping back into the glasses and glove was like being welcomed back to life.
Mars' genetic information was already sunk into ARI's recognition system, and Jayden set it to send off warning bells in his brain as soon as it saw any signs of what he was after. Approaching the subway steps, he had to force himself to walk slowly, give ARI time to properly read the environment. One one thousand, two one thousand, he spread his hand downwards, delicately, and let the world come bouncing back to him as he started down the stairs. One one thousand, two one thousand, he grabbed for evidence as he approached the bottom. Nothing. One one thousand, two one thousand, as he began the ascent with a flick of his wrist. One one thousand, two one thousand, he came blindly back into the rain, seeing only what his fingers told him, barely dodging the bodies around him on the stairs. No sign of Mars anywhere in this staircase. Three more to go at this intersection.
He moved across the street and started searching the stairs of the next subway exit, hand bobbing beside him. He'd been told it looked like he was idly tossing an invisible yo-yo, the rhythmic grasping of his gloved hand. It felt more like fly fishing, like groping for Braille, like sonar, looking for the sweet spots of meaning amidst chaos. He moved on.
He'd left the world of unimportant bodies and moved to the one of chemicals and chemistry, only dimly aware that he was clumsily avoiding cars, pedestrians, fireplugs, as he devoured the world with his questing hand, his hungry brain. He came back to the boring world only enough to ask ARI for the next stop on the route and start the car.
He knew he was using too much of it at a stretch again, that he'd pay for it later. One one thousand, two one thousand. Was there any kind of a DNA record for Paige? One one thousand, two one thousand. It would be easier if he were looking for two signatures, instead of one. One one thousand, two one thousand. A stray hair, a set of greasy fingerprints – they must have left something, somewhere. One one thousand, two one thousand. How many stops were there? Were there any dead stations along the line, those strange little ghosts of abandoned stops where the homeless camped and the trains never slowed? He'd have to find out. Wake up. Turn the key. Next stop.
Mars' blood. He was bleeding, he'd bled right here. Jayden could practically roll it between his palms, he felt it so acutely. The shock of success was such that he had to pause, get his breath, wake himself up from the slow, measured tread of his procedural walk. All right then, let's get this going. God, how long have I been doing this? He didn't want to ask ARI. A long time. But not too long, because it's working. It's never too long, if it works. He vaguely sensed pedestrians streaming around him on the sidewalk, giving him the odd curious look, but they seemed supremely unimportant.
Centering himself again, he flashed his palm outwards in an almost lazy gesture, seeking traces that led away from the stairwell. Show me more. Nobody bleeds just one drop. There it is.
There wasn't much, it wasn't a torrent, but ARI's predatory search found them all. Just enough to lead him on, enough to make him want to run when he had to walk, to chafe at the limitations of ARI's search capability.
Just follow it, Norman. It's better if you're slow, if you give them time to go to ground. He forced himself to pause, to breathe. You're not Superman. Just figure out where they're hiding, then call in. Slowly, slowly. The erratic trail led him through back streets, dotted itself on cars, tripped its way onto a few walls, disappeared into the back end of nowhere.
Following its last faint traces, he rounded the corner into an alleyway, barely wide enough for a car's passage, that ended in a small asphalt courtyard. Three small radial arms of the same width led off in the other cardinal directions, and as Jayden spread his fingers again, he caught a flicker of Mars' blood glimmering from the one to his left. He entered it, then stopped in confusion.
Well, hell, this can't be right. The only door present was made of blank, rusted metal, no handle or knob, looked like a one-way fire exit of some kind, and the passageway dead ended otherwise into a brick wall. The only other features were an open dumpster and a scattering of elderly, leaking trash bags and old boxes. Good urban design, there. He bounced ARI at the ground by his feet, and chemical signals blossomed up around him. Only one of them had anything to do with Mars. The others – ah, I see, all those little shards are from crack vials. That's great.
He flicked his wrist up towards the fire escapes overhead, though they were out of reach, and caught no answering identification. However, they provided some partial cover from the endless rain, and he stepped under one, slicking the water out of his hair while he thought. Maybe they only stopped here for a minute, and I just didn't see where they went on to. He clicked his tongue in irritation and headed back out of the alley, almost gone before he heard the fire exit door screech open behind his back. He whirled, startled, unprepared.