The Last 10 Seconds

Today

8.05 A.M.

An empty shell of a building deep in the heart of the city. It’s early, the first spears of bright sunlight advancing through the holes in the wall where the windows are meant to be, and here I am watching my blood form a visibly growing pool on the dusty concrete floor in front of me.

Propping myself further back against the wall, the gun still dangling precariously from my trigger finger, I concentrate on keeping my eyes open, forcing myself to focus on the carnage in this vast, empty room.

Three men dead. Two are lying sprawled on their fronts, arms outstretched theatrically, a dozen feet and hugely differing circumstances separating them. The third – a big man in a blood-drenched sky blue polo shirt and jeans, younger than the others – is bound to a chair with flex, his head slumped forward, his thick, sandy-blond hair bisected by a huge hole where the bullet exited.

Outside in the distance, I can hear the faint, drifting buzz of traffic. But it all seems so far away, and as I listen it seems to grow fainter, consumed by the leaden silence inside the room – a silence that seems to rise up from the floor like some dark, malignant force, extinguishing all the life around it. It’s going to extinguish me soon enough too. I’m bleeding to death, trapped on the third floor of this deserted place, a bullet in my gut, another in my right thigh, rendering the leg useless, a stiff coldness beginning to envelop me.

I’ve thought about death a great deal over the years, but always in a vague and abstract manner, never quite affording it the respect it deserves, even though I’ve skirted close to it on too many occasions.

But as I sit here, wounded and helpless, wondering how I’ve got myself into this terrible tomb-like place, I can hear death’s steady, inevitable approach and I know there’s no escape. That’s the hardest thing to accept, the fact that my life is finally coming to an end, and I wonder briefly in these last few seconds, as the pain and the shock squeeze at my insides, whether there’s anyone left to mourn my passing. Whether I’ll even be remembered in ten years’ time.

And then I hear it. A sound directly outside the door. The scrape of a foot on the floor.

Jesus. Is this nightmare still not over? Is there a final act to come?

I clench my teeth and slowly raise my gun arm, the effort almost too much to bear, thinking that I’ve fired five shots, so I should have one more left.

A shadow falls across the doorway and then, in an instant, a dark-haired woman in casual clothes is standing there, a warrant card in one outstretched hand and what looks like a can of pepper spray in the other. ‘Police!’ she shouts, her voice tight with tension as it echoes through the room.

She opens her mouth to say something else, her eyes wide with shock as they take in the scene of slaughter in front of her, before finally her gaze comes to rest on me.

This is when she frowns in startled recognition. ‘Sean?’

Even in my weakened state, I manage to crack something close to a smile. ‘Hello, Tina.’

‘What the hell’s happened?’ she asks, taking a step forward, ignoring the fact that I’m still pointing my gun at her.

And that’s when the shooting starts.

Part One

THURSDAY, 7 P.M.

37 HOURS AGO

One

He was short, maybe five seven, with a build that was either slim or scrawny depending on how charitable you were feeling, and he was dressed in cheap grey