Welcome to chapter 2 of Arena of Souls, my new, Doc Savage-style, pulp adventure. A new chapter every week! If you missed last week’s chapter, here it is!
Arena of Souls
Chapter 2- The Bug
Brock Stone stood and reached out to shake Porter’s hand. The attorney rose to his full height, almost at eye level with Stone’s six feet, two inches, and clasped Stone’s hand. Although he worked behind a desk, the attorney’s grip was strong. Stone opened his mouth to bid Porter goodbye, but paused when a flicker of movement at the window caught his eye.
“Down!” Stone leapt forward, vaulting the desk and crashing into Porter as the window exploded and the sound of two gunshots in quick succession, filled the air. The two men fell in a heap on the floor. Moving fast for a man of his size, Porter scrambled for the shelter of the desk, a bullet shredding the carpet only inches from his heel.
Stone rolled to the side, grabbed a heavy wooden wastebasket, and hurled it at the shattered window. It struck the surprised attacker on the wrist, sending his next shot upward. Plaster rained down as the bullet cracked the ceiling. A side table followed the wastebasket. Stone was a powerful man, his muscles honed by years of football, military service, and the training he’d done on his own in the years since, and the table cracked the man across the forehead as another bullet went astray.
Stone’s assailant, a barrel of a man, carried a Colt 1911. Assuming he’d begun with a full magazine and one round in the chamber, he still had three shots left. His face a crimson mask from a gash on the forehead, the man looked around for Stone, who sprang to the side and pressed against the wall, inches from the window frame, waiting.
Stone strained to hear movement over the patter of rain. A foot scraped on metal, perilously close, and then the barrel of the Colt appeared in the window.
Stone grabbed the weapon in his left hand, yanked it forward, and struck out with the back of his right fist. The man cried out in pain as Stone’s vicious strike crushed the bridge of his nose. He reeled backward, instinctively pulling the trigger as he stumbled.
Stone released the weapon as it discharged, and the man took that moment to flee. Footsteps pounded on the fire escape, and Stone sprang to the window to give pursuit. He was halfway out when a bullet pinged off the window facing inches from his head.
“Wait!” Strong hands hauled Stone back inside. Porter had pulled him back. “You can’t chase him down the fire escape,” Porter said. “You’ll be far too exposed. If he has a spare magazine, it’ll be like a shooting gallery.”
Stone doubted the assailant would have fled, had he been carrying spare ammunition. In any case, it wasn’t in his nature to run from a fight. He shook free of Porter’s grip and returned to the window in time to see the assailant dashing down the alleyway. The attorney had slowed Stone enough to let the man get a good head start.
“I’ll take my chances.” Stone sprang through the window, descended the fire escape three steps at a time, and took off down the alleyway, splashing through puddles as he ran. The rain had stopped, but a haze hung in the warm evening air.
During his playing days at Virginia Military Institute, he’d seen duty as both a running back and defensive back, and had been the fastest man on the team. In seconds, he had his quarry in sight. He was fast, considering his short legs, but Stone was faster. His powerful strides ate up the intervening space at a rapid clip.
The alley opened up onto a busy street, and the man sprinted into traffic without regard for his own safety. A bus slammed on the brakes, just missing him. The driver yanked the wheel hard to the right, and the big vehicle rode up onto the curb and came to a screeching halt, blocking the alleyway.
Undeterred, Stone hit the ground and belly crawled underneath the vehicle, the smell of oil and ozone heavy in the air. He was halfway across when the bus began backing up.
As the big tires closed in, Stone spun a quarter of a turn and rolled forward. He tumbled off the curb and into the street, the front wheel grazing his foot as it past. Spotting him, the driver cried out in anger, but Stone was on his feet, looking around for his quarry. He saw him, silhouetted in the back of a cab as it disappeared down Virginia Avenue.
Stone had lost him.
Seething with anger, he jogged back to Porter’s office, passing on the front door and taking the fire escape back up.
“The police are on their way,” Porter said as Stone appeared in window. He looked down at the shattered glass strewn across the floor and raised his hands. “What do you think he wanted?”
“To kill me,” Stone said. “I should think that would be obvious.”
“Why here? Why now?”
“For that matter, how did anyone know I was back in the country?” Stone retrieved the copy of the Lost World he had dropped on the floor during the attack, and turned to look out the window. The jagged shards of glass gave it the appearance of a predator’s gaping maw. In the corner, an object clinging to one of the remaining slivers caught his eye.
He removed it and held it up for Porter to see.
“It’s a listening device.” He turned it over in his hand, scrutinizing the small box. “Fairly advanced, too. I’ve seldom seen its like. This tells me a few things.”
Porter scratched his chin. “Such as?”
“The man I chased was likely a hired thug, working for someone with a lot of resources. Someone who didn’t just want me dead, but wanted information.”
“Do you think they’re interested in your inheritance?”
“Perhaps.” Stone pocketed the device and turned back toward the window. “The only thing I’m certain of is, I need to get to my grandfather’s house as quickly as possible.”