Shredding Veils

November 14, 2009
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Chapter 1

Light slanted through the dark window, alternating blue and red from the police car in the street below. The light swept across the ceiling, showing a path of tiny plaster bumps. The window became black once more as the car passed with siren wailing.

Nothing moved in the room for several seconds. Then a quiet rush of air was heard as someone let out a relieved breath. In a far corner of the dark space, the stealthy rustling sounds that had ceased when the siren came into earshot resumed.

Matt was descending the stairs that led down from the upper level of his family’s apartment. He had stopped upon hearing the police siren, feeling his heart hammering in his throat. There was no reason why they would be coming for him, because he hadn’t done anything illegal. Still, the coincidence made him jumpy. Calm down, he told himself silently. His adrenaline-laced body took no notice.

Shakily, he continued down the flight of stairs. In one hand he clutched a nylon bag that was heavier than it appeared, owing to the fact that it contained a long steel knife in a sheath. Matt reached the floor and crossed it quickly, making for the door on the opposite side. The space was his family’s lounge. Two leather couches, an armchair, and a widescreen television set were arranged around the spacious room. Expensive art decorated the walls. In one corner stood an antique table, its polished surface reflecting a little dull light even in the gloom.

Matt reached the door. He slowly undid the deadbolt, sliding it back into its groove. The door was also secured by a think chain and latch, which he removed, careful not to make any noise. He twisted the handle and pushed the door ajar.

It opened onto a hallway with more doors set into the walls at irregular intervals. The glowing orange circles of elevator buttons could be seen clearly in the dark hall. There were only a few hours each day when the hallway lights in the apartment building weren’t lit, so Matt had planned his departure for very early in the morning.

Matt bent one knee, lifting his foot high. The floor around the door was known to creak loudly when anyone stepped on it. If his family woke now, his plan would be ruined. Creak. “Of course,” me muttered under his breath.

He held completely still, trying not to put any more weight on the foot he had unwittingly set on the bad section of floor. After a few moments he relaxed. The creak had not nearly been loud enough to wake a sleeping person, but Matt was still paranoid. If they wake up before I’m long gone I’ll be too easy to find, he thought.

Carefully, Matt shifted his weight and crossed the unstable area. He supported the door, letting it shut very slowly. Hurrying down the hall, he clutched his bag close against him to prevent the knife inside from making a sound. Bypassing the glowing elevator buttons, Matt pulled open the door leading to the apartment’s stairs. The elevator didn’t work this early in the morning, and he did not want the ding alerting anyone.

Cool air hit his face as he stepped out of the revolving doors on the ground floor. Away in the east a faint glow was beginning to emerge over the horizon. Despite the hour, almost no stars were visible because of the ambient light of New York City. No one was walking along the sidewalks or sitting idly on curbs. I got lucky.

He set off down the street, head bent and hands tucked into the pockets of his expensive jacket. The nylon bag he carried was slung over a shoulder by its cord. Matt looked up at the dark and empty windows of the apartment building. He had spent his whole life there. It was where his family still lived. Matt stood there for only a moment, then tore his gaze away and broke into a brisk stride. For once I know I’m doing the right thing.

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