There would be time to think of hows and whys later, Baxter’s mind was entirely occupied with the task at hand. He had almost no lead time whatsoever, whoever it was that was trying to kill him was right behind him, he needed to get rid of the car, he had to assume he was being tracked, and he didn’t have the time or the tech to find the bug.
The only advantage he had was his knowledge of the area, so he floored it, trusting in his knowledge of his neighborhood to avoid trouble. Hell, he’d welcome a ticket at this point. Maybe he could talk his way out of jail time, but a naked guy speeding would probably mean a night in jail and that was probably safer than being on the streets right now.
He pulled into about the only public garage that stayed open late on 23rd. He’d never even consciously noted it, just always recognized where it was and what it was. He popped the trunk, grabbed his go-bag, and ran for the stairwell. At the bottom of the stairs he yanked on jeans that were now much too tight, a t-shirt and a light jacket. No spare shoes, goddammit. There was no room in the straining waistband for the Glock in his go-bag, so the bag went over his shoulder, one hand inside gripping the weapon securely. He slammed into the panic bar of the exit door and ran into the night.
She didn’t see him on the road, didn’t even look for him, just followed the tracking device and obeyed the traffic signals and speed limits. When she found the Jetta, the trunk was open and the keys were still in the ignition. She didn’t speculate where he might be, she just pulled out her phone and activated the infrared filter. She saw bare footprints moving to the stairwell, and she followed, Sig in her hand, not bothering to hide it.
Still my city, Baxter thought desperately as he ran. Still my city, I still have the edge. He wasn’t even sure it was true, but it was all he had. He ran flat out, glancing down every few seconds to check his path, make sure he wasn’t about to step on anything cruel. He ran two blocks down a side street, cut through an alley, jogged over 23rd like he did it barefoot every day, and ran down one more block to 22nd. He couldn’t move down the main drag, not enough people this late, few cars, he’d stand out too much. Instead, he slowed down, jogging, conscious of every car and bush that might offer cover if his hunter showed up.
She continued moving at a very fast walk, occasionally verifying the footprints with her phone. He was overweight. He was old. He was lazy. Let him run. He’d peter out eventually, and then it was just a matter of time.
She crossed 23rd and followed the trail to 22nd, hanging a left in pursuit of him. Part of her was surprised that she hadn’t found him in a sweating, panting puddle already, begging for mercy.
There was a Silver Cloud Inn that served a lot of tourists down toward Burnside, and Baxter approached it from the rear, ramping up to a run again. As he had hoped, there was a taxi hanging around in front, waiting for a call or a walk-up fare. He jumped in the backseat, slammed the door and tried not to shout. “OHSU,” he gasped. “Fast as you can.”
The cabbie looked at him in the rearview mirror and Baxter was only now conscious of how hot his face was, how the edges of his vision were waving, how much sweat was pouring off him.
“It’s an emergency,” he said, thinking fast. “Wife...accident...she had the car.”
That was enough for the cabbie, who pulled the yellow car into the street.
OHSU had cars, lots of cars, not much security, not enough people at this time of night, but he’d spent a day every few months wandering around the grounds when he’d first arrived in Portland. It was just the first place that came to mind. He wasn’t planning, he was just running for his life.
Baxter forced himself to breathe slowly, trying to get control of his pounding heart. The cabbie ignored him, taking his lie as good enough, and making good time toward the south end of the city, where the hospital sprawled on top of a hill.
He was conscious of his sopping shirt clinging to his chest as it hitched up and down. This was why he used to run all the time, because this used to happen all the time. He realized that he’d been overriding every protest from his body, his feet throbbed, the soles surely bruised and pissed off about the running. The way his vision was wobbling, he was pretty certain that if he’d tried to run another mile, his body would have just shut down.
She watched from the edge of the parking lot, pulled out her phone.
“He’s in a Portland Metro cab, heading...” she waited until the taxi took the corner, “heading south right now. Number on the cab is 113. Track him.”
The freelancers didn’t know who Falconer was, didn’t know who she worked for, only that their orders and money came from very high up the ‘don’t ask questions’ ladder. Two of them had been sitting in a helicopter for 20 minutes, just waiting for a go. As soon as the order came, the rotors started to rotate.
A third freelancer sat at a computer, tracking radio traffic and any cameras he could patch into. He also had a video feed from the helicopter.
Falconer jogged back to her car in the parking lot, found a ticket, threw it away. She climbed into her car and headed south. She had to admit the mark...no, he was Baxter now. She’d seen him, watched him run, followed his trail, it was the same old Baxter, even if he didn’t look it. She’d underestimated him, maybe not by a lot, but maybe just enough to let him get away. She wouldn’t do it again.