Silence Like Diamonds – Episode 9: Hacking an Escape
The escalator was where it was supposed to be, pitch dark with a too-bright glare of sunlight at the top. I sprinted up it, Markus just behind, into the Metro station.
The signs were in Italian; early afternoon sun poured through glass doors marked uscita chiuso.
The door's emergency release set off the alarm, but the door didn't budge. Markus slammed it with his shoulder, bounced back, set himself and gave it a whole body thrust kick straight into the dead bolt. The two doors flew apart and one fell from its hinges. "Great form," I said.
"Practice pays." We stepped carefully over the door.
Directly in front of us was a Bancomat. Markus ran to it, slapped the card in, let it come back out an instant later; by then I had spotted a little tourist store that had an ATM just inside the arched doorway.
As he took the card back, Markus said, "That car recharging station, they take ATM cards, that means it has a reader—" and we were off across six lanes of Italian traffic. I was grateful that half the cars were self-drivers trying to avoid us, which somewhat balanced the furious human half, which seemed to have more mixed feelings.
I don't know how, but we made it across alive. As Markus ran the card, I saw four cops heading our way with that grim, purposive walk that means they'll expect an explanation.
"The Blue Cross," I said.
"What? What did that even mean? Something about insurance? It just ate the card and it says to stay here—"
"It would. The message means 'attract attention and make people remember you.' Follow me."
I walked right back out into traffic, Markus at my heels. He always said later he was just afraid I'd be killed, he'd survive and he'd have to explain. The cops pursued, stopping and snarling traffic. I jumped onto a car hood. In Czech, I shouted that I wanted a bowl of ravioli and I wanted it right now. I jumped down and walked into the thick of the jammed cars, gesticulating wildly. In my very rusty Mandarin I added that if everyone just kept eating breakfast, no one would get pregnant. Marcus caught up with me and I turned back to the gathering crowd on the sidewalk to announce in English that if they made us late for our wedding, we would never eat their lilac bushes again.
As we reached the opposite sidewalk, a caricature artist, the type that every tourist town has a thousand of, was staring at us open-mouthed.
"Do you do nudes?" I asked.
"Uh, uh, uh—" he said.
"Good!" I yanked down his pants.
A heavy cop hand fell on my shoulder. As I raised my hands, I saw a man recording the scene on his tablet. Waving frantically, I shouted, "Hi, Mom! Hi, Sis! Hi, Santa!"
Beside me, holding hands with her husband, beaming like she was proud of me, my sister said, "Santa?"
— John Barnes is the author of 31 commercially published and two self-published novels, along with hundreds of magazine articles, short stories, blog posts and encyclopedia articles, so he likes to describe himself as an extensively published obscure writer.