Omega The Girl in the Box - By Robert J. Crane

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

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They’re coming for me, he thought, as he hurried down the sidewalk. The wind cut straight through him like a razor as it whipped through the space between the buildings and tore leaves from the trees that protruded from the sidewalk planters. Downtown Minneapolis is somehow far colder than Dante’s last layer of hell, he thought as he avoided a steady stream of men in suits. All the worse to know it’s coming to an end soon. The crisp smell of fall permeated the ebb and flow of exhaust fumes from passing cars. He huddled tighter in his coat and pushed his hands in his pockets, stretching the material as he did so.

Downtown was bustling but not too busy. Though you couldn’t tell it by the dearth of sunlight, it was afternoon. The lunch rush had subsided and rush hour had yet to begin, so he was able to keep his route without worrying about fighting his way through the crowd. He passed a cafe that extended onto the sidewalk, only a table or two occupied. His hand ran over the cold metal rail that separated the empty tables from traffic passing by. As he caressed it, he felt a pause, a reluctance to go. In summer, on weekends, every table would be full, with a line of people extending out the door, waiting to be seated. It was a good place; he’d eaten there a time or two himself and enjoyed it. He lingered now, each step hesitant, a slow drag, as though the sidewalk were holding him back from the inevitable. Here, there—either way, they’re coming. If only I had more time, he thought.

He reached the entrance to his apartment building, and as he stepped into the revolving glass door, he caught a flicker of something in the reflection; eyes. Eyes focused on him. He followed the gaze back to a young man, blondish hair, in his twenties, unremarkable save for the fact that he’s watching me. The blond man’s eyes flickered elsewhere and he disappeared down the street after a moment, almost fading into the minimal crowd.

The revolving door discharged him into the lobby, where bronzed trim and marble floors made for a stunning spectacle. Full—length tapestries hung in four places around the room and a center desk controlled access to the elevators. He ignored the splendor around him, thinking again of the young man on the sidewalk who’d been watching him. He’d seen too many gazes like that lately, eyes following him in the streets as he walked, did his shopping, went to the clubs and talked to women. The tentative feeling gnawed at him again. They’re coming.

Flashing a smile at the security guard behind the desk, he made his way to the elevator bank. The doors were bronzed, reflective, and fit with the decor in the rest of the lobby. He waited after punching the button for the elevator, his fingers tapping out a rhythm on his pleated khakis. He looked down and saw the faint discoloration of the tan made wet by his fingers and he pushed them against the cloth harder, wiping his sweat there. Nerves, he thought. Just nerves.

Casting a look and a nod back at the guard, he waited for the elevator. The revolving door in the lobby discharged another man, heavyset, with a balding head. He was big, older, wore a suit, and passed the security guard with a nonchalant wave. The big man came to the elevator as it dinged and followed him in.

“How ’bout them Vikings?” the big man asked. His face bore scars of old acne, and when he smiled, his teeth were yellowed from either coffee or tobacco.

Why does he have to turn