DIRE STRAITS, Chapter 6B
September 7, 2011
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Too late. Osorio saw him. The Cuban shouted, “He’s at the stairwell!”
Two armed soldiers appeared around the corner, running for Derek. He had about two seconds to make a decision: fake it out, fight it out, or run like hell.
He chose: run like hell.
Spinning on his heel, Derek exploded through the door to the stairwell and raced down the steps three and four at a time, using the railing for leverage, praying he didn’t twist an ankle or slip and sprawl down a dozen flights of steps.
The soldiers pounded after him, shouting in Spanish. He had approximately a single flight lead.
He skidded around a corner, slammed into the wall, and tumbled a few steps before catching himself and continuing down. He lost half a flight’s lead.
As he rounded another corner, one of the soldiers went all super-hero on him, leveraging himself over the rail and dropping ten feet to the steps to land in front of him. The soldier landed badly, quite possibly busting a leg in the process. Derek found himself between two soldiers, both armed with AK47s.
He took a giant step and powered his leg like an NFL kicker right into the soldier’s face with a spray of blood and crunch of bone. Leaning down, Derek snagged the soldier’s handgun, a Russian-made Makarov.
Spinning, he knocked off a round at the second soldier. The bullet caught the Cuban in the shoulder, spinning him backwards and knocking him off his feet.
Derek took the opportunity to leap down the stairs. Within seconds he exited the hotel. The street was filling with cars. He rushed across the Malecon, waving his hands wildly at a bright yellow Coco Taxi. The driver skidded to a stop, shouting at him in Spanish. The only words Derek recognized were “loco” and “pinga.” The driver called him a “crazy dick.”
Derek grabbed the man by the collar and tossed him out onto the roadway, jumped behind the wheel and raced off. He didn’t go far. He could hear sirens.
He got off the Malecon as soon as he could, blending into heavy traffic, just another bright yellow Coco Taxi among hundreds. He ditched the taxi as soon as he could, sprinting into a crowd of Cubanos heading to work. He walked along with them for a block, then spotted a 1950s Chevy convertible parked by the side of the road.
It was aqua and in mint condition. He jumped behind the wheel, leaned down and peeled back the casing around the steering wheel. In seconds he’d hot-wired the car and was roaring toward the American Embassy Office – the U.S. didn’t have a full embassy in Cuba - or the Canadian Embassy on Calle 30 in Miramar. If that didn’t work, he could try the Swiss Embassy, or the British Embassy.
He had memorized the Havana map and considered a variety of escape routes in case hell broke loose.
And hell had broken loose.