Darren felt himself rolling. He was inert on a padded slab being wheeled down a corridor. A man spoke as he shined a small penlight in his eyes. He couldn’t make out the questions he was being asked.
“Do you know what’s real?” the man repeated.
“Not at all.” panted Darren.
“Beautiful, perfect, we’re probably safe,” said the Russian girl from Cafe Sophie.
“Probably?” wondered Darren as he sat up on the table.
“If you want certainties you’ve asked the wrong people for help. Darling, we’re called The Doubt for a reason.”
The Scotsman put a hand on Darren’s shoulder. “The beastie is now material, almost. It should respect the laws of physics, if it wants to be polite.”
“Have you forgotten that it’s invisible to anyone but me?”
“Yes, unfortunately, otherwise we wouldn’t have to use you as bait it in the first place.”
Darren could still hear music from Pete’s Dragon. A song played on scratchy warped record from somewhere off in the darkness.
“Every little piece
Every little piece
Dragon, you’re my wagon to destiny; you’re the key
Every little shred moving me ahead
Every dream of mine will be fulfilled
What a dragon business we can build..”
Darren looked around in the dim light. Where are we?
The Russian girl flipped a large lever on the wall and industrial lamps blazed above. The sound of the lever reverberated through the silent warehouse. Darren was on a tool cart. Sports cars and luxury sedans were elevated around him on hydraulic lifts in various states of disassembly.
“I’ve never been here before.” he realized.
“That’s the idea. You never were going to be here. This setting was never a part of your telling. The Dragon has no way to find you at the moment. You’re off index.”
“But you want the Dragon to find me eventually? What happens then?” stressed Darren.
“He’s just your buddy Elliot, what’s to worry about, eh?” the Scot mocked him.
Darren pulled himself backwards off the slab. As soon as his feet met concrete he flipped the rolling cart to use it as a barricade. The members of The Doubt spread out to surround him as if he was a spooked horse on the loose.
“Now relax man, you’re in no less danger asleep in bed at home than you are here or anywhere else. We’re trying to rescue, you, recollect?” soothed the Scotsman.
Darren attached a grappling hook to his belt. He squeezed a large dirty plastic up arrow button on a dangling control box for a motorized hoist on tracks. His belt cut into his hip, it hurt a lot more than he expected as his leather strap took on his whole body weight. His crotch pinched as his pants became the seat that lifted him toward the beams in the ceiling. The Scotsman, the Russian and two guys he’d never seen before attempted to knock him down using fenders, bumpers, and tools from the floor of the garage. Darren flung his legs around a girder next to a skylight, and pulled himself onto the roof.
He was uncertain which direction to go. He couldn’t recognize any landmarks and cloud cover had hidden any hint of the direction of Sutro Tower. A public storage squat next door, the roof was sizzling in the heat. He crossed the corrugated inferno plates as quickly as possible till he reached a stenchy tarred rooftop. Next door, he spotted an open balcony on a nearly finished glass condominium. He jumped over the rail, slid the patio door behind him and locked it. With a minimum of crinkling, he crossed a room covered in plastic and dried droplets of paint. Through a bedroom door he found some saw horses and a stack of plasterboard.. He left a gap open so he could watch the patio door.
The fingers on his hand felt large and clumsy like a toddler trying to grapple a pencil. The touchscreen on his phone was not responding well to his jerky, panicked stabs. Under his favorites, he opened the number for Francesca. His thumb hovered. He looked out through the patio window over the rooftops he journeyed across. He pressed the handset icon under Francesca’s number and a small looping arc of bubbles indicated a connection was being attempted.
“Hey..” said a surprised voice from the speaker of the phone.
“Hey..um, are you free?” asked Darren.
“I can be. What’s been going on?”
“Sorry I haven’t been, had.. time to get together. Don’t mean to drop in on you out of the blue..”
Darren could see one of the men from the garage climbing out of a hatch on the public storage building a few doors over.
“Oh, uh, can I meet you out somewhere?”
“I was kinda hoping I could drop in. I seriously need a minute someplace quiet and safe.”
“Safe? Well you could.. but.. hold on.” Francesca whispered,”Let me go in here. Um, my roommate’s father died. Normally of course, but now.. just not the most ideal. Ya know?”
“Sure, sure..I guess I get it. Later, I have to hang up.” Darren whispered back, but he was motivated by the well dressed goons hunting for him.
“Hey! How about the Church Street Cafe, it’s little hideaway. ”
“Great! I’m on my way. I may be late. I have some.. traffic blocks to get past.” Darren’s forehead crushed into deep grooves of concern as he eyed the men searching for him on the rooftops.
“Um, kay..but you don’t drive.” Francesca aligned her glasses on her nose. After a moment with no sound she looked at her screen at slid the button to hang up. The corner of her mouth crinkled as she replayed the conversation again in her head..