48 Hours a Day
Chapter 400 - Homeground
Zhang Heng climbed out the other side of the vent. In the toilet, the door shook violently, threatening to come apart at any moment. For good measure, Piercings fired two shots to keep the people outside from kicking the door down. Having no desire to fight whoever was on the other side of the door, he quickly climbed up the vent.
Zhang Heng reached out to pull the man out of the vent. When the two of them were clear of the bar, Little Boy sent a third message.
“Vincent will be there in about five minutes, but Black Nest’s men have the bar surrounded.”
“I see them.”
Zhang Heng saw some figures appearing at the entrance of the alley behind the bar. At the same time, the other party spotted Zhang Heng and Piercings as well. One of them immediately pointed his gun and shouted, “Don’t move!”
Before he could pull the trigger, the two were already on the other side of the alley, crossing it and turning to the road. This, however, did not mean that they were safe. Other than the ones in the alley, Black Nest’s personnel who stood guard outside the bar were now rushing over from the street next door.
“Any plans in mind?” Piercings asked as they ran.
“What about you?”
“I’m going to find a river.”
The man clearly had some kind of item that allowed him to jump safely into a river. It caused him to develop the habit of looking for it whenever he was in danger.
“….then we’ll probably have to split up,” replied Zhang Heng. “Alright. You can go ahead. I can buy you a few more minutes, depending on the situation, though, I cannot guarantee for sure if I’m going to stay. If there is actual danger, I’ll have to split first.” Piercings handled the gun skillfully, leaving Zhang Heng wondering if the man had got his training in quests or real life.
Zhang Heng preferred the latter because the man had a proper aim. He had probably invested a lot of time and effort honing his skills, not to mention how sharp he was at countersurveillance. Had it not been for the mole on his neck, Zhang Heng would have never recognized the man in the bar. Based on these things, Zhang Heng concluded that the man was very likely a police officer in real life.
The two exchanged numbers. Then, without warning, Piercings suddenly raised his gun and fired a shot at a head that suddenly popped up from behind the alley.
“This is it. Let’s split up now!” As soon as he said that, Piecings ran toward the other side of the street. When he took off, he glanced at where Zhang Heng was standing from the corner of his eyes and saw that he had disappeared.
Piecings blinked. Game item?
He then saw Zhang Heng’s figure above a post office that was closed.
Zhang Heng had already climbed up the metal shelf outside the building and jumped onto the canopy when Piercings raised his gun. The unplastered retro-styled brick wall provided him good grooves and traction, and he took only five seconds to scale to the window sill on the second floor. He proceeded to climb to the top of the building.
The gunshots behind Piercings reminded him that his pursuers were closing in on him. “Seriously?!” he exclaimed with a grunt.
A Dacia Sandero had joined the men in the alley in pursuit of him. Piercings ducked behind a trash can. He could hear the engine drawing closer and closer. He knew that if he were surrounded, he could be in real trouble. He found himself regretting that he tried to be a hero. If he had known that Zhang Heng could climb the wall so quickly, he would have left the responsibility of drawing away their pursuers to him.
It was too late now, though. Piercings raised his weapon again and fired five shots at the window of the café across the street, leaving spiderwebs of cracks on the large glass pane. Then, with gritted teeth, he shielded his head with his leather jacket and rammed the glass window, sending a shower of broken glass on himself and into the coffee shop as he fell in. Ignoring cuts and bruises, he rolled off the ground and sprinted toward the back door.
Zhang Heng looked at the city map on his phone. The Isère river was only one kilometer away-Piercings should be able to make it there without a problem. As Zhang Heng looked on, someone spotted him.
Zhang Heng started running, and it wasn’t until the people chasing him were out of sight that he stopped to catch his breath. He looked around, and a subway station nearby caught his attention. Without thinking twice, he jumped off the roof of a pet shop and bought a hat from the homeless man at the entrance of the subway for ten euros. Putting it on to cover his face, he rushed into a train before its doors closed.
During the train ride, Little Boy sent him a video.
Piercings looked like a mess as he retreated and fought all the way to Isère. He was about to be captured by the enemy when the highway incident reoccurred-he had jumped into the river.
“Your cover was blown, but Waldo hacked into the bar’s system and replaced all your photos and personal information.” “Thank you,” Zhang Heng said, “I’m coming back.”
Ten seconds later, Little Boy sent him the subway map with the route back to the hotel marked out for him.
One hour later, Zhang Heng returned to the hideout.
Ponytail cautiously peeked around at the corridor to ensure that Zhang Heng wasn’t followed before closing the door behind him.
“What should we do? The surveillance cameras at the bar aren’t connected to the web, and I can’t do anything. They managed to capture you, so you can’t show your face to Black Nest’s people. How should we proceed with the next part of the mission?” he asked.
“On top of that, after two incidents, Black Nest will surely increase surveillance in places Leah frequents. They’ll be able to spot suspicious individuals right away,” said Phillip, “We have no way of getting close to her.”
“Then, we’ll make her come to us,” Zhang Heng said.
“We’ll make her come to us. You guys are right. If we allow Black Nest to be always a step ahead of us, there’s no way we can win,” Zhang Heng said. “So, we need to set the operation in our own hunting grounds.”
“I get it now.” Waldo nodded. But after a while, he scratched his head and continued, “That, uhh… I understand what you mean, but could you explain it to the others?”.
Zhang Heng pulled up the map of the city on his phone and pointed at a place in the north. “There’s a ski resort here, about an hour’s drive from Grenoble. After what happened, they will be sweeping the city for the guy who jumped into the river and me. We don’t have to face them head-on and avoid them by hiding out there. At the same time, we can do the right preparations—turning the ski resort into our home ground.”
“You’re right… but you’ve overlooked one problem. All of Leah’s communication devices are under Black Nest’s surveillance. They are just waiting for us to contact her. The moment we do that, the first people you’ll see here will be Black Nest’s secret task force. If we don’t contact her, though, she will never come to this ski resort. You see, it’s like a paradox.”
“It’s skiing season now, but Leah is no ski-enthusiast. You can count on both hands the number of times she went skiing,” Waldo said, “If we wait for her at the ski resort, we might not even see her after two years.”