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Head down, the lone figure darted into the alleyway, breathing heavily. Thick smoke from the city’s abundant factories filled the air like a heavy morning mist on the lake, causing the man to cough violently. Exhausted, Justin collapsed against the wall of a housing complex. He had a gaunt, thin face, a deeply scarred nose. Above him, the rickety buildings reached for the clouds, with clotheslines stretched out between them. Slums had grown more and more prevalent since the new government established itself, 12 years back, in 2030. Through the thin plywood walls, the man could discern the arguments of several inhabitants. Loud screams of anger reverberated through the alleyway, and several seconds later, Justin heard a gunshot, then a scream, and then two more, as the pistol continued belching flame.
Now the sounds of sirens in distance filled the afternoon air, and the man in the alley knew he had to run. Politzika had chased Justin for the past five years, thanks to his many crimes. Panting, the fugitive sprinted down one end of the alleyway, only to see several men guarding the exit. With the sight of the wanted man, they dashed after him. Justin scurried into the door of one of the buildings and rushed up the steps, loudspeakers blaring to the neighborhood that a wanted man had hidden in their midst. Heart pounding and brain racing, Justin raced up the rickety wooden stairs of the building. Doors slammed all around him, children screaming in terror as the speakers blared their message of danger. Behind him, Justin could hear men tearing up the steps. If I go on the roof, the snipers will hit me. Frantically, Justin searched for somewhere to hide. His trembling fingers gripped the gun in his pocket. Suddenly, a door opened in the narrow hallway, and a man urgently beckoned Justin to come in.
Justin looked around at the room. Trash, clothes, and equipment littered the floor. Why would this man risk his neck to save me? Immediately, the man answered Justin’s subconscious question. “I’ll hide you for $30,000 dollars,” the man rasped. “Fork it over quick.” Such a small sum surprised Justin. He quickly gave the man three bills. “Is this stuff counterfeit?” the man queried.
“No. Hold it up to the light.”
Satisfied, the man hustled Justin over to a closet. He closed the door and locked it.
“I’ll let you out when they pass,” he hissed.
Time seemed to stand still. Justin’s heart still pounded, his brain still racing. How did the politzika find me so quickly? Outside the closet door, a fist pounded on the door to the apartment. Justin heard voices outside the door. His protector adamantly advocated to the officers that he had neither seen nor heard anything of this fugitive. Several minutes crawled by, and then, to Justin’s great relief, a latch outside turned. “You can come out now,” the man whispered in his door. Slowly, Justin turned the knob and opened the door, only to find five of the politzika pointing guns at his head.
Smirking widely, a man Justin had seen before led the group, the same man who had witnessed Justin’s crimes, and the man who had led the chase of Justin for the past five years, Nikolai Parsall. Parsall handed the owner of the apartment a roll a bills. “50 grand for the tip-off,” he muttered, “and another 50 for the capture.”
“Liar!” the traitor spat. “You promised a hundred a piece!”
“You are lucky to get anything at all, fool,” Nikolai snarled. He pointed at Justin, and the other officers threw Justin against the wall. Nikolai ordered his compatriots to leave the scene, and then turned his attention to Justin. “So you thought you could escape, huh?” Parsall growled. “If you had not interfered, everything would have been just fine.”
Trembling, Justin mustered up all his courage. “I did the right thing,” he asserted in a clear and unfaltering voice. “You dogs were about to kill her.”
“Dogs?” Nikolai’s eyebrows rose quizzically. “We are all animals, Justin. The one difference between us and dogs is our intelligence. That girl was a menace to civilization. Her death was necessary. ” He paused for a moment. “Our laws are simple. There are only two rules. She broke one of them. You broke the other. Obey the Politzika.”
“But…but…”Justin stammered. “Murder is always wrong…it…” His voice trailed off, as Nikolai shook his head disapprovingly.
“Nonsense. Right and wrong do not exist, Justin.” Nikolai spoke in a disapproving purr. “There is only power. Those in power decide right and wrong. Not you.”
It took incredible courage, yet Justin somehow managed to reply. My last words, he thought. “But you in power are not all-powerful, Nikolai Parsall. You know that. God possesses far more power than you. He decides right and wrong.” Silence fell on the room.
“And now, you have broken every law on the books.” Nikolai did not hesitate. Justin saw him reach for his pistol. He saw Nikolai pull the trigger. Then Justin heard a scream, as Nikolai Parsall fell to the ground, killed instantly by the backfiring of his gun. Justin, still shaking, stared at the lifeless body. Killed by divine justice.