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Chapter 102: Escape

Shane set down the razor and watched the guard's reflection in the mirror. He would never make the five yards before the man got several rounds off.  He needed to bring the guard closer.  "Ow!" he cried, doubling over next to the sink.  He heard scuffling boots.

Closer.

Closer.

With all of his strength, he swung his arm around.  His right forearm stuck flesh,.  The guard stumbled backward.  Shane scrambled toward the man, grabbed at the AK-47, and wrestled it away.  He slammed the stock into the guard's face, and the man went down.  One more strike and the man stayed down, his lifeless eyes staring into nothingness.

Another time, Shane might have felt sorry for the guard, but this was life-and-death, and he had no room for emotions.

Shane took quick stock of the situation.  He was wearing only a pair of trousers and no shoes.  They had taken his old clothes and had not even bothered to leave him a new shirt.  For an instant, he thought he could steal the guard's uniform, but that turned out to be a non-starter.  The guard was probably 30 lbs heavier, but about 5 inches shorter.  The uniform would never fit.

"Great," he muttered.  "Nobody will notice the shirtless guy running around."

He bent down and searched the guard, finding a set of keys and a walkie talkie.  At least those would be useful.  The guard also had a handgun, which Shane tucked into the front of his trousers.  He debated dragging the guard into a cell, but there just was no time.  He had to move fast.  There was no telling how long his strength would last.  While he had built up some of his strength over the past few weeks, he was far from top condition, and adrenaline would only carry him so far.  He had to escape quickly.

He checked the rifle, confirmed that it had a full magazine, and crossed the cell block to the steps that lead to the exit.  As he reached them, it began to open.  Shane ducked to the side, as another guard entered.  He took the steps two at a time and cross-checked the guard, Shane's rifle striking lengthwise across the guard's jaw like a pugil stick.  As the guard fell back against the door, Shane followed the strike by swinging the butt of the rifle against the side of the guard's head.  It connected with a solid shot to the temple, and the guard's eyes rolled back as he stumbled, then pitched forward down the stairs.

The attack took its toll on the attacker.  Shane gasped for breath and nearly doubled over from the effort.  It was taking too much out of him.  He couldn't count on time to recover.  That would have to be his last attempt at hand-to-hand combat; he was just took weak to succeed in a third attempt.

When he was finally able to breathe again, Shane went back down the steps and checked the guard for a pulse, but found none.  For a moment, he felt relieved.  He didn't know if he could have killed an unconscious man, but he would have had no choice.  If the guard had come around, he would have sounded the alarm.

Shane tried again to suppress those thoughts.  Emotions were a liability.  He forced his instincts to take over.  He dispossessed the guard of his rifle, another handgun and another walkie talkie.  He also found a clean shirt, and realized that the second guard had been retrieving it for Shane to wear.  He hastily pulled on the shirt, wasting no time to button it.  The second rifle was useless; it had no strap and would just weigh him down.  He removed the magazine, stuffed it into his trouser pocket, and tossed the rifle aside.  The second handgun joined the first in the waistband of his trousers, while he smashed the new walking talkie against a wall, sending plastic flying into the air.  The body of the device gave a sputtering buzz and then fell silent.

Moving to the door, he tested it and was surprised it had not locked behind the guard.  He eased it open, and shook his head in disbelief.  He recognized this place.  The Presidential Palace.

In all this time, he had never even left the building.

That gave him a chance.  Before his mission, he had studied the floorplans, carefully memorizing every part of them.  Of course, that might make no appreciable difference.  After all, what really counted was where the guards were placed and those could have easily changed.  Still, he figured, any knowledge had to be a benefit.

Shane studied the corridor.  From the light coming through the windows, he could tell he was on the ground floor.  That had the ballroom, the library, several rooms used as offices, including the guards' headquarters, and a series of support areas -- kitchens and custodial rooms.  The front of the palace would be guarded with a long open driveway to anyone at the main entrance or the outer gates with a vantage point.  The alternative was the back, where he might slip out or even be able to hitch a ride in a delivery truck.

He just had to get his bearings.  Shane scanned the corridor, looking for any familiar landmark that might tell him where he was within the palace.  Nothing.  Even the light coming through some nearby windows -- the first actual sunlight he had seen in more than a year -- told him nothing.  He had no idea if it was morning or afternoon.  Those windows could be facing any direction.

None of that mattered.  He couldn't stay in the prison doorway.  Guessing right, he took off, running down the corridor toward the unknown.  There were doorways on all sides of him.

Up ahead, he heard voices.  Laughing.  At least two from the sound of it.  "Eras tan borracho que no tenía idea de lo fea que era."  The other replied angrily, "Estás celoso."  Shane shook his head.  Soldiers teasing one another about their drunken escapades.  Some things would never change.

The voices were growing louder and probably were coming from the intersection down the hall.  If they turned and saw him, he would be caught dead to rights.  His only option was to duck inside one of the doors.  He reached for the door on his right.  Pushing it open a crack, he heard the sound of people moving around and voices.  He glanced toward the intersection and saw the khaki of a uniform.  Keeping low, Shane pushed the door open slightly more and crept inside.  He crouched behind the door, but kept it slightly ajar so he could see into the hallway.

He was in an antechamber with a table and some chairs, with a couple of smaller rooms off to the sides.  In one of the rooms on his right, he heard voices.  Someone was on a speaker phone, a loud, low rumble of a voice that caused Shane to freeze.  It was a voice he recognized.

"That is unacceptable," Stefano DiMera said over the phone.  "The American authorities have too much information for it to be coincidence.  I've lost eight top men, and the Colombo and Genovese families have suffered even greater losses.  The De Vicenzo family has been destroyed.  We demand an explanation from President Vasquez."

Shane felt a shot of exhileration.  If what Stefano said was true. . . .

"Señor DiMera," came the response.  Shane tried to see further into the room.  It wasn't Vasquez.  The speaker wore a military uniform, but was not familiar.   Three other uniformed men also were present.  All were so focused on the phone that they had not noticed the door open or Shane creep inside.  The uniformed man continued, "I assure you that there is no reason to believe there was any leak here.  Operación Norteño has not been compromised."

"You fool!"  Stefano's voice boomed through the phone.  "Stop with the lies.  Your operation was compromised.  How else did the ISA learn of it."

"That's impossible, I assure you," said the soldier.  "The ISA has never come close to infiltrating Costa Blanca."

"Do not lie to me.  You have had Shane Donovan captive for over a year.  Or do you think he does not count as ISA?"

The soldier replied,  "I assure you that Donovan was captured before he could have possibly learned anything and certainly never had a chance to tell anyone."

Shane did not hear the rest, because his attention was diverted back to the corridor.  Two guards, the source of the earlier voices, had stopped outside the room.  One of them peeked inside momentarily, looking in the direction of the noise.  He did not see Shane, crouched low only a few feet below him.  After a moment of eavesdropping, the guard pulled the door closed.

Shane waited.  If he went back into the corridor too early, the guards would see him.  But if he stayed here, one of the soldiers in the room might step out.

After a count of 30, Shane cracked the door open and looked back into the corridor.  He looked back the way he had come, and saw the backs of the two guards.  They had returned to talking animatedly, so Shane decided it was safe to move.

He snuck back into the corridor and headed away from the two guards.  If they turned, Shane would have to shoot, alerting every other guard in the place.  As he moved, he tried to stay close to the wall, hoping shadows might hide him.  Somehow, he managed to reach an intersecting hallway without notice.  Looking back, he saw that the two guards had stopped, still talking, but had not turned back towards him.

At the intersection, Shane peered around the corner.  The hallway was long, running most of the length of the palace.  In the center, in what looked like an open area, was a single guard.

He had a flash of memory.  The night he was caught, there had been a single guard at the staircase opposite the main entrance.  Shane had tricked the guard into walking to the end of the hallway clearing the way to the second floor.  This had to be the same hallway.

Unfortunately, Shane had no marbles or other tricks up his sleeve to deceive the guard now.  And, now, he was trapped between the guard in the main entryway and the two guards behind him.

One gunshot would take out the guard and clear his path to the front entrance -- to the outdoors.  Deep inside, however, he knew that such a shot would be suicide.  Not only would he alert the guards behind him and the soldiers on the phone with Stefano, but there probably were guards outside the palace too.

The entryway guard still had not seen him.  Maybe Shane could get close enough to knock him out.  He really had no choice at this point.

Keeping the gun raised and aimed at the guard, Shane turned the corner and began silently moving forward.  Shane had never been fatalistic, but if he was going to die, he would rather it happen quickly in a fight than whatever Victor Kiriakis had in store for him.  His mind flashed and he saw an image of his family.  Would they even know if he died?  Would they even get a chance to mourn him -- and would anyone but Andrew even choose to?

Would Kim even care?

He crept closer.  The guard was only about 20 feet away.  He still had not turned in Shane's direction.  Another few steps.

Too late.  As if in slow motion, the guard turned.  He spotted Shane immediately and began to raise his rifle.