Sbu almost didn’t recognise Bhose. The suit he had worn when he met Airtime was gone, replaced with a heavy-metal T-shirt, which made him look younger than he had seemed at the hotel. He was with two other guys who were a lot better built than him. He was talking to them as the door opened.
” – extra security. We can’t get careless,” he said, and looked around. He saw K8 and Sbu. For a moment it looked like he didn’t recognise them.
“Excuse me,” he said. “Have we met? You’re the friends of, um, Mfundo, isn’t it? What are you doing here?”
They didn’t answer. His voice changed as he shed the mask of politeness.
The big guys stepped forward, cornering Sbu and K8.
“What are you doing here?” Bhose asked.
“Give back our friend’s ID,” K8 demanded.
“This isn’t good,” grumbled one of the big guys.
“Shut up,” said Bhose. “Someone’s been sloppy. If these two can find us, the cops will be able to as well. Tell the other two to start packing up the computers. We need to clear all traces of our operation in an hour.”
Bhose looked at K8 and Sbu and scratched his chin thoughtfully.
“Take these two with us,” he said. “Find out how they found us.”
One of the big guys stepped forward, and Sbu lashed out a fist defensively. He missed, and the guy shoved him backwards. Sbu’s head hit the wall, and for a second all he could see was sparks. He struck out again, blindly. It was a lucky hit, getting the guy on the nose. The thug fell back, swearing.
K8 was cornered by the other one. She kept her eyes on him while backing away, and reached back to pick up the floor lamp. It was a long black pole, with an angle-lamp at the top and a round metal base that was heavier than it looked. K8 raised the base and held it up like a club. Once she swung it, she knew, the fight would get ugly. They were outnumbered. This wasn’t going to end well.
The guy kept coming at her. K8 prepared herself. She didn’t want to have to fight, but she would if she had to. But as she stepped back, her back pressed against the long bar of the fire door’s release mechanism, and suddenly, she knew the way out.
She flung the lamp at her attacker, giving her just enough time to barge through the door, triggering an ear-splitting fire alarm.
“Run!” K8 yelled to Sbu. He kicked at his attacker. It didn’t connect, but the man stumbled back in surprise.
By the time the scammers had recovered, Sbu and K8 were running down the bare concrete staircase of the fire escape in the heart of the building. The lighting wasn’t good, and the bulbs had blown on some of the floors. More than once Sbu stumbled, and almost twisted his ankle.
They didn’t have much of a head start, but it was enough. K8 and Sbu were younger and faster than the scammers, and soon they were a whole floor below them.
“This isn’t going to work!” said K8.
“They’ll take the lift! They’re probably already waiting for us at the bottom!”
Sbu realised she was right. When they reached the next floor he found the fire-escape door, and kicked it with all his strength. It burst open.
They pushed through the gap into some new offices. It looked like the foyer on the 17th floor, but it was much better decorated, with a reception desk and paintings hanging on the walls. A crowd of office workers were gathered by the doors, trying to leave because of the fire alarm. They were surprised to see Sbu and K8 bursting in.
“What’s happening?” asked one of the women.
“It’s a fire,” said K8, thinking quickly. “We’ve got to get out of the building. Is the elevator coming?”
The elevator doors opened, and Sbu and K8 pushed in.
“Wait! Is it safe to use the elevator during a fire?” asked one of the office workers.
“For this fire it is,” said K8. “Come on!”
The workers packed in around them, and Sbu understood K8’s plan. As they left the building, these people would be their human shield.
The doors opened in the lobby, and the workers poured out towards the main entrance. K8 and Sbu kept their heads down and stayed in the center of the pack.
“I can’t see any of them,” said Sbu, looking out for the scammers. “Can you?”
“No,” said K8. “I think we’re sa-“
They were grabbed abruptly, just a metre from the door. One of the scammers clutched K8’s wrist. The building’s security guard twisted Sbu’s arm behind his back and yanked it up so he couldn’t move.
“Are these the ones?” said the guard.
Bhose stepped forward.
“These are them,” he said. “Thank you.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK? K8 and Sbu’s escape hasn’t gone well. If you were in their situation, what would you have done to get out of the building?