Alarm bells clang-- clang! clang!-- around the literary fugitive, until he realizes they're inside his head. These are crazy warning signs as he stumbles over debris in the gray city, shadowy demi-puppets closing in on all sides. The Assassin directs operations. The fugitive understands the technique. He'll be driven like a hunted animal to a position of no escape, at which point the hunter will arrive to administer the coup de grace.
He's half-a-mile from Detroit's downtown-- its moody buildings, many of them empty. If he can make it there. . . .
The fugitive climbs through an abandoned building and exits on the other end, rushing into giant weeds; crouching-- panting-- to hide. Before him, after vacant land and an expressway, waits the somber tall structures into which he can run and find a public place. From there-- what? He'll be backed up against the green river which borders the gray towers.
What awaits? The everpresent spectre in white.
He sees the feline ghost fairly leap in his direction-- product of his imagination?-- gleeful; surrounded by evil minions; fearsome; relentless; deep blue eyes within the white mask casting about for the escaping prey. The Assassin's white mask moving across the broken landscape edges closer, and closer.
He ponders the Assassin's identity. He sees three possibilities:
1.) A member of the literary establishment.
2.) A past enemy.
3.) A complete stranger-- a psychopath carrying extreme hatred.
There's a fourth possibility: a combination of all of these.
If he can somehow get behind the Assassin-- otherwise the surging demi-puppets will block his way. He decides to move north, briefly, then circle around and approach his goal from another side. He creeps into a chaotic wrecked neighborhood and begins walking swiftly, not in the direction they'll anticipate.
He enters a land of dogs; scores of snarling beasts with angry eyes, lords of an abandoned section of the city. They recognize in his hard cast and scarred, unshaven face a soulmate. His wariness of them is exceeded by the terror of what he flees.
After an hour he sees downtown from another vantage point. It could be another city. The dark river flows close-- he can smell it. The river and the dogs throw off his scent. The mad posse is nowhere in sight.
Casually he strolls into the corridor streets. He finds an open Kinko's and checks his email. There's one message in his in-box.
"Meet my representative at the restaurant on top of the rise. Neutral territory."
The fleeing rebel knows the location-- a Romanian place with many glass windows and large red letters outside.
The email is signed: