‘He’s gone!’ …
Hotel staff and residents – most dressed in nightwear or bathrobes; some appear still drowsy or maybe drunk, some, mostly middle-aged men, make evident their varying degrees of frustration at being suddenly woken up, while the rest are utterly curious and bewildered by the heavy police presence – are quickly but carefully ushered out of the hotel by armed SWAT officers and led past the controlled chaos of the seemingly countless ambulances, police cars, and officers – plain clothed, uniformed, and more SWAT – to a large containment area across the street, which is surrounded by armed and somewhat nervy uniformed officers.
A SWAT officer barges through the entrance carrying one of the unconscious officers from the elevator over his shoulder and screams for urgent medical help. Three paramedics rush to attend to the unconscious officer and a dozen more are directed through the entrance towards the elevator.
Suddenly, there is a loud explosion and everyone instinctively ducks. Almost immediately, it becomes apparent that the explosion had come from the side of the building and the control on the chaos shatters. A lot of officers take off towards the explosion with their guns raised; the crowd in the containment area are in disarray, fuelled by deathly fear, confusion, and an incredible urge to flee. The uniformed officers desperately attempt to contain the crowd, but a substantial portion of the crowd escape containment and run like their lives depended on it away from the explosion. The uniformed officers order them to stop and threaten to shoot, but the officers won’t shoot; they literally have their hands full containing the rest of the crowd and a gunshot would only cause the containment to get exponentially harder.
Most of the escaped run into a large crowd of onlookers for refuge, but one of the escaped, Jay Matthews, dressed in pyjamas and a hotel bathrobe, carefully wades through the crowd.
Jay steps out of the crowd with the bathrobe now folded over his left hand and walks purposefully through the parked cars that were abruptly held up by the police roadblocks around the hotel and now abandoned by their occupants, who are now the captivated onlookers. He stops by a black BMW 6 Series Coupe, and a moment later, the car’s rear and headlights flash as the doors unlock. He unfurls the bathrobe to reveal the car’s remote key held in his left hand and several other car keys tucked in the bathrobe, all of which he’d pickpocketed while wading through the crowd. He wraps the other keys in the bathrobe and tosses it away as he steps into the car.
He ignites the car and smooth jazz music saunters through the stereo as the dashboard lights up. He smiles briefly; he likes jazz, conjures up good memories. He deftly reverses through the narrow spaces between haphazardly parked cars and turns into the next street.
He usually wouldn’t steal a car to aid an escape, although he has done it twice before, in Kuala Lumpur and Sao Paulo, but in both places the response to the report of a stolen car isn’t at all swift; to be frank, it isn’t much of a response. In New York it can be swift, but not when most of the officers are preoccupied with the fiery diversion, which also happens to be occupying the owner of the car.
His entire escape was planned, down to the minutiae. It is what he does; it’s beyond his excellent and exhaustive training. It’s based on experience; he failed once, almost fatally. Never again. The moment he steps into a building, a room, a vehicle – any new environment – he calculates how to get out, considering all calibre of opposition and all manners of constraints. He will be out in less than 5 minutes, and if he can’t work a way out in that time, he will terminate the mission immediately.
He drives carefully for a few blocks devoid of cars but full of pedestrians walking towards the hotel to get a better look at the chaos. Then he turns into 39th street and sees a roadblock ahead manned by a young female officer of oriental descent. He contemplates turning around, but it becomes very evident the officer has seen him.
She keenly watches the car as it approaches, and she raises her hand to stop it; he stops the car. She casually places her right hand on her handgun, which is holstered by her hip, and walks intently towards the car, appearing utterly confident, but she isn’t and he can see it in her eyes. He knows he’s going to have to put her down, and it will be vicious, because he has no weapon to do it clean and easy; all his weapons and kit have been destroyed in the explosion. He could run her over now, he should, but he doesn’t, and not because they are witnesses. He just doesn’t. He stares deep into her eyes as she approaches, as if silently imploring her to stop, turn around, and go home. Every step closer is a step closer to death.
Then the siren of a fire truck approaching the other side of the barrier stops her. She turns around to it and glances back at him. He smiles and nods respectfully, and in that moment she makes the crucial decision. She hurries back to the roadblock and opens the barrier to let the fire truck through. Immediately the truck drives past him, he drives up to the barrier; not giving her a chance to close it.
He doesn’t stop as he approaches the barrier, but slows down enough to say with a smile, ‘Thank you, Officer.’
She forces a smile back as he drives off.
He glances back at her in his rear view mirror as he joins the traffic towards the East River. He is sincerely thankful she made the right decision.
He checks his watch; the countdown timer reads, “00:07:22”.