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The train station is crowded with milling travelers. They are like chickens bobbing around looking for grain. John sees Harold, their eyes connect. Harold is in a wheelchair! What did that demon woman do to him?
John doesn't have time to think about the implications of Harold’s possible injuries. John just acts. He trudges forth like a football player, avoiding the tackle of bodies to reach his goal. He tries to run, twisting and turning, sometimes pushing figures out of the way. They block his view of Harold. They are irrelevant and a hindrance.
He sees Root inching closer to Harold. She leans her arm, covered by her cloak near Harold’s head, the threat clear. She has a concealed gun in her hand.
John slows, his shoes stuttering on the tiles since he stopped so quickly, he nearly topples. He can’t rush at Root now. He can’t reach Harold. Frustration is a heavy shroud that washes over him.
Then, six large men start to close in on John. He sees that they are all armed. John can either risk getting Harold and scores of innocent people killed or he can give up, surrender now to wait to get a better chance later.
John’s entire body goes limp. He doesn't react when the widest hired gun shakes him forward and the blond guard slips the gun from John’s lax hand.
Harold swallows, wide eyed and frightened. John smiles tenderly, reassuring Harold. This is not Harold’s fault. This situation is entirely the fault of the slender, dark haired woman pushing Harold's chair to an empty corner of the station. She is smug and condescending as she locks the wheels into place and sits with her coat draped over her lap. Her hand inside the fabric bulges with the menacing threat of her weapon trained on Harold.
John only notices her in his peripheral. Harold is John’s focus. The older man actually looks his age for once. He is pale, waxy. He looks hollow and shiny with sweat. John has never seen Harold with a five o’clock shadow, Harold doesn’t grow a beard as quickly as John, but almost four days of captivity has sparse hairs scattered along the skin that usually is smooth and fresh every day.
What upsets John more is not the entire armed squadron surrounding them. No, Harold's disheveled appearance and complete unease is the most disturbing factor to this whole affair. Harold is not only out of his element, out of his depth. Harold is also beside himself. John is looking at the soft kernel that usually remains hidden by the hard husk of fussy precision and elegance, the power and knowledge with which Harold is usually shielded. All that is gone, leaving exposed nerves that shriek and scream at even the wind brushing past them.
John is so agitated by this that he can’t be angry. All his energy is being used up to strategize and plan how to restore Harold’s armor. The need to cocoon Harold in his own strength and defend his friend against the onslaught of indignity is all John can really process right now.
They can’t fight, not here. But Root can’t keep them in a crowd like this for long. She will have to sequester them away to what she hopes is a secure location. Fortunately for John, securing a hideout also means they have a chance to pick off the enemy one at a time. People become complacent, lazy. They drop their guard. Root hired six men for the expressed purpose of controlling John. That means she doesn't plan to kill him, not immediately anyway.
Harold looks drugged, probably the reason for the chair. Root doesn't need these goons to keep Harold under control. Simply threatening to hurt a stranger is enough to keep honorable and soft hearted Harold in line.
John has a similar chink in his own armor. However, John’s main concern is Harold. Innocent bystanders need to be protected, but not at the cost of Harold’s safety. Every soldier knows how to prioritize and accomplish a mission at all cost. Root might not realize that. All John needs is time and one opening. Just one mistake and he will slither into the crack and expand like ice in a fissure of rock. Water might seem weak compared to a boulder, but freeze it, expose it to harsh elements and mountains crumble at the feet of a river.
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