You can run... (revised)
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He has never seen Chicago before; he'd wanted to come as a child, but it brings him little pleasure now. The Greyhound eases to a stop before the bus station. The passengers shuffle out of the bus with a subtle urgency. Everyone takes a breath of air, as if the air was any better outside, in the city.
He steps inside the small building, shouldering his backpack as the doors close behind him. The room stinks of cigarette smoke and re-heated hot-dogs. People shuffle about as if wanting to stretch out cramped legs, but not daring to step away from their belongings. Ironically, it makes them look like the, "shifty", people they are wary of which makes the anxiety in the room become like a fog that they inhale with every wary breath.
He doesn't stay inside long. He walks out of the front of the building and sees the city streets before him. He sees a newsstand and moves over to it. The man inside the stall glances at him and returns to his magazine. He looks over the magazine titles only briefly before picking up a newspaper. His eyes are just as quick while going over the front page. He switches to the classifieds. "Help wanted" reflects in his eyes.
He does this in every city he comes to; he has for years. He has lost track of how many years, but he has been running for what seems his entire adult life. Like a person running from the Feds; he uses only cash and never uses his real name. Indeed, the only difference between him and someone running from the law is that he has done nothing wrong.
He is being chased; his life is in danger; he is alone. These are the facts of his life. He has no constants besides these to rely on. Even the jobs he needs to pay for his flight from terror are uncertain. He has lived in many shelters and has slept in quite a few alleyways, but he can never stay long. If he does, someone always pays for his folly.
He pulls a high-lighter out of his pocket and marks a few ads that have same promise. He looks for nothing permanent; nothing that requires too much information about himself. He pays for the newspaper and leaves the stand.
He heads for a bus stop nearby. He figures on asking the bus driver if there is a shelter near-by. His mind wanders like it always does when he thinks about the future. "Maybe this will be the last stop. Maybe I'll make Chicago my home." He only dreams. Reality always pulls him back down.
He doesn't notice the car until it brakes suddenly to avoid him. He comes to and jumps back. The driver slams to a stop and he can see the lady inside whip back into the seat. He berates himself and moves off the road to let the driver pass. "No luck there."
The woman parks the car and gets out; she is noticeably shaken.
"Are you O.K.?" He nods. He doesn’t talk. He doesn't want this person to remember him and words stick out in troubled minds. "I'm so sorry. I was talking on the phone with my sister... That's no excuse. I'm so sorry." She moves toward him in concern.
He shakes his head and puts his hand up to stop her. This had already gone too far. He wants to wave it off, but she seems persistent; he speaks.
"I'm fine. Don't worry about me." He turns around to go, but she stops him.
"I can't do that.” She bites her lip. “Did you just get here? “She waves toward the bus stop. “Are you going far? Look, at least let me give you a ride; at least that much? I'll worry all day if you don't let me." He looks at the hand she has put on his arm. He couldn't. He starts to shake his head and break free of her grip to leave when he realizes he'd already spoken.
"Sure." He can't believe he'd said it but he's already moving toward the car. She unlocks the doors and he gets in slowly. She looks at him as he closes the door.
"Where are you headed?" He realizes he doesn't know where the shelter is, but he must say something so she won’t worry.
"Just drive straight for awhile." She puts her hands on the wheel and starts the car. She looks back at him.
"By the way, my name's Kate Thompson." She smiles slightly. He needs a name. He thinks of one.
"Matt." It's simple, but it works for now. She smiles a bit wider and turns onto the road. They drive straight; the traffic is thin. They don't talk as they go.
"This is crazy," he thinks. His heart is filled with guilt. He glances at the girl, Kate. She has a look of purpose on her face. She looks young. He looks away and out the window at the passing city. He thinks about the future. His mind wanders.
He is startled as he sees his goal.
"Stop here." The shelter is just down the block. She pulls over and stops. He opens the door and she looks out the windshield. She spots the shelter.
"Wait." She once again puts her hand on his arm. "You're going in there?" She nods toward the shelter. He says nothing, still on the verge of leaving the car; of deciding the fate of this girl. She bites her lip and comes to a decision.
"Get back in. There's an extra room in my apartment and I could use a roommate." He's stunned; this is too much. Her sincerity and purpose is overwhelming. He wants to say yes, but...
"I can't." He shakes his head. He has to say more, but his voice quits out on him.
"Why not?" Why not? He looks away. He repeats the words again in his head. Surely I can. It couldn't still be after me. I've seen no sign of it. Nothing could find me. I've run for so long…
He sits back down. He shuts the door. She smiles as they drive off. It seems grim though, as if she knows something wrong. He shakes his head. Nothing is wrong. His spirit lifts as he thinks this. He repeats it a few times.
She speaks as they drive. She seems nervous, but still determined. “It’s O.K. if you don’t have a job. I used to have a roommate, but I don’t need one now. I make enough money to cover the apartment. I should probably have moved out, but I like the people and the apartment is nice.” He loses himself in her chatter.
They drive to her apartment. She parks. They get out. He breathes deeper and feels better then he has dared in a long while.
They go inside and walk up three flights of stairs. They stop in front of a door down a long hallway.
"This is it." She unlocks the door. They walk inside. "It's not much, but at least it has a door.” She shows him to the room. It's empty except for a bed.
"It doesn't have any clean sheets, but I can wash some." Wordlessly he agrees. It was nice. "Well, I'm gonna do that. Make yourself at home. If you’re hungry...the kitchen..." She stops. She leaves the room and pulls some sheets out of a bin in the hall. She leaves to go wash them. He smiles, and sits on the bed. He marvels at her trust and conviction. He feels that he could like it here. He waits for her.
His mind wanders. She hadn’t asked about his past or where he was going. She had taken him in because he was homeless and she could help. He smiles and lies down on the bed. He could work in the city. Before it had started he had his own business. He could rebuild and find his own place. He would repay Kate for her kindness. All these thoughts drift through his mind as he waits.
He comes to. He leaves the room. She isn't there. His heart beats fast. He leaves the apartment and rushes down the corridor. He goes to the laundry room. He sees the blood stained sheets. What’s left of her body lies on the floor. The noise of the machines must have muffled her screams; if she'd had time. He has a brief moment of regret, but that is all he can spare. He must leave before it finds him. It must still be in the complex.
Now he knows, and he will never forget;...you can't hide.
You can plan a pretty picnic but you can't predict the weather.