Jason slumped against the bathroom door, thankful that the lock held while the rest of the door shook on its wooden frame. His ears rang from the gunshots, but he still heard the shouts echoing through the din, the actual words just as meaningless as they had been when the chase began.
The bullet had caught him by surprise as he ran (later, after investigation, it would be revealed that it had caught the shooter by surprise also), ripped a wound through his abdomen and left him a dead man with a beating heart. He froze for a moment, caught up in realization and the thunderous roar of his heartbeat, before his fear of death was eclipsed by his fear of prison. Grabbing his ruined belly, he staggered through several manicured backyards before stumbling through the threshold of this house.
A moment of levelheadedness told him to lock the kitchen door behind him. He locked it - and the garage door and front doors – and was thankful that the family wasn’t home to see him bleeding all over their spotless linoleum and waxed wood floors. The All-American family who ate apple pie and left their house unlocked in this day and age would have been terrified once the first drop stained the floor crimson.
Voices, wordless whispers, surrounded the home. He pulled the window sheer aside with a tremulous motion. The police had already cordoned off the street and set up a barricade. He flattened himself against the front wall, his pained groan inaudible, just as the doorbell rang.
Men in desperate situations behave on instinct. Injured men retreat. Criminals lash out. Jason had never thought of himself as a criminal. Before now, he’d never thought of himself as a caged animal, either.
When the footsteps retreated, Jason hobbled upstairs. Once the police returned – with a battering ram or lock pick – it would be over. He paused on the landing to catch his breath before edging his way down the hall toward the bathroom, his fingertips skimming the wall for balance.
The bathroom had been designed for children. A step stool was tucked under the sink, and the accessories were as laughably cartoonish as the brightly painted walls. He ran the tap cold and lapped enough water to moisten his mouth and clear the cold sweat from his brow before sinking to his knees in front of the closet.
The first-aid kit was substandard at best. A cry of defeat escaped Jason’s lips as his bloody fingers opened the cache of Sponge Bob band-aides and Ace bandages, neither of which were useful for anything more than sprains and boo-boos.
What kind of parent didn’t plan for serious trauma? he demanded, rifling through the contents anyway. There was nothing. Jason threw the entire plastic container against the far wall with a howl then gasped as the pain in his gut doubled him over.
Downstairs, the front door crashed open. He reached up feebly and locked the door as footsteps followed his trail up the stairs. There were shouts, raps on the door, noises he couldn’t understand over the pulse in his head. They were going to break the door down.
He pulled a towel from the closet and pressed it against his stomach. Pain arched his entire body off the ground and brought tears to his eyes. He hissed tiny sips of air and rested against the rattling door. His eyes swam.
Jason’s ears still rang, but he grew more conscious of the hummingbird in his chest. Its wings fluttered against its prison walls, creating a physical sensation in his lungs that matched the reverberations in his head. Breathless, he listened to the little bird’s wings falter as the door cracked open behind him.
He was glad when the world went dark. That room was too bright a place to die.